Comsposition Three – Progress Report

In my project proposal, I outlined Composition Three as follows:


“A recorded composition that explores themes of global conflict and the rise of right wing leanings in mainstream Western politics. Audio editing, processing and mixing techniques inspired by John Oswald’s ‘Plunderphonics’ album (Self-released, 1989) will be used. Pedigree and Chums’ song ‘Ad Finum’ from their eponymous debut EP (Self-released, 2013) will be used as source material.”


Pedigree and Chums EP Artwork taken from


This composition has taken a slightly different direction than planned. It is less about the rise in right wing politics that I intended to explore but more of a general look at one specific modern conflict, namely that of the one in Syria. I juxtapose recordings of Western politicians speaking with the voices of Syrian child refugees who have fled their home country to camps in Lebanon. These are taken from a UNICEF recording and I include both the original recordings in Arabic and the translated English which I have recorded. The inclusion of the child refugee voices allows me to show the reality of the situation, that this is a real conflict affecting real people despite how distant it may be. It also leaves a more balanced view of what we might make of what is happening than if we had just included the samples of the Western politicians. I have my own views but I would like this piece to inspire the listener to come to an informed opinion through listening and looking into the matter in more depth as a result.


I feel this composition fits in with the overall objective of the project to compose “conceptually rich material”. It also presents the opportunity to “Respond to the possibilities brought about by the semantic meaning of the words present in the recordings I sample” and I am working to create the effect through both the utilisation of the voice samples and the concurrent samples to have this response. I also feel that steps have been taken as a result of the research that I have undertaken on storytelling (see earlier post on PJ Harvey) and coming up with evocative material that can be interpreted in different ways by different listeners.


The Pedigree and Chums material is extremely congruent to the application of plunderphonic techniques. The dynamism of the track allows for ease of selection of material to loop, edit, process and mix. It is incredible how much scope there is to create new sound-worlds from existing material in current DAW software.


The remaining challenges for this piece are to create a logical and seamless flow between the sections where refugees speak and where the “noise” of the politicians is heard. There needs to be a journey from start to finish with the various sections assembled in an order and manner that makes narrative and artistic sense.


At the start of the composition process, I was keen to incorporate the drum-breaks I had recorded of Draws Creature Mask drummer Lee Haxton playing into the piece but felt that the material was too rich not to be used in a separate composition of its own. I also felt that this material may distract from the piece’s plunderphonic elements.


Photo of Lee Haxton drumming for Draws Creature Mask at Henry’s Cellar bar Edinburgh by Nicole Stapinski


I feel that the two contrasting types of voice in the piece confirm that this falls under the “conceptually rich” material that I set out to explore. I also feel that thus far I have used these materials in a sensitive and creatively effective manner. I believe that on the current trajectory of this composition process I will find the path to fully establish this piece as a convincing and musically powerful reaction to the apparent issues explored.

Comsposition Three – Progress Report

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