Wrapped In Plastic

Initially released in 2011, my album Wrapped in Plastic – Music Inspired by the Work of Filmmaker David Lynch as performed by The Escalators, is now set for its digital release through EnRusk Music Presave it on Spotify here https://distrokid.com/…/theescalators/wrapped-in-plastic

“The music is totally absorbing, and it takes you on a journey that could easily be like a David Lynch film. The music creates a world that suggests strangeness and mystery, with the hint of events unfolding.” Roger Mitchell The Herald Sun

The Escalators was and is

Joe Talia Drums

Mick Meagher Electric Bass

Pat Thiele Trumpet

Lawrence Folvig Guitar

DJ Element Turntables and Samples

Marc Hannaford Piano,

and myself on trombone and composition duties.

Artist: The Escalators

Album Title: Wrapped In Plastic Inspired by the films of David Lynch

Digital Release EnRusk Music

Avalaible at: Apple Music Spotify and all other streaming services

So many of you saw us play this music live, and I thank you for those many who came up telling me of the mesmerizing effect this music had on you, placing you somewhere in outer space.

And also, thank you to the many others who approached me at the end of a concert, visibly upset and seeking to vent your anger at me for making you sit through what you had to endure.

When observing the sculptures and paintings of surrealist artist Giacometti, Lord commented that ‘In some of your sculptures and paintings, I find a great deal of feeling’. To this Giacometti answers, ‘You may find it … but I didn’t put it there. It’s completely in spite of me’

” Robinson’s group, the Escalators, is an eight-piece avant-garde jazz ensemble that includes a DJ manning turntables and sampling. What else sets them apart are live shows where their slowly evolving, sometimes disturbing, and opaque music is married to set designs and film that play in a similar sandbox of mood, repetition, beauty and what they like to call Lynchian weirdness” Sydney Morning Herald Feature Article

Get it here


NGV with Mick Turners band

I hardly ever blog about my music or the music Im involved in any more, just endless education pieces – not sure why that is. So here is a change.

Last Friday I played a show as part of Mick Turner’s band. Mick is probably best known as part of the iconic Australian band Dirty Three. As a band We have performed a number of times this year alongside Cat Power, when she was in Australia. mick_turner_ngv_0714_justintapp_0004.40f71fb3b94ecaae4459cd568a736632

Photo by Justin Tapp

There is something about Mick’s music that is absolutely incredible to be a part of from an onstage perspective. It has a freedom in  it which is entirely original. I thoroughly advise you to have a listen to it and maybe even go out and buy it.

Here is a review of the show




Solo In Red – A Significant New Music and Video work from Kynan Robinson

Based on the Works of Cormac McCarthy, Commissioned by The Melbourne Writers Festival

Some very exciting news. In August of 2012 acclaimed Melbourne ensemble Collider will be performing a piece entitled Solo In Red, written by myself. The piece will be performed as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival program over 3 nights at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

“Kynan Robinson’s new piece Solo in Red is both astoundingly beautiful and original. Setting out to capture the atmospheres of a Cormac McCarthy novel it does all that and more.” – Vierre Magazine 2011

I prepared a statement for media discussing the work which reads as follows.

“With my new piece, Solo in Red, I feel as thoughI have found the creative and artistic expression/voice i have been searching for my entire career.The piece takes its inspiration from the writings of the hugely important American author Cormac McCarthy.My collision with McCarthy’s writing came at a time when I was formulating my ideas for this piece of music. In McCarthy’s work I found a literary parody for my musical concepts; the themes and atmospheres he creates, that so absorb you as a reader, were very similar to what i was interested in creating. Image

McCarthy’s writing and the atmosphere he creates has a sparseness, detachment and tension and is always touched with a dry wit. He presents both the absolute beauty and absolute ugliness of existence, often within the same sentence. To me his works sits somewhere in the place of the spirit world and if you enter it it will often bring forth both frightening and peaceful truths. In the composition of Solo In Red I am making a very personal statement on life and it’s deep sadness, only matched by its overwhelming beauty.
The many elements of this show, including performing with the incredible ensemble Collider  plus the breath taking multimedia component which includes lighting plus the most beautiful and lush video projections, (produced by Dotahn Caspi, Sean Kelly and Michelle Robinson) will all lend themselves to an experience that is both powerful and transporting for any audience member.
I am very excited to be presenting my new work at the Melbourne Recital Center and as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. The Recital Center has many great memories for me both as a performer and audience member. It is a building of such beautiful dynamics and delightful aesthetics that it is almost the perfect place to hear this work.”To book tickets to the show you can click on the following link Book Tickets

You can also read about the development of the multimedia and actually contribute towards the costs if you feel so philanthropic. You can either pledge support – (there are some great rewards – especially to those interested in attending the Melbourne Writers Festival Paperback and Hardback passes valued at $90 and $325 respectively) OR if you can’t contribute financially – no problems at all – but all we ask is that you spread the word!

Pledge support via our Pozibles site or simple share the link via email, fbook, twiiter or any other means :http://www.pozible.com/collider

It is a costly process to produce these large scale works and your contributions to the Arts are very very appreciated.

If you would like to  purchase a copy of the bands original album click here

Collider perform Solo In Red. Music based on the writing of American Author Cormac McCarthy

On December 12 I will be presenting a new work with my band Collider, a band I co-lead with Adam Simmons.  Adam is also presenting a new work on the night. The evening is an exciting one for us. As well as giving us the opportunity to present new material we have both decided to conceptually link our compositions to literature.

I have composed my work with the brilliant Cormac McCarthy in mind, whose writing creates an atmosphere of sparseness, detachment and tension and is always touched with wry humour. He presents to us both the absolute beauty and ugly truth of existence.  These are some of the themes I have kept in mind when writing the work. I also find an intense spirituality in McCarthy’s work that seems to links into a deep religious structure overlaying much of America’s history. This is a structure that I myself have some personal understanding of, being raised as the child of missionary parents.

Adam’s work is focussing on Dr Seuss. Adam has embedded Seuss’s prosody in the compositions for this concert.

The details are

Monday December 12

Doors open at 7 for a 7.30 start


45 Flinders Lane Melbourne City

presales available : 96629966


On another musical matter I will be performing as part of CW Stoneking’s Primitive Horn Orchestra on Friday the 2nd at the Corner Hotel and Saturday the 3rd at Homebake Festival, Sydney.

Announcing my Latest Musical Project: Collider.

Some thoughts behind my music

A relatively New Band of mine, Collider, will be performing this weekend at the closing party for the Melbourne JaZZ Fringe Festival closing party Big Arse Sunday SUnday the 8th May at 303

Collider is a band that consists of trombone, tenor saxophone, drums and a string section of violin, viola and double bass. It creates a very unique and interesting sound.

Band Members are

Myself – Trombone

Adam Simmons – Sax

Andrea Keeble – Violin

Jason Dunn – Viola

Ronny Ferella – Drums

Anita Hustas – Double Bass

The other interesting aspect of the band is that everyone in it is a very strong composer in their own right which has allowed us to pursue a different approach to how the band chooses to perform. Rather than getting a bunch of tunes up we have decided to approach each future performance as an opportunity for one member of the ensemble to compose for the band. In the past both Adam and myself have composed music for various concerts and Andrea and Anita have composed work for performances at The Womans JaZZ Festival. On June 22 we will be presenting new work by Ronnie and Anita as part of th La Mamma Music series.

I have also had my head down writing for the group. My new work is a really stripped back approach to composition. I am attempting to focus in on the purity of sound and therefore trying to pair back anything I have written that is unnecessary. The idea of a purity of sound also has certain religious connotations to me, something I have avoided for a long period of my life but feel ready to tackle now. The obvious reference points for this new music I am struggling with would be Messiaen and the stark music of Morton Feldman.

For a review of the bands recent gig here is a link from AusJaZZ.net

Skazz Tour Korea – Jamaican Ska Played By An Australian Band in Korea?

Playing in a Jamaican Ska band full of Australians to an audience full of Koreans. I couldn’t think of anything better to be doing with my days and nights.

Today kicks off an 8 day tour with the band Skazz I have successfully managed to negotiated getting the king size bed while my room mate had to settle for the single bed. Always a stressful but important task to be handled with much care when touring. If handled incorrectly you can create an enemy for yourself for the rest of your stay in that particular hotel. My tactic was to surround the bed with my luggage thus claiming my territory, while still allowing him access to the bed by not actually placing a bag on it. While it would take a brave soul to actually do that they are still left with the feeling that they had some choice in the matter.
There will be many tales which I will tell using the means of this blog but to give you an idea of what this very cool band is about here is a video

An Explanation into the Music of The Escalators. Part Three: Minimalism, Clock Time, Stasis and Repetition

Purchase The Escalators Album Wrapped In Plastic here  


As the sampler/turntables were the instruments that were the key to the music being composed, the music that was written for all the other instruments had to be subservient to the sound produced by the them. One of the roles of the other instruments was to set up a musical environment that the turntablist could work within or over. While the parts of the other instruments also had other roles to play, those roles could never overrule the sampler’s sound. The idea for the band’s repertoire and performance style was to play a number of quite long pieces (over 20 minutes in length) interspersed by short ones that lasted no longer than about two minutes. (The reason for the short pieces will be better explained in chapter 2.4.) Much of the music written for the other instruments contained the characteristics of minimalist music. These characteristics include the notions of stasis, repetition, nonlinearity and time stretching.

When dealing with memory in composition I believe it is important to create an atmosphere that attempts to play on the notions of clock time. Memory is so placed in a notion of time that providing an atmosphere that alters clock time assists in the rearrangement of those memories (memories that have been triggered by the samples). Music that goes for a long period of time and is of a repetitive nature starts to alter people’s perceptions of real time. What might seem like 5 minutes can easily be 20 minutes. What might seem like 20 can have actually have been 20. As Bob Snyder states, “Time is an abstract construction of the human mind based on aspects of memory and the concept of an enduring self. Time isn’t experienced in the same way that physical objects are experienced. Rather as humans our subjective notion of time is constructed from our perceptions of objects and events and its qualities at a given moment depend on the relationship between these perceptions. Indeed what we perceive in a given amount of time to some extent determines our sense of the length of that time” (Snyder 2000, 212).
As humans we tune out behavior to the environments we live in and events within that environment act as clocks for us to synchronize to (Michon 1985, 28-32).
Effecting factors on our memory and perception of time include:
1. Duration.
2. Succession.
3. Temporal perspective or the construction of a linear ordering.

In writing the music to be performed by the other instruments (apart from the turntables) I was attempting to work with all three of these factors. Musically there has been much work done in this area with compositions that include all of these concepts. Compositions that are long in duration, compositions that play with the natural idea of an ordering of events and nonlinear music.

Iannis Xenakis Bohor (1962) is a piece that is both nonlinear in construction and works on the notions of duration in an attempt to effect perceptions of clock time. In describing this music Jonathon Kramer says, “ It seems to have adopted the requirements of moments (via stasis) as their entire essence. When the moment becomes the piece, discontinuity disappears in favor of total, possibly unchanging, consistency. The result is a single present stretched out into an enormous duration, a potential infinite now that none the less feels like an instant…Thus I called the time sense invoked by such music ‘vertical” (Kramer 1988, 55).

After reading of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories (1981), described as surgery of memory I started to think how I could effectively lengthen my pieces. David Toop says about Feldman’s piece “their organization of lengthy durations is compelling, yet the divisions between notes, those absences we call silence, demand a huge effort of memory in order to retain a grasp of this unfolding structure (Toop 2004, 90). This gives it an accumulative effect of time frozen. This was the effect I was after with the parts written for the other instruments. If I could play with the notion of memories within the structure of the music as well as through the manipulation of samples themselves it would give the music much more strength.

Steve Reich and Terry Riley’s idea of time contradicts traditional Western Music, in which the musical argument is the result of a subdivision of time. A lot of their music is ‘vertical’ in nature. When explaining vertical music Kramer states “ A vertically perceived piece does not exhibit large scale closure. It does not begin but merely starts. It does not build to a climax, does not purposefully set up internal expectations, does not seek to fulfill any expectations that might arise accidentally, does not build or release tension and does not end but simply ceases. A vertically conceived piece defines its sound world early in its performance and stays within the limits it chooses. Respecting the self imposed boundaries is essential because any move outside these limits would be perceived as a temporal articulation of considerable structural import and would therefore destroy the verticality of time (Kramer 1988, 55). In a similar way to these composers I am attempting to move to what Wim Mertens describes as “the idea of time as being an empty one so that a higher level of macro time can be reached” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 311).

For instance I attempted to deal with the notion of “timestretching and memory” in what was composed for the trumpet and trombone in the piece Log Lady. The basic structure is: the brass instruments play a melody and then rest for as long as I, the leader, can mentally hold out before bringing in the second melody. In using the phrase “mentally hold out” I am referring to the onstage pressure one feels as bandleader to move the music forward and to bring in the next section. That pressure can emanate from the audience, the musicians on stage or from ones own self and preconceived ideas of what makes for good music. In the rest period the remainder of the band continues to play as instructed. Their parts are repetitive in nature. They achieve stasis by never altering in regards to intensity of playing and dynamics. Each melody (written for the trumpet and trombone) is an expansion on the last. I took the opening 2 phrases, a B flat leading to C and started interspersing them between each new phrase. The idea of the new phrase is to build in length as another note of the 12-tone scale is added. Each phrase also develops rhythmically on the previous phrase. So I interspersed them with the beginning two notes and always stretched the length of those two notes out as well. Each phrase or melody is referencing the previous phrase and the phrases that have gone before. This gives the listener the feeling of familiarity while stretching that idea and subsequently stretching time.

There is repetition in the melodic structure but only after a long time (approximately twenty to twenty five minutes) and each repetition isn’t quite exact. Log Lady as well as the other lengthy pieces also apply the common “Aleph” type techniques which are a type of texture that transcends time by juxtaposing fast tempi and slow melodies (Trochimczyk 2002, 278). This is a technique used by Louis Andriessen in his masterwork De Staat (1972 – 1974) and De Tijd (1979-1981).

De Tidj (1979 – 1981) is Andriessen’s attempt to capture the essence of timelessness or where real time stands still (eternity). He devised many techniques in an attempt to replicate this ambience of eternity or timelessness. He speaks of attempting to create a situation of “sustained, glorified musical motionlessness…. A feeling that time had ceased to exist; the sensation of an eternal moment.” (Trochimczyk 2002, 113) . His inspiration for this was the writing of St Augustine. Augustine says,

“ If only their minds could be seized and held steady, they would be still for a while and for that small moment they would glimpse the splendor of eternity which is forever still. They would contrast it with time, which is never still, and see that it is not comparable. They would see that time derives it’s length only from a great number of movements constantly following one another into the past because they cannot all continue at once. But in eternity nothing moves into the past, because they cannot all continue at once. The past is always driven on by the future, the future always follows on the heels of the past, and both the past and the future have their beginning and end in the eternal present.”

This feeling of stillness or stasis is what Andriessen is attempting and what I also am attempting in my music. It is obviously an impossibility but the illusion is achievable.

Referencing some of Andriessen’s investigation’s into time manipulation I have built slight accelerations and decelerations into my drum patterns across almost all of the pieces written for The Escalators. There are moments where the drum pattern pushes slightly in front of the beat and others where it deliberately falls off the beat while the bass is unmoving. The drums circle the beat as it were, but over a great space of time so it is virtually unnoticeable. Andriessen speaks of the need to fix attention, since without attention time doesn’t exist at all. He built scarcely noticeable accelerations into the motion which precisely create the impression that everything remains the same but not quite the same; more in the way cathedral towers are the same and yet not the same. (Trochimczyk 2002, 124)

When talking about repetition in hip hop music Paul Miller states, “The repetitive nature of the music allows for the unfolding of clock time in a recursive spatial arrangement of tones that has parallels in the world of architecture where structural integrity requires the modular deployment of building materials to create a buildings framework.” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 350).

Repetition as a technique is also being used in my music for all the same reasons that many minimalist composers use repetition. Composers such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Phillip Glass as well as Techno producers Derrick May, Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson who have popularized the technique. By using repetition these composers are discarding and challenging the traditional harmonic functional ideas of tension and release as well as the musical narratives that go with them. It is used to try to eradicate the expression of subjective feelings through the music. It is used to move beyond the linkages of clock time and real life experience with the music. As stated by Ron Rosenbaum, “It is trying to create an extra historical experience of time brought about by discarding teleological and dramatic elements” (Ron Rosenbaum in Cox and Warner 2004, 309). It is attempting to express nothing except for itself. Minimalist music tends to restrict itself to a small number of ideas while stretching those ideas over a long period of time. Kyle Gann says “The length of the work actually underlines the intense restriction of materials: you might write a four minute piece using only seven pitches and no one would notice, but write a 30-minute piece, and the austere limitations become a major phenomenon of the composition. (in Cox and Warner 2004, 299).

In the use of repetitious grooves I am allowing the listener a way in, giving their ear something familiar as an access point. However by locking the groove completely, almost in the way electronic instruments loop, I intend the listener to move into an area of discomfort. The music becomes vertical in nature rather than linear. This repetition can be found in the way the drums are performed on Log Lady. The ride cymbal was to be played in a fast continual fashion. The drummer was instructed not to move from the original dynamic setting and technique used on the ride cymbal. Only after 10 minutes is he allowed to add a second drum (say the bass drum) and this must then lock in the same fashion as the ride cymbal. While doing this on percussion I want the bass player to play sliding grooves that both move the time and placement of the ‘one’. These types of parameters for all the instruments were set to avoid clichéd ‘groove’ sounds.

An Explanation into the Music of the Escalators. Part Two: Samples, Sampling and Memory

Chapter two from my thesis relates to Sampling and Memory. If you want to hear the music you can go to the bands myspace page. Click on the link.

The sampler/ turntablist was the key position in The Escalators and in many ways his sound was the most important sound in the ensemble. Broadly defined, turntabilism is a musical practice in which prerecorded phonograph disks are manipulated in live performance. DJ Babu a member of the DJ crew the Beat Junkies introduced the term in 1995. The name distinguishes the turntablist from the traditional DJ, someone who plays records but is not traditionally thought of as a musician. Although turntablists consider themselves musicians their originality is sometimes questioned because they perform on machines designed for automatic playback. The use of the term “ism” therefore, lends weight to the practice, suggesting an art form with a cohesive doctrine it confers a seriousness that demands respect. (Katz 1970, 115-116)

John Oswald described the art in this way: “A phonograph in the hands of a ‘hiphop/scratch’ artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced — the record player becomes a musical instrument.” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 132).
The choice of a turntablist DJ Element was ideal. He had developed a great number of technical skills through his years as a “battling” DJ but he also had a wide appreciation of art and art practice, sensitizing him to the need for collaboration. Many of the DJs I had previously worked with had developed their own sound and technique or set of DJ tricks and were unwilling to adapt to new ideas presented to them. He was a turntablist that had the capacity to develop new techniques depending on the sounds required from him. Many DJs develop a personalized library of sound sources and are reluctant to move beyond them. These sample libraries are comparable to the collection of “licks” used by jazz musicians. The escalators project required a DJ that would bring his own library but would be willing to add to it on my request. DJ Element was perfect for this role. We spoke at length about the differing sounds required.

For a number of years now, I have been creating music that is reliant on digital samples, both in a live context and studio context. Katz defines digital sampling as “ a type of computer synthesis in which sound is rendered into data, data that in turn comprise instructions for reconstructing into sound. Sampling is typically regarded as a type of musical quotation, usually of one pop song by another, but it encompasses the digital incorporation of any prerecorded sound into a new recorded work” (Katz 1970, 138). The sampler as a machine has a long history that started with the Singing Keyboard made in 1936, a machine intended to store sounds that could be linked to film, as well as the Noisegraph, the Dramagraph, the Kinematophone, the Soundograph and the Excelsior Sound Effect Cabinet, all machines that employed some sort of disk or other mechanism to store various sound effects and were all put to work in the Hollywood cartoon tape editing techniques developed by film editors (Chanan 1995, 143). Appropriating hundreds of bits and pieces of other peoples work to generate new sounds by remixing them is a technique very common in the hip-hop community. This includes artists such as DJ Shadow who released a seminal sample based album entitled Endtroducing (1995). However, prior to that it is a technique used widely by composers such as Pierre Schaeffer with his musique concrete compositions of the 1950s, Gavin Bryars in his piece Plus Minus which incorporates a collage of the slow movement of Schubert’s C Major String Quartet and Barry Ryon’s pop song Eloise (1969) as well as John Oswald’s seminal recordings entitled Plunder phonics (1989).

My interest in sample-based music arose from my work with Des Peres, a Melbourne based band in which I participate as composer and leader. Des Peres recorded and released a number of albums that are either sample heavy or entirely created using samples which have been garnered from my own and others record collections. Sampled based music is a music that allows for great freedom. A composer can take sounds from anywhere, mix them together and then apply their own touch. The restriction of the samples themselves is offset by the manipulated recontextualisation that can take place. It is a form of music that ignores the rules of genre. Rather it leads to the creation of new genres. Style is placed upon style, classical is placed upon rock beats, folk or country is placed all over jazz drumming, fusion bass lines are interspersed with blues guitar and its all mixed together.

The main limitations with what might happen, is the creativity of the composer. One’s limits usually stem from ones imagination rather than one’s talent. It is an idea that seems to build on the statements made by Cage with his piece Imaginary Landscape (1939). His composition consisted of chance recontextualisations using turntables and radios. In his famous essay, “Experimental Music” he says, “Any sound may occur in any combination and in any continuity.” For Cage the sounds of one environment were meant to be taken out of context and shifted through many new ones.

My interest in sampling with respect to The Escalators has narrowed to its relationship with human memory. The questions I am interested in include:
1. what takes place in perception when a person hears a sample?
2. what is happening within a persons memory when sounds that are familiar to them are recontextualized?
3. whenever a turntablist or sampler is used in music are they making a direct correlation to a human memory?

The primary sound source for the instrument is past recordings. These recordings are chosen because of the direct link they have to memory makeup of both the performer (turntablist) and the listener. Paul D Miller states “DJ culture is all about recombinant potential. It has as a central feature a eugenics of the imagination. Each and every source sample is fragmented and bereft of prior meaning – kind of like a future without a past. The samples are given meaning only when re-presented in the assemblage of the mix” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 349-350). The meaning held in memory is being remixed, changed, altered, made new, given new meaning, bettered or worsened.

Furthermore, Miller “considers sample mixes to be mood sculptures operating in a recombinant fashion. Based on the notion that all sonic material can be manipulated with the same ease that computers now generate composite images, the DJ or sample reliant composer combines the musical expression of other musicians with their own and in the process creates a seamless flow of music. The sampler can be seen both as a custodian and questioner of aural history, constantly crashing different voices and traditions together to give a reinterpretation of history (or memory) that is a contemporary and personal commentary” (in Cox and Miller 2004, 351). The choice of the samples is always significant. This was so for The Escalators.

A human memory is, in the phrase of eminent psychologist Daniel L Schachter, a “temporary constellation of activity” – a necessarily approximate excitation of neural circuits that bind a set of sensory images and semantic data into the momentary sensation of a remembered whole. These images and data are seldom the exclusive property of one particular memory. So when one hears a familiar sound, for example a two second excerpt from Madonna’s song Like a Virgin (1985), what the memory of that consists of is a set of hardwired neural connections among the pertinent regions of the brain, and a predisposition for the entire constellation to light up when any part of the circuit is stimulated. The sound of a Madonna sample acts as a trigger for the memory that is deeply rooted in each individuals life experience and acts as a kind of oral history. Each time it is heard it enforces the constellation of images and knowledge that constitute that memory and each hearing further strengthens the dendritic connections among its components, further encouraging the firing of that specific set of synapses. (Franzin 2002, 8-9) . Each human memory is deeply locked into a system of personal referencing, i.e. a network. Ken Jordon states, “Once every sound had a distinct source. A door slammed shut, a horn was blown, a guitar was strummed. Audio came from a discreet event; it was tied to a discernable action. Networked music challenges this notion by displacing sound from its origin, moving audio freely from one location to another, giving it a presence in and of itself” (in Miller and Jordon 2008, 104). Sample-based music is a form of networked music, linking into the networks of the past and creating new networks to be referenced in the future.

The conditioning of each individual through genetic, cultural, religious, psychological, and linguistic information forms a separate and unique unit. These can be known because of their differences and their connections to those outside themselves. Each fragment has its own network with its own intentions, time, space and history. (David Shea Arcana p146). Sample based music connects into this idea as it is music of arrangement rather than direct invention per se. This is true for all acts of creation but sample-based music is one of the more obvious. Sample based music takes its sound sources from an original setting and then places them within a new one. It rearranges the meanings given to the original sound source based on each individuals network of understanding related to the original sound source.

Human memory consists of three processes: echoic memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Bob Snyder in his book Music and Memory links these three phases with three corresponding time levels of musical organization
1. level of event fusion
2. the melodic and rhythmic level
3. the formal level (Snyder 2000, 3).

At the echoic level the inner ear converts sound into trains of nerve impulses that represent frequency and amplitude of individual acoustic vibrations (Buser and Imbert 1992, 156-171). At this moment the data is uncategorized and raw but through processes called feature extraction and perceptual binding the data is perceptually categorized. (Bregman 1990, 213-394) ( Bharucha 1999, 413-418). These categories or events are placed into groups based on similarity and proximity. These events subsequently activate the parts of long-term memory, which are activated by similar events in the past.
As Snyder states, “Called conceptual categories these long term memories comprise knowledge about the events that evoked them and consist of content usually not in conscious awareness, which must be retrieved from the unconscious” (Snyder 2000, 4).

The formal level is where the music for The Escalators is attempting to work especially with regard to syntax. Syntax is sets of relations between identifiable patterns (Snyder 2004, 200). Musically that can include ideas of genre/style or expected patterns within a piece. Snyder states “primary parameters are central to the creation of syntax because they are the aspects of music by which patterns are identified and related to each other” (Snyder 2004,200).

Syntax is made possible by categorisation and memory. Musical syntax consists of learned rules that generate certain types of patterns or gestures that in turn can signify specific types of musical functions. Sampling is primarily concerned with the syntax of genre. Genre or style is a syntax that depends on the perception of patterns occurring at different times as very similar or identical. Syntax depends on the perception of identity.
Sampling through the means of displacement would alter a person’s syntax within their memory. Music provides a sensory experience that activates memory. Meaningful reception of a musical message depends on appropriate context in memory, a repertoire of schemas and categories that are both personally and culturally activated (Noth 1990, 176-180).

In the original choice of samples made for The Escalators a statement is made. I am attempting to influence the listener to make a selection from their memory schemata that is hopefully similar to mine. I am presuming they will all be able to identify the samples from the culture from which extracted. It is through the use of memory principles such as similarity, proximity and continuity that various pattern units are marked out. As higher-level relations between basic pattern units involving long-term memory enter the picture the listener’s personal and cultural schemas begin to have an influence (Snyder 2000, 208). It is in the recontextualisation and displacement of the sample that memory sabotage occurs.

Snyder states that music can be divided into two categories based on the use of memory:
1. music that attempts to exploit long term memory by building up hierarchical and associative mental representations of large time structures
2. music that attempts to sabotage recognition and expectation by frustrating recollection and anticipation, thereby intensifying the local order of the present.

Sample based music falls defiantly into the second category. The continual genre bending of the music creates a kind of anticategorisation technique that creates sounds that cannot be easily framed in the listeners memory system. The rapidly changing samples in new settings create a nuance overload where every sound is a new event and cannot be easily identified as being in the same category as the last sound/event (Snyder 2000, 236). Discontinuities are commonplace in Western art of the 20th century, from the cubist art through to the splicing techniques used in film.

With The Escalators I have injected a significant number of chosen samples into the framework of the music. These samples that play with the ideas of discontinuity and recontextualisation have been sourced from the world of popular culture, things such as pop music, film soundtracks and TV bites. I have also used samples obtained from field recording. These are to be used as “Sound Markers” (Toop 2004, 94). The field recordings were of sounds such as fire, church bells, doors opening and shutting and footsteps. Each sample has preconceived meaning to most audience members.

Michael Forester describes “sound markers” as certain sounds or sound conglomerates that become lodged in memory as markers of security “The sound of the family moving around the house gives me a sense of security and belonging,” sounds can exert a powerful sense of centeredness, or perhaps push a door open within a darkened mind, offering a faint sense of escape. (Toop 2004, 94). The sounds of the church bell, fire and footsteps were to be my own sound markers to be used within the framework of The Escalators. These common sounds, have meanings for every member of the audience and would provide a sense of aural security. They also could be manipulated in the context of a musical performance.

What happens when these sounds are inserted into the musical performance while constantly manipulating and distorting them? A sense of the familiar shifted sideways should result. Of the piece Jesus Blood Never Fails Me Yet (1974) in which Bryars sampled the singing of an old London tramp, looped it and then composed an accompanying chamber orchestra score, he says the methodology was ‘the idea of assemblage, and taking iconic things and recycling them.’ (in Toop 2004 161).

The music of The Escalators was to be always creating a sense of the familiar simultaneously always pulling the listener into a state of unease. The recontextualising of memories through sampling will naturally have this effect.

Always shifting things slightly off the axis they are meant to sit on.

The Thinking Behind My Latest David Lynch Inspired Musical Project “The Escalators”

The Australian band, The Escalators is my latest musical project. We launch our debut album “Wrapped in Plastic” and head out on a national tour this week.

The album can be purchased here https://theescalators.bandcamp.com/

The Escalators instrumental lineup is unique, including jazz musicians on drums, bass, piano, trombone, trumpet, and extensive samples, electronics, and turntablism. The Escalators involved extensive set, lighting, and video design more than just a musical project. The music and set design stemmed from my academic research, notably my Masters completed in 2008.  

The key area of research that shaped the band’s music was my study into “sample-based music and its relationship to human memory.” Sampling and sample-based music involve the strategy of triggering memory using existing musical recordings and has been the dominant technique of contemporary music since hip hop emerged as a force in the 1980s. Before the 80s, artists such as Miles Davis, Stouckhousen and Gavin Briars, amongst many others, had played with it. Briar’s most famously in his long from minimalistic neo-classical composition Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, which looped one longish sample of an anonymous London tramp singing part of the old hymn. 

For fans of David Lynch, the second area of interest that shaped The Escalators music and live show is found in the album title, Wrapped In Plastic, referencing the famous three words used in Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks. The film and TV work of David Lynch, including techniques Lynch uses himself and the resultant atmosphere found in a Lynch movie, have shaped much of this work. Rather than lifting tunes or compositions recognizable from Lynch’s work, I have placed this work in the Lynch Creative Universe. When listening to the album or city in a concert hall watching the band perform, one might feel a familiar but potentially unnamable feeling. It’s the same feeling you feel when watching Twin Peaks or Blue Velvet.

The Samples and Turntablist.

The Escalators’ distinctive identity is a consequence of crossing once-sacred style boundaries. In using samples, a composer can create hybrids that were previously unthinkable. This can produce new, unique and personalized musical identities.

Why the Name The Escalator’s

There are two reasons for the name. Firstly, for me, the name elicits the feeling of a constant returning to the same place; likewise, in my opinion, sample-based music also seems to have this effect. It creates memory confusion and a sense of return. The second and less obvious reason was Escalators starts with the letter E. 

All my jazz/improvisation groups have had names starting with the letter E (En Rusk, Escargone, The Electricians, so now the Escalators). Going agaisnt what would be common when trying to build a musical career I prefer ambiguity and uncertainty over simplicity and predictability. By continually using the letter E their is uncertainty created for those who have followed my career, as well as a slight confusion when talking about one band compared to another. 

The state of minimal uncertainty or subtle confusion is something that has always interested me.

Why The Mix of Jazz and Turntables?

At the early stages of development, the shared improvising, compositional language that the players possess has allowed me to rapidly explore concepts. It has helped me decide what to keep and what to discard. It frees me up from constantly producing physical written work that might or might not be kept, thus saving me time in decision making and allowing for a more flexible, responsive approach to the final pieces. 

The distinguished clarinetist Anthony Pay states, “I am the sort of player who is more disposed to start off from the accuracy point of view rather than starting off from the musical point of view. You can with some modern music start off and say : ‘I’m not going to pay any attention to the notational aspects of it, but initially I am going to decide what the music is about, the gestures – and language – the sort of thing if you are improvising, you have to deal with.’ Now, I tend when I’m approaching a modern score, to start off by trying to get, as accurately as I can, what he’s actually put down on paper.” (Bailey 1992, 67-68) That premise is precisely what I want to avoid.

The ensemble consists of Pat Thiel playing trumpet, Mark Hannaford playing piano, Joe Talia playing drums, Mick Meagher playing electric bass, Lawrence Folvig on electric guitar, DJ Element playing turntables/sampler, and myself on trombone.

The Story Behind My New Album title “The Adventures of Cowboy and Miniman.”

One of my bands,  Des Peres named our new album The Adventures of Cowboy and Miniman, and huge numbers of people have been asking for the meaning of the title.

On October 14, in my third blog, I explained who Cowboy and Miniman were (Scroll down to see). Here is a little further insight into the type of brave and creative men they were.

Cowboy and Miniman loved to fight. They loved to attack, burst forward, charge, surround, launch missiles, block, thrust, encircle, destroy.

But that last word was the one thing they seemed incapable of doing. Their strength and military knowledge were on such equal footing that neither could shift their opponent even an inch. That’s not to presume that losses weren’t taken. In fact, huge losses were taken on both sides.

Battle forces were smashed and women lost husbands. But just as armies were lost, they were rebuilt. These foreign adventurers and warmongers had persuasive gifts, including the tongue and the gold coin.

Their spirit of discovery had long since changed from the desire to find lost treasures. Instead, rare powers were sought by both leaders to gain the upper hand.

Miniman possessed a great talent in his voice. He had the type of voice that could sail, drift, or float, but more importantly, when really turned up to its full volume through methods of diaphragm control, it could pierce through shards of glass, shattering them into a million pieces.

At nights before a battle or on a long march through the thick jungles when his men were tired, he would use his voice to calm his men by singing out over the camp, but it was the vengeful side of his voice that became his interest in his current position, trying to discover his inner weapon.

If he could train others in his army the power of the human voice to wreak havoc over whatever it was aimed at, surely, he would have a weapon at his disposal to crush his weak-eared opponent.

There were many reasons for both the beauty and sharp ugliness of his voice. But the predominant one was linked to him being a mini man, smaller than small in both size and stature. His newly chosen choir of soldiers was now set to become his highly skilled killing machine. Miniman trained them using the most modern signing techniques, how to hold your note, how to articulate, how to fire out the rhythm, how to lull your enemies in with slowly shifting melody, which to control your breathing and stomach muscles to increase in pitch but most importantly he had them all castrated. And then they were ready, for they to had become the ultimate Mini Man army.

So one evening, he marched his choir out……..

To celebrate the release of the album “The Adventours of Cowboy and Miniman” I tattooeed the following picture onto my arm. It was drawn and designed by my then four year old son Kalani Robinson and features both Cowboy and Miniman.