White Noise – St Johns Church
By Pete Clemons
The people who designed and built those wonderful medieval churches centuries ago, along with the relatively more modern structures, could never have imagined that, years later, what they built for worship would provide incredible acoustics for electrified music.
Not what they were intended for I agree, but I am certain that those who sometimes devoted their entire lives too, would somehow be pleased. In fact electricity had not even been discovered when St John’s Church, at the end of Spon Street, was built. Yet this 14th century marvel recently played host to an electronic music icon.
To get David Vorhaus, along with his musical partner Mike Painter, to play there was an incredible coup for Synthcurious who, in conjunction with The Tin Arts Centre, are staging a series of electronic music events in and around Coventry.
David Vorhaus was a member of the ‘band’ White Noise who he belonged to along with Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson. Together, and during some now well documented late night sessions undertaken at the BBC workshop in Maida Vale, they created the now legendary White Noise album ‘An Electric Storm’ released during June 1969.
David plays a Kaleidophon, an instrument that kind of looks like a slim guitar or bass guitar, the playing of it is similar, but is in fact an electronic bit of kit that he designed and developed himself……..from plastic drainpipe.
I remember David demonstrating his then new invention of the Kaleidophon on the Tomorrows World TV programme during the mid-1970s, several years after his initial involvement on the White Noise project. During the demonstration David described how the instrument was actually voltage was being played and how the idea was formed as a reaction to the keyboard. And how the ‘stings’ were made from ‘linear carbon resistance materials’. The Kaleidophon was fitted with different switches for different functions such as speed and pitch.
In David’s own words….
“I made the ribbons for the Kaleidophon using thermal paper which has a carbon underlay with a wax coating. I got hold of some of the material before they put the wax on and, amazingly, its resistance was quite linear. Obviously paper wasn’t robust enough so I got them to put it on plastic. Eventually these were made for me by the French Space Agency because the person who worked for Ozalid in the UK, who made the original strings for me,
Making up todays version of White Noise and accompanying David this evening, is Mike Painter on Theremin – an antenna which picks up your hand movement and, in turn, amplifies those movements and sends it to a speaker. And between them, and for just over an hour they created the most incredible sound that simply grabbed your attention.
They delivered, in an almost pitch black setting, a pre meditated but also improvised set of pieces of music. I didn’t notice a set list but one of the tunes was, I think, introduced as Picasso Rocks. There was also a unique version of ‘Love Without Sound’ (Thanks Ian Green for identifying that) which was fitting as it was a track from the Electric Storm album that David wrote together with Delia Derbyshire whose honour and birthday was being celebrated.