“Quiet” Composition Two

Getting off the Ground

The development of this piece has taken longer than initially anticipated but is finally being realised. This delay is partly due to the extension of the initial piece from a miniature into a more extended work. Indeed, that work (“Quiet”- Part One) could still be expanded upon and developed and I shall perhaps have to go back to NOTAM in order to realise it properly.

But, with the closing date of this project edging ever closer, and despite a multitude of potential compositional concepts, I struggled to actually get on and develop anything for the second work that I was happy with.

While in Oslo I’d read an article about procrastination:

Why are writers such exceptional procrastinators? They fear being confronted with a simple truth: They’re not as good as they think they are…

Perhaps it was fear. But it also might have been that the sound materials which I collected had not been as I initially imagined.

A combination of the weather conditions and a creaky Rycote (apparently a recognised issue when recording at low temperatures) meant that I had very few extended and uninterrupted recordings. Initially I had panned to layer and mix between extended recordings of the mountain soundscape with subtle filtering and little technological intervention, but the reality of the recordings made this impossible.

Therefore, I was holding onto a creative concept that could not be realised in the way I had initially intended / hoped.

Forging a Piece

SO, I finally locked myself in my studio for a whole day and began to transform some of the sounds that I had recorded. One that was especially nice (and which I was happy with) was the recording of the frozen river.

Dushume had also encouraged me to work with this sound, and so I took the file extracted the loudest bins and applied the impulse response of the Vigeland mausoleum to create a rich mixture of bubbling pitches.

But this sound was far too active. So I loaded it into CDP (version 7 free to download) and used the time stretch functions, both the ‘analogue’ speed/transposition tool and the FFT time stretch. By drawing these out I created rich pitched and evolving textures with organic morphologies (that is my interpretation).

These will form the foundation for my piece, with their morphologies being articulated with more granular and crunchy textures such as the falling snow striking our ski jackets and the stepping or skiing through snow. I shall also seek to use any ambiences where possible.

Here is a very rough sketch of the introduction to the new piece:

Other options

The kind folk at NOTAM give me their ‘Vinterlyder’ library of winter recordings, and I may dig into these to find some ambiences but I would like if possible to use my own recordings.


Trip Three : A Dramatic Arrival

I arrived in Oslo and had to collect the PNEK apartment keys from a locker in the railway station.

It all felt very much like some kind of spy thriller. Enter the code on an electronic keypad and the door swings open to reveal a solitary key to the apartment (PNEK could also very easily be some acronym for a cold war spy agency).


And so, I need a secret mission!

This trip I will be investigating the small, tiny, “quiet” sounds of the city. I’ve heard a few on my previous trips so I will retrace my steps and collect those, but also head further afield, out to parts of Oslo that I haven’t yet been to.

And certainly to a few places that have been recommended to me by Anders (and reiterated by a few others).

  • Frognerseteren
  • Opera House
  • Vigelands mausoleum
  • And a circular room on the subway system in Nationaltheatret station

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.


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.


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.


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).