The Wire


Daphne Oram

Chris Weeks: Star gazing

May 2012

Chris Weeks’s track “Telescopic Moon” recently won the OraMIX competition run by London’s Science Museum and judged by Brian Eno, DJ Spooky and The Wire’s publisher Tony Herrington.

"The intro and outro of an old 7” came to mind when I first read about the competition," says Weeks: "Telstar” by The Tornados. "I wanted my mix to subtly convey a boundless optimism for science and technology, and I took into consideration that image of a satellite drifting in space."

The competition asked applicants to rework a set of Oramics sounds into a theme tune for Our World, a 1967 satellite programme, which was the first TV show to be broadcast live via satellite. Weeks says he wasn't aware of the work of Daphne Oram before the competition.

He writes: "Looking back and researching the techniques and technologies Daphne Oram invented could make you feel inadequate, and humbled. Advances in music technology have brought accessibility and endless potential for anyone to try their hand, but the work ethic and creativity of Daphne Oram and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is something worth interpreting and applying to the thoughts behind our own modern, creative music making.

"The style and sounds of Daphne Oram were so forward thinking," he says. "They still have a future aesthetic resonance and a relevance."

To put his track together Weeks pulled out segments of various stems, selecting passages and reconstructing them. "My first thought was that I wanted a simple but affecting hook or melody running through my track," he says. "My first priority was to identify a note or tone that I could single out, which I could then run through a sampler and turn into a polyphonic synthesizer."

Weeks says he steers clear of overly polishing tracks, or leaving too many traces of digital production. "I like to work with elements of noise, static and hiss," he says, and builds tracks from a bedrock of dense, layered textures, which are then deconstructed, rearranged, resampled, reprocessed, and pieced back together.

Weeks began making music on a four track tape machine in around 2000, and had also taught himself to play acoustic guitar. He now records under various aliases, among them Myheadisaballoon, and the not quite so subtle Kingbastard. "The name Kingbastard started out as something of a joke," he says. "I wish I could say it has some deeper meaning, linked to The Bastard King, but it doesn't. I used it at first because it reflected the style of electronic music I first started to compose, which was more aggressive than recent work. Myheadisaballoon on the other hand is the alias I use for my more poetic, philosophical side.

He also creates his own artwork : "For me, the artwork is a snapshot of a moment in time," he says. "The music elaborates upon these ideas and memories, uniting the real and imagined, bringing the imagery to life and telling a tale."

The external world features heavily in my more recent Kingbastard albums more consciously than in previous releases, due to my current surroundings," he says. "I moved to a beautifully picturesque part of Pembrokeshire, so it’s hard to not be directly inspired.

Weeks walks, and takes a sketchbook and field recorder along, sometimes leaving them in situ. "I often take recordings without listening to what I’m capturing." he says. "I set up a recorder somewhere in the countryside and just leave it to record the sounds of nature till the batteries run dry. I love picking up on the usually inaudible or unregistered, discovering what's on the SD card, and using these as a source of inspiration. I then incorporate elements of them in my music.

"My album Beautiful Isolation takes in numerable scenes and field recordings from my walks, and Lost Property also features field recordings, incorporating the sounds of my exploration of the inside of a derelict house, its immediate surroundings and my walks to and from the house. Fusing the actual sounds of the external world with the imagined feels like a very natural thing to do, and it would seem with age I'm reflecting upon the world around me more and more."

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