nick cope film & video

Cinema for the Ear


Cinema for the Ear was a  concert of electroacoustic music and live digital video projections held at Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, England, in May 2002. Organized and produced by Rob Mackay and the University of Hull’s Creative Music Technology department and featuring a selection of work by internationally renowned contemporary composers, staff and students from the department.  I was invited to create a visual accompaniment to the sixty minute music programme, mixing pre-prepared digital video sources of my own film and video material, in a live visual multi-projection improvisation on the cinema screen of the performance space, to live 8-speaker surround-sound-diffusion playback[1]

Rob Mackay makes explicit in the programme notes for the concert that ‘Cinema for the Ear, or Cinéma pour l’oreille as the phrase was first coined by French/Canadian composer Francis Dhomont, is a genre of electroacoustic music that makes use of concrete (real-world) sounds that are suggestive of programmic elements. The listener is taken on a journey through different soundscapes that conjure up aural images, creating a cinematic experience for the ear. Tonight’s concert is an experiment in which we have taken pieces that were originally composed for sound alone and interwoven visual images which are suggestive of material in the pieces. In this sense we have flipped the common practice of making a film and composing music to it afterwards on its head. Instead the visual projections have been selected and crafted to accompany the music.’

In the same programme for the event I would write, ‘I have always been interested in the history of abstract cinema, non-narrative films and the potentials of these and emerging new media have for creating a form of ‘painting with light’, and composing with images in time. This Cinema for the Ear event has given me the opportunity to work with film and video material which I have filmed, animated and edited over a number of years, and to apply this material in a way that visually accompanies the musical environments created, and to allow the musical pieces to determine the nature of images I have chosen to wok with, and to construct a cinema to accompany work originally produced for the Ear.’

The concert proved to be very significant on a personal level, instigating the ongoing collaboration with Tim Howle which would develop into Electroacoustic Movies  over the following years. Midnight Meat Train and Subplot from the ‘Cinema for the Ear’ programme being developed into the first two pieces of the Electroacoustic Movies collaboration.

Subsequent to the concert, I have edited the source material into single screen pieces to give an indication of the original live visual mix on the night.

môr(G)wyn (2003)

môr(G)wyn features footage shot by Nick Cope edited to a composition by Andrew Lewis, originally composed for Sound/Gallery, Copenhagen.

Andrew Lewis writes, “môr(G)wyn was composed specifically for performance in Copenhagen Town Hall Square on a sunterranean computer-controlled sound system called SOUND/GALLERY, the 25 loudspeakers of which are embedded just below the surface of a pedestrian area of the Square.. Computers beneath the Square control the ‘choreography’ of the sound in space.

Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid sculpture is a tourist landmark of seemingly benign fairytale innocence, yet the mermaid myth itself hides something altogether darker. Like the sea itself, the surface beauty of mermaids and sirens disguises enormous destructive power. môr(G)wyn explores the indivisible relationship between beauty and danger associated with both the mermaid/sirens myth and with the sea, by bringing together two pools of material – sea sounds and womens voices- in two contrasting musical manifestations, one violent the other lyrical.

The title môr(G)wyn is a fabricated word containing a number of (mainly Welsh) resonances, including sea, death, girl/maiden, white/blessed, mermaid.

môr(G)wyn was composed in Copenhagen during a 10 day visit in December 1996. It was commissioned by Ketil Teisen (Lydl@boratoriet) and Michael Madsen (SOUND/GALLERY), as part of Copenhagen’s  year as European City of Culture. The sound material was composed in the  studios of Lydl@boratoriet, with computer spatialisation composed in the SOUND/GALLERY studio beneath the Town Hall Square (technical assistance Steen Johannessen). Preliminary work was done in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of the University of Wales Bangor, UK, where the present stereo concert version was also made. Môr(G)wyn won second prize in the 1997 EAR competition, Budapest.”

The Eyes of Truth (2003/2013)

The Eyes of Truth features video material animated, shot and generated by Nick Cope and edited to a sound piece by Doug Smith featuring samples of Mohammed Ali, originally composed by Smith in 2002. This work was also screened at the University of Hull’s SEA’ 03 concerts and international conference in 2003.

Midnight Meat Train (2002)

Midnight Meat Train features time-lapse footage shot by Jackie Jones (Sheffiled) and Peter Care (Chicago), and originally edited by Nick Cope for live projection work in the late 1980s and early 1990s with music group Cabaret Voltaire. For this version the footage was mixed with Joe Audsley’s Win Amp animations and mixed live and later edited to Audsley’s audio composition ‘Midnight Meat Train’. This edit was subsequently developed by Tim Howle into his collaboration with Nick Cope, composing a brand new soundtrack which would become the video piece ‘Open Circuits’.

Nil by Mouth / Inside Information: Materia Medica (2003/2013)

‘Inside Information: Materia Medica’ features animations by Nick Cope taken from contemporary and historical medical imaging sources in an aesthetic treatment of scientifically and medically derived footage, and edited to Tony Ginty’s composition ‘Nil by Mouth’.

Subplot / Son et Lumières (2006)

Son et Lumières was a later edit of both the sound (an extract of Tim Howle’s composition Subplot) and visual material originally presented live in the Cinema for the Ear programme. Developed from and reworking the source materials into what became the second of the collaborative  Electroacoustic Movies video works with composer Tim Howle.

Mindscape 1, from Confusion to Clarity / d_film//mindscape 3.1 (2003/2013)

Lorenz Penkler’s composition ‘Mindscape 1: from confusion to clarity’ becomes the basis for this edit deriving from the source material projected live in the original performance and subsequently titled d_film//mindscape 3.1.

Voicewind (2003)

Rob Mackay’s composition Voicewind was composed in the electroacoustic studios at Bangor University in 1998, winning a special prize in the EAR 99 Hungarian Radio competition. Based on Sophocles text from ‘Oedipus at Colonus’, Mackay tries to mirror the meaning and mood of the text and its relevance across generations, whilst examining his interest in transforming recognisable sounds, playing on human auditory perception and travelling back and forth between imaginary and real world soundscapes. The footage is a reworking of the video camera recording of the output of a video waveform monitor, first explored in Nick Cope’s edit for Mandragora’s Jazz Message  in 1999.

Programme notes and review in the local press.

Programme notes and review in the local press.

Anecdotal evidence reported that Sir Alan Aykbourn left this performance midway through, commenting backstage that ‘there are many things you can do in a theatre, and that’s not one of them’! Lady Aykbourn, however, remained for the whole performance and is said to have enjoyed it.

[1] A Cinema for the Ears is a term and concept originally developed by Canadian composer Francis Dhomont (‘cinéma pour l’oreille’).

‘ “Seeing” electroacoustic music

Electroacoustic music is not music in the traditional sense and it never was intended to be… The composer doesn’t aim at a melody-and-accompaniement form. The electroacoustician shapes sound in the same way a sculptor shapes wood, stone or metal. He takes raw sound sources (their choice often relates to his conception of what the piece will stand for/mean) and manipulates them via studio techniques in order make them say something they were not meant to — ultimately disguising them, making them impossible for the listener to recognize. Listening to an electroacoustic piece is like studying a sculpture from every angle…or like “watching” a sound movie, hence the expression “cinema for the ear”.’

Francois Couture, 2005, Electroacoustic Music: What is it, how to listen to it and where to start  [online] Available from:

One comment

  1. Pingback: Comparisons to other Works – Eamonn Cassidy – MTE3020

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