Monopoles and Nightingales Walk these Hills

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, December 8, 2012

Subtlety is also a keyword to bring into the classroom as we approach Scènes (empreintes DIGITALes, IMED 11111) by Pete Stollery, an electroacoustic composer who studied under the great Jonty Harrison and is now a Professor at the University of Aberdeen, where he is a strong advocate for new music in Scotland via the agency of InvisiblEARts. Since Radiophonic Music is never out of fashion, readers may initially be drawn to the six minute track Serendipities and Synchronicities, which was composed for a stage play about Delia Derbyshire. In it, Stollery attempts to express his personal affinities with Delia’s work, by refracting it through his own very similar compositional methods. There are also two pieces excerpted from his ongoing Gordon Soundscape project, which is a plan to compile an aural map of Aberdeenshire, through collaging field recordings and processing of same; his chief aim as gazetteer in this instance is to identify and record endangered sounds, such as certain activities found within the dying distillery industry. He also aims to map Paris in like manner, on scènes, rendez-vous which has its origins in his childhood memory of a 1967 Claude Lelouch documentary, and uses information from the film as rules to govern his sound-gathering and compositional actions. Fields of Silence is also based on field recordings, themed around the intriguing idea that a field of grain falls silent “after it has been harvested”. This very much reminds me of a Ray Bradbury story 3. Or that Roald Dahl story where an inventor is able to hear the cries of plants being cut by secaturs 4. Stollery somehow manages to discover sound events and textures within the mown stubble itself, as well as collaging in “before and after” sound events from combine harvesters. In all ind value="Pete Stollery">Stollery seems to be a thoughtful and gentle composer, one who wouldn’t want to impose anything on the landscape, but rather cares to ask interesting questions about our relationship to our sonic environment. In some cases I find his explanatory notes more interesting than the sounds he produces. This is particularly so with Back to Square One, where he writes with something approaching passion about the excitement he feels when listening to the “musicality” of sports commentators on the radio and telly, yet very little of that passion or excitement has found its way into the muffled, pedestrian music.

… a thoughtful and gentle composer…