The composition of Centre and Edge set me on a new course that I still follow to this day. I had recently completed a PhD in electroacoustic composition under the excellent tutelage of composer and educator Pete Stollery who steered me through the difficulties and hidden depths of acousmatic music, affording me a comprehensive understanding of the history and wider methodology of musique concrète. I moved from there towards a better understanding of music as sound, sound-as-sound, an investigation of complexity, and from there towards a long and still unfinished programme of theorising this understanding. I had also been corresponding for some time with Giancarlo Toniutti whose brilliant work over several decades shone light on many of the issues I faced. Out of our conversations over the last decade a series of dialogues we’ve produced a series of written dialogues on our respective understandings of sound and music. An Atlas of Instabilities is to be published soon.
Centre and Edge emerged out of a lengthy period of field recording, based on some vague notion of establishing an archive of environmental sounds. Some of these source sounds were unexpected in the context of a roving field recording agenda. River bridges activated by wind, offering a rich spectrum of energetic percussive gestures, high frequency shards and low frequency complexity. Apparently disused agricultural installations, water tanks, bursting unexpectedly into life. My self-made buffers (used to enrich the signal of contact microphones) randomly self-oscillating, resulting in a hybrid of field recording and electronic instrument. Then a lengthy period recording in a woodworking studio over a period of heavy rain which offered industrial sounds, the sounds of human agency and the complexity of wind and water interacting with architecture.
The source sounds are of course important but my interest was shifting to the compositional, (or what I now considered to be musical), possibilities of these sounds over and above their interest as recordings. Centre and Edge helped me establish a methodology that has served me ever since. It also set me to work on longer form compositions and a focus on what the low midrange. I only use two methods of transformation, timetretching and equalisation. After simple editing for duration and amplitude, I timestretch using Reaper software, then equalise either in Reaper or Steinberg’s Wavelab. My current choice of eq is DMG’s EQuilibrium. I then create layers, often up to twenty or thirty, these frequently composed of submixes to allow me to keep track of frequency ranges.
These techniques shouldn’t be overemphasised. Anyone can learn how to use software. The real challenge, the work of making music, lies in many hours of listening, balancing the different levels of formal structure - from macro-form to micro-tasks, merging, blending and allowing sounds to coalesce, creating some kind of quasi-organic structure that takes on a life of its own and finally avoiding some kind of generic outcome.
The Tree was initially hosted by David Velez on his digital Impulsive Habitat platform, The Maker by Gruenrekorder. I then made my usual gauche attempts at self-publishin cds. These have all been sold or given away. Centre and Edge now has a happy home on Bandcamp though I wouldn’t rule out another cd publication.