From 2011 to 2012

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gateways who represents transitions or beginnings and endings. His two faces look simultaneously forward to the future and back to the past. Similarly, January is a time for reflection and planning, so this post provides a brief summary of 2011 and a glance at things in store for 2012.

The previous year was one of mixed fortunes but, despite facing a variety of personal difficulties, 2011 was a great year for the development of my music practice. The biggest event in my music year was the release of my album Symmetry-Breaking. Another highlight was the inclusion of one of the album tracks, Bramble, in the excellent SEQUENCE2 compilation album. Perhaps the most encouraging thing, however, has been the feeling of engaging with a musical community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made me feel so welcome and who have been supportive in one way or another – in helping me to reach listeners, through reviews, correspondence and friendship. This community has been facilitated largely by social media – particularly Twitter, and to a lesser extent Google+ and Facebook, while SoundCloud has continued to provide a fertile ground for promoting a collegial atmosphere amongst musicans and sound-recordists. SoundCloud’s statistics visualize the number of plays over past year. In this graphic, the highest peak is 87 plays per day, following an article on Disquiet.com on the piece Christmas Ambience:

Maybe it’s a bit late now for an end-of-year list, but here’s some of my most-played and most-loved music from 2011:

  • Stephan Mathieu – A Static Place (12k)
  • Mark Fell – Manitutshu (Editions Mego)
  • Chris Watson – El Tren Fantasma (Touch)
  • Tobias Reber – Backup Aura (Hyperfunction)
  • Mark Harris – The Boy Observes The Ocean (Hibernate)
  • Yves de Mey – Counting Triggers (Sandwell District)
  • Seth Horvitz – Eight Studies for Automatic Piano (LINE)
  • Olafur Arnalds – Living Room Songs (Erased Tapes)
  • Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer – Re: ECM (ECM)
  • A Dancing Beggar – Follow The Dark As If It Were Light (Audiobulb)
  • The Automatics Group – Summer Mix (Entr’acte)
  • Various Artists – Fingerbobs: Original Television Music (Trunk Records)

Favourite track has to be Materialisation Epic Razor Chord and LatelyBass Version with Found Voice by Mark Fell, from Manitutshu:

Easily the best live music experience was seeing Efterklang at the Queens Social Club, Sheffield with Sophie. When we arrived, we thought we’d got the wrong place because there was no evidence of a gig and there were two elderly ladies on zimmer frames entering the venue just before us. Luckily we were pointed in the right direction, and it turned out that we were a bit early, as we walked in on the band doing a sound-check. Instead of a support act, there was a screening Vincent Moon’s film An Island which is based on the band and their home. There’s something very special about the magic that Efterklang create on stage, especially when together with Peter Broderick and Heather Woods-Broderick, and the film captures much of this charm:

Also featuring highly on the list of listening pleasures is the series of research documents by Mark Fell and Joe Gilmore, Composing with Process, published as a podcast by Radio Web MACBA. Each part offers a considered analysis of an aspect or theme of generative and systems music, and thankfully now transcriptions of the podcasts are also available.

In regard to academic and artistic work, 2012 has begun with promising collaborations and opportunities being established. These include:

  • Publishing academic research on visual complexity and computational aesthetics.
  • Working as writer/researcher with photographer Max Kandhola on the project Something That’s Not There. The texts will document and provide a context to images created from buried and disintegrating photographic film, sited in specific locations for varying amounts of time.
  • Designing a decorative wall in collaboration with interior designer Adrian Walters (TTSP Architects) for a large commercial project.

Recently, I came across an article by Cornelius Cardew, Towards an Ethic of Improvisation, which includes a list of “Virtues that a musician can develop”. It seems as though they might make good resolutions for the new year:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Integrity
  3. Selflessness
  4. Forebearance
  5. Preparedness
  6. Identification with nature
  7. Acceptance of death.

Finally, it’s been great to be part of the new Disquiet Junto group project curated by Marc Weidenbaum. There is a space of a few days over the weekend to complete each new assignment for the project, which may require the use of a given sample or stipulate certain conditions on the recording and processing of sound, with a deadline of midnight (local time) on Monday. It’s good to work with creative constraints, and to engage with other musicians. Within this community, I think that part of its value lies in allowing for the identification and development of a personal style. Unlike as is the case with my visual art practice, recognising my own musical style has been somewhat elusive, especially having been making computer-based and generative music for only a relatively short time. This project has the potential to make individual styles more apparent by being able to compare similar work, and also because the constraints tend to generate rough sketches whose lack of polish reveals a little more about their makers. Of course, knowing one’s own style isn’t really that significant in the bigger picture, but it can be difficult to work when you’re not sure of your own voice. It takes time to develop a unique style and it can also be a burden once acquired, so it’s not something to rush at anyway, but in musc – as in any art form – individuality is key and can be cultivated within a nurturing group. The point is that the Junto is shaping up to be an interesting and focused forum for musical development, even within the already-fertile space of SoundCloud, and future projects are eagerly anticipated. Here are the three pieces that I have submitted thus far:

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