Electronics: Robert's blog Wed 6 Feb 2013

Managed to get a hired van up to the top of the hill beside the studio – and out again, more to the point, at the end of the day. Beautiful sun for much of the day, though still a fair bit of icy sludge between deep snow drifts on the hill.

Ailie Robertson is, as we had worked out already, an extremely accomplished composer keen as mustard to find out more about electronics. This seems a valid, indeed valuable, thing to spend a day on – and fun too (he hastens to add). “The Lewisman in Exile” is based on an old probably-eighteenth-century lament. Ailie’s idea was to fracture it in various ways to convey the fractured situation of an exile from Lewis making a new home for himself in Canada. Long solos, with or without accompaniment, play with elements of the tune. Quarter tones, slides, sul ponticello, sul tasto, precisely notated but to be played freely - I was full of admiration for the way the other three interpreted theirs, and self-conscious about my own. Quite a few tricky harmonics to figure out (one octave above the written note or two? Or is it just meant to be an open string?), including double stopped harmonics quite difficult to make sound, but all (or nearly all?) perfectly possible. So a number of challenges thrown our way.

The atmosphere of longing (for the home country, for Lewis or whatever) percolated from the music – maybe out of the sentiment of the original tune – and permeated our day – and was curiously enervating. Pippa headed out for a walk at lunchtime and I should really have done the same, but found myself stirring soup!

Ailie was keen to try multiple microphones – to pick up various sounds – for example, the clatter of fingers on fingerboards. This wasn’t found to be particularly effective. Maybe I clatter my fingers down a bit, but mostly the others put theirs down discreetly – so these mics were put away at lunchtime – nothing doing there!

We talked about Jack Kerouac, amongst a hundred other things, at lunchtime, and his “first word best word” philosophy of writing. This blog is written in the same shameless profusion – so apologies if it’s incoherent!

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