M2R is a series of musical multi-sensory compositions, performances and installations encouraging audiences to listen differently, paying greater attention to small sounds and musical changes. Ii is music not only heard, but also seen and felt. This research will redefine a starting point for musical composition and listening by creating an experience that is uniquely open to possibilities for listeners of any kind.
The project consists of works for piano (Kate Halsall), bass clarinet (Gareth Davis), and electric viola (Nic Pendlebury). I am very pleased to have been awarded an 'Individuals Award’ from the PRS for Music Foundation to support the composition of the second and third of these works. As well as these wonderful, creative performers, I am working with sound designer/programmers Carl Faia and James Waterworth as well as consulting with both Music for the Deaf and the Music House for Children, London.
Following my pilot piece Hanging In The Balance (for piano) research is further exploring ways that the solo instrument can stimulate objects placed around it to vibrate in sympathy and so form a new sonic environment. I am also utilising visual representations via software projections and exploring ways of exciting other surface and physical materials such as water and glass. Hanging In The Balance was part of Kate Halsall's Miniaturised Concertos Project (funded by the Arts Council of England), and the piece features on her new album released in April 2016 (Metier). A short documentary about the making of the piece is available below.
The project arises from three overlapping areas of social, medical and musicological research. The social context is the current crisis of attention and listening. Too often we take listening for granted, saturating our personal space with sound; an aural overload. Since the turn of the century, through the mass-marketing of portable listening devices, in-ear audio has become ubiquitous. Our cognitive ability to focus on detail has been diminished and its intrinsic value is being eroded through an emerging and pervasive praxis resulting from the same overexposure syndromes affecting contemporary society (a plethora of information leading, paradoxically, to a reduction in bandwidth transmission).
1. Hearing and listening are fundamentally different and it is precisely this difference that M2R wants audience to tackle. Research in the medical sciences had led to striking developments for those with hearing impairments. Public health concerns are, in part, fuelling this research; an ageing population means hearing loss is set to grow.
2. Increasingly sophisticated cochlear implant technology enables people to hear sound in a limited way where previously their world was silent. The sense of wonder at hearing for the first time can inspire new ways of looking at musical composition and the modes of performing and listening. What might just be background noise to many becomes a fascinating symphony to a first-time-listener. How can all audiences regain the wonder of listening? Artists and ‘able audiences’ have much to learn from those with hearing impairments and the science behind their conditions.
In musicology, much research has considered new ways of generating sound through electronic and computer manipulation. Resonance was explored in drone-based works such as Lucier’s Music for Solo Performer (1965) and Tudor’s Rainforest (1968) where loudspeakers are utilised as instruments in themselves, and by more recent composers such as Nicholas Collins (Pea Soup, 1974) and Christian Marclay (Sixty Four Bells and a Bow, 2009). Much rarer is the successful combination of a cohesive and mutually-enhancing balance between the sonic dimension (the construction of objects, mechanisms, applications of acoustics, and computer processing) and the composition itself. Few compositions have explored how harnessing both acoustic resonance and electronically-manipulated sound can complement a solo performer. To extend artistic practice, composers need to shift the point of departure and start from the perspective of first–time listeners.
1 Daniel Levitin. The Organized Mind (2014)
2 ‘Hearing Maters’ by Action of Hearing Loss http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/supporting-y...