Bridge Records 9103 (2001)

Idle Chatter Junior (10:37)
Ride (19:03)
Looking Back (3:33)
Heavy Set (14:13)
Dancetracks: Remix (16:37)


Idle Chatter Junior (full)
Idle Chatter Junior (opening)

Looking Back

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Idle Chatter Junior (1999) has three elder siblings, Idle Chatter (1985), just_more_idle_chatter (1987) and Notjustmoreidlechatter (1988), (all recorded on Bridge 9050, More Than Idle Chatter). Time, experience, better hardware and software, have all given ‘Junior’ advantages his siblings lacked, and consequently, a substantially different voice–or at least his father likes to think so. And, I thought there was still something I could do with the basic idea of turning incomprehensible speech into percussion music. (I never listen to the words anyway.) As with the earlier pieces, any listeners who think they make out coherent utterances, in any language, are urged to consult a specialist.

Ride (2000) also has a predecessor in Night Traffic (1990), (Bridge CD 9035, Homebrew). The latter was based on a recording of a local four-lane highway in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Ride is based on a new recording of the same road, but now this material is embedded in a richer and more complex texture. The work attempts to capture the sensation of being on a ride through various landscapes, towns and villages, rather than the experience of watching traffic pass by. The work also exists in an 8-channel version. Its grand orchestral manner is not unlike that of its elder sibling, which a friend of mine once described as "Tod und Verklärung on wheels"

Looking Back (1996) is a short piece written for the 60th anniversary of my alma mater, the High School of Music and Art in New York City, a magical place where I spent three of the happiest years of my childhood. The piece is basically a foggy processing of me singing the school song. We all knew the tune, as you will, but none of the words–which is why my setting is so foggy.

The piano part of Heavy Set (1998) was composed using a computer model of the right hand of an imaginary (and very large), improvising pianist. The model attempts to think as a pianist might as he moves around the keyboard, listening to the concurrent harmonies, deciding when to add non-harmonic tones, play chords, go up, go down, play loud, soft, lyrically, firmly, and so on. The computer model only helped with the detailed figuration of the piano part, however. The rest of the music was written the old-fashioned way: write, listen, erase, write, listen, erase, write, listen, erase …

Dancetracks: Remix In 1995 I wrote what basically amounts to a fancy computer-synthesized drum track for an improvising electric guitarist., and called it Dancetracks. The Sonic Arts Network in London commissioned it for the Canadian guitarist Tim Brady, who first performed it, beautifully, that year at the South Bank, in London. Then in 1997, my friend and colleague, composer/guitarist Steve Mackey recorded it on his CD Lost and Found (Bridge 9065). Steve’s version was so wonderful that the urge to participate further proved too much to resist. I therefore decided to continue the process and make the piece into a kind of musical chain letter. I took Steve’s performance, entirely removed my original drum track, scrambled and edited his guitar part, and added a completely new computer part. The result is a new piece that is somewhat darker and less spontaneous than Steve’s version, but then again, relative to Steve, so am I.

Technical notes

I look forward to the day when nobody will care whether or not a computer was used in the process of making a piece. If any kind of music is to survive it has to hide its technology. (After all, virtually everything that is recorded today involves computer mediation to some degree.) To my mind, ‘Computer Music’ should become irrelevant as a distinct category. While it’s obvious that computers can do things with sound that have been previously unimagined and unimaginable, I remain convinced that what we hear as ‘music’ has everything to do with the voice of the utterance–what is being said–and little to do with the machinery it uses to speak. Or, in the words of the song ‘It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion.’ But, since you asked, aside from the pre-recorded sounds, all the music on this CD was created entirely with software on a Silicon Graphics workstation and Apple iMac computer. The basic pieces of software used were Cmix, Rt, and SuperCollider. More detail can be gleaned from my web page at