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Award wining composer, turntabalist, recording artist, architect … Janek Schaefer is many things, but its his work as a sound and installation artist that has won him the most acclaim.   To celebrate his 20 year career as one of the best know sound artists in the world the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool, England is holding “Sound Art” a 6 room retrospective of some of his best known installation works, including a new piece entitled “National Portrait (the last transmission)”, it also includes his sound sculptures, flim works, turntable experiments, album covers, architectural projects and special live performances.

Schaefer trained in architecture at The Royal College of Art where he recorded the fragmented noises of a sound activated dictaphone travelling overnight through the Post Office. That work, titled ‘Recorded Delivery’ [1995] was made for the ‘Self Storage’ exhibition with one time postman Brian Eno and Artangel. Since then the multiple aspects of sound became his focus, resulting in many releases, installations, soundtracks for exhibitions, and concerts using his self built/invented record players with manipulated found sound collage.

The context of each idea is central to its development and resolution. His concerts and installations explore the spatial and architectural aspect that sound can evoke and the twisting of everyday technology. He uses simple analogue and digital techniques to manipulate recordings and situations.

In 2008 Janek won The British Composer of The Year Award for Sonic Art for his project ‘Extended Play [Triptych for the child survivors of war and conflict]’. The same year he won The Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers Prize.  His ‘Tri-phonic Turntable’ [1997] is also listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘World’s Most Versatile Record Player’.

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The works on show as part of “Sound Art” include:

National Portrait [the last transmission] mixed media sound installation (2009)

On Tuesday December 1 2009 at midnight, the analogue TV signal is turned off in Liverpool. Schaefer’s installation records the last 24hrs of the five analogue TV channels as they are broadcast across the city. This will form a sound portrait of a day in the life of Britain and reveal how we define ourselves through our channel hopping mass media. Through use of old televisions and references to tv history, the installation celebrates the first generation of television history at the switching point between analogue and digital culture.

Recorded Delivery, mixed media sound installation (1995)

Recorded Delivery is a sound activated tape recording of parcel travelling through from Exhibition Rd post office, to the room of the installation in the Acorn Self Storage centre, Wembley, London. Visitors will hear the mysterious world of scanning, stamping, lifts, vans, radios, singing and final delivery unfold, with a surprise highlight as we eavesdrop among hot blooded postmen early in the morning.

Extended Play (triptych for the child survivors of war and conflict) mixed media sound installation (2007)

Commissioned for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2007, Extended Play is an uplifting and bittersweet tribute to child survivors of conflict and war. The installation was inspired by the WWII system of musical codes called “jodoform”. These were musical messages broadcast between London and Warsaw by the BBC World Service after the midday news. Extended Play lifts and propagates a three note phrase from a jodoform that was broadcast on the day the artist’s mother was born in Warsaw in 1942. A cello, violin and piano are recorded individually playing their part of the 10-minute composition. Each part was then edited and extended with extra silences to last 15mins and cut onto vinyl. Multiple copies of each instrumental EP are then played on nine especially modified record players within a gallery space that is dimly lit and painted red, which for the artist is the colour of life, death and love.  Extended Play won Janek the British Composer Award & the Paul Hamlyn Prize.

Vacant Space mixed media sound installation (2006)

An immersive installation using recordings and images collected in empty interiors, Vacant Space captures the life of architectural containment without human occupation. The installation works on the premise that sound is constantly present in the world, whether humans are present or not. On entering, Vacant Space appears silent. Panoramic projections of unoccupied spaces merge and slide across a gallery wall. Plugging headphones directly into the wall reveals a randomly shuffling soundtrack that influences the visuals in various ways, and creates endless new places.

Covers [a portrait of my record collection] Film projection onto black LP covers, 25min (2005)

The Vide space at the Bluecoat will be transformed into a black box where visitors can enjoy Janek’s film of panning close ups, scanning across the artwork of his record collection LP covers. Sampling the artwork of the last half century, the film is set to a soundtrack of foundsoundscapes sourced from the LP’s and other manipulated recordings.

Black Magic mixed media sound sculpture series (2009)

Janek has created a new series of sound sculptures that reference and modify iconic music related objects. Among the new series are “Pickup Putdown” – a record player with the needle suspended beneath a single helium balloon that you are able to pull down to engage the needle in the groove; ‘Found Sound Player’ – a portable gramophone pick up connect directly to a set of plastic pint glasses that act as the sound horn; “Inner Space Memorial [for JG Ballard]” pairs back to back speakers with their cones re-positioned to face directly into the interior of the speaker cabinet, with a big button you push down to hold and hear the void vibrate.


Modified Turntables & Vinyl
Schaefer’s Tri-Phonic Turntable [1997], Duel Turntable [2005], Memory Museum [1996], Skate Random Play LP [2003], On/Off LP [2002] and Wow 7” [2001] will all be on show.


Short Stories
DVD (1995 – 2009)

A viewing station in The Hub space shows short films about many of Schaefer’s projects.

Archive Albums & Posters & Architecture Projects

A collection of albums and posters displayed in the Vide (2009). Memory Museum architecture project/installation [1996] The Floatel of architecture project exploring dissociated sound [1996]