February 2015

a piece a day for the month to kick me out of a rut

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February 1st - When studying at Keele University I lived with 4 others in a farmhouse where Oliver Cromwell once spent the night. One of my roomies was Tony Morgan, a shy pianist, and apparently a direct descendant of Henry “Captain” Morgan. He once inquired, quite out of the blue - “Can you do three against twenty-nine?”, then demonstrated by tapping on the table. I’ve never forgotten it, and now celebrate with this ditty:

Tony Morgan

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February 2nd - It’s Groundhog Day, one of my all-time favourite films (which of course I’ve just re-watched!). It’s also James Joyce’s birthday, so I made a piece out of a recording of him reading from Finnegan’s Wake:

GroundJoyce Day

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February 3rd - I am a lapsed clarinettist. I haven’t had one in my mouth for 40 years, but I guess it’s still a part of me, and very often my first ideas seem to be designed for it. So I’m not fighting it any longer. Some may argue that eleven clarinets is too many clarinets!

Duck

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February 4th - Exploring some samples I’ve been meaning to for some time. Thankyou Dennis at Bolder Sounds

Dogon Star

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February 5th - I had a great deal of trouble making this sound right, but I managed it before midnight. Yes, I’ve heard of Harold Budd.

Inching

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February 6th - Here is a piece, the like of which I find fascinating, but finding the right circumstances to listen is sometimes difficult. I cut this one off somewhat arbitrarily after 49 mins, but it could go for much longer. The sounds are 8 different claves, virtually placed in an old stone church.

Seventy-eight by eight

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February 7th - The name is so powerfully evocative it wouldn’t matter what it’s the name of, but the fact that destroying angel is a tall, slender and deadly mushroom makes it all the better. This piece isn’t going to cheer you up!

Destroying Angel

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February 8th - Do you like low sounds? Going up, though…

Courage

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February 9th - Sometimes simple is best. Forget the layers of other instruments I was contemplating - clapping is hard enough when you're walking…

Clapwalk

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February 10th - Ennio Morricone has been responsible for a disproportionately large number of my formative musical experiences. Among his most intriguing works are a pair of pieces for bassoon ensemble (I think it’s 5 bassoons and 2 contrabassoons) recorded in the Seventies in an exceedingly dry room - that was a trend in Italian recordings put out at that time. My little sketch (it really needs to be expanded!) is for 4 bassoons and 3 contrabassoons, and  is dedicated to Maestro Morricone. If anyone knows how to get in touch with him so that he may hear it, I’d love to know…

Another Pole

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February 11th - On this day in 1982 (I remember the smell of the room in Whalley Range, and the light coming in the window) I finished a large ensemble piece for wind, brass and percussion. It was part of my masters composition folio - at that time I gave it the title “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another” because the 3 groups of instruments begin and end by playing separately from each other. I did this because I was fascinated with similar aspects of Stravinsky’s music, particularly the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, where it seems that a number of different short pieces constantly interrupt each other. To commemorate that event I’ve taken all the wind snippets, all the brass fragments and all the percussion shards from the last section of the piece and joined them up. That’s a long explanation for a short piece!

Chips

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February 12th - real-time composition

We Burn

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February 13th - Luc Ferrari’s Presque Rien changed everything for me. This is from a field recording made on Vancouver Island in 2002. 

Maybe Something After All

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February 14th - This is a recording of a rattle I bought in a market in Eugene, OR. I think it’s intended as a baby toy - it’s a rather quiet rattle so as not to annoy parents and is nicely made of black walnut. It has no sharp edges and probably even tastes OK. The recording hasn’t been altered, just fades at either end.

Rattle Impromptu

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February 15th - It’s a bad habit, I suppose, making and keeping domestic recordings. This represents a week and a half of morning cuddles with my pal Footfoot. Condolences to those who know nothing of the rewards of cat butling.

Purr

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February 16th - A lot of strings making a mess.

Formal Dress

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February 17th - “Should I change my pitches?”, my friend Martin asked - “I keep using the same ones, but I really like them.” I suggested, “Change your pitches when you shave your beard.”

Martin’s Beard

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February 18th - A tiring day. I replaced the kitchen tap, got a speeding fine, and am generally beat.

Fatigue

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February 19th - A great deal is left to do on this, an exercise I’ve been meaning to explore since undergraduate days. I can see this being a 15 minute piece, but this is all for now.

Masks

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February 20th - This is for Martina and Sam

Somewhere In Norway

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February 21st - An unusual clock, manipulated and multitracked

Clocks

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February 22nd - I have nothing to say about this, but I hope you enjoy it:

Walk (Gate)

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February 23rd - Nothing to do with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but something to do with Laurie Johnson. 

CBC3

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February 24th - Every home should have abrasive vibraphones! I mean a brace of vibraphones!

What Sense Does This Make?

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February 25th - real-time composition. First time with these samples from SonicCouture - Giant Bass Tongue Drum, Tube Drum and Music Box.

Hi Fashion

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February 26th - I’ve always rather disliked trills written after 1827. Particularly irritating to me are trills by Schoenberg and Donatoni, though I admire much in their compositions in general. This is an attempt to exorcise the Trill Demon. The title refers to the Perry Mason episode The Case of The Torrid Tapestry.

Like Seeing an Old Friend You Thought Had Died

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February 27th - I tried to steal this for my opera Aeneid Music in 1989, and did an unconvincing job then. Here it is much more lifelike. I have been obsessed with this bit of mood music from the Perry Mason show for 3o years. I really wonder why it never fails to grab my attention. No, seriously, I really wonder! And I always liked the way Frank Bridge spelled Fantasy with a “ph” and sometimes “ie

For those who remember, this is scored for the Dream Ensemble of Victoria

Masonic Phantasie

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February 28th - The last one! Thankyou for checking in - it has been a mostly fun and entirely instructive enterprise.

La Nuova Consonanza


© John Abram 2017