On Tuesday 9th January, via KFAI radio, Eric Frye posted a new episode of Splice-Free, “a programme examining experimental compositions past and present”. The mix includes work by many artists whose work I admire: Alva Noto, Theo Burt, Jo Thomas, Ryoji Ikeda, Rashad Becker, Jean-Claude Risset, Martin Neukom, Mark Fell, EVOL and Autechre. Read the full track listing and stream the mix here, or listen by clicking on this:
Given that selection of established artists, I was very pleased to find one of my own pieces of music included in the mix: Tintinnabuli Mathematica 10b, from my forthcoming album Tintinnabuli Mathematica vol. I. In trying to establish my solo musical practice over the past few years, it’s been a gradual process of discovering my own ‘voice’ or style. Participating in things like the Disquiet Junto (an open group for making music based on creative constraints) has been good for this kind of development because it encourages cross-fertilization and enables comparisons with alternative approaches to the same musical problems or projects. Through such activity I’ve developed friendships and forged working collaborations with a variety of musicians, many of whom tend to be loosely classified under the label ‘ambient music’. I’m not entirely uncomfortable to situate my own work in this genre since I too share an engagement with quieter and slower forms of music. But my affinity with ambient music is perhaps less closely related to a particular style than with the associated approach to listening that it engenders or demands. This approach is articulated by Brian Eno in the liner notes for Music for Airports when he describes his aim to make music that is “as ignorable as it is interesting” and which is “able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”. So, whilst my own music shares some characteristics of ambient music, it also has much in common with the generative and computer-based approaches of those artists included in the Splice Free programme. As a result, my work arguably sits more comfortably here than, for example, Tintinnabuli Mathematica 12d does within the mostly electro-acoustic pieces in the SEQUENCE7 compilation. And yet, of course, the label ‘experimental’ is no less problematic a term than ‘ambient’. But, in the end, I’m just happy to hear my music amongst such esteemed company, and I’m pleased to have the chance to share my work with others who might appreciate this kind of thing.