Issues Index

UP02 Common Ground

Sound with a sense of place One of the conceits of Unknown Public is that creative music shares a common ground staked out by the medium of recording. We imply that music, whatever its provenance, can be made equal in the ears of its listeners. Once the ‘wiggling air molecules’ have been frozen on tape or disc their origins as marks on paper, improvised gestures, found sounds or memorised lore become immaterial, more anecdote than essence. But in an increasingly interconnected world this can only be part of the story. When musicians in five continents use the same scales, beats, computer keyboards and clichés there is a need to cherish and celebrate the distinct differences between musics, to resist the temptation to package and homogenise consistency so that music can be sold like hamburgers and carbonated sugar water. That’s why the aims of the remarkable UK organisation called Common Ground have a force that will be felt far beyond the little islands that produced this quarter’s music. Menter’s Slate Voices, Grimes’ Ivychurch tapes and the location recordings by Carr and Duggan are projects that owe their sound and nature to an inspiring sense of place. Heath angrily defies the ‘Eurocentric’ tradition to create a sound that is, to many ears, quintessentially English. Virji, Mercier and Ó Súilleabháin draw on aspects of Indian classical music to create entirely original and personal pieces. How can purely electronic music acquire a sense of place? Parker suggests her programmatic piece should be experienced through the intimacy of headphones. Wishart’s Vox-5, from the now deleted Vox cycle, is best heard at a multi-speaker concert of the kind described by Andrew Lewis. Orr’s electronic sketch for a longer acoustic piece invokes a protean virtual orchestra in the countryside of the Wye Valley. There are other kinds of common territory for creative music – Poppy’s intense and intimate Poems and Toccatas were premiered at the Huddersfield Festival – a familiar location for one specialised strand of creative music. And we’re pleased to print some early reactions from subscribers – you all occupy some common ground among our very own unknown public. © 1993 JLW