I was really pleased to welcome back Jez Riley French for this month’s guest lecture.
Jez is a field-recordist, sound artist and sonic experimenter and I invited him to talk to our L3 project students about his varied and interesting work. Jez specialises in recording hidden sonic worlds such as building structures, underwater environments and the micro perspective of the insect world.
We had great fun discussing and testing Jez’s (often self-made) kit such as hyrophones, geophones, contact and parabolic microphones.
Jez has two exciting projects coming up; a field-recording trip to Iceland with Chris Watson and a Tate Modern commission: audible silence: a headphone piece exploring the hidden sounds of the Tate modern building (february 2013). We’re also trying to arrange a field-recording trip around Lincoln for AP students – watch this space!
At level 1, one of the first assessment tasks I ask students to undertake is the creation of a soundscape. However, for some, the very notion of the soundscape is unfamiliar. Soundscapes can take many different forms – some can be very challenging for the listener/audience.
Whilst listening to Radio 4 this morning, I heard a short interview with Martyn Ware (The Human League, Heaven 17) in which he explains the concept behind his Tales From The Bridge soundscape currently installed at London’s Millennium Bridge. This is an excellent example of an accessible approach to the creation of a soundscape and hopefully one which will inspire some of our students’ creativity.
Listen to the clip here
It’s the 60th anniversary of the creation of John Cage’s Four Minutes, Thirty Three Seconds. In BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Evan Davis asks “Is it a profound statement about the concept of music or the silliest composition ever?”
Nicola Stanbridge considers some groundbreaking pieces including Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet and La Monte Young’s piece for Terry Riley which involves pushing a piano into a wall until you exhaust yourself.
Listen to the clip here
Comedian Stewart Lee is passionate about electronic music and he take us on a remarkable musical journey. We discover how, after the Second World War, a small group of electronic pioneers began tinkering with their army surplus kit to create new sounds and music.
Tristram Cary started the first electronic music studio in Britain but, while France, Germany, Italy and the USA had lavishly funded research centres, British electronic music remained the preserve of boffins on a budget.
As the programme reveals, this make do and mend approach prevailed long after austerity Britain had given way to the swinging 60s, with Peter Zinovieff developing EMS synthesizers from a shed at the bottom of his garden in Putney. (Paul McCartney put on his wellies and took a look). Zinovieff is interviewed about his experiments in sound.
Unsurprisingly, the electronic community in Britain was a small, intimate group and joining Cary and Zinovieff was Daphne Oram, who devoted decades to developing a ‘drawn sound’ electronic composition system that never really quite worked.
Brian Hodgson tells us about 1960s experimental and electronic festivals, including The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave (1967) at which The Beatles’ electronic piece Carnival Of Light had its only public airing. We shall also hear how the radiophonic workshop broke new musical ground with Dr. Who.
Experts in the history of electronic music, including author and musician Mark Ayers and Goldsmith College lecturer in computer studies Dr. Michael Griegson give the boffins’ view and Portishead’s Adrian Utley explains why the early forays in electronics are still relevant today.
Produced by John Sugar
A Sugar Production for BBC Radio 4.
Listen to the programme here
I’ve been listening to this excellent 8 part series recently. Variations covers the history of appropriative collage in music i.e. using other people’s music in your own compositions – something I’ve done many times in my musical career. The series begins with examples from 1908, examines Musique Concrete of the 40s, the Avant Garde and experimental music of the 50s and 60s to sampling and remixing of the 80s and beyond.
The series investigates the whole notion of authorship. Indeed, “The idea of a completely original piece of music is a fairly recent one. Music was passed on through sound, through generations, even for centuries after the invention of written music. Only gradually, and centuries after the implementation of written notation, did it become standard practice for a composer to sign his name to a piece of music and claim it entirely as his own, giving rise to the cult of the individual composer.” (Leidecker, 2008).
The series is available as a free podcast from RWM’s website (under the heading Curatorial). I highly recommend it to our Audio Production students or, indeed, anyone with an interest in society’s experience of music.
Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and experimental composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s work appears side by side on a new Nonesuch recording. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, the two composers discuss music for film (Penderecki’s music is used in The Shining and The Exorcist, Greenwood scored There Will Be Blood) and creating sounds and textures not normally associated with the orchestra. Greenwood also discusses the limitations of recorded music: “Recordings just aren’t good enough…the concert hall provides far richer and more complex sound than listening to loudspeakers in a room.”
Listen to the interview here