Sam Enthoven is another person involved in the London experimental music and arts scene that lockdown lately has deprived me of periodically meeting and so I used this article writing exercise as a reason to contact him with ideas of comparing his recent experiences with mine and finding if we have travelled common routes lately. I used the social medias for the contact and subsequent discussions. Despite the social medias current propensity for bombarding me with grimness I am still finding it a valuable resource for getting hold of people and bending their ear, by using both vocal words and typing them.
I asked Sam some questions on the keyboard and while I was waiting for the responses I started to write this introduction to what I know about him and how long I’ve known him for, then luckily while I was writing this he sent some answers over so I just pretty much disregarded this idea and started to think about what to write next. I figured that the points that arose from his responses reduced the need for much of an introduction anyway.
He told me that what he does is about the places where sound and stories meet. I’ve seen this manifest in events and performances of his that I’ve attended over recent years, and they have been many and varied. Live film scores, storytelling, collaborations and flat out music performance. The initial lockdown restrictions rapidly knackered Sam’s ongoing and upcoming plans and bookings. It was a shock for him and I see how that can spin you out. I had about four performances booked for my music stuff during this period and they all became nothings, apart from digital calendar reminders which popped up as I’d forgotten to delete them and they then flatlined any enthusiasm for creativity for a while apart from creatively sinking into the sofa and staring at the TV, whether it was on or not. As Sam related to me, it’s upsetting to see your plans pulled away from you, and not only to see this but to feel them being pulled away too. The lying around option becomes a viable negativity and apart from the small step pursuits of cooking and exercise, it’s taken him up to recent days to begin to explore potential for making new projects.
For me, the most striking example of this is his Plague Transmission series of short films. Using the lockdown restrictions to explore what was for him a new medium to make work in, using home shot footage or unused clips found on his phone from times prior to lockdown when he could go out and about. He’s built on this enforced film-making activity and turned it back around to take his previous Shivers ghost story live shows into the arena of video. I’m pleased to hear of this current direction. I’ve attended many of the Shivers shows with their soundtracked ghost stories and nowadays I enjoy works of fiction. It was a source of trauma for me in my childhood when I read books and I worked out that fiction existed and that writers could make things up for a living. I didn’t get why people were making things up and saw it as a bit like lying, except that it’s not if you assert that it isn’t true from the outset, like on the small print on the backs of books where it tells you the writing type. When I realised this I then thought fiction was fantastic and then I realised that fantastic as a word comes from fantasy which is like fiction and the broken Tetris game in my mind started to slot bits together again.
Sam portrays stories at his events, so I go to his Shivers shows for the indulgence in stories that aren’t true and enjoy them for the craft of creating worlds from thoughts and ideas for people who like to see and hear these worlds, like me. Until the apparent distant horizon of live performance return gets a little closer I’m looking forward to these Shivers video shows and am curious about what the finished product will look like. I don’t feel that they will be a substitute for the postponed events, but rather a complement to them, or a new mutation of their form.
Collaboration has often been present with what he does. Through this communication I now know that he’s been working with a lockdown proximity housemate, utilizing the spare time to provide sound effects for some audio plays in the science fiction comedy genre. I think the first time I ever met Sam was at some event where we were both on the same bill and it was my first introduction to his Theremin instrument. It was also my first experience of Theremin envy as I have one myself but mine’s rubbish compared to his. Despite the lack of live performance opportunities for it at the moment I can still hear it being put to good use throughout these plays and isn’t collecting lockdown dust. His collaborations with storyteller Laura Sampson have continued throughout this restricted period too, although theatre festival bookings were messed right up, they again looked at what options were available and have embraced the restrictions to develop some new storytelling and sound works drawing on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen.
Although the direction Sam finds himself heading in isn’t one that he planned or could have anticipated and he tells me he’s unsure of where he’s going next, it’s plain to see that although there are obvious setbacks and downtimes when the lockdown decides to throw apathy and lack of energy at him, and this can put the brakes on creativity, I can see that he is now taking this time to produce new and perpetually interesting work. It’s not live performance, which I can surely empathise with him missing, but I see it like the work produced is not reduced, it’s different but equally worthy of an eye and an ear.
Photo by Lucy Brady.