Saturday 18 November 2023

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I have released very little music lately, in fact the most recent and only release this year was back in February, the download single In The Dark

I have been writing new material, however have only recorded the songs in 'demo' form. Demos are very much a conventional format intended to 'demonstrate' new songs before a final studio recording is made for public release. This has been irrelevant for my practice in the past where the final recorded version is usually simply the latest iteration of a process of experimentation, writing, and recording. However, for the songs that I've been working on this year, my intention is to make new recordings, perhaps using a 'professional' recording studio, when the writing process is complete; the aim is to make a consistent and coherent recording of the songs as a kind of 'suite'. As a 'non-musician' the writing process necessarily entails making recordings of the work in progress, so in that sense the material I've recorded this year is in the form of 'demos', not intended for public release. 

An imperative for this process is to write songs that I can perform 'live', previously the priority has been to make recorded works. The first three of these I played in July at the Contemporary Music Proms, partly as a way to 'road test' them before a live audience. 

The songs are broadly concerned with landscape, something that I've approached in much of my work,x both in song and moving image. These current songs more determinedly so, exploring how the relationship with dwelling in landscape might be worked through in song form, how the language and structure of the song might embody a relationship with site and environment. As work in progress it is too early to know what the nature of the final work will be overall, part of the approach is as ever to use the process of writing as a way of thinking through, singing through, the ideas towards developing a conceptual framing.

So far the songs are falling fairly naturally into groups following periods of intense activity. The first three songs alluded to above are the result of the first part of the process, mostly concerned with mapping conceptual concerns. One of these evolved from a video performance I made exploring the phenomenological experience of wind as a force in the landscape of Mersea Island in Essex.

This followed from work I have been doing on Mersea Island with the Sensingsite artist collective. In this way I am starting to bring together my song work with visual moving image work, something that I have previously largely eschewed as the practices lacked common conceptual structural methodological concerns.

The second tranche of songs is now underway and these are developing from a visit to South Uist in the Outer Hebrides this summer with a more specific brief as a starting point. While in the Western Isles I was concerned with making a direct connection between landscape experience and song. My interest in this location has been prompted by the work of Margaret Fay Shaw who recorded folklore and folk songs in South Uist in the middle of the twentieth century, and which seems to me to describe a material social and phenomenological connection between the specificity of site and song (of which I may write more in the future). 

The current songs started life as improvisations recorded in the field, making up songs on the hoof, while walking, or dwelling in specific sites and locations. In the realisation of these songs, both the originating field recordings of emplaced improvisation and the songs that develop from that activity may form part of the finished recordings; the final works may therefore embody the trace of their own genesis.

In parallel to this I have made a series of photographs which use various technical strategies to frustrate the tendency of photographic landscape to reproduce the contentions of pictorial visualisation, a project I'm informally calling How To Photograph Landscape, and so again my song and other visual art practices begin to converge.