Trevor Mathison, Film Maker, Sound Designer, Composer, Digital Artist
Born 1959, UK
Trevor Mathison is an artist primarily working with audio and digital media. He has been a member of noted artistic collectives such as Flow Motion, and the Black Audio Film Collective, and more recently continues to collaborate with artist and film maker John Akomfrah, creating “post-soul noise”. John Akomfrah explains in a recent interview for Sound & Music “These are sounds that take their cue from pre-existing black musics, be it dub or funk, but they’ve been defamiliarised, put through a sonic box that renders them strange and unusual”.
He has developed and composed sound for many critically acclaimed films including; The March 2013, The Stuart Hall Project 2013, Nine Muses 2010, Seven Songs for Malcolm X 1993, Testament 1988, and Handsworth Songs 1987.
Mark Fisher writing for ‘Sight & Sound Magazine’ reflects on a screening of Handsworth Songs, the Black Audio Film Collective’s 1986 essay on black Britain, in the wake of the new wave of civil unrest.
“Trevor Mathison’s astonishing sound design certainly draws upon dub, but its voice loops and seething electronics are equally reminiscent of the work of Test Department and Cabaret Voltaire.
So much film and television now deploys sound as a crude bludgeon which closes down the polyvalency of images. Whooshing sound effects subordinate audiences to the audio equivalent of a spectacle, while the redundant use of pop music enforces a terroristic sentimentalism. By strong and refreshing contrast, Mathison’s sound – which is simultaneously seductive and estranging – liberates lyricism from personalised emotion, and frees up the potentials of the audio from the strictures of ‘music’. Subtract the images entirely, and Handsworth Songs can function as a gripping audio-essay.
Mathison’s sound recording equipment captured one of the most extraordinary moments in the film, an exchange between the floor manager and the producer of the long-defunct documentary series TV Eye in the run-up to a special edition of the programme which was about to be filmed in front of a Tottenham audience. The exchange reveals that it is not possible to securely delimit ‘merely technical’ issues from political questions. The producer’s anxieties about lighting quickly shade into concerns about the proportion of non-whites in the audience. The matter-of-fact tone of the discussions make this sudden peek into the reality studio all the more disturbing – and illuminating.”