Paddy's Fifth KBC article
Big Noises from Moving Air


Back to The Garden Table of Contents


[Here is Paddy's fifth article for the Newsletter. It appeared in the tenth issue (Summer/Fall 1981).]


Big Noises from Moving Air

When it's late at night like this, and most people have drifted off to sleep at the quiet end of the day, you would find our house an exception. Upstairs I can hear Kate at work on her latest masterpiece; from another direction tribal drumming throbs consistently; and if one places one's ear to the floor one can hear Celtic monks singing to bagpipe accompaniment...These night hours are filled with music. My flat is no exception. I sit amongst a litter of sound-making gadgets and instruments, scratching away at this little article and taking a brief pause to listen to what is going on all around me. I've been banging my head on the floor, just to add to all the noise, trying to come up with some new sounds for this wonderful album that Kate is cooking up for us all. You must have liked Sat In Your Lap. When I first heard it in demo form I thought it was incredible. I couldn't get it out of my mind for weeks. Everywhere I went I could hear it playing inside me almost like a backing-track to everyday life; in short, I liked it from the word go.

Now I've been doing some musical experiments based on the ultra-simple principle that all sound is just air moving and if you want to make a noise just move the air. There are many machines doing exactly this. They all excite the air in their own characteristic way, from a football whistle to the sound of a jet air-liner as it pushes itself through the sky. How does this tie in with Kate's arrangement for the single--all those trumpets, backing-vocals and pounding jungle drums? Well, we tried a very simple idea that acutally seemed to add something exciting and unique to the track.

Preston [Heyman, a drummer on The Dreaming LP] and I stood in the "live" room of a famous recording studio somewhere in London with our hands wrapped in bandages. We were positioned opposite each other about ten feet apart with a pair of microphones right in between us. We each held two four-foot bamboo canes like giant drumsticks but instead of hitting a drum or a percussion instrument, the idea was just to beat out rhythms in the air in time to the song. And sure enough, after an hour or so of thrashing, and several blisters later, we got a pretty new sound. It made us all want to dance about frantically. In fact, Preston did. But what next? There are lots more numbers on this new album and they're all as good as Sat In Your Lap! Perhaps there is a place for a dijeridu, an Armadillo charanga, perhaps a Polynesian stamping-pit, or an Oceanic bull roarer, possibly a singing bowl...or how about some plain old Thracian double-aulos?

The world of devices that move air into music is vast and much of the territory is uncharted. This is an age where complex and sophisticated music technology can stand next to ethnic instruments from the dawn of time, when a ruler with a piece of string tied to it can share the same analogue co-ordinates as a rock band and computer synthesisers. This cultural blend was once called fusion--Kate's new material feels more vital, like a transfusion. This album is going to be the best one yet, and it won't be long before you hear it for yourselves.


Next page

The Garden
©1990 Andy Marvick