Since 1984, polymedia artist W.A.Davison has applied an artistic philosophy which he calls Recordism to a wide variety of creative projects in various media - film and video, music, visual art, poetry, etc. Recordism, briefly stated, is a re-evaluation of chance and automatism which situates itself within the historical continuum of the Fantastic and is closely aligned with the Dada and Surrealist movements (more information can be found here).
In Dec. 1991, Davison began work on yet another Recordist project - a series of "music videos" for his experimental audio compositions, formerly done under the name Exquisite Corpse, but then renamed Songs of the New Erotics (in actual fact, quite a number of names have been used for this work over the years, some replacing others, some running concurrently, and so on). This work culminated several years later in the release of a 50-minute video album entitled "Broadcasts and Solar Interruptions" (still available on Davison's Disembraining Songs label) which features seven short experimental films with surrealist sound collage/musique concrete soundtracks.
While this work continued, the audio compositions of Songs of the New Erotics began to gain some notoriety in underground music circles and pieces started to appear on various international compilation cassettes and CDs. In 1993, Robert Olver, operator of the well-known experimental music label Freedom In A Vacuum, gave Davison his first opportunity to present Songs of the New Erotics material in a live performance.
Wishing to avoid the all-too-common "guy behind a keyboard" (or these days, "guy behind a laptop") approach to experimental music performance, Davison took this opportunity to develop what he hoped would be a more engaging music presentation and began to investigate the histories of experimental theatre and performance art.
On Nov. 6, 1993 the Songs of the New Erotics project made its performance debut opening for industrial music heavy-weights Sigillum S at the Music Gallery in Toronto. Davison's performance, entitled "The Misery Bag: Ergotic Concert No. 1", was a Recordist/Surrealist take on the work of Northern Renaissance painter Hieronymous Bosch. The thirty-minute piece consisted of Davison (dressed as a kind of Boschian magician wearing a long, black cloak, bare feet and legs, and a strange bird-head mask with tall, tree-branch antlers) performing a partially composed, partially improvised musique concrete sound piece using a variety of sound-producing props, homemade instruments, tapes, and vinyl LPs. The piece was enthusiastically received and exceeded Davison's hopes for it, setting the stage (so to speak) for the future of Songs of the New Erotics as a performance vehicle.
It was several years before another performance opportunity arose. During that time, Davison continued to work on the musical side of Songs of the New Erotics (receiving a Toronto Arts Council grant for composition in 1995) as well as numerous other artistic projects. "Broadcasts and Solar Interruptions" was released in early '94 and began to circulate through underground distribution networks. In Summer '95, "Origami Meat Play", one of the seven short films from the "Broadcasts..." video album, was included on the "Macrocephalous Compost 2" video compilation released by Italian experimental music label Old Europa Cafe.
All the while, Davison furthered his investigations into the history and theory of performance art and became more and more excited by the possibilities offered by this medium. Songs of the New Erotics began to be reconceived as a vehicle for Recordist experiments in which experimental music/sound art could be combined with a wide variety of performance strategies.
Over the years, Davison has continued to work on both aspects of the S.O.T.N.E. project but has released fewer and fewer audio recordings, concentrating instead on the performance side of the project. Since 1993, Songs of the New Erotics has presented close to 40 unique performance art pieces in a wide variety of settings - from galleries and festivals to sidewalks and abandoned buildings. Documentation from some of these works can be seen here.
To date, the "Broadcasts and Solar Interruptions" video remains the only full-length Songs of the New Erotics release. In 2004 however, Davison's interest in the audio side of S.O.T.N.E. was revived and studio work renewed. In June of 2004, several significant collaborations with like-minded audio projects were initiated. In addition to these collaborations, a full-length S.O.T.N.E. CD is planned for 2005 as well as a number of compilation appearances. For further information on S.O.T.N.E. audio work, past, present, and future, visit this page.
This "history" is admittedly sketchy. Further details will be added as time permits.
Update - August 2005:
- The first full-length S.O.T.N.E. recording since the 1994 "Broadcasts..." video album has finally been released! Songs of the New Erotics "While The Architect Was Sleeping", a 46-minute drone/collage opus, was released in early June 2005 on the Disembraining Songs label. More info can be found here or, for ordering info, visit the Disembraining Songs catalogue.
- Also in June 2005, the first tangible results of the aforementioned collaborations (see "history" above) were realized. On June 1st, The Recordists presented a concert by the projects irr.app.(ext.) and Songs of the New Erotics at Toronto's New Works Studio. In addition to presenting a new S.O.T.N.E. performance/audio piece entitled "The Spectre of Black Vegetables" (solo performance by W.A.Davison), S.O.T.N.E. members Davison and Higgins performed as members of the irr.app.(ext.) ensemble, along side regular members Matt Waldron and Greg Scharpen, guest performer Jacob Horwood (Gastric Female Reflex) and special guest Steve Stapleton (Nurse With Wound). Future collective appearances and other works involving S.O.T.N.E., Irr., and NWW members are currently being planned.
- In May 2005, a new S.O.T.N.E. audio composition entitled "A Small Beam Of Light Against A Mirror" was premiered on James Bailey's radio program "Electric Storm/A Missing Sense", CKLN Radio, Toronto. This half-hour composition was especially commissioned by James Bailey for "Electric Storm/A Missing Sense" and was aired on May 22, 2005 as part of "Deep Wireless," a month-long celebration of radio art. More info here.
- More new audio compositions are in the works and will see the light of day, hopefully, within the next six months.
- Several new S.O.T.N.E. performance pieces, based on poetic texts by W.A.Davison, are being developed thanks to a grant received from the Ontario Arts Council earlier this year. Works in this series will be presented over the course of the next year as opportunities arise.
Update - June 2006:
- Songs of the New Erotics is pleased to present its latest release entitled "Bobby", a 20-minute 3" CD-R on the Disembraining Songs label. More info here. If you would like to purchase a copy of this release, please visit the Disembraining Songs catalogue.
- Further news on S.O.T.N.E. collaborative work - S.O.T.N.E. members W.A.Davison and S.Higgins presented two "performative actions" (one inspired by NWW's "Salt Marie Celeste" and the other based on the drawings, texts, and musical scores of Adolf Wolfli) as part of the recent Nurse With Wound live event that took place at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, June 16 and 17.
Update - May 2007:
- The latest from Songs of the New Erotics is the "Acrid Maltreats" web release (free download), now available from the Italian label Radical Matters. Find out more here or go directly to Radical Matters!
Update - Jan. 2008:
- Songs of the New Erotics profile on Myspace.