The air is thin.
I'm writing on October 10th. In such times of liquid
uncertainty, of thoughts and reactions scudding like
unexpected clouds across the consciousness hour by hour it
seems somewhat strange to be delivering a newsletter which
is fundamentally concerned with music.
I don't feel I have any particular insight into what
happened on Sept. 11th and what's happening now. Some
aspects of these events, though, have resonance with themes
and concerns which I've expressed in my work over the years,
as many of you will realise.
Forgive me, then, if I make the following brief points. The
analysis is not deep and I do not intend to climb on a soap
box, but I need to get this off my chest.
1. Of course I share the shock and grief of all at what
happened in September; there was horror and there was
2. We are all going to die and some of us are going to have
violent and sudden ends. We should already have been living
with that consciousness. Tragic though each individual death
among the thousands was its essence was no different to that
of, say, a fatality on the roads.
3. The world is changed in degree rather than fundamentals.
Most of the planet has lived with terrorism for decades. And
if we have a campaign against terrorists it must be against
all terrorists and all who support them.
4. Our fixation and dependence on news as entertainment is
implicit in all this. The impact of the second plane on the
WTC was, of course, scheduled to be in effective prime time.
5. The speed of modern media delivery gives us scant time
for consideration. In our high-tech way we are, therefore,
every bit as vulnerable to manipulation as are the word of
mouth protesters of the Muslim world.
6. The movies have shamefully and consistently imparted a
warped vision of violence. These "entertainments" have
7. There is no godly justification for religious terrorism.
No religion sanctions murder. The terrorists now have what
they wanted: a war both material and propagandistic. They
also want the return of the Dark Ages. This is not
8. The aim of terrorists is, of course, to terrorise. It is,
therefore, our responsibility to go forward with life in as
normal a manner as possible as riposte to terror. More
sobered than ever, I intend to do so.
9. Even in the midst of hostilities our only hope for the
future lies in more understanding and communication. The
earth is not flat. We can only make it safer, better, if we
also make it more caring and fair.
Of course, there is much, much more.... I expect that all
that has happened and will now come will eventually filter
into my work; where, hopefully, I will be more cogent.
Forgive me, please, if all the above has been stuff you know
all too well; but I feel I would have been false had I not
put it down here.
Oh, finally. Amid the horror an image almost of absurdity
came to me. For the nth time I watched those buildings come
down and the rubble rise up. I had once stood up there with
Guy Evans. Now I looked at the screen. Where we had been was
unimaginable blue sky.
I feel my legs scrabbling to find balance beneath me.
In thin air.
Meanwhile, normal life goes on. A new CD is now about to
come out: "Unsung". It's effectively the third in an
unconscious series initiated with "Loops and Reels" and
continued with "Sonix". It also bears something a familial
connection with "Spur of the Moment" and "The Appointed
Hour". As Artist for this release (and any subsequent ones
in the genre) I've therefore decided to present myself as
The broad brief of this stuff, as you'll appreciate, is
Experimental. That's not to say, of course, that I don't
continue to regard approaching the writing and recording of
each song proper as an experimental act; but sometimes
things come along which appear to be in a place apart. So it
was with this collection.
Evidently there is No Vox on this CD; nor are there any
"directional" (for dance, for film) pieces here. Nearly all
of it came about while I was in that fog of research for
foundations which is the initial stage of conventional
songwriting. Sometimes I start from a musical figure,
sometimes from pure blocks of sound. Usually, drawn by
whatever sense of architecture I possess, these initial
sketches coalesce into a Thing which will become a Song.
These Things - as I say in the liner notes - seemed
reluctant to do so and remained resolutely apart. Over time
I grew to see them as a collection whole unto itself. Hence
In my view, "experimental" does not necessarily mean
completely off the wall at all times. Some pieces here do,
indeed, fall off the brickwork; but others are relatively
calm, logical, ordered. To my mind there's always a slightly
alien air about proceedings; indeed, my feeling about the CD
as a whole is that it's something of a soundtrack for an
Several pieces are fully played instrumentally; others use
sound purely as building blocks...akin to making music out
of clay. There are also some instances of cloned, or
alternatively reflected, works. There are even two pieces
which are on (highly conscious) automatic drive.
"gated", "gateless", "1 meg loop" and "eyebrows" are all
more or less conventionally voiced and structured
instrumentals, with guitar and bass predominating. More
abstract, at least in their starting points, are
"delinquent", "delighted", "deliberate" and 2 "Pole" pieces.
These involved the recording and subsequent manipulation of
fragments until a certain symmetry was achieved.
From a similar - but more radical - planet I fell upon
"exeunt" and "861 and counting". The former is a completely
fractured expansion on the simplest of drum fragments,
extended, dubbed and put into full overload; the latter an
interference pattern built up from a tiny element of guitar
pushed through fractionally different delay times, all on or
about 861 mSecs, hence the title.
The "automatic" pieces are "handsfree" and "the printer
port". I got a jolt one day when I attempted to print
something out from my Mac, only to find that my MIDI system
was still connected...one of my sound modules was "playing"
my attempted letter, or whatever it was. I hit the record
button immediately. This may sound mad...but after much work
on the resulting "music" something cogent, if strange, has
I see now that while I've given (somewhat equivalent) notes
on all the above in the CD I neglected to mention one piece,
"exp". This is an overdubbed collage and heavy edit of
various fragments of disparate musical stuff. Effectively It
fits in the middle of all the approaches.
The CD is something of a landscape of the Other. Its
progression is not always stately, but the fundamental
passage is from comparative order, even sweetness, through
chaos and back out the other side. Diverse though the
material is, I find that there is some consistency of
journey about the whole enterprise. It won't be for everyone
and, as with its predecessors, doesn't immediately link
itself to my "main", songwriting work. But this is, as
always, music to which I have applied myself with diligence
and - I hope - intelligence.
Historically, work such as this runs alongside the main
thrust of what I do. So it is that I actually completed
these pieces before "What, now?". In the wake of the release
of "The Box", though, I felt I would not be doing myself any
favours by putting out such an essentially abstract CD and
that a "songs" one should precede it...so its release has
been delayed until now.
Another release was originally due to come out about now: a
remastered and enhanced version of "The Margin", the K Group
live work. The stuff of life and business has, I'm afraid,
overtaken it and it's had to be shelved. It may now come out
some time in the next few months; but a degree of "wait and
see" now hangs around this one.
I'm currently working on new songs, for a release some time
early next year, I hope. I'm working on a Theory about this
project at present...we'll see if it stands the test of
time. So for now I'd better keep quiet.
Touring: I've just played two wildly different solo shows in
Rome and Norwich.
There will be more shows in Italy in late November/early
December and Caracas is booked in for Nov 24th. Japan also
looks most likely early in 2002. We're also *really* trying
to sort out a UK tour. I, for one, intend to keep
travelling. In this, as in most other things, I most
strongly urge you to stay updated by checking
www.sofasound.com from time to time. It's there that news is
to be found most reliably and frequently.
(As we all know, news of my work and tours is rarely, if
ever, to be found in the mainstream media.)
Finally, two releases which I mentioned last time: Random
Hold's "Avalanche" and David Ferguson's "The View from
Now"...back in April I was assured that these were about to
come out. I've not heard anything since, I'm afraid to say.
I feel personally let down. We will not be carrying these in
the future, should they ever appear.