An acousmatic composition, Ghosts of the Gamecock is based on percussion, bird calls and rkang gling (human femur trumpet). These instruments are heard acoustically and also used as sampled source material whose playback is manipulated by the WiGi/Buchla Lightning controller. The piece also features an analogue modular synthesizer with amplitude and envelope filters shaped by control voltages mapped from the acoustic sampled material.
The piece was premiered in a 46 channel diffusion at the MANTIS electroacoustic festival in Manchester February 2010. Here are excerpts from the programme notes for that performance:
Ghost of the Gamecock is a mediation on death, but not so much on its finality, more its pregnancy, and on what Tibetan buddhists call the intermediate states.
The piece is a montage of primal gestures and resonances derived from various objects and instruments: simple striking of percussion objects, the breath exciting a sounding body into vibration, two objects rubbed together etc. These include a djembe drum, a tama talking drum, bird calls, a Nepalese singing bowl and Rkang Gling Tibetan ritual thigh bone trumpet. The “natural” envelopes of these sounds are processed through a variety of digital means and also translated into voltages which are used to control an analogue modular synthesizer.
The Gamecock in the title refers not the bird calls which are used in the piece but to a derelict, sightless pub standing witness in the shadows of Manchester University. An ugly and depressing place even when it was open The Gamecock nevertheless exudes not inconsiderable poise and aura. To me it witnesses the part of Manchester’s history that almost nobody remembers with affection: the intermediate 1960s attempt a regeneration which built the now demolished high rises and crescents in Hulme: a place that almost nobody wanted to live. Yet long before the decisive 1996 IRA bombing of the city centre which signaled the gentrification of the city, Hulme was a magnet for artist and musicians who gave a new energy to the city. But Manchester’s modern identity and architectures seem based not on remembering its past but on forgetting and repressing it. The ghostly call of the Gamecock reminds me that this is a shallow view of life. Life does not wallpaper over death quite so easily, it shares space with death. They reflect each other and are inside each other. The University and the old pub sit almost next to each, other looking in opposite directions, both in their own way icons of memory, loss, forgetting and separation.