Stille Lyd: A concert of electroacoustic works from Norway.

Friday 28th March will mark the formal end of this project with a final concert event presenting the works that I have developed, alongside those of my friends at NOTAM and a piece by Arne Nordheim.

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I’ll be giving a short talk about the project and cracking open some cheese and wine, so it’d be great to see you if you are anywhere nearby.

The event is free and takes place in Leicester, at the PACE building, Richmond Street, LE1 9BH

Composition Titles

I also decided that it was more appropriate that my pieces had Norwegian titles. Not only does it look and sound cooler, but it instantly links the work with the project and its place of inspiration and creation.

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Trip Three: Discussion with Anders Tveit

One of the people who inspired me to come to NOTAM in the first place was Anders T whom I met in Paris in January 2013 when we both presented works at the GRM’s Akousma festival.

Unfortunately he’s proved to be a little elusive over the times that I have been here in Oslo, but I was finally able to meet up with him for a conversation about the project, and he also showed me where I could find good beer (though frighteningly expensive).

I can’t quote any wise statements directly from our discussion but I can present my thoughts on the project after our discussion, which I jotted down while Anders was off buying drinks at the bar.

Reflections

Composition One takes the sounds of the studio and highlights the divergent compositional approaches that this theme (of “Quiet”) encourages.

  • Is a more naturalistic approach adopted? (Presenting quiet sounds quietly, in a more natural state).
  • Or should a more interventionist approach be used? (Whereby quiet sounds are taken and amplified into the foreground).

The two subsequent works in the project might each explore one of these trajectories. EITHER ambient / soundscape OR highly gestural and developed.

Natural or Processed.

  • Quiet sounds in its natural state.
  • Or quiet sounds highlighted to draw attention to their beauty.

Now, time for some hard thinking [sic].

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Trip Three: Day Two

Back to the Studio

Cato had been able to squeeze me into the studio booking system for Studio Nordheim so I got back in there and began (once again) to work on the initial piece.

It is amazing how each time the perspective afforded by distance and time away from the piece is able to inspire new ideas and provide new clarity on the piece. I recognised almost instantly, just as I had on my previous trip, that the work was still too busy. There was too much variation, change and activity which was not fully developed and little time to breathe and take stock.

One option would have been to extend the piece further, to push everything back and fully explore each section in more detail. But I also recognised that there was a lack of cohesion in between some of the different sections of the work, which might be exacerbated by further lengthening the piece. And I wanted the work to hold together.

So, I decided to remove items (especially in the second part of the work which uses the pitched material extracted from the air conditioning noise) and to cut back slightly on the levels of processed sound. To present enough of these sonic textures and to ensure that I was shaping the materials at all times, not simply allowing the materials to simply exist and do their own thing.

These changes seemed to make some real difference to the work, but I know that the real effect will only really become apparent when I return to the Studio on Monday and am able to hear them with fresh ears.

Detailed Compostional Notes / Reflections

  • Concentrate periods of activity and those of inactivity.
  • Focus upon clarifying sections of the work.
  • Draw similarities between the first and last sections of the piece.
  • Subtract some gestural elements to bring into focus high and low energy sections.
  • The piece should be primarily about texture (though the middle section is more gestural). So make sure that the gestural elements are complementing and not challenging the textures.
  • Try inserting some of the ‘Nordheim computer noise’ in the opening section of the work (this might help to tie this first section in with the last, where this sound is also used). As well as helping to smooth the transition between noisy and rotating pitched sounds in the second part. (It will also provide HF content to this section which is entirely unpopulated due to band pass filtering).
  • Either extend sections of the work, to allow them to develop fully. Or limit the material transformations.

Trip Two: Pining for the Fjords.

Back to Oslo on the second part of my residency / project. This time I’ll be heading up near to Lillehammer so that I can record environmental sounds.

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The forecast looks fairly chilly but not exceptionally so, and there does now seem to be light snow predicted (which is what I’m after).

I’m certain that the temperature is going to be a bit of a shock to the system when I first arrive but hopefully it won’t interrupt the processes of recording.

This leg is certainly going to be more of an adventure than last time (which consisted mainly of barricading myself into the studio for late night sessions), and some details about the adventure I’m still not clear about.

But when I know, you’ll know.

Trip One: End (Day 5) – ‘Standing in a Corridor’ & Composition Second Draft.

Today was spent polishing the piece in the studio. And while no-one else was around, I got my ‘Alvin Lucier’ on.

‘I am Standing in a Corridor….’

All week I’ve been walking along the corridor in NOTAM and hearing the resonant reflections. I also had a lot of great recordings, but they were too recognisable to be used within the discourse of the piece that I’ve been working on.

So, I decided to combine these two things. It’s actually the first time that I’ve tried to do this, and I’m pretty happy how it turned out.

I tried re-recording many things. The humm and whirr of the studio computer, the clinking of cups in the dishwasher, (my own voice) and the photocopier/scanner that sits in that very hallway. Coincidentally it was the photocopier that was most suited to this location (I guess they must have known this when they put it there).

Second Draft of The Piece

So, equipped with my resonant corridor recordings I was able to get back into the studio and round off the piece. While working on the piece today I was able to recognise the key sound events within the piece and utilise them to their fullest extent. I recognised that the ‘creaking’ sounds were functioning as dividers / flags between sections and so increased their use in this role. And I drew in the resonant sounds at the end of the piece to provide some more pitched material in what was previously a very noise based section.

Other general tweaks were made to ensure that all gestures fed constructively into one another, or at least had compatible energy profiles. EQ, EQ, EQ gave clarity to the sonic materials and reverberation was added to give a sense of depth and space to certain sonic layers.

Where Next?

Tomorrow I fly back to the UK. I’ll be sad to leave but NOTAM is very quiet at the moment with everyone off for Christmas. I’ve really not seen anything else of Oslo other than the apartment, the studios and the 15 minute walk between them. Hopefully January will get me out and about a bit more.

I’m also looking forward to the distance and perspective that January will bring to bear on the piece. There is probably more tweaking to be done, but I’m pretty happy with how this piece turned out. A busy week, but a very productive one.

Have a good Christmas and New Year.

Trip One: End of Day Four – Composition First Draft

Today was consumed by processing of materials and development of the composition. So there are not so many active ‘goings on’ to report.

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However, I did manage to sketch out the whole form of the first piece. With a clear (at least it is clear to me) beginning, middle and end (though I think it needs more work to fully polish and emphasise it).

I decided to end with the mill pond on the river ‘Akerselva’, directly outside the windows of NOTAM (photo above).

If you get a chance, let me know what you think about the piece.

There is still more work to be done. I have a few notes of areas to develop and will hopefully discover a few more ideas in my sleep, but if you have any comments I’d love to hear them.

Detailed Compositional Thoughts / Reflections

  • Find and insert more ‘guitar edit’ recordings.
  • Develop / delete ending.
  • Edit and isolate ‘swishing dishwasher powder’. Develop this more.
  • Develop squeaky door sounds: transposition and stretch.
  • Develop dishwasher plates and clinks more?
  • Play and record corridor resonance.
  • Move back second guitar edits so as to cover the keyboard crossfade.

Positive Aspects of Rendering – time for listening.

Okay, so waiting for stuff to render isn’t fun. But it does mean that you can do other things in the meantime.

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While waiting for the noise reduction algorithm to remove the air conditioning from my keyboard recording, I took a peruse of the CD collection here at NOTAM.

I found a great record, which was a collaboration between South American and Scandinavian composers – North South Project (http://www.electrocd.com/en/cat/em_1013/)

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One track especially caught my ear as being the closest to my own project theme: ‘The Hot Dogs’ by Hanna Hartman (track 12).

This is a fantastically compelling and minimal piece. It sounds a bit like ‘Concrete PH’ with people shuffling in the background and a fantastic bell at the end. (I know that this description isn’t great, and it certainly doesn’t do the piece justice. You just need to listen to it ….).

The delicate textures and of the clicking and the background ambience really draw you in to listening to the fine details. And then the tolling of the bell snaps you out of this – reminding you that you have been listening intently to quiet sounds – and emphasising how quiet it was before the bell itself (linking in, of course, with the idea that ‘noise’ and ‘quiet’ are interdependent binary states, where you cannot have one without the other).