Whispers and Sine Waves in the Old Church

in Authors & Books/Music

Dronica. A series of musical events, happening.

I’ve never heard the word in any other context. It’s unique. A special coinage for something different. What does this name mean?

It comes from the word drone.

What is a drone?


You can buy a cheap one from Currys, they’re ‘a game changer for aerial photography’. They’re an unmanned combat aerial vehicle that carries missiles for strikes. Drone wars in the Middle East, buzzing, unmanned, flying weapons, killing and injuring. Insurgents and militias using drones to level the playing field against better-armed adversaries.

They’re a male bee, they gather neither nectar nor pollen, they have no stingers. Their role is to mate with an unfertilised queen. If he succeeds in mating he dies soon afterwards as his penis and associated abdominal tissues are ripped from his body when he flies away.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm . . . let’s ask Nicola Serra what he means by the word drone, and why he called this series Dronica. He is the organiser and is himself an improviser and composer. He’s from Italy but has chosen London as the home for the festival which has generated a polymorphic alternative art scene revolving around its audio-centre.

NS: I grew up playing and listening to what in Italy we call ‘generazione sonica’ (sonic generation) of independent rock influenced by noise-rock bands such as Sonic Youth, post-punk and alternative scene from 80’s and 90’s. That’s why the use of the word ‘sonica’ brings to mind the musical background I have and I am very thankful for. Blending this word with drone nicely summarises – at least – part of the electronic music and the program hosted at Dronica.

And Nicola, what do you understand by this elusive word, drone?

NS: A drone is a sustained and more often static sound which can be repeated forever. To me, drone is a minimalistic approach which sonically summarises that age-old philosophy ‘less is more’.

After three years, the Dronica Festival has created its own archive of exceptional performances and art. To mark this achievement there is a high-quality publication, named after the postcode of the main location, the Old Church in Stoke Newington. The Old Church is the only remaining Elizabethan church in London. It dates back to 1563 and creates a powerfully charged environment for the Dronica artists. The book is produced in conjunction with Pseudomagica, a multidisciplinary publishing house based in Rome. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what Dronica means and is and was.

Matteo Favero has documented the (mostly) evenings and some days through photography and it is his hi res pictures that speak for themselves as a complement to the sonic output of a CD. The inner notes by Ilia Rogatchevski tell some of the journey of the project. ‘The idea was to start small and build outwards, growing the event from a periodic noise night into an eclectic festival devoted to showcasing adventurous music and installation art ‘.

What makes Dronica different to other opportunities to perform in the experimental scene? Ilia believes the significant factor is in the curatorial approach. ‘Like keen botanists who grow whole gardens from a few plant cuttings, Dronica’s curatorial team draw independent artists from various points of the city and showcases their artwork in a new context.’

I have been lucky enough to have performed twice at Dronica in two different duos, with Ilia Rogatchevski and Lisa McKendrick. I have been able to create experimental sounds on two different instruments, the viol and the Minimoog. On each occasion I felt that the location and audience atmosphere teased out a special performance that could not be repeated.  

I have also witnessed incredible performances. For example Conny Prantera’s The Seer brought together multiple artists including Hannah White and Stephen Shiell from Blanc Sceol. The echoing rasp of Stephen dropping what I thought were small stones from a balcony onto a tin tray had a sonic punch and a theatricality that woke me from everday reality into a heightened state.

Because this is what the minimalist, avant-art can do. The simple drone. It can awaken thoughts and dreams, choreograph an internal ballet. The neurons are free to fire as they wish, while being entertained and focused by ingenuity and skill. Dronica allows us to be dunked into a the liquid of sound, and there our minds can swim and find mental adventures, meeting new versions of ourselves.

The sound sweeps us away like the sea. We roll and toss, not talking, listening, each molecule quivering, our receptors buzzing. Sometimes we go outside into the night air and feel the darkness and the camaraderie of fellow artists and audience. We talk about plans, opinions, music, and on a cold night we almost visualise the words of our chosen community in the starry graveyard.

Without the intensity taking place inside the church walls, this special outdoor space for us like-minded alterntative-thinkers to bond would not be there. We take that necessary breather and return for more stimulation, for the light and sound.

Dronica was founded in 2016 and produces and promotes magazines, fanzines and workshops in addition to installations and music. So far over more than one hundred artists from all over the world have contributed.

One of my favourite artists right now is Lia Mice whose work blurs electronica, pop and experimentalism. Dronica, for me, was a perfect environment to witness her work with custom designed instruments and live voice sampling. I’m not a dance-floor junkie and Dronica gives an opportunity for those like me to hear some of the most interesting dance party musicians perform among other experimentalists. The dance floor is taken by the artists not the audience, for site-specific butoh and gothic carnival-horror.

Some of the artists and artist group that have taken part in the series are Dog Milk, Harmergeddon, Dogfeet, Lia Mice, raxil4, Flange Zoo, Isn’tses, Nnja Riot, Sanna Charles, Ilia Rogatchevski, The Seer, Pinna, Monika Bancyr De Angelis, Aurelia Trojanovska, Years of Denial, Bioni Samp, Mothax, Ben Vince, Do Not Question Yourself out of Existence Collective, Denis D’Or, Charles Hayward, Luxul, Needle Factory, Dead Neanderthals, Tom White, Chase Coley, Mai Nguyen Tri and Skrei.

DRONICA: https://dronicafestival.com/

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