Announcements

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This morning i’m setting off for the Arctic Circle, to the small town of Bodø in the north of Norway, where i’ll be for the rest of the week at this year’s Nordic Music Days. Words to come about that early next week (once i’ve thawed out), after which a few days later i’ll be heading not-so-far north to catch a few days of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Radio recordings: methods and formats, past and future

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Since the inception of 5:4, nearly 12 years ago, whenever i’ve been writing about a particular composition and there’s no professional recording available, i’ve often shared a radio recording of the piece from my archive. i began making these recordings when i was still at school, and in the intervening years the method and format i’ve used have changed a lot. Originally, i recorded from analogue radio onto audio cassette – or, if the broadcast was longer than cassettes could cope with, onto videotape. Around 15 years ago, i switched from analogue to digital, recording first cable and then satellite broadcasts, which has been my approach ever since. i’ve never been entirely happy with this method, though, and at the start of the year i began to investigate whether it could be improved.

The way i’ve always archived these recordings is in FLAC format. For recordings made from an analogue broadcast onto an analogue medium, this makes sense, as it preserves the original recording without losing anything meaningful. But in the case of recordings made from digital broadcasts it doesn’t make sense, as the original broadcast is in a lossy format (AAC) whereas FLAC is of course lossless. The reason i’ve always used FLAC is simply because i’ve recorded the broadcast in real-time as a WAV file, which i’ve then edited as necessary and then, in order not to reduce the sound quality further with additional lossy compression, converted to FLAC. But the inevitable upshot is that there’s a lot of redundancy in this method, with file sizes much bigger than they need to be. Read more

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This morning i’m off to Norway to spend a few days in Oslo catching some of the Ultima festival. So i’ll be getting to the last few Proms premières once i’m back, at the start of next week. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, make sure to have your say about each of this year’s new works by voting on the Proms premières polls page.

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Today’s my 20th wedding anniversary, so i’m going to be away for the rest of the week enjoying a completely music-free time with my best Beloved. i’ll be catching up on all the Proms premières as soon as i’m back.

Music Beyond Airports

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In February last year, Monty Adkins and i organised Ambient@40, the first academic conference devoted to ambient music, which took place over two days at Huddersfield University. The conference was designed to explore the history and legacy of the genre forty years after the release of Brian Eno’s pivotal album Ambient 1: Music For Airports, and i’m delighted to announce that an accompanying book, Music Beyond Airports: appraising ambient music, is published today. Co-edited by Monty and me, the book features lengthy chapters by many of the contributors from the conference, approaching ambient from a host of different angles encompassing musical, psychological, societal, cultural and gender aspects, among many others.

Here’s a summary of the chapters:

  1. David Toop – How Much World Do You Want? Ambient Listening and its Questions
  2. Ambrose Field – Space In The Ambience: Is Ambient Music Socially Relevant?
  3. Ulf Holbrook – A Question of Background: Sites of Listening
  4. Richard Talbot – Three Manifestations of Spatiality in Ambient Music
  5. Simon Cummings – The Steady State Theory: Recalibrating the Quiddity of Ambient Music
  6. Monty Adkins – Fragility, Noise, and Atmosphere in Ambient Music
  7. Lisa Colton – Channelling the Ecstasy Of Hildegard Von Bingen: “O Euchari” Remixed
  8. Justin Morey – Ambient House: “Little Fluffy Clouds” and the Sampler as Time Machine
  9. Axel Berndt – Adaptive Game Scoring with Ambient Music

Taken together, i believe they provide a fascinating and provocative investigation of what ambient is, how it works, and its wider implications, connotations and meanings for composers and listeners alike.

Published by The University of Huddersfield Press, the book is available as both a print edition (£30 from Gazelle Book Services and Amazon; currently only £26.70 from Wordery) and a free ebook download (PDF/EPUB/MOBI) from the Huddersfield University website.

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i’m setting off this morning for the Faroe Islands, where i’ll be spending the next six days exploring some of Summartónar, their annual music festival. While i’m away, the first of this year’s series of ‘pre-première questions’ articles with composers featured at the Proms (which begins on Friday) will appear. And of course there’ll be a lot more words about both of these festivals to follow as soon as i’m back.

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i’m setting off for Estonia this morning, to attend this year’s Estonian Music Days, which this year is not only celebrating its 40th anniversary but also hosting the ISCM World Music Days, so it’ll no doubt be an especially interesting occasion. Words to follow in due course.

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