MIKE BULLOCK: Figures Without Ground

SEDCD061 | Released in 2013 | Ltd Edition 250 copies | $15 Figures Without Ground

Trompettes Marines excerpt  download
Figures Without Ground excerpt  download

Figures Without Ground is the third in a series of three releases, across three labels and three formats, representing a total of six compositions. The first two releases in this series were Music for Cinema (cassette, YDLMIER), and Mild Disappearances (CD-R, Songs From Under the Floorboards, a sub-label of Intransitive Recordings). The two sides of Figures Without Ground represent for me a major transition from one mode of composition to another. 


Side A, "Trompettes Marines," was composed as a piece of musique concr�te utilizing various sources including contrabass, nature recordings, voice, the run-out grooves of vinyl records, and a synthesizer designed by Jessica Rylan of Flower Electronics. The first realization of this piece took place at Goethe-Institut Boston as part of the Non-Event music series in 2010; the version on this LP is a completely new studio realization. The title, as with most of my titles, was arrived at after the fact. It is derived from this one-line poem by Guillaume Apollinaire:


Et l'unique cordeau des trompettes marines


�a reference to the single string of the ancient instrument called the trumpet marine (variously trompette marine, tromba marina etc.). This instrument is played by bowing this single string and touching it lightly at various points to derive natural harmonics. It got its name from its distant, buzzy sound - a result of a freely-floating bridge that vibrates against a large, resonant body - which sounds like trumpets heard from across the expanse of the sea. The contrabass in this piece has a sound very much like the trumpet marine, and the recordings of seabirds only serve to underline the maritime aspect. As evidenced by the title of the first release, wiith all three of these releases I'm going for a cinematic, evocative quality, while skirting any specific narrative. 


By contrast, Side B, "Figures Without Ground." was created in a single take with almost no editing and minimal mastering, using only a Doepfer-format modular synthesizer. The sliding tones - created by self-resonating filter feedback - move around each other in a wobbly, almost organic way, like watching ivy grow up the side of a building. After an initial stage of carefully building the patch, the synth was allowed to generate the music with only very minimal involvement on my part. I was very pleased with how the patch grew almost unaided into something that sounds so living. I've never been able to duplicate exactly this quality of loping, looping rhythms and microtonal self-adjustments. With modular synthesizers, each patch - and each performance of each patch - is different from all the others, just by the contingencies of time and environment. Environmental shift over time is major part of my work, and is reflected in my choice of materials such as acoustic and electronic feedback, and recordings of dynamic natural settings.

Mike Bullock is a composer, improviser, intermedia artist, scholar based around Boston, MA. His modes of work include electroacoustic composition, installation, drawing, and video. Bullock performs across the US and in Europe, collaborating with a huge range of artists including Pauline Oliveros, Christian Wolff, Steve Roden, Bhob Rainey and Greg Kelley of nmperign, Mazen Kerbaj, and Theodore Bikel.

In 2010 he and Linda Aubry Bullock co-founded Shadowselves, a platform for their new media work. Bullock�s music has been released by numerous labels including Intransitive, Important, Winds Measure, Sedimental, Grob, 1.8sec, al Maslakh, and Homophoni. He received a PhD from the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and has taught and lectured in the US and Europe on field recording and improvisation.