SOUNDkitchen serve up a taste of co-operation

SOUNDkitchen members. Back: Chris Tarren, Julien Guillamat, James Carpenter, Shelly Knotts. Front: Annie Mahtani, Iain Armstrong

SOUNDkitchen members. Back: Chris Tarren, Julien Guillamat, James Carpenter, Shelly Knotts. Front: Annie Mahtani, Iain Armstrong

A group of composers and performers who hear music in everyday sounds have formed a co-operative to expose their art to a wider audience.

Birmingham-based SOUNDkitchen make and perform experimental electroacoustic music created from the sounds of the world around them.

The highly-qualified musicians wanted a platform from which to collaboratively compose and perform their art – which blurs the boundaries between music and science.

Artistic director Annie Mahtani explained: “As experimental electronic musicians there aren’t very many opportunities for us to perform, so we had to create our own. We started SOUNDkitchen as a means of doing that.”

Co-director Iain Armstrong added: “SOUNDkitchen also gives us an opportunity to collaborate, network and build relationships with other electronic music artists.”

SOUNDkitchen launched a pilot series of monthly performances at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath back in February, showcasing an eclectic collection of DJs, laptop performers, instrumental musicians and audiovisual artists.

By July the artists felt ready to stage a one-day festival – called SONICpicnic – which was held at VIVID, in Birmingham’s Eastside district.

And the success of the event led to an approach by Capsule, the organisers of the Supersonic Festival – which caters for fans of a wide spectrum of fringe music styles ranging from free-jazz to doom metal at and around the Custard Factory – to curate a space at Zellig, the new arts and media centre at the complex.

Over two days in October, SOUNDkitchen showcased their talents in what they called the Cinema for the Ears. Besides recording and composing the music, members wrote software that determined how the sound would be delivered through 24 speakers to create a 360 degree soundscape.

Julien Guillamat performs at  Supersonic Festival

Julien Guillamat performs at Supersonic Festival

Among the performers was SOUNDkitchen member Chris Tarren, who gave the debut presentation of his ambisonic installation ‘Imaginary Landscapes – Through the Moors…’, in which three days of field recordings made between York and Runswick Bay on the East Yorkshire coast – including trains, the bleating of sheep, birdsong and the sounds of the sea – were distilled into a 30-minute composition.

Also performed were ‘Home’ and ‘Metal’:, two installation pieces edited by Shelley Knotts using field recordings from 30 contributors on the themes of home or metal. The titles of the pieces play homage to Capsule’s Home of Metal exhibition, which celebrates Birmingham as the birthplace of heavy metal music.

The next step for SOUNDkitchen is the formation of a worker co-operative, which has been achieved with the help of Co-operative Futures, the Gloucester-based development agency which helps co-operatives to get off the ground and prosper.

“Co-operative Futures have been great,” said Iain. “We’ve been six artists living the dream, but with little experience of running a businesses. Now we know what and where we want to be, and how to get there.”

Annie said: “Our long term goal is to get a space and equipment for ourselves. We are very lucky to be working with people like BEAST – Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre at the University of Birmingham – who are happy to lend us their equipment, but ultimately we’d like to design and develop something of our own.”

“As electronic composers and performers, sometimes it felt like we were pushing against closed doors. The co-operative model appeals to us because of its non-hierarchical and democratic approach. We want to be welcoming and inviting to new members, and to expand in a beautiful way!”

Jane Grindey at Co-operative Futures said: “The co-operative business model is ideal for people in the creative industries, who are accustomed to working collaboratively and democratically, and believe people can achieve more if they work together.”

For more information on starting a business that is a co-operative, log on to, email, or call Jane on 08454 562506.

To find out more about SOUNDkitchen, and to listen to their music, log on to

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