Suite Six Dream


It is now around 20 years since I produced Suite Six Dream, and it seems even more appropriate now. It is undoubtedly a difficult work to listen to given its uncompromising pursuit of the insoluble, yet there are some extraordinary peaks reached in its wasteland of noise and apparent meaninglessness. Perhaps it is one of the few works that captures a true state of optimistic nihilism.


Text posted on 2004 site

Description: performance project involving live improvised music dance and acting. Video projection and prepared sounds will be involved. So far there is a CD and text booklet. The complete text is available in .pdf format (333kb). A pilot version of Noiseflower was performed at Leeds Metropolitan University (Scratch July 2004) with Jack Glover, Carolyn Baker and myself. I am now putting together the next stage of performance which will involve at least two acting parts. The final product will be around 90 minutes long and would come under the general bracket of physical theatre.
Objective: use improvisation, composition and aleatory techniques to weave a performance expressive of love passion anger emotion in a reified, alienated post-modern world that is at once fragmented and yet glimpses at some kind of (w)hole. Through the logic of disintegration to build something strong yet tender - beautiful yet often painful. As a child might struggle to harmonise the incommensurabilities conjured by two parents arguing themselves into divorce. The passionate ramming together of opposites. Two fists clenched bashing one another yet melting like wax into a new form that is the coming of age of the child. And she will tell the story—it is her 16th birthday after all…
Essences: the peculiar feelings of fractuousness, common in the arbitrocracy, abound. The notion of atonality extends beyond microtonal polarities and merges within the fractal dialectics of the subsurd releasing a lattice of dynamic equality fields populated by potentiality spores engendered by the arbitrary couplings of simulacra. Judgement is the key.
Feelings: angular, asymmetric, awry, bowed, catawampus, circuitous, cockeyed, contorted, crippled, curved, curving, deformed, deviating, devious, disfigured, distorted, errant, gnarled, hooked, incurving, indirect, irregular, kinky, knurly, lopsided, meandering, misshapen, not straight, oblique, rambling, screwy, serpentine, sinuous, skewed, slanted, snaky, spiral, tilted, topsy-turvy, tortile, tortuous, twisted, twisting, uneven, warped, winding.
The Counters: Jack vocalising. I vocalising. Jack playing the clarinet. Jack playing the accordion. I playing the electric guitar. I playing the amplified cello. Additional instruments and sources feature occasionally. The sense of the word ‘counter’ is that of a draughts piece or some such singularity. The dance element would be considered as one of The Counters, similarly any actors involved would be seen so.
Simulacral Counters: the various renderings and layerings of The Counters either as samples or psychic nuances. Sonic strips (as used in Noiseflower) could be seen as simulacral counters. Similarly with visual strips etc. Live audio and video sampling would provide simulacral counters during performance.

Book/Audio CD

The following sections concern the production of the audio CD. Whilst standing in its own right as a text and audio piece, it will be necessary to produce a version involving dance and acting in order to convey the full gamut of sentiment.
Principles: The conveyance of text via vocal, instrumental, and compositional improvisation. Each recording has a slightly different recording process and features different arrangements of the counters. Each piece forms a concretion around an unedited improv which will provide a sonic backbone. Any structures arising will respect the backbone as a fundamental unit.
Each piece had to wait for the previous one to be born before it could conceive of itself. The first one just came.
All editing done on Cool Edit Pro 2, although some recordings done via Logic on Powerbook G4 with M-Audio Firewire 410 soundcard. Mics: Aiwa CM-S1 stereo, 2x PZMs, AKG S1000E condenser, Rhodes NT2 condenser. MZR700 Mini-Disc recorder.

  1. Sweat is the Rose. Initial improv: MZR700 and Aiwa CM-S1 stereo. Extra vox on AKG C1000 S to MZR700.Initial complete text presented and improvised voice(Jack) and mysely on cello. Also Jack percussed and I added vox occasionally. Then I re-recorded Jack doing the words according to the improvised cadences but made more clear. This was then looped 2 and a bit times over the initial improv.
  2. Noiseflower. Recorded via 2 PZMs onto MZR700. On the eve of the textual offering we improvised obliquely for 20+ mins. During this improv I felt the urge to present the text but curbed this urge for fear of disrupting the sonic resonance. Later that evening the vocal part was solo improvised. Later the instrumental was recorded and formed the uninterrupted backbone but the vocalising had a bearing on the overall length selected. Simulacral counters were experimented with and used to ornament the final piece.
  3. Mixed emotions. Recorded on Mac with 2 PZMs. I improvised Aria electric guitar and Jack vox together, I vocalised eventually. There were three(?) takes and elements from all are combined because of the interesting collisions. This illustrates the faultline theory of arbitrary music. Because it lacks tonality and rhythm it can be layered with ease. Nothing clashes because everything clashes. The interesting application of this theory is choosing just which of the infinitely accessible and possible placings/pairings sounds best. Uncannily that choice is fairly easy but this should not preclude divergent E-impositions. Hardest so far because we nearly fell out over the first improv (Jack got impatient with the guitar not letting him in – used this guitar for intro up to the point when Jack drew a halt by waving his arms and putting the word text down. Also I had doubts about the words anyway. Jack emphasised the ones I had most doubts about. The words were selected by Jack from a load of unedited stuff I sent to him= and he had recorded his own version Emotions with voice and piano but we decided to improvise this one. As it happened, we echoed his original in some of the phrases. His piece provided a race memory for us. This was not planned. Once I had decided to call it mixed emotions, I was happier with it. This was subsequent to the excruciating mix, naturally. It wasn’t all me. And that’s what emotions are. Emotions: the world chewing your soul without your permission. (Un)Fortunately, there are times when you decide to go along with it. There followed a large gap (in real life). The project faltered at this point. The whole issue of me composing Jack arose negatively. We needed to ‘regroup’. And so we didn’t meet for a while. [There followed a 38 second interlude track, included in the album here. The original CD had 2 second gaps between the tracks.]
  4. Big Space. This was beset with problems – cello pick up not working, clarinet reed broken, MZR700 ran out of power and it was the first piece that was a direct RE-action to a (the) previous one. 2 PZMs onto Mac Aiwa onto MZR700 and vox recorded separately AKG onto Mac. I recorded my vox first so as not to be contaminated by Jack. He did his cold (uncontaminated by me). With no preparation. Jack’s became the backbone. Using a Granuliser on instrumental and swapping between Mac and PC incessantly - still finding Cool Edit easier in its complexity and particularly its effects section is more comprehensible. The instrumental improv from which all the instrumentation was gathered lasted 19 minutes. It was important that the end section was not fucked around with because we conjured some extraordinary acoustic sounds. Made all the more mysterious because of the non-amplified cello being so quiet in our experience but luckily I had the presence of mind to shove the PZM onto the cello for recording purposes and this resulted in a very rich sound that was subsequently used to underscore the (almost) whole piece. The hexagram thrown was 22 with 9/moving yang in the third and sixth places moving to 24. The instrumental coda is all shot live and the clunks occur when I decided to shove the recording PZM onto the cello itself whilst I was bowing and detuning. The broken reed sound is also an authentic that Jack struggled with. I/we really felt that some spirits had arrived. We were haunted and undaunted. The Marie Celeste image. In the beginning is a vast, rolling bone ship in a midnight thunderstorm, the sirens piercing staccato penetrates the drawing room: where last I saw and smelt you. Our love that caused a tower to fall.
  5. Peace: Love Volcanic Eruption. First take AKG for me and Rhodes NT2 condenser for Jack onto Mac. Two PZMs onto Mac for the instruments. Originally written for Don Myers’s eponymous painting, this piece required three voices. The previous and only performance at Don’s exhibition (Hourglass Gallery, Hebden Bridge 2000) involved Jack clarinet and voice, myself cello and voice and Monica, Don’s wife, on voice. Jack scored out the improvisations we produced and we rehearsed a couple of times before the performance (March 2000). When it became obvious that this piece should not be consigned to oblivion, it found its way into the entourage of Sweat is the Rose purely on emotional grounds. We sat the words in front of us and agreed which voices we would take. The third voice we did together. We improvised the words with no instruments. This take was distributed across the second take which involved improvised cello and clarinet and our voices. The second take remains unedited. I’m not sure how related this was to the original. Slight would be a good guess. The missing voice was found on the net and proved compliant. She took a long time to patch together since the free source at had a word limit. She was called Audrey and she spoke UK English, I thought of callng her CybHer. In memory of Monica.
  6. an english angle. Technically this one involved many versions AKG for main vocal and PZM for instruments or Rhodes NT2 condenser for Jack’s vocal and AKG for remainder. All onto Mac. This one could not be written until the other five were complete. That was the rule. The very night I completed the five I had a dream. In the dream I was in a side room attached to a vast Jacobean hall. I was hearing between the things I was doing and I was not perturbed I was comforted but curious what was it the sound on the other side of the door. Singers were singing in the hall. Brian Blessed-type leader was leading the singing and there was sparse accompaniment with tabor, mandolin, wind pipe thing, tambour. The song he was singing had the chorus To be born an Englishman. An old english folk song. With a rhythm and tonality. A welcoming anathema to the foregoing. So the challenge had to be met. This has taken a ridiculous amount of preparation and writing prolonged by Jack’s thrice failure to turn up to scheduled meeting. In a way it’s good I’ve had time to ruminate but also I know that the cut-off is arbitrary. Had he come at the first opportunity the version would have sufficed but given this extra time I suppose it was right after big space and volcanic so I had time to refine further. No bad a thing. I added a simple drum pattern (played on an actual drum) and some bits of Beatles nipped in there somewhere but were mixed virtually out of the equation. One of the extraordinary moments in this, and possibly in the whole suite, is where an uncanny layering of blues harp, squeaky clarinet, squeaky whistle, squeaky acoustic guitar feedback and accordion seem to coalesce into something almost beautiful. I remember playing the blues harp through my (feeding back) cello strings at this point. So the return to folk roots is not so out of the question and this would be a good place to start. My folk version of Sweat is the Rose is not present in this suite but it seems to underlie posthumously the whole thing. A return to music and tunes seems inevitable now.

It’s been a long, hard road and I’m deeply indebted to Jack for his ingenuity, embrace of risk, and perseverance against and with all odds. I am sure his version of events would be completely different, and maybe it will find its way to this site one day…

You can view/download the original text accompanying the CD here

Above is an archive video of the performance at Scratch Theatre, Leeds Metropolitan University on June 16th, 2004, in collaboration with Jack Glover and Carolyn Baker,