on my mind

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. But maybe ‘reliable music’ is a better term because I’m also interested in creating musical forms that have enough internal coherence that, as listeners, we can rely them on them to behave.

On the other hand, they’re not necessarily predictable: sometimes they do this, sometimes they do that. A recent piano piece, The calm of mountains, is preoccupied with a sonorous, mid-range texture that is sustained throughout, and the patterns with which the strings are sounded never change very much, but the detail of how these patterns succeed one another is always varying. General order, local disorder.

The same principle applies to a new work, Iron rain, for electric guitar, aluphone and piano. I woke up, about a month ago, with the memory of a clangorous music still echoing in my head and now I am writing it, for Ensemble Offspring to play next July. The soundworld is that of an iron bell, but a bell whose shape is subjected to strange distortions and then multiplied to many different transpositions.

When I remember I am also trying to gather a collection of my writings about music for a book.


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