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Mikey Kirkpatrick, aka Bird Radio, is an originator of storytelling though song and music. Since the inception of the Waste.Agency, Bird Radio instigated the Orchestra of Broken Instruments. Beginning with 2 people the orchestra grew in size reaching 25 people by week 5.

Orchestra of Broken Instruments

Listen to some of the music create by the orchestra so far on Soundcloud by clicking here

Every Monday Evening from 5.30pm – 7.30pm – Free Entry - arrive anytime – No musical experience necessary.

Photos from rehearsal #4, Image, PopestatesPhotography

Returning for a second run, the Orchestra of Broken Instruments begins Monday 12th January 2015 from 5.30 – 7.30pm. To find out about how the orchestra has developed visit the Orchestra of Broken Instrument blog.

Some years ago I posed this question to myself; How do you create spontaneous composition with an ensemble and yet position all desired events? I have learned, it is not the art … however, it is a nuance in signature, and the signature is the art.

An improvisor is a pedestrian in an “Environmental-Orchestration”. My task as a composer/conductor/improvisor has been to place the musician/pedestrian in various psychological sound states to induce the image of initial thought.

And through (the) art itself, the constant (re)organization of sounds canvas, these images and thoughts are (re)created.

As a conductor/composer I have developed a vocabulary of gestural information to extend the language of both musician and conductor to further facilitate composition as a flexible, functional, mutual corresponding tool. In doing so the bonds of both composition and conducting become limitless, and the balance between composer, conductor, improvisor becomes equal.

February 1st 1985 marked my first “Conduction” in the United States. For the past 12 or so years I have been involved in researching this fertile ground. And today there is much interest in furthering its potential.

A “Conduction” is a conducted improvisation. In essence it is an improvised duet for ensemble and conductor. - Prose Communion - a melding of minds. In this concept, and on this recording, you will hear a system that is a unit. An individual conscience of its own unity. The theory behind its organization is the imagination, a theory that belongs to tradition.

The subject I have chosen is topical world-wide… Perhaps soon, … universal.


— Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris

February 10th, 1947 - January 29th, 2013

Example of instruments and Participants (from 11th November 2014 rehearsal)

Last night we had our fourth rehearsal of The Orchestra of Broken Instruments, this time with 21 performers and a plethora of interesting broken instruments and objects. This means we are increasing by about 5 members every week! I began by performing a couple of songs, talked about the (with Daniel Jack Mclennan’s installation singing “Are you lonely tonight?” in the background) and we then went around the group to meet everyone and see/hear what sound making devices they had brought with them.

Some interesting conversation points:

1) The narrative of the broken instrument

2) Is this orchestra about the music, or the people?

3) Drones, rhythms and melodies.

4) Direction/conduction - how much should the orchestra be guided?

5) Sub-ensembles - duos, trios and quartets. Partner sounds.

6) How is a crisp packet a broken instrument? Because it breaks the perception of what an instrument is. (Thanks Tanya, Chris and Stu)

7) Musicians and non-musicians. Can everyone be an artist?

8) Chaos and Organisation

We used each instrument/performer as a starting point for an impovisation, sometimes more conducted and divised than others - ensemble ‘hits’ and bell/gong textures - some comedy moments, hybrid instruments, poetry, and we also launched into singing as a response to some of the poetry. We had some Handel from our recorder duo which led to some dark post power cut drones and Paul’s direction of playing as slowly as possible conjured some stunning resonances from across the room. Looped and processed bells underpinned Isabel’s poetry and Jazzman John Clarke inspired some rain.

This week our orchestra consisted of (in no particular order)

Stu - CD Decks and FX

Simon (The Englishman) - a plastic tube - “didgeri-don’t” and recordings on his phone of a songthrush and Belgian Bells

Heather - a small dinner or service bell

Vittoria - the Drumbrella, snare drum and melodica

Rita - A silent bell (loaned from Tanya)

Tanya - a concertina lantern

Chris - a rubber trombone mouthpiece (?), a glass washboard and a small chinese drum with beaters bound

Michelle - a skull shaker

Jazzman John - a poem after the Lord Mayor’s show and a metal tin that is played by dropping on the floor

Lurca - trombone mouthpiece and packet of Cheese and Onion hula hoops

Alice and Juliette - penny whistles, treble recorders and sopranino

Chris - Lunch box

Jill - Jingle bells

Martins - Paul’s broken clarinet (and voice)

Paul - broken melodica and untunable ukelele

Kloe - various objects!

Isabel - snare drum and voice

Abigail - rain stick, pitched tubes, guitar and more

Additional instruments - walls, floor, crisps, shelves, children’s toys, vibra-slap, suitcase bass drum, water bottles, logarhythm and more…

Video of Bird Radio last day at the Waste.Agency of 2015 before heading to New York.

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