Presented and diffused by Pete Stollery
Once again, extra chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the large audience that turned up to hear a selection of electro-acoustic music by Professor Pete Stollery and three of his graduate composition students. Along with a contingent of eager music undergraduates, quite a number of the Thursday concert regulars turned up along with many new faces too. This was both surprising and gratifying on such an inclement day. Professor Stollery had chosen the ideal selection of pieces to induct newcomers gently into the world of electro-acoustic music. His introductions were patient, informative and to the point. I have attended quite a number of his concerts but I still found that his comments opened up new vistas for me, especially when he likened this art form to cinema.
The first piece was by Bill Thompson who is in the final stages of a PhD in Composition at the University. Although it is untitled the word (mcalpine) was appended, possibly relating to the building company who were erecting a new shipping control tower at the harbour. Bill Thompson who lives in “Fittie” was walking his dog when he heard the wind whistling through the piping of the scaffolding round the new building. Being a dedicated electro-acoustic man, he had his mini-disc recorder always to hand and he recorded the “Aeolian harp” sounds which make up much of his piece. We heard around four minutes of it on Thursday. It sounded both mysterious and beautiful. This must be the first lesson for an electro-acoustic composer, like a pictorial artist, you must always be ready for any experience visual or auditory that the world might throw in your path.
The second piece, by Kirsty Robertson who is working towards an MPhil in Composition, was entitled Circular Motion. While in Bill Thompson’s piece the sound source was clearly identified, in Kirsty’s, most of the sources were unknown but the idea of circular motion was perfectly clear throughout. The contents of the piece were exactly what it said in the title.
The third piece, by James Wyness who is a freelance musician and performer working towards a PhD in composition, was much more abstract. In dévoiler…déplier.., the sound sources were not disclosed and nor was there any defining overall shape to them. What mattered were just the sounds themselves and the way they were put together in sequence. This piece recently won first prize for a composition awarded at the Musica Nova festival in the Czech Republic.
Pete Stollery did let us into one of the secrets behind his piece, Altered Images. Some of the sounds used were made by the changing gears on a bicycle wheel. That did not really matter however and this piece was a fine example of just one of the principle techniques used in creating electro-acoustic music, the sculpting and shaping of raw sounds and their splicing together to create a satisfying artistic entity. For me this was the most finely polished and perfectly shaped piece in the recital.
I had lunch with one audience member after the concert and she commented on the fact that for her, attending the electro-acoustic concerts had sharpened her listening ability and she now hears far more detail in the more traditional concerts she attends. She also commented that she is really beginning to enjoy these electro-acoustic performances and this, once again, is surely what sound is all about.
Copyright Alan Cooper
Thanks to University Music