With a keen interest in the musical capabilities of architecture, we’re massively excited for Georgia Rodgers to be part of the Huddersfield Professional Development Programme for Female Composers of Electronic Music, and can’t wait to hear what she has planned for the HISS.
Georgia Rodgers says ‘locatedness’. It’s the most perfect word that never existed. Describing her piece Near and Far, the London composer used the word to capture our geographical and environmental relationship with music, how we are able – and sometimes unable – to put a pin on what we’re hearing. An artist who focuses her energies on perspective and acoustic design, Rodgers’ music takes space seriously, considering the conditions of an environment to be as significant a detail as the timbre of an instrument.
Rodgers’ music explores how things are mapped out to synthesise with each other – or, often, to do the opposite, deliberately clashing into tones that bray around the senses. Near and Far echoes the juxtaposition of Emily Brontë’s poem Stars, which contrasts the smallness of human experience to the vastness of the universe above us. In making a musical representation of the poem, Rodgers’ piece spreads electronics and sine tones wide, creating what she describes as ‘ambiguity about the locatedness of the sounds and words [the listener] is hearing’. Just as we find the distance of faraway objects hard to parse, our perspective on sound is can be muddled by our mind.
An acoustics specialist, Rodgers’ work has been performed in specific venues, with compositions made for the particular resonances and frequencies that belong to them. Buildings can be the starting point, in fact: performed at the eponymous church, St Andrew’s Lyddington began by considering the ‘impulse response’ of the space, in finding out what frequencies are optimal for it to host. This invisible work reveals a composer who works off paper as well as on it, crafting scenarios. Rodgers alludes to the idea of her work on St Andrew’s Lyddington as being ‘extraction’ – as if she is taking music that has always existed in the space and making it something we can hear. In a sense, it’s like she’s worked out what the building’s musical strengths are, what things it knows how to play.
Considering Rodgers’ love of processing instruments, it’s easy to imagine her compositional approach as all extraction. She is methodical and searching, bringing sounds above ground and carefully bringing out their particulars. She tends to start writing pieces by putting specific instruments through processing situations and seeing what unique effects come about from them. ‘I like to really delve into the grain and texture of that instrument’s sound world’, she says. In the same way that a building’s architecture can direct Rodgers in her composing, so can the endless possibilities of a manipulated instrument – ‘The way I work involves a lot improvisation and exploration at the beginning of the project; investigating different instrumental and electronic sounds is really important’.
Rodgers’ Real Spaces series expands on the forensic ideas behind St Andrew’s Lyddington. A group of pieces that focus on ‘the impulse response of particular places’, they see her experiment with the harmonic frequencies peculiar to locations. The fractured coming apart of York Minster, for flute, piano and cello, makes for chilling listening, the music scattering through its space. The project’s other piece, Maeshowe, was recently given a deep-sinking performance by the Riot Ensemble, and casts a stern, droning gaze through the room. In each of these pieces, Rodgers creates something that represents what is particular to a space – what belongs to it. In this music’s ability to turn our heads, to have us question where exactly we are experiencing it from, we learn how much music there is around us, waiting to be tapped.
Photo credit: Dimitri Djuric