Category: Composition

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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. 

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Reinventing Harmony in Splintered Echoes (2014)

This paper discusses the new harmonic possibilities enabled through the implementation of Sethares’ theory of the dissonance curve in MAX and its use in a live electronic composition Splintered Echoes with Monty Adkins (composer), Jonny Axelsson (composer and percussionist) and Adrian Gierakowski (programmer).

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

The Harmonic Sequencer: Mapping the Harmonic Series to a Sequencer

This paper discusses a software tool created by the author in MAX. I have created a sequencer that mimics (in reverse) the relationship between the harmonic series and the equal temperament tuning in terms of temporal timing. I will discuss the theory underpinning the software and its implementation.

Continue reading