This is the New Music! Callington

Saturday 8 August 2009

New mp3s ready for download or streaming.

This way of working was a conscious attempt at “formalizing” a disorientation of memory… In this regularity, there is a suggestion that what we hear is functional and directional, but we soon realize that this is an illusion; a bit like walking the streets of Berlin — where all the buildings look alike, even if they’re not.

— Morton Feldman, “Crippled Symmetry”

The set of pieces that make up Callington began with the vision of an image I couldn’t make real. For some years now I’ve been interested in using means of visual processing to make music, with limited success. In this case, I’d been imagining the music of a spectrogram, itself made up of a montage of spectrograms of different musics, laid over each other with continuously varying degrees of transparency.

Not too surprisingly, my attempts to make music from such an image have so far all been unsuccessful. The few image-to-sound converters I have worked with interpret spectrographic information (intensity of frequency over time) in ways that make an actual spectrogram sound clumsy and dull. As an alternative, I patched together a system of filters and mixers to simulate the sort of effect I imagined the spectrograms would create.

The entirety of Callington is based upon five source sounds, each of a similar nature and roughly similar length. Only four of these source elements are used in any one piece. For each subsequent piece (Callington 2A, Callington 3A, etc) one of the sources is substituted, until all five possible combinations of four sources are used. Each piece is thus designed to differ as little as possible from its neighbours.

Each subsequent iteration of the source material (Callington 1B, Callington 1C, etc) is an imitation of its predecessor, using a different technological approach to mimic the previous section as best it can (full details here). Each section is thus a failed attempt to maintain a uniform identity throughout the entire piece.

The many small differences can be said to be caused by ‘mishearings’ as the music is translated from one format to another. This consistency is carried over into all the pieces, each sharing three of its four source materials with the others. The main noticeable difference between sections is in timbre. The outer sections have complex timbres and dynamics, whereas the inner sections reduce this material to a uniform timbral simplicity.

The twenty-five sections can be played individually or juxtaposed in a variety of ways. In particular, two ways present themselves as obvious arrangements. In Callington x, each successive iteration of the same source material is played (e.g. Callington 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E). The other, Callington n, groups common treatments of the different sets of material (e.g. Callington 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A). Other permutations, of course, are possible.

The multi-movement versions can be played from these m3u playlists:

Callington 1      Callington A
Callington 2      Callington B
Callington 3      Callington C
Callington 4      Callington D
Callington 5      Callington E

The entire set, along with detailed composition notes, can be downloaded from its page on the music website, or heard in streaming audio at The Listening Room.