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February 10, 2012

Eleven Feet

Has anyone else written a march in 11/4?

It's a cold night in Oxfordshire. I'm standing in a tent, in the middle of a quarry with Mark Ayres, trying to get the computer to lock with the timecode (a bit geeky I know, but quite honestly the cold was a great deal more urgent to me than the timecode). We were engaged in a rather special project. Playing new compositions by Roger Limb, Paddy Kingsland, Mark and myself to a valliant band of fans who had somehow worked out how to get there with no public transport and little guarantee that anything meaningful would happen anyway. But somehow it did. It was something to do with the sheer desolation of the place and the fact that we had hired in massive surround sound speakers, and a guy who usually did festivals to set them up.
For composers who had previously only heard their work coming out of speakers the size of a dinner plate, or in some cases a small saucer, this was an injection of pure andrenalin. The sound was big and it was everywhere, there was even a speaker on the top rim of the quarry for occasional shocks and the rather realistic hovering of a helicopter. Together with the visuals from Jon Rogers and Rory Hamilton, who with Sarah Rogers provided these pictures, it really was something rather different.

But what of these eleven feet? I wrote four new pieces for that concert, entitled, purely for our reference purposes, 'Desolate Landscape', 'Robot March', 'The Creature', and 'City of Gold'. The last one will probably re-appear as part of 'The 2012 Collection', but the others will become available on Soundcloud. We're talking about the march though, the one in 11/4. It's probably common knowledge amongst musicians but less obvious to others that the main reason that marches are written in 2/4 (in other words two beats to the bar), is because we have two feet. It's quite simply a case of 'left, right, left, right'. Imagine then, what sort of creature or android, would be able to march to this.

Here's an extract from the piece then (also available on Soundcloud)...

We had decided to write pieces that drew their original inspiration from previous scifi music that we had provided for the BBC, but were entirely new compositions. This piece has that very filtered start that hides the details of the marching rhythm similar to the entry of the 'army' on the LP 'Through a Glass Darkly', whilst the brass theme has the same feel as some of the music from 'The Leisure Hive', especially the replication sequence.
Since we were using very dramatic surround sound over large distances, the tail end of the piece moved the robot army behind the audience whilst a new contingent emerged (sonically) in front of them.

The piece was used again in our concert at the Roundhouse in 2009 about which more later...

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