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.
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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).

Trip One: End of Day Three

Today I began the piece, with some very ‘Simon Atkinson-esque’ filtering via the GRM tools. Many of the Norwegian works that I have listened to have contained very discrete sustained pitches, so I wanted to reproduce these in my composition (caveat: I should point out that Jøran gave me a CD of works by the composer Arne Nordheim, so these are the ones that I have been listening to. But appropriate for one working in the ‘Nordheim Studio’ at NOTAM).

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The main question that needs to be addressed is the extent of abstraction that should exist within this piece:

  1. If the processing renders the sounds abstract then why does it matter that they were recorded in NOTAM itself?
  2. If the sounds are left unprocessed then how can one work with them creatively, unprocessed they seem to simply form a document of the spaces and environments.

One possible solution is to begin abstract, slowly reducing the level of abstraction. To end up at raw field recordings. This will probably direct the overarching form of the piece, as I have an idea of where to end up.

Not being quite as restrained as Simon A, I have impetuously rushed in other more gestural sounds to accompany the slowly evolving filtered sounds. These work, to some extent, as triggers for the shifting filter processes (a gesture occurs and provides an inferred cause for the filter shift) but are perhaps too prevalent at the moment.

I should always remember the theme…..

Trip One: End of Day Two

Preamble

Today began a bit later than I had intended, It took longer to walk up from Grünerløkka to the studios than I was expecting, but it was a very pleasant route along the river (lots of exciting recording possibilities for future pieces). And I arrived just in time for the famous communal lunch.

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Inspiration through Lunch

I met and chatted with Jøran Rudi (we plotted about a field recording trip in January / February up near his cabin) and Anders Vinjar (key member of EAU: Electric Audio Unit, who organise and run electroacoustic concerts here in Norway). Both talks were very positive and bode well for the future. I look forward to talking more with both of them.

The communal lunch meeting was really great, it was fantastic to see everyone sit down together, talk and then vanish back off into their individual studios at the end. I also knew from then on that I had to reference this within the piece that I’m composing about NOTAM itself (I had heard about the lunch in advance and thought that it might be an important NOTAM feature). But, I didn’t want to simply document the event. To record it might disrupt it and is probably a bit ethically unsound.

Recording Solutions

So I decided to record the remnants of the lunch. The signs that people had been there and that many people had partaken, the dishwasher.

I had heard it running the previous day and noted that it was fab to have one in the studio, the MTIRL at DMU would be much less likely to breed mouldy cups if we had a dishwasher in there, and it seemed to me to be a nice reference back to the lunch, without the hustle and bustle of the actual event.

The project is themed around the idea of “Quiet” after all….

Trip One: End of Day One

I reached NOTAM in the early afternoon and was given a tour by Cato Langnes (Studio Manager). I was able to quickly catch Gyrid (whom I met through the Compose With Sounds project) and to meet some of the other composers working in the studios.

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Gyrid introduced me to the Sound Devices field recorder, and once I’d had a crash course I started making some recordings.

Many of these are just test experiments, as I work out how the field recorder and microphones are suited to my needs. But I was rather pleased with the sound of the cable cabinet. I knocked into one of the doors and then decided to play them percussively.

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Bring on the next few days of recording!

Trip One: Part One – “Quiet” in NOTAM

I’m currently updating my blog from the aeroplane, at least 10,000 ft above the North Sea (thank you Norwegian Air). Off on my first visit to NOTAM.

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The goal of this trip is acclimatisation and investigation of the centre itself. I will record sounds from around NOTAM (the sounds of the building the people, the technology, the rehearsing musicians), and use these as materials for development of a short work (c. 8 minutes).

I’m looking forward to meeting all of the composers and musicians who are based there (those that haven’t already disappeared for the winter break). And hearing some excellent music.

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Currently however, I’m enjoying some fabulous cloud formations passing below me. I might just have to find a way to use these as inspiration for textural materials and layering. Great depth and variation.

Introduction and Background

This blog will document the progress of my compositional project at NOTAM (The Norwegian Centre for Technology in Music and the Arts). This project will take me to Oslo on three occasions to develop 3 electroacoustic compositions inspired by the theme of “Quiet”, made from recordings around Oslo in the winter of 2013/2014.

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Why Quiet?

The compositional concept of “Quiet” is often ignored in music, where the main focus is usually about what sounds can you make. This project will seek to explore the subtleties and acoustic character of spaces and locations through minimalist means. The compositional works in this project will use recorded sounds, as in my previous works, and seek to draw listeners into an immersive and enveloping sonic environment by demanding attentive listening. The steep valleys and fjords around Oslo will provide a sonically diverse and unique soundscape, with varying vegetation, snow and ice affecting acoustic response.

Why Oslo?

Working on the ‘Compose With Sounds‘ project as a commissioned composer I was very pleased to meet with other commissioned composers from across the EU partners and very much inspired by the works of the composers based at NOTAM in Oslo. The NOTAM centre has a highly active community of local artists who I hope to engage with in discussion, both regarding their own works and also to receive feedback on my own pieces as they develop.

How is this possible?

I am very pleased to have received funding to support this project from Arts Council England and the British Council, through their Artists International Development Fund (AIDF).

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