Deep Dive: Beynon School of Audio Architecture | Christian Fillary | The Copse is Wrought Iron

Sometimes you find something that you wish you heard about a long time ago. These archived works were ressurrected in around 2013 and can still be purchased on Bandcamp today. The title of the track really intrigued me and as I read their informative description, I couldn't really believe that these tracks were done by teenagers as part of their curriculum. I wish I had known about these schools when I was growing up (if they were still around), though my musical taste at their age was nowhere as bold or experimental.

This track has all the qualities that are inherent with old tape stock that I try to incorporate with my own recordings. Noise, loss of high frequency, dropouts, and warbling caused by mechanical or medium imperfections. Also the audible intervention of the manipulation of the tape machine gives a sense of performance, and connection between listener, performer, and recordist. Each old tape has its own unknown state of decay which makes it like an expired film in a sense. You never know what you have until you use it.

Here is the description of the track:
This 10 minute opus entitled 'The Copse is Wrought Iron' was labelled as being by 17 year old Christian Fillary, March 1977. Christian was at the school for only three years as is recorded. His Seventeenth year being his final one at the school. We know very little else and we are in the dark as to why his stay was so short at the school. The copse to which he refers is judged to be Black-a-Tor Copse as this is where the school visited on many occasions for field trips. To why on this particular day it was wrought iron, has been lost to history.

We think the piece was recorded in the Refectory judging by the reverberation and was maybe recorded as a live performative piece. The recording seems to have elements of reverse tape manipulation and also some electronic manipulation. This may have also been a prepared piece making full use of the tape machines flutter effect. This may have been looped and played back and recorded again and again off two machines to create a stereophonic body to which elements were performed on top. As this duplication was taking effect it would seem Christain had some tape issues as there a few audible edits in the performance. See if you can spot them. The effect is quite mesmerising while being a little sinister to say the least. This was taken from ¼ inch tape and I'm sure copied relentlessly during the exercise. Over time the tape has stretched and this distortion is audible. Enjoy good people.

The Beynon School was founded in 1941 by Victor Beynon as an institution extolling the virtues of alternative education. The children aged between 11 and 19 attended the school in the heart of the Devon countryside up until it's closure on the 29th April 1980.

The Beynon School of Audio Architecture was the department founded in 1959 to explore the relationship between new ever emerging audio possibilities (performative electronics, composition, structure, early sampling techniques) and the moving image. This experimentation peaked in the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. This is the time span that forms the bulk of the surviving archive. The word 'Architecture' was employed because of Victor's ideology that the children should 'build worlds in relation to visual stimulus that are both organic and solid but at once metaphorical and dream-like'. A scope that gave some focus while remaining wide enough to encourage experimentation. The school was also a focus for the surrounding community and the local inhabitants made use of the facilities of the school and the audio school proper. Some even adding to the archive.

After Victor's death in 1992, I, his grandson Gregory inherited the archive and set about exploring its contents. The great majority of the audio-visual archive was destroyed by flooding in 1986 when the archive was being held at the Royal William Yard, Plymouth. However most of the audio material was saved as it was stored above the line of the highest part of the flooding.

In September 1976 Victor wrote the Penguin published book 'The Beynon School of Audio Architecture' celebrating the school, it's ideology and it's endeavours. The book enjoyed a short but none-the-less popular publishing run.

During the 1980s after the schools closure the department and it's associated contents relocated to a location on Dartmoor National Park near to the village of Widecombe. Recording and experimentation continued for a short while until 1989 when the department sold it's assets and closed it's doors.

You can find more archived material at the archive's bandcamp page.

About Deep Dive:
Deep Dive is a list of artists that I have found during multi-day 'diving' (down-scrolling) on Soundcloud. These tracks have inspired me and my work in some way. For more Deep Dive Features click here.