The major influences on my musical thinking have developed over several decades:-
PSYCHE OF PLACE - landscape, space, sun, etc. - from c. 1970
There is nothing nationalistic in my music. It is about being aware of PLACE - where you live and how you fit. Even if you live in the city, the vast space of the interior is a part of one's psyche, as much as the surf and the ocean are an ever-present reality. That is, unless your 'body' is here and your 'head' is in Europe or somewhere else.
For some years I have been interested in Australian Aboriginal music. The origins of this were a social awareness that Australian Aboriginals had little say in controlling their own destinies (too many decisions being made by whites) and that black culture and attitudes had not impinged greatly on white thinking even after 200 years. The ignominy of this being that such a two-way flow between cultures could only have enriched both cultures and created a closer understanding of each other.
As a musician it seemed to me that there were aspects of Australian Aboriginal music that intrinsically reflected something of the larger environment. In the same way that Classical music reflected aspects of the elegant or refined culture of the courts of Europe, could not the flatness of the didjeridoo, the nasal vocal styles, the repetitive phrases and 'perceived' stasis of Australian Aboriginal music similarly reflect aspects of culture and landscape in Australia? Whether such a subliminal relationship exists or whether it is merely coincidence, it was enough to inspire a personal enquiry and, for me, a point of departure for musical exploration.
URBAN PSYCHOSCAPES - more internal/psychological states - from c. 1990
- finding something of the essence of a writer/poet (& sampling their voice),
which, when integrated with the music adds an almost theatrical or meta-musical dimension.
W.S.Burroughs wrote that 'happiness is a by-product of function'. We presently live in an age of despair. If you have work - you have a function. If you have money - you have some power. If you conform - you live. If you don't have these things - you are driven towards despair, even suicide.
Society has turned, or been forced, along a path of selfishness which leaves the individual with a sense of ‘not belonging.
The motto for survival: - 'I'm all right Jack ... F u c k Y o u P a l'
This aspect of society must also be expressed as a part of our psyche...
My recent music reflects a 'realist' approach whereby voice samples (spoken & sung)
are integrated into the musical fabric. These pieces quote politicians/writers/poets and although an 'attitude'
is expressed I think of them as primarily music but driven or inspired by socio-political events.
The primary influences on my music are Australian aboriginal music, especially didjeridoo (didjeridu), but also some elements of jazz, rock and techno, particularly in the choice of instruments, electro sounds and rhythms. I work in computer music (& multimedia)
Rhythmically, I prefer ON the beat, which is a more direct expression of human animality. It is not about beauty - beauty is slavery - a genteel submission to nostalgia - though I suppose that can be all right occasionally. But mostly, I prefer the liberating effulgence of rampant passion.
2003 - Politics Behind the Music : -
For me, in broad terms: -
- The Right = the concept that the individual can, through inheritance, enterprise or luck, amass wealth and power at the expense of, and with scant regard to the welfare of others in society. Power for the few. Combativeness is obligatory.
- The Left = the concept that the individual, regardless of ability and aptitude, can have a function in society, and that consequently some degree of contentedness is possible for all. Power for all. Co-operation is essential.
With the unregulated spread of Globalization of Capital (but not Labor), Governments are becoming more like executive arms of Big Business, and consequently moving more and more to the Right. They are also prepared to use the Military where necessary to expand the control of the Market.
Australia has the most right-wing Government in its history. A Government that sustains itself through lies and propaganda, using the Institutions of Government to channel the lies and propaganda. During the 'Children Overboard' affair, for example, the Armed Forces were instructed not to make comment which could have led to the truth emerging, but to report through Government Departments, where the information could be appropriately filtered and the truth obfuscated. One ex-Forces PR Officer commented that the process was akin to that of Goebbels and the Third Reich.
In fact, the Right in Australia now has little opposition, with the Labor Party, formerly representing the Left, now only several degrees left of the Right, placing itself very much to the right of center. If more powers of arrest and surveillance are given to ASIO (Australia's national security agency), if the ABC (Australia's only independent broadcaster) is dismantled, and if the Judiciary is stacked with cronies of the Right, there is not much more to be done to achieve total control and suppression of any opposition.
If a subversive underground opposition emerges, it will have to be prepared to use violent means to overthrow the status quo, who would defend their wealth and power by any means.
2003 - The Music : -
It seems to me that it is the role of art to be provocative, to challenge, to be an
individual voice of subversiveness or just plain outrage.
Since the 1980s, a minimalist-derived neo-romanticism and a so-called 'spiritual' music have achieved ascendancy. One of the problems with Minimalist-derived music is that when the harmony is expanded and the rhythm is less impelled, it can easily become a plodding retro-Romanticism with no where to go and absolutely nothing to say, and - like film music without a film - has no function. 'Spiritual' in the Australian vernacular translates as accessible, easy listening, of little depth, but following yet another overseas trend. These kinds of music serve the interests of the Right, placating the masses into the comatosed state of the Walking Zombie.
Partly because of the socio-political climate, and partly because of my natural development, I feel drawn to compose music that is more primal in its emotional impact, sometimes feral or even erotic in its sound world. I like music that is impelled by ideas, whether the ideas are overtly expressed, (maybe through samples of something political), or subtler references to social issues, (possibly transmogrified by the integration with the musical process).
The music, consequently, tends to be more full on, raging, and rhythmically driven, not necessarily without moments of 'beauty' to the extent that 'beauty' could be relevant, but it is not genteel, elegant or acquiescent. The instruments that I tend favor as core sounds are: - Sampler, Synthesiser, Saxophone, Electric Guitar, and Percussion. Almost any other instrument or voice type can be include, depending on the focus of the piece of music.
An Australian Sound? (in brief)
Maybe there isn't an Australian sound as such, but maybe there is an 'Australian sensibility'
emerging in a multifarious, difficult to put your finger on, way.
There are a couple of influences to consider, which could contribute towards an 'Australian sensibility':-
1 - Psyche of PLACE
The Australian landscape is so spectacular and varied, where even the so-called 'boring bits' that go on and on have a spectacular ordinariness about them.
Even if you live in the city you are aware of the vastness and space and distance that are a part of our psyche.
2 - The CHARACTER of the society
These things are difficult to define, but, a laconic attitude and humour, 'flatness' of speech, and a healthy skepticism are but a few.
I think these things and more are a part of Australian music - not 'A SOUND' but maybe 'A SENSIBILITY'. My favourite quote which seems to sum this up is from Arthur Adams in The Australians in 1921: 'The sun has defeated religion in Australia'.
My attitude at the moment is that microtonality becomes part of a composer's personal vocabulary, that is, a personal approach rather than another system of orthodoxy.
I am interested in particular aspects of microtonality - specifically ¼ & ¾ tone intervals. The ¼ tone being, of course, mid-way between a minor 2nd, and, the ¾ tone being mid-way between a minor 3rd, create interesting relationships when juxtaposed with 'normal' intervals. For me, the ¼ interval is on one hand the most dissonant, harmonically, but has a connective fluidity when used chromatically. The ¾ tone, being midway between a minor third interval is interesting both melodically and harmonically, especially when used with minor thirds,which, in addition to multiphonics, enrich the harmonies.
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