I had relatives who lived in a small two-room ground floor flat in Aberdeen. I remember liking the place as a small boy because they showed slide shows of somebody doing aid work in central Africa and coming from Aberdeen which was the whitest place on earth I'd never seen people so black. One day I wandered into the back room and there on the settee lay a white Fender Stratocaster. MY head slowly expanded and I understood immediately - the quiet room, the soft light from the window, like a shrine. The exact same guitar that I'd seen Jimi mangling up on the telly when my Grandma called me through. I knew there was a son or a nephew in the family and I wondered if he'd left it there deliberately for me to see. Part machine, part musical thing. Doubly fascinating. I didn't pick it up but I understood that from now on these guitars were there for the playing. Here's a crappy photoshopped collage just in case you can't quite envision the Great White Strat on the Couch.
The River Deveron, Aberdeenshire, December 2019
These river photos, of the slow flowing Deveron in Aberdeenshire, are experiments with a 10-stop ND filter. This is the first time I've spend any amount of time time using ND filters. From one freezing cold afternoon in the field the most important thing I learned was what to keep out of the frame. Sharpness isn't the best in some of the pictures but I'm not that fussed right now. Where I live in the Scottish Borders it's river heaven so one thing at a time. If I can get decent shots of 20-30 seconds I'm happy.
People, especially artists and musicians, like to make up stories about how they started off. ‘Oh’, they’ll say, ‘I remember my Dad handing me a tape deck (I think it was a Tascam) when I was three months old and it got me into deep listening and changed my life’, etc. Well here’s a true one. My Grandma doted one me - daughter’s first son and all that - so she liked to spend time just me and her hanging out. One day when I was mucking about in the kitchen she shouted, ‘James, quick, come through, the fuzzy wuzzies are on the tv’. I was pre-school age so somewhere between three and five but I remember it clearly because of the impact. I sat on her knee and watched as Jimi and the boys proceeded to shred my little brains into mush. I loved it and so did my Gran. She bounced me up and down to the music, laughed out loud and pointed things out - ‘watch the black one', she howled, 'he’ll get down on his knees and start bashing his guitar’. I got it, I really did. And it tuned me in good and proper to the beautiful musical chaos about to unfold in the 60s and 70s. Sure as hell beat the fuck out of Andy Pandy.
(P.S. Sorry if you find the language offensive. That’s just how some folks spoke back then).
I've updated the documentation of the climate change data sonification project that I began in 2017. You can download the most recent update here and a copy of the Pavilion concept design package here.
not quite the sound I'm after [7:49] (2019)
electric guitar, electronics, driftwood percussion
spring steel rods, glass jars
small motors, baoding balls
not quite the sound I'm after is a change from my usual long form compositions. Perhaps it could be longer, but I want to compose an album of five or six shorter works to find out what can and can't be done with pieces of less than ten minutes or so. Not that this directs all my choices but I wonder how many people take the time these days to listen to long-form compositions. During a short self-directed residency in 2017 I learned a lot about generating interesting sonic structures and shapes by patiently activating and energising dozens of objects, devices, materials, found and made instruments inside a large space with generous acoustics. The plan is to go through those processes that worked best, to record, edit and transform the recordings and finally create new compositions. So not too much of a change from the electroacoustic method, just shorter outcomes.
Investigations into methods of stochastically activating suspended cut glass bowls (demijohns). Small motors, of the kind found in mobile phones, are run from 1.5 volt batteries, attached to wooden blocks (the black object) and suspended on springs above and to the side of the bowls. For installation or performance.
Empty music consists of three scores adapted from the words of Shunryū Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. It's quite common to see scores created from zen stories, sayings, haiku and similar sources and for good reason. A lot can be encapsulated in a few carefully chosen words and the resulting music can be very interesting. These scores seem to hold some promise towards a reductive sparse music for one or more players.
Here you'll find details of the day-to-day, nitty gritty stuff that goes on in my world: processes, methods, experiments (including failures), research, drafts, sketches and observations on sound, music, guitar, improvisation, experimental film-making and photography. Oh and people, they're the most important of all.
Reflections on processes, methods, experiments (including failures), research, drafts. Sketches and observations on sound, music, guitar, improvisation, experimental film-making, photography and people