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Radio // Séquences et tropes
Séquences et tropes
The Battle (2013), 14m20s [excerpt]
Track 1 from Séquences et tropes
CD: empreintes DIGITALes (2015) IMED 15135
  • piste@imed_15135-1
    • 1
      The Battle (2013), 14m20s
      5.1-track tape
      • Premiere: October 26, 2013, Akousma X: Espace strié, Usine C (Montréal, Québec)

      To my mother and her fighting spirit

      This work began very traditionally, developing stereophonic materials towards something abstract in early January 2013. I took these developments to the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC, Sweden) in April 2013 and developed them further still, deciding that the work would exist primarily in 5.1. Fate played its hand mid way through the residency and everything was brought back to my office in Sheffield (England, UK) where the work was completed in July 2013. During this time, I searched for a title for the work and completed further chapters of my course book, Sonic Art: an introduction to electroacoustic music.

      The Battle is clearly a programmatic title. The abstract work is in two large sections filled with pulsed activity, accelerating gestures, granular textures, swift cut-aways, natural and forced spatialisation in 5.1 often with heavy reverberation. However, the way I now “see” the work is as follows: The Battle conjures a number of battle “scenes,” often cloaked in darkness and mist (a well used acousmatic analogy). It comprises a number of clearly marked attacks, reinforced by skirmishes and feints, large-scale phalanx movements and close-quarter hand-to-hand combat. There are times when we feel we are on the offensive and times when we are on the run. We are placed in a medieval battlefield where, as the mist clears and spaces open out to reveal the aftermath of the battle, we feel the enormity of the fight. As we become more “involved” in the action, so we feel increasingly drained by the uncertainty and battered by the inevitability of the battle.


      The Battle was realized between January 2013 and July 2013 in the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC, Sweden) and the composer’s studio and premiered on October 26, 2013 as part of the concert series Akousma X presented by Réseaux des arts médiatiques at Usine C (Montréal, Québec).

      piste@imed_15135-1.1 oeuvre@35839 ISRC CAD501510021
    • 2
      Counterattack (2014), 14m55s
      7.1-track tape
      • Premiere: March 12, 2015, 7th International Festival for Artistic Innovation: Concert 1, The Venue — Leeds College of Music (Leeds, England, UK)

      Counterattack is a follow-up work to The Battle. The Battle was an acousmatic work in surround format which was broadly in two sections: one, quite ‘granular’ and edgy; the other more pitched and pulsed, with an increasing fascination for layering sounds inspired by the works of Horacio Vaggione. Counterattack is similarly structured from a complex set of multichannel transformations developed from a variety of sources, taking the words of The Battle’s programme as inspiration. In the programme notes for The Battle, I ‘visualise’ the work as a number of ‘scenes’, ‘feints’ and ‘attacks’. Counterattack expands these scenes even further and attempts to create complex polyphonies through division of the multichannel space. Alongside development of materials in surround sound using a variety of techniques, an understanding of the concept of war and the historical practicalities of battlefield combat was gained through reading key texts: The Art of War (Sun Tzu), On War (Carl von Clausewitz), and first-hand accounts of war by service personnel, War (Lawrence Freedman). Whilst these texts were never rendered musically, their combined effect, augmented by an increased sense of ‘the fight’ within academia can be heard in a number of places, notably the final ‘scream’ passage. Compositionally, Counterattack takes the idea of ‘Multichannel’ (loudspeakers) and ‘multiChannel’ (sounds) further than The Battle. Counterattack can exist in a number of surround formats but was composed in 7.1 and presents a fuller spectrum of materials. It relies heavily upon multichannel granulation and spatialisation but more importantly, uses the multichannel space to contextualise different sounds in different loudspeakers, beginning to create a polyphony of sound sources, whilst maintaining a coherent scene.


      Counterattack was realized during the summer of 2014 in the composer’s studio in Sheffield (England, UK) and premiered on March 12, 2015 during the 7th International Festival for Artistic Innovation (Leeds, England, UK). Counterattack was awarded the Prize in the Concurso Internacional de Composição Electroacústica Música Viva (Lisbon, Portugal 2015).

      piste@imed_15135-1.2 oeuvre@37676 ISRC CAD501510022
    • 3
      Nebula Sequence (2012), 19m33s
      5.1-track tape
      • Premiere: January 31, 2013, From Tape to Typedef: Concert 4, Drama Studio — The University of Sheffield (Sheffield, England, UK)

      Creative motivations: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 was the first day in my working life that I went on strike. I thought I was being hypocritical taking my recording equipment with me but with hindsight I experienced a sense of place, a feeling that I was personally doing the right thing, and an enormous sense of the support that those on strike were giving to their colleagues under pressure. I also captured elements of the primary sound source of this piece and in so doing continue to reflect upon the reasons why I was out that day.

      The vast majority of this work was made during April 2012 at the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC), Gotland (Sweden) in their Studio Alpha (5.1). Being away for a month allowed me to work consistently and freely: I was able to take stock of a wide variety of materials and develop a number of spectral surround sound manipulations. I was also able to pay homage to composers whose music has influenced the way I work.

      Secondary sources included stones and bricks (after Jonty Harrison and Alistair MacDonald), and ball bearings (after François Bayle’s majestic Tremblement de terre très doux) — and my thanks to simplybearings.co.uk for accepting the fact that I only needed to buy two of each size (ranging from .5 to 2 inches in diameter). For the ‘dissolve’ at the close of the piece, I am always reminded of Andrew LewisScherzo. Finally, thanks to the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) for producing some great new tools that helped me deliver some very unique (if easily identifiable) sound nebulae.

      And it is these sound spaces that drive this work. Nebulae present us with the sense of the unknown, a sense of the future. There is a space there that is vast and distant and within the nebula a cloud of swirling dust and gas. Vast, but not a void. We can place ourselves inside this space and explore its very details.


      Nebula Sequence was realized in 2012 in the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC, Sweden) and the composer’s studio in Sheffield (England, UK) and premiered on January 31, 2013 during a concert in the Drama Studio of The University of Sheffield (England, UK) as part of the festival From Tape to Typedef. The work was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Musica Nova 2015 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music (Prague, Czech Republic).

      piste@imed_15135-1.3 oeuvre@33424 ISRC CAD501510023
    • 4
      Strings and Tropes (2012), 22m22s
      stereo tape
      • Premiere: February 9, 2013, Soundings… — Concert 3: John Young, Adrian Moore, Reid Concert Hall — Edinburgh University (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)

      Strings and Tropes is a study in string sounds, in particular plucked and scraped strings. It explores: 1) how techniques of time stretching can draw out pitches and textures; 2) how repetition at different durations and speeds can articulate space and time; and 3) the relationship between gesture and texture as they share the same space.

      Many of the lengthy time stretch manipulations were used for a performance piece at Wet Sounds, 2011 in Glasgow’s North Woodside Pool. Thanks to Joel Cahen for the invitation. It has taken over a year to reinterpret this material and contextualise it within a semi-pitched framework. Pitch centres are derived from short samples from Zheng master Sun Zhuo. My thanks to her for generously allowing me to use a number of small samples. Her performance was graceful and fluid, yet at times the pace and ferocity of movement reminded me of the intricate links between sound and (body) motion.

      Strings and Tropes focuses upon context, aligning sounds and transformations often with reference to the core source material — a melody from Xiang Shan She Gu (The Temple Fair at the Xiang Mountain, 1981) by Qu Yun — and the broader idea of a trope, an interpretation and re-contextualisation of material within an established framework. This work continues my research into theoretical ideas thrown open in my textbook, Sonic Art: an introduction to electroacoustic music, in particular the roles of gesture and texture in determining structure.


      Strings and Tropes was realized in August 2012 in the composer’s studio in Sheffield (England, UK) and premiered on February 9, 2013 during the festival Soundings… in the Reid Concert Hall of the Edinburgh University (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK).

      piste@imed_15135-1.4 oeuvre@34122 ISRC CAD501510024