the shape distance [2]

MARCH 18, 2013

‘the shape distance’ [maps 5-8]

A greater confidence and liberation of gesture and colour are increasingly apparent as I continue my journey into painting to ‘capture’ moments in sound from my own compositions onto the two-dimensional surface of white-borads [at least, that’s the intention – the reality may prove rather more elusive]. You will need to judge for yourselves just how ‘musical’ these paintings are as it is difficult for me to be objective once the processes of assimilation [making the painting] takes over, all other concerns become secondary.

My intention remains pure enough, but the excitement of working with pigment, texture, colour and modeling form tends to dictate its own dynamic on-goingly. This ‘non-temporal’ media is quickly so much more responsive and pliable in ‘real-time’ than writing down music, making the act of composition feel laboriously painstaking. [maps 5-8] sees a further exploration and extension of the initial mark-making in [maps 1-4] and tackles a broader repertoire of ‘sound-initiators’ [the sound or combinations of sounds in aural gesture I employ to initiate the mark-making from my imagination]. More extreme sound-events now shape my painted outcomes. The resultant work reflects these polarities.

‘the shape distance [map 8]‘ Oil and mixed media on mounted board 24×18 inches | 2013

‘the shape distance [map 7]‘ Oil and mixed media on mounted board 24×24 inches | 2013

‘the shape distance [map 6]‘ Oil and mixed media on mounted board 24×18 inches | 2013

‘the shape distance [map 5]‘ Oil and mixed media on mounted board 24×18 inches | 2013

the shape distance [1]

MARCH 10, 2013
the shape distance

I haven’t painted for six years.

This week I completed four new paintings. They mark a radical departure from the work I finished in 2006. This radical departure is due in part to various developments in my music compositions but also due to much deliberation about the associations between music and painting in general and how, specifically, my work as a painter can be brought closer to that of my music. Writing in VISCER-ebr-AL combined with the many conversations I have had with my dear friend Ian Talbot have helped shape ideas, culminating in a burst of work that draws together many of the threads pondered and discussed.

‘the shape distance’ [map 1] 30 x 23.5 inches Oil on mounted board.

Before talking about my intention within the paintings, it will help to outline my most recent thoughts in composition as these directly impact upon this series of paintings; indeed, they reference each other through a shared title.

the shape distance are a series of seven pieces constructed somewhat akin to ‘Russian Dolls’ in that each contains the same or similar core material that is ‘enclosed’ by other layers of material.

The core music is represented by two solo pieces that although composed in isolation contain strongly related material. This music for flute and clarinet, either together or individually pervades all subsequent pieces in the series.

the shape distance [1] flute 1 / clarinet
the shape distance [2] flute 1 / clarinet / piano
the shape distance [3] flutes 1 + 2 / clarinet / viola
the shape distance [4] flutes 1 + 2 / harp
the shape distance [5] flutes 1 + 2 / clarinet / viola / percussion (1)
the shape distance [6] flute 1 / clarinet / harp / percussion (1)
the shape distance [7] flutes 1 + 2 / clarinet / viola / harp / piano / percussion (1)

Percussion set (1 player):
5 differently pitched temple blocks ranging from high to low, 4 differently pitched suspended cymbals ranging from high to low, 1 timpani drum 29″-28″, 1 large, deep, resonant bass drum, 2 differnetly pitched suspended tam-tams

all works circa 12 minutes in duration.

The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only, with no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
There is only one instructions to the players; to begin together and play until their material is finished.

Compositional material is [largely] derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself [through the simultaneous bringing together of these individual parts] forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.

The score and parts:
I have not produced a score for these pieces; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the pieces can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently here is no definitive performance of these pieces.
Music in the shape distance can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.

A note about the title:
‘The shape distance is part of ‘the shape context’ and is intended to be a way of describing shapes that allows for measuring shape similarity and the recovering of point correspondences. The basic idea is to pick n points on the contours of a shape. For each point pi on the shape, consider the n − 1 vectors obtained by connecting pi to all other points. The set of all these vectors is a rich description of the shape localized at that point but is far too detailed. The key idea is that the distribution over relative positions is a robust, compact, and highly discriminative descriptor.’


This process of describing shapes through their similarities resonated with my ambition in these pieces, especially regarding the recognition of shapes [this time shape and gestural recognition in sound rather than physical objects] within a complex, multifaceted fabric of un-synchronous sounds, believing that it is the recognition of these elements that brings both context, excitement and meaning to the music.

It is perhaps this last paragraph that can be used for the jumping-off point into my paintings.

‘the shape distance’ [map 2] 25 x 24 inches, Oil on mounted board.

My intention in this work, as stated above, was broadly to bring connectivity from my music into my paintings in a way that at least, resonated with me.

I know it is impossible to ‘paint music’ in any real [truthful] sense and have observed that when most visual artists cite a connection between their visual work and music it is through affectation [a purely emotional, indulgent or even nostalgic response], illustration or pure fiction.

I felt it necessary, as far as I was able to avoid these pitfalls.

In starting the paintings I had a very rough idea of where I might be heading but the detail was unknown. I was very anxious about making marks on my virgin whiteboards. Initially, I was scared to commit. A six-year gap in painting leaves both a desire to paint again as well as a void that has been filled by uncertainties around one’s abilities to actually paint anything of worth ever again.

My first attempt took me straight back to where I left off. I put that one aside. My second attempt [the first to be finished] immediately showed the way forward as I recognised within it many of the ideas I had previously thought about. It was this painting that became the measure for the others. I removed the surface from the first painting and started again. This process of assimilation between the works continued until I felt I had left the past behind sufficiently and had indicated the way forward. I wasn’t sure I ‘liked’ what I had produced, but on a subconscious level the work resonated and I ‘knew’ this was the right direction. I took me a few days to acclimatise to this new work. Now I am enjoying it and my mind is stimulated with more to come.

‘the shape distance [map 3] 30 x 24 inches. Oil on mounted board.

Yes, I needed to bring ‘music’ into the visual, but how had I intended to do this.

I took an approach based very much on mapping ‘gesture’ in music. In sound, a gesture can be a flourish of notes, a sudden loud to quiet, a phrase or technique, a crescendo, a musical shape – a moment. All these gestures have physical counterparts. Rather, they can all be represented through a physical movement [we may call this dance, but I have something less formalised in mind], single movements that capture the kinetic energy that the gestural sound produces. It is this movement that I wanted to capture through the gesture of mark-making, solidifying ‘a moment in sound’ through line, colour and texture.

These paintings, called ‘the shape distance’ are mapping exercises; they ‘petrify’ a moment in time, an event or gesture[s] from one of my scores. They are not illustrative or affective; they translate a gesture in sound through a related gesture in line, the impetus and guide being the kinetic energy needed to bridge this gap. Therefore, the mark making in these paintings is pre-conceived, experienced and spontaneously translated into the mark in one [or several] bold gestures.

As mapping these gestures is central to the work, my titles reflect the connection: ‘the shape distance’ [map 1], ‘the shape distance [map 2], and so on.

Other elements are at play, too.

These paintings have taken their elements of form, texture and colour to the minimum necessary to effectively express my intent. This is where the radical departure from my previous work is centred. I had produced large works of an ‘epic’ intensity [by comparison], full of rich colour, deep texture, impasto and complex forms. Now, the paintings are set upon pale, delicately textured backdrops that have an almost [slightly grubby] clinical feel – a bit like setting the mark-making, the gestures against a background of white-noise, or indeed, silence. This juxtaposition only serves to heighten the mark-making and minimal colour present in the work. The focus has been sharpened towards what is vital for the form of the piece to work.
These pieces are not minimal in any sense like ‘minimalism in music’; on the surface and in comparison to my previous work there has been a significant paring down of content and spectrum of expression, but what I am left with is in no way minimal. If anything, the reduction has increased the intensity of the gesture and spontaneity of the work making it more potent. It may not have the initial visual ‘wow’ factor of my previous work, but upon deeper inspection reveals a passionate dynamic that reflects its origins in music.

Additionally, these ‘reduced’ backgrounds, these settings for the gestural mark-making provide a platform akin to derelict internal walls that exude the beauty of ‘domestic erosion and decay’, or external urban walls that call for graffiti. There is a sense in which I view this new work as a kind of graffiti with the board being the wall. Perhaps I could call the work I am producing gestural graffiti?

‘the shape distance’ [map 4] 30 x 24 inches. Oil on mounted board.

Having said all of this I shall close by stating that I am fully aware my intentions in this work, all that I have written, thought and made, may not be apparent to the viewer who has no knowledge of my previous work, connection to music or given intent. Does that weaken the work? I think not. The intent of the artist is paramount; it gives the context and raison d’être for the work. These ideas resonate with me and will resonate with others but with those for whom such resonances are not apparent, my hope is that the dynamic of the work will ‘speak’ to them in other ways.


It all began with an idea and a sketch – this one in fact!

Pencil ‘proto-sketch’ for oros

oros is Commissioned by Auditiv Vokal to celbrate “Einstürzende Mauern”. It was premiered in Dresden on 27th February 2014

oros is for 8 voices: SSS AA T BB [3 sopranos, 2 altos, tenor and 2 basses]

I have already written an article around word setting called ‘in no way fixed [words and music parts 1 and 2] but on this occasion I can write specifically about a commission that allows me to experiment compositionally and technically with dedicated, professional contemporary vocal music specialists. This is a first for me so I wanted to maximise the opportunity and learn as much as possible about how far I can push the human voice within the context of my current compositional practice!

In writing a piece that relates to the theme of ‘falling walls’ [Einstürzende Mauer], I wanted to create an abstract work that was coloured by issues of freedom and liberation, both individual, social and cultural [avoiding the overtly political] and deliver this through an experimental [for me] and wildly contrasting, dramatic new vocal work. There are many programmatic and cliched pitfalls to avoid here. My aim was to write a completely abstracted work without narrative or direct illustrative reference. There would certainly be no ‘message’ in the music or any attempt at proselytising!

Duschtuch Hygiene Museum, Dresden

In fact, the whole idea or concept behind “Einstürzende Mauern” is difficult to translate into English. After conversations with Auditiv Vokal, I alighted on several ideas – colours even – that could articulate the concept as I describe below.

Score shot of the soprano 2 part

Concept: To achieve my aims I quickly realised the new piece needed to be one of my un-synchronised works [see below] as I wished to reflect the themes above in the very fabric of the music; the way it was conceived, written and performed to create an ‘organic’ vocal work that becomes a living wall of sound itself. However, this wall would not represent something solid or fixed; it would be permeable, in a state of flux, changing, spontaneous and full of life. Furthermore, as the work would be un-synchronised, the vocalists were freed from the tyranny of the shared bar line and down beat, able to express themselves as individuals within the context of the whole [the ensemble].

This compositional and performance approach enhanced the themes of liberation and freedom even further.
To emphasise the theme of falling walls I found a text source that I could treat in the same manner I would treat my pitches and rhythms in the music. I decided to use graffiti documented from the Berlin Wall itself. I have transcribed a number of slogans, phrases, and words which have been coupled with three short prose of my own exploring themes of journey, freedom, liberation, exploration and self realisation. It is the combination of these text materials that provides the vocal fabric for the work. These materials [within the parts themselves] are treated in a semi-narrative fashion. However, the overall combination and unsynchronised layering of all eight voices purposefully leads to a non-narrative text delivery. Further to this, the setting of the words does not generally encourage clarity and diction in delivery. There is much melismatic writing and the words are used more for their inherent sound properties than literal meaning and context. Of course, at times there is a collision between word setting and context that amplifies meaning in the conventional sense.

Vision: Over time, many layers of graffiti can be written on walls, one covering the other until all of the text and words become obscured by each other. One becomes aware of a surface of tangled words where individual letters and words may appear from the visual jumble only to disappear again under the tangle of other words. This image of the surface of a well-used graffiti wall is a suitable illustration for how the sound-surface of oros can be experienced. As each of the eight singers produces their individual line, their words and phrases, musical gestures and individual vocal characters will intertwine, compete, challenge, unify, collide, obscure and generally create a complexity of sound that will become an aural representation of a graffiti covered wall containing the hopes and sentiments of ordinary people. To create this level of vocal activity, all parts are highly virtuosic, exploring the full range and dramatic presentation of the voices.

Text used in oros [used freely and not in the order presented]

collected from the Berlin Wall:
Dancing to freedom
Change your life
move in silence
the world’s too small for walls
and the wind cries
we are all the wall
maybe someday we will be together

Many small people who in
many small places do
many small things
that can alter the face of the world.

Marc Yeats’ prose:
A local map
in a foreign land
will free your hand
to forge a new route
and seek from outside
what you have lost within.

We travel on each other’s love
strange, wild adventures
territories unknown
sometimes lost
blind alleys or mazes
searching always
for home.

Here, from the highest point
I can see for miles.
On a clear day
I can even see myself.

Score-shot of the soprano 2 part

The music employs quartertones and extended techniques as well as dramatic, gestural writing. Much of the clarity of word production will be intentionally obscured by these techniques – once again, in reference to the worn and over-written graffiti on the wall where all that was written is no longer clear to see. In short, the text will be treated in exactly the same way as the music and subject to its processes and demands.

Un-synchronised music: The vocalists sing independently of each other. The music is cued to begin only. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the vocalists. Whilst the relationship of each vocalist is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.

There is only one instruction to the vocalists: to begin when indicated and sing until their material is completed.
Structurally, the music is conceived as a large canon in eight parts with each part a transposition [with some variables] of the other. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure. The music forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.

canonic diagram

Due to the unsynchronised nature of this music, an ‘installed’ performance [spatial] is recommended with the performers being positioned around the performance space, enwrapping the audience.

The score and parts:
There is no score for oros; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the vocal parts. Consequently there is no single, definitive performance of the piece. oros can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.

Thinking around the title of this piece: wall > boundary > limit > horizon –

The word horizon derives from the Greek “ὁρίζων κύκλος” horizōn kyklos, “separating circle”, from the verb ὁρίζω horizō, “to divide”, “to separate”, and that from “ὅρος” (oros), “boundary, landmark”.

percussive coast

Percussive Coast
March 17 2011

I recently facilitated a two-day workshop named ‘Percussive Coast’ for PVA MediaLab as part of Big Picture’s [Ex-Lab] programme of events, Exploratory Laboratory.


The workshop took place across two days in November 2010 and was an examination of landscape, place and how features could be captured and used to develop a musical score for new compositions.

On our first day we worked on location at Charmouth beach where we used the mapping techniques of artists previously shown in the EX-LAB exhibition at Bridport Arts Centre as the starting point for our own investigations and research.


We began by mapping a small area of shoreline to examine its content and features – rocks, pebbles, sand and shingle, litter and all manner of objects, and where these were placed in relation to one-another. The mapped area of beach needed to correspond to the scaled down matrix we had drawn on paper. This matrix contained the same number of boxes as the large matrix demarked on the beach. The next step was to capture the relative positions of the objects on the beach and plot their position onto the matrix using pencil. As facilitator of the workshops I guided the participants through this process making it clear that the act of mapping, of capturing, was not a scientific method, nor would it hold the accuracy of measuring or recording using digital technologies. The mapping was observational and responsive and could be expressive too. Some participants choose to reflect what they saw as accurately as possible on their matrixes; others took a more flexible approach and drew very fluidly across their area. Some physically traced out the matrix area in the sand whilst others used a few strong visible markers as general guide to positioning. Either way, the group mapped what they saw in the most appropriate manner for them.

Mapping over, the second part of the experience was to find materials on the beach that could be used to produce sounds. Anything would do so long as it had an audible quality. The group found stones, paper, seaweed, dried plants, plastic bottles, shingle, wood and an assortment of flotsam and jetsam. This bizarre collection of found objects would become the instruments of our orchestra.

We returned to PVA MediaLab where I explained to the group how to turn their mapped out drawings into scores and how to ‘extract’ parts from these scores.


The group as a whole would perform each person’s composition. To do this, each member of the group had to be assigned an instrument or sound as well as a notated part, extracted from the score, that would give instructions for when and how to play their instruments in the same manner as a conventional musical score and parts functions.

As ‘homework’, the participants had to make their individual parts from the scores. This involved creating, as many parts as there were players and making sure that all the mapped events on the score were located into the parts in the correct place. For instance, all the small red pebbles that occurred on the mapped area of beach were extracted, located and mapped into the new, just red pebbles matrix (this would become the red pebbles part). Other objects would be singularly extracted into other parts.

Within the red pebbles only part, the pebbles would become the initiators for a musical event fixed in time – like notes on a stave that would initiate a sound response at a given point in time.


In its initial form, the score matrix was laid out in two dimensions, perhaps 6 boxes high by 18 boxes long into which drawn objects were mapped and positioned. To transform this matrix into a linear form so it could be read like a time-line, the participants had to decide how to navigate the matrix and lay it out in the musical part, presenting one row of the matrix, from left to right at a time. A matrix 6 boxes high (rows) and 18 columns in length would be laid out thus: row 1, columns 1-18; row 2, columns 1-18; row 3, columns 1-18; and so on until the matrix was transformed into a linear format one row deep. This became our time-line and custom stave.

And there’s more. Like a musical part, indications of volume, performance style and rhythm had to be clear and understandable. To gauge these properties the participants referred back to their original mapped scores to see how they had captured the objects. Their size, tonal quality (light and darkness on paper) and manner of mark-making all influenced the instructions and information these bespoke scores and parts were conveying for performance.


The second aspect of homework was for each participant to investigate the sound making objects they had found and explore how they could be played, what sounds they could make and what instructions and indications were necessary to realise these sounds when other people were playing them. They also needed to consider how the ‘instruments’ would be positioned for a group performance; if they could be hand-held, positioned on the floor for striking or hitting or suspended from a frame for best resonance qualities.


This concluded day one of the experience.



Day two was based at PVA MediaLab. The day was broken into two halves; shared learning, instruction and rehearsals and recording.

All of our previous work had involved analogue (as opposed to digital) techniques. Today was to be a combination of the two. We would perform the work (an analogue activity), but the sounds would be recorded through digital media, be edited and then distributed through on-line digital hosting.

3 ivon by PVA MediaLab

The participants shared their learning, instructing each other in the use of their instruments, performance and interpretive techniques and how all of these related to the score and parts.

1 carol by PVA MediaLab

Each score and part had a notated time-line. The grid demarcations of the time-line were given a time value, rather like SMPTE time code values operating in a sequencer. So, for instance, each matrix square (box) may take 1 second of time to traverse. Where objects are placed within this box, top, middle, edge, will determine when the instrument is struck in the same way as the position of a note in a bar tells the musician when to play it and any additional markings (in this case large or small markings, long or short markings going across several boxes) how long to make the sound for and whether it should be loud or soft. Reading the part involved moving from box to box, left to right, the lines dividing each box acting as a bar lines in conventional notation, moving second by second and responding as accurately as possible to the content within the boxes.

4 francesca by PVA MediaLab

2 eva by PVA MediaLab

As with all ensembles, it is useful to have a conductor to measure the time and ascribe the time-line a common value everyone can adhere to (the beat). I took the role of conductor and each piece was initially rehearsed and then captured through digital recording.

Percussive Coast – The Real Time Laboratory from PVA MediaLab on Vimeo.
‘symphony’ by PVA MediaLab

The levels of interpretive control and expectation were very sophisticated with each person representing personal interpretations of the original mapped experience. The work produced was abstract percussive music. These were genuine compositions. The participants had become composers and transformed visual information from the beach, through mapping exercises into notation and then performance.

stillness in movement

Stillness in Movement – exhibition: Antuireann Arts Centre – 2004
March 21 2011

A multi-media installation – An Tuireann Art Centre, Oct. to mid-Nov. 2004 With subsidy from the Scottish Arts Council, Hi-Arts, An Tuireann Arts Center

This article was written in 2004 before the work illustrated here was produced

title: neither movement from nor towards no.2 (2004) dimensions: 122 x 157 cms media: oil on mounted board


The creation of this multi-media installation will cover research and practice in contemporary music, visual art and Eastern philosophy.

This installation will create a unique opportunity to consolidate many years of practice as a composer and painter by researching and developing a method for realising inspiration that is capable of expressing similar ideas in both music and painting. This method will develop from research into the philosophical principles within the practices of Buddhism and how these can translate into a personal approach to my own work. My research will bring together the art forms of painting and composition, which will interact with philosophy and cross-cultural influences from the East and West. It is my hope that new creative freedoms will emerge from this research, enabling me to relinquish many of the controls and expectations that I have brought to my work within the general ethos and history of Western art culture. This exploration of how Buddhist principles can enrich my work will hopefully bring with it a new quality, dynamism and energy, enabling me to explore my inspiration in increasingly new, personal and original ways.

title: neither movement from nor towards no.3 (2004) dimensions: 221 x 81 cms media: oil on mounted board

Over recent months I have developed an interest in the philosophy and practices of Buddhism and am keen to research how this philosophy can develop my practice as an artist and composer by unifying the techniques and intentions of my work.


There are two main areas that interest me in Buddhism – impermanence, and the influence of the ego on creative actions. Impermanence deals with the ever-changing nature of all things; the action of the ego deals with the exercise of control and manipulation of matter and events. I feel that these two aspects of philosophy offer new creative opportunities and disciplines that would greatly develop my work.
It is not my intention to write religious music or create icons in visual art, nor do I wish to make superficial observations of Buddhism as a religion. Instead, I wish to research how the notions of impermanence and lessening egoic action can enrich my own creative language and development, in a very personal way.

title: movement towards no.4 (2004) dimensions: 122 x 92 cms media: oil on mounted board

I wish to devise a music generating process where a number of elements – pitches, dynamics, rhythmic patterns, durations, etc., will combine and recombine in continually differing ways. The rates of change and factors governing permutations will be organised by a set of numbers that will be generated randomly. The result of this will be to create a sound structure that, like chaos theory, is made up of small units of similar things that combine to create larger units of similar things. A further analogy is to see the structure as an organism: the membrane of the organism acts as the parameter of possibility – the pitches, rhythms, durations etc. – the inside of the organism is where all these elements are permutated through the action of the random numbers. Like sculpture, music that results from these processes can be viewed from many different perspectives.

This kind of compositional technique can fulfill the idea of impermanence as it creates an ever-changing field of possibilities with nothing being repeated but all aspects within the field being related. It also reduces the influence of the ego and various levels of control over events as the decisions of what happens to the musical material from moment to moment is taken out of the composer’s hands; the use of random numbers and probability takes care of that. What the composer has done is to initiate a series of probabilities within the limitations of the elements themselves. The result of this method is that setting limited musical elements, random numbers and probabilities in motion, in time, can create large sections of music, or even complete works.

title: neither movement from nor towards (2004) dimensions: 107 x 122 cms media: oil on mounted board

To date, my music has been very Western in that it has been highly goal orientated. By incorporating the philosophy of impermanence and ego into my work in this particular way, I am opening up my work to a more non-goal orientated direction and seeking to relinquish control over many compositional aspects.

title: movement towards no.1 (2004) dimensions: 147 x 123 inches media: oil on mounted board

I want to avoid writing music that describes anything in particular or attempts to convey particular emotions; these factors will be inherent in the sounds that are produced – as the sounds transform they will encompass different colours, energies and intensities. Any levels of control that I do exercise will concern large-scale structural issues and of course, the initial planning in setting up the generating processes. If the results of these actions are not to my liking, I will discard them and generate a different set of possibilities to process the sounds.
I want the music I write to be like a found object, complete in itself, and relatively uninfluenced by my actions.

I am sure that the approach I have outlined here can be taken to extremes of non-control; indeed, composers such as John Cage took similar ideas to their own conclusion. I am aware that the incorporation of Eastern philosophy into Western art is not a new one, but in the context of my own work the impact will be revolutionary and my response unique and personal.


I intend to compose a piece of acoustic music that has a duration of 60 minutes to act as a soundscape to accompany the visual art exhibition. I intend to write one large work made up of three, self-contained modules. Each of these modules will reflect similar musical ideas, structures and processes, but from differing perspectives. The compositions will be for an ensemble of eight players – soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello and piano. The music will reflect, as best as possible, the processes, intention and concerns of the visual art, and will be recorded and played during the exhibition, on a continuous sound-loop. The sound element will compliment and enhance the visual elements, completing a multimedia installation.
I also wish to transfer these techniques to my visual artwork.

title: movement towards no.3 dimensions: 61 x 87 cms media: oil on mounted board

I will produce a series of nine oil paintings, which will reflect, in form, colour and texture, the compositional issues set out within the music component of this installation.
Concentrating on the exploration of simple and restricted themes, material will be drawn from the nature in which objects break down and erode – particularly the process of rusting – reflecting my interest in impermanence – the ever-changing nature of all things. Paintings will reflect this same subject matter, but again, the material will be viewed from differing perspectives, offering insights into the very nature, construction and transient quality of the material itself.

I will employ methods of painting that ensure the activities of chance and random effects. I will set the events in these painting onto a 2D or illusory 3D context (created through glazes and tonal densities), so as to explore the relationship between time, event (subject material), and space. In music, all elements are set in time and against a background of silence or non-event. With these paintings, the negative background body provides the space or non-event that the painted events are viewed against – this negative space or illusory 3D space can be used in a similar way to time and silence in music, bringing a temporal element to the visual work.

title: movement from no.2 (2004) dimensions: 122 x 157 cms media: oil on mounted board

The paintings will be abstract forms, again, not attempting to portray anything in particular, but through their own colours, textures and intensities covering a range of interpretational possibilities.

Another strand of significance is to explore aspects of movement within stillness. The notion of writing music that moves forwards whilst going round in circles, constantly re-permutating itself, never repeating, but all the time sounding familiar, can be directly translated into paintings that explore similar issues. Within these paintings I hope to achieve differing senses of motion, movement and energy, all through stillness – stillness, because the elements in a painting are fixed and static, but they can imply great movement, energy-direction and flow.
By restricting material, colour and textural components, using layering, glazing, scraping and revealing techniques, I can create surfaces that explore erosion and deterioration.
I would go as far as to say that within these paintings I am not aiming to paint, or represent, anything at all – subject wise. However, as the material unfolds and develops and the restricted textural, structural and colour elements come into focus, each work evolves with its own sense of energy, movement and ambience.

title: movement from no.1 (2004) dimensions: 107 x 79 cms media: oil on mounted board

As the surface of these paintings develops into a complex web of activity, texture, colour and form, it becomes difficult to assimilate the content in a single viewing. Indeed, each time one looks into work that is created in this way, new layers of significance are revealed enabling the work to evolve in the mind of the viewer. This continual assimilation of visual information fits neatly into my views on impermanence – the viewer’s relation to and understanding of the work is in a continual state of development. This statement is, of course, true of all visual art. However, as there are no objects contained within the composition of these paintings that relate directly (as in objective representation) to the natural world, there is a particular need for the mind to build abstract connections and responses to the painted surface, just to make some form of sense of what is perceived. This state of continued assimilation means that nothing in the painting ever appears quite the same from one viewing to another, as the relationships between all the elements are always seen differently in relation to each other. I feel that this perceptual state of flux is close to the concept of impermanence.



As an artist, I am also excited that the content of such work continues to be revealed to me to – like a found object, complete in itself to be appreciated and viewed. The work I am now making, fully using the methods described above, often produces great surprises for me. I am enjoying these unknown qualities. One advantage is that I can look upon the work as being somewhat separate from me – as if someone else had produced it – not because of any sense of having been possessed during its creation, but because the methods used to generate the images was not completely subject to my direct choices and will – rather, the randomly produced actions that I employed at the outset are bearing fruit as they are revealed through subsequent procedures of exposure.
As I do not aim to pre-empt how a finished painting will look, and the techniques of making I use, are to a certain extent randomised and incidental, at least in the initial stages of making, I can minimise the amount of choices I have to make and therefore limit the use of the ego. Of course, I do make choices and the ego (what I like and I don’t like) is always part of these choices. However, because I chose to begin a painting by creating possibilities that are put down both spontaneously and with as great a degree of random energy as I can muster, I feel as if my voyage from initial brush marks to finished work is one of discovery – discovering the potential of the material and limited elements that I decided upon at the outset of the creative process, and discovery as I assimilate, focus upon and develop the material and surfaces within the painting itself.



The finished painting is only one of a multitude of possible outcomes – given similar starting points and ingredients, I feel it is fair to say that a subsequent painting would take a completely different course in its development. I find this constant discovery of paintings, and indeed, my own work, to be very stimulating – often I will ‘find’ things in paintings that will be far richer, more imaginative and varied than I could have conceived by projecting my imagination in a forced way onto a blank painting surface. Each painting I make is a surprise to me, as I have no way of predicting exactly how the work will turn out. This creative freedom is a direct result of exchanging aspects of creative responsibility and choice in certain procedures for (controlled) random actions and processes of revealing different layers of activity. In achieving this freedom, I feel that I have, in part, negated the actions of the ego and encouraged the processes of impermanence to influence the outcome of my work.



I believe that the descriptions of how I make oil paintings bear many similarities to how I conceive and make music composition and believe that, in as far as it is possible to translate inspiration and creative ideas from one media to another, the shared philosophy of these processes does bring elements of the creative act in each of these disciplines into a meaningful relationship with one and other, where the connections between the work runs far deeper than superficial observations about mood, colour and texture.

music, landscape and me [4]

music, landscape and me

trouble in paradise
May 7 2012

Everything was perfect. I could produce paintings that people admired and understood. People thought I was very clever indeed, very talented or gifted or even more enthusiastically, they used the ‘G’ word (in hushed tones) ‘genius’ to describe me and my paintings . . .

wast water, Cumbria circa 1989: oil on canvas 30 x 20″

This was all well and good.

I was aware that by the end of the 1980s I had developed a formidable technique for capturing the illusion of reality onto a two dimensional surface. My realistic painting had reached a level of soft photorealism that inclined many onlookers to be a little confused, for a time at least, as to the nature of the work they saw before them – fact or fiction – photo or painting.

Andrea and Polly, coral beaches, north west Skye cira 1989: oil on canvas 30 x 20″

But I was unsettled. I felt I had come to the end of a road.

Yes, I could paint and sell for really good prices and I was still a young man; surly this is a measure of success? I had already realised most artist’s ambition – to sell. But I was bored. I’d done it; I’d tamed reality sufficiently to paint illusions of such quality people would see me (or my talent, at least) as something special.

wells-next-the-sea, norfolk circa 1989: oil on canvas 30 x 20″

There were two problems.

I needed to express feelings that went beyond the bounds of realistic painting and knew that to portray these feelings and subjects I would have to break the rules. The illusion of reality is a fragile thing – in painting as in life. Change the rules; the technique, colours, forms, expression, you change the reality. The painting becomes something else.

And secondly, once I’ve achieved something, like mastering a technique, the rest becomes repetition. Yes, the subject changes but the technique doesn’t, it becomes an exercise in repeating the same challenge, except it no longer remains a challenge. I don’t like to repeat myself.

It was time to change. It was time to break what I had built and replace it with something else.

‘Trouble’, was not just restricted to painting. At this time I had the most powerful stirrings to release my compositional ambitions on the world – but how?

As already described, I loved classical music ever since I was a teenage boy. I knew I had to write music – I believed that I could write music but was frustrated by my total lack of knowledge about how music worked, what instruments could do and how one wrote music down. Yet, I would hear this strange stuff – my own music – bubbling away in my head whilst feeling utterly frustrated about not being able to capture it or do anything with it in any way. For several years I despaired, not knowing what to do to bring this torment to an end (and I use the word ‘torment’ in all seriousness – it drove me to distraction and made me feel a total failure. The fact I could paint and received so much positive attention around that was no compensation for not being able to write music).

When I was 16 I began the long journey of teaching myself how to read and write music. It took many years. As soon as I understood something, my imagination quickly moved on, demanding new techniques to be mastered. My musical imagination was constantly running ahead of my ability to keep up with it. Again, this was totally frustrating. Eventually, when I was 34, I had a number of breakthroughs in writing my music down that resulted in my sending some of my rather illiterate scores off to various people. One of these was Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and the Hoy Summer School that he ran on Orkney back then. Max saw my potential, took me under his wing and created some wonderful opportunities for me. I learnt much. I also realised that coming from a background where I had no musical or instrumental training, whilst not the best career start, turned out in many ways to inform a large part of the process that developed my musical voice and imagination into what it is today. As Max always used to tell me, “you are your own man”.

But that’s jumping ahead somewhat.

At the end of this period I was unsatisfied with my painting and needed to find a new way of expressing my inspiration and relationship to the land. I needed to do this through music too but had no idea where to start and felt thoroughly miserable.

By this time (1987) I had moved to the Isle off Skye off the West Coast of Scotland. I remained on Skye with my then wife, Jane and my two sons for 23 years. The island, its climate, landscape and way of life was to have a profound effect on my work and life.

carnach, north west Skye circa 1989: oil on canvas 30 x 20″

An explosion was brewing!

To close this chapter I have selected a number of pieces – the darker side of English music, that were my light and guide through this transition. I would soon be discovering other music and would leave my pastoral days behind – not unloved or forgotten, but taking their rightful place as an essential part of my development as an artist.

Gustav Holst, Hammersmith

William Walton, first movement of Symphony No. 1

Lento (extract unfortunately) from the amazing Symphony in G minor by Moeran

Arnold Bax Symphony no.1

music, landscape and me [3]

music, landscape and me

. . . on the third day
May 4 2012

There was more Vaughan Williams.

Gedney Drove End, Lincolnshire: pencil on paper (imperial size) circa.1989

In fact, the music of Vaughan Williams has played a central part in my own musical life. Apart from the rather glib, ‘I like it’, there are aspects of his music that work on many different levels for me, most deeply personal.

It’s easy to assume that as a composer, one emulates the music of others that is especially admired or liked. It is true that in some of my initial efforts of throwing notes together I was strongly influenced by Vaughan Williams and the English Pastoral School. But I was also aware that this had been done and done brilliantly many years before so what could I possibly have to add by creating more ‘sub-Vaughan Williams’ music: Nothing! I was also aware that copying was not for me; even being strongly influenced by the work of others made me feel uncomfortable.

Near Fring, Norfolk: pencil on paper (imperial size) circa.1989

At this point in time (late 1980s) I had no idea where I would end up musically, only that I was being driven forwards by a deep emotional need to write music; my ‘own’ music, that was unlike the music of others.

Emotionally, the sound-world of visionary pastoral music was my homeland. It had been for some time, especially through the very turbulent times leading up to and following the death of my mother in 1977. Although hard to quantify, I believe that the music I was listening to at the time kept my inner world alive. I had begun painting and knew that my life would never be the same again, but I was also being obsessed by sound and similarly knew that this ‘burden’ as it was then, would be central to my development. I would become a composer. These things were certain.

So Vaughan Williams (and others) offered me hope, light and sustenance to keep going through the gloom, misery and insecurity of much of my teenage years. This hunger for ‘soul-food’ was also reflected in my relationship with the land or to be more precise, with particular landscape and places. It’s clear I have a great connection to pastoral music and landscape but at the same time, would not compromise and emulate this music in my own work. So what was I trying to achieve through my own music and painting and now photography?

Near West Chinnock, Somerset, 2012

This is such a difficult question to answer and I don’t know if I have sufficient command of my inner world to be able to give a definitive statement. What I can say and will no doubt repeat several times across these articles is that the quality of feeling I experience when listening to the music of some other composers coupled with particular landscapes is a keen driving force behind the kind of music and images I want to create. Whether misguided or not, I want to, in some inadequate way, communicate these feelings; recreate them – the wonderfulness, grandeur, warmth, value, desolation, ugliness, beauty, other-worldliness, transcendence, almost spiritual (as opposed to religious) sense of apotheosis particular landscapes as well as music of others engender in me, and re-create these experiences through my own work.

Spring – Norfolk Fields: pencil on paper (imperial size) circa.1989

Lofty ideals and I’m not sure if I achieve any of them for I cannot tell what other people feel and think when they experience my work; I can only appreciate the feelings my work initiate in me, and that’s no guide, no guide at all for what others will experience! So, blindly (and perhaps deafly), I continue down this road. It’s the only road I know!

I’ve previously mentioned my love of chalk and shall write more extensively about that later. But for now, I’d like to focus on a time I spent exploring Norfolk in the late 1980s and how this land effected my work, acting as a vehicle to enable me to express through image some of the feelings I have described above.

Beaminster Down, Dorset 2012

Horizons and light – big skies – that’s Norfolk in a nutshell! Towards the horizon’s endure. The land goes on and on – the horizon never ends; the skies are so large and heavy they press down on you, sometimes claustrophobically. The land is haunted with echoes of the past. Quiet, changing little, this land has a specific sound, feel and ambience; a very particular look that I can recognise instantly. Norfolk isn’t always a ‘pretty’ or twee place. Certainly around the coastal fringes, vast salt marshes and mud flats it can feel like the most isolated and lonely place on earth. And in bad weather; like the end of the world. It is a very particular place where ‘beauty’ is often found in its loneliest spots away from the picture-postcard tourist dives. This is where you’ll find the beating heart – where you’ll ‘hear’ the music.

Near West Chinnock, Somerset, 2012

Near Crewkerne, Somerset, 2012

North Walsham, Norfolk: pencil on paper (imperial size) circa.1989

As ‘horizon’ is so central to these landscapes and so central to my own visual work (and in a bizarre sense, my music, too), I’m concentrating this article around photographs and drawings that exemplify my feeling of horizon. Not all the work is from Norfolk, but I hope it will be clear to see the common aesthetic thread that runs through my visual work, wherever its landscape is rooted.

Near Somerton, Norfolk: pencil on paper (imperial size) circa.1989

And to round off, the very poignant, impressionistic tone poem ‘Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams

music, landscape and me [2]

music, landscape and me

. . . . and then there was ice!
May 2 2012,

Burton Mere, Dorset (2012)

Burton Mere, Dorset (2012)

The winter of 1985 was a hard one.


For some reason I had decided to travel to west Dorset in the middle of winter to visit a place I’d never been to, Burton Mere near Cogden Beach, on the whim that I thought it may be an inspirational place to go.

I’ve been doing this for some time; packing off on a jaunt to a place that ‘calls’ me without any hard facts that it will prove to be the place I want to be at all.

The story (yes, I’m afraid there is a short one) goes back to a black and white poster I acquired from British Coal back in the ‘70s. Among other coal related photographs, the wall poster had a section of cliff displaying many layers of stratification. The poster was on the back of my bedroom door and bewitched me from the moment I put it up. I examined its every detail, from the shore to the cliffs, feeling my way around the rugged contours with my imagination. Originally, my interest in obtaining the poster was the fossils to be found in coal but this section of coastline, incidentally illustrated on the poster (for geological reasons I didn’t know at the time) stimulated my imagination and emotions in ways hitherto unknown to me.

Unfortunately there was no indication of where the location was. I committed the picture to memory – its feel and contours – for future reference.

Some time later whilst looking through reference books in the British Geological Museum Library (for which I obtained special permission, being a minor), I randomly happened upon a photograph of the same cliffs. I knew immediately this was the place; every fibre and sense in my body resonated with delight. What’s more, the book told me exactly where it was; Church Cliffs, Lyme Regis, Dorset. Henceforth my love affair with the county began. I shall make reference to this place in future articles. I was 13 at the time.

This brings me back to why I was visiting Burton Mere in the winter of 1985. I was drawn to explore because I had ‘felt’ the place from afar and knew it held something I wanted; something that the landscape there could offer.

I was a fledgling composer – full of music in my head and totally unable to write any of it down, as I knew nothing about music at all, just that it was running through my veins uncontrollably. But by this time, at the tender age of 22, I was quite the developed landscape painter. So I was there, Burton Mere, in the ice, to find subjects to take away and paint. Consequently, I produced two paintings from that trip (as below).

Burton Mere, Dorset: oil on canvas 30×16″ 1985

Ditch, Burton Mere, Dorset: oil on canvas 30×16″ 1985

There’s more:

I was alone on this expedition. For company I took my brand new Sharp cassette player with headphones (remember those)? Among the tapes I took with me was Tippett’s 2nd. Symphony; a wonderful work full of passion and colour and at times, ecstatic writing like only Tippett can produce (for me, he is the musical English Ecstatic). However, due to the conditions and where I was walking at the time, one movement of this work, the 2nd., slow movement, adagio molto e tranquillo, resonated with the landscape and conditions. The impressions it left have stayed with me, unchanged all these years.

Burton Mere, Dorset (2012)

Beauty in austerity

The ice cold of that day was echoed in this music; the metallic, brittle sound of trumpets and percussion created the ‘coldest’ music I had ever heard whilst the occasional interludes of luminous, swaying strings brought a warmth that was much needed. Yet this music was neither ‘nice’ nor soothing nor necessarily inspired by the landscape, but within it’s rugged austerity there was a beauty I recognised and loved. Like Burton Mere, a desolate location, especially in the middle of winter, yet yielding a dignified rawness that spoke of the essence of the place with no frills, no ceremony or affectation. This was ‘real’ music resonating with a ‘real’ place in my body and mind. Somehow, the music and the land together catalysed an alchemy that sent my spirits soaring with a sense of being alive, in the present and connected to something greater than myself; such is the power of music and the land. When I hear the music now, I’m right back there in the blink of an eye; my memories triggered through the senses by the potency of this music.

Cogden Beach by Burton Mere, Dorset (2012)

27 years later, I visited the Mere again and took a number of black and white photos; these are presented at the top and throughout this article. This time there was no ice, the reeds had been allowed to grow back naturally and cover much of the water; the water levels were much lower and the place full of the sights and smells of the cusp of seasons as winter erupts into spring. What hasn’t changed is the sense of isolation, openness and glorious desolation.

Sir Michael Tippett Symphony no.2 – 2nd. movement: adagio molto e tranquillo

music, landscape and me [1]

music, landscape and me

in the beginning
May 1 2012

I am starting this blog in response to a request and suggestion from my great friend and artist, the fine art photographer, Ian Talbot who recently embarked on an exploration of his images and their relationship to the music of others here.

Bincombe, Crewkerne, Somerset

Where to begin?

It’s difficult to unpack quite how I got where I am now, in my head, musically.

I don’t expect these articles to be a logical or sequential path through the ruminations of my mind and history; rather, a dip-in and dip-out of remembrances, feelings and perhaps conclusions that I have drawn about the relationship between the visual – my paintings and most recently, my landscape photography (as seen here), and my ever driving need to write music.

I have no doubt these links exist within me: My pulse quickens when I see configurations in the landscape that stimulate and this stimulation in turn evokes sounds in my mind. ‘Sounds’ as opposed to music – that comes later – but these sounds are somehow related to and driven by both the physicality of the landscape and the ambience of it. But not all landscapes have this effect.

Beauty is not enough.

In fact, beauty in the conventional sense of landscape quality has nothing to do with it. What drives my sense of excitement about a landscape is the geology that underpins it. For me, the noble Chalk is king, but in general, landscapes formed from sedimentary rocks capture my imagination. I love the Mesozoic geological period for the strata it owns and the landscapes, especially in southern England it engenders.

Wynford Eagle, Dorset

It is now my life’s work to explore these landscapes and be inspired by them, this, not in any bucolic or nostalgic sense, nor even a romantic one (though these claims are perhaps a little too self-certain). In fact, I’m quite unsure how to define this drive and these responses. Certainly, my music best articulates how the visual (landscape) transforms into sound (music), within my work with the results being perhaps unexpected considering the source of inspiration, but who’s to say that our perception of what a pastoral landscape is evokes only a pastoral style music as valid response?

Having said that, my first profound music and listening experience is with English Pastoral Music and I have to this day, remained deeply in love and affected by the genre.

So, this is where I shall start.

Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia

I first encountered this piece when I was about 14. I was living in London. I had just started to paint – representational landscapes – this was the beginning time. I knew, even then that I wanted to compose but had no real idea what this was or what it involved, I just knew that my head was full of sounds and these sounds made me feel differently to usual.

My mother was dying from cancer. She loved to listen to music. Both my parents listened to Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Focus – typical rock bands from the 70s.

I don’t know who bought it, but one day, my mother started to play an LP of Vaughan Williams’ string music, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. Her favourite piece (I know this due to the repeated playing) was the Tallis Fantasia. The music would make her cry. I resented this. She was so ill and the sound of her crying was too much for me. Consequently I tried to stop her from listening to the music. I remember even hiding the LP for a time. This didn’t succeed for long.

Remarkably, as the weeks passed I began to despise the music less. Moreover, I was being increasingly drawn to listen, privately and away from my mother. I subsequently realised I had not only ‘despised’ this music because it made my mother cry, but because it challenged me, it made me want to let go of my emotions of grief and anger too; a threatening prospect as I was desperate to maintain a modicum of control. I became increasingly obsessed. Even more strangely, when listening to the music I was transported away to another place within myself. This place was full of landscape – landscapes a city boy like me hadn’t even seen yet – full of light and air and magnificence. It quickened my pulse and touched something tender inside that made me – drove me to want to paint and especially write music. I wanted to recreate the effect on others that Vaughan Williams had on me. At 14 years old, that is what I knew and it is that which pushed me forwards to become a composer and painter.

The music still has that same power over me now. What a masterpiece!

Ralph Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia

Sturzstrom: for massed choirs [2]

Sturzstrom: for massed choirs

Sturzstrom: now complete!
October 14 2011,

sturzstrom (a landslide event for voices) is now complete.

This has been perhaps the most demanding of pieces for me to write. In trying to obtain the vocal effects and structures I wanted I have had to ‘project’ and contain the various possibilities that the notational methods I have chosen to deliver sturzstrom could encompass. In other words, in my usual scores, every detail is controlled and notated precisely, so I know exactly (more or less) what it is I’m going to get in performance. sturzstrom has been totally different in that there is no definitive performance, but a performance that exists within the parameters set by the coaching and shaping of the music with the performers as part of its being brought into being.


To help clarify this process and the expectations of delivery and performance I have written extensive performance notes in the score.

sturzstrom has been composed as ‘a landslide event for voices’ meaning the work attempts to depict landmass movement and geological process as found along the ‘Jurassic Coast’ of East Devon and Dorset. Naturally, this depiction is not a scientific reconstruction of these processes in sound; rather, an imaginative response to these forces and outcomes as contrived in the composer’s imagination and amplified by the individual contributions of the performers. sturzstrom has been designed to utilise the voice rather than singing ability and is conceived and notated in such a way as to enable maximum participation from individuals with little or no experience of singing or reading conventional music notation.


Inevitably, this involves some new learning to understand and interpret the signs and symbols used in this score as well as the general concept and approach used by the composer to articulate his ideas. Both the composer and conductor will be responsible for explaining, shaping and guiding the choir’s responses to the notation, graphics and text.

33011989-F1.smallAlong with the massed voices there are three strands of pebble percussion for younger performers; the first two strands deal with a more advanced interprutatrion followed by a thrid strand, a pebble chorus, performed by children of primary school age adding a further layer of mass percussive activity. As in the voice-work, the various strands of the percussion section are designed to be performable by the widest range of young people with interpretation of the various notations being facilitated by the conductor and composer. For authenticity, It is also desirable that each participant in the percussion section has found their own performance instrument (stones and pebbles) from the stretch of coastline featured in this work.

sturzstrom is designed for massed choirs and will work best with large numbers of individuals, employing as it does flocking and ‘crowd sourcing’ techniques to initiate complex textures, harmonies and articulations of its material, be they sung or spoken.


The structure of the score leads to an intense climax (the landslide event) but along the way, geological text from scientific papers is used to add vocal content to the music; this content is articulated in a variety of ways using non-conventional notation and graphic notation (explained below). The work covers the Mesozoic geological time period and includes the layers of strata found in this time period between Exmouth in East Devon and Lyme Regis in West Dorset. These successions of strata are documented through sound in the piece and culminate in an imaginary journey along the coast, traveling east to west, before the landslide event occurs, setting the scene as it were for the catastrophic landslide (blockslide) that occurred at Bindon on Christmas Eve, 1839.

33011941-Bindon_Plate2Read by the Orator and bookending this scientific data is the wonderful ‘Petition of the Mayor and Burgesses of Lyme Regis, County Dorset, 20 August, 1533’, where the people of ‘King’s Lyme’ express their fears for the town as coastal erosion and landslides threaten its very existance. This letter brings an human perspective and cost to these processes of coastal movement and remind us that the situation described in 1533 has not changed or been remedied in our own day but is at best, temporarily contained.’


The first workshop for sturzstrom took place in Exeter on the 12th of November.