(orig. publication 3.31.2009)

In recent years Lee Patterson has developed a growing reputation in the international arena as a sound artist and improvising musician. Using a number of distinct approaches, he has invented new roles for an accumulation of everyday objects and amplified devices, as well as original processes for live sound generation.

It’s been several years that I’ve wanted to engage Lee on his music for the purpose of an interview. Life tends to intervene unpredictably, and the resultant delay in our discourse had been fortunately joined by increased activity in Lee’s work and possibly the refinement of certain ideas.

We followed a casual route for topical points, and you’ll see that the questions have been fully extracted from the interview. Instead opting for prose, a biographical formatting of Lee’s answers is presented here. Nonetheless, immediately below is the abstract from our discussion.

maps and legends • “Sound must be extracted from this object.” • the least common denominator for potential • use of the E-Bow • working with hydrophones • a music and sound enthusiast • the jump to practitioner • environmental captures with Halliwell • the leap from recorded documents to music • a twofold, parallel approach to an interest • unanticipated challenges

~alan jones

THE TAY BRIDGE AND RELATED PREPARATIONS

The last performance I made took place in Dundee, Scotland, as part of Kill Your Timid Notion, a festival of sound and image, run by Arika (Bryony McIntyre and Barry Esson), and was a collaboration with the film maker, Luke Fowler.

“North West From Chester Hill” was our second response to La Monte Young’s Composition 10 (1960) (for Bob Morris), which reads, “Draw a straight line and follow it”. The first version of this, “B8016”, was commissioned by Alice Koegel for Tate Modern’s Long Weekend event, May 2008. Luke chose to walk the straight line of the B8016, a minor road that runs for 10 miles across the Hebridean island of Islay (home to some fine whiskies!), filming material along the way, whilst I collected recordings and objects to use in several performances at the Tate.

For the Dundee version, I studied Ordinance Survey maps of the Dundee/Firth of Tay area, and noticed that the Tay Road Bridge — a 1.5 mile long bridge spanning the Tay estuary — formed a near perfect NW – SE alignment with Dundee Law – a hill in the midst of the city and former site of the ancient settlement of Dundee (Dun being the Scottish/Gaelic for a fortified settlement), and when extended to the southeast, this same line hits a country lane at Chester Hill (”chester” being old english for a fortified settlement or castle), which formed the beginning of the walk and gave us our title.

Thus, a 3.5 mile straight line was drawn linking two ancient sites, passing through the modern city of Dundee and allowing access to a number of rural and urban environments (and their attendant sounds). But more importantly, I got the chance to get up onto the Tay Bridge with contact microphones and make recordings!

Luke’s film material was edited ‘in-camera’, so what was projected on the night of the performance was what he shot on the days of the walk. Whereas the sound material I gathered was edited and composed during the intervening week to form a basis or backing track over which I improvised during the performance, using several objects that I had gathered from the walk.

After the initial material gathering, there was little attempt to synchronize sound and image, the visual materials being fixed at their point of inscription and the sonic materials unfolding in sequences according to their point of origin along the line, as well as according to their inherent textural/timbral and temporal qualities. So, as well as points of synchronisation (we both walked the same line at the same time), there was also a kind of slippage between the visual and sonic, where the two could be experienced as moving in and out of synch and back again, according to individual walking speeds and compositional decisions on behalf of each contributor.

Such “semi-chance” was secondary to my decision making, as I was more interested in how the recorded sound and live elements would unfold over the 30 minutes of the performance according to the narrative of the line. It has to be noted that I still haven’t had the opportunity to see much of the visual material, as I worked on the sound at home here in Manchester. Whereas Luke, based in Glasgow, wasn’t in possession of the developed film until a few days before the event. Plus, during the performance I had my back to the projection…

This method of working, primarily using pre-recorded material is fairly unusual within my live work, as is working with projected visual material.

I tend toward live generation of sound using a variety of invented processes and instruments, plus lots of contact mikes — these things tend to have visual qualities of their own, and though I do still occasionally use field recordings live, this is happening less and less.

The objects I collected during the walk are similar to stuff I ordinarily use, as was the way in which I utilised them on that night. So, a metal hoop from a wheel trim found on the bridge was attached to my contact-miked metal plate and activated using a small fan, with the blades just kissing the metal, producing a harmonically rich, glistening drone as the audience entered the performance space. It reappeared later toward the end of the piece, but this time just the draught it produced played the metal ring, creating a quiet drone that coincided with a similar drone from a contact-miked metal bench found at the top of Dundee Law. Similarly, a paint brush found at the same location was used to play the metal plate alongside a mid section of sounds gathered in Dundee city centre.

Other materials included metal tines prepared with found pen springs, played with an e-bow (springrods) and found glass and plastic bottles, heated in near boiling water and placed upside down on the metal plate — both of these may be familiar to anyone who has watched me play before.

LEAST COMMON DENOMINATORS FOR POTENTIAL

I started to experiment with contact microphones around nine years ago, using them to transform various found metal objects into instruments (not having the money or the training to buy or play orthodox instruments). This approach was soon applied to things in the environment around me, and I discovered intriguing sounds residing within the seemingly familiar features of my locale. Metal fences, roadside railings, trees, bridges, refrigerators and toasters amongst other things, were host to a kind of environmental music. The world opened up in front of my ears, transforming my view of the area in which I grew up and the world in general. I now regard many urban and rural features as potential instruments in situ, where music or interesting sound may be hidden within.

Driven on by a curiosity as to how things sound, a continuing lack of money, as well as a recordist’s urge to collect, I’ve followed this line of inquiry within various contexts and it’s become both a mainstay of my practice and a way of relating to places and things, a method of sound collection that transmutes apparently mute objects.

Certain environmental features, in particular metal fences and railings, despite their intended function in the exclusion or the safekeeping of pedestrians, can harbour some amazing sound material, dependent upon particular structure or manufacture and how vibration is induced. Motor vehicles, often the bane of the recordist, can be to the railing as the bow is to the violin. This was the case upon the Tay Bridge — its entire structure vibrating/resounding according to the passage of the traffic across it.

Oftentimes, as well as listening to how a location sounds, I’m looking out for things within it that may contain resident sounds. All things conduct vibration to varying degrees, but in general, I’m looking for sonorous, metallic structures as well as bodies of water — which, since developing a simple method of water-proofing piezos with plastic bottle tops around three and a half years ago, have become fascinating locations to record also.

Luckily for me, various forms of metallic structure can be found in many areas, along with sources of vibration to make them sound, and in addition to some of those mentioned above, I’ve become very interested in the high-tension wire fences, usually galvanized steel, that are used in modern agricultural practice.

Again, whilst working alongside Barry Esson and Toshiya Tsunoda (with Luke Fowler helping out) on a project in Argyll, Western Scotland, during the summer of 2007, I was lucky to come across an array of wires on top of a stone wall, running for about a mile across the Móine Mhór (Great Bog), an expanse of blanket peat bog near Crinan.

At different times and differing climatic conditions on successive days, I was able to hear and record a startling variety of sonic behaviour.

Rainfall produced a clanging, strongly percussive effect, something akin to dropping say, ball bearings or dried peas on the mid-bass strings of a grand piano as each raindrop struck the wire.

Gentle wind created some lovely aeolian tones, as well as causing nearby plants to scrape and bow the wire.

Still conditions allowed gentle bell-like tones to be heard, punctuated by the occasional clang from a passing insect — some of this material is featured on the compilation, Audible Geography (Room 40).

It was at this array and another that I visited last summer in North Yorkshire, that I heard within the wires something I can’t quite explain — a series of repeated “calls”, descending in pitch, usually during fairly still weather and without any obvious external stimuli such as birds or insects resting on the wires (hoverflies often produce a mid-pitch whine or drone when at rest, but this is usually a continuous tone and didn’t match the stuff I was hearing here).

I was very fortunate to be able to make good recordings of this phenomenon at the wires in Yorkshire, capturing it as it sounded between(!) a stereo pair of contact mikes, – clearly no visible stimulus for the sounds. I’m currently wondering whether the long wires are transducing VLF radio or atmospherics and whether this is becoming audible through contact mic’ing…

Another “interesting” observation is that both sites, being the only wire arrays where I’ve heard this phenomenon, are located near to or within internationally important concentrations of pre-historic rock art…!? (Kilmartin Glen and Ilkley Moor, respectively).

Field recording, especially with contact microphones or hydrophones, can confound what one thinks to know of the world, and this remains one of my main motivations, to be able to venture out and discover something of bizarre beauty, something unexpected that astounds and remains inexplicable within an apparently mundane, commodified and tamed world.

SPRINGRODS AND E-BOWS

I’ve been collecting various bits of metal in order to play them for quite a while, and early on relied quite heavily on using a bow to induce vibration within them. I’ve collected quite a few of the metal tines that break off from the motorized street sweepers one sees so often in many cities (I only realized their origin after a conversation with Keith Rowe, who has made use of them himself).

These are interesting for several reasons: they’re made from sprung steel, which has interesting sonic properties; they’re thin enough to respond well to the magnetic field created by an e-bow; the “tuning” of each one is fairly random, depending on its dimensions, where it snapped, wear, etc.; they’re an overlooked by-product of a hygiene-obsessed, urbanized culture, yet one that increasingly expects someone else to clean up after them; they’re the litter left behind by these litter collectors; they’re usually numerous and always free!

I’ve prepared a few of these for play with an e-bow, usually held tight in a g-clamp. I can attach small springs (again, these are found or scavenged from abandoned lighters, pens, etc.) at various points along their length to modulate and in some cases resonate sympathetically with the tones created by the e-bow. For want of a more imaginative name, I call them “springrods”, as mentioned previously. These are amplified using a scratch-built, wooden box resonator that gives just enough amplification for the sound to be picked up by a cheap pair of cardioid lapel mics.

As they’re found on the streets of many towns and cities, it’s possible to collect the components and create an instrument for specific performances, as I did for the piece with Luke in Dundee.

Given this current configuration, they’re quite difficult to use live. One hand is tied up holding the e-bow, the other providing additional support and pressing the springrod down onto the soundboard of the resonator. I’m both impressed with and envious of the way Rhodri Davies is able to use one or more e-bows with his harp (his disc, Over Shadows (Confront, 2007), is a particular favourite of mine), and for these and other reasons, I’m currently devising a new instrument, specifically intended for use with several e-bows and less hands.

Though there are similarities in the tones Rhodri achieves with harp and e-bow, the sound of the springrod and e-bow isn’t quite so mellifluous! Each one being subject to its own chance tuning, and being prepared for specific timbral and tonal complexities using the aforementioned springs.

In this way it’s possible to set up beating patterns in the interaction between spring and tine, as well as a variety of sympathetic vibrations, buzzing and rattling within the springs themselves. All this of course, triggered by the use of the e-bow and it’s proximity to the springrod.

A lot of my contribution to the Buoy (Cathnor, 2009) disc (with Phil Durrant and Paul Vogel) consisted of e-bowed springrod material, if memory serves correctly, and there’s a small amount used on the Terrain disc with Graham Halliwell (Confront Collectors Series, 2008). I’m also working on some solo recordings that feature multi-tracked e-bowed springrods.

I’ve occasionally fantasized about building bigger more powerful e-bow-type devices and using them in installations to drive angle irons or similar, connected to a resonator of some kind or maybe using the gallery floor itself…

SKETCHBOOKS, ABOVE AND BELOW THE WATERLINE

Using hydrophones has certainly affected my world view. As outlined previously, certain local ponds that I’ve visited since childhood and presumed to know well, have once again become unfamiliar habitats, where plants and animals communicate in strange and unexpected ways.

It has to be said that — in this neck of the woods: post-industrial, suburban northwest England — singing insects, frogs and toads are a rarity to say the least.

So, one of my early thoughts concerning these local underwater realms, was how alien and exotic the sound world seemed in comparison with the general sonic environment above the surface.

In contrast to the road, rail and air traffic sounds of north Manchester, the aquatic sound world sometimes seemed more like that of a tropical rainforest, dense and busy with a variety of sonic activities, albeit on a very small scale with many sounds possessing low amplitudes.

Another observation concerned the variety of activity from pond to pond, with each body of water being a self-contained sound world dependent upon the resident flora and fauna. Various water bodies, sometimes in close proximity to each other, possessed very different sound environments, some being rather sparse in comparison to others only metres away.

Furthermore, despite the self-contained nature of these aquatic sound worlds, with most if not all of the resident sound remaining below the surface, they were easily invaded by sound from above, with the ubiquitous traffic noise easily penetrating the waters.

Since the initial forays into the water bodies on my doorstep, hydrophony has become another tool with which I can explore given environments and situations as well as gathering material to work with (some of this material appears in the opening minutes of the Buoy cd).

Again, whilst working alongside Toshiya (who also worked using hydrophones) in Argyll, I gathered sounds from the Crinan Canal and River Add for use in sound installations, and, more recently while working on an ongoing project in Leeds, I hydrophoned an old well within the remains of a pin mill on the edge of the city centre. Despite being mid-winter, near freezing and apparently lifeless, I was surprised to encounter a quiet yet active sound environment. Given previous experiences with waterbourne sound I shouldn’t have been that surprised!

Over the last three summers, I’ve spent time visiting other ponds, rivers and canals away from invasive traffic noise (though usually fairly local as I’m mostly limited to public transport) in order to listen to and record the activity taking place therein for use in another ongoing project — the compilation of a cd’s worth of good quality freshwater recordings.

I have many hours [of material] already, however the collector within me is craving new, more spectacular material or better quality examples of previously heard phenomena.

There are several species of aquatic insect that can be heard in UK waters, and many of these have calls that are variations on what might be described as cricket-like.

Water Boatmen or Backswimmers (micronectacoroxidea, etc.) produce sound by stridulation as they brush specialised ridges behind their eyes using bristles on their legs. They also possess simple ears and use the thin film of air around their bodies to amplify the calls, which can be surprisingly loud and carry relatively large distances through the water. Sometimes, a chorus of what seems to be hundreds of individuals may be heard.

Some fish such as Carp or Trout can be vociferous, but most intriguing of all is the sound produced by certain species of pond weed, in particular Hornwort, or Ceratophyllum demersum, a now naturalised species that originates from North America.

This plant is capable of producing some remarkable sounds and there are clear comparisons to be made with basic electronic sound synthesis, both in the character of the sounds and how the sounds are produced.

Often, when I place the hydrophones into an underwater thicket of Hornwort and turn up the pre-amps, I’m presented with a dense field of ticks and clicks, sounding not unlike a fry up, and occasionally I’ll hear drones, alarm-like repeated phrases, even tonal sequences amongst the seething mass of sounds.

The plants create these sounds as they photosynthesise, producing fine lines of tiny oxygen bubbles released by stomata and/or fissures on the plants’ surface. This interaction between gas, solid and liquid can take on a variety of forms dependent upon light levels, ambient temperature and so on.

The basic unit of these sounds, the click or pulse, will be familiar to anyone who has worked with electronic tone generators, as will be the emergence or perception of tone as these events increase in speed.

Each pulse or click is produced when a plant releases a bubble, and with greater light, the frequency of the bubbles increases resulting in a variety of sounds or sequence of tones.

I even have cause to think that some of these plants are capable of altering or controlling their rate of respiration in order to produce such sounds, possibly as a defensive measure — this seems to have happened at least twice when I’ve disturbed the plant. I have recordings to prove it!

This has also lead me to thoughts about vegetal sensitivity and the ability of plants to rapidly respond to their environment as well as question some of my reasons for maintaining a vegetarian diet…!

Other “bubble musics” can be encountered in the sounds of burning nuts and seeds, as steam or hot gas escapes, and similarly, in the sounds made by cooking foodstuffs… eggs, sausages, tomatoes and suchlike.

Even though I’m fairly certain now about the origins of a proportion of the sounds, still much of what I hear below the water surface remains a mystery and fresh water hydrophony, for the larger part, is an intriguing acousmatic experience where the sound producers hide behind the veil of surface and sediment or within a thicket of aquatic herbage. Entry into this exotic sound world is still a privilege for me, one where I can take delight from the surreal experience of eavesdropping upon events that are both alien yet utterly quotidian.

SO WE SHARED WHAT WE HAD BETWEEN US VIA CASSETTE

There isn’t a clearly definable turning point that I can recall. However, there were several catalytic phases or influences that led me to my current situation.

Despite an on/off desire to make music from an early age, my main activities from childhood through to my mid-twenties had been visual — drawing, painting, etc. So for a long time, I was a listener only.

Towards the end of my teens I received some early stage visual arts schooling in the dilapidated mill town of Rochdale, where I met a girl, left home and dropped-out of the educational system for a few years, doing much that that entails but managing to avoid the hard drugs and crime that dominated the estate we lived on.

We were both interested in attempting to make some kind of electronic music but didn’t have the financial or intellectual means. She managed to secure a small amount of funding to buy a cheap synth/keyboard, which we messed around with a little. Later we became aware of certain groups that were using unorthodox (to my ears at the time) materials and sounds. This definitely had some bearing in igniting my desire to work with sound and “extra-musical” materials.

Whilst there, I gradually fell in with a circle of friends who introduced me to the likes of Non, TG, Aphex Twin, NWW, Autechre and such, all of which seem fairly obvious now but at the time (early 1990’s) I was intrigued.

Despite becoming aware of more experimental musics reasonably late on, in my early – mid twenties, I was quite unaware of any available resources (which were thin on the ground to say the least) or any of the more interesting things happening in Manchester. I’ve since realized that Matt Wand and others were reasonably active putting events on in venues like the basement of the Haçienda, but I missed most of this.

Still, I was eager to hear more but in those pre-internet days, with no cash and no job, listening material and information were incredibly hard to come by.

So we shared what we had between us via cassette.

One particular friend, Warren Statham, had started to use his cassette recorder as a basic multi-track machine, building up rough-edged layers and loops from sonic odds and ends; I was particularly impressed and inspired but never actually tried much of this myself.

Throughout this period I remained active making visual things, and developed the habit of collecting found objects for these ends, a habit that still provides me with my working materials. I was particularly interested in the textures I found in various rocks, fossils and stones, rusted metal and so on, and though I didn’t have the means to do it at the time, I developed the desire to make audio versions of these, to use them as scores if you like.

Towards the end of my stay in Rochdale, in order to try and use my talents to generate some cash, I started to produce small but detailed, sculpted reliefs which I could “mass produce” using resins. This eventually evolved into using clear cast resins to embed dead insects into small items of jewelry, and in order to find these dead insects I had to develop certain techniques, certain ways of looking, an eye for detail and the slightest anomaly on various textured surfaces (roads, footpaths, woodland tracks, etc.). As odd as this endeavor may have seemed at the time, and also the inclusion of its account here, I think this sense for detail bears directly upon my more recent sonic practice.

Things moved on considerably a few years later, when my father reported to a work colleague that I’d borrowed his Dictaphone to record various things.

Deborah kindly invited me to the studio established by her partner Paul in their basement, in order to play with them both. This soon become a weekly event and though I found playing quite daunting at first, a fruitful 4-5 year period ensued, where their openness and generosity helped me through some difficult times in which not much else seemed to be happening. I learned how to improvise with them, obtained a minidisc recorder, started to make field recordings, discovered piezo transducers and began to make instruments. They also lent me a four-track cassette machine and I got an opportunity to start working seriously with sound.

Though this relationship eventually disintegrated due to a difference of opinion as to the kind of music we wanted to make (I had become more interested in the work of Rhodri Davies, Mark Wastell, and other stuff coming out of London, Berlin and elsewhere), I’m still extremely grateful to the Bartholemews for their support and generosity, and the pivotal role they played, by allowing me access to instruments and equipment as well as giving me the chance to play on a weekly basis.

It was during this same period, towards the end of 1999, that I returned to education.

Under the occasional tutelage of Helmut Lemke, I used the Visual Arts degree course at Salford University as a catalyst by which I could develop and justify to myself (as well as, to a lesser degree, the tutors) a practice that revolved around sound, its investigation, recording and production. I was able to consolidate and further develop some of my ideas as well as generate new materials, many of which are still in use in my work today, the sounds of small things burning, the internal sounds of domestic objects and street furniture.

I based my dissertation on the idea of sound recording as a way of drawing or developing ideas, which again is still relevant today.

A certain proportion of my recording is investigative, driven on by a curiosity as to how things might sound when you attach a contact mic or submerge a hydrophone, par for the course, I think, when using these types of interface.

In terms of live work, a key turning point occurred when meeting Rhodri Davies for the second time after giving a performance of my end-of-course piece, “Heatwork for Bottles,” during a live art festival in Glasgow. Interested in the work I’d just presented, he inquired as to whether I could improvise and whether I would be interested in collaborating at some point, I gave a tentative answer of yes, though at the time the stuff I’d been doing was far removed from Rhodri’s palette. So to this end, I started to develop some processes and instruments that I thought would be suitable for collaboration and some of these form the basis of my live output nowadays.

TERRAIN AND COLLABORATION

In early July of 2006, following an invitation from Graham Halliwell, I spent the best part of a week with him and his partner Meg at their home in North Norfolk. During that time we split our activities between recording the material for Terrain and traveling around the surrounding countryside to make recordings. The landscape(s) had a strong influence on our collaborations and is reflected in the choice of title*. We were often out during the daylight hours then returned to the studio to record in the evening, so I think we carried our collective impressions of the coastal marshes, reed beds and rolling post-glacial landscapes back with us.

*I also have a text score entitled “Terrain”, for plastic bottles as resonant/feedback chambers.

For some reason, these fresh environmental recordings weren’t used in the studio sessions. Despite getting some interesting stuff, I utilized older material I’d brought with me, though some were used in the sessions for Buoy later that same month, such as a recording of Graham and Meg’s fridge and one from the shingle beach at Cley.

At the time I still carried around a small pile of mini-discs containing field recordings and some slightly prepared stuff; these made their way into our final pieces along with some of my tabletop processes.

The pieces were developed from improvisations, and, where we felt they worked, those sections were honed slightly and re-recorded straight to Graham’s CD burner, with most of the tracks being the second take after the initial improvisation. We were able to work together fairly quickly and it became apparent that some of my prepared/field recordings would both compliment and provide interesting contrast to Graham’s layers of saxophone feedback.

The opening track features a pitch-shifted and filtered recording of a fan heater (the ultrasonics brought into audible range), a recording made from Norway Maple seeds and some hydrophone stuff. The second track opens with a recording made of a multi-story car park in Salford played by a northwest wind. The third begins with a process recording of a thunderstorm recorded and passed through a soil pipe several times (à la Lucier) and the fourth features a trio of woodlice.

Graham worked mainly with prepared recordings of his saxophone feedback, looping and layering the material then adding reverberation to create his resonant tonal drifts and swells.

Some time has passed since we recorded Terrain, but I’m still quite pleased with how it sounds. Though recorded just over a month later, it has a distinctly different feel and structure to The Large Glass(Cathnor, 2007), Graham’s collaboration with Tomas Korber, a disc I rate highly.

As well as certain shared sensibilities, Tomas’s use of electronics has some interesting contrasts with my approach and I’d like to close the loop and record with him at some point.

Likewise, there’s the possibility of a further collaboration between Graham and myself — we’ve recently discussed another trip over to Norfolk to record, and given developments in our instrumentation over the intervening period, it’s an opportunity to reconvene that I look forward to.

A TWOFOLD, PARALLEL APPROACH AND (UN)ANTICIPATED CHALLENGES

Most challenges have been practical in nature. They’ve not only shaped my practice but have greatly affected my thinking about it also. The obvious one that I’ve referred to a few times already, is the challenge of modest means. Paid work that allows me the time and flexibility to indulge in my practice is hard to come by, and good quality equipment, microphones, recording devices, etc., are very expensive, as is space to work in. This has shaped the work I’m able to make, forcing me to work with my immediate environment using affordable materials, which, despite certain compromises, has turned out to be beneficial in directing my inquiries and transforming my understanding.

Through this limitation of equipment and facilities my curiosity has adapted to materials at hand. Unlike other recording artists who might endeavour to travel to distant locations to acquire the exotic, which is possibly quite quotidian to inhabitants of such places, I’ve attempted to uncover exotic or interesting sound within familiar surroundings and with everyday materials.

Likewise, there’s usually little attempt to digitally modify sounds once amplified and recorded, other than simple manipulations such as editing and volume changes. I prefer to work with sounds that don’t need to be pushed around in order to make them interesting, even though my interest has been informed by electronic music that does so.

This approach has its limitations. The background sound here means that it’s difficult to record small sound events when there’s a tramline, a motorway and a school in close proximity to my room/workspace. Until starting to record (and therefore to listen) I had been habituated to such sounds, and for the most part accepted them, but the microphone isn’t as selective as the ear. This is a continuing difficulty and it means that most home-based recording takes place late at night — or else I’ve attempted to make use of the sounds, transforming them from noise to something more desirable either by physical manipulation or by attempting to alter their context.

Many of my live processes can be unpredictable, especially in terms of feedback and I’m never sure how my gear will react to each new venue. The ability to amplify and broadcast quiet sounds when reliant upon contact microphones varies greatly and is dependent upon several factors, including room acoustics and PA placement. Even the type of table affects the volume I’m able to achieve, and, contrary to expectation, I’ve sometimes found that an audience-filled space lowers my feedback thresholds. So acquiring suitable levels is a constant balancing game when playing live, especially when doing so without monitors.

The amount of equipment I carry in order to do this provides me with yet greater challenges and I certainly didn’t foresee the hassle of lumbering around with 25+ kilos of gear on public transport.

I admire Keith Rowe’s ever-shrinking instrumentation and dearly wish I could fit all my gear into one small case!

I thoroughly enjoy becoming immersed within the act of recording, listening and engaging with landscape in a specific fashion, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to manage or work with the sounds at a later stage — and though I like to be able to return to the recordings, I often wonder about the relationship between listening and recording/collecting. More than occasionally, the latter is an excuse to do the former and then managing the acquired material can sometimes seem like a chore when compared with the initial pleasures of discovery.

I have to ask myself, am I making a hoard of sounds or a collection of preparatory sketches? (And similarly, concerning the collection of objects to use as sound sources). Therefore, it’s important for me to consider the use of environmental recording not only as the gathering of material but also as ear training and exploration.

~LP/AJ (text), LP (photos)

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