Summer is ending. Normal service resumes next week.

Thursday 8 September 2022

Regular updates return later next week, with more new releases and gigs reviewed. In the meantime, why not check out my own crummy music.

Early Attempts To Speak With The Dead

Friday 1 April 2022

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, partly because I finished up a new piece of music. It’s on Bandcamp if you want to take a peek. Normal service will resume shortly.

I had a bunch of unused recordings left over from making my feedback synthesis piece Chain of Ponds. Not wanting to waste them, I fed the recordings into the feedback system used to make them in the first place, creating eight 30-minute stereo files of more complex sounds.

These files were at first mixed together to make a composite piece titled An Entire Bottle of Hospital Brandy in 2021. I eventually decided the piece needed more work. For this new piece, the eight recordings were fed into a matrix mixer that randomly switched outputs so that any of the 16 channels may be modulated by any other. Each of the resulting eight modulated signals were then fed through a gate controlled by a different signal path, so that only certain parts of each output are audible. After a half-dozen or so revisions, the system is now capable of producing a more varied range of sounds and textures over an indefinite period of time, using only minimal additional processes.

Gate sensitivity and volume level are controlled manually, but this performance uses minimal intervention. The eight outputs are panned across the stereo range. Inspiration was drawn from David Tudor’s performance practice and from Henri Pousseur’s Paraboles-Mix.

(no title)

Wednesday 10 February 2021

I’ve been listening to a lot of new stuff over winter, making some notes, as well as working on my own projects, but right at the moment I’m at a bit of an impasse over what I should finish up and make public next. To complicate matters, I’ve been listening through Paradigm Discs’ superb box set retrospective of Gentle Fire and fell down a wormhole listening to and reading up on Hugh Davies’ work with electroacoustic instruments.

While I get myself together, I’ve fixed up the reviews section of the site a little so you can click through to the artists grouped by name as well as follow up artists tagged the chronological summary. There are probably older albums and gigs I’ve written up that aren’t listed yet but the further back you go the more the writing turns to social media chit-chat.

I’ve been making some recordings around the house while in lockdown, as is the custom. The most recent piece was completed at the end of last year and you can hear it on Bandcamp. The download is free, as are most things on the site. If there’s something with a price tag still on it drop me a line and I’ll probably have a download code for it. Stay good, people.

EMNIOX: a simultaneous ambient playlist

Tuesday 12 January 2021

After an idea by Kraig Grady: what happens if you play every ambient album you can think of at the same time? I threw this mix together while Christmas dinner cooked and then decided it would be nice to have a video to match. EMNIOX is best viewed full screen with the lights out. It starts quietly and slowly builds steam.

This is the (new) music: Decommissioned, and a giveaway

Monday 13 April 2020

Waiting for things to blow over, I’ve been sorting through old files and dusted off an old piece. Decommissioned is an hour-long piece made back in 2004. I don’t know how to describe this piece. It doesn’t seem like anything else I’ve done before or since.

There was a small edition of CD-Rs which ran out yonks ago, so it’s now on Bandcamp for free.

In fact, while Covid-19 drags on, almost everything on my Bandcamp is free/name your price (i.e. free). I’m giving away download codes for the other albums, while they last.

Chain of Ponds: chance determined feedback synthesis.
kde7-gfp6 zq6x-3q7y ztdp-5tua 3zqg-bbm7 5y83-whk5 rkzl-h5gf antj-jrrm jbua-5zkr e6xx-jf89 gncj-kp7z tj9d-3m7y t92c-h6af

Piano Sonata No. 1 (Toccata Furioso): chaotic fractal microtonal extravaganza for three-handed pianist.
9r8d-hzln ylns-vtve 3eae-gbz3 a6fg-3×94 rzdn-cvgm d2qv-h8r6 uxtx-y47x xekp-7maq h838-5z3t qnxy-bgl7 3h6n-j56r 5q3x-6r8l

Redeem codes here.

Immanence of the Eater and the Eaten

Wednesday 1 April 2020

The scene starts in a charity shop in Echuca, where a young Australian man with sideburns and a Planet of the Apes t-shirt finds an Atari 2600 game console. When he plugs it in a crudely synthesised voice begins to stutter its way through Bataille’s ‘Theory of Religion’, with cryptic embellishments to the text. Inspired, the young man interprets the speech by setting it to a real rap beat on an 808 he naturally carries around with him at all times, but the instrument has been distorted by prolonged exposure to the Australian rural sun.

A paddlesteamer docks at the pier, and a sailor on deck commences to recite the exciting true story of the discovery of Australia. The waistband of his Calvin Klein undies is pulled up over the top of his breeches, revealing a message stitched above the crotch that reads “Escaped refugees welcome here.” A chorus of sailors join him in song, but no sooner have they begun than a freak storm capsizes the boat.

The location switches to Melbourne’s Federation Square development, where an emerging artist wearing a ‘Team Bataille’ baseball cap is installing an expensive piece of public art. An antenna connected to the artwork picks up the synthesised voice transmissions from Echuca, which directs a pivoted concave mirror to focus the sun’s rays into a powerful beam which incinerates the surrounding architecture in a pattern the shape of the Yorta Yorta land claim.

Back in Echuca, the sailors have struggled out of the river onto the pier and assess the damage to the paddlesteamer. An elegy to the twilight of colonialism is played by the Jindyworobak String Quartet: three middle-age men and a women in batik shirts saw slowly and sadly at eucalyptus saplings while domestic cats devour small native fauna.

An Australian Poet is reported dead in non-suspicious circumstances. The sad event is commemorated by a reenactment of the encounter of Flinders and Baudin, with the sailors dressed as Françoise Hardy solemnly recounting the Poet’s demise to the accompaniment of twist music by Serge Gainsbourg. The town’s inhabitants gather for a wake, with a DJ playing a special dance mix of the music on a limited edition vinyl reissue on the Ecstatic Peace label.

As the stuttering voice of reconstituted Bataille dissipates the scene shifts to a carport in Glen Waverley. Two teenagers attempt to foment suburban revolution by channelling the ghosts of Robyn Boyd and Iannis Xenakis, then challenging each other to an apocalyptic game of pingpong. Their activity summons the ghost of Percy Grainger, who immediately devises a free-music machine in the form of a ping-pong table shaped like a three-dimensional Galton board, down which balls may continually cascade according to the laws of probability. After much exertion the local council rezones the block to light industrial.

(1 April 2002.)

New Show! Like, For Real This Time! The Museum of Aphorisms and Platitudes

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Ah yeah, remember that art show I was in last month? Well, apparently I wasn’t. That was some kind of mix-up in the listings when I was in fact due to appear in the next instalment of The Museum of Aphorisms and Platitudes, curated by Phil Edwards. It opens at Rubicon ARI in North Melbourne on 24 July (that’s right now) and runs until 10 August – full deets on the Rubicon ARI website. Sadly, I won’t be there to see this one either, but I plan to give it some more online exposure after the show closes. My piece is a small musical score with an online sound realisation, so if you can’t make it to Melbourne then you won’t completely miss out.

The MoP&A – The Museum of Platitudes and Aphorisms is part of a series of exhibitions and events that explore how individual artists and audiences explore their thinking about the presence of art in a studio or a gallery environment. It seems that there is a kind of peripheral vision that occurs in all artist’s practices that, once recognised, avoids or extends the awareness of the role of art and galleries in our lives. The aim of the project is to ask both makers and observers to reflect upon their own values in the experiences of making, encountering and looking at art. The role of the museum or gallery as the psychological architecture used to reflect upon accepted knowledge is also in review.

New Show! The Museum of Aphorisms and Platitudes

Monday 17 June 2019

Anyone in Melbourne over the next month has the chance to see (and hear) a new work of mine at the group show The Museum of Aphorisms and Platitudes, curated by Phil Edwards. It opens at c3 Contemporary Art Space in The Abbotsford Convent on 19 June (6 to 8 pm for the launch). The show runs until 14 July – full deets on the c3 website. Lol nope it’s actually on at Rubicon ARI in July/August. Sadly, I won’t be there to see it, but I plan to give it some more online exposure after the show closes.

The MoP&A – The Museum of Platitudes and Aphorisms is part of a series of exhibitions and events that explore how individual artists and audiences explore their thinking about the presence of art in a studio or a gallery environment. It seems that there is a kind of peripheral vision that occurs in all artist’s practices that, once recognised, avoids or extends the awareness of the role of art and galleries in our lives. The aim of the project is to ask both makers and observers to reflect upon their own values in the experiences of making, encountering and looking at art. The role of the museum or gallery as the psychological architecture used to reflect upon accepted knowledge is also in review.

Piano Sonata No. 1 (Toccata Furioso)

Monday 3 December 2018

Piano Sonata No. 1 (Toccata Furioso) is now available on Bandcamp. It’s a relentless fractal cyclone of microtonal madness, pushing rigorous systems and the concept of the piano as a keyboard instrument to the edges of chaos…

A pianist with three hands is playing three pianos at the same time. One hand to each keyboard. Each piano is tuned to a different scale; each scale is made of unique pitches, with no repeating notes, no octaves. None of the pianos share a common pitch between them. Our pianist not only has long arms; the fingers are also unusually long and flexible, so that each hand may cover the entirety of its respective keyboard. Each hand, of course, has only five fingers and so no more than five notes may be played on each piano at any time.

“Why make it a piano?” she asked. I finished my beer before replying. You strike the key and the piano does everything else. It’s like a computer: once you’ve executed the command, it’s out of your hands. The piano, eschewing the use of breath or continued touch, functions no differently than a digital device. “It’s transparent,” I said. You create a new synth patch and people try to figure out what it sounds like. With a piano, people don’t think about the instrument and listen to what the piano is doing instead.

Each of the pianist’s fingers is individually playing complex curves across the keyboard. The curves are segments of 1-dimensional projections of fractals created by iterated function systems; specifically, chance mutations of the Barnsley fern. The curves may be projected onto the keyboard in different ways. Each finger may be playing the same curve segment in different projections, different segments of the same curve, or different curves entirely. From one period to the next, the hands may all play in the same tempo, in different tempi, or with individual fingers in the same or different tempi. These tempi may change or stay the same. Dynamics are subject to the same possible combinations, independent of tempo. All these decisions, as well as other considerations such as length of each period and choice of hands, were guided by chance. The odds were weighted in favour of fast and loud, and the guidance was almost always strictly followed.

Does it still sound like a piano? Probably. In this instance, the sound of the piano is a simulacrum of a piano. A virtual representation of a real instrument; that instrument freighted with multiple burdens of bourgeois romanticism, modernist experimentation and reactionary postmodern attempts at negation. The Sonata is an initial expedition towards incoherence. There is no harmonic logic to the tuning or rhythmic logic to the simultaneous tempi. In form, the instrument retains its familiar representation as a vehicle for the manifestation of theory; in sound, it perhaps has become a little alienated from itself. “Last one,” I say but she explains she’s already called time.

A second sonata is in progress.

An Update

Monday 11 December 2017

Just got back from a trip and caught the last night only of this year’s London Contemporary Music Festival – which was great, except for all the people telling me about all the cool stuff I missed on the other nights. I’ve been listening to the latest batch of releases from Another Timbre, including the reissue of Lost Daylight. My review of this, and new recordings of John Cage’s Winter Music and Jürg Frey’s La présence, les silences, should appear soon in the new issue of Tempo.

I’ve got several new posts jostling for attention here: reviews of some more Another Timbre releases, a live staging of Cage’s Europeras 1 & 2 in Braunschweig last week, some unfocused guff about music and art. In the meantime, I’m giving out free download codes for one of my older albums on Bandcamp, Chain of Ponds. Codes are below and can be redeemed on the Bandcamp page for the record.

8lx9-7gkl · 2cez-5uzj · vk6u-cxk5 · 7zzd-hpgf · v3tp-v2rm · fvzg-gdh6 · mfty-3hpy · 9anz-hj3r · y7az-vydl · 35fk-63xe · w852-64m3 · pz7a-km8s

This Is The New Music: Unstained Melodies

Monday 11 September 2017

I’m sorry, everyone.

It started out with the urge to test music to destruction, removing structure, context, all momentum and teleology from existing pieces of music to see what musical qualities may still survive in the desiccated remains. (This test was to prove that musical ‘meaning’ is an irreducible quality induced through any phenomenon being perceived as music.) I had previously composed a piano piece titled Benches, made entirely from the final bar taken from a large number of compositions. Each quotation was taken from a point at which all supposed momentum had been exhausted, yet when pieced together they could not help but form a new continuity.

Unstained Melodies is a set of piano miniatures designed to test internal continuity in harmonically-structured composition. The source material was a found object: a very old and damaged edition of pedagogical organ pieces demonstrating “Stainer’s Organ Method.” (I do not recall if the book was by John Stainer himself.) Taking only what was presumably the least valuable material, I systematically extracted only the last beat of each bar from each piece. To disorient the material, the extracted up-beats were reassembled in reverse order. In fact, I started with the last intact page and steadily worked backwards through the book, assuming that the pieces would tend to become shorter and simpler until the process ceased to be viable; a study in regression. This recording is a crude realisation of the written music, using computer-controlled piano samples, playing from algorithmically edited MIDI files. No physical keyboard playing was involved.

The Presence of Julius Eastman, in full

Monday 14 August 2017

While I was away a new issue of Tempo came out, which includes my review of last December’s London Contemporary Music Festival. This is a much expanded and improved version of the post I made here at the time, discussing the remarkable music of Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell and Frederic Rzewski. More context is given and Gay Guerrilla is misspelled – entirely my oversight. If you have access to journal articles you can read the whole thing on the Tempo website.

New Gig, New Album (+ free offer)

Monday 20 February 2017

It’s a busy week. Just got notice of a gig I’m playing this Thursday, at Silver Road in Lewisham. This is a great new venue inside a disused water tank; unfortunately it’s about to close as the developers have moved in earlier than expected.

I’ll be playing live versions of pieces from Chain of Ponds, so this is a chance for London people to hear what I was doing at the Inland concerts in Australia last year. Thursday 23 February, 1 Silver Road Lewisham SE13 7BQ. With Adam Christensen and Animal Choir. Doors 7.30pm, £5 on the door.

I’ve also uploaded another album to Bandcamp; it’s called Haunted Comma. It’s an older piece but I still like it. I tuned four sine waves to a major seventh chord and then let them slowly slide into increasingly rarefied mutations of Pythagorean intonation. It’s currently available as a free download for early birds or until I remember to update the Bandcamp page.

Chain Of Ponds, Live. (+ new mp3)

Monday 12 December 2016

I want to thank Alexander Garsden and everyone involved in the Inland concert series in Australia. I had a great time, all the other musicians were cooler than me and they showed me you can still have late night fun in Melbourne if not in Sydney.

I’ve only just listened to the recordings from both shows now and my sets went about as well as I remembered. Performing live music from a laptop, without using the monitor screen, was a success and the pieces took on a life of their own when played in a way that allowed unexpected aspects of the sound to creep in.

I played three pieces from Chain Of Ponds, adapted for live performance. An album of studio performances is available on Bandcamp, but for these Australian gigs I decided to include new versions of some pieces that haven’t previously gone public.

I’ve uploaded a piece from the Melbourne gig – you should be able to stream or download it.

Chain Of Ponds: Thirteenth Pond (18 April 2015, take 1)

Getting There: preparing for the next gig.

Thursday 27 October 2016

The original premise behind this piece was quite simple.

After some trial and error, a working model was hammered into shape.

A further year of development and the piece is now perfected.

The patch was constructed in AudioMulch, using only the components that come as standard with the software except for one freeware signal modeller at the very last stage.

In the above diagram it should be clear that there are no inputs to the system. None of the components play samples or generate signals. The patch is a network of interacting feedback circuits.

The network is played by sending MIDI instructions to the various controls on each component. During a performance, the system typically receives about 1000 MIDI commands per minute. To do this, I had to write a script that would generate a MIDI file containing all the instructions.

The script inserts commands and controller values according to (pseudo)random numbers. Randomness has to be used thoughtfully to get interesting, distinctive results, so a lot of revising, tweaking and polishing went into writing the script. The user can define basic parameters and bias weightings (duration, amount of activity) when the script is run.

The result?

Just now I’ve added another element: human intervention. For my upcoming live shows I will be playing these pieces directly from the patch and the script. Even when playing from the same score, the system will produce different sounds each time it is run: the score determines its behaviour, not its output. In the live shows I will be playing a MIDI controller to insert additional commands, which may have an immediate or delayed effect on the system.