composition, Uncategorized

The Drowned City

Notes on “The Drowned City”:

Some of you will know that in January, Brisbane flooded.  There is nothing like waking up at 2am to no power and sirens and I seriously wish I had my portable recorder ready to go.  As it was we ended up marooned for 4 days as the flood turned my local area into an island.  People died, many lost their belongings and businesses, our local shops have as yet not returned to business as usual.

While the lack of power and dwindling supplies were a concern, we were not adversely affected and, with all due respect to those who were affected, it was for me a rather interesting time for contemplation.  The time post-flood leading up to and through the RPM challenge was certainly a time to dwell on the power of nature.

This album reflects on the power of the nature and the need to see our place within the world as relative not central.  The title track plays with the serenity, majesty and force unleashed upon our city.  The origins of this track are somewhat disparate; being culled from two drone jams I surgically transplanted them into the structure of a beat driven piece, originally written to accompany a dance troupe and only ever performed live.

While there are tracks like “Sedimentary…” and the title track that directly reference the flood… most do so in some tangental kind of way.  “Looting Beano” is both a reference to both the disappointing act that seems to follow any kind of human-affecting disaster as well as a nod to the generative nature of the track and a fairly key proponent of generative music (B.Eno).

“Batik” is based on a very simple image, an item of clothing, a batik print, floating on the surging torrent.  It also utilises generative patterns in conjunction with the Reaktor synth “Prism” to realise the gamelan-like elements.  “Unscripted Drama” features a prominent use of “The Mouth”: one of two amazing Reaktor modules created by Tim Exile.

In many ways this album is perhaps notable for the variety of soft-synths used and I will provide a list at the bottom of this post.  The tracks “Radio Atlantis” and “Becoming Mud” are somewhat separate in that they are based entirely on sampled sounds.  In the latter case I recorded my partner Stacey playing some notes for me on her flute.  I then edited and pitch-shifted the sounds in a manner similar to Phil Niblock to create a shifting drone piece with a symphonic feel.  After pitch-shifting, the flute sounds more like a horn and it’s interesting to consider the work of Pierre Schaeffer here.  His experiments from the early 20th Century helped quantify what would ultimately be a very easy, yet continually satisfying thing to do.

Where “Becoming Mud” was ultimately realised on my laptop, “Radio Atlantis” is the first piece of mine constructed with the Korg Microsampler.  I’ve been after an inexpensive sampler since I heard stuff like the Art Of Noise as a child and it is very satisfying to finally have a directly performative interface that I can also use to sample, resample, manipulate and compose with.  “Radio Atlantis” is a fun track… my idea of the ultimate pirate radio station pumping out obscure avant dub from davey jones locker.  I had an elaborate idea years ago of presenting a radio show in this style complete with gibberish announcements but it never came about.  All sounds come from Stacey and I manipulating toys with additional contact mic metal percussion by Joe Musgrove.  I have of course chopped and quantised into a form that is like my idea of dance music.  More Nurse With Wound “Rock and Roll Station” than Afrika Bambaataa.  I predict my next run of work will be more influenced by my use of the sampler, perhaps inspired by some of my favourite sampler-centric musicians like David Shea and Randy Grief.

Aside from featuring the two drone tracks mentioned above, my soundcloud account is also host “Arsenal of Democracy”, a track that did not make the final cut as it seemed just a little too aggressive for the rest of the album.  A section of it can be heard at the start of “Sedimentary…” and the entire thing is also included on my 11:11 podcast.


Gear List:


  • 2008 Macbook Pro
  • Motu Ultralite
  • Zoom H4N
  • Audio-Technica Shotgun Microphone
  • Korg Kaoss Pad KP-3
  • Korg Microsampler
  • Korg Nano-Kontrol v.1
  • Akai LPK25
  • iPad

Mac Software:

  • Reaper DAW
  • Ableton Live 8.xx
  • Max 5 and Max for Live
  • Reaktor 5
    • Prism
    • The Mouth
    • The Finger
  • Absynth 4
  • Scanned Synth
  • Ambience

iPad Apps

  • Curtis
  • Horizon Synth
  • Sylo Synth
  • Yumi Synth
  • Sample Toy
  • SrutiBox
  • Touchable

1 thought on “The Drowned City”

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