Shiva Feshareki on spatial electronics, composing for turntables and the potential of binaural technology

The British-Iranian composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki mixes electronic and acoustic instruments in her innovative compositions

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Shiva Feshareki combines spatial electronics with acoustic instruments and is currently writing three works for live electronics and choir: one for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, another for this year’s BBC Proms and one for the Netherlands Chamber Choir. BBC Music Magazine columnist Richard Morrison chose Shiva Feshareki as one of the next wave of great British composers to look out for.

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I’ve always been fascinated with the physicality of sound. It’s so interconnected with light, motion, gravity and weight. The universe is made up of vibrations: we exist through vibrations. As well as studying music and being classically trained, I’ve also studied the psychology of sound and how we perceive it.

I use space as a compositional tool. It’s like a form of sonic architecture. When I write, I think about how the sound is moving around the space and engaging with the acoustic. Sometimes, I’ll put the choir in an outward-facing position, so the sound is moving in circles as they sing. Using this spatial technology means the sound is constantly in flux, which makes for a unique, visceral experience. The audience in the hall can actually feel the tangible motion of sound.

Shiva Feshareki chose experimental American composer Morton Feldman as the greatest composer of all time.

I use turntables and analogue tape echo but not in the way they’re intended. I use playback equipment as instruments in their own right. Over time I’ve created my own techniques, which use the motion of the spinning disc as a way of manipulating electronic sounds into different shapes and perspectives. I’m always creating electronic sounds live in the moment in an improvisatory way.

When I create spatial compositions, I use geometry as a starting point. I adapt every piece to suit the shape, context and acoustic of the space it’s being performed in, expanding or contracting the parameters. Reverberant sound plays a vital role in the resonance of a piece. My piece Opus Infinity has a spatial blueprint based on the Fibonacci Sequence, following the design of the natural world, with everyone positioned at an angle following the golden ratio.

The whole aim of my music is to create special live immersive experiences that occur within a moment. I’ve been working with binaural and digital technologies to try and document some of these 360-degree live experiences so they can be captured and shared digitally.

Find out more about the new piece Shiva Feshareki has written for the 2021 BBC Proms.

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Top image credit: Ben Ealovega