At present, it’s a mildly sweaty 30 degrees in the studio but I’m one of those folks who truly adores the sunshine so embrace this positive shift. Typically, I’m about to move the studio into a new space which means heavy labour, carrying hefty music gear up and down too many stairs and so on. Who needs a gym pass when you can have a music studio, eh?
Summertime is always pleasantly quieter and a chance to breathe a little which is a delight. My highlight of June has to be the world premiere of A Little Bit of Everything with the BBC Concert Orchestra, which was a truly extraordinary event. To walk into rehearsals at Watford Colosseum, and behold the orchestra sitting there awaiting my attention, was utterly unforgettable. Interestingly, I learnt that the acoustics in this building are so outstanding that it’s been recognised as among the best halls in Europe, if not the world, with the soundtracks of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and The Sound of Music having been recorded here.
A Little Bit of Everything was written at the invitation of Tammy Bedford, daughter of the late British composer David Bedford, for this, his 80th birthday celebration. Combining live electronics and live orchestral players the piece turned out to be rather a success and for anyone interested was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast later this year. Stay tuned for an exact date. An especial huge thanks to Quinta for taking my digital notes and making them so alive and real for the performance too.
The evening also featured David Bedford’s orchestral arrangement of Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells, featuring guitarist Steve Hillage who took part in the original performance, and was outstanding too. Meeting up with Steve again was a real joy, a man whom I first discovered when he performed his Rainbow Dome Musick in 1979 at the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit, which I attended with my mum! Our paths would frequently cross back in the mid 1990s at the height of British electronica, but as often happens life gets in the way and we’d lost touch, so such a pleasure to reconnect.
I’ve just returned from Anstruther in Fife, Scotland where I presented another world premiere of Lost at Sea (when will they ever stop?) at the East Neuk Festival as part of their Big Project 2018. Following on the success of Memorial Ground (2016) and De Profundis (2017) projects, I joined forces with pupils of Waid Academy in Anstruther to create a memorial in sound for men of the East Neuk fishing industry lost at sea. This new work draws on the stories of the men out at sea, field recordings and interviews to evoke the men and their lives.
Imagine a room saturated in low level blue light, with a dozen performers mapped around the space, casting vast shadows onto the wall, as the industrial sounds of the fishing industry build up around you, with engines growling and throbbing, winches thrashing about the deck, water pouring over the side. You are immersed within this world, far off shore, often for days on end, battling against the elements, all to make a living for your family. A version of the work is currently installed at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, but for those of you unable to make that trip I’ve uploaded the entire work to Soundcloud for you to enjoy. Listen and download it here.
Read more about the project here in a long essay form, and listen back to an interview I made with Janice Forsyth at BBC Radio Scotland, where I play an exclusive extract from the work. Reviews are already appearing, with The Scotsman newspaper reporting: “The concept was simple and unpretentious, with minimal symbolism, yet was all the more moving for that. The pulverising soundtrack is gnawing and evocative.” Now you’ll have to take a listen 😀
I just contributed a new unreleased work to a very special charity release. David Law, known as Dil to most folks, featured as part of A Day for Dil on 23 June 2018. Stolen away by evil cancer he was a fine man who enjoyed challenging and wonderfully complex music. Though not close, our paths crossed at various music shows, last in Leeds at the Modular Meet in August 2017, as we stood admiring a live show of Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle. You can still see this performance here. You also admire us both nodding our heads at an intensely rhythmic live set from Phil Bilsby here at the same event. You can buy the last remaining tapes featuring exclusive tracks from The Black Dog, S.E.T.I., Carter Tutti and many others. Pick it up here, and read some more personal words I wrote here.
Tune in to BBC Radio 4 on 3rd July for a very special documentary on the myth of British musician Richard D James, otherwise known as Aphex Twin. Curiously the more that the press has wanted to speak to him the more he treated their attention with a mixture of irritation, gleeful mischief and wilful myth building and so the show explores some of these myths. I was interviewed alongside Tom Middleton and David Toop to share some of my stories and experiences from live shows, including his legendary DJ set featuring a food processor and sheets of sandpaper. Tune in next week or listen back from a month afterwards here.
I have always found such a profound joy in music. And especially in collecting music. I can still recall the first record I ever bought – a 7″ single of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy (1977), and today I still treasure the early albums that my mother presumably bought for me when I was very young – including the Rupert the Bear soundtrack, and remarkably Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
I was delighted recently to be invited to contribute album sleeve notes to a release by influential American composer Carl Stone, for his Electronic Music from the Eighties and Nineties. My first encounter with Stone’s work was revelatory. Hearing Banteay Srey in 1992 for the first time was entrancing, a blurry world of sonic exploration, as soothing undulations settled beneath a warm ambience, all constrained within an elegant structure and frame. Taking a sample of a Burundi child’s song, then stretching it and re-contextualizing it with a music bed is something that apparently came to the composer in a dream and it certainly maintains that feeling of reverie and vision. Treat yourself to this beautiful music!
Playtime is essential to one’s well-being and I am grateful to have the most gratifying creative sandpit at hand. Here’s a couple of videos of recent playtimes using my Eurorack Modular Synth system. The first explores the relationship between various modules in Microbe Plaiting, whilst the second, DFAM Drifting into Ambience, takes what many might perceive as a Moog drum machine and persuades it to be anything other than that!
The trailer for Andrew Kötting’s Lek and the Dogs is out now, so take a peek and enjoy my dark cinematic music under the surface, illustrating the strange and unforgettable images. The film is currently being shown at various UK cinemas too. Less travelling ahead for July but just to let any locals know that I’ll be over in Saskatoon Canada in early August for a special live show, and currently my very last major live performance of the year. Now back to cables and decorating the new studio!
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