Crowd Control Vol 1 is a 22-minute installation, film and live sound performance examining themes of privacy and protest in the age of surveillance capitalism.
Our digital communications and social posts feel private but are in fact mined for information and predictive behavioural data by third parties, from supermarkets to state agencies. Similarly, crowds feel like a safe environment in which to find solidarity and take action, but are in fact intensely watched, with individual people identified and criminalised later on the basis of social media posts and video footage.
A voltage-controlled laser is trained on a vase of flowers, lit candles and curiosities sitting on a silver tray. The movement of the laser is controlled by the sound waves created during the performance.
A film plays, heavily featuring the colour yellow in homage to Sarah Hegazi. Wildflowers are inspected under a microscope; crowds of people process slowly through city streets.
A live sound piece is performed using my Innalog modular synthesiser and a drum machine. I open the piece by layering white noise over recordings of crowds gathered at social justice protests: the resulting mix of sonic data – ‘signal’ and ‘noise’ – is then sculpted over time using different types of filtration and FX, including granular and spectral processing. Melodic elements start to appear: oscillators bleep, rising and falling; drums; the sound of a female voice is looped to create rhythm. Gradually the mix is peeled back to the foundational building blocks of the piece: white noise and crowd noise, people and data, information littered across the digital panopticon; but who is controlling the laser?
The symbolism of the visual elements is deep: in particular, the colour yellow was chosen to pay my respects to Egyptian feminist and queer activist, Sarah Hegazi, who ended her life in June, two years after her arrest for waving a rainbow flag in a crowd at a music concert in Cairo. The flowers are an embodiment of the beauty and diversity of humanity in the first flush of youth.
Lock East, Sound City Ipswich, Friday 2nd October 2020 – livestream performance
TUSK Virtual, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Saturday, 10 October 2020 – pre-recorded livestream performance
‘Lateness Stage’ on BBC Radio 3, Friday, 2 October 2020 – an excerpt of the TUSK performance
A live recording of Crowd Control Vol 1, including some preparatory studies, is available on Bandcamp now.
“Sometimes you read about the ideas behind a release and find that the concept is better than the execution. That’s not the case here. With Crowd Control, Loula Yorke attempts to draw together ideas about privacy and protest, surveillance and data mining, all while making exciting music that’s more than just a lofty idea. The sound is a mixture of white noise, vocal recordings and sonic manipulations that’s hard to pin down but easy to enjoy.” Aidan Hanratty, Bandcloud #316
“Loula Yorke’s beguiling set of beat-driven electronics and concrète collage, a texturally rich blend of sounds with a definite early Warp clonk at its heart, presented split screen with her voltage-controlled laser providing some intrigue.” Lee Fisher, NARC Magazine