JLIAT

JLIAT – J / S / A / E

Posted on by 5:4 in Lent Series | Leave a comment

As COVID-19 gradually succeeds in bringing the entire globe to a depressing standstill, it seems as good a time as any for my Lent Series to look at some large-scale works that, from one perspective, could be said to be doing exactly the same. i’m usually very good at remembering first contact with music that makes a deep impression on me, but for the life of me i can’t recall how i first encountered the work of James Whitehead, aka JLIAT. i know it was a very long time ago, at least 15 years, and my hunch is that it was via his sequence of long-form drone pieces that constitute the earliest portion of his exceptionally eclectic output. Those last few words are vital: while drones have a place of significance, Whitehead’s musical outlook is one of the most radically and refreshingly questioning that i’ve ever come across, probing hard into the limits of how and what we define as music and even sound, particularly with regard to the way it’s represented, reproduced and reconstituted in the digital domain. To that end, his work is just as concerned, if not more so, with drone’s polar opposite, the ostensible chaos of noise, and beyond this it’s fair to regard more than a little of his work as conceptual in nature, as much about a sonic idea than a sonic artefact, though in all cases that artefact is always worth spending time with. Furthermore, while there’s a fair bit of whimsy in the JLIAT back catalogue, i’m always impressed at how deeply serious and considered it all is; it may be fun, but it’s never frivolous. Read more

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The Rest Isn’t Noise

Posted on by 5:4 in Academia | 4 Comments

“We like to give you the maximum, from which you can subtract.” Aaron Einbond’s closing words before the first concert at the Noise In And As Music conference, organised by Einbond and Aaron Cassidy, which took place at Huddersfield University’s Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) last weekend. Einbond’s amusing reference to volume (and the audience’s option for ear-plugs) crystallised the essence of the conference’s focus and the host of assumptions one tends to make about it. What, after all, is noise? Does it—should it—connote material that is extremely loud? extremely dense? extremely extreme? The conference’s three days of papers, discussions, installations and concerts went no small way to addressing these fundamental questions.

The range of opinions, methodologies and implementations of what may or may not be ‘noise’ was almost bewilderingly broad and multi-faceted. In keeping with each and every conceit of genre, noise too has its share of charlatans, wannabes and hangers-on, and the weekend occasionally dipped its toe into examples of thought and sound that seemed either to miss the point or just sap all the interest out of it. But such moments were happily rare; not only were the majority of contributions fascinating and very thought-provoking, the best were stunning examples of what noise can be and can do, examples that changed, expanded and even redefined one’s understanding not only of what we were hearing, but of hearing itself; repeatedly and equally, both sound and sensation found themselves under the microscope. Read more

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