Composer Spotlight Q&A: Aidan Lochrin

Aidan Lochrin is a sound artist, composer, and experimental musician based in Glasgow. 

Aidan was commissioned to write a new work for Aberdeen-based new music ensemble Any Enemy which was premiered at soundfestival 2021.

Tell us about a favourite piece of music that you have written.

I think the creative processes for some of my more longform improvisational pieces have made them among my favourite things to write and produce – such as RESISTOR (2018), and Untitled Longform #1 (2019). In essence, each of these sets were constructed from short musical ideas quite literally cut up and stuck on a page: each part had pretty much free interpretation from these within a loose structure. Untitled Longform #1 (which had been written as a loose follow-up to RESISTOR) was only seen by the musicians for the first time perhaps half an hour before its first performance. Of course, I was working with musicians who I knew well, respected, and trusted, but this process of the messy, chaotic, vibrancy of the live improvisation coming together only on the day made this piece quite special to make.

How have you been coping with the pandemic and how has this affected your output?

Honestly, with the way in which I work, the pandemic hadn’t really affected it that all that much. I do a lot of my music “DIY”, in which I write, record, mix, release etc. pretty much on my own – and I’d been doing that from before the pandemic anyway. Of course, there were some projects that I’d liked to have done, that I’d have wanted to bring other people on board to achieve, that were no longer possible. Then, for me, it was about channelling and shaping those ideas into projects that I could tackle solo. I also had the time to focus on creative projects, which was extremely nice - I think since the start of 2020 I’ve released around 11 albums & EPs from various projects, and that’s not including the tens of one-off tracks & audiovisual pieces I’ve done. 

Were you involved in any special musical or compositional projects during lockdown?

Yes! Fellow composer Sonia Killmann and I released 2 EPs under Failed System Test this year and last – both of which were recorded almost exclusively remotely. This happened from opposite ends of Glasgow, to even a couple times between there and Brussels. It was a fun challenge to try to make music using live audio-sharing software and video calls. Other than that, I had been involved in zFestival – a fully remote festival based in the states, where I had some music rehearsed and performed completely virtually - and was featured in Lunetario’s compilation for Remembrance Species Day 2020. I also did the soundtrack to a short indie game, “Too Cute to Shoot”, at the start of this year, and I’ve recently started working with the team on their follow-up project.

What are your compositional aspirations? 

At the moment, probably to be able to understand Just Intonation systems enough to use them in instrumental writing. Most of my electronic output (released under gaia complex) is already microtonal/xenharmonic in some form, but there it’s a little easier to let the computer do a lot of the work for you in regard to tuning systems. But when I look at works like, for example, Ben Johnston’s string quartets, I realise there’s a lot of incredible things there that I haven’t been able to wrap my head around quite yet.

Which composer (dead or alive) has most inspired you and why? 

I don’t know if it’s because I’m too indecisive or too polite to pick just one favourite, but I do think it’s reductive for me to single out one inspiration. My own output is so varied in style and genre that the input for that has to be as well. A lot of my approach to more classical styles and harmony comes from a love of a lot of Japanese composers, such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takashi Yoshimatsu, and Nobuo Uematsu. The use of space and harmony in a lot of their music is something I adore. My heavier, drone-based, and ambient music draws from bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and from composers like Kali Malone & Ellen Arkbro. The electronic music I produce also takes in inspiration from many sources, but recently it comes from artists like Bonobo, Makeup & Vanity Set, Floating Points, and Sevish (whose music is also microtonal). Often, it’s just satisfying to really get into a beat, or to get completely absorbed in disgustingly distorted noise.

What would you consider to be a dream commission?

Probably anything where I can have an excuse to blow out a subwoofer with sixteen distortion pedals.

What do you do to take your mind off composing?

It’s hard to switch off completely, sometimes. I mean, I enjoy reading (mostly Sci-Fi & Fantasy), I’m an avid cycler, and I have fun cooking. Recently, I’ve fallen down the rabbit holes of speciality coffee & fancy houseplants. But with any other almost unrelated thing to music you can suddenly get an “oh – that’s a cool idea” out of nowhere and suddenly it’s four hours later and you have a sketch of a new piece done. Any creative dry spells are nice sometimes if you’re not actively working on anything, though.

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be? 

Multi genre weirdness.

What music have you been listening to lately that you would recommend to others?

Recently, I’ve been listening to both Boris & Merzbow’s 2R0I2P0, and android52’s Type R-510 a lot. I always find myself coming back to Anna von Hausswolff’s All Thoughts Fly, and Reflects by Aoki Takamasa & Ichiro Yamaguchi, as well.

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