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Man on the Lune

You will have noticed that I have not written to you since the recording of Entangled States in January. Unfortunately the process from recording to release is complex and takes a long time. It’s happening, but at a rate comparable to that of tectonic shift. I have been writing, placing marks of graphite and graphene onto paper. I have been searching for another Big Idea but that is proving to be irritatingly elusive. I am pursuing my thread of simplicity in music – much music has too many notes. I have alluded to this in previous posts and have decided to combine this way of working with a project that has been percolating for many years, to write Pieces for Terrible Pianists. I will explain in a further post, but not now.
So, I have decided to write about an episode which happened in another chapter in my life,a life far removed from my present arcane world of composing.
December 6th in a former life. A wet, grey, cold, flat, forbidding Middleton Sands. The Lune Estuary. Morecambe Bay. North West England. A solitary, tiny, frail, flexwing microlight flying machine. A combination of a Striker wing and a Mainair Tripacer Trike had been trailored 60 miles from Manchester and was waiting to be flown,was rigged, fully fuelled, checked. I was here on the beach with one thought in my head, to climb to 10,000 feet, higher than I had ever flown and at that altitude to cut the engine and to glide down to my take-off point, a line scoured in the sand.
There was just one problem the area was covered, shrouded by a persistent blanket of adiabatic fog.
The hours were passing. The short winter day was already beginning to close. I had stomped along the shore in an effort to keep warm and was beginning to think of abandoning my plans when the layer of fog began to noticeably thin. My instincts were to try, to go for it, to seize this opportunity. Pre-flight checks again, engine started, warmed. I strapped myself in and applied full throttle. The take off run was extended due to a nil wind and a wet clinging surface.Lift off. Bar out. Climbing steeply, feet level with my chest. Within seconds I had punched through a very thin layer of fog and settled myself for a long ascent.
There was minimal instrumentation available. I had an altimeter strapped to my left wrist and a compass tied with a piece of string to an angle of the A frame. That was the avionics accounted for. Everything was minimal in those very early days of microlight development. The trike was comprised of a few aluminium poles describing triangles. The sail was a barely modified hang glider wing. This form of aviation was in its infancy.
As the altimeter ticked around, first the Lune Estury, then Morecambe Bay, then the hills of the Lake District fell into their expected positions. The engine, a Rotax 330cc twin cylinder 2 stroke continued to supply sufficient power for the altitude to slowly increase. That was quite important as, at the time, the engines were inverted, which sometimes gave rise to plug fouling which, in turn gave way to unscheduled landings.
On one such occasion, I was forced to land in a field by the side of the M6 motorway near Preston. It proved to be a field with a slope. Braking was achieved by taking feet off the steering bar and digging them as forcibly as possible into the ground. Brakes were a thing of the future. I always carried a toolkit – in those days it was necessary – and after securing the aircraft and leaving the engine to cool, I began to take out and clean the plugs. A passing police car pulled to a halt on the hard shoulder of the motorway and the officer climbed over fence and field and approached me in a most friendly manner. He asked me what the problem was and, after I had explained, he volunteered to drive to a motorway service station, purchase two plugs and to return, which he did within a very short time. He refused to take any money from me and remained to see that I took off safely or perhaps to see if this machine could actually fly.
To return to the ascent. I had passed through 8500 feet. The climb rate was slowly decreasing but something wonderful was happening. As my elevation increased the sun appeared, a huge, soft, orange circle framed by a wonderfully blue sky, the hills of the Lake District offering a black silhouette. I was by now no longer counting in thousands of feet, but in hundreds of feet. My altimeter slowly approaching my target. For some reason, once I was there, I added a few more feet before reaching down to a small switch between my legs and flipping it from right to left.
The engine cut. The resulting silence was emphasised by the sudden lack of noise from an engine situated close behind me which had been on a continuous 90 per cent throttle. The powered craft became a glider. Virtual silence, air gently wafting through the wires, the wing beautifully responsive to any input. I had taken care to stay vertically above my take off point so my descent became an exhilarating series of spirals, figures of eights, dives and swoops. The air was still flat calm, brushing against my face. My feet were cocooned in insulated boots, my hands kept warm with three pairs of gloves. Almost immediately the sun disappeared and my eyes had to adjust, work harder. Looking down I saw that the layer of fog had completely disappeared and I was able to spot my landing site from 5 or 6 thousand feet. My environment was incredibly quiet, peaceful, serene, private. I landed and came to a rapid halt a few feet away from etched line. It was not necessary to switch the engine off after this particular flight.It had been switched off for almost twenty minutes. I parked the little machine into wind and climbed out, turned around and looked with a new sense of affiliation and affection at my tiny bundle of sticks and sail and the little two stroke which, at that time, was not intended for any purpose of aviation.
By the time I had derigged, folded, packed the wing and tied the trike securely onto its trailer, night had fallen upon Morecambe Bay.

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Achieving the Impossible

The seemingly impossible was made possible by the heroic, Herculean efforts of pianist Mary Dullea, and sound engineer and producer, Alex Van Inghen. We accomplished what each of us considered would be pushing the boundaries of what was achievable in terms of recording, given the limited time we had.
2 days. 48 pieces.

Alex, travelling from Surrey, arrived late to a dark, desolate, isolated, sub- zero Wyastone. He set up his extensive recording equipment so that an early, prompt start could be made the following morning. He duly arrived at our lodgings at l.00am. We had a whispered catch-up. By this time Mary was long abed with her hot water bottle for company, doubtless dreaming of Non Presciptive music.

The night was extremely cold. I wore 2 pairs of socks and commandered the blankets from the adjoining bed. Alex slept in his clothes. Hypothermia threatened. Mary was the warm, snug, clever one. The forecasters had predicted snow, gales, rain and low temperatures. Well, they got one correct.

So, on a cold, grey morning we set off early to Wyastone concert hall to find that the ever efficient Paula had ensured that the spacious auditorium was heated. She had also thoughtfully provided additional heaters which we were only too eager to employ. Thank you Paula. One heater was positioned close to Mary (and the mics). Thankfully it did not have a fan. The other we situated in our control room. The reliable Philip Kennedy had already visited and given the magnificent Steinway Model D its first of four tunings.

Mary with her calisthenics, the loosening of her (thankfully warm) fingers, becoming reacquainted with the weighting of the action, the three pedals, arranging the scores. Alex making final sound checks, adjusting levels, tweaking, preparing spread sheets, attending to much fine detail. Headsets made it possible to communicate with Mary 60 or 70 metres distant. Everything set, positioned, a collective silence and we commenced. Only 48 pieces lay ahead of us.

We were always aware that we had to maintain a quite daunting schedule which equated to approximately one piece every fifteen minutes. Hence the title to this post. The key! to our success lay with Mary’s meticulous preparation. Each of her scores was overlaid with a network of lines, arrows, directions, notes to herself, annotations. She had arrived at the recording with a knowing intent.

We broke for short intervals for hot drinks, calories and carbs. Mary favouring salads, fruit, florentines, biscuits. Alex drank oceans of industrial strength black tea, the consistency of which left concentric rings around the insides of the cup. A longer break for lunch,a plenary session, an analytical review of things done, whilst Philip went about finessing the tuning again.

Then a long, long period of sustained effort through to the evening. One piece every fifteen minutes. Again, again and yet again. Mary and Alex maintained inexorable progress. Our schedule demanded that at the end of the first day we should have nailed 24 pieces. We, in fact, made it to 25.

If all this sounds somewhat grim, this is far from the truth. We generated humour, laughs. Alex and I were quite silly. Coruscating it was not, but Mary smiled a lot and laughed at our foolishness.

Back to our lodgings in Monmouth. We dined on ready meals and a welcome bottle of Shiraz, Mary’s favourite. The second night was infinitesimally warmer. Mary and Alex slept well. I, again, woke at 3.30am.

Much the same pattern for the second day. Another early start on a cold, bright, sunny morning made it possible for us to maintain our exacting, daunting schedule. Take after take after take. Laughs, smiles, breaks, teas, calories, carbs, the piano whisperer, lollypops for Alex (it’s become a sort of tradition). The in-tray tantalisingly, encouragingly becoming slowly depleted.

Six or seven pieces remaining. We were in our Wyastone bubble. Isolated, focused with one exclusive intent. Our goal beckoned, drew us on and piece number 48 was completed. Fittingly Mary’s realisations of this portrayed a triumphant flourish. A celebration of the completion of our task.

Sadly, time did not allow for any last group discussion.No pattings of backs.No fist bumps. Mary had a train to catch from Abergavenny, 20 miles distant. We packed quickly, bade Alex a hasty farewell and left. Left Alex in the night to dismantle and stow all his gear and close down Wyastone. He returned to resume the same recording that he had left two days ago. Prokofiev I think.

There remains much to be done. Peter Vodden has already submitted his image to be displayed in the jewel case to Stephen Sutton. Scott McLaughlin has commenced his sleeve notes which cannot be completed until he is in receipt of early edits from Alex. Alex will also send Mary the 243 takes which were generated during the recording. She has the difficult task of deciding which of the several takes for each of the pieces will be selected for the final mastering. Finally, Stephen Sutton, CEO of Divine Art Records, will collate all the parts and will, as always, produce an excellent end product.

Release date? With so much to be done, it’s not possible to be precise but I am hoping for April, May. Springtime would please.

I will keep you informed of our progress.

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In three weeks time, mid January, Mary Dullea, Alex Van Ingen and myself will converge upon Wyastone to record the CD. Hopefully we can complete the task in a weekend even though it looks very much as though we will be making a double CD. I doubt whether all the pieces can be compressed onto one disc. The Three Sonatas also occupied two discs and that entailed three days of recording. It will be a very intense, very focused two days as always. Wyastone is in Monmouth, that’s very near one of the many places where England meets with Wales. It’s a long way to travel for all of us but we give it lots of pluses, the Steinway piano, recording facilities and the efficiency of its staff.

I will not attempt to describe Wyastone, how we go about the recording, for I have written about this already. If you wish to catch a glimpse of what we do, what it is like, how we go about our tasks, scroll down to two previous posts – A Weekend at Wyastone, September 2013 and Wyastone Revisited November 2013.

And how do I sign off this, my last post of the year? I have struggled. I have drafted several attempts but each falls short of how I completed the corresponding post of last year. Owing to a paucity of invention on my part I am not able to improve upon it. I have decided to repeat the last paragraph ad verbatim. I regard it sadly, disappointingly, as relevant to the now as it was one year ago. I can only hope that in the future this, or something closely resembling it, does not become some kind of vapid, stale, trope but I am struggling to find sense in a world which I feel has become a moral and ethical vacuum,a world which is so often characterised by an increasing absence of social values, bereft of empathy or tolerance.

“As we approach the turn of the year we must hope that our political leaders will together work with an urgency and purpose to facilitate change. Change which will result in a more egalitarian, humane and compassionate global society. We have to hope. I guess that in some of the most desperate regions of the world hope is all that people have. May I offer a similar line of thought from Miguel Cervantes via the mouth of his alter ego Don Quixote, “Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not what it should
be”. It is with these thoughts and in this context that I conclude this last post of the year. I sincerely wish you all peace, good health, good fortune”..

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If you have not already done so, please read my previous post. It serves as an entree to this. My line of thinking is both extended and broadened to a degree – that simplicity, beauty and elegance in the arts, the sciences and in life are so closely entwined that they are as one.

In my last post I explained how I personally arrived at the level of simplicity in many of the short pieces that will constitute my next CD. I stated that “writing the short pieces ultimately became the art of omission”. Along similar lines Michelangelo is reported to have declared “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that isn’t David”. To achieve simplicity was anything but simple. I was challenged in grasping the essence of what always could be expressed in a more complex form. I believe that it takes a great deal of courage and nerve for a composer or any kind of artist to move away from the “grand gesture”, the glorious din of an orchestra in full spate, the larger Wagnerian scale works, masses, suites,operas, sonatas, quartets, variations … These have always tended to be at the heart of the culture that is referred to as classical music. To quote Feldman, “Unless we take a chance, we die in art”. But is an idea necessarily “better”, have more artistic value, integrity, because it is complicated?

I believe that simplicity is subjective, relative, and can only be decided on a personal level. Robert Sapolski, a Stamford neuroscientist, puts it so neatly, “You know it when you see it”.

Allow me to illustrate this point by presenting the musings of a few Greats. Let’s turn to Chopin, “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art” Now I know most of Chopin’s piano music well, it rescued me from a troubled adolescence. I have played many of his etudes, preludes and waltzes in public performance. There is almost no piece in his entire output that I would label as simple. Elegant and often ethereal in beauty but hardly simple in the sense that I have described in my last post. His simplicity is not mine.

And now Brahms, another composer whose piano works I know well,”It is not hard to compose but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table”. Not hard to compose? I wish. But again, when you recall his monolithic chord structures, those dense, rich textures, works infused with development and variation none of which I would describe as being of short duration, I do not recognise the Master’s attempts at bringing any simplicity to his compositions. And as for his wonderful profound orchestral masterpieces … Simplicity no. Reductivity and Brahms an oxymoron, yes.

What would have been the reaction of these advocates of simplicity to the music of, say, Moreton Feldman? Many of this composer’s later piano works are an extremely long series of single notes played very slowly, the decay of each note being of importance. Often his music approaches a whisper. There is very little left to listen to. They exist on the edge of silence. His pieces acquire an ethereal quality, addictive and meditative and at the same time remind us that to achieve simplicity is anything but simple.

Opening up the thread. I see simplicity as both and art and a science. It is perhaps not appreciated as fully as it might be, as technical and scientific progress sweeps us all along into ever more hectic, complicated, technology-driven lifestyles. We are being carried along by a tsunami of rapid advances in technology. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to “keep things simple” as it is far often more difficult to communicate the complex in simple terms. Steve Jobs has said “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end because once you get it you can move mountains”. My new smart phone had almost 200 pages of (on line of course) instructions which were often couched in what was for me, impenetrable technospeak. I resorted to seeking advice from others who had had similar struggles. I really just did require a telephone. I have acquired something that has more technology than the spacecraft that took man to the moon.

If the point of technological development is,in the end, to make our lives easier, simpler, I feel that this is certainly not the case at present. Are we unthinkingly accepting complexities in our lives that are not always necessary? Is it an exaggeration to say that the advocates of complexity are usually those who make a living from the complexity they create for us to the point of us not understanding anymore? Furthermore that these advances are not always to our benefit as we can see from the many new inconveniences and problems that inevitably arise from such progress. Are these concerns justified? Do you share similar feelings? Do I stand to be accused of being tending towards a Luddite kind of attitude (Luddites being 19th century textile workers who protested against newly developed technologies).

I always try to not make my posts too long – again a self-imposed regime of reductivity. I would like to continue this thread, I feel I am only just beginning to explain my thoughts but I am going to conclude with a quote from Edward Witten, a Princeton Physicist which neatly includes some of the ideas I have attempted to identify in this post “After you define music for me, I will try to define elegance. When a theory or model explains a phenomenon, clearly, directly and economically, we say it is elegant; one idea easy to understand can account for a large amount of data and answer many questions”.

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Entangled States

This present project and my last CD, the three sonatas, could hardly be more contrasted. The sonatas were large scale works, No. 8 lasting almost an hour, whereas Entangled States is comprised of 48 short pieces. 12 are in Middle Order and High Order format. Two realisations of each of these is planned. There are 24 Low Order pieces. If you require clarification regarding my non-prescriptive techniques please go to the introduction to the blog where you will find an explanation.

Why short pieces? Over the years I have gained an increasing  respect, tantamount to awe, when, by reading science, I stumble upon simple, elegant mathematical equations which are the distillations of so much innovative thinking and experimentation by hugely intelligent scientists and mathematicians. Some of these are pinned upon my studio door – Einstein, Dirac, Euler, Mandelbrot. I always find them to be quite inspirational.

For quite some time, years, I have had an idea percolating that I might attempt in my own field to emulate this process of distillation however badly. And again, as you saw in my last post, you might recognise links between my interest in science and music. Cosmology with large scale sonatas, quantum science with very short pieces, most lasting barely 2 minutes.

I have previously written many short pieces, most of them having been given away or carelessly lost, misplaced, but never have I written so many, so exclusively with such intensity and focus, and with such a strict self-imposed discipline. Each piece must of necessity be concise. Every note, every phrase must be there for a purpose. An immediacy has to be established. There has to be a clarity of ideas and a clarity of the expression of those ideas. There is an intriguing creative self-imposed limitation in the presentation, a sparseness, almost a brutality in these acts of reductivism. Writing the short pieces ultimately became the art of omission. This is quite the opposite of enjoying the luxury of being able to develop, to discuss and evolve ideas at great length as I did in the sonatas. More than anything I relish the opportunity of being able to extend an initial motif, seeing where this takes me, how many different facets of its character I can discover, giving it the time to reveal its secrets to me.

Also pinned to my laboratory door is a quote from a book entitled “Quantum – A Guide for the Perplexed” by Jim Khalili. He states “The quest for the ultimate truths is always a quest for beauty and simplicity” I agree so completely with that, Jim, and that statement in itself is an example of complexity of thought simply and beautifully expressed.

Unlike “Set for Piano” which was structured tonally, there being a slow graduation from Low Order (predominantly tonal) to High Order (atonal) formats, I have decided not to present the 48 short pieces in any predetermined specific sequence. This ordering becomes one of the responsibilities of the performer. Bear in mind that one of the principles of my non-prescriptive philosophy is to reduce the presence of the composer as one who fixes the parameters. Another is to abnegate, relinquish ownership of the scores once these are in the possession of the performer

The collisions, the juxtapositions, the resulting kaleidoscope made by the contrasting pieces is intended to set up tensions and dynamics when heard in the context of the overall performance. To what extent this will occur is a variable, being totally dependent on both the ordering of the scores by the performer and the manner in which the realisations are articulated.

A date for the recording has been set but more of this in my next post.

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Science and Me.

There was a sudden loud noise, pieces of a slender metal dowel shot at some great speed across the large table of the physics room. Everything made more dramatic by the expectancy, the waiting; tension increasing in the light of what was about to happen. It was a Friday afternoon. Double physics, a welcome end to the school week. This was the first scientific experiment I had witnessed. It demonstrated expansion and contraction and from that moment – I can still picture it so clearly in my mind – my interest in science was kindled. Two years later I was performing experiments myself, simple ones, a Wheatstone Bridge, simple circuitry, proving what had already been proven a million times, yet still being filled with a thrill of achievement when the results obtained were acceptable. Was I not following in the footsteps of Faraday, Kelvin, Boyle, Cavendish, Dalton, Doppler, Maxwell…? Yes, my school physics was more a review of historical science rather than anything more contemporary but for me it was a history that was both new and enlightening and it came with bunsen burners which soon became instrumental in helping us schoolboys to develop our own, quite radical, subversive lines of experimentation. Very few of us were actually caught, non were immolated. I do remember some minor conflagrations of which our physics teacher remained completely oblivious.

Then there were epoch-defining explorations of space. What I had read so often about in my childhood comics was now reality. Yuri Gagarin had superseded Dan Dare. All that was lacking was a little green man with a preposterously large head floating around in a mind controlled flying chair. The 1969 moon landing seen through ghostly black and white images had made Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Ballard, Asimov redundant, passe. Reality had overtaken science fiction.

I rode my bicycle through the roads of Cheshire to gaze in wonderment at the Jodrell Bank Radio telescope, now the Lovell telescope. On more than one occasion I witnessed the huge gleaming white bowl obligingly, majestically, being repositioned by unseen forces and I speculated upon which distant object it was now being programmed to interrogate, objects that I would, so I thought at the time, never see.

All were mileposts of scientific discovery and progress. They became the stepping stones for my burgeoning curiosity. I read about Big Things in the Heavens, the cosmos; the Big Bang, inflation, supernova, black holes, branes, multiple universes, dark energy, dark matter. I blinked disbelievingly at the most amazing photographs of objects that are far away. Photographs provided by the Hubble Space Telescope and Voyagers 1 and 2. No special effects or CGI were necessary.

And then, one day, I walked past an old building in my home city, Manchester, and saw a blue plaque upon which was inscribed Ernest Rutherford, Nobel Laureate. This was a man who, only a few miles from where I live, created a new scientific discipline, nuclear physics. He was the first to conduct an artificially-induced nuclear reaction. He changed the world forever. Through reading about this remarkable man and his achievements I was unwittingly drawn into the world of Very Small Things and Very Fast Moving Things. I had entered into the realm of what is for me Very Difficult Science, Quantum Mechanics, about which I understood little and at first accepted even less of what I found. I read about theories that were counter-intuitive, bewildering, especially so when I realised that, unlike those schoolboy experiments in the old physics classroom, no experiment on any quantum system has any certain outcome, prediction. Here, it seems, we deal only with probabilities. Everything quantum appears to be in an indeterminate state where everything is possible. Classical physics becomes flawed, turned upon its scientific head.

I intentionally read about the same quantum phenomena from different authors with their different approaches, perspectives. I am slowly acquiring some understanding. I am fortunate to have a dear friend, Peter Vodden, who patiently listens to my endless questions and is always able to set me on the right path. He clears away the clouds of uncertainty, explains with clarity. The unacceptable becomes less so. It is perhaps unfortunate that the more I read, the further I delve, the more questions arise. For, as far as I can  make out, theoretical science rarely provides answers or solutions that can be experimentally validated, corroborated. Enquiry, it seems only gives rise to further lines of enquiry, yet more possibilities.

One of the many fascinating, and for me, challenging phenomenon of the quantum world, something that I constantly revisit, is a condition called entanglement. As I have become more familiar with this quantum state, I have become increasingly struck by some parallels that can be drawn between Quantum Entanglement (QE) and my Non-Prescriptive methods (NP). I consider the two to be quite analogous. The following is intended to demonstrate why this is so.

If you are not familiar with either QE or NP then I can refer you to Dr. Scott McLaughlin’s comprehensive sleeve notes for the latter and as for the former I can offer you the briefest, and because of that, inadequate explanation of QE. This condition occurs when two particles can no longer be described independently, rather like the unfortunate case of siamese twins. The quantum state of one has to be described with reference to the other. (A quantum is the minimum amount of matter involved in an interaction between two particles). In this state there are no longer two independent wave functions, there is only one which includes the properties of both entangled particles.

As you read this, bear in mind what you know about NP which, at Mo and Ho levels, is dependent upon the composer and performer losing their historical, separated, traditional roles or identities and uniting to form a relationship which I describe as a synergy which can be defined as the co-operation and interaction of two or more people.

Furthermore, the properties of the particles cannot be anticipated until one or the other of the particles is observed or, to construct a parallel, the nature of any realisation cannot be known until the performer has processed the given data (music). With both QE and NP any outcome can be possible. In the case of NP this is made possible by my having developed systems of notation that can offer an infinite number of realisations.

It is unlikely that there is anything actually being communicated between the entangled particles but there seems to me a case for advancing the idea that, as in NP, there is some kind of correlation, a co-operation towards a goal or musical realisation. Scientists, I have found, use the term influence to describe this relationship, the effect that the two particles exert upon each other.

Can I digress for a moment? As science progresses old models are continually replaced by new models, for example electrons apparently now do not encircle a nucleus in an orbital trajectory which was Rutherford’s original model. No. Now they gather in a cloud the position of which  can never be determined. New theories such as this require, certainly on my part, extensive mental recalibration. Another example. I have been referring throughout this post to particles, little points of matter, but recent thinking postulates that particles are not particles at all. They are not the tiny material things that we are familiar with. It seems that they are quantum excitations. The world, the universe, you and me do not consist of little ball bearings. Everything is made from relationships (that word again) properties such as mass, charge, fields, spin, direction of spin. (For mass, read energy. One does not argue with Einstein).

I have included this because this idea helps me to proceed beyond some of the quantum brick walls that I have been banging my head (brane) against for some time. For example particle wave duality and that pesky two slit experiment. Particles becoming waves in order to progress through two slits has always presented me with an overload of scepticism. If in the first place they are not particles which somehow can change their state my problem disappears.Sorry not to explain this but this post, I feel, is becoming overly long.

The point of all this has been to show that there are similarities, parallels, that can be drawn between the two unlikely bedfellows QE and NP. So much so that this has helped determine the title of my next CD. So, accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets, a roll of drums, fireworks illuminating the sky, streamers and due pomp, may I present the denouement, the tying together of these strands. It is to be called (did you guess?) Entangled States. Because of the degree of congruence, correspondence, agreement and equivalence that I hope I have established, it is I believe a justified title and one which celebrates two of the most wonderful disciplines which challenge, fascinate and interest me, science and music.

QE is a phenomenon that I have taken from the field (oops) of QM because it shares some common conditions and properties that are also to be found in NP. The two entangled particles (or non particles) are bound together in a very similar way to which the composer and the performer are. Their individual properties, identities, roles become subsumed, united in a common goal. There is an influence of one upon the other and it is not until an observation has been made or a realisation attempted that there can be any definitive outcome.

I wish to conclude by offering those of you who may have struggled with any of the above, compounded by my self-imposed brevity, those who have not before encountered such outrageous ideas, may I offer a quantum of solace. One hundred years ago Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t”. If he had lived in this present age of scientific discovery and enquiry, just how much more  strange (oops again) would he have found things today?




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Work in Progress

I have been working, almost exclusively, towards my next CD for some time. I first set pencil to paper before the release of the Three Piano Sonatas in September 2014 although ideas germane to what I was slowly edging towards, together with the inevitable associated doubts and uncertainties, had been ricocheting around my head for many years prior to this point in time.

This, at first sight, appears to be a huge amount of time to be invested in just one project. But it isn’t just about producing 70 minutes of music. In the September issue of Gramophone, in an article entitled “Radical Tonality”, Philip Clark has written that I am seeking “a new relationship with traditional harmonies” but that is only part of what I am working towards.

I am, as ever, writing music that extends and consolidates my Non Prescriptive methods of notation, composition and performance. This is my driver, my motivation. And this exploration, this experimentation, is why my progress is relatively slow. Thinking in terms of the unknown is, for me, often painful, difficult, forbidding and, quite frankly, the very undertaking of what I am attempting sometimes terrifies me. There are not too many reference points, no models, no beaten paths to follow. It is much easier to work within given, established boundaries than to push against them.

I have played some parts of the scores to a few friends who are talented musicians, players and composers. They constitute a most critical bunch, hard to please. They liked what they heard despite a performance courtesy of nine fingers and a toe-protector.

Peter Vodden, who created the fractal-based image for the case of the last CD has been enthusiastically at work creating a contemporary image for this project. I have never seen anything remotely like it, it is most original.

Dr. Scott McLaughlin, who wrote those highly praised sleeve notes for the last CD, visited my studio in Manchester and listened to a few, perhaps six, of the pieces. Sometime later, whilst walking and talking our way to the tram station, he volunteered to write the sleeve notes for this project. Scott teaches composition at Leeds University, he himself is a composer. He would not have offered his services if he had not approved of what he had just heard.

If I can maintain my present progress, sometime midyear 2016, when the Manchester rain is warmer, I will visit Mary Dullea with the completed scores and discuss with her the requirements, demands and complexities (and there are many) of what is involved in the undertaking of the performance of the music.

I apologise for not being more explicit, more open about the music per se. When I have assembled my incredible team and the project is underway I think that will be the time to enter into greater detail.

This blog has been visited by people from 76 different countries. Countries that are far removed from the UK, not only geographically but in terms of economics, politics and cultures. And, as I look at this long list, it is with regret and sadness that I see so many countries that are going through a period of tremendous challenge, change and uncertainty. We are living in a deeply troubled world.

As we approach the turn of the year we must hope that our political leaders will together work with an urgency and purpose to facilitate change. Change which will result in a more egalitarian, humane and compassionate global society. We have to hope. I guess that in some of the most desperate regions of the world hope is all that people have. May I offer a similar line of thought from Miguel Cervantes via the mouth of his alter ego Don Quixote, “Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not what it should be”. It is with these thoughts and in this context that I conclude this last post of the year. I sincerely wish you all peace, good health, good fortune.

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