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  • Matthew Shenton

The innocent eye is a myth

Updated: Mar 16, 2023


I am blogging whilst planing my next project in order to explore the decisions I make, and to build a better vocabulary and understanding of my sound work.


My 2022 release on the Courier label felt like a pivotal moment for me in terms of how it was devised and realised. As referenced in the Stryance release notes, the piece was informed by my reading of Jules Pretty’s This Luminous Coast and was a response to the visceral feelings I experienced when reading about the 1953 East coast floods. The release needed to fit onto a mini CD, meaning I had 22 minutes to play with. I knew that I wanted the composition to hiss, spit creep and hopefully make the listener feel like being in a vortex.


It was important that the sound sources would be removed and difficult to place. Playing with the ecological perception of sound has always interested me. Samples were pitched up and down, stretched and chopped up. Lots of hiss was panned around the spectral field to disorientate the listener, along with chopped up tape loops to create rhythms that were never quite in time and very loosely structured. There would be numerous sustained build ups but no real release until near the end.


I began to work in a very different way whilst working on the final arrangement. It was to the beauty of Stan Brakhage that I worked to tweak samples and automate various effects.


I love the way Brakhage’s images on Reel Five flicker and morph to create a mesmerising effect (similar to a Brion Gysin Dream Machine). I also liked Dog Star Man for its blurred landscapes layered with images and paint. So, there I sat engrossed with a midi controller on my lap making tweaks to my composition by responding to the images. The swirls and colour firing my imagination.


After the final composition was fixed and exported I created a visual accompaniment to Stryance inspired by the style Brakhage. It obviously lacks the gritty analogue realism of Brakhage’s work, but I was pleased with the overall result.


The title of Stryance came from an archaic word used in Suffolk and is derived from the verb ‘stry’ which is to spoil, waste or injure. This seemed so apt, as so much work had gone in to obliterating my original samples to create disorientation. In fact, much of my output involves me destructing, deconstructing and generally degrading improvisations to create texture.


The Stryance video had involved an element of digital destruction and manipulation, but I longed for an analogue feel for my next project. To work with something physical, to explore its properties and to cement a link between what I can create visually and aurally. For the visual to come first and for it to fire my imagination.


Now, where did I put those slides…

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