The new riverrun album Lilliput is a long, evolving piece of music that runs to over 50 hours in length – each CD copy of the album contains a unique 60-minute “slice” of the composition, subtly different from every other copy in existence. You can pick up one of the CDs below, or head further down the page to hear some samples of the composition.
Many of the riverrun tracks are edited down from longer pieces. The way I make these pieces normally involves collaging a few different musical ideas and finding things that work well together – once I do find a combination of elements that works well, it’s very easy to loop them indefinitely and allow the piece to effectively make itself. What ends up on CD is usually a bite-sized chunk of a much longer track, a part that I thought was particularly interesting (usually because the elements interacted in a manner I hadn’t initially anticipated).
The mathematics involved in this can be quite mind-boggling. Say, for example, that I have a piano part which loops every 2 minutes 7 seconds, a guitar part that repeats every 5 minutes and 11 seconds, and a drone that comes and goes just over every 10 minutes. I would have to listen to the track “making itself” for several months before it repeats itself exactly – even though the sound of the piece is relatively consistent. But multiply that by the thirty or so musical components that make up the average riverrun piece (and factor in that the loops are often in irregular relationships with each other, with lengths like 252.56 seconds and 2637.87 seconds) the piece effectively becomes of infinite length, and it would be possible to listen to the track continuously evolving for several hundred years before it repeated exactly.
This compositional approach is not particularly new, going back to Brian Eno’s experiments with generative music on albums like Music For Airports, Thursday Afternoon and Neroli, and the earlier pieces by Steve Reich or Terry Riley. Eno's methods in particular have been an inspiration for a generation of composers, and my friend and trusted collaborator Bing Satellites is an example of someone who has taken this kind of idea and turned it into something new and modern and thoroughly his own.
I’m not the first person to want to sell the system itself either (i.e. mixing the components down to five or six CDs of different lengths, so that people could run their own continually-evolving versions at home) – but the costs and expense of doing so would be prohibitive, both for me, and for the consumer, many of whom won’t have five different CD players at home to run the various discs (and who, I'm sure, won’t have the time or inclination to have one of my pieces of music playing continually in the background, for the rest of their lives).
So, what I’m trying to do with this album is a kind of compromise between the two approaches. Thanks to digital technology I’ve been able to mix a version of the new riverrun album that is just over 50-hours long – and anyone who purchases the album on CD will receive their own unique 60-minute “slice” of the composition – a version that, whilst made up of the similar elements to the others, is subtly different from every other copy in existence. Each slice has been nicely edited by myself to fade in and fade out, with no abrupt start or finish, and will play exactly as a normal CD would.
The examples below show how the composition develops through time. The musical elements that make up the piece repeat with cycles that vary between around twenty minutes, and two and a half hours, so each slice of the composition features significant natural variation. The end result is that elements come and go like weather, with calm, quiet interludes followed by moments of relative intensity, as the various layers that make up the piece coalesce and disperse.
I’ve wanted to release an album-length piece of riverrun music for a while now, and whilst I realise that this experiment is a bit nuts, I hope that some of you find it interesting.
I certainly do – I've been listening to the piece make itself in my studio, on and off, for over a week now, and whilst I've not listened to the full 50 hours' worth, I've listened to enough of it to get a sense of the real variety of the piece, from hour to hour. I hope that others enjoy it as much as I have come to.
This has been a labour-intensive effort, and so I’m having to charge a little more than I usually would for CDs, but I hope that the price is worth it for owning what is, in effect, a unique work of art. But for anyone who can’t meet the cost, a standard (i.e. non-unique) release version will be made available, as a digital download, once the CD copies have shipped.
Also, anyone who purchases one of the unique CD copies will also receive a code to download the “standard” version, for free, when it is up on my Bandcamp page.
Thank you for reading this far, and for your continued interest in my music.
Hampshire, January 2018