There are two reasons for this site. The first is to collate and distil my musical output. Thus far this includes Heroines of the U.S.S.R, my primary project involving found sound, home made instruments and field recordings; Creeping Jaw Society, an ad hoc attempt at some kind of progressive dance music featuring disparate unlikely samples; Silk and Dogs, an ongoing project inspired by, reflecting and commenting on the P.R.C and Garcia Dances the Jttrbg, a duo comprising myself and ‘Rory’, which operates as a sort of vocal drone unit.
The other strand to this site is the theoretical side, echoing, I guess, my current work as a doctoral researcher at The University of York. As way of an introduction to that, I thought it a good idea to offer this Livejournal post from early November as a way in…. (the Publications and Audio Archives will contain music, brief essays and original fiction pieces as well as potential research avenues)*
As I remember it, this photograph was taken whilst standing outside a pub called the Victoria Inn in Northampton. It was the pub my great Granddad used to drink in, the one that my Dad would go to as a boy, with the empty bottles, to collect some pocket money for returning them. The house where my great Granddad lived has been knocked down since then and replaced by one of those off putting ‘new build’ houses, that always feel so incredibly lifeless (largely because no lives have ever been lived in them…except in this case as the foundations are the same). Adam was at University in Northampton for three years, and in his final year moved in to a house on St. Michael’s Road, which by strange coincidence was three streets over from where my great Granddad had lived (Military Road). I drank in the Victoria Inn with Adam and Mick and considered the turn of events that had led to this eventual familial homecoming. Adam’s choice of new home (and indeed University in the first place) was not predicated on foreknowing the family tie to Military Road and the locality of what is now a Territorial Army barracks. Perhaps somewhere at the back of his mind he remembered that the family had moved down to Luton from Northampton, but that would have been it. It wasn’t until he’d signed the papers and was ready to move that my Dad pointed out the return journey being made.
I mean this as a way of providing an opening to anyone who happens upon’t, and as a way for me to actually begin the long process of writing things down regardless of how it ends up sounding. When I write, I make connections, so this is building on a foundation. For the first snippet of my research, I’m working on a history of a musical movement that is chronologically barely out of nappies, but has somehow been around much longer, floating in the ether, mingling amongst the fallen and those revenants returned to walk the earth (flashes of failed utopias anchored in the winter mist of the Cold War, our current indistinct rambling through the early years of a new millennium where electronic media and the Information Age simultaneously connect and detach us…we live the past without realising it…we grow indistinct).
There is something slightly unsettling about constructing such a history. Although it will obviously be useful to highlight to supervisors what exactly it is I’m trying to look at, it’s very nature means that plotting the map is a challenge. You cant just say that technically some of it stems from concerns in Musique Concrete. I’m wanting to follow a path in to lyrical sociology for this; my observations, my feelings, my reaction to the sound and the place, held in the moment. Time is always the issue.
Derrida opens with Hamlet in Spectres of Marx, time is out of joint, that present and past (and often future) converge on one point, leaving an unsettling aftertaste, and a series of unfortunate ends. For Derrida, it is a response to Fukuyama ending history in 1992 with the over-whelming victory of capitalism. Fukuyama writes because he is trying to exorcise the ghost of Marx once and for all, removing the perceived stain of Communism and the Cold War from a new glittering future. Except the future is forever linked to the past, develops from it. It cannot be forgotten. It haunts.
I read one dictionary definition of ‘haunt’, meaning to ‘habitually return’. Again the lingering association with the familial, the routine perhaps, resting uneasy alongside the unheimlich. We are ourselves chronological doppelgangers in the multitude of selves we create, present to others, and eventually unravel. We are many different people, yet all the same. We have friends who are any number of altering guises.
Perhaps a definition of the music is the starting point? I see links via technologies, the act of capturing and recreating a space or moment sonically, the politically and socially motivated discussion on where we are headed cloaked in the aural realm. Musically then, where do we go for a history of haunting in sound? The obvious proponents of today’s ‘sound of yesterday’ line up: the Ghost Box roster and their sound of tomorrow circa 1974…a world growing up with the Radiophonic Workshop, library music…a world coming to terms with Brutalist buildings and ultimately failed visions that have become Now. Basinski capturing the moment of 9/11 via his collapsing, disintegrating magnetic tape loops (the name of this journal has been in place an awfully long time I notice). Fennesz’s Endless Summer, Philip Jeck’s faded audio photographs, Janek Schaefer’s lost and hidden spaces. Richard Skelton sums up his position quite nicely;
‘At first, I just wanted to salvage something against time’s passage – to document the fact that my heart was still beating, and that life goes on. But more and more it became important to me that I should record in places with which I have a particular connection. This could be anything from feelings of kinship with the atmosphere or acoustics of a place, to how it stirs the memory or imagination. Everyone has these places: The wood with the tree whose branch you tried to jump up and touch when you were a kid; the path through the fields where you walked with a lover; the view of a lake that made you want to travel.’
He set up his Sustain/Release label to catalogue his music and the artwork of his late wife Louise. What I am trying to do is point out where I am with this, but in a slightly more accessible way for people that don’t have access to the baffled language in my head. At the end, I want a chronicle of a movement, its development, its future (and past) and what it means to be living here. The music comes from many genres, be they electronic, modern compositional, field recordings…the important point is intent. What are musicians saying about these uncertain times with their music, their sounds routed in a specific idea (a place, a memory, an imagining of further on)? What can we hold on to? Who are we? Music runs chronologically, our thoughts and experiences exist outside, beside, within.
What I am writing is disjointed, all about the place. This is how it should be at the minute I think. Embryonic, confused, excited.
* The images used as changeable headers for this site are versions of photography by Alvaro Sanchez-Montañes