A description of my compositional approach

I record unaccompanied free-form studio improvisations (violin, vocals, detuned bass, guitar, bass station etc). I also undertake expeditions to specific locales, in order to capture field recordings. These recordings are then subjected to a rigorous process of selection, processing, magicking, to create a larder stacked with custom material. To create the song, compatible elements from my larder are layered on a timeline, whilst I listen closely for unique resonances, juxtapositions, interesting harmonic structures and so forth. During the layering, I may introduce further edits, effects, pitch shifts, time stretches etc. In this way, I gradually sculpt the song into existence.

I may improvise again over the nascent song, followed by another round of selection, processing and magicking. Some songs are constructed using many elements and/or layers; others are formed from one well-aspected long-form recording. Each song is a different animal, birthed from a unique starting point (e.g a set of lyrics, an improvised studio recording, or a cool set of field sounds), and each song requires tailored nurturing to bring it to completion. In this way I endeavour to combine the best aspects of free improvisation and structured composition, to create music that has form, but is loose enough to breathe and shape-shift.

My practice is routed in the tradition of Musique concrète developed by Pierre Schaeffer in the 1940’s, aided by contemporary digital tools and technologies, such as handheld portable sound recorders and laptop-based editing and production suites. I prefer to only use material I have played myself, or recorded in the field; this creates an intimate relationship between myself and my concrète library, which acts as both an orchestra of kinds and a muse.

Selected Publications

Gagen, J. M. and A. J. Wilson (2017). “Aurosion Eroding Sonic Landscapes with the Internet Audio Cyclotron.” Leonardo Music Journal 27: 50-51.
The authors describe Aurosion, a performance piece utilizing “the largest feedback loop in the world,” the Internet Audio Cyclotron. Using field recordings, they subvert compression algorithms to explore emergent devolution. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/LMJ_a_01012

Wilson, A. (2012). “Multistable Perception of Art-Science Imagery.” Leonardo 45(2): 156-164.
How do artists, scientists and artist-scientists view images, and how doe:, their cultural background affect their interpretation? The author proposes that artist-scientists may exhibit cultural multistability, akin to the perceptual multistability associated with viewing visual illusions such as the Necker cube. After carrying out a survey, the author suggests that all individuals may exhibit cultural multistability in response to a challenging image. The author postulates a tendency of artist-scientists to use textural descriptions and discusses coming to see her own images in a new light. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/LEON_a_00282