* `A Voice and a Dream' was created from two tracks performed by Yasmeen Amina Olya, `A Voice' and `A Dream in Pachelbel's Canon,' both of which are from her first album `Yasmeen's Song.' Yasmeen's website is at http://www.yasmeensong.com and CD and MP3 recordings of her work can be bought from there. My track was made by taking sections from Yasmeen's performances and treating them through a Lexicon MPX550 reverb, then building a new piece from those treated sections by multitracking and mixing.
Morgan was written after reading a film-script by Nora Leonard based on the Arthurian legends in which the character of Morgan features prominently. The music depicts the character, but also tries to reflect the mood of the film as a whole. I'd been writing patches for the Roland D-50 emulation card from the Roland V-Synth just after reading the script, and the music developed out of that. Consequently all the music was performed with the V-Synth in D-50 mode.
Zylis features the then new design of software synthesizer from Xavier Oudin's company XILS-lab. The XILS 3 is based on the design of the EMS VCS 3, but with some very interesting new features and innovations.
As well as the XILS 3 itself, I've used XILS 3 samples played from a Roland V-Synth and from the Direct Wave software sampler. A Lexicon signal processor was also used. The lead line starting at 48 seconds was played on the Arturia MiniMoog V.
This is a small hill below the famous White Horse Hill. Legend says it's the place where St George defeated the dragon.
I used a Yamaha electone organ that I bought off the Internet for £20, through some signal processing, along with three tracks of ebow guitar.
For FM synthesized trumpet and electronics. This was done entirely with Native Instruments FM8 software.
Tristan is based on the romance of Tristan and Isolde. I'm often aware of how difficult it is to relate to the situation of a couple when you're outside it. And it's also difficult for a couple to be objective about their relationship. These half-understood lines of communication are reflected in the music.
My idea was to have the emotion of the tragic romance echoed by the poet narrating it, which Tristan can't understand - from inside the situation he can't understand the way a poet can tell his story from the outside. This is why a voice is heard narrating, but the words don't make any sense. The only voice that does make sense to Tristan is Isolde's, but we hear her
voice without words because she speaks from inside the situation.
The music is mostly Moog Voyager - all the melodic lines are Voyager, as are the modulated parts such as the echoed downward doppler effects. There's also a bit of Arturia Modular V in the middle section (echoed bass parts) and MiniMoog V was used for the sequence at the end. I've also used a vocoder, plucked psaltery and electric guitar.
As well as my voice, I'm very pleased to have been able to use vocal samples provided by one of my favourite singers, an old friend of mine, Lauren Edman (Sleepthief project, Delta-S, For Every Story Untold etc).
This was done entirely with a Technics KN720. On the way home from buying this keyboard I visited Avebury (Wiltshire, England) and parked for a while close to Silbury Hill. The KN720 will run on batteries, so I was able to compose part of the piece on location.
Intervening Shoreline was recorded entirely with the Arturia 2600V software synth. It's part of an album-length piece called Seahenge, based on the emergence of two Bronze Age wooden structures that had become buried on the coast of Norfolk, England. The two structures are more accurately titled Holme I and Holme II, as neither is a henge. The entire album is a meditation on the gradual re-emergence of these structures and the processes of decay that followed. Intervening Shoreline refers to the area of shoreline between the two structures, but the focus is on the thoughts and perceptions of someone present there as much as on the landscape itself.
This is based on a track from Rich Goodhart's album Shaman Mirror Medicine Tree. His original track was done entirely with Tibetan Bowls. I added synthesizer and did some Tibetan chanting.
The track is here by kind permission from Rich Goodhart. I'd advise anyone to check out his music via his website at www.richgoodhart.com. In my view Rich is one of the most interesting `fusion' musicians working today, blending chants, superb instrumental work and - above all - rhythms into a beautiful and powerful music of real spiritual depth.
For a long time I've wanted to make a kind of music in which the natural sounds of various sea creatures are used not merely as sound effects accompanying the music, but as the actual basis for the musical notes themselves. For this music I've used samples of a grey seal, whales and dolphins as the waveforms from which the synthesiser sounds are created.
This results in sounds the creatures themselves would be incapable of producing, musical tones which are synthesiser sounds having the tonal characteristics of the creatures themselves instead of the conventional analogue or digital oscillators that traditionally form the basis of electronic sounds.
Grey Seal opens with the original sample of the sound of the grey seal in the wild. What then follows is a solo passage in which the tonal qualities of the sample are used to make musical notes, followed by a section in which the sounds of the seal are blended with the sounds of whales and dolphins, modified and turned into synthesiser sounds. The result is basically a
concerto, in which the solo seal parts are played against the full orchestra of the other sounds.
The solo seal passage is accompanied by grey seal bass chords. For the first minute and a half the only sounds are those of the grey seal, with some electronic sounds from the filters as the notes are played.
Chords are added using a blend of grey seal and humpback whale. Then the grey seal is frequency shifted to create bell-like tones, which are echoed by a frequency shifted whale.
The piece then moves into a deeper ocean section, with whale and dolphin sounds blended with pure synthesiser tones, before the grey seal returns to play a closing solo passage.
All the sounds were sampled and processed using a Roland V-Synth XT, and played from a Moog controller keyboard with pitchbend and modulation controls.
Frog Hollow is performed entirely with a Yamaha DX7 - the much maligned instrument that seemed to go from being the synth everyone wanted to being the cheesy keyboard that no-one wanted. The exception was Brian Eno's DX7, which I believe fetched £2000 when he sold it. By contrast I bought mine for £71 through ebay at about the same time. I haven't heard anything Eno did with the DX7, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out there's some resemblance between his DX work and mine, as using a DX7 with careful use of signal processing seems likely to produce results in similar sonic areas.
It'd be interesting to know.
I treated the DX7 through a Lexicon, with additional echo from my Yamaha digital recorder and recorded a single take, keeping the synth in edit mode throughout and making continual adjustments to the sound. Additional copies of the original track were then recorded and treated to a series of reverb processes I've developed to create different kinds of audio space. The final piece is that original single take with added instances of my reverb treatments, multitracked.
This is a reflection on unexpected immortality. One of the first samples recorded for the Fairlight CMI was simply titled `dog.' Being me, I wanted to know more about the dog in question, and Peter Vogel of the original Fairlight company kindly filled in some details. She was an Austrailian Kelpie called Candy who belonged to one of the company employees. It's nice to put a face to her, and it's strange to think of her living on in the various recordings she's been on over the years. I imagined her as Ovid imagined the late Emperor at the end of his Metamorphoses, as having ascended and become a star - in the region of Sirius the Dog Star, naturally. Tori Amos also referred to `Spacedog' in connection with Sirius (I think in connection with the Dogon people of Africa who seem to have an uncanny understanding of the binary star system of Sirius).
Hayley Dreams of Japanese Gardens
This came out of a conversation with Steven Abbott, who at that time managed New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra. He happened to mention that she was about to tour Japan. I've never met Hayley, though I've known people she's sung with and I have a lot of goodwill towards her for various reasons. Not being very familiar with the details of Hayley's career I somehow thought this was her first visit to Japan. I later found out she's been there several times before. In this piece I was thinking of the images of Japan one might have when anticipating a first visit. But maybe one has similar images in anticipation of a return?
Morning Mist in Sebatu
Images of Bali....
Crystal Presence, the final track on Tim Blake's Crystal Machine album is based on a repeating pulse. This piece of mine uses a similar idea as an acknowledgement of the influence of Tim's work. I was working with the sounds of EMS synthesizers and Tim's breathtaking EMS work inevitably comes to mind. This was realized using the EMS Rehberg virtual Synthi A and an EMS project I'm working on using the Roland V-Synth with EMS Rehberg samples as waveforms.
This was to be the first of a series of pieces using the last invention of the late synth pioneer Harald Bode. His design for an infinite `barber-pole' type phaser was revived by someone who'd worked with him, and the plan was to build a series of units and market them. At this early stage all I had to work from was Harald Bode's original demo recordings, from which I took the samples that are used in this piece. The project didn't ultimately happen and to the best of my knowledge this piece is all that remains of it apart from one prototype unit somewhere in America.
Rainfall in Kyoto
Another Japanese piece. This was recorded entirely with the Arturia Moog Modular V software, with a little extra reverb and echo.
A location I often visit on the North Wales coast. I recorded this piece entirely with the Yamaha DX7, playing it in edit mode and changing parameters as I played. In particular I wanted to get the glassy quality of waves in the shallows at the sea's edge.
This is a sound portrait of the Danish philosopher Sóren Kierkegaard. The music depicts the contrast between his unpreposessing physical appearance and his mental agility - a distorted physical body and a powerful but fragmented and convoluted body of religious and philosophical work.
The music was performed on a Technics KN750.
This was recorded in memory of Jason Stuart, keyboard player with Hawkwind, who died very suddenly in 2008 at the age of only 39.
This was written as a sound-portrait of poet and singer Gilli Smyth.
This developed out of two experiences. First, a sudden and very heavy fall of rain in Paris from which I was sheltering with a friend and a large number of other people. All of us made a run for the only nearby shelter, an overhanging feature of the Pompidou Centre. And second, not long after returning to England I was talking by email with Yamaha demonstrator Dave
Bristow. I hadn't realised until he happened to mention it that he'd worked on FM synthesis at IRCAM, the electronic music facility located at the Pompidou Centre. After discussing FM synthesis with him and with the memory of the heavy rain fresh in my mind, I imagined someone working in the comfortable and dry atmosphere of IRCAM and using FM frequency ratios to simulate different densities of raindrops while loads of people were trying to avoid being soaked outside. This approach allowed me to approach `typical' IRCAM music without having any pretensions about my suitability for working in such an environment.
Watching the Ducks Land
This is based on a story Mike Oldfield told in his autobiography about a particularly ridiculous shooting trip that involved mass blasting of a flight of ducks so they died in huge numbers and were so full of shot they were mostly uneatable. He wondered why they didn't just watch the ducks land instead of murdering huge numbers of them. I think that's a good question, and I wrote the piece to reflect that much more civilised scenario. Much of the piece was done using a bass guitar, an instrument
Mike Oldfield partly influenced me to play. The bass is fed through a Roland V-Synth which allowed me to make various birdlike sounds along with the tones of the bass, controlling those sounds from the bass as I played. To that I added water sounds and duck calls (instruments for those: bath and duck-caller).
Late Afternoon Snow
This was done with a Yamaha TX81Z and an ARP Axxe. Interestingly, the warmer sounds of heavy snow were made with the digital Yamaha synth, and the cold moaning of the wind and the growing darkness was made with the analogue ARP synth. The Yamaha TX was played in edit mode, with continual changes being made to various parameters, most notably the frequency ratios.
This developed out of some birdlike filter modulations recorded by Xavier Oudin to demonstrate an aspect of his Synthix softsynth. At this point the Synthix hadn't been announced and all anyone outside the company knew was that Xavier was working on a new synth with interesting filter modulations. I multitracked his demo and added layers of one of his earlier softsynths, the XILS 3, played through a Lexicon to create almost orchestral textures. So the final piece became an unlikely XILS 3 demo combined with the first ever piece featuring the Synthix.
This was done with two different harp sounds from the Casio CTK900, one of them treated through a Boss Acoustic Simulator. Some Lapwing-like sounds are added from the ARP Axxe.
This is a meadow beside the River Ouse, from Hemingford Abbotts to Hemingford Grey. I visited Hemingford Grey before collecting a Roland Juno 60 I'd bought, and this piece was the first thing I recorded with the Juno.
Rainfall at Hemingford Grey
This was done entirely with the Arturia ARP 2600V software, with the sequences triggered from a keyboard.
This is entirely done with the Kawai K-1.
This portrait of the dark wizard from the Harry Potter books was recorded with the XILS Synthix as one of the early demos for that instrument. I tried to express a mixture of dangerous power and almost infant-like lack of development true to what the character in the books becomes.
This was done entirely with the ARP Axxe.
Parisian Parks in Autumn
This was done entirley with the Yamaha TX81Z. I tried to use the digital synth the way analogue synthesizers have been used by musicians like Tim Blake. The harsher sound of the Yamaha brings to mind aspects of the Parisian setting, and in particular the gritty texture of the ground in the Parisian parks.
This was done entirely with the Technics KN750.
Another KN750 piece, with some ARP twitters here and there. I visited Mike Oldfield's former home on Bradnor Hill the day before David Bedford died. Bedford was a long-time friend of Oldfield and had visited him there, and this music reflects my impressions of the place as well as my response to the news of David Bedford's death.
An impression of the actress, though not a portrait (a portrait would have been brighter and more spirited). This is Roland Juno 60 and D-50, with a Boss phaser, a plucked psaltery and a hammered dulcimer.
This was inspired by the English Lake District, and references the landscape in a variety of different seasons and weather conditions. The entire piece was played using a DX7 and a pair of Lexicon MPX550 delays.
Floating - Moog Mix and ARP Mix
This piece by Tim Blake is from his album Caldea Music II, and also features Christian Boule on gliss guitar. The first two minutes or so are played by me using a Moog synthesizer and a sampler, with the sampler playing Tim's original piece at different pitches and speeds. At about 1.30 I hold a key and Tim's melody line can be heard clearly. At 2.12 his piece starts to play, and I mix straight and processed versions of that while playing Moog synthesizer over the top of the whole thing. Tim kindly gave me permission to put the piece on my site. As mentioned in my discussion of Tim's work elsewhere on this site, Tim's music can be bought from his site at http://moonweed.free.fr/lake/moonweed.html An ARP mix of this piece may also appear shortly.
Mirror Lake, Part One
This is part of a large piece based around the Mirror Lake in Tibet in which oracle visions are sought, specifically to gain information on the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. This section was done entirely with an ARP Axxe and a loop sampler. The sound is the filter in self-oscillation, and I did that at two different pitches to create two different flute sounds. The Axxe has a particularly beautiful filter tone.