All Articles

Nõ Music for Abandoned Airports (The Stupefied Landscape…It’s Fake, But It Works)

The basic premise of this paper is to briefly speculate on a philosophical paradox concerning Brian Eno’s use of the word ambient in relation to his compositional work between 1975 and 1982 and indeed, what ambient has come to mean in a broader cultural sense in 2018.

To begin with, three important definitions of the word are considered for this argument:
1) Etymologic
2) Historical
3) Philosophical

1) The Latin root of ambient (ambire) is discussed with particular reference to Eno’s various press statements c. 1978 that Ambient music is intended to produce calm and a space to think.

2) Music for Airports is identified as an example of monocratic composition (one that subtly reinforces borders) within an historical timeline beginning in 1975 and is juxtaposed with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which is considered as a parallel (albeit unintended) Ambient experiment and identified as a mutable composition (one that subtly annihilates borders).

3) The broader, philosophical implications of ambient are addressed in particular reference to current notions of dark ecology.

Music to die to

With a touch of irony, Brian Eno tells a story about waiting in Cologne airport where awful piped music provoked him to compose Music for Airports. Prompting reflections on mortality, the forcefully happy melodies he heard in the departure lounge and aeroplane comprised music designed to inoculate against panic. “I thought it was much better to have music that said, ‘Well, if you die it doesn’t really matter’ … I wanted to create a different feeling that you were sort of suspended in the universe and your life or death wasn’t so important”.

By playing and discussing vinyl records that attempt the instrumentation of airborne death I will treat Music for Airports as Eno intended—as music to die to. These are examples of ‘bad music’, records whose motivations and sometimes tasteless musical ideas can be hard to fathom. D.O.A. (1972), is Bloodrock’s, first-person narration of dying after crashing. Jupiter Prophet’s 35,000 Feet: Challenger’s Theme (1986), a Terry Rileyesque synth memorial to the Space Shuttle disaster, blithely croons “a candle in the sky … no stopping to let them cry”. On his LP ‘In Search’, Chance Martin features two flight songs, Too High to Land and High Test, singing “747 started to twirl / Out of control / Look out the window at your own dead ready world”. Merrill Womach’s LP ‘I Believe in Miracles’ gives holy thanks for surviving his own plane crash, while the bizarre Flight F-I-N-A-L…a dramatic comparison to death, enacts a trip to heaven on hymn-filled Inter-World Airlines.

Diffusing the Norm – Brian Eno’s Music For Airports

Brian Eno’s Music For Airports presents to us the destruction the familiar, the removal of expectations. The album attempted to avoid the classification of Muzak and brought to us another world completely. Background music often adds a stimulus that has a polarising effect. It’s often assumed that, once forgotten, the music should merely exist as ambience ; the quality or character given to a sound recording by the space in which it occurs. The opposing effect is that it offers to us a dislocation or diffusion of the norm; in that it allows to be transported to a place where the mundane is bypassed and replaced by something that’s meditative and completive.

This paper attempts to address such issues while examining the albums role in establishing a forum for the use of ambient music in public spaces. It examines the role of the environment and what musical stimulus can provide within this space.

Tambambient: sound mixtures in surf, dip and bit dilations

Brian Eno’s Discreet Music and Music for Airports have, since their publication in the 1970s, opened up new ways to conceive sonic worlds that listeners could “swim in, float in, get lost inside” (Eno B. , 2017), using a vast electronic palette of sound.  Different senses of the immersive experience evoked by Eno have inspired our composition Tamba.  In Tamba, we explore the possibility of generating electronic sonic temporal dilations of an immersive experience, using synthesized sounds programmed in Pure Data. 

Watermelons (Or The Limits of Capitalist Materiality)

This set of texts comprises an attempt to analyze some of the difficulties that living composers face under today’s global economy. The author introduces a number of interrelated, speculative thoughts on the nature of aesthetics in order to push the reader to challenge common, reified views of music as nothing more but a tool to perpetuate reactionary means of social reproduction. Ultimately, a metaphor (‘watermelons hitting a wall’) is used in order to suggest that New Music can exist as a projection of future, unknown material realities.

Parametric polyphony in recent guitar music

This article approaches the performing/interpretative issues arising from the performer’s relationship to models of extended/multi-parametric notation in guitar music. Two works are examined: Aaron Cassidy’s The Pleats of Matter (2005-7) for electric guitar and electronics and Wieland Hoban’s Knokler (2008-16) for solo classical guitar, although I argue that Hübler’s Reisswerck (1987) for solo classical guitar can be regarded as an antecedent Finally, I discuss the performer’s relation to these models of notation beyond the mere exploration of new playing techniques.

Multiphonic Mobile

Multiphonic Mobile is an improvised work for an oboist-in-motion and a mobile. For its creation, the work uses a range of pre-selected multiphonics and sound distortion techniques (flutter-tonguing, embouchure modifications etcetera) which are read from the planes of the mobile, alongside improvised movements which are dictated by the mobile.

Fingers, Fragility and Freedom – Christian Wolff’s Pianist: Pieces

This article examines two movements of Christian Wolff’s Pianist: Pieces (2001) to illustrate how in this work the physiology of the pianist’s hands limit and shape the music both in terms of what is played (which sounds are heard) and how they are played. Specifically it looks at how my hands and my interpretative preferences determine what is played and heard when I am the pianist in these pieces.

Communicative movement in contemporary chamber music: hand werk in the rehearsal of new works by Thierry Tidrow and Georgia Koumará

Movement, that essential element for any musician, plays a distinct role in new chamber music. It is one of the ways that musicians communicate and it is a choreography that leads and shapes the performance of the work. We use movement to help guide each other through the piece, to indicate shifts in texture and dynamic, and to breathe and find a common pulse. It is regularly annotated in a precise manner, clarifying where to look or who should be given a signal, and each annotation reflects the needs of that particular instance in the score. Notation guides our movements just as we guide each other.

Resonances and Responses

The idea of resonances and responses as a fundamental compositional principle is found in many of my compositions. I have used it in instrumental pieces both with and without electronics, in theatre contexts, in conceptual works and in intertextual and intermusical referential structures. In Terpsichord, a piece for percussion and pre-recorded sounds, the resonances from the acoustic instruments form sonic bridges to the pre-recorded electronic sounds, that, in turn, prolong the resonances, re-shaping them into new sonic gestures. A dialogue of actions and reactions is created that drives the trajectory of the music.

The Politics of Resonance

‘GIB SIE WIEDER’ is a series of two political compositions, dedicated to exceptional performers Garth Knox (viola d’amore) and Rhodri Davies (harp). In this project, the central focus is on resonance in both a musical and wider socio-cultural sense. Finding the term closely correlated to the construction of gender, I direct my inner ear to the hidden background noises of the organisation of society. As a woman and composer, I perceive aural patterns of individual and political significance.

Patterns in Radical Spectra

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).

Tuning Systems as Processual Material

The scope of this paper is to introduce and present two recent pieces I made for solo keyboard, Contracting triads in temperaments from 12 – 24 (2011) and Similarly spaced triads in temperaments from 12 – 24 (2011), and discuss the manner in which I used various equal-temperaments within a simple iterative framework to explore transformation of a chord pattern.

Strategies for spatial music performance: the practicalities and aesthetics of responsive systems design

This article will explore practical and aesthetic questions concerning spatial music performance by interrogating new developments within an emerging hyperinstrumental practice. The performance system is based on an electric guitar with individuated audio outputs per string and multichannel loudspeaker array. A series of spatial music mapping strategies will explore in-kind relationships between a formal melodic syntax model and an ecological flocking simulator, exploiting broader notions of embodiment underpinning the metaphorical basis for the experience and understanding of musical structure. 

New developments for spatial music in the context of the ZKM Klangdom: A review of technologies and recent productions

The Institute for Music and Acoustics is a production and research facility of the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. In this paper, we present some general thoughts on spatial music and its implementations as a motivation for our efforts. We outline the development of the ZKM Klangdom, a multi-loudspeaker facility for spatial sound diffusion that aims to provide artists and composers with new possibilities.

Multichannel sound and spatial sound creation at Sporobole: A short account of live performance, studio design, outdoor multichannel audio, and visiting artists

The recent history of multichannel audio at Sporobole, an artist-run centre located in Sherbrooke, Canada, is discussed based on a multidisciplinary exercise. The underlying working axes are presented, from the experience of hosting an experimental rock band in an artistic, electroacoustic, and multichannel context, to the centre’s development, which includes a multichannel sound studio in its recently renovated building. 

Exploded sounds: spatialised partials in two recent multi-channel installations

I discuss two recent sound installations that both explore a spectral sound diffusion technique based on partial tracking that allows individual partials of a sampled sound to occupy individual locations in space. The two installations, The Exploded Sound (60 channels) and Significant Birds (12 channels), use similar techniques and modes of presentation to different ends.

Aural Territories: how phenomenology taught me how to compose electroacoustic spatial music

In this article I describe the process of creation, performance, and reception of two sets of multichannel pieces - Journey I and II and Night Song I and II - performed as part of Aural Territories: a concert of spatial electroacoustic music. The main philosophical foundation for this experience has been the views on phenomenology as conceived by Merleau-Ponty (2004) and Dufrenne (1973). In these pieces, I explore compositionally three aspects of the interrelationship between sound and space that were fundamental for my theoretical and practical understanding of electroacoustic spatial music: acoustic space, sound spatialisation, and reference.

Audium – sound-sculptured space

Audium has established a series of ideas, expanding the layers of controlled sound in space and evolving a paradigm for positioning and listening. Additionally, it has taken a new architectural approach to the performance-space, with a potential for flexibility through a myriad of environmental combinations.

Introduction: Sound.Music.Image

The idea of compiling artistic research together with more traditional academic research is not new, but in my view is not practiced enough either. In the case of music these days, composers tend to have a university education, often at graduate level, which allows for a more fluid conversation with musicology and other text-based (as opposed to object-based) forms of research in music. This issue of the Divergence Press journal was called with the intention of enabling this conversation to take place particularly within the field of audiovision: music, sound, and the moving image.

Electroacoustic Movies: A visual music practice and its contexts

This article presents an overview of a visual music collaboration between film-maker Dr Nick Cope and electroacoustic composer Professor Tim Howle. The article draws heavily on research for the former’s recently completed PhD by Existing Published Work, Northern Industrial Scratch: The History and Contexts of a Visual Music Practice (University of Sunderland, October 2012). This article specifically addresses the contexts of the collaboration Electroacoustic Movies, which forms one element of a wider body of work addressed in the PhD. With online links directly to the works in question, the critical and historical contexts with which the practice engages are examined and elaborated. 

Jerry Goldsmith and the Sonification of the “Monstrous-Feminine” in his Science Fiction Scores

In listening to interviews with the film composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Tora! Tora! Tora! and Air Force One) his most musically significant comments are those that reveal the manner of his approach to his work. What comes through very strongly is his desire to priviledge emotion by scoring the underlying, unspoken feelings in a scene, as opposed to the more literal aspects of the narrative. One concept present in film that engenders such emotion is the notion of the “monstrous-feminine”, created by the presence of a deliberate relation between terror and the opposite maternal position or, the traditional, “benign” role of women in our society. A number of recurring compositional characteristics are evident across Goldsmith’s body of work. 

A direct link to the past: nostalgia and semiotics in video game music

The multimedia nature of video games and the interactivity of the medium create new possibilities and purposes for nostalgia, as Bastion (2011), Fallout 3 (2008), and  The Legend of Zelda series (1987 to present) illustrate. In Bastion, composer Darren Korb uses iconic signifiers of nostalgia to create an empathetic response within the player to the in-game character’s longing for a lost world and time. Fallout 3, in contrast, uses the player’s own familiarity with the popular music of the 1930s and ’40s to heighten the destruction of the world after an in-game nuclear war. Finally, The Legend of Zelda series, which made music a major part of its gameplay in Ocarina of Time, uses music indexically and symbolically in Twilight Princess to prompt a nostalgic response within the player that mirrors the response apparently felt by the main character in the game, Link.

Introduction: Temporalities in contemporary music

Issues of temporality remain close to many musical discussions, yet there remain comparatively few sustained theses on the subject. In particular, contemporary and experimental musics, which can offer radically unique temporal experiences, provide many rich untapped sources for scholarly investigation. Often, research stops short of examining the actual experience, rather falling back to focus upon what information can be drawn from the score, or the compositional intentions behind a piece. But what is the relationship between these composed designs, and individual temporal experience?

Scanning the temporal surface: aspects of time, memory and repetition in my recent music

This paper considers the role of musical temporality and memory in the recent works of composer Bryn Harrison. In contrast to earlier pieces, the essay outlines the ways in which these pieces adopt a singular approach to musical structure which utilises high levels of repetition. It is argued that, through this approach, the listener is able to build up a composite understanding of the surface of the music over time. Comparisons are made to the scanning of a picture plane, and the work of Bridget Riley, James Hugonin and François Morellet are given as examples. The paper ends with a description of a new collaborative project with digital artist Tim Head which seeks to develop on this same phenomenological approach.

The Handless Watch: On composing and performing ‘Flutter Echoes’

Étude d’un prélude II – Flutter echoes for string quartet is one of the first works to be based on the transcription, into standard notation, of millisecond-faithful micro-temporal data; the work was composed in 2009, premièred in 2010 and recorded in 2011. This article provides a first-hand account of its inception by the composer, Richard Beaudoin, and one of its first performers, Neil Heyde, cellist of the Kreutzer Quartet. The micro-temporal data was collected using the Lucerne Audio Recording Analyzer [LARA], a powerful software developed by the acoustic researchers Dr Olivier Senn and Lorenz Kilchenmann of the Hochschule Lucerne, Switzerland. The object of their analysis, and the source work behind Flutter echoes, is Martha Argerich’s 1975 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Chopin’s Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, no. 4.