+ Jason Dewey - Quartet

Quartet was written entirely by picking numbers and notes out of a hat, rolling dice, and generally avoiding consciously making compositional choices myself.

Some might complain that it is just ‘music by numbers’. And while some think this may lack 'soul’, composers have used the system of organising pitches mathematically in rows in order to be more expressive with their writing: something I was also trying to do in Quartet.

The experimentation of using chance to determine the pitches and rhythms in my quartet produced something much more interesting: a sound I would not otherwise have acheived, but through a compositional process that was still my own.

Jason Dewey is a composer based in Birmingham: his suggested further listenings consist of John Zorn’s Spillane album, Björk and Andy Ingamells; he also pointed us towards the VlogBrothers

+ Rodzmatos - Intonations From Another Room

A sample is a fragment that can be joined by other fragments in search of a new sound experience.  As such it is the basic unit in a finite combinatory, which produces something novel, if not absolutely new.  What happens when the fragment is not connected to other fragments but rather is supposed to be explored in such a way that it itself is revealed to lack all unity?

The fragmentation of the fragment opens up a specific path—different from the idea that novelty or the new can be derived from the agglomeration of what already exists.  Or perhaps, more modestly, a path that leads us to question the most popular assumptions since the onset of postmodernism within the various explanatory paradigms of popular culture: the collapsing of high and low culture, the rejection of vanguardism (particularly the idea that it is the duty of an artist to conquer new realms and create new forms and genres), the rejection of technical mastery of an instrument in favor of a more open approach to sound production, and so on.  The unity of the fragment, then, comes to the fore as an effect.  Its unity is revealed as an arbitrary and secondary result of structuration. 

A cut, a second cut, a loop.  That is the method most commonly associated with the sample.  Of course it is not difficult to see that the method could be applied to the sample itself: that is, within the region defined by those two cuts.  It is possible to imagine that the power of the sample derives from the release of energy made possible by the clarification of structural outlines (it is hard to think of a more defined way of establishing that something is a structural unit: even if arbitrary, once those two cuts are made, a very precise definition of a structural building block has been determined).  But it is also possible to think that the undoing of that unity offers new possibilities for the release of energy of a different kind.  This is the energy that is released once the effect of structure begins to falter.  A structure has many functions, but a key aspect of structure, of a particular ordering of things, is the suppression of everything that calls that order into question, even to the point that it can be said that a structure has as a goal making itself felt not as a constructed and arbitrary formation, but as a natural and unobtrusive force that just is.  The most effective structures are those that do not call any attention to themselves, the ones that erase their own outlines so that it becomes harder and harder to question its coercive or limiting force.  (This is one of the reasons why the study of history can be such a revolutionary activity in certain social settings: it reveals that things were not always the same, and that they don’t have to be the way they are.)  Once it is possible to set aside the putative naturalness and ontological stability of an ordering principle, cracks begin to open up through which other possibilities begin to assert themselves.  These “others”—to use a term that allows us to understand to what extent, within the logic of a cracking structure, they feel as something uncanny, ghostly even, unreal and farfetched—come in ringing the death-knell of the stability that unity provided up to that point. 

I don’t think that it is an accident that one of the most popular programs used for music production in the era of the sample is called Logic.  That its coercive force (as a set of commands that make music, beautiful and shimmering and banal music, almost of their “own” accord) has begun to be questioned is only too obvious.  At the same time, it is only from within the resources available within the “logic” of the sample culture that its undoing and collapse will ensue.  The uncanny and ghostly “others” that enter the picture releasing their own unpredictable force are not apparitions from another world; they are simply the excess that was suppressed by that logic, in order that it could appear ontologically stable and not man-made in the first place. 

Can you hear them trying to burst through the stereo spectrum, moving from left to right, almost as if they wanted to shatter the speakers that reproduce them?  Can this be the sound of a new kind of folk-electronic-internationalist culture that looms in the horizon as one of many possible alternatives to the catastrophe that is our current globalized world?

For more on Rodzmatos, see, his release on Panda Fuzz, and the Interpretive Audio Composition Collective (IACC) group

+ Simon Kinch - QNT

We write our four-four pop and neo-classical concertos, with beats and barlines, cuts and syncs. The cassette tape medium just can’t keep up: writing and recording for it has an accuracy and finesse akin to trying to paint a still-life whilst sat on the fairground waltzes: it’s a roulette of where the tapehead will catch, on a magnetic lace marked with misplaced glitches and stretches.

But this is only a problem if you’re writing  music with accuracy. If you relax your control of this parameter (of specific entry points, of perfect timing), the clumsiness of recording-on-to or playing-off-of tape becomes irrelevant.

QNT is a quintet for string quartet plus one: a mic'ed-up tape player with a counter. The performer of the tape player can only judge how far to play, rewind and fast-forward the tape to approximately, meaning the rest of the quintet have to adjust to this level of inaccuracy. That the tape performer will seldom land at the same given point of tape at each entry adds an explicitly indeterminate element to any performance.

Because of these qualities, the notation used in QNT is specifically indeterminate and flexible: although guides are given, the cue to play any given note is not derived from counting or subdividing, but by listening to entries from the tape player or other string players. Pitches and dynamics are given, but the piece is shaped by approximation, and can only be as accurate as its least accurate performer: the performer with their fingers on the clunky buttons of the tape player.

Simon Kinch is a contemporary composer and graphic artist currently based in Seville. The stimulus behind CNCPTN magazine is derived from two classic serials: de Stijl magazine and the Tellus Tapes

CNCPTN05 [forward]

There’s an idea, dreamt up by Herman Hesse, of a game played in the far future, where highly-learned intellectuals pit the theories, patterns, and ideas of music, mathematics, science, art and philosophy against each other.

Hesse describes very little of the rules and intricacies of The Glass Bead Game in his novel of the same name. The details are left somewhat to the imagination, yet the codification of these disciplines and the ensuing correlations between them are almost impossible to imagine.

Despite this, many readers are captivated by the mere notion of such a game. When the details of such a game are so hard to imagine, why is the overview so appealing?

Amongst all the things it attempts, science tries to enrich our understanding of music and art (through, for example, sonology and psychology). In reverse, some of the most fascinating works of art and music strive to represent and utilise not only scientific knowledge, but cross over to other art forms, and draw on these too.

The interdisciplinary stimulus or concept may be completely unrecognisable in a final work, but in its creation, a highly-conceptual work alludes to Hesse’s grand idea: the play of almost seamless interrelationships between disciplines.

You will seldom hear the mathematics or set theory in a serialist piece; the visual material in the realisation of a graphic score; nor the philosophy that sparked a composition: when you delve into these though, there is another fascinating layer to a work.

The work featured in CNCPTN magazine profiles new contemporary music, and the concepts behind each work. The cross-disciplinary mastery or neatness of Hesse’s Glass Bead Game can’t be reached, but whilst we can, we will allude to it.

- - -

CNCPTN ( is a bi-monthly e-zine focusing on the concepts and designs behind the work of selected young composers and artists, where each piece has been conceived not only with the final sonic result in mind, but also to express or represent some pre-conceived concept or design.

CNCPTN05 is taking submissions now - to submit work, or for more information, contact Simon Kinch at

Cobi von Tonder - Tristan Time Space Continuum

The “Tristan Chord” (F, B, D#, G#) is played, and glissandos in a downward spiral in pitch at an excruciatingly slow tempo.

A set of rules and choices affecting every aspect of the performance is presented to the performers as score.

More than a semitone glissando is very hard for the trumpet, and circular breathing on these pitches for the trombone is impossible - these little obstacles become part of the work’s landscape. It is important how the performers move together - sliding in and out of synch with each other - sounding as one chord warping, stretching and sliding downwards.

This piece was written on invitation from Akademie Schloss Solitude, which went out to all its composition fellows. Each of the invited composers has selected a concert and written a piece of 120 seconds in length for the selected constellation of musicians. The governing rule for the compositional process is that each piece must begin and end with the Tristan chord (F, B, D#, G#), so as to make the transition between the individual compositions inaudible to the audience.

Over 50 composers/former fellows from the music/sound section have accepted the invitation.,

Gustav Rye - study 1

When I set out to write, I was smaller. I was shorter, and I knew less. I knew less about painting, and I knew less about fighting. I couldn’t cook a dead bird on a spit. Now I splay them out with my knuckles: now I pound them into the coals until I’m red: more raw than the meat I’m mincing into notes every minute I’m carving the page with my hard-lead pencil. When I set out to write, it was easier.

And then I was writing. And the words flowed easy into notes. The page - my page? - whose purpose was to be written on - was written on. Tails - eyes and flags - forget them, and listen to me. I didn’t mean to hurt them, it was just a game. I don’t see how he could have misunderstood that. He got the wrong idea, he didn’t need to actually take it from the kitchen. He could have left it there; he could have. Nobody would have known, and we could have kept on playing too. You’ll see! And you’ll be writing too. You were!

I had been writing, when you walked in. Press play. Press play and shut up for a second, will you? It won’t work like you think it will, but it will work. It will, like it always has.

When I set out to write, that’s what I had in my head. And before I knew it, I had said too much. This time I stopped in time. I have said. That’s enough.

+ Shelly Knotts - XYZ

XYZ (or Sonic Arm Wrestle) supports the notion of a democratic ensemble and the blurring of the boundaries between composer-performer-collaborator.

The piece consists of a text score denoting methods of interaction and medium of performance, however specifics of sound generation and large elements of structure are unspecified. The piece creates a situation where performers have to work together beyond the usual context of listening and improvising within a group to manipulate the sound by creating a constant flux between ‘fighting’ and ‘cooperating’ with other members of the ensemble. At times up to three players may be controlling different aspects of the same sound, and each player may be controlling a single element of up to three sounds with a single controller. The piece makes use of gestural motion-capture controllers to create a visual communication between performers and audience. Performers are asked to use large gestures when ‘fighting’ and small gestures when ‘cooperating’. XYZ is both a performance piece exploring the unique possibilities offered by a networked ensemble and a complex multiplayer instrument.

XYZ asks each performer to create a sound with 3 controllable parameters, X, Y and Z, and to map these parameters to a motion capture device e.g. iPhone / Wiimote / Kinect. The performers choose to control either their own sound or to fight to control sounds of other members of the ensemble. If a player decides to control an X, Y or Z parameter of another performer’s sound they must ‘win’ the right do so, by way of a sonic ‘fight’ (a period of time where both performers are controlling the same sound, thereby creating glitches as the parameter value fluctuates between two sets of controller values). Each player maintains control of the amplitude of their own sound for the duration of the piece.

Shelly Knotts, fluent in SuperCollider, is a member of BiLE and the SOUNDKitchen collective. For those who are laptop music fans, also check out Benoît and the Mandelbrots

Luca Nasciuti - Morpheus

“By falling asleep I fall inside myself… to where I am no longer separated by the world… I pass that line of distinction to slip entirely into the innermost and outermost part of myself.”

Jean-Luc Nancy, quoted from his book The Fall of Sleep, on the fall within oneself when we sleep. Nancy’s views on sleep, particularly the fall, are one inspiration for this work, Morpheus.

The title of the composition itself refers to Nancy’s analogy of sleep through the mythical Greek god Morpheus, son of Hypnos, who can don the shape of humans: “Morpheus transforms the pure matter of sleep into form. He gives shape and flight to the shapeless and to the fall. His metamorphosis contains the very mystery of sleep: the outline of a fluidity, the look, sign, and gesture of evanescence with the charm and virtue of presence”.

Metamorphosis and donning both function as compositional strategies in this work: sounds from the environment are convolved with a single note plucked on the cymbala, allowing noise to masquerade as tone.

The interplay of internal and external experiences in the world, and our perception of them, are crucial to Nancy’s ideas on sleep, and this interplay strongly influences not only the concept behind this piece and what it aims to refer to, but also the sound palette used.

Sounds from the outside world (the sound of traffic, sirens, birds, as captured in the bedroom) are manipulated and

organised amongst the sounds of my own nocturnal sleep-activity (sighs, movements, mutters) - sleep reflects our innermost and outermost selves, and in turn, Morpheus embraces the nocturnal environment in its inner (myself) and outer (the world surrounding me) representation. From outside to inside referential sounds mark the space of sleep it is narrated. But soundmarks are also used to portray the passing of time. The journey from night to day, from dark-night to light-morning is marked by respectively the sound of night-traffic in the street, my own sound while asleep, and the sound of birds early in the morning to mark both the awakening and the end of the journey/composition.

Luca Nasciuti is a composer based in London. His work spans from installations to video and performance art.

His second release, Vanishing Point, will be out on Somehow Recordings in July 2012.

Morpheus was written in late 2011 at the Electronic Music Studios, Goldsmiths University of London, as an 8.1 channel surround piece.

Photo courtesy of Giacomo Bandini

Patrizia Mattioli - Incoronazione 2

Incoronazione 2 (trans: coronation) is part of a musical theatre project, inspired by the short story Un Re in Ascolto (A King Listens) by the Italian writer and essayist Italo Calvino.

The novel outlines a King’s fear of being overthrown (or even worse), his paranoia leading him to listening to the noises of the building, which becomes the King’s ear. The palace is like a weft of regular sounds and noises coming from below, from a dark depth, while occasionally a kind of thunder can be heard. A woman’s voice carries a love song, the dream of a woman’s voice within a long nightmare.

The King sings, or thinks he has sung: in the story, the sounds which are heard never find a correspondence with reality.

The composition uses dissonances, crushing sound / noise, a mixture of real and artificial sounds, enhancing the rapid flow (impetuously natural) of the word, not linearly, but punctuated by tremors, convulsions, breathing, gurgling, delirious soundscapes, and sudden appearances.

Patrizia Mattioli is a musician, composer and performer, based in Parma, Italy. She is a previous winner of IRCAM’s international electroacoustic music competition.

Lvis Mejía - Æon Artifex

Instances normally need some explanation, a vague legitimation in its worst case.

Notwithstanding in many cases they stand on their own.

Lvis Mejía is a contemporary musician and intermedia artist, based between Boston, USA and Hamburg, Germany

Æon Artifex will feature on his forthcoming LP, AformA, published by CMMAS

Artwork by Christian Camacho

Eugene A. Kim - zum schluss; in der frühe

Und morgen
wird die Sonne…
…still und langsam
niedersteigen…stumm…in die
auf uns sinkt…

And tomorrow
the sun…
…quietly and slowly
descend…silence…in the
falls to us…

Eugene A. Kim is a Masters student at the Royal Conservatoire of the Hague. As a composer and proponent of contemporary literature, Eugene is constantly eager to share and disseminate new music.

CNCPTN Magazine

I’ve just finished the first issue of CNCPTN magazine, an online publication focusing on the concepts and designs behind the work by selected young composers and artists.

Each issue will profile the concepts and designs behind this type of composition and artwork, providing a platform for composers and artists to display more than just the audio they create, no matter how detailed or abstracted the original stimulus may be.

+ Jonny Hill and Edd Simpson - Graphic Score No.1

Graphic Score No. 1 was conceived as part of a collaborative project organized by Unrealised Projects, who asked us to create a sound piece that could exists in two states: both in a live performance and in a publication.

We went about creating a score that had a compromise between an intuitive reading and a very functional reading, to address what we feel are problems within improvised and composed music: that improvisation’s “anything goes” attitude can sometimes be more restrictive than liberating.

When we set out to simplify our playing with a score we would start to play in a way in where we could listen to each other more and investigate the possibilities of certain limits: this being without the rigorous structure and rules in traditional compositions.

Our scores are always thought about in terms of other people playing them, so we don’t want to make them alienating through signs associated with traditional compositions that are abstract from actual sounds and actions themselves.

The visuals of the score are important for us: when they are seen alone, separatly from a recording, they act as a signifier to sound in the viewers mind.

The line elements are designed to be undemanding and easily translatable in to physical actions; the abstract parts allow for a conceptual reading of how an aesthetic could be read as sound.

Jonny Hill and Edd Simpson are artists based in London. More information on Unrealised Projects can be found at

+ Curtis McKinney and Chad McKinney - Leech

I steal music.

Chances are, you do as well. Like many people, I’m someone who makes a meager wage, but loves to listen to a large quantity music. As a musician this is particularly problematic. By downloading the latest Melvins album am I propagating the further corruption of an already broken system, ensuring that myself and my colleagues will never be able to make a living playing music? It is a complicated problem, and one that I’ve always felt conflicted by. I would never want to dismiss the hard work and countless hours that talented musicians have put into their creations. Sometimes I wonder just how much money I have denied my fellow artists by pirating thousands of songs over the years. Would it be any better for musicians if people simply stopped listening to them altogether instead?

The number of musicians who actually make a living off of CD sells is incredibly dismal. A survey of musicians by one website,, puts it at 5%, my own anecdotal observations tend to make me think it’s even lower. This is in large part due to the structure of the record industry. According to a study conducted by Nielsen research, the average musician makes $23.40 on every $1,000 of music they sell. Not exactly a profitable venture.

The truth is that the system created by the record industry is not so much broken as it is inapplicable to most artists. The system was designed to push select few musicians to as large an audience as possible, maximizing sells and minimizing overhead. While some mega bands and pop stars, such as Madonna and Metallica, may make their millions off of CD sells, the majority of musicians make their money the old fashioned way, by performing music. And the quickest way to get people to come to your concerts, is for them to listen to your music…

Music is not a commodity. That is a lie that record labels want everyone to believe, and for the most part people believe them. Music is not the CD in your radio, it is not that shirt you bought online, it isn’t the ticket in your wallet, or the DVD in your computer.

Music is an idea, an emotion, literally a stream of air. It is only a recent invention of modern day thinking to think of it in any other way. In my opinion, what the Internet and music piracy has done is to begin to reverse the commodification of music, to return us to a time when music was about sharing an experience.

Leech is a composition created in 2011 by myself and my brother Chad McKinney, which addresses these issues. During the course of the piece we pirate an album of music, and use the BitTorrent network traffic generated by this process to drive visuals and sounds. The audio of the songs themselves are manipulated and processed as they are downloaded. It is the sound of hundreds of individuals sharing an experience.

The latest work by Curtis McKinney can be found at;  the video to Leech at; and a paper on Leech at

Curtis also recommends the following: an article on piracy by Bob Ostertag, and this Californian tipple