An introduction to Exploratorium by Gene Coleman

Gene Coleman has been developing a series of works around concepts of Neuro Music and Transcultural Music, some of which are collected for the first time on Exploratorium, which is also the first album exclusively dedicated to Gene’s compositions. The CD booklet includes the following Introduction by Gene, as well as notes on each of the compositions.

Ideas about exploratory behavior, Neuro Music and Transcultural Music have been the basis for many of my works over the last 20 years. Exploratorium is an album of some of those works and a space of exploration. Indeed, all the works on this album are examples of Neuro Music, which is the fundamental connection point across these compositions.

I define Neuro Music as an area of research and creation based on the study and application of models and concepts from Auditory Neuroscience, as a form of musical composition. For me the big question is: how can we apply ideas and data from Auditory Neuroscience to create new works of art?

My definition of Neuro Music is also shaped by the growing field of Neuroaesthetics, which is a branch of Cognitive Neuroscience that studies aesthetic behaviors, such as the definitions of and responses to beauty. In my lecture ‘Music Mirrors Mind’ I examine the concepts of Neuroaesthetics and Neuro Music, along with related work in these areas by Stan Brakhage, Anthony Braxton, Helmut Lachenmann and Alvin Lucier.

‘Atonal Music as a Model for Investigating Exploratory Behavior’, a paper by a group of neuroscientists, was published in 2022. The paper’s research into ideas of listeners’ exploratory behavior as a neurological activity opens up new ways to think about creativity, both for the composer’s work and how music is heard and processed by listeners. Is it possible to understand an impulse to create things that don’t fit known compositional categories or strategies? There is no clear answer to that yet, but I have a desire to explore new lands in music, I don’t want to travel where most composers go. The possibilities for Neuroscience to deepen our understanding of sound and music, as well as the behaviors of listeners, are extraordinary. Applying these ideas from Neuroscience has profoundly transformed the way I think about and create music.

My interest in Neuroscience and music began around 10 years ago and found an early form in my work for solo cello The Geometry of Thinking (2016). That work contained experiments with what I call Geometric Bowing, a technique of moving the bow on the strings in geometric patterns (rather than the normal back and forth) to represent auditory information processing in the brain. Another technique is called Synapse Bowing, which involves moving the bow vertically on the strings, following patterns of electrical flow between Neurons, as presented by the Neuroscientist Eugene M. Izhikevich in his book Dynamical Systems in Neuroscience. Geometric and Synapse Bowing are on full display in the first work on this album, RITORNO (2019), which is my 2nd string quartet.

The Neuro compositional methods I have developed are modeled on the auditory pathway of the brain (APB). It is my belief that constructing musical compositions based on the APB will allow new forms of musical thought and expression to emerge. Technically speaking, the auditory pathway is the entire chain of events that occur in our auditory experience, from sound waves striking the Pina (outer ear) to the mechanical conversion of air waves to water waves, then to impulses in the auditory nerve, then onward to various stages of cognition, memory, emotion and thinking. This is a vast territory, and in some works I have found it interesting to focus on a particular portion of the APB as the model for the composition. Such is the case with Kokhlos I and Kokhlos IV, which use the inner ear (the Cochlea) as the model for the entire piece. These works (along with Vidrone) use texts by Lance Olsen, who wrote a novel called Dreamlives of Debris that rewrites the mythology of the labyrinth in Crete. ‘Kokhlos’ is the Greek word for ‘spiral shell’, from which the term Cochlea originates. I compare the labyrinth to the Cochlea, the winding, spiral organ that converts sound waves to electrochemical signals.

I am in awe of the ways in which music and brain functions are so similar. I have studied the way the brain processes sound and worked to develop and define related compositional models and refine existing ones. The creative process of designing these models and using them to create music is an amazing odyssey. My models of the auditory pathway merge with my intuition (the subconscious); for many years I have explored the conscious and subconscious in music, though I didn’t define it like that until recently.

Another concept behind some of my works is what I call Transcultural Music, which I define as an area of research and composition based on the integration of music from different cultures and traditions. In my works the emphasis is often on timbre (sound color) and noise to control or dissolve boundaries between different forms of music. In 2003, the Transonic festival was initiated at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (the House of World Cultures) in Berlin. I was very fortunate to be asked by the HKW Director Hans-Georg Knopp to act as the artistic director and composer in residence for this festival. It was an unprecedented opportunity to explore how musical styles and traditions might meet and combine in new ways. This experience, along with my 9-month residence in Japan in 2001, created the conditions for my Transcultural compositions, which have involved collaborations with musicians from Japan, Taiwan, Lebanon, Brazil, China, Europe and North America. The compositions Vidrone (2017) and Across Time (Transonic Symphony #1) (2023) are examples on this album.

Across Time also introduces a new series of works called The Transonic Symphonies. Using highly unique formations of instruments and media, along with my models of Neuro and Transcultural Musics, these works explore new possibilities for what a symphony can be in the 21st century. My main vehicle for the performance of these symphonies is the Transonic Orchestra, a group I started in 2019, which features musicians from many different places and traditions.

This new symphonic approach redefines some concepts of diversity, as it’s not about placing people into existing western hierarchies, like orchestras in the USA and Europe. This form of symphonic music goes deep into different cultures, exploring many traditions, sound and media, using a wide range of instruments from different cultures combined with electronic sounds to create a symphonic, Neuro Music experience.

One aspect of this new kind of symphony involves separately recording individual musicians and using modern popular music and video techniques to mix them together. While in classical, contemporary and jazz music the norm is to record everyone together and capture the sound made by the musicians in real time, to go into new realms it is necessary to move beyond this way of working, especially regarding large ensemble music, where the logistics and economics make many new ideas impossible to realize. I fully intend to present these works live in concert, but these recording and mixing approaches are central to the ideas around Transcultural Music. The ways in which virtual representations and live performers are combined in live concerts is another possibility, as well as electronic media versions for broadcast, etc.

The current politics and economics of the orchestra stifles creativity. Composers fight for small commissions and have very little support to compete with the museum culture of classical music. The composers selected are very limited by what they can compose, which is detrimental for creativity.

In 2023 I launched the Institute for Music and Neuroaesthetics, with headquarters in Bellano, Italy. The work of the Institute will explore the research and creation of Neuro Music and Transcultural Music projects and be a valuable platform for advocacy and support. My goal is to build new pathways to a different, more creative future.

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Astrïd: “a deep impression every time”

Always Digging The Same Hole by Astrïd has received a positive response since its release. Here are some extracts from some recent reviews, along with double-page spreads, with images by Peter Liversidge, from the CD booklet.

 

“The fact that their music hasn’t reached more ears is yet another mind-boggling event that is sadly becoming all too familiar across the underground landscape. … A release heavy with emotive, sullen atmospheres and tempo shifts that echo the likes of Chris Abrahams and The Necks …”
Sun-13 

 

 

“An immersive experience that evokes deep emotions and invites listeners to get lost in an exceptional sound world.”
Solenopole 

 

 

“Astrïd manages to make a deep impression every time. … unfolded in a cinematic and rustic way. You have to look for it somewhere between Dictaphone, Set Fire To Flames, Rachel’s, Talk Talk, Boxhead Ensemble, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and Slow Six. It is majestic masterful magic that they bring out here.
Subjectivism 

 

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ANDREW POPPY CATCH-UP

Andrew Poppy’s Ark Hive of A Live continues to be met with enthusiasm and delight. As False Walls’ most ambitious release to date (4 CDs, plus book and slipcase), we’re sharing some extracts from reviews and social media below. Over an hour of the Ark Hive can be streamed here

 

Robin Rimbaud on Instagram:
Ark Hive of A Live by British composer Andrew Poppy (b.1954) has just arrived and it’s an absolutely beautiful production. I first became familiar with Poppy’s work when he was part of seminal British ensemble, The Lost Jockey, whose work still stands tall today. I went to hear them perform live several times in the early 1980s and still own their sadly limited discography – one LP, one cassette and a 12” vinyl. Their work shared an attraction towards the minimalism school of American music, from Terry Riley, through Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Poppy then signed to Trevor Horn and Paul Morley’s Zang Tumb Tuum Records (ZTT) in 1984 and released the extraordinary The Beating of Wings album which I thoroughly recommend anyone take a listen to. I even contributed sleeve notes to a box set of recordings from this era at one point. Since then he’s released a truly vast body of inspiring work. This new 4 CD set, accompanied by a handsome 128 page book, acts as a place for unreleased music, apparently recorded live but treated, processed, added to and manipulated. I love that his work slips between genres with such ease, from electronica to ambient music, to operatic explorations to contemporary classical music. At points cranky cowboy guitars meet piano diversions, whilst percussion batters away, and synths softly float around the scene. Or cinematic strings go into battle with honking brass, and rapidly rolling lilting melodies chase them down. The publication is also fascinating as it features an an introduction by Paul Morley, and additional writings from Leah Kardos, Nik Bärtsch and Rose English. Definitely a release to treasure, and apparently it’s out officially today, which I never even realised writing this. And let’s be honest, his hair is a work of art in itself. I’ve heard that it even has its own postcode in London!

 

Brian Morton, Wire magazine:
The animating spirit is Poppy’s protean musical imagination, as light as wings beating one moment, thunderous and dark the next. … It’s not just an archive [but] otherwise unreleased works caught in live performance and gently transformed in the editing suite into the components of four well-shaped albums. … Poppy’s music is like Madagascar — you discover species there you don’t find anywhere else.

 

Downtown Music gallery, NYC, USA:
Each of the four CDs included has a different theme and different personnel with Mr. Poppy playing piano, drum machine, percussion, etc. There is quite a bit to take in with four discs and informative notes to read through. Disc or ‘Volume One’ begins with “Goodbye Piano Concerto” for piano, keyboards, guitar & percussion, all played by Mr. Poppy. It is an eerie, somewhat skeletal, minimalist piece with a slow central pulse which we can’t hear but it is there, buried below the surface. Although this piece is minimal, it does have a strong, suspense-filled vibe running throughout it. “Attempt at an Ecstatic Moment” and “Chewing the Corner” come from a larger piece called “Horn Horn”, six pieces for two solo saxes and orchestra. These pieces aresomewhat dark yet haunting, a bit solemn yet most stirring as well. “Chewing the Corner” raises the bar to a more uptempo, magical landscape with a stream of dreamy flutes and percussion plus some complex, kaleidoscopic orchestral parts. “Almost the Same Shame” is for piano and orchestra. The piano part sounds like a sped-up Philip Glass-like minimalist work. “Weighing the Measure” is for piano, drum machine percussion with bass clarinet & accordion. The music contains a series of drones, both soothing and a bit eerie. I still have to listen to the other three discs. I must admit that I am most impressed with the disc that I’ve heard and the great artwork & preparation that went into creating this lovely box set.

 

Freq:
Not listened to any Andrew Poppy until now and l’ve got to say I feel like l’ve been missing out, as this compelling four-disc excursion aptly demonstrates. A superb series of endeavours embracing classical and avant flavours, Ark Hive Of A Live is full of improvised sparks and juddering disposition, the enclosed write-up full of fascinating insight.

 

Nieuwe Noten / New Notes:
A beautiful edition by the way, consisting of an extensive book and four CDs, together in a sturdy slipcase. A ‘must have’, as we say. And Poppy’s music fits perfectly into what I’ve been paying attention to for several weeks now: the minimalism in the music. Poppy also shows himself a descendant of this genre, although he is by no means limited to it.

 

Post-Punk Monk:
The price of the package all but demands its purchase as one rarely sees a package this luxe at an affordable price like £30.00. There will be 500 of these dispersing through the world and fans of the beauty that Mr. Poppy brings to the music would do well to invest …

 

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HENRY DAGG AND EVAN PARKER ALBUM EVENT: 7 OCT 2023

Matthew Herbert and MettaShiba in a unique duo performance of drums and electronics … PLUS visionary instrument builder Henry Dagg and veteran jazz pioneer Evan Parker launch their album THEN THROUGH NOW (on False Walls).

 

Saturday 7 Oct 2023
Gulbenkian, Canterbury, UK
https://thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/matthew-herbert-plus-henry-dagg-evan-parker-metta-shiba/

 

 

Henry & Evan’s album/stream:
https://www.falsewalls.co.uk/release/then-through-now/
CD/digital release out now.

 

A conversation between Henry, Evan and performance artist Karen Christopher is included in the 20 page CD booklet; you can read an extract here.

 

Photo: Simon Shaw Photography. Henry and Evan performing at the Hot Tin, Faversham.

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ANDREW POPPY: new release, launch event and online interview

Ark Hive of A Live is a 4 CD set of recordings by Andrew Poppy, along with a 128 page book, including writing by Andrew Poppy; an introduction by Paul Morley; other writing by Leah Kardos, Nik Bärtsch and Rose English; and archival photographs.

More detail here:
https://www.falsewalls.co.uk/release/ark-hive-of-a-live/

 

 

From the International Times review: “If, as the False Walls website says, ‘Ark Hive is an ironic meditation on the archive’ which ‘brings together elements of biography and materials from a lifetime of creative endeavour in sonic, language and visual forms’, then I would like to suggest that it is much more a celebration of being alive, of being persistent, tenacious and single-minded. Of being a wonderful composer, performer and musician … a superbly designed package … “
https://internationaltimes.it/different-places-everywhere/

 

 

The launch event for Ark Hive of A Live is on 4 April 2023 at Century Club, Soho, London. At the event, Andrew will be in discussion with the author Travis Elborough, and perform ‘Almost the Same Shame’ in person; the conversation will be accompanied by a selection of video pieces compiled by his long-term collaborator Julia Bardsley.
https://centuryclub.co.uk

 

 

A new interview with Andrew is also available here:
https://15questions.net/interview/fifteen-questions-interview-andrew-poppy/page-1/

 

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HENRY DAGG & EVAN PARKER: ALBUM LAUNCH GIG

Henry Dagg and Evan Parker’s new album THEN THROUGH NOW was launched at The Hot Tin, Faversham, on November 20, 2022. The event included support from Filter Feeder, an improvised performance by Henry and Evan, and a Q&A session with Henry and Evan facilitated by CJ Mitchell of False Walls.

Listen to and / buy the album here.

 

 

Mark Bandola on Facebook reported: “Outside, the elements were lashing fiercely autumnal, but inside a lucky crowd of music fans were blissfully being transported to a technicolour meeting of heavens and terra firmas spectaculaire, thanks to two musical mavericks, Evan Parker and Henry Dagg, playing a concert in their mutual stomping ground of Faversham, Kent, at the beautiful, inspiring The Hot Tin (literally a vintage church made of tin!!). The show was a benefit for this valuable alternative entertainment venue, and a showcase for the superb new album by the duo called ‘Then Through Now’, an unprecedented merging of the (BBC) radiophonic tones of Dagg’s “Stage Cage” with the highly expressive arpeggios of Parker’s saxophone – both artists are of the intuitive notion of re-acting rather than merely acting, so the lush waves of harmonics and mysterious melodic tumblings were both adventurous and heartfelt – and the crowd were focussed and appreciative.”

 

The following gig photos were taken by Simon Shaw Photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HENRY DAGG & EVAN PARKER: INTERVIEW

Henry Dagg and Evan Parker’s new album THEN THROUGH NOW is released by False Walls on November 25, 2022. The album captures Henry and Evan’s improvised performance as part of the Free Range series in Canterbury, Kent, on December 2, 2021. For that performance, Evan played soprano saxophone, and Henry developed a new electronic instrument called the Stage Cage, to both process Evan’s live sound as well as generate its own sounds. A conversation between Henry, Evan and performance artist Karen Christopher is included in a 20 page booklet which accompanies the release. Here is an extract from the conversation:

 

 

Karen: It’s clear that both instruments – the saxophone and the Stage Cage – have their own affordances, or things that they allow you to do, and ways that you have to interact with them in order to make it happen. I was aware of how the manner of producing the sound was also constantly becoming the sound: Evan’s finger movements, the way that the pads sound on the saxophone keys, and Evan’s breath sounds, and then also all the things you’ve built into this Stage Cage apparatus, are part of the sound making the sound.

 

Henry: Yes, that was part of my responsibility at any given moment, to decide whether I’d just let Evan do his thing, and augment it in some way by treatment, or add to it with something of my own, or to obliterate Evan with something of my own, or to try and come up with something where you couldn’t quite make out if it was Evan or me that was coming up with this weird combination of sounds. And of course, to that end, I did my best in places to try and emulate Evan’s technique on my very modest range of key controls.

 

Evan: The whole thing functions in a way like a sampler, but pre-computing sampling. And with the variable speed organised for the tape recorders, and the moveable heads between the two, it’s a very different way of being sampled and played back into the mix. Because there are two aspects to speed, the speed of articulation and the speed of presentation, and Henry’s thing was completely hard to predict.

 

Karen: Yes, it’s growing like an organism, instead of just absolute replication.

 

Evan: I gave up any hope of being in control of that aspect of things.

 

Karen: So how does that work for you?

 

Evan: Well, it’s great. Maybe an analogy would be with surfing, not that I’ve been a surfer, but it’s like these giant waves which sometimes are longer and bigger, and you’re waiting for a wave to come in, and launching yourself on a particular wave. Some of what I was hearing from Henry gave that impression of very powerful natural forces, which I couldn’t ignore, I had to go with it –and now would be a good time to do less, or now would be a good time to do more. Which all makes it sound a little bit simplistic, but there are basic decisions like that to be made in the course of trying to play for nearly an hour.

 

Karen Christopher is a performance maker, performer and teacher; her company, Haranczak/ Navarre Performance Projects, is devoted to collaborative processes and has been making a series of duets over the past decade.

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CINDYTALK: SUBTERMINAL

 

“I came to Cindytalk by way of It’ll End in Tears, the 1984 album by This Mortal Coil on 4AD Records. Gordon Sharp’s vocals were a highlight, particularly on a cover version of Big Star’s ‘Kangaroo’ – no mean feat given that Elizabeth Fraser, Howard Devoto and Lisa Gerrard also sang on the record. The record sleeve helpfully credited Gordon as a member of Cindytalk, and as he notes in the interview below, many came to discover the comparably darker world of Cindytalk this way.”

That’s the introductory paragraph to an interview I carried out with Cinder for Stride Magazine in 2010, which can be read here:

http://www.stridebooks.co.uk/Stride%20mag2010/oct%202010/cindytalk%20int.htm

 

 

Many years later, I’m thrilled to be releasing Cindytalk’s new album Subterminal on False Walls, with artwork by Paul Tone (some of which is shown here). Cinder’s recent solo and predominantly electronic albums have continued to resonate in many poetic ways for me. More details/listen here.

 

 

The first album review, from International Times, includes: “Each of the four tracks is long enough to allow the listener to be sucked into the abstract landscapes which are evocatively conjured up here. Sound is sustained, drifting through changes of texture and dynamics, other noises echo and fade, interrupt and disrupt, feedback starts up then immediately ceases. It is disturbing, intriguing stuff, music to drift and dream in.” https://internationaltimes.it/a-poetry-of-noise/

— CJ Mitchell, False Walls

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HELENA CELLE: REVIEWS

 

 

Helena Celle’s Music for Counterflows has been reviewed in various places — here’s a round up:

 

The Wire:
“ … an elongated and amorphous soundscape, fogged in reverb and scattered with unsettling percussive detritus. Issued by Faversham, Kent based label False Walls, the piece is a rumbling roam through dimly lit corridors that, over the course of 60 minutes, feels like being swallowed into the belly of reverberant catacombs. Around melodic xylophone-like percussion, [Kay] Logan establishes that this is high fantasy rather than realist terror, melodramatic synth cutting through ferric warble to create a hypnagogic, almost fairytale feel.”
— Spenser Tomson, in July 2022 edition

 

Monolith Cocktail:
“I regard Celle as more of an alchemist than an academic. She transfigures time and place and transforms rhythm into the irrhythmic. She improvises and hypnotises and experiments from an electronic playbook less-leafed.”
https://monolithcocktail.com/2022/08/10/our-daily-bread-535-helena-celle-music-for-counterflows/

 

On the fringes of sound:
“Part of a rapidly growing body of work, Music for Counterflows is an ambitious album from Glasgow-based artist Helena Celle that is comprised of a single hour-long track, effectively filling an entire compact disc by itself. The work itself is surprisingly varied in its composition despite maintaining the same instrumentation practically through its whole runtime. Hazy and reverberated sounds ping around and play off one another to create a hypnotic atmosphere that ebbs in and out. There is a certain theme that the song starts out with and periodically revisits throughout. The composition actually ends with a wildly mutated version of this theme that slowly falls apart until we are left in the silent stillness of the end. It’s mesmerizing and peculiar in its approach but makes for quite the experience as it never wears out its overarching themes.”
https://www.onthefringesofsound.com/post/rounding-the-fringes-july-21

 

Compulsion Online:
“Whether composed, improvised or programmed, Music For Counterflows is mischievous and fun, disrupting form and order…Consider it an album of outsider inventiveness or one that pushes a technology to its extremes, either way it is a delightful, demanding piece of work that is worth hearing from a multi-talented sound artist.”
http://compulsiononline.com/helena_celle_music_for_counterflows.htm

 

The Skinny:
“Music for Counterflows is a top-drawer production that pushes at the edges of a particular technology in a considered, engaging and beautiful way.”
https://www.theskinny.co.uk/music/reviews/albums/helena-celle-music-for-counterflows

 

Plus, some tweets:

“Listening to Helena Celle’s Music For Counterflows. This is great! It kind of sounds like forgotten 90s techno played on a broken cassette player, or a haunted PSX game”

“It’s an absolute cracker.”

“Highest recommendation for this amazing Helena Celle (@free_musick) album on the @falsewalls37 label, “Music For Counterflows” – an hour of captivating mutating loop structures. Booklet has an interview with HC conducted by @Stewfsmith which makes the physical an absolute must.”

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HELENA CELLE: MUSIC FOR COUNTERFLOWS

For the 2021 online edition of the Counterflows festival, Glasgow-based Kay Logan (aka Helena Celle) created the hour-long electronic Music for Counterflows, accompanied by an interview with Stewart Smith. For the False Walls CD and digital release in July 2022, the music has been mastered by Stephan Mathieu, and the interview along with visual artwork by Kay are included in a 20 page booklet.

 

 

Here are some extracts from Kay’s interview with Stewart Smith in the CD booklet:

[Psychoanalysis] allowed me to develop the language to think about what I was actually trying to do, which has always been a very intuitive thing. I think ultimately for me, that is what art should be and it’s certainly what improvisation is. It’s an ongoing participatory relationship with the subconscious, with the imaginal. And I think there’s a long historical lineage of this being the case.

It’s hard to articulate, but it’s really interesting to me to observe the interaction between an indeterminate artificially intelligent system, and the imaginative capacities of the person who’s in control of it. It’s almost like a symbiotic relationship, you know? It’s been suggested that as artificial intelligence progresses, what will be of value to artificially intelligent non-human intelligences will be our capacity for imagination. Because that’s something they don’t have.

I’m not tech utopian in the slightest. Ideally, I think I’m pretty archaic. But I do make use of whatever technology is at hand to do what I’m interested in. And that’s been a really interesting thing for me to observe, like when you’re programming the system, the emergence of that ecosystem from your own imagination, and your intuitive response to its output. So it’s being shaped in this kind of feedback loop, which includes your subconscious. That to me is the kernel of what I’m doing at the moment.

I feel like the terms ‘improvisation’ or ‘composition’ or ‘performance’ or ‘listening’, I think it all kind of becomes the one thing. It just becomes a matter of listening and responding. And whether that’s through physical interaction or changing programmatically values in the system or its behaviours, that’s really what I’m interested in at the moment.

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