Preview: Netaudio London 2011

Highlights of a festival that explores the relationship between music and technology.

The Netaudio London festival, which runs from 13-15 May, showcases the work of artists who use digital technologies to explore new areas in music and sonic art. The programme encourages participation in all forms: interactive sound art installations, conferences, workshops, collaborative online broadcasting and live music shows.

Netaudio London has posted a series of thought provoking pieces from its conference speakers that address a challenging set of themes in 21st-century culture. Speakers include Matthew Herbert, Michel Bauwens and Liliane Lijn, as well as representatives from Mute, UK Uncut and Wire magazine.

Elsewhere in the festival, Steven Stapleton's avant-garde, surrealist Nurse With Wound project headlines the evening programme. Over the past three decades, Nurse With Wound has collaborated with a highly respected troupe of free thinkers including David Tibet (Current 93), William Bennett (Whitehouse) and Andrew McKenzie (Hafler Trio).

Mika Vanio (ex-Pan Sonic) and Bruce Gilbert (founder of the band Wire) will also perform a newly commissioned collaboration using both analogue and digital equipment. The opening concert at Cafe Oto on Friday 13 May presents the composer and artist Valerio Tricoli, along with Robert Piotrowicz, a luminary of the Polish experimental and improvised music scene.

Netaudio aims to do more than simply programme a music event, promoting audience engagement over purely passive consumption, as demonstrated by the Sonic Maze of 12 interactive audiovisual installations. There will also be workshops on making sound effects, creating interactive music projects and radio broadcasts. And there's a broadcast presenting a live webzine in partnership with Resonance FM, featuring newly commissioned broadcasts by Liliane Ljin, Stefan Blomeier and VHS HEAD.

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The Negroni fools no one – it’s easy to make and contains nothing but booze

It is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

The cocktail is designed to lie about its origins; no wonder it reached its apogee during Prohibition, which forced everyone with an unrepentant thirst to lie about their cravings. Even today, when only extreme youth, religious belief or personal inclination prevents a person from draining the bar dry, the cocktail continues its career of dishonesty. It hides ingredients or methods. It provides a front for poor-quality booze. And it often dissolves, within its inscrutable depths, mountains of sugar, enabling drinkers to pose as sophisticates while downing something that tastes like a soft drink – to get drunk without leaving the playpen.

This is why I love the Negroni, which fools no one. It is easy to make and contains nothing but pure booze. Despite being a third sweet vermouth, it isn’t saccharine: the other two thirds, equal measures of gin and Campari, may have something to do with this. And it is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

They say it was invented in Florence at the request of a Count Negroni, who wanted a drink unsullied by club soda – a drink stiff enough to get a man back on a bucking horse, perhaps, since this Count may have been a rodeo rider. I prefer to believe that the Count, if Count he was, came in, tossed down enough strong liquor to start telling stories about his American adventures, and, when he finally staggered out into the night, the exasperated bartender poured three straight shots into a single glass and baptised this wondrous reviver in grateful homage to the fabulist who had inspired it.

In a former glue factory a very long way from Florence or America, the East London Liquor Company now makes very good gin – Batches One and Two, the former tannic with Darjeeling as well as cassia bark, pink grapefruit peel, and coriander seeds; the latter redolent of savoury, bay, thyme and lavender. Transforming these plants into excellent alcohol seems an improvement on boiling down horses for adhesive, and the company also makes superb Negronis from Batch Two.

We sit outside, in a carpark made marginally more glamorous by border boxes of Batch Two botanicals, and marvel at the transformation of this grimy part of East London, next door to a park intended to give Victorian working men brief respite from lives all too lacking in myth or fantasy. It is a reincarnation at least as miraculous as the transformation of three strong and entirely unalike spirits into the delectable harmony of the Negroni. The sun shines; a fountain plashes. Nuts and charcuterie arrive. All is right with the world.

I leave my herbaceous bower and dangerously pleasing drink for a peek at the large copper distillery behind the bar, walking in past the fountain, a whimsical stone construction that pours vermilion liquid into two, tiered basins topped by a chubby putto clutching a rather reluctant fish.

And then I stop. And double back. Vermilion liquid? It is, indeed, a Negroni fountain. There are even slices of orange floating in the basin. I dip a finger: the taste is slightly metallic but still undeniably that potent mixture of booze, botanicals, bitterness, and just a hint of sweetness. A streak of citrus from the orange slices. It turns out that the world’s most straightforward cocktail lends itself to a decadent neo-Renaissance fantasy. There’s a message here, one forthright as a temperance tract: without imagination, we would have no lies – but no Negronis, either.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder