Supplementary Background Notes for Dadson Sonic Sculptures:
Phil Dadson began his exploration of sound as a youngster improvising at the piano, winning a Hawkes Bay Jazz Club award and later becoming a member of the Auckland University Jazz Quartet while studying at Elam Art School. While there he made his first experiments with tape recorders, tape loops and with experimental music. Leaving Elam in the mid 60s he travelled to London in 1968 where he became a foundation member of the London Scratch Orchestra, an experimental music and performance ensemble mentored by UK composer/performer Cornelius Cardew (member of the legendary AMM). On his return to Elam studies in 1970, Dadson joined the sculpture department headed by Jim Allen and was given freedom to explore his passion for sound via performance and conceptual ideas. During this time he developed the antipodean branch of Scratch Orchestra, devising and facilitating a host of performances and events, including the first sound performances in Auckland art galleries, Five Foot Square in Auckland Art Gallery and Blood & Bone series at Barry Lett Gallery (1971), and Scratch Orchestra at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth (1972). By 1974 a breakaway from the larger Scratch Orchestra was formed, From Scratch, with its focus on polyrhythm, egalitarian politics, found and homemade sound sources, marking the beginning of Dadson's evolution of modified and invented instruments, a passion that continues into the present.
From Scratch is regarded as New Zealand's most original music performance group, with a thirty-year performing career locally and internationally (1974 - 2004). The group represented New Zealand at the Sydney Biennale twice (1979 & 1986), South Pacific Festival of Arts, Papua New Guinea (1980), Paris Biennale (1982), Edinburgh Festival (1984), SoundWatching Festival, Tokyo (1986), and at new music festivals in New York, London, Sydney, Toshigi, Yokohama, Jakarta, Bali, St Johns, and Newfoundland. From Scratch also toured Hungary, Holland and Germany with the Global Hockets project, a1999 collaboration with Supreme Particles (Frankfurt). Dadson's experimental musical instruments, over more than four decades, include the trademark instruments of the From Scratch percussion arsenal, slap tube stations etc, and a wide range of solo instruments that he continues to perform with for solo and collaborative occasions: the long string zitherums, Nundrum, Bamboozither'imher, Sprong family of instruments, Gloop family, Glissflute family and an enormous archive of song-stones collected on travels locally and world wide. His solo sonic projects have been included in numerous soundart and Intermedia art events locally and internationally: Yokohama, Japan (SoundCulture'96), New York (Ear to the Earth 2006), San Francisco (SoundCulture), Auckland (SoundCulture), S3D invented instrument Festival (Auckland Festival 2007), TEZA (NZ), Nine Dragon Heads Nomadic projects (Korea, China, Switzerland, and in 2015 in Venice as part of Venice Biennale). Parallel with his interest in sonic invention is
Dadson's consistent exploration of moving image, primarily in video, since the early 70s. In the mid 70s he worked professionally as a film-sound recordist on various projects including a partnership with Geoff Steven in See/Hear films as sound recordist and sound designer (Te Matakite te Aotearoa, Test Pictures, Burt Monroe documentary etc). He transferred this experience to his personal video projects, recording and producing the sound tracks for every one of his projects.