An evocation of our solitude and our connectedness

Music and Art created with the telephone

About The Exchange

It is a performance event devised by musician, composer and sound artist Giles Perring, in which he appears ‘solo’ although playing with other contributors who take part live via a simple telephone call. It’s a template for a live streaming musical/sound event that Giles first performed at an improvised music club, upstairs at the Centurion, in Deptford, London in 2001. Taking inspiration from a fascination with the telephone call as a means of communication; a love of remote listening; the communities who populate thru-the-night phone-ins; the melodic collisions of Charles Ives’ music, and the dreamlike shortwave radio explorations of Stockhausen, Giles has updated the piece every time he has done it since that debut in 2001.
Since its first, audio only rendition, which is available below for interested listeners, every version of The Exchange has included a post-production phase, where audio and video gathered from the telephone contributors has been interleaved with the recordings of Giles own performance before its live audience. These videos have been subsequently released on DVD and latterly online.


Latest version

140919, the fifth rendition of The Exchange, unfolded to an invited audience joining Giles in his studio on the Isle of Jura in Scotland. It streamed to the world via a 4G uplink to the inaugural showcase for Argyll’s Art and Culture organisation CHARTS, at St John’s Cathedral in Oban. Voices called in from all over Argyll, and the planet. The video was released on 2 April 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as musicians and performers across the world themselves began to engage with how to make live events online.
The line up for the piece featured Melanie Pappenheim [who was situated in London], Catriona Price [Lyth Arts Centre], Teitur [Faroe Islands], Esther Swift [Edinburgh], John Cayley [Providence, Rhode Island], Kevin Godley [Dublin], Lorne MacDougall [Dunoon], Ian Stephen [Isle of Lewis], Jørn Snorre Andersen [Stavanger], and Kirsty Law [Oban]. Echoes created by calls bouncing back and forth across the ether, traditional songs, improvisation, a tune by Charles Ives, and poetry all feature alongside the acoustically shaped sound of Knockrome, Jura, which Giles streamed from an outdoor installation of tuned pipes and microphones, providing a tonal backdrop for the piece.


Archive and media

Giles Perring has been exploring the potential of The Exchange since 2001. Here is coverage of and various material from, each performance. There’s also details of the wide range of other performers and artists that he has involved in its iterations over time.


The Exchange 1

took place at the Centurion, Deptford High Street. The pub’s upstairs function room was home to various regular improvised music nights over the years, with audience sizes that varied wildly in size, but never broke into 3 figures. On this particular hot summer night, hosted by then South London improv impressario Rob Mills, the windows were flung open, and the whole soundscape of Deptford was recorded in stereo along with Giles’ performance and his phone calls on DAT.

The Exchange 2

took place at Richard Sanderson’s Baggage Reclaim improvised music night at the famous 12 Bar Club, which was at the back of Andy’s Guitars in Denmark Street – London’s famous street of music. The performance area’s tiny foorprint was surrounded by buildings and the GPRS carrier signal that could penetrate to any phones that would work in the venue were hugely amplified on the PA. This show was the first to be video recorded, and Giles asked any of the participants who could, to make a video of themselves for the entire duration of the piece. A labour of love synchronised the various bits of VHS, Hi-8 and other analogue video to the master shot taken by Douglas Cape at the venue. Watch the whole thing here.

The Exchange 3

was commissioned by Modern Art Oxford and with support from Vodafone Live! and featured visual material made in collaboration with Douglas Cape of z360.
This performance synchronised live performance on stage with telephoned performances from across Oxfordshire and, with support from Vodafone’s in the shape of 21 of their newly released Sharp GX10 phones, it introduced live picture messaging from each performer, that was screened on the stage.
With the support of various local arts projects, the performance was also filmed on video at its various locations and the finished video was premiered at Modern Art Oxford on 8 November 2003.
Douglas Cape used panoramic photography to create biographical and location specific images of each artist in the performance. The 21 artists in the project also created personal photo albums using the phone cameras in advance of the performance, which, with the rather cumbersome workflow of these very early cameraphones all had to be emailed via a special server.

  • Sharp Shots – the assembly of photos from the camera phones
  • Panoramas – Panoramic video from Douglas Cape of his set of panoramic portraits taken of the callers in their chosen environments.

The Exchange 2003 from Douglas Z360 on Vimeo.

  • The Performance – the original video created from handycam videos made by the participants.

The Exchange 011113

was commissioned by Taktal for their ‘Suspense’ event at Glasgow’s Sonica Festival and was performed on 1 November 2013, from a silo at 100 Borron Street, Glasgow, and was part of their site specific event comprising installation, sound art and music. For the first time, Giles offered callers the opportunity to perform their element with reference to a tone centre, a pre-agreed pitch. This was a change from previous performances which allowed for the key and pitch of performances to vary wildly. A further component included referencing, in some calls, the career/canon of the recently deceased Lou Reed. As he had established in previous performances, despite the availablity of other technologies, the piece was carried out using regular telephony, while videos which some performers sent in, were synchronised with the recording of the concert.


Commentary and reviews

John Cayley, ‘sleeve notes’ for the Exchange 1

Fay Young in Sceptical Scot 30 May 2020, interview with Giles Perring

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