World premiere for post-music symphony
My photo was taken yesterday evening in the darkness of the new Britten Studio at Snape during the premiere of Longshore Drift created by experimental electronic musician Chris Watson. In the foreground and around the perimeter of the studio are the blue-illuminated monitor speakers used for by the third order 64 channel Ambisonics surround sound system which conveyed height as well as lateral information. In the centre of the photo at the system's controls is Tony Myatt Director of the Music Research Centre at York University who built the Ambisonics system specially for the event. My rehearsal photo below shows the layout of the studio more clearly.
Chris Watson's 35 minute soundscape was part of the output of a week long Faster Than Sound residency at Snape which explored the natural soundscape around Britten's Aldeburgh. Birdsong was the staring point for Longshore Drift's, but this was layered with a range of 'found' sounds including the low frequency beat of wind turbines and the the rhythm of the waves breaking on Aldeburgh beach captured by underwater hydrophones. This cornucopia of environmental sounds was reproduced on a sound system the like of which will not be heard again for a long time.
Longshore Drift follows John Cage's path by making music can be made from ambient sounds, and builds on works such as Jonathan Harvey's IRCAM created Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco with its electronic manipulation of the great bell of Winchester Cathedral. In its exploration of spatial relationships Longshore Drift allows us to focus on the neglected relationship between sounds and place, both in the macro context of the fragile Suffolk coast and in the micro context of the soundfield created by the Ambisonic system in the Britten Studio. It also poses many questions, not the least being what is music? Is the continuo of a tuned string instrument any more 'music' than the pulse of a wind turbine?
Aldeburgh Music's visionary residency allowed Chris Watson and his colleagues to create a post-music symphony of great relevance, impact and beauty. Longshore Drift speaks in a language of change both in the musical and the environmental sense, and that is something we desperately need right now.
Photos are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2009. Our £10 tickets for Faster Than Sound - LISTEN were bought at the Aldeburgh box office. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk