Matthew Collings

Heriot Toun is a fantastic place to work. Air and views of the countryside from the studio, great people, great food, great expertise.

After a jovial car journey from Morningside the first thing which grabbed my attention was the peace of the lace we'd be working for the day, but also the presence of a large number of crows, who cawed ominously throughout the day.

'News from Nowhere' has this hint of darkness in it which became more apparently throughout the day, and became it an intense experience working on it. Everyone is placed in a space which is at once familiar yet alien; threatening yet at times comforting. It combines the sound of the string quartet with digital distortion, feedback and resonance of the violin, extended techniques on the viola (equivalent to 'breathing' sounds created from bowing the bridge of the instrument and later the wooden side of the bow on the strings behind the bridge), processing and linking of the playing between instruments via the use of side-chained compression and gating in real-time.

I thought seriously about integrating some field recordings of the birds outside through out the day but ever got around to it due to various technical issues which cam up over the day. None of this came as a great surprise to me…anyone who knows me or has ever worked with me knows that this is often a result of my idiosyncratic ways of doing things. Everyone was very patient during the whole day as Alex, Martin and myself spent many hours trying to achieve the effects the piece called for. But all this work really paid off as we managed to get solutions to all these problems and work them seamlessly into the playing of the musicians.

I took control of sending both Rick and Donnie's playing through a prepared amplifier (filled with rice) at various times, which involved plenty of score following. This was the first time I ever scored any of my music and was also the first time I ever really worked with an ensemble of trained musicians. I was nervous about the potential problems which could come from the 'collision of worlds' between a self-taught, noise-loving student and a professional quartet, but the whole day as a joy from start to finish. An invaluable experience for me which will certainly inform my thinking from here on in…

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