MP 2014: Session 4b: Lecture Recitals

Steve Gisby, ‘Things never (always) happen the same way twice: uniform structural process and variable material’, and Leah Kardos (Kingston University), ‘Exploring the temporalities of a musical idea (creative practice research)’.

The two papers presented in this session both explored the ideas behind re-using materials to generate different outcomes. In Steve Gisby’s presentation, the material re-used was in fact a compositional process; his piece ‘SW15’ uses layers of looped sound introduced in a process-based way, before removing them from the built-up texture in a similar manner.

A curious effect of Gisby’s organisation of his materials was that, at several points, a meter became implied or perceptible. One might have expected this meter to be in five, since each of Gisby’s loops were of five seconds, split into five one-second fragments. This was not the case; during the questions at the end of the session, several audience members reported perceiving other meters, quite often three.

Gisby’s focus in this paper was upon how perceptibly different sonic materials can be subjected to the same sorts of structural process to create a distinguishable but related result. After listening to the next two variations of the process, the real interplay between shared structure and differing material became obvious. Here, again, the audience noticed apparent metric aspects that seemed to defy the 5-part organisation of the material.

It was particularly interesting to note the differences between each variation. Despite an identical form and process, the pieces were perceptibly distinct entities, differentiated largely by aspects such as timbre and the implied meter observed during the performance.

Leah Kardos’ presentation examined the ways in which a piece of music can be exploited to maximum effect in order to gain material to work with: she explained her practice of using other versions of particular pieces, referring to their ‘other lives’. Kardos’ economical view of the musical work led to her use of incomplete, inaccurate and adapted versions of her pieces obtained through recording rehearsals, expanding the sense of what ‘the piece of music’ can be considered to be.

An interesting ontological point was made through this process: to what extent can a composer claim authorship of mistakes made by the performer during a rehearsal or performance? Kardos argues that since these sounds come into existence as a direct result of a compositional act, it is possible to take ownership of them and thus expand the musical materials associated with a piece, potentially using the resulting material to create new music.

Both presentations in this session dealt with some sort of economy of usage: Gisby’s by experimenting with the extent to which an unchanging form can produce distinct results by processing audio in a particular way; Kardos’ through examining the ways in which musical materials themselves can be maximally useful. Both composers, in displaying a concern for economising, share a theme with Tom Johnson’s keynote concert: his piece ‘Intervals’, through its maximal use of permutations of only two chords, also established the theme of economy.


– Kelly Butler, Music and/as Process Intern 2014