Patterns in Radical Spectra

DOI: 10.5920/divp.2015.44


This paper contextualises my creative practice produced over the past 20 years and discuss how some of the themes arising from this work relate to some of my contemporaries and wider musical and cultural thinking. These works have little or no percussive content yet are still loosely defined as, or considered to be, ‘post-techno’ (I discuss this term below). Here I describe these works, consider my relationships to them, and reflect upon my responses to those works – leading to the installation ‘The Moment of Impact’ (exhibited as part of the Beyond Pythagoras Symposium, March 2014). It is intended that the following offers a contextual framework within which a critical reading of the installation can be composed. It is also worth noting from the outset that I made the piece following a previous visit to the University of Huddersfield where I was in a severe car crash (my partner drove into the path of an oncoming bus). ‘The Moment of Impact’ therefore refers to the sense of time standing still typically encountered in near death experiences (Saniga, 1998) and plays upon notions of inert or a-temporal gestalt.

Why post-techno?

Like many of my peers I am uncomfortable with the term ‘post-techno’, unfortunately most of us also agree there are few alternatives and find those even more problematic: intelligent dance music (IDM) places an undue emphasis on intellect; electronic dance music (EDM) is too general to be meaningful; and others awkwardly assert beliefs about malfunctioning technologies and creative process. My preferred term, and one gaining some popularity with my peers, is Unusual Electronic Music Typically Without Academic Affiliation (UEMTWAA) (see Figure 1). Why? Firstly I think that generally speaking most people would agree that the musics brought together under this banner are clearly ‘unusual’. This follows Richard Rorty’s amendment to Donald Davidson’s distinction between ‘literal’ and ‘metaphorical’ uses of language (Davidson, 1984) as merely the differences between the familiar and unfamiliar uses of “marks, strings and noises” (Rorty, 1990). Here I equate Rorty’s ‘unfamiliar’ (derived from Davidson’s ‘metaphorical’) with my ‘unusual’. It means just that: the music is unfamiliar, it has no other special status or character. Contrast ‘unfamiliar’ or ‘unusual’ music to the notion of ‘experimental’ music which implies an inverse ‘normative’ (read popular) music. Secondly, most of the musics contained within this category seem to prioritise the use of electronic technologies. Even field recordings place an emphasis on the recorded work even if this is not heavily edited or post processed. Finally, save for the odd exception, most of the practitioners active within this field have no academic affiliation. I would go on to suggest that practices included under this umbrella term could be loosely defined as hostile or ambivalent towards canonical works of electroacoustic, modernist algorithmic composition, and contemporary classical musical practices (including aesthetics, ideologies, materials and processes), and are produced without the support of bursaries, stipends, research grants, institutional income or academic employment.

Bearing in mind that my preferred term (UEMTWAA) has not yet caught on, and that ‘post-techno’ is the least offensive alternative (in my opinion), I briefly want to defend its usage here. To refer to a thing as ‘post-techno’ does not mean that techno as a musical and cultural phenomenon is completed – that the things to which the term refers replace it. Instead it means that generally speaking the producers of these works are conversant with the history and development of electronic dance musics, and their works demonstrate an embedded knowledge of the practices, materials and technologies associated with those traditions. Thus I argue that to call something ‘post-techno’, although it appears to be rather depreciative, actually identifies the wider impact of techno as a cultural and aesthetic influence.

Figure 1: T shirt, designed by Mark Fell for Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industria, Gijon, Spain, to accompany the exhibition “No Puedo Arreglar Lo Que Tú Estropeaste” (2014)

A-temporality and (a)tonality

Of this body of work I want to look at a subset of practitioners and examine pieces whose structures have little or no percussive content, where variation is slow, almost unnoticeable or entirely absent. I call this the ‘a-temporal impetus’. Within the community of practitioners this type of work is often referred as ‘tonal’. This should not be taken to mean works whose spectral content is characteristically consonant – rather that works of this kind feature spectral structures (‘tones’ in a very crude sense) with little or no temporal variation. This rather crude usage stems from the fact that many producers active in this field (including myself) have little or no conventional musical training, and (also like myself) are unaware of what is meant by tonality, consonance, dissonance and the like within orthodox musical discourses. By contrast Laurie Speigel has referred to “slow change music” where the “density” of change is reduced so that “the ear becomes more and more sensitive to subtler and subtler things” (Speigel, 2012). Similarly Eliane Radigue refers to a slow unfolding of sound. Personally I like Spiegel’s slow-change descriptor very much, but I feel tempted to stick with the term ‘tonal’ in this context if only to remain consistent with my peers. To those who object I would draw attention to the etymology of the word ‘tone’ – a derivation of the Greek teinein ‘to stretch’. The term ‘tonal music’ is probably reasonably appropriate in that it could be argued to denote temporally elongated spectral constructions. Moreover the term ‘tonal’ in this usage disregards any distinction between consonance and dissonance present in specific musical vocabularies or doctrines.

Irrespective of what we decide to call this activity, the suggestion is that this kind of musical form approaches the a-temporal to a greater or lesser extent. Of course (if we adhere to our western beliefs about time and temporality) music of any type cannot be truly a-temporal because it exists within a temporal frame of one sort or another; and furthermore sound itself is vibration in time. But in these works the form, frequency and intensity of those vibrations are subject to little or indeed no alteration, and thus change at a phenomenological level appears to be absent, ‘slow’ or almost unnoticeable; as Nadine Gordimer suggests, “time is change; we measure its passing by how much things alter” (Gordimer, n.d.).

At this point it is perhaps useful to underscore the distinction between ‘time’ in terms of how it is in the universe, and temporality as our ‘subjective’ encountering of time (Husserl, 1893-1917). I draw from Husserl’s distinction by comparing time (classically represented as an arrow moving at a constant rate and in a uniform direction), to temporality, which which I characterise as a ‘cursor’ of the kind found in most digital audio editing systems – capable of being stopped, moved, played at different speeds, rewound, etc. It is implied that, given an absence or reduced change in musical form, temporality’s subjective ‘cursor’ is ostensibly slowed or halted, allowing the listener to somehow refine their sensitivity to the moment and dwell more entirely within its absolute immanence – a kind of a-temporal transcendence.

Historically we find instances of this belief in rhetorics surrounding La Monte Young’s practice (Nagoski, n.d.), and in wider discussions about musical temporality (as opposed to the Husserlian form of temporality as ‘encountering of time’) including Kramer (1988). More recently the British sound artist Joe Gilmore made this claim during a question and answer session on the relation between music and time at Sonic Acts Festival (Amsterdam, 2012), and Roc Jiménez de Cisneros posited a comparable opinion during a discussion at Laboral (Spain, 2014) after experiencing my installation there. Whether or not this relation between slow/no change music and slow/a-temporality is valid is not my concern here. Instead I want to draw attention to the evident belief that there is a relation. According to this belief works having an a-temporal character are thought of not merely as exercises in things we call music and time but more fundamentally as exercises in the thing we call consciousness. Thus a relationship between music (sound), time (temporality) and consciousness (being) is ostensibly established. It feels to me (I mean feels to me in the context of this belief/implication, not in terms of my experience of this kind of music) as if this unification is some sort of deeply innate thing, not merely socially or historically constructed. For me this is kind of innate relation is personified in the Tibetan singing bowl used in meditative practices, and (perhaps in a more superficially sinister form) as the ‘mind lock’ sequence from the film THX1138 (Lucas, 1971). Here a complex tone is passed through an operator’s auditory cortex rendering him immobile. Both are examples of sound altering consciousness and engendering ‘anomalous’ temporal states.

Figure 2: Time, sound and consciousness

In this context, I want to consider what constitutes slow change. When I think of slow change in music I find myself automatically imagining long evolving pieces – a typical example is Radigue’s ‘Adnos I’ (1967). This work—to my western psyche at least—seems to induce a sense of temporal slowness. But the qualities of ‘slow change’ and ‘unfolding’ could equally apply to many kinds of techno musics—specifically here I am thinking of Mike Ink’s ‘Polka Trax’ (Warp Records, 1996), Thomas Brinkmann’s ‘Studio 1 – Variationen’ (Profan, 1997), or even Jeff Mills’ ‘Growth’ (Axis, 1994)—in each case the development and variation of rhythmic structures could be said to have the quality of ‘slow change’. When I compare Jeff Mills’ ‘Growth’ and Radigue’s ‘Adnos I’ I experience a comparable ‘density’ of variation and change. But (and this is not necessarily at odds with Spiegel’s claim of increased sensitivity to more ‘subtle’ things) the temporal gestalt constructed within this type of slow-change-techno music does not clearly correspond to that induced by typically slow-change-tonal works of the kind exemplified in Radique’s ‘Adnos I’. I would argue therefore that the asserted equivalence between density of change and apparent rate of temporal ‘flow’ (in the Husserilian sense of subjective time consciousness) assumed by many is not entirely coherent.

At this point we could retain Speigel’s notion of a refined-sensitivity-to-something and argue that it is applicable to Mike Ink, Brinkmann or Mills, but I think this does not adequately encapsulate what happens to us when we actually encounter slow-change-techno music. Anyone who has experienced Mills’ ‘Growth’ at volume levels of 105dBc at 4am amid five thousand fellow actants will know this; it is not a matter of a refined-sensitive-focus of the kind typical to slow-change-tonal works. Slow-change-techno music does something else to us, something very different.

So for me, although ‘slow-change’ sounds like a nice descriptor, if we want to talk about slow/no change music and slow/a-temporality (i.e. the subjective experience of time) we really need to add to or extend Speigel’s position. Thus, here I am concentrating on slow change work of a specific kind – i.e. where the emphasis is on temporally elongated spectral structures with no percussive content and where change (if this is any) is induced within those spectral structures and not as a product of rhythmic patterning. I say this because I think it is specifically these kinds of works that predominantly feature in the time-slowing or standing-still narratives outlined above, and implicated in the sound-temporality-consciousness communion scenarios those narratives imply. In this context the emphasis is therefore on spectral content, its stasis or slow transformation and development.

My interests circa 1990

Around the period immediately after the widespread propagation of house and techno into popular culture in the UK, I had little or no interest in the kind of tonal work I outline above. At that time typical pieces would have included early works (as yet unknown to me) by Thomas Köner such as ‘Permafrost’ (1993), works by the sound artist Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, as well as (almost classic) pieces from the late 1980s including ‘Kuklos’ (The Hafler Trio, 1988), and Meontological Research Recordings ‘Record 1’ (T.A.G.C, 1987) both of which tend to be associated with the latter part of the Industrial Music project.

In contrast to this body of work, my aesthetic interest at that time laid firmly on club musics and in particular the growing stylistic gap between techno musics and house musics. Despite my background in what could be described as more marginal musical activities (pivotal moments of which include Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, Mark Stewart, and so on), at this moment I was overwhelmingly drawn to the slick and commercial production styles characteristic of New York house. Indicative examples include Classic Man ‘93 ‘No More Mind Games – (Waste No Time Mix)’ (Nervous, 1993), and Choo ables ‘Hard To Get’ (E-SA Records, 1993).

Figure 3: Classic Man ’93, inner label.

Given this personal focus, the slow change tonal-works discussed above appeared to be quite irrelevant. Indeed, anything remotely resembling electroacoustic music (i.e. anything including the ‘backwards bell’ syndrome as I began to call it) and anything claiming to be intelligent (e.g. Warp record’s Artificial Intelligence series c.1994) I found irksome. I interpreted any attempt to signify ‘experimental’ or ‘credible’ as utterly supercilious. By contrast I found the colour and depth of North American House music, and its complex interlocking of sparse elements, more appealing than the eerie dull drone of an over-processed field recording.

‘Tonal’ practice in post techno musics.

Over the following 15 or so years, with the burgeoning of independent, extreme and oppositional computer musics, and techno-conversant rhythmic deconstructions, my hostility remained intact. Although I respected those active in this area, I did not really commit to actually getting-into their works and I made this refusal blatantly obvious. In contrast to these smoothly undulating or entirely static temporally structures I found the rhythmic fragmentation of Yasunao Tone (particularly ‘Musica Iconologos’, Lovely Music, 1993), Autechre (‘Chiastic Slide’, Warp Records, 1997 and the later ‘Draft 7.30’, Warp Records, 2003) and Farmers Manual (‘Fsck’, Tray, 1997) much more stimulating. These became important precursors to my own much later work in this area, notably ‘Multistability’ (Raster Noton, 2010) and ‘UL8’ (Editions Mego, 2010).

From my viewpoint as a ‘non-believer’ throughout the period 1995 to 2005 I observed the emergence of distinct strata within this loosely defined ‘post-techno, tonal, slow-change’ practice (see Table 1).

Table 1: Classification of a-rhythmic slow-change works in unusual electronic music typically without academic affiliation.

Although such practices often include un-pitched and noise-like materials, where resonant peaks occur within the frequency domain, typically these do not vary over time within the frequency domain; i.e. any noticeably ‘pitched’ content remains stationary. Furthermore, especially characteristic of types (1) and (4), such resonant peaks generally occur at recognisably musical intervals with a resultant consonant structure. Of course there are exceptions to this tendency, including Hecker’s ‘bsf°tyk 5’ (Mego, 2003) which I would tentatively place in category (3); but generally speaking such exceptions are just that, rather than paradigm cases.

Audience responses

I have suggested that slow/no change music is believed to foster a slow or a-temporal experience of time, and that the rhetoric sustained by these works implies some form of deep connection between consciousness, sound and temporality. An early example is La Monte Young’s ‘Dream House’ (1967) which presents the visitor with a carefully constructed environment that promotes very specific types of response – pink and purple saturated light, incense, lush carpet, cushions, mobiles (i.e. hanging shapes slowing rotating in the heat), a shrine-like photograph of an elderly gentleman with a beard placed at the centre. The sonic content of ‘Dream House’ is rather loud, I measured it at about 85dB SPL. In terms of spectral content FFT analysis reveals resonant peaks at 220hz, 440hz, 880hz, a cluster around 1600 to 2000hz and so on, as well as a large amount of low frequency activity.

Figure 4: FFT analysis Dream House, NYC 2014 by the author.

Unsurprisingly, when I visited the piece several people were strewn around the floor with their eyes shut, adopting a trance-like attunement to the sound and its dynamic interaction with the space. My primary objection to this work (and its more recent progenies) is not what it is in terms of its sonic or aesthetic character, but how that character promotes specific responses in the visitor. I feel this plays upon a whole host of cultural assumptions and prejudices (for example the objectification, simplification and commodification of Eastern culture and religious belief, for a largely white, middle class, Western audience) while simultaneously promoting itself as somehow cathartic, therapeutic and liberating. For me the same is true of the more recent slow-change, tonal, a-temporal works belonging to the post-techno period: play some tones and audiences consistently reenact this familiar response – eyes shut, silent, deep breathing, having some form of optimal sound/time/self gestalt, deeply engaged in an act of a-temporal transcendence… why?

Having got in touch with my inner Pauline Oliveros, I have learned to enjoy such works, yet I find myself repeatedly disappointed by the kind of transcendental allegory that surrounds and is sustained by this kind of practice. My disappointment here is not primarily with the audience, but with those producers who do little to debunk this rhetoric. Those who intentionally frame their works as a kind of ‘mystical discharge’, I consider as just another form of trickery similar to that employed by stage hypnotists. My work is fundamentally opposed to this and seeks to challenge it; in the following I briefly describe some of my attempts to do this.

Radical spectra

In 2007 I began to produce works that loosely responded to these slow/no-change tonal practices. Early pieces, such as ‘Attack on Silence’, included performances, installations, screenings and a DVD (Line, 2009). The focus of these and more recent works was the slow alteration of spectral content over extended durations. For me a common consideration during the development of these works was to challenge assumptions about a-temporal transcendence ostensibly encountered during specific types of musical and sonic experience and to destabilise rather than reinforce beliefs about sound, temporality and self. It is important to note therefore, that when I refer to ‘radical spectra’, I am not pointing to any inherent sonic quality, but to their function in opposition to other works and practices.

‘Psychoneural Alignment Study 5’ (2010) is a piece made for radio broadcast that requires that listeners download a still image composed of two coloured circles on a white background. Listeners are then instructed to go cross-eyed for the duration of the work so that the two circles form one image. The sound component of this work is relatively short (six minutes six seconds) and features a linear interpolation between the frequencies of the eleven loudest sinusoidal waveshapes present in a recording of a Tibetan singing bowl to the eleven loudest sinusoidal waveshapes present in a recording of the mind lock sequence taken from the film ‘THX1138’ (Lucas, 1971), see table 2.

Table 2: the eleven loudest sinusoidal waveshapes present in a recording of a Tibetan singing bowl and THX1138 mind lock.

Here the work implies that the listener’s psyche is speculatively interpolated from that of a meditative disposition (associated with the Tibetan singing bowl) to one of technological restraint (associated with the sonic mind lock). Because the participant has to exert continued effort in order to produce a stable composite image s/he is anything other than ‘liberated’ in a psycho-spiritual sense, in fact the experience is extremely uncomfortable. Thus, underlying the participant’s encounter with the work is a tension that obviates any form of a-temporal transcendence. Far from a merely punitive exercise, the participant is placed in a reflexive mode as they are continually referred back to themselves encountering the processes at play within the work. The specific character of the self<>sound gestalt constructed within the piece demonstrates the impossibility of transcendence.

‘Microtonal House Chord’ (2012) was an attempt to combine the slow/no change tonal works with my interest in North American House music both of which form divergent strands in my practice. So the work can be read as an attempt to bring these two traditions into some form of uncomfortable dialogue.

In this work the differences between the fundamental frequencies of eight pitches forming a chord were taken. These values are offset and scaled over a period of four hours to generate eight new frequencies. Each channel is synthesised with phase distortion synthesis (Ishibashi, 1984) with a degree of timbral modulation induced by a sinusoidal low frequency oscillator whose frequency was 0.1Hz with a phase offset of 45 degrees per channel. Initially the gaps between each generated tone are sixteen times wider than those between pitches in the original chord. Over the four hours these are compressed to be five times narrower than the original. An offset is added to each frequency beginning at 1Hz and gradually decreasing, so that by the end of the work, a narrowband chord beginning at 286Hz has been formed. Frequency changes are updated at 15-second intervals (i.e. not in the form of a continuous interpolation); and at each interval an almost imperceptible frequency shift takes place.

Table 3: Start and End frequencies (Hz) for Microtonal House Chord (2012).

For the second showing of the piece, in Boston, a vacant shop unit was chosen. This shop unit was found and preserved in a somewhat unkempt condition. Eight speakers were arranged in a line diagonally intersecting the space at distances that were consistent with the ratio determining frequency distribution; each one played a single layer of the overall chord. Green tea and homemade biscuits were served to the audience as they sat or lay on the floor, lit only by a wash of orange light from the street outside.

For me a fundamental aim of the work was to rearrange signifiers typically associated with both club music and minimalist musical practices and to mix-up the symbolism present in each in order to question the authority and authenticity of each. Here the myth of joyous abandon as fetishised by club music is contrasted with the parallel myth of meditative transcendence implied in tonal practice. Similarly the formalism of minimalist compositional strategies is set against the functionalism of House music’s production techniques.

The staging of the work places a clear emphasis on the ‘real’ world, it quite literally provides a window onto the world as opposed to the ‘inner’ journey narrative of tonal works. Clearly I could not have anticipated how tragically blatant this intention would become during the Boston performance with the near death of a passer by, during which the work became somehow inapposite, a difficult soundtrack to the events on the street. Should we ignore what was going on outside? Should we pause the work? The mood in the space became quite uncomfortable as the audience attempted to refocus on their astral intentions following the incident.

‘One Dimensional Music Without Context And Meaning’ (2013) was developed during a residency at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York in 2013. It uses 32 layers of sound synthesis recorded on a Serge modular synthesiser at Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) Stockholm (Sweden) earlier in 2013. Each layer has no temporal variation. The work uses 3rd order Ambisonics to position each layer at a static location on the surface of a sphere. For the performance at EMPAC a fifty-two channel irregular array of both D&B and Meyer units was used.

The work starts at the border of silence and over its duration is gradually increased to an extremely high level, and for the last few minutes of the performance goes beyond the threshold of pain. Initially the first layer of sound is increased in volume to a point where it is just audible above any environmental noise; after a minute or so the second layer is slowly increased until it too is just audible. This process continues until all 32 layers are present. This produces a gentle wash of sound reminiscent of something like Radique’s ‘Adnos I’. At this point I return to layer one and increase its volume again until it is audible above the composite sound, then layer two and so on. This process is carried out repeatedly, pushing each layer up in volume, until the perceived loudness has become extremely high and rather threatening – alluding to the noise based performances of Merzbow, Russell Haswell or Zbigniew Karkowski. Due to the spectral spread of this layering process there is no singular resonant peak within the overall composite sonic form, and thus the sonic intensity appears to be utterly overwhelming. One audience member compared it to being caught in an avalanche.

The title of the work is derived from the comments of an anonymous reviewer who claimed the work was ‘one dimensional’. In fact for me the work as occupying a ‘singular’ dimension is extremely thought provoking. Consequently I began to consider it in the context of Ouspensky’s writings on time and dimensionality (1931). Of particular significance was the form of multi-dimensional objects in spaces of lower dimensionality. Imagine a three-dimensional object (for example a cone) travelling through a two dimensional plane – it first appears as a point then grows to a circle of increasing size and finally disappears. I began to think about the work in terms of this principle: the acoustic intensity as comparable to the point of an emerging cone as it transforms through two-dimensional space into a circle of increasing scale. Perhaps we could think of this non-spatial form moving through a spatial field as the allegorical manifestation of time, the conical tip of its ‘arrow’ sonically piercing the space as it travels through it and us.

Throughout the work the initial soothing wash of sound does not transform in terms of frequency or timbre. It changes only in terms of scale, from almost silence into the utterly threatening. “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror […] because it serenely disdains to destroy us.” Rilke (1926). The work’s central theme is annihilation not transcendence.

‘Long Mix NYC’ (2014), first performed at Issue Project Room New York (2014), is a long mix of slow change tonal works of various traditions. It includes pieces by The Hafler Trio, Stephan Mathieu, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Maryanne Amacher, The Anti-Group, Terry Riley, La Monte Young and additional works by myself. The basic structure of the performance is in the mode of a DJ set with slow crossfades between works typically lasting over one minute. For the New York performance the first 30 minutes included specially recorded works by myself in the form of textural passages derived from keyboard sounds used in the production of House music’s characteristic of New York House productions (circa 1992-1994). I presented the piece from the back of the space and out of view of the audience; taking my place on stage was a large LED clock set to the current time.

I want to (very briefly) consider how temporality has been described in the context of these kinds of canonical works (La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and so on). Kramer for example refers to a ‘non-teleological’ (Meyer, 1967) form without determinate progression and asks the listener to “give up expectation and enter the vertical time of the work—where linear expectation, implication, cause, effect, antecedents, and consequents do not exist”. According to Kramer, encounters with this music are like “looking at a piece of sculpture” (Kramer, 1988). I find a similar sentiment in Tudor’s description of Cage’s ‘Music of Changes’, here he suggests the listener is outside time, observing it as opposed to feeling it (Tudor, 1972).

My intention in Long Mix NYC (the title itself clearly a reference to Cage) was to undermine the non-teleological, progression-free, time as vertical rather than linear, the sense of being outside time. Thus. I placed time (in the form of a large LED clock) centre stage, incessantly reminding the audience of exactly how much time they had spent, and more importantly how much more time was left of the performance, how long to go before their meal, or alcohol intake, or whatever they had planned/intended/expected/designed (the teleological, consequential). In opposition to the idealised ‘vertical’ time the piece therefore emphasises a very different temporal abstraction – the western clock-time that “ticks on even if nothing occurs; its emancipation from events is ensured by its own subjugation of an ongoing numbered measure.” (Swain, 1993).

Finally I want to discuss my most recent installation ‘No p
uedo arreglar lo que tú estropeaste’ (2014), translated from the English “I can’t fix what you broke”, a lyric from the song ‘Early Winter’ by Gwen Stefani. The installation is sonically derived from ‘The Moment Impact’ and develops its approach. The work uses nine discreet channels of sound, each one recorded on the Serge modular at EMS Stockholm in 2013. Nine speakers are distributed around the space and hung from the ceiling at various heights and directions. The work is exhibited in absolute darkness. In the earlier piece, ‘The Moment Impact’, the visitor is blindfolded and asked to wander around the space; in this later piece a rope is fixed around the space providing a path that the visitor is instructed to follow. I refer to this technique as ‘panning the listener’ – the rope being a physical analogue of the panning trajectories found in many electro-acoustic scores that specify the diffusion of sound in space. Here I invert this relationship – the sound is static and the listener is spatially panned. As the listener moves through the space, turns corners, moves between speakers and so on, a number of tonal transitions and relationships are enacted. While moving through the space one is not only aware of sonic change as a consequence of movement, but also of actually aware of time – how fast or slow should one move through the space, is there someone in front or behind. In fact I did not anticipate this foregrounding of temporality (both musical and phenomenological). Here the relations between action, speed, change, duration are foregrounded – temporality is spatially enacted by the visitant.


I would like to thank Mat Steel, Ryoko Akama, David Ferrando Giraut, Terre Thaemlitz and Russell Haswell for their input while I was writing this; and Monty Adkins, Derek Hales and Ryoko Akama for inviting me to take part in the symposium.


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About the Author:

Mark Fell is an internationally renowned sound artist who has produced music in a wide range of styles from techno to installation art – often under his preferred term Unusual Electronic Music Typically Without Academic Affiliation (UEMTWAA). Fell’s article is a tour de force, contextualising his work over the past 20 years through a plethora of sources and references.