There’s a certain knack to putting together music and art – just look at Wagner, who dedicated his life to the “gesampkunstwerk” or total work of art – that is the multi-discipline of opera.

In the parlance of Sonica, the festival of sonic art set up by Glasgow-based arts producers Cryptic, it is heavily digital, but crucially human, the insistence on giving audiences something, as per Cryptic’s founding aim, “to ravish the senses.”

Sonica itself is 10 years old this year, a biennial festival knocked a numerical year off-course by the pandemic. With more than eight artists involved from ten countries and taking over 11 venues in the city, some familiar, others new, the festival continues on its path of putting an international combination of sonic and visual art in to some of Glasgow’s most interesting old buildings.

Musically, it is not just electronica, although electronic music plays a large part, but a broader range of musical and visual experiences, whether that is the creation of music through the audience’s interaction with a field of smoke, or the erratic swing of a feedback-fuelled pendulum.

“For me what’s important there is the diversity of the music,” says director Cathie Boyd, when we speak some ten days before curtain up.

“The programme we presented in 2019, it was great, but it was too electronica for me! In 2017 we had the Dunedin Consort (the renowned Baroque ensemble), and I loved that mix, early music with visuals. I really want Sonica to open up to different genres.”

There is a wider mix this year, with digital artists working with Gaelic singers, classical musicians, electronica that isn’t, and electronica that is. The opening event at Tramway next Thursday sees electronic music composer Roly Porter and visual artist Marcel Weber (MFO) working in monumental visuals alongside Gaelic singer Anne Martin, who sings burial songs in a work inspired by the ritual landscape and burials – the eponymous Kistvaen – of Dartmoor. “It’s beautifully written, submersive. The score is electronic but it’s not electronica. With the visuals, I think it will be absolutely extraordinary,” says Boyd.

“It’s a thrill, too, that we are working with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Gavin Bryars this year, giving the UK premiere of his Viola Concerto, A Hut in Toyama.”

At the Tramway concert, Bryars also conducts a performance of his moving Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Spanish artist Alba G. Corral will creatively code digital landscapes live in response to the music. Boyd is excited at the prospect, “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning of Sonica.”

Elsewhere, a concentration on French artists in this year’s festival sees Virgile Abela’s Acoustic Pendulum, devised in response to Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music, hanging in The Pipe Factory over a floor-based microphone, the pendulum slowly starting to swing in response to feedback. At Tramway, cellist Maarten Vos improvises live to the Maotik’s “Erratic Weather” in which live weather data from around the world is visually processed by digital artist Mathieu Le Sourd in to unique hurricanes.

In rather more earthly fashion, the commissions this year include Kathy Hinde’s interpretation of Antoine Brumel’s experimental “Earthquake” Mass from the 15th century, reimagined in the voices of 12 Mexican musicians, each singing a part of the mass, then split and reintegrated by Hinde in a play on the earthquakes and seismic activity of Mexico and the fractures of the modern world. Boyd herself travels the world, physically rather than digitally, albeit in somewhat more restrained form these last few years due to Covid and an increasing eye to sustainable travel and the organisation’s carbon footprint, in search of new work. In this respect, all artists commissioned or performing come with two works, “so that they spend at least five days in the city, sometimes the whole two weeks, rather than jetting in for a day.”

The venues are key. “We try to reveal a new venue each festival. Glasgow is so full of old buildings we want to reveal!” The festival is always moving on, says Boyd. “This is the first year we’ve not gone to the Hamilton Mausoleum. It’s a great venue and we will go back there, but we don’t want to become predictable!”

Predictable, one senses, is something to which Boyd is deeply averse. In 2019, the new venue was The Engine Works. This year, the festival is showcasing The Deep End, the arts and social enterprise space in Govanhill, and The Pipe Factory in The Barras, which once made Victorian disposable clay pipes. The general idea, as Boyd puts it, is simple. “You wouldn’t expect this in here, so come and have a look!”

Sonica, Various venues, Glasgow, 10-20 Mar, Details and bookings via website

Critic's Choice

Of all the different impressions and experiences that make up our world view as we grow, the lives of our parents leaves its trace – their passions, their jobs, their inability to sing in key, perhaps, or particularly quixotic approach to cutlery drawer segregation.

Catherine Ross’s father, mentioned in the preamble to this exhibition, was a meteorological observer in the Arctic, the imagining of which may perhaps have sewn its own fantastical seeds in her childhood mind – and she calls it, too, in this exhibition of North viewed, as Dan Richard’s accompanying essay puts it, from the cosy warmth of the cabin.

Fresh from a self-directed residency in Iceland, the Aberdeen-based Grays Graduate (BA Painting, 2014), who also won the Muirhead Fund Purchase Prize at last year’s Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) Annual Show, shows a series of “Phantoms”.

These are paintings of imagined landscapes, half-remembered ones, the imprint of a childhood spent in part in remote northern landscapes, and the rich gleanings from books on the north.

Gouache and watercolour and oil delineate jumpers and blankets, rugs, candles glowing on a Christmas tree, snow-filled wooded slopes, red shadows, the varied tints of the northern lights, the deep greens of pine.

There is the idea, in some of these, of existence, and perhaps of how memory and stories reimagine reality.

Ross captures the caricature of snow-draped trees and exaggerates it, the motif recurting, a light touch, as if recognising the inherent plastic quality of the stuff and its ability to make and remake itself in a different image, to somewhat humourously hide and disguise what it coats.

Catherine Ross: Phantoms, Arusha Gallery, 13a Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 557 1412 16 Mar – 17 Apr, Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm; Sun, 1pm - 5pm

Don't Miss

ADDRESSING what the creative world can do to combat and bypass climate change is this inspiring exhibition from forward-thinking Fife Contemporary on the “circular economy”: the idea that items are designed to be reused, or repaired, shared or easily recycled. Curator Mella Shaw, herself a ceramic artist and former curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, highlights 12 artists and designers, plus Edinburgh’s redoubtable Tool Library, all of whom are making some contribution to new ideas for embedding the circular economy in their work and in life.

REsolve: A Creative Approach to the Circular Economy, Kirkcaldy Galleries, War Memorial Gardens, Kirkaldy, 01592583206, , Until 8 May, Tue, Wed, Fri 10-5; Thu 10-7; Sat 10-4; Sun 12-4.