Sean Williams

© A. Kolkowski

Recorded in London on April 6th, 2011

Three Way Conversation by Sean Williams

This is not a recording of a performance nor is it a composition with some notional unmediated existence. It is a piece of sound design, sound art, music or whatever you might like to call it that exists as an artefact in the form of the wax cylinder itself. The only way to listen to it is to hear it played back acoustically from the cylinder; any digital or other representation of it is only documentation not to be mistaken for the work itself.

The piece is a constantly evolving exploration of the different relationships between human body, electronic circuit with loudspeaker, acoustic horn, transducer and cylinder, of to simplify it; human, electronics and recording media. The homemade electronics, based on three iterations of the basic Cracklebox circuit (originally designed by Michel Waisvisz) is played with a great degree of unpredictability forcing the player into a constant negotiation with the instrument. Whilst often unpredictable these sounds lie within certain boundaries and a similar sonic terrain may be found which converges with the natural sounds of the wax cylinder recording medium and process, hence a dialogue with the medium can be created. At times, the electronics will carry on sounding and evolving on their own combining with the cylinder to produce an instrument-medium sound with no human agency. At some level all dialogic permutations between the three elements; human, electronics and medium, are present in this piece.

By its nature, this piece cannot be listened to again and again, and even if this is arranged, the sound will change on each listening. This is OK. Nothing is being lost. The piece is evolving as a thing in the world. Repeated listening, therefore, takes place more easily in the imagination of the listener, or via a representation of the piece through a secondary medium, and through repetition, familiarity will instill a sense of rhythm, prediction and structure that may not be apparent on first listening, or even at the time of performance.

 S.W., April, 2011.

Sean Williams is a sound designer, recordist, and electronic and electroacoustic music composer and performer. His current research, at Edinburgh University, is focused on an examination of physical interactions with electronic music composition, primarily in performance situations in the studio. To this end, he is designing and making synthesizer modules, both from a sonic and interface point of view, as well as performing regularly with the Monosynth Orchestra and with several other performers and ensembles.


Recording Notes

The second of two, two-minute wax cylinders recorded in my studio. For this work, Sean superimposed two individual recordings on the same cylinder using a proto-overdubbing technique that inscribes two spiral grooves, one over the other. The stylus ‘reads’ both grooves simultaneously, usually with frequent echoes, intermittent distortion and skipping effects as the grooves merge into each other. Here, however, the result is remarkably even.

© A. Kolkowski