Fans of experimental music walked out of a live performance complaining that the volume had "battered their eardrums".

Members of the audience walked out of the theatre during one of three acts of experimental music and video art in Touch Two Thousand and One at the Gardner Centre in Brighton They blamed the "excruciating" volume of the second act performed by Christian Fennesz's electronic music, which caused the theatre to shake.

Chris Heape, of Hove, who along with his wife Vicky walked out during the second act, said: "We love experimental, avant garde music and go to a lot of rock concerts, yet this was just unbelievably loud.

"There were some good moments when different sounds were played against one another but they were too loud to appreciate.

"When performance crosses over to endurance they are shooting themselves in the foot."

Vicky Heape said: "It was just total noise battering the eardrums. We should have been told how loud it was going to be when we bought the tickets."

The synthesised music included sounds of fireworks and digital noises interwoven with abstract video stills.

Kerry Taylor, 25, of Freshfield Street, Brighton, who walked out of the theatre within the first five minutes of the second performance, said: "There was no way I could sit there for a minute longer as the volume was just too painful.

"I wouldn't say I have unusually sensitive ears but the volume was excruciating. There must be legal limits on the volume on the sound levels at concerts. I think it is against the law to deafen people."

According to organisers, who carried out a sound check earlier that day, the audience should have been aware the performance was going to be loud from notices displayed outside the theatre.

Pete Luxton, modern music adviser for the Brighton Festival, said: "There is no legal limit and no legislation on sound levels at concerts as far as I know.

"The artists believe they should be able to express themselves and we work hard to achieve the conditions they want. There will always be a fine line between what we consider appropriate and what the artist desires."