I wrote a leisurely little sketch piece recently proposing that with the birth of recording (occurring in the very short time frame in which photography and psychoanalysis also made an appearance) there came a schism between music and the space, place in time in which it would have previously have been presented. The space/place context went on to spawn new disciplines and art forms – ambient, field recording, the politics and ecology of soundscape, etcetera-ra-raa-raaa – while music became increasingly removed from space and time context through increasingly efficient – ruthlessly efficient – recording technologies that effectively allowed for the removal of ALL context.
I am increasingly aware, of course, that there is a broad body of work in the general area of music and space. So far as I can read into it the concern is political, ecological, and addresses sound rather than music for the most part.
I am keen to distance myself from this work and, if you’ll allow, shrink the concern. My concern is very small, that of a curious mole playing with a knotted lump of soil. Its just the music. I only want to make a piece of interesting music. In that piece of writing I used the precedents of the fourth wall in theatre, and the occasions in cinema where the divisions between diegetic and non-diegetc sound were challenged to wonder aloud whether there might be rich territory to be mined in music by exploring this schism, this divorce between music and context.
As a first practical implementation of this I have compiled a brief audio sketch.
The process was simple, linear. I sat in my garden and recorded the morning; birdsong, a plane in the sky, a passing car. I took this recording and used a little processing to reveal the underlying tonic, pitches and harmonics. I used GRM evolution but something like paulstretch or countless other time stretchers would do the same thing, I’m sure.
Playing the two tracks together confirmed that they were compatible in terms of pitch and harmonic consonance.
Taking a photographic snapshot of the horizon beyond the garden – the Garlton Hills – I then placed a grid of 5 lines – a stave – against the photograph. Having ascertained the pitches at play in the ambient recording (G#, Bb, C, D#) I combined this information with the placement of stave lines against the horizon and derived a brief melodic line. Its a little sweet, but I liked it.
The thing that I find curious, and that makes me think I would like to apply more time to this approach is that played in parallel – the ambient soundscape, the filtered track, the melodic line – the elements retain overall consonance and, more importantly, sound interesting; birdsong, filtering, piano – they work together and there is a sense that this is a melodic line thrown up by the localised landscape at a particular moment.
I am the archaeologist rather than the composer – and the game, moving forward, is to do with how much one should pull focus on one, other or a combination of each of the elements.
The sketch ends as the recording moves beyond the garden space, rattles its way through the fence and arrives at the burn – ending with a hydrophone under the water. (I offer that to quietly suggest that there is actually a temporal narrative element at play too)