electronic

An acousmatic revelation: BEAST – Pioneers of Sound, Birmingham

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Last weekend Birmingham was treated to what will surely be regarded as one of the highlights of the 2014 electronic music calendar. Presented by Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), Pioneers of Sound was a 3-day festival primarily exploring works by three of the central figures of acousmatic music, François Bayle, Francis Dhomont & Bernard Parmegiani. What made the weekend so special & so poignant was that only two of that triumvirate could be there to present their music; the absence of Parmegiani (who died last November at the age of 86) was conspicuous & keenly felt throughout the weekend.

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Mix Tape #28 : Speech

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For the last Mix Tape of 2013, i’ve decided to explore music in which speech is paramount. Within a musical context, spoken words can jar in much the same way as an actor breaking the fourth wall, unsettling us by (ostensibly at least) withholding abstraction in favour of direct reference. The range of pieces included in the mix is more eclectic than usual, drawing on offcuts, afterthoughts & outtakes (Hecq, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Kreng, Aphex Twin), filtered renderings, recreations & re-imaginings of speech (Cabaret Voltaire, Charles Dodge, John Hudak, Gregory Whitehead, Marc Behrens, Jean-Michel Jarre) as well as forms of non-singing (AGF & the peerless William Shatner). But most of the tracks exploit the spoken word through fascinating essays in obscure narrative, by turns sinister (Eugene S. Robinson), prosaic (Jóhann Jóhannsson, Anne-James Chaton), sexual (Andrew Liles), wistful (Steve Peters), intimate (Edward Ka-Spel), surreal (Olga Neuwirth, irr. app. (ext.)), poetic (John Wall/Alex Rodgers), combative (Frank Zappa) & philosophical (Adrian Moore). Read more

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Ny lydkunst i Bergen

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My recent travels in Norway—focussed in & around the environs of second city Bergen—yielded plenty of jaw-droppingly splendorous landscape, but nothing in the way of contemporary music. Neither of the city’s CD stores betray any knowledge of the existence of Arne Nordheim, Maja Ratke & the like, while the concert repertoire essentially revolves around the (not unsurprising) omnipresence of Edvard Grieg. However, disappointment was turned on its head during my final morning in the city last Friday, when wandering through the network of backstreets i came upon Østre. An otherwise anonymous building, the billboard outside proclaims it to be a ‘Hus for Lydkunst og Elektronisk Musikk’ (House for Sound Art & Electronic Music); inside, the custodian explained that Østre (formerly the Lydgalleriet) is the only space dedicated to sound art in all of Scandinavia. The collection of books & CDs for sale certainly backed up its avant-garde credentials, & anyone in the Bergen area would do well to check it out, especially within the next couple of weeks.

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New CD coming soon: Dither • Pother • Roil

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In a week’s time, a new CD of my electronic music will be released, titled Dither • Pother • Roil. It contains three distinct but related pieces, which began life in a series of improvisations made in early 2008. Somewhat inexplicably, i promptly lost the recordings & forgot all about them until the start of this year; between February & October i then extensively reworked & developed them into their final, very elaborate forms, which together last around 49 minutes. Here’s a smidgeon from the blurb-spiel:

There are ways in which this trio of works relates to & draws upon both the techniques & sentiments of my earlier electronic music. There are echoes of the shifting abstractions of the Simulated Music cycle, as well as the large-scale sculptural elementalism heard in the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars & ‘Icon’, the central panel in Triptych, May/July 2009. But above all, Dither, Pother & Roil explore (for me) new methods & an expanded mode of expression.

Dither was finished first, & is concerned primarily with material that writhes & roars at its own prevarication. Here’s an excerpt from part II:

Pother continues the thread established in Dither, becoming increasingly fraught & portentous. This is an excerpt from the end of part I:

Roil was the last to be completed, & is the longest & most complex of the three. A multi-layered noisescape, Roil is by far the most unrestrained piece i have ever composed, whipping up elements of Dither & Pother into a clamorous torrent of frenzied outrage. Here’s an excerpt from the end of part IV:

The accompanying artwork explores details from a recent painting by the young American artist Claire Uhle. Titled ‘Well, everything’s moving so slow in this life time.’, the painting goes a long way to capturing everything that Dither, Pother & Roil are seeking to convey (click for high-res).

The CD comes out on 20 November in a numbered limited edition of 50 copies. For more information & to order a copy, click here. A digital download version will also be available.

In other news, my previous CD Night Liminal is now available as a digital download as well. There are also a few CDs left; details about both can be found here & here.

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New CD out today – Night Liminal

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i’m delighted to announce that today sees the release of my latest CD, Night Liminal. Here’s a bit of blurb from the spiel:

For the last four years, my electronic music has been to a large extent founded upon noise. Whether sculpting large, primordial shapes from it (Triptych, May/July 2009), pitting it against pitched material (the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars) or allowing it to do its own thing (Simulated Music), noise has been the principal vehicle for my electronic music. Even in my most gentle work (The Stuff of Memories), noise has been present, colouring & caking the music in sonic detritus.

Night Liminal is different. Lasting a little under forty minutes, the work is a stark contrast to these intense noisescapes, signalling both a return to & a reclamation of my æsthetic roots, embracing the quietude of ambient music. For the first time, the material is gentle, soft-edged & peaceful—even relaxing. That, at least, is its first impression; but the work’s inspiration is more subtle & ambivalent than that. Night Liminal is partly inspired by the ancient monastic service of Compline, which takes place as day is ending. Both the service & its setting confront head-on the perils heralded by twilight.

Being in a sacred space at dusk is a profound & paradoxical experience, comforting yet unsettling. One is caught between light & darkness, between the vast expanse of tradition & the contemporary mystery of the moment. The night can be a dangerous & uncharted place; my hope is that this music can become an integral part of the gloaming, teasing out & resonating with both its delights & its uncertainties in a gentle act of provocation & peace.

Provocation may seem incongruous in the context of ambient music, but Night Liminal’s soft, slow-moving textures echo this; warm & melodic, sometimes dark & disquieting, they afford the listener a dual experience of rest & reflection.

Night Liminal is dedicated to the memory of Jehan Alain.

As usual, the CD is a limited edition of 50 numbered copies. Below are three excerpts taken from throughout the piece; to order a copy, go here.

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In memoriam

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Today is the anniversary of the death of my father, Richard Peter Weston Cummings. Over the years, i’ve composed several pieces that explore the range of feelings & memories associated with his passing, the most recent of which was my electronic work Triptych, May/July 2009, released on CD a few years ago. The piece was in part created using a photograph of my father (used on the CD artwork), which was manipulated & converted into sound in various ways to create the basic material from which the three movements were made. Musician & composer Danielle Baquet-Long, with whom i’d only just made contact, died suddenly while i was composing the work, so the Triptych is dedicated to her memory.

There are still some copies of the CD remaining, so to mark today, i’ve dropped the price significantly – just £2.50 for the CD (including UK shipping; slightly more for overseas) & a mere 50p for the digital download. For the CD go here, or for the download, here.



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