Monday, 29 August 2011

Bradley Fold Allotments Project

Yesterday I went to Bradley Fold Allotments in Manchester as a visiting artist. The arts project is run by Elizabeth Wewiora, who invited a series of visiting artists to come and create work in reaction to the allotment environment. You can read more about the project on her blog.

I spent the day taking a lot of recordings of a variety of sounds from around the allotments. There was really no shortage, and you could easily spend more than one day recording there, but all good things must come to an end. Possibly my favourite part of the day was donning a bee-keeper's outfit to go and take recordings from inside a bee hive.

Now that all the recording is done, I'm working on a new piece using the sounds I've collected, which will be installed on the site for an open day showing work by the artists who have been to visit. The show is on Sunday 11th September 2011 and is open to the public during the day.

Here are some photos from my visit there.

Hot Hail on a Swan Pedalo at FON

Earlier this month, I played a Hot Hail set at the FON Festival in Barrow. I played in a swan pedalo of all things in a lake in Barrow Park! The 'open source' swan pedalo is run by Re-Dock, a group based in Liverpool right across the hall from my studio at Red Wire. Over the two days of the festival, John O'Shea and Dave Lynch broadcast a live radio show to radios stationed around the park, and also streamed live on the internet. My turn came on the Saturday. The swan pedalo makes for some great source sounds, being made of hollow plastic, so I put a contact mic on the pedal mechanism and also got the sound of the water lapping up against the sides. Then I got out my collection of objects and effects and performed a live set, which is quite tricky trapped in a small seat on the water with a life jacket on! Here are some pictures by Re-Dock of the project.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Black Forest Orchestra live at the Woodland Gathering Festival

Here's a recording of a set I played at the Woodland Gathering Festival in July with the Black Forest Orchestra. The group is made up of members from several other experimental music groups, Shaun Blezard from Clutter, Ian Simpson from Noise Research, and Glenn Boulter from Focal Gaol. The Woodland Gathering is a two-day festival run at Fellfoot Wood in the Lake District by Radio Black Forest. The recording was made and broadcast by Phantom Circuit, a programme broadcasting "strange and wonderful sound waves". Go to about 6 minutes in for the Black Forest Orchestra set.

I'll post some photos from the festival here soon, so watch this space...

Monday, 15 August 2011

Oh Oca O

This month I released the first full-length Hot Hail album, Oh Oca O. It's been several months' work of recording, composing and editing, but it's all paid off in the end. The album is available from Probe Records in Liverpool, or from my Bandcamp site, where buy the physical album or download the digital release.

The album is an exploration of perception. Throughout, different aspects of the way we perceive the world are explored and manipulated: from the right-left sidedness of the brain, to notions of continuity and the way our mind perceives objects. Several new stereo techniques are developed and explored, and each track divides the sidedness of the brain's attention in a different way, opening new perceptual experiences.

Another theme of the album is the exploration of both the micro and macro worlds of sound. Everywhere is constant evolution, from the global level right down to microscopic manipulations. There are many layers of fine timbral nuance throughout the album, so for best results listen through headphones. Then you'll make the most of the stereo effects too then.

Reconstructions in Brass

It's been a little while since I updated my blog. Been busy with gigs and projects the past couple of months. I'm still in the middle of it all, but here are a few little updates till I've got more time to write some lengthier posts.

First off is the Noise Club commission from Octopus. For this piece, Reconstructions in Brass, we bent, manipulated and circuit bent a variety of brass instruments for a 2-hour performance in Barrow Park's band stand. It was a lot of fun getting to find new ways of making sound with brass instruments, some relatively straightforward, like a hacked-off trombone with a clarinet mouthpiece, others a bit more complicated, like the circuit bent tenor horn Mike Loftus constructed. Even the geese joined in for the gig... it's amazing how loud they can be!

Hopefully, I'll have an extended video of the event for you all soon, but, in the meantime, here's a short clip to give you a flavour of the day.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New release: Music of the Spheres

I don't often write drone music, but I was recently asked by noise=noise to write a drone piece for their event, A Midsummer Night's Drone, a celebration of the summer solstice on the Suffolk coast in which drones would be played from sunset until sunrise the next day. They were asking for work that explored the mathematics of the solar system, so I created a piece using the notion of 'the harmony of the spheres'.

The concept of the harmony of the spheres originated with the Pythagorean philosophers of ancient Greece. Using the ratios of the orbits of the planets, they drew analogies between music, mathematics, geometry and astronomy. Harmonies are also ratios, and so the orbits of the planets could be thought of as one giant harmony encompassing the solar system. But this music was not necessarily one of actual sound, but rather conceptual sound: a mental music using the power of the human brain to abstract reality and make connections between ideas. 

The idea re-emerged with the likes of Johannes Kepler, whose ‘musica universalis’ again connected geometry, cosmology, astronomy, harmonics and music in one enormous and powerful concept. 

In exploring this concept, my piece, Music of the Spheres, uses the ratios between the average orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris as the basis of its harmonic development. To govern the relative weighting of each harmony I used the mass of the respective body, eg. Jupiter being the most massive, it was the loudest. I wanted to get something across of the extreme scale of the solar system, both in terms of size and timescale, so opted for a very slow and gradual development. This would allow me to keep the feeling of a drone, while having a continuous evolution of the sound.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra: Musical Settings Part I

On Sunday I played with the a.P.A.t.T Orchestra in a concert that included work by Cornelius Cardew, Liverpool composer, Richard Harding, and Argentinian composer, Alan Courtis. The concert was the first part of a series of events that will take in various unusual locations in and around Liverpool. This one was at the bandstand in Sefton Park.

The first piece was Alan Courtis' In-Formed Music for newspaper ensemble, which was much as described on the can: creating sounds and textures using newspapers, which had been supplied by the Echo newspaper. More interesting was the next piece, Richard Harding's Untitled, which, while tonal, used aleatoric and improvisational processes to create shifting clouds of sound. Finally came Cardew's piece, Paragraph 7 of The Great Learning. The work is for voices, and with the 23-strong ensemble sounded quite stunning, resounding in power and beauty in equal measure. Using guided improvisation, Cardew's piece starts with dense and dissonant harmonies, slowly evolving into a sparser harmonic field, though still retaining the power of the massed voices.

Here's a short article about the event.

The a.P.A.t.T Orchestra

There are also some photos of the concert taken by Michael Pace-Sigge.

New Hot Hail release on Electronic Musik: Utrum

Last week a new piece of mine was released as part of a compilation album by net-label, Electronic Musik. The piece is called Utrum, from the Latin for 'whether', and was released under the Hot Hail name. Sparse and desolate, it explores continuous evolution of sound and timbre, while developing what Stockhausen called 'moment form', the idea of taking a single instant of time and stretching it out to examine it microscopically. The piece uses a variety of sound sources, including my newly constructed trombone-clarinet hybrid. There are a lot of other interesting works on the compilation too, so be sure to check them out as well.

Electronic Musik Fifth Compilation

Thursday, 26 May 2011

DJing and Free Improvisation

While I was delivering a series of workshops at Band on the Wall in Manchester recently, I was interviewed by Dan Leach for an article about the connection between DJing and free improvisation. The article explores the ways in which an improvisatory approach can help DJs, and is now available online.

DJing and improvisation

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Remscapes: therapy through sound

I was commissioned recently by an EMDR therapist to write a music therapy piece for a client of hers. The brief asked for a piece based on the ideas of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and using singing bowls as the sound source. After creating this version, I then wrote a second piece using the same techniques, but creating a more artistically-based work. I've released both as an album on Bandcamp under the Hot Hail name.

EMDR therapy uses bilateral sensory stimulation - sight, touch or sound. It is an established psychological technique that is used to treat trauma and anxiety. It was first developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s.

Since then a wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as war related experiences, childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, natural disaster, assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents and workplace accidents. Since its original development, EMDR is also increasingly used to help individuals with other issues and performance anxiety. EMDR has been found to be of benefit to children as well as adults.

If you are interested in finding out more about EMDR therapy, go to the EMDR Association's website:

Feedback Prototype Test

I've just completed the first prototype for my interactive audio-visual-haptic project, Feedback. The work uses the sense of touch to guide the audience through its interactions with the piece and each other, making the audience’s engagement literally ‘hands on’. The project extends my work in the manipulation of feedback with physical objects. Passing feedback through the surface of a beach ball, the audience can change the sound by manipulating the beach ball. The video was recorded on my phone at Red Wire Studios, Liverpool. The prototype was funded by a research grant from Frakture.

Here's a short video of the first test of the prototype.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Hot Hail: new solo project

I've started a new solo project called Hot Hail, a solo extension of what I've been doing with Noise Club for the past 8 years. I've got a few tracks completed already, some released by myself on Bandcamp, and a track in an upcoming sampler release from net label, Electronic Musik (I'll post it here when it's released).

Here's my first completed release under the Hot Hail name.

The piece is called coram, from the Latin for 'in the presence of' or 'before'; a symphony of sounds, shifting through evocations, moods and ideas, exploring subjective perception and constructed meaning. The sonic landscape is made up of metamorphosing timbres and clouds of sound; sometimes the textures are jagged and moving, other times the music is supremely desolate in its delicate beauty.

The entire piece is performed with egg slicer and feedback.

Noise Club BBQ performance

It's been a little while since I've updated my blog... busy with lots of projects, as usual. I've been uploading a few videos to the net of performances from last year. Here's a bit of a gem... it's a Noise Club performance I was in at the Bluecoat's If Only...! night in Liverpool. For this gig, we decided to have a noise barbeque, complete with homemade burgers: a food performance. Surprisingly, the contact mics we made actually withstood the burning flames of the hot BBQ for quite some time!


Monday, 31 January 2011

Nektar 2017 Volume 3

My latest composition, The Closeness of Being, has just been released as part of volume 3 of Nektar 2017. The piece was composed under the Noise Club name, and was a response to Nektar 2017's theme of Macro / Perception / Micro : Evolution.

You can listen to my work here...

And the whole compilation can be found here...

The entire piece is built out of a very small number of initial sound fragments that are put under the intense scrutiny of the microscope. I wanted to capture a sense of moment, an exploration of that moment through time by elongating it beyond the instant of its existence. The fragments of sound are explored and developed in themselves and in their connections, creating a continuous evolutionary process that takes us on a journey that has no length. A moment is but an instant, and yet it is connected to every other moment; networks of possibilities develop in dynamic relationships that are constantly changing as each new moment arrives. A moment is not a singularity, it is an evolutionary process, the past changes with the present, the future spreads anew. Like all such evolutionary processes, there comes a point at which the quantitative changes in the relationships between the underlying dynamics beget a qualitative change, the moment is born anew, a revolution.

Musically, the piece explores the idea of Klangfarbenmelodie (sound-colour melody), as well as my own theories of continuous rhythm and melody, and the pitch-rhythm-form continuum.