Leslie Deere
Leslie Deere on Sonic Art, Interactivity and Technology

Leslie Deere on Embedded with Music Hackspace

"Interactive art has the potential to make the experience inclusive. It makes the art touchable or accessible. The act of doing that is essentially asking something of the audience, though. What I find interesting is that there is a choice."

Leslie_Deere_NewVoicesEvery year, Sound and Music shine a light on the work of the composers who are currently in residence on our Embedded and Portfolio programmes. These are our New Voices of 2016.  They are creating new, exciting and innovative music, across disciplines, all over the UK.

After working as composer-in-residence with Music Hackspace on Embedded, Leslie Deere reflects on how the importance of collaboration has been paramount throughout the project. Using a camera, code and bespoke software, Deere fuses sound with physical gesture and movement to create new and inspiring works to be premiered at the 2016 Whitstable Biennale arts festival as a live set. Confessing her ‘inner geek,’ Deere also reveals her motivations for pursuing sonic art and circuit-bending, whilst touching on how she feels interactive installations liberate, yet challenge, their audiences…


Describe your music in a few sentences. 

I wouldn't say I make music necessarily; I'd say I'm an artist who works with sound. Areas of interest for me are minimalism, drone, field recordings, sound collage, installation, sculpture, diffusion and immersion.

What attracted you to apply for the Embedded programme with Music Hackspace?

The Embedded programme seemed keen to work with people who wanted to expand their practice, to try something new and develop a certain area. That appealed to me and corresponded to new ideas within my practice at the time.

What kinds of things have you been up to whilst in residence? What has been your highlight so far?

I've been meeting people, talking about technology and sound, attending talks and workshops and developing a new live set for the 2016 Whitstable Biennale arts festival.

What do you intend to do after your project has ended?

Continue with the project, develop the live silhouette projection and diffusion work. Conjure more. Have more shared experiences.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned about composition?

In this Embedded case it was a very collaborative process. Gestures make sounds in this work by way of a camera and bespoke software. Working with Ross Flight and Tim Murray Brown on code and programming meant that the act of composing was symbiotic.

Your sound designs are permanently installed in two Greyworld works – how do you decide what kinds of sounds you want to use?

It depends on the project and context. Those works had specific contexts. One was about play at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The other was for a Victorian maze at Hampton Court Palace. Both have sound cues to work with straight away and both are interesting spaces to be inspired by as well.

How do you feel interactive art liberates, yet challenges, the audience?

Interactive art has the potential to make the experience inclusive. It makes the art touchable or accessible. The act of doing that is essentially asking something of the audience, though. What I find interesting is that there is a choice.

What is your motivation for your involvement with sonic art?

Sound is a fascinating medium to work with for many reasons. It is alive, it moves. Coming from dance, choreography is the physical embodiment of sound. Take that a step further into sculpture with sound set in a gallery space. Those are very similar to me. Now I am working with gesture and sound. The intersection of components is expansive. My take is maybe a bit different. I didn't come from a classical composition, band, or DJ background. I've dabbled but I'd say dance is the stronger influence.

Where did your interest in circuit bending come from? 

I have an inner geek. Secretly I want to be the coder character in movies that cracks the password at the last millisecond and prevents the bad guys from winning. I don't really know where it comes from necessarily. I do find tech fascinating though. A friend of mine told me he has dreamt in code. I find this amazing. It is a language – why wouldn't we dream in code? Maybe I like the possibilities and the potentials of what hacking one thing to make something else can render. It’s the future.

How do you feel the visual/physical world of art relates to the world of music and sound?

There's a great quote by Brian O'Doherty:

“The composer's surface is an illusion into which he puts something real - sound. The painter's surface is something real from which he then creates an illusion.”

There are many ways the physical and the time-based relate. Both can have tempo, punctuation and rhythm.

How would you define art (any medium), and how would you define music? How does this relate to your perspective on sound?

Definitions aren't a good starting point necessarily. I'm interested in intention and transmission and those don't have to be interconnected. I have a very broad idea of what art and music can be, and also of perspective in general. Being the weird one at school or living in a foreign country is very conducive to generating perspective :) And with sound in particular. Those that work with sound tend to listen all the time. Environments capture my attention – the subtle nuances that make each one different is what I find compelling.

Any recommendations of composers/artists to look out for in the next year?

As always, Lee Gamble. And Holly Herndon. New projects from each of them are gonna be exciting. Ghost in the Machine Music part II, live sets, good collaboration happening between Graham Dunning, Shelley Parker, Tom Richards, Tom Mudd and me. V22 in London has expanded its art/venue spaces and will host new live sound events. Doing some good things this summer there with Helen Frosi and Andie Brown.


Find out more about Leslie on the British Music Collection // her website // Twitter

Interview by Emma Sugarman (Communications Intern – Sound and Music)

There are 25 New Voices of 2016. Find out more about them here.