Modest Proposals, an immersive piece of music for tone generators, drum kit, guitar and electric bass, was written for the JEMP festival and is a blend of improvisation and written material making use of graphic scores to consider how musicians can work together within a fixed structure. Modest Proposals will consider sound as a temporal sculpture, reacting to the space it is performed in but also the formal properties of sound itself. Two tone generators will play pitches that interact and cause ‘beating’; the audible pulse created by the sound waves hitting each other in the space. The drummer will take this beating as a pulse and use it to stimulate a series of improvisations with the ensemble. An important aspect of the work is the installation elements that McDonnell incorporates into the piece. These can take the form of large-scale temporary structures that help tune the space, stools, music stands and other support structures for the performers and graphic scores used to communicate the work to the musicians. Modest Proposals is site contingent and will respond to the resonant space of the Swiss Church. Musicians are Jon Ormston on drumkit and Emma-Kate Matthews on bass and Ben McDonnell on electric guitar.
Ben McDonnell graduated with a masters degree in photography from the Royal College of Art In 2017, his undergraduate degree was Jazz composition and performance from Leeds College of Music. His studio is in south east London, UK. His work uses photography, sound and sculpture to raise questions around stability, support and structure. He draws inspiration from sound, music and the built environment. McDonnell was recently selected for the Chisenhale Studio Residency in 2019 and by Outset Contemporary Art Fund for a residency in Vancouver, which was supported by the British Council and Vancouver Biennale. In 2018 he completed a studio residency and exhibition with PADA in Lisbon, Portugal, and was commissioned to make new work for Concealer, part of Peckham 24 photography festival. His work has been shown internationally and is held in public and private collections. Ben is a lecturer in photography at Manchester Metropolitan University.