Sometimes universities and conservatoires invite me to talk about my music and in the last year I’ve been using the title ‘sustainable music’ for these lectures. A few months ago at York University I got close to defining what this might mean: a way of creating music that grows out of musical material itself, whether that is existing music or more general acoustic phenomena, and that involves as little redundancy as possible.
Some examples from recent pieces: in Topophony the harmonic progression across the whole work is determined by sum- and difference-tones; in untouch-touch the percussionist makes a series of gestures, the first time to trigger sine-tones, the second time to strike six gongs whose six strongest partials have provided the pitches for the sine-tones. senza misura is a piano work for Philip Thomas in which the time is taken by groups of notes gradually sounded all over the keyboard – the music sounds both completely consistent and yet never the same. Flauto inverso grew out of Karin de Fleyt’s wish to ‘re-imagine the flute’; it uses the modern flute, homogenised by Boehm in the 19th century, and gradually takes it back in time, perhaps even out of time.
On my desk now, almost complete, is music for piano with video, Five characters in search of a form, for Zubin Kanga – a play within and about time in which a live Zubin appears to be rehearsing the performances we see on screen. I am also finishing Other times, other places, a work that assembles field recordings in the way that the makers of Stonehenge assembled stones, with live musicians too, playing composed and improvised music. The ensemble music that will surround the solo theorbo in Les Doigts du Soleil is also beginning to take shape, like shadows on a sun-dial.
When I remember I am also trying to gather a collection of my writings about music for a book.