After the premiere of Other times, other places at the Sound Festival in Aberdeenshire there was a Q&A with the audience and I found myself saying that my ambition as a composer is, as much as possible, to ‘get out of the way of the music.’ In Other times, other places that means making a score which presents various different ways of organising field recordings and live musicians: ways of working that nevertheless don’t prescribe particular sounds.
Processes seem to be useful because they make it possible to create musical forms that have enough internal coherence to enable us, as listeners, to 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.
Allowing music to grow out of musical material itself is also part of this approach, whether that material is existing music or more general acoustic phenomena. At the moment I am working on Iron rain, for electric guitar, aluphone and piano. I woke up one morning in July with the memory of a clangorous music echoing in my head and next July Ensemble Offspring will play it. Everything in the music – pitches, rhythmic proportions, resonance – is based on the sound of an iron bell, to the extent that composing has become an act of realisation rather than imagination.
When I remember I am also trying to gather a collection of my writings about music for a book.