These compositions explore gated-feedback networks where several musical sources ‘resolve’ to near-infinite variation and polyrhythmic/tonal complexity.
created by Paul Ruston in 2014.
“Theory is a recipe for style” (James Tenney)
UrMusic Creative Research follows a philosophy of music that considers style a compounding of evolutionary, environmental, and cultural patterns of observation, evaluation, and imitation that obscure the dynamic, emergent properties of interactive gesture (body), acoustical space (environment), and neural entrainment (ear/mind).
Paul Ruston (director), September 2016
I’m an experimental composer and theorist. I’m interested in the phenomenon of music to the degree that culture (biology vs environment) can be removed from the musical experience, which it cannot. I don’t believe in style, but I engage in it every time I create and think about music.
I experiment, explore, improvise, compose, perform, teach, and theorize.
My music is variously bizarre, noisy, complex; ironic, sweet, clichéd. I’m most attached to the ones simple at heart.
I consider myself an expert in the following fields of musical study:
- phenomenology of musical entrainment
- tuning, temperament, and intonation.
- spectral composition:
- just-intonation and microtonality
- polyrhythm and phasing
- time stretching
- critical historical analysis of musical style and theory
- self-generative musical structures
- harmonic analysis
- resonance and feedback
King Apparatus (ska, 1990-95); The Artichokes (rock, 95-97); Film/TV Composer (94-2003); Combo Royale (swing, current); Experimental Composer (current); Slaughterhouse 5 (free-improv); Frankie Foo (ska, current); Noiselandia (avant pop, current)
- Centennial College, Toronto: [digital audio, MIDI and synthesis
- Ryerson University, Dept of Philosophy and Music, Toronto: [film music, popular music, theory]
- Chang School of Continuing Education, Toronto [academic coordinator]
- Humber College, Toronto [digital audio, theory (jazz)
- Dartington College of Arts (University of Plymouth), Totnes, U.K. [composition, guitar, theory, digital audio]
- King Edward IV Community College, Totnes, U.K. [guitar]
Each of these individuals have had a profound effect on how I think about and make music.
- James Tenney (1934-2006): experimental/spectralist composer and theorist
- Bob Gilmore (1961-2015): musicologist
- Frank Russo: director of Ryerson SMART Lab (music cognition)
- Mitch Girio: producer, song writer, and bassist; long-time collaborator
- Jim English: renegade producer and song writer
Influences (in alphabetical order)
Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Boyoyo Boys, Glenn Branca, Roy Buchanan, Ali Akbar Khan, Cheap Trick, Ornette Coleman, Claude Debussy, Frank Denyer, Devo, Duke Ellington, The Faces, Robert Fripp, Mick Gooderick, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Lucier, Harry Partch, The Police, Steve Reich, Marc Ribot, Terry Riley, Sam Rivers, Carl Ruggles, Erik Satie, Giacinto Scelsi, Elliott Sharpe, Igor Stravinsky, James Tenney, XTC, Frank Zappa.
Here I show the spectral make-up of ‘harmonic’ sounds (sometimes called ‘musical’ sounds, a term I dislike). Using a sample of a male choir singing a single long tone, the spectral components of the sound are revealed through a demonstration of the 3 basic parameters of E.Q. (equalisation), a studio tool that is used to shape timbre, or ‘tone colour’), which include ‘centre frequency’, ‘gain’, and ‘Q’ (quality factor). This is used to introduce the harmonic series, which will be an important reference point for many of the following videos.
This demonstrates the emergent, tonal nature of rhythmic entrainment. Melodic, harmonic, timbral shifts, voice-like effects, are all emergent from very simple gestures and motifs. Often the guitar plays only two notes or chords but results in polyphonic, polyrhythmic contrapuntal structures.
In a rare interview, the renowned US artist Cy Twombly talks to Tate director Nicholas Serota about his astonishing work.