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Across the Meadow, Bells is a reworking of the opening bars of Albert Ketelby’s popular classic ‘Bells Across The Meadows’. My reference points are the work of La Monte Young and Steve Reich along with a passion for British Light Music. It was composed in celebration of John Tilbury’s 70th birthday.
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Cody’s Receiver utilises the sounds of shortwave radio. It became part of a score for the silent, German Expressionist film ‘The Cabinet of Dr Calligari’. Radio as a musical sound source has fascinated me ever since I first heard Stockhausen’s Poles for 2 and the Beatles Revolution No.9. When I asked Stockhausen why he used shortwave he hunched his shoulders, turned his palms upwards and said ‘Instant electronic music’.
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A friend of mine once looked after an old man who was from Russia. When the old man died a box of tapes was found amongst his possessions. The tapes were a mysterious collection of, what appeared to be, electronic music. This piece utilises some material from those tapes.
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PhonoCage 1 was made by recording just one minute each from a multitude of old vinyl records that had been modified in various ways.
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Piano Musics i & ii was made in Agbrigg in 1974 or 75. Because I was, and still am, a very bad pianist, the piano parts were performed slowly, one octave down from what is heard here. The recordings were then played at double speed and the two pieces superimposed.
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This piece for four organs was originally written for MacLennan Dance & Company for their dance/theatre production Vertigo. Its perpetual driving rhythm pushes forward simple, overlapping melodic cells that are arranged in strict mathematical permutations derived from the Fibonacci series – a sequence of numbers that underpins natural forms like snail shells and leaf growth and gives rise to the ‘Golden Section’.
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Entropy is the great leveller. It is a measure of the equilibrium in any system. Everything is subject to entropy as the universe cools down. This ‘heat death’ is irreversible in the great equalising process. Energy flows from hot bodies to cold bodies, signals become noise as they are endlessly passed from transmitter to receiver and intelligible messages become garbled nonsense.
The concept of entropy is used metaphorically to structure this piece. The linked sections start with high energy material which is disrupted, dispersed and levelled. There are strident, discernible beginnings which always crumble and collapse. The material picks itself up and begins again, only to fall apart and level out. This process happens in the overall global structure of the piece and also within the sections that make up the whole.
The sound world is made from many different components: drum loops, environmental sound, spoken word, a singing voice, fragments of broadcast media and digitally synthesized material. The surface is often familiar – drum loops, notes, a voice – but this familiarity becomes corrupted as the listener is lead into unfamiliar territory. Sometimes filaments of disparate material combine but they always veer away, failing to settle and take root. Everywhere, tiny wisps of sound, made from shredded drum-machine patterns, scratch and scuttle about. Towards the end events behave in a multi-dimensional way, like debris falling into a black-hole: viewed from the inside everything happens very slowly, viewed from the outside everything is high speed.
This is a short clip from the piece.
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The Information Tango was composed for Trevor Stuart’s installation of the same name. The public were invited to dance with piles of magazines, each mounted on wheels. When one of these piles was embraced it began playing a tango from a cassette buried inside. The pile for which I’d been asked to compose comprised men’s style magazines. The spoken middle section is from ‘How I Wrote Certain of my Books’ by Raymond Roussel. The installation appeared at the Royal Festival Hall and many public places including shopping centres and railway stations.
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The Tower and the Slab was made by squeezing together recordings of many, many things – places, people, weather, objects, activities etc. Events were then carved out of this lump and tiny, detailed highlights were added. There are also holes chiselled through, a bit like modernist British sculptures, often portrayed in old cartoons mocking abstract art. Or perhaps the analogy of a giant Swiss cheese would be better. The holes allow a momentary shift to another place, like walking past open shop doorways in a packed, busy street.
The beginning winds up slowly because the piece has difficulty overcoming inertia and the initial material has little to do with the carved lump, which only begins to make its presence felt once things are underway. There are six sections each of which builds to climax of activity, density or volume only to collapse, making way for the next.
The title refers to nothing that is heard, it is simply a method of naming the piece.
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Trio for Sine Wave Oscillators No.2 was composed for the Langham Research Centre who discovered three oscillators in a cupboard not far from where the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was once housed. They decided to perform with the oscillators and needed music to play so I composed this piece among others. This recording is of a performance given at the CoMA Christian Wolff weekend at St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, London in June 2010.