Cyborg Soloists & Elements of Catastrophe

Autumn 2022

For the past year, I’ve been involved in a project with Royal Holloway’s Zubin Kanga and the power duo Zöllner-Roche that uses a biosignals microcontroller to see how something musical might be done with it. The result–which really finally is almost a result now after a tricky Covid-stricken development phase–is a cute set of movements for accordion, clarinet and basic electronics that I suppose is a kind of after-the-pandemic piece, but not explicitly. It moves from dark to light and slow to quick and solemn to fairly joyous over the course of a little under fifteen minutes, and is based around five short fragments of text, and is accompanied by colourful animations run on a laptop screen or projected if a venue’s setup allows for it. It’s not earth shattering, and nor is it meant to be. Instead, it’s pleasant and practical and, I hope, Works Well As Nice Music, and is Not A Chore to Intentionally Listen To. One of the key aims was to keep things as simple  and portable as possible. I think we’re almost there. Last I heard, the first performance will be April 21st in London. Effusive thanks to Eva and Heather for helping make the whole thing come to life after our plans were scuppered over and over by our continent’s repeated travel meltdowns. Here’s a little snippet:

While we’re on the subject: I don’t know about you, but I reckon there’s a bit of a gap in the market for simple/easy but still beautiful and crucially musical pieces for instruments (of all kinds) and electronics / soundtrack, aimed especially at beginner musicians. To this end, I’ve begun writing a collection of such pieces, that’ll form some kind of published volume at a point in the future. For now, though, I’m circulating the first few efforts among friends who play instruments that can play the music, for which nothing more than the ability to play single-line melodies and a dyad is required. The first one is called Elements of Catastrophe. Here’s a zip with the score and soundtrack/showfile. It’s designed so that you can just rock up to a venue (or a living room) and plug in a media player via an aux cable, hit play and go. If you do end up playing about with it, please let me know what you thought of it, and if you plan to perform it, even better! Let me know, and if it’s sort of nearby and I’m free, I’ll come down to see you do it. The first performance is soon, and is by a young Geordie at his sixth-form college for a recital on his music course. Very cool.


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