New album: Horologium

Horologium was produced as part of this years RPMchallenge and as part of that challenge was written between 1-22nd February 2014. The title refers to the study of clocks and time Horology coming from the latin horologium which in turn is the translation for the Greek word for “Clock”.

The RPMchallenge event gives me the opportunity to experiment with my own musical approaches, thinking outside my own musical box (not that I feel I have such a thing to be confined in) . I also like the tight deadline, to me, that adds to the fun of the whole project.

This year I wanted to re-examine my musical approaches to electroacoustic composition, in particular, my use of generative synthesis to add specific musical notes into the material as counterpoint to sampled materials. So I decided that this album would be Musique Concrete in its entirety; I would not use synthesizers on this album. Also I decided on rejecting the use of samplers to specifically shape samples into a pitch structure (though occasionally the composition did demand that, but I kept it to minimal use)

Track 1: Time Piece

This was the first to be written and dates back to an early electronic collaboration between Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Zinovieff (of EMS studios and the VCS3 fame) called “Chronometer”, which I had heard after restoration at a conference last year. The chimes were sampled from a couple of scrapped clocks found in a skip, and the ticking came from similar retirement clocks and a cheap plastic travel clock which has a distinctive tick.


Recording the chime

Track 2: Fluorescent Tube

The tube in the kitchen light had started to fail,  and in doing so, made this interesting sound on start up for a brief few seconds. I sampled this then stretched out the sounds in Ableton, then layered more sounds on top, re-pitching and editing into an arrangement that magnified those few seconds before the light would come on.

Track 3: Boil

A watched kettle never boils” Keeping with the kitchen theme from the previous track, this is generated from a recording made of a boiling kettle and arranged into a composition, stretching the boiling to around 3 minutes

Track 4: Drift

Drift came about after re-reading Denis Smalleys “Spectromorphology” text, and features stretched guitar chords, and samples of terracotta pots in a Yorkshire garden centre, plus some more use of the clock chimes

Track 5: Sustain

Sustain came from sampling a cheap and nasty Glockenspiel which is particularly rich in middle and upper harmonic partials, to the detriment of its use as intended, but marvellous for spectral composition as there is so much to choose from! I used SPEAR to analyse the samples I had and so created harmonies based on this data.

Track 6: Station Whistles

Station Whistles came from binaural recordings made at Leeds Station last year by Chrissie Caulfield, for a project of hers, on her outside album, and which she gave to me to remix one of her tracks. I used these recordings in a different context; two things really interested me- the guards whistles and the trains arriving/departing, which due to the binaural nature of the recordings, have this terrific stereo effect. All the sounds are derived from this source material, including the various pad harmonies. Also this piece touches base with a presentation I did last year on Tristram Carys Steam Music

Track 7: All Surface.

All Surface Material here was derived from the Quarter-to and Hour chimes of Lincoln Cathedral. Again I had used SPEAR to analyse these sounds and derive a composition. Bells are generally over-used in this type of music, partly from people being influenced by Jonathan Harveys “Mortus Plango, Vivos Voco” and its fair to say I’m no exception here, only I felt I really wanted to do my own this with these rich sounding bells, purely because I like that rich sound so much. Source material is revealed at the end.

Track 8: Interior

Interior: This was the track where a cheated! I added a simple piano motif and synth motif, using the general reverb space in Lincoln cathedral in a convolution reverb plug in. The piano becomes increasingly modulated as the track progresses, by granular delay. The rumbling in the background was a storm blowing its way though the upper windows in the cathedral and making that resonating effect.

Track 9: Rumble

This is probably my favourite track on the entire album- there is a single sound source- my trusty Fender Stratocaster, plugged into a valve amp, with a lot of 1950s-type tremolo and use of the tremolo (vibrato bar). A minutes carefully worked out recording was stretched to over 30 minutes in length then selectively edited; with parts reversed, re-pitched and then overlayed with new material from the same guitar and set up, Power chords in the style of Pete Townshend are added to the middle section, overs have overlays with the tremolo running at a different rate. The voice like textures at the beginning are the result of letting a chord sustain into harmonics, depressing the vibrato arm, slowing the stem down, and reversing. The same applies to other voice-like textures. The title is a tribute to Link Wray, the 1950s surf/rockabilly/instrumental guitar pioneer and his famous track (but in no way connected to his famous piece). There are no synths on this.

Track 10: Endtime

Endtime simply bookends the project with a piece specifically written to mirror the opening track.

I have to say this album is possibly one Im most happiest with since Thin White Layers, the experiments have led to new strands of composition that Im going to develop in new projects this year, and a new album for Xylem Records.

Full album:

About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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