ED WRIGHT: Composer

'Anatomy of a Mountain Stream', (quadraphonic fixed media).


We often take things for granted until we look carefully at them. During the cold snap of the winter of 2011 when the snow had dampened all the sounds I bravely/foolishly balanced a surround sound recorder on a rock in the middle of the stream that runs down from the Carneddau, through Parc Plas Mawr in Penmaenan on its way to the sea.

Through manipulating the playback speed of the resulting sound-file it was possible to expose many details of the sound that are often obscured by our 'normal' way of listening. By simply changing the sampling rate, we can enter what feel like different sonic dimensions where the very large, and minutely small sonic structures become far more apparent.

In this piece the original 8 minute sound-file is played in its entirety, but the speed has been mapped and composed to create the framework of the piece. The audio was recorded on a Zoom H2 at 4chan x 48kHz x 24 bit, processed in Max/MSP 5. If you need the loo please go before listening to this piece!


'Botany'
, SATB choir and string ensemble

This piece was commissioned by the Llandudno Festival, and uses the poem of the same name as its basis. The poem its self proved an interesting object to work with, leaving a lot to the imagination of the reader, at times it is joyful, at others it is romantic (in the best sense of the word) and at others it could be read as a lament. It is this shifting balance of emotions that have been reflected in the music.

Botany

All I know is, we were together
Perhaps for the last time
The chase ended, and you in red sandals,
Ankles cut by the pipes of the stubble
And the dog flung down in the restharrow,
A lace of spittle on his tongue.
Below us lay the hot limestone
Of the fields‘ incline, and above,
A magpies flight blurred like a dice
That rolls unreachably away.
You are still there, with your sunburn
Darker than a ladybird,
And on a pillar of coconut-smelling gorse
A stonechat, pierecing with
Its song the cushions of the air.
Years later I come back
With a camera and crouch down
Under the thorn, pushing the blue
Bead of the lens towards
The orchid that grows in the place where you lay.
From The Looters By Robert Minhinnick

Breeze Logic, Sound installation for: audio, arduino, max/msp, tin foil switching & ventilation

Sound Installation for: audio, arduino, max/msp, tin foil switching & ventilation.
Breeze Logic creates a piece of sound art. It relies on a number of suspended foil strips. These hang free at one end and are agitated by the airflow from electric fans placed in the space. Each strip is sent and electrical charge, some are positive, others negative, and, as the strips move in the breeze and make contact with each other connections are made and broken.
Each completed circuit triggers an audio file and thus creates an ongoing auditory counterpoint to the visual work.
Where this installation starts to become more potentially interesting is that the construction of the room that it is in has an effect on how and where strips can be paced, making the physical act of installing a creative process in itself.
The chaotic nature of the system means that the very act of observing the piece implies that as an audience member you are shaping it, be that standing in front of a window opening a door, or simply breathing.
I hope you enjoy breathing!


'Con-chords', 8-channel electroacoustics


As part of my PhD I have become interested in the interaction between real and recorded sounds. I am currently working on a piece for orchestral and electroacoustic forces entitled Polarity. Con-chords is a step along that road being created entirely from orchestral sounds.

BERG 3 Orchesterstücke, Op. 6
BARTOK Violin Concerto No. 2 BB117 Movts. 2 Andante tranquillo, 3 Allegro molto
ELGAR The Dream Of Gerontius, Op. 38 21. Softly Gently
MESSIAEN Des canyons aux étoiles - Movt 1. Le Désert

It is partly a technical study in (hopefully) avoiding the pitfalls of using such strong source material impersonating a Dalek who has just who has just accidently beamed down on top of the radio 3 transmitter, or using lots of new technology to create something that could have been played by an orchestra in the first instance are a couple that spring to mind. It is also meant to be fun, stand as a piece of music rather than simply as an exercise, and maybe, make you ask questions such as what you regard as real sounds, what you think of as electronically or synthetically created, and the ways in which we rationalize sounds born of the electrical sleight of hand that brings voltage to speakers and impulses to our brains

'Crosswire', for electric violin and live processing


Crosswire is a piece of music, manifested as a computer program. Historically many of the artefacts of musical creation have been almost interchangeable with the actions that they represent, CD recordings and notated sheet music spring to mind. In addition to this many of the systems set down by composers to create a piece of music are sets of parameters or restrictions within which performers work and create new, fresh interpretations. This becomes clear when considering the almost total lack of volume, timbral, or articulatory information written down in a Bach fugue or the defining nature of the chord progression in many types of jazz. Crosswire builds on these phenomena and rather than being a computer program designed as a way to facilitate the creation or execution of a piece of music, instead is the piece of music.

The violin part is ‘freely’ improvised, and the output of the instrument is fed into the computer. Within Crosswire the sound of the violin is analysed to provide information on the pitch of the note being played, how loud it is and its harmonic content. This is then used to turn on or off a number of different types of processors and from or break links between them. This is displayed to the performer and audience as a hexagonal constellation.



Each dot represents a processor, when a dot is small the processor is off, when it is large it is on, and lines between dots symbolise links sending audio out of one process to another From top left clockwise: clean output (no processing, shown here on), delays, additive synth, panning (left/right movement), sampler, comb filter. A number of links can also be seen such as from panning to the sampler and comb filter.
Each of these processors is in turn controlled by the pitch/volume/harmonic analysis. In the case of the delays on/off/link stated are triggered, and delay time and feedback are also changed in real time as a result of the analysis.
Within this system the violin is played and its output is processed. The performer makes judgements as to how progress based upon the sound coming out, thus entering a ‘strange loop’ of interaction as the music played not only creates sonic material but also controls how that material is transformed and presented to the world.


'En Masse'


We live in a world dominated by information technology and a culture of mass multimedia communication. Some would argue that this is a bad thing, citing the effects of violent images on impressionable minds, and the intrusion of the media into the lives of not just those that it views as subject material, but all of us by way of mass broadcast. Alternatively such ease of access to information and ideas can be a massive power for good, helping to avert (or at the least alleviate the symptoms of) war, famine and act as a massive catalyst for social change. ..En masse is an exploration of these extremes drawing in part from a variety of audio based media and is an attempt to throw a spot light on one of the key social issues of our time. Although intrinsically electroacoustic the use of these resources and the need for them to remain perceivable at times presents something of a departure from the acousmatic style of composition most often associated with the genre. Many other traits from this remain however such as the gestural use of sound and the use of transformation combined with the juxtaposition of sonorities to name but a few...Most of us like to grumble about the media, some are positively hostile, others see potential for good, whilst some of a more thoughtful inclination would put forward ideas of alienation and social decline. We are all party to this phenomena, we watch it, we fund it and we are ultimately responsible for it. Ultimately in a free society what we hear, see and retell is of our own choosing.
Quotations sourced from terrestrial television and radio broadcasts Oct 2005 - Feb 2006 .


'Harp Set', 8 channel surround sound and moving image

Imagine you’ve got a bit of music (ok a phrase).What if you tried doing what this fractal does with the central square and reduce it in size and move it about.... ok. As the square gets smaller so the phrase gets quicker, and as it gets transferred up or down the visual field so the pitch gets higher or lower, kind of like modern day Sierpinsky fugue (the bloke who invented the fractal pattern). Ok then translate all that physical movement into an 8 channel speaker set-up so that the top of the screen is the front of the sound space and as the image moves left right up or down so does the audio in the hall. Add in video display of how these sounds are being effected and generated in a geometric sort of way and sync it to what is going on. Lie back in a darkened room and enjoy! (this is just a stereo version of an 8 channel surround sound affair but it gives you the idea!)



'Hopscotch', for audio and motion tracking.

The game of Hopscotch exists in a number of forms in many cultures: the unifying theme is movement through a space marked out on the ground. In some cases it is a simple counting game or form of exercise, there are other examples where it is seen as symbolising the quest for spiritual enlightenment and even as an allegory of re-incarnation. Experiences range from the playful to the profound, the functional to the transcendental and often taking the individual out of society whilst at the same time uniting those playing and watching. This installation uses 14 sound objects (triggered in 2 lines of 7), a simple web cam, and a computer program developed by myself to create a physical and auditory 'play' area. It can also be a lot of fun...


'Polarities', orchestra and 8-channel surround live electronics

Bangor University Symphony Orchestra cond. Chris Collins.
Composition and live electronics Edward Wright 2009
Live Stereo recording of 8 channel and orchestra work, then mangled a bit more into MP3!
Polarities is a piece of experimental music, attempting to combine the forces of the orchestra with multichannel electroacoustic composition.
Within this piece there are three main elements. Firstly there is the orchestral part about which I shall say little here, but suffice it to say it is central to music, and my sincerest thanks go to the members of the university orchestra for their forbearance and skill in coming on this journey. From this we bridge the gap into the world of the electronic with a number of orchestral soloists, functioning in musically in a similar manner to those in a more conventional concerto grosso. The sound from these players is audibly transformed in real time, providing a link between the worlds of acoustic composition and speaker based sonic art, which leads to the third element, that of purely electronic music. Here a wide number of sounds have been collected, transformed, sculpted, and in a very literal sense composed into one or possibly several parts. This has then been broken down into musical phrases or events and program mapped onto a keyboard so as to enable live triggering in performance.
The concept of bridging these worlds works on a number of levels. The first and most obvious in the use of live processing of performers, and for that matter live performance of the electronic part in that the sound files are triggered with (hopefully!) the orchestra rather than relying on a constant click track or metronome. Beyond this we get into matters physical and musical, in that volume balance and spatialisation need to work just as they would in any purely instrumental ensemble. Growing from ‘classical’ orchestral practice, the movement and exploration of parameters such as pitch, timbre and rhythm between the electronic and the acoustic becomes both a catalyst for musical tension and unifying framework on which to build. Whilst on the surface this piece may appear to be something of a rebellion against the norms of orchestral composition, it is not, rather it is an evolution, broadening the potential spectra and gestural possibilities. This wider potential frees the various elements to work as they do best, rather than limiting a speaker to the tempered scale or for that matter trying to force strange noises out of instruments of relatively fixed timbre and tesetura as so often becomes the case in much modern composition.
I mentioned earlier of a journey, for this is what this is. Polarities is a hard piece to pin down, through the process of writing (in as much as one can be said to fully write a piece such as this) I have often been surprised how the material unfolds. True, one starts with a basic structure, be that motivic, emotional, conceptual, any combination of these, or perhaps none of them but what comes through is not just how shockingly wide a repertoire of sounds these combined worlds afford, but also how intertwined and similar they can become. ..To say this is a completely abstract piece of music would be a lie in that I do not truly believe such a thing is possible, there is always some part of you within a work, and for that matter, the preconceptions and ideas that listeners and performers bring to the piece. Suffice it to say that it begins at the beginning has a slow bit in the middle and gets quicker at the end, or at least that is the plan.


'Postcards From Home', electronic


So much electroacoustic music can sound dark and sad... here's to writing happy music! Having moved house relatively recently it seemed a nice idea to try and capture something of the place in a piece of music. The idea of the sonic postcard has been around for quite a while and my new home village seemed perfectly suited to it nestled on the side of a mountain between the sea, the quarry the forest the express way and ironically the farm that my Great great Grandfather owned nearly a century ago. Technically the music bridges a number of different worlds as the slightly contradictory title would suggest. The opening section is based within a soundscape aesthetic using a number of natural sounds, often with no attempt to conceal their origin. This gives way to a more acousmatic style which none the less attempts to maintain a pitched and rhythmically based drive harking away from the concrete style and aiming at something far older. The final section joins these two main ideas up.... hopefully! Turn it up loud


'Seasons', SATB choir and live 4-channel electroacoustics


Edward Wright 2008, text by Graeme Harper 2008

New flocks, sighted on old stones
Recall a cycle, oceans swelling
The teetering tones of trees
And in the blossom ends bloom.
A child and mother,
Two beginnings, two endings
Meet between movements.
Larger than one life, larger than you
Or me, together, apart
Two, or four, or many cycles more.
Until one day, one day,
Away it starts, again.
New flocks on old stones,
Beginning and ending, many more.


This piece was commissioned for the 2008 Llandudno festival, and, as the title suggests is for choir and electronic (or electroacoustic) music. The theme of the seasons runs through many of the pieces of music in the festival this year, be that in a literal or metaphorical sense, and I am very grateful to Graeme for his text that carries this on so well.

The piece is notionally cyclical, winter giving way to spring, and a new world gradually emerging to the light. The music then opens out further before coming to a final, slightly unstable close, as if promising some continuation and further re-emergence after the thaw.

The two parts were written together. The choral part remains fairly conventional retaining the vast majority of the traits that go to build up what we call 'music': in that it follows the classical notion of notes, rhythm based on the subdivision of a regular beat, fixed timbre, harmony and harmonic tension in the combination of pitches and so on. The electronic part builds on this tradition but expands this approach. With the greater degree of control brought about by digital processing and performance it is possible to treat sounds and musical ideas in a far more malleable way. With recording it is possible to utilise any sound for a musical purpose, and, to change, transform and work with it in a manner impossible with 'real world' instruments. Thus the electronic part treats sound in a far more sculptural way, in that there is no longer always the sense of being on this note or that, or being here or there in a bar. Rather, there is the capacity for a flowing continuum, that includes pitches, rhythms, tensions and resolutions, as well as drawing on a multitude of sounds and musical gestures previously inaccessible to us.

For this evenings concert sound events will be played via computer in real time with the choir, and diffused over surround sound speakers.

Source sounds recorded June-Sept '08 (including premiere appearance by Alena Grace Wright), processing and editing Studio 4 Bangor University.

Sonic Wave Laboratory

The local sonic artists take inspiration from the off shore wind farm and produce a piece of work that relates directly to it.  Large outdoor rotating machines with sensors are located within the promenade shelters that interact with passes by and audio sourced direct from the wind farm to create an ever changing sound composition. These temporary mini turbines form a small quintet that can be listened to either individually or inside their laboratory ( a converted Bathing Machine ). The composition is created by nature and shaped by manmade machines.

'Sound Games', electronics and live controllers


Structured improvisation for computer and Wii controllers
Sound Games is an improvisational/compositional environment (programming EW). At its heart lies the idea of gesture as fundamental to our understanding of music. This concept functions on a number of levels; firstly there is the innate physicality of playing an instrument such as: banging a drum harder to make a louder sound or breathing in to prepare to sing. At the other end of the process there is the aesthetic recognition of the gestural properties of a piece of music, as exemplified in the phrases ‘a descending tune’ or a ‘swirling cacophony’.
Computers have very simple physical methods of communicating with the outside world. On an average PC one tends to find a keyboard and a mouse as ways of entering information. Whilst this is perfectly acceptable in most cases it does little to reflect or for that matter enhance the music making process, indeed it is almost the digital equivalent of trying to make music with a pencil and paper or various pieces of office hardware!
Sound Games is an attempt to break down some of these barriers. 



The program uses two Wii remotes, one to control the left half of the screen and one to control the right. Each long white rectangle represents a sound file indicated by the name e.g. . The position of the cursor with that box (controlled by the remote) dictates the pitch and left/right positioning of the audio, in a hopefully intuitive (left makes it go left, up makes it go higher) fashion. In addition to this rotating the controller inwards makes the sound louder (conversely outwards lower), the ‘A’ button locks the cursor to the current vertical position,  the ‘down’ button disables pitch shifting and the ‘B’ trigger starts or stops overall playback.
It is an inherently simple instrument, but a lot more expressive than a QWERTY keyboard. If one then sets the tolerances fairly fine it becomes harder to control but with a far greater range of expression, you can do more things and in so doing the potential for doing ‘wrong’ things is also increased. It is exciting to find a way of creating music with a computer that requires similar levels of practice and motor coordination as you would expect on an acoustic instrument. 

'Space to Think' electronic concert music

A lot of what is in the popular imagination about space and space travel is precisely that, imagination. From the Barron’s Forbidden Planet through to the electronic squelch of radio communication a lot of what we think of as space related is a very human construct. What fascinates me is how much of what we believe sounds as if it comes from outer space or under the sea (or for that matter any environment out of our direct experience) is actually a result of dubbing and sound design in the media.

As a culture we have bought into the idea of rockets rumbling as they go past, even though there may be almost nothing in the void of space to transmit the sound and the glockenspiel twinkle of stars is almost as real as the piano wire scrape of the Tradis. This provides a fantastic palate of subverted fantasy with which to create and explore a rich and varied sound world. Apart from the use of two pieces of NASA archive; launch and countdown, the rest of the sounds used I have recorded and shaped myself, taking great delight in recreating a few iconic 'other worldly' sound objects and effects along the way.

The result is an acousmatic work utilising a wide variety of sounds from analogue synthesis through to simple dislocation and out to generative algorithms to create an apparently extra-terrestrial environment in which our earthbound ears and minds can roam.  
* * *

In about September 2017 I was commissioned by Bangor Music Festival to compose a piece of electroacoustic music for their February 2018 event, along with a series of education workshops. I really wanted to do this and it was looking like it was going to be an amazing autumn and early spring of creating cool stuff and having fun; then the floor almost literally gave way.

Following a period of ill health my Dad took his own life in mid October and unsurprisingly this hit me really hard. It is not so much the sadness which is debilitating but the feelings of numbness, rage and lethargy that suck the capacity for creativity away. In my case my Dad and I got on really well, he was a role model and someone who had a massive influence on me throughout my life, when something so seemingly at odds with everything you have ever known happens all the basic assumptions that you make in life come into question. I would even look at my feet when walking down stairs, not through shock or physical instability but because I no longer trusted the assumption that I knew where my feet and where the steps where. It was certainly no mindset to take creative decisions in, they are so vague, so intangible and impossible to verify that the simplest starting impetus threw up paralyzing indecision.

It was at this point that I sadly informed Guto the festival director that I couldn’t fulfill the commission. I have never had to do this before and it left me feeling awful, but also slightly relieved.  There followed a period of calm, I got back to doing some work and I managed to get off the antidepressants (citalopram) which had been prescribed to help me sleep, level me out and stop catching things out of the corner of my eye. In late December I got a phone call from Guto offering to take some of the festival work back, but once again asking if I would like to compose ‘something’ for the finishing concert.

I find it really hard to sit down and just make noises or compose, some people start from an initial sound or a feeling, I tend to find some sort of idea or framework to hang something on and then can go from there. I though about this for about 24 hours, it was an incredibly kind offer which Guto had made, and my head was clearing. I went for a run in the hills, it happened to be early as I wanted to make the summit of a mountain near to us to catch the winter solstice sunrise and on the way up the ideas just struck me.

The theme of the event this year is space and I am happy to say that the work shared a stage with Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research (BEER). BEER had worked in collaboration with the Art@CMS project at CERN in Switzerland, using real-time sonification of data streams from the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most complex particle accelerator. This is something which it is foolish to compete against; that, and the fact that I literally have Scott Wilson (of BEER)’s book on coding in Supercollider sat on my desk. Thus I chose to take a different tack and rather than approach it from an analytical and scientific angle I went for something closer to home.

Many thanks to Guto Puw and the Bangor Music Festival for their kindness, understanding and faith.

In memory of Brian Wright

'Starlight Snowfall', String Ensemble and 4 channel electronics


Starlight Snowfall explores the sonorities of the string ensemble and uses live sound triggering to extend this range of sounds. As a composer I find that there is a constant drive to expand every available parameter, such as timbre or harmony, to a place that has not been experienced before. This is obviously a good thing as it drives us forward and prevents works becoming superficially repetitive. Occasionally it is nice to look under the bonnet, away from the glitter of new techniques and create something challenging in a different way, working within an established paradigm, to nudge the boarders, to create something new and hopefully beautiful.
I've simply tried to capture some of the excitement, magic, paradox, and deep-down power of the world that surrounds us. Occasionally we all need to be reminded of the joy and mystery of the simple things we tend to take for granted.
Starlight Snowfall was commissioned by Izzy Hirst for Bangor University String Ensemble and was composed in the winter of 2009-10, the snowiest I could remember at the time.

'Thinking Inside the Box', Stereo fixed media installation
Thinking Inside the Box is a piece of sonic art/music written specifically for the ‘dark cell’ in Ruthin Goal. It draws largely from sounds found in the almost silent environment of the prison to create an isolated sound world. In some cases these sounds are played back completely naturally. At other times the sounds have been processed in my studio (often to the point where the origin is unrecognisable) to reveal details that we often miss or to highlight a more traditionally ‘musical’ element within an otherwise everyday noise. It is an attempt to explore some of the implications of imprisonment: alienation and observation, atonement and redemption, isolation and memory, and most especially the bizarre things that go on in your head when there is nothing to hear or see.
Audience members are invited to sit in the cell and listen in the complete darkness for the seven minute duration of the piece, those of a nervous or cautious disposition may be pleased to know that it is no longer possible to lock the door so you can leave at any time!

'Y Twr', multi-channel installation

Y Twr is a multi room / multi floor sound and music installation set in the breath taking surroundings of Conwy Castles Chapel Tower. Y Twr (the tower in English) draws sounds from Conwys history and the present day, evoking many striking images ranging from pitched battles, to the boats of the Arfon Conwy, through to sea gulls, steam trains, blacksmithing and the hustle and bustle of modern life.....The work attempts to present these and many other sounds with a sense of historical order but also is an exploration of how we gain a knowledge of a sense of place.
On entering the space our initial reaction is to the immediate, the weight of time, blocks of stone and the underlying feel of a past not fully comprehended. Gradually our experiences fill in some of these blanks, adding in, not only the history of the location and its web of interconnections, but also, we find ourselves connected into its narrative and it, in turn, to ours. It is through this dialogue that we feel or project some sort of a bond with a place, and where our day to day lives, emotions, tragedies triumphs and dreams can be.
The work is diffused throughout the tower with two main speakers of the first floor, and a number of other speakers secluded at various levels though out the tower ranging from the ground entrance up to the battlements producing different aspects of the main piece. There are also a number of live microphones hidden in the tower which are at times mixed into the main speakers to provide a very up to date historic element... you were warned. Within the main room there will also be a projection of the live computing element which controls these elements so for the geeks amongst you, roll up!
Composition, programing and design by Ed Wright..Sound recording by Ed Wright and Emma Louis.
Pibgorn played by Stephen Rees.

'The Way I Saw It', violin and tape


This piece explores the age old idea of the duet, in this case it is between live violin and a pre-recorded tape part . The source sounds for it were recorded as a journey from home in Bangor, along the coast and up through the woods to Aber falls, and it is this motion between the man made synthetic and the natural organic that underpins the musical exploration here. To state it more exactly, it is the tension between our perceptions of order and chaos, and the natural and the man made, that is being explored...



Any sound, or collection of sounds could be given a position in such a space, equally many other opposites could be applied notated and improvised, acoustic instruments and electronic sounds, the tempered scale and a continuum of pitches, and so on, the list is probably endless. From the first note or impulse, the state of centred equilibrium is blurred slightly, and any general movement away from this zero point implies an increase of musical tension until such time as the sound comes back to the centre or is thrown past it into another area of the space, coming to an eventual rest with the end of the piece...The music draws from a number of genre which is unsurprising given the instrumentation and the time and place of writing, as a result a certain amount of interplay between these languages occurs. For example not only does the violin improvise and mimic heavily synthesised sounds at times, but the tape part has been edited to incorporate elements of rubato and other primarily acoustic traits. Above all it is intended to be interesting and rewarding, if challenging in places to listen to. Enjoy.

'Who Can Hear The Sea? ', sound Installation for: Surround sound audio and max/msp

Who Can Hear The Sea? is a sound installation commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival. The sea is a major theme of this year’s festival as well as being a fascinating subject for recording. In developing this piece I tried to record the sound of the sea, free from outside influences such as: wind, road noise and sea gulls, but gradually became aware of a number of issues that arise.
Beside the practical issues of trying to find a silent beach on a windless day, with big waves, water by itself makes little or no noise; it is the matter and energy around it, in it, acting on it and contained in it that makes it sonorous. In addition to this there is the dynamic but structured nature of the sea, it is constantly changing, in an incredibly complex, yet ordered way.
Who Can Hear The Sea? Uses recordings of sea waves as its basis and then uses computer processing and techniques such as subtractive synthesis to shape confine and restrict these sounds to create a number of sonic objects or ‘musical’ statements.
These sound objects have then been edited together to create 8 audio loops, the longest of which is 7’02” and the shortest of which is 5’59”. These loops all play simultaneously and repeat as they reach the end of each play through. Thus the different loops move in and out of phase. Not only does this make for a constantly changing piece, it means that just like the sea you can listen to it and hear ongoing similarities but it will never be quite the same again; as for all the loops to come back to the start and line up exactly it would take 1875 years, 1 day, and 16 seconds (roughly)!