Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Safe in the new apartment, rising a little late to a fresh early spring day, cool air moving tentatively through the flat from the open bathroom window. In the bathroom, a pair of yellow rubber gloves that I have never seen before. They are in the sink, where I shave and wash my teeth. In the living room, a vase is on the floor, three daffodil stalks spread out on the floorboards. The computer is on, but in start-up mode waiting for a password. Could it be that there is someone living here besides me?

What parallel lives are led, what causes us to be behind ourselves or in front, altering what we might have done? Switching on the radio first thing in the morning, a new pirate Turkish station has appeared over longwave, commandeering three quarters of the spectrum. Then, turning to medium wave, the World Service broadcasts a set of Russian programmes. At what point did I find out about the attempted assassination of the Sri Lankan cricket team? What if that team had been different, or if I had not switched on the radio today? How would that change what I am about to do?

Today I should be recording and writing, though I lie in wait for someone to come and fix a window. I must also make my trip to the einwohneramt to register my new place of residence, but this will wait until the last possible moment. I still hold a healthy fear of administration (council offices, postal activities, anything to do with forms or banking). This is especially true in German and Germany.

My study of field-recordings and sine wave for Elephant and Castles has taken an interesting detour, with the label's founders unhappy with the recording I sent them. Hesitant to ask me to change it in anyway, they offered me a critique and a chance to propose something else. Immediately riled, I took a walk, being new to all this collaboration and demand.

The initially suggested piece featured scored concrete sounds (tea, rice, magnetic tape) contrasted against a slow fade of non-organic sine tones, in three mathematically related pitches (that is to say, they existed, nothing more). This creates an unnerving moving wave which constantly escapes attempts to determine a steady rhythm, while all the time slowly pulsing to a natural, shifting beat. The idea of something constantly shifting within music, but with its ambitions and origins invisible, is of great attraction to me.

But it didn't fit with the label, who saw me play live my more typical, layered, melodic improvised compositions. So now I set about committing magnetic tape digitally, trying to retain the warm sound that I work with live, trying to keep the spatial construction allowed by broadcast into a large space. An opportunity has arisen. At the end of the recording (which should be this week), I intent to close a chapter and perhaps take a magnet to the cassettes, eliminating all traces of what has gone before. That, or try and prepare them for some exhibition or auction, in which their lives will be continued in other recordings.

All is trade-off in this world, I read today on a mailing list, and it certainly feels like that. Instinctively, when rejected, my reaction was to walk away. The piece was made, if it is not right, then so be it. But the piece still lives (indeed it will be at the centre of the new recording of course), and will find another time in which to be displayed. For today, compromise without compromise is the foundation of achievement.

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