Watford Flight

watford4

The Watford Flight is located near to the Watford Gap services on the M1 motorway. The road can be heard here and occasionally glimpsed through the trees. The whole flight is seven locks, consisting of two single locks, a staircase of four locks, and a final top lock. A ‘staircase’ is a sequence where you emerge from one lock directly into the next, whereas single locks have a pound between them.

Traffic through the flight is strictly controlled by a CRT volunteer lock-keeper, because these are single boat locks and the staircase can only accommodate boats going in the same direction. On the day we went through, there were three boats coming down, so we had to wait a while at the bottom before being allowed to enter.

Here is a video record of the ascent through the staircase.

And here is the familiar view that greets you as you emerge from the top lock. You do get a great sense of achievement when you come through. We stopped at the services on the left before heading on to moor up for lunch after the second bridge, and then the final journey back to the marina described in the previous post.

watford1watfordtoplock

Return journey

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (The Wind in the Willows).

We’ve dawdled. It’s been a very relaxing trip. Some days we did not travel at all. Louise made some roses. Andy did some composing. There was quite a lot of sitting about.

The outward journey was consequently not a great distance: a matter of 18 miles or so to Gayton Junction. The return journey took us slightly less time because we decided to come back a day sooner than predicted. The weather is closing in and a cold snap is forecast. But for most of our trip, the weather has been very good, with some days of brilliant sunshine, even if it was a bit chilly.

Gayton Junction, our half-way turning point, is a busy place, with boats coming from three directions.

gaytononcoming

We stopped at the neat and well maintained service station to fill up with water and empty the toilet cassettes. It took quite a long time, and we enjoyed chatting with a gentleman who was doing the same thing.

gaytonservicesgaytonwaterfroth

The other junction on our trip was Norton, where the Grand Union canal turns south towards Brentford and London (our direction) or west towards Braunston.

nortonsign

This is a very pretty junction, with a lovely house on the corner and good services round the bend.

nortonhouse

We had a nice meal and a pint or two at the nearby New Inn. But the best meal out was on our 18th wedding anniversary, last Sunday, when we dined at the Narrow boat Inn, Weedon Bec. The food there is very good.

Most days, though, Louise cooked meals on board. This was a particularly delicious one: Italian Veggie Cottage Pie

For a few miles north of Norton Junction, the M1 motorway and the main railway line to London flank the canal on either side. Three historical transport routes in close proximity. The railway finished off the canals, and the roads rendered large parts of the railway network obsolete. I know which I prefer! I shot this video to capture that experience.

And here are a couple of stills of trains (these are the ones I take to Euston station when I go to work).

Rosie has really enjoyed the whole trip, and is getting very grown up. She behaves well at locks and really does not need to be put on a lead any more, but watches everything with keen interest. She also does not bother passers-by (unless they are on bikes, unfortunately) if they do not pay her any attention. More often than not, though, they cannot resist giving her a cuddle.

We have seen lots of widlife, including this pied wagtail (a relatively rare sight these days, sadly) and a rather handsome mandarin duck, who seems to be mixing with the mallards with no problem.

But mostly, it has been slow cruising through beatiful countryside and occasional villages. Here are a few pictures to give the flavour:

Hanging out washing on the back deck was a happy experience, after the long winter.

washing

We also see some peculiar boats, like this one made from a shipping container:

containerboat

On the return journey, Louise was pleased to stop at Anchor Cottage canal shop, near the top of the Long Buckby locks. It’s full of wonderful stuff, but the lady was camera shy so we took these pictures from the boat. We bought a couple of lovely planters for the roof. More pictures will follow when they have been planted up.

The last big adventure on the way home was acending the Watford Flight. I shot a video record of that, which will be a separate blog post.

After the flight, we cruised the last few miles back to the marina. The entrance is now a familiar sight, but getting throgh the narrow opening is always a bit of a challenge in a 67 foot boat!

yelvertoft

Holiday Dawdle

blossom

Spring has sprung and it is time to set forth once more. Andy has two weeks’ annual leave (well almost – minus the one day the university chose to have a Very Important Meeting) and both of us could do with a break!  So, we resolved to dawdle down the Grand Union Canal to nowhere in particular and back again. Gone are the destination timings and anxieties of last summer’s trip round the Leicester ring. Instead, the emphasis is on relaxation and slow travel, with some creative work too (roses, music).

We set off yesterday, after taking down the pram cover, checking the engine, filling the water tank, etc. etc. As you can see from the splendid photo above, the blossom is out and weather is not bad at all, although there is a chilly wind. That picture was taken at the bottom of the Watford flight. The one below shows us waiting at the top, with the M1 barely visible in the background.toplock

The locking crew were waiting too. It took 40 minutes for the boat at the bottom to come up. Since these are single locks, this was necessary before we could descend

locker

Everything is controlled by the Canal and River Trust volunteer lock-keeper, who has a little office by the top lock.

lockkeeper

Next door is this useful facility:infobookswap

And here is Peter the volunteer, talking to Cap’n Andy as the boat goes down…volunteer

Rosie oversees the procedure, watching concernedly as her home descends into the hole:rosiewatching

Rosie does have her uses. Here she is carrying the walkie-talkie, a proper comms-dog!commsdog

Before we reached the Watford Flight, we had to pass yet again through Crick tunnel. Here’s a photo showing that you can see all the way through to the end before you enter:

tunnel

There were some pataphysical moments during the trip past Crick marina too…ubique

So now we are moored up in a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere (somewhere north of Long Buckby and Norton Junction) and have enjoyed a day of doing not very much. Last night, Louise cooked this recipe for cheesy spinach bake. The comes highly recommended. Here is what it looked like before serving:

pie

We had some for lunch today too. All gone now…

 

Timbral Map

Planning of Movement 1 continues by trying to map the hill timbrally. I have devised the table below, showing how the various winds are translated into timbres for clarinet and the loudspeaker orchestra. Some of the latter sounds are electronic, some natural recordings, some instrumental samples. Pretty soon now the real work of actually making the sounds will begin!

bassclarinet

Wind: N
Pitch: A
Character: compressing – stretching
Time delimited? yes
Phrase 1: Compressing: discontinuous and erratic.
Phrase 2: Stretching out: globally uniform
Semantics: First there is a feeling of compression (as if we strongly pressed on an obstacle) then the barrier is suddenly overcome, suppressing all resistance and releasing the power. It is a sudden change from localized energy to scattered energy.
Timbres: Aeolian sounds, wind and brass instruments, plus electronic compression
Bass Clarinet: rapid staccatissimo, then tenuto

Wind: NE
Pitch: E
Character: moving forward, propulsion
Time delimited? yes
Phrase 1: first phase is quite a sustained fulcrum: a prolonged or homogeneous sound or slow iteration, globally uniform
Phrase 2: a brief acceleration of intensity, pitch, or any other morphological trait
Phrase 3: a typical resonance or silence
Semantics: We feel the application of a force to a steady state, resulting in an accelerated movement. Projection from a starting point.
Timbres: bowed tam-tam, bowed gamelan, bowed vibes, piano clusters, drone sound, resonance is spatial
Bass Clarinet: sustain – acceleration – resonance

Wind: E
Pitch: B
Character: waves, braking
Time delimited? no
Phrase 1: slow repetition of an increasing then decreasing sound motif. The shape of the profile can concern different morphological criteria (mass, dynamics, grain, etc.)
Semantics: Each cycle conveys the feeling of being pushed forward, and then driven back until the end. We get the impression that we are stagnating through this unit although we feel motion within each cycle.
Timbres: wind in trees, granular synthesis, additive/subtractive synthesis, filtering
Bass Clarinet: rhythmic articulations, vibrato

Wind: SE
Pitch: F
Character: divergent, chaotic
Time delimited? no
Phrases: ad lib.
Semantics: No description required. The title is self-explanatory.
Timbres: birdsong, natural rustling, strings
Bass Clarinet: multiphonics, microtones, extended techniques, slap tongue

Wind: S
Pitch: C
Character: endless trajectory, heaviness, in suspension
Time delimited? no
Phrase 1: a linear and usually slow evolution of a sound parameter
Semantics: The process must be oriented in a direction (for example, upwards or downwards) and however, it seems to never finish. The sound phenomenon must be long enough to be perceived as a process and not an ephemeral event.
Timbres: spectral processing, time stretching, Shepard tone, distant aeroplane
Bass Clarinet: circular breathing, glissando, crescendo

Wind: SW
Pitch: G
Character: spinning, stationary, obsessive
Time delimited? no
Phrase 1: a parameter (pitch, timbre) is driven by a quick cyclic repetition along with a thrust in each cycle, or with a quick and possibly varied repetition of a pulsed element.
Semantics: We feel constrained by a mechanical process in which we cannot seem to act. We have the feeling of an object spinning on itself or in space.
Timbres: mechanical sounds, throbbing, music box, piano
Bass Clarinet: Double/triple tonguing

Wind: W
Pitch: D
Character: floating, falling, fading away
Time delimited? no
Phrase 1: a sound parameter (pitch, dynamic, etc) floats and then falls away.
Semantics: We feel sustained for a considerable period of time before drifting away, either falling or fading.
Timbres: decay instruments (prepared piano, harp, celesta, vibraphone, gong, etc.) that decay at wrong or unusual rates, or have pitch shift
Bass Clarinet: glissandi, decrescendi

Wind: NW
Pitch: always unpitched
Character: suspending-questioning, wanting to start
Time delimited? no
Phrase 1: ad lib.
Phrase 2: ad lib.
Phrase 3: ad lib.
Semantics: no description necessary
Timbres: unpitched percussion, acoustic effects, wind sounds
Bass Clarinet: Breath sounds, key clicks, etc.

 

An invitation to contribute to the Kelston Roundhill Symphony!

Movement 4 of the Kelston Roundhill Symphony is to be called “People and Buildings”. People can upload sounds to a website, like some kind of aural patchwork quilt. Any sounds may be used, but obviously it would be good to link them to themes of the symphony and the round hill. I will then put together a piece using these sounds, to create what will hopefully be a vigorous and rousing end to the symphony. During the composition process, people can comment and make suggestions via the message board on the site.

If you wish to take part, please do make a contribution here http://andrewhugill.com/kelston-four/

The Mother’s Day Cruise

marina

Froth has been lying in her moorings all winter long. But narrowboats are meant to travel. So it was with great excitement that we seized the fine weather over the past weekend and prepared for the maiden voyage of 2017! Rosie was certainly keen to get going..

rosie

First things first: we had to take down the pram cover. It’s quite a clever arrangement. A zip joins the two halves in the middle, and when undone they part like a clam shell. It really did not take too long. Here is the back deck in all its glory. You can see the supports for the cover lying flat fore and aft.

There is plenty of room to move the tiller, but the struts also remain within the line of the boat, so no problem in tight situations. For a longer cruise, we would remove them altogether, but Sunday’s trip was to be just one day. Our plan was to go down to the top of the Watford Flight, then turn around and come back again. The trip should take about 4 hours and would involve two trips through Crick tunnel, there and back.

Since it was Mothering Sunday, we had invited all the generations of Louise’s family. This meant a boatload of seven people and a dog. Louise, as usual, cooked a fantastic buffet lunch.

Before we set off, though, here’s a quick peek into the back cabin, where you can see Peter Warden’s fabulous painting of Looe Island now hung on one of the few vertical surfaces on board.

picdog

And so to a photo montage of the day’s trip. All these pictures were taken by Graham, Louise’s Dad, with his super camera.

boats
Boats in the marina
marinaentrance
Leaving the marina
andytiller
Andy at the tiller, catching the sun
kayak
Jack and Toby went ahead in an inflatable kayak
goose
One of the many Canada geese that are now starting to nest
lamb
Cute lambs everywhere!
leanneandtoby
Leanne and Toby, ready for action.
buffet
The buffet!
barbiewine
Barbie and Rosie contemplate the scenery
watford
Moored at Watford flight, the family set off for a walk under the M1
tunnel
Leaving Crick Tunnel

As you can see, it was a lovely day, with loads of wonderful sights and sounds. There were three mothers on board and we hope each was given a special day to remember.

The Old Barn

Here are some pictures of the venue for the Kelston Roundhill Symphony. The Old Barn is about half way up the side of the hill. It’s a lovely space inside, with a good acoustic. The rafters offer opportunities for suspending loudspeakers (tweeters mainly). There is a kitchen and toilet facilities that are not shown in these pictures. It should be a great and intimate location for the performance.

Bass Clarinet as a weather vane

 

Given the description of the ‘winds’ blowing in the last post, I have been giving more thought to spatialisation. The Old Barn is a T shape, as shown in the (badly drawn) picture below:

barn

To give a clear sense of directionality, there will be eight principal loudspeakers located roughly in the positions of the points of the compass, as indicated. Strewn about or hanging from the rafters, will be a ‘forest’ of smaller speakers. Sound will travel through this forest using stereo panning. The four channels SW, W, NW, N will be panned hard left and S, SE, E, NE will be panned hard right. So, to make a journey from N to S will involve panning across from left to right, whereas S to N will be right to left. The complete formula is as follows:

N -> S = left to right
NE -> SW = right to left
E -> W = right to left
SE -> NW = right to left
S -> N = right to left
SW -> NE = left to right
W -> E = left to right
NW -> SE = left to right

In the midst of all this directionality stands the bass clarinet. He will have the instrument on a sling, saxophone style, so that he can turn to face whichever wind is blowing. He will then play off a menu of material for that wind. There will be eight stands, each with a single sheet of music, for this purpose. I suppose the bass clarinet behaves like a weather vane!

I hope the overall effect of all this will be to make it abundantly clear to the audience (who are scattered through the space) which wind is blowing at any given moment. Of course the musical fun will come from the content itself, the interaction with the soloist, and the choreography of the winds as they cross and interact with one another.

 

About Wind

compass

The idea of Movement 1 is to mimic the way the wind blows through the Clump, the circular wood that tops Kelston Round Hill. We will be recording the “rustle of spring”: the sounds of wind in leaves, birdsong, even passing aeroplanes or human conversation. There will also be a wind instrument: the clarinet.

The main musical feature will be gusts of wind blowing in different directions. This will be achieved by using the four cardinal points of the compass (North, South, East, West) and the four ordinal points that bisect these (North-East etc.) These are called ‘winds’ in compass jargon.

In the Mediterranean, they give names to the winds that blow from each of these points. Each wind has its own character (e.g. the sirocco). English history is much less orderly in its categorisation of winds. There are folk names, such as: ‘dryth’, for a dry northerly; ‘piner’, for a north-easterly, ‘custard’ for an easterly, the delightful ‘cow-quaker’ for a southerly May storm, ‘sea turn’ for a westerly coming off the sea, and ‘cat’s nose’ for a cool north-westerly. A sou’wester is also both a garment and a wind. But these names often come from regions other than the West Country. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder catalogued the winds, as follows: Septentrio (N), Caecias (NE) which he replaced with Aquilo (NNE), Subsolanus (E), Vulturnus (SE), Auster (S), Africus (SW), Favonius (W), Corus (NW). It’s possible that high-born Romans living in Bath would have known these names. But this is really insufficient justification to allow for the winds in the Symphony to be so named. So, names will not feature.

Nevertheless, each wind does have a different character, as everybody knows. These characters affect not just the wind direction and its associated weather fronts, but also the general ‘feel’ and atmosphere for as long as that wind prevails.

Movement 1 will therefore group its sound libraries by wind characteristics. Where there is pitched material, the notes of the Aeolian mode will prevail (Aeolus was the Classical god of wind). The winds will blow across the forest of loudspeakers spread around the Barn. This will be achieved by panning across 4 stereo channels, which will then be output to clusters of speakers as appropriate. The live clarinet will stand in the centre, responding to the winds as they blow. Each gust will contain pre-recorded clarinet sounds, natural sounds and a collection of especially composed sounds evocative of the given wind. These may be represented as follows:

Wind Pitch (Aeolian) Character
N A compressing – stretching
NE E moving forward, propulsion
E B waves, braking
SE F divergent, chaotic
S C endless trajectory, heaviness, in suspension
SW G spinning, stationary, obsessive
W D floating, falling, fading away
NW Always unpitched suspending-questioning, wanting to start

The character is evoked using Temporal Semantic Units (TSU) identified by the Laboratoire Musique et Informatique de Marseille. They give the following types:

Morphological characteristics:

  1. duration, which can be time delimited or not)
  2. reiteration (with cycles or not);
  3. number of phases (one or more) and
  4. sound matter (continuous or discontinuous sound).

Kinetic characteristics:

  1. acceleration type (positive or negative)
  2. temporal progression (fast or slow).

Semantic characteristics

  1. process direction (one or more sound parameters moving in the same direction),
  2. movement (motion effects)
  3. sound energy (constant or retained).

There are detailed descriptions of each character, as follows (some from LMIM, some by myself):

Compressing – stretching

Morphological description: Time delimited unit with two contrasting phrases. During the “compressing” phase, the sound matter is discontinuous and erratic. The “stretch out” phase is a globally uniform segment.

Semantic description: First there is a feeling of compression (as if we strongly pressed on an obstacle) then the barrier is suddenly overcome, suppressing all resistance and releasing the power. It is a sudden change from localised energy to scattered energy.

Moving forward, propulsion

 Morphological description: Time delimited unit with three phases. The first phase is quite a sustained fulcrum: a prolonged or homogeneous sound or slow iteration, globally uniform. The following phase is a brief acceleration of intensity, pitch, or any other morphological trait. The third phase is a typical resonance or silence.

Semantic description: We feel the application of a force to a steady state, resulting in an accelerated movement. Projection from a starting point.

Waves, braking

Morphological description: One phase unit, non time delimited, made up of the slow repetition of an increasing then decreasing sound motif. The shape of the profile can concern different morphological criteria (mass, dynamics, grain, etc.)

Semantic description: Each cycle conveys the feeling of being pushed forward, and then driven back until the end. We get the impression that we are stagnating through this unit although we feel motion within each cycle.

Divergent, chaotic

No specific description. The title says it all.

Endless trajectory, heaviness, in suspension

Morphological description: One phase unit, non time delimited, with a linear and usually slow evolution of a sound parameter.

Semantic description: The process must be oriented in a direction (for example, upwards or downwards) and however, it seems to never finish. The sound phenomenon must be long enough to be perceived as a process and not an ephemeral event.

Spinning, stationary, obsessive

Morphological description: One phase unit, non time delimited, in which a parameter (pitch, timbre) is driven by a quick cyclic repetition along with a thrust in each cycle, or with a quick and possibly varied repetition of a pulsed element.

Semantic description: We feel constrained by a mechanical process in which we cannot seem to act. We have the feeling of an object spinning on itself or in space.

Floating, falling, fading away

Morphological description: One phase unit, non time delimited, in which a sound parameter (pitch, dynamic, etc) floats and then falls away.

Semantic description: We feel sustained for a considerable period of time before drifting away, either falling or fading.

Suspending-questioning, wanting to start

No description required. The title is self-explanatory.

Kelston Roundhill Symphony

kelstonKelston Records have commissioned me to compose a symphony for Kelston Roundhill. This is a beautiful location outside Bath, pictured above. Full details can be seen on the Kelston Roundhill website.

Kelston Records have a mission to produce “ecology and environment themed music”. They publish “live gig recordings of highly gifted and original musicians for people who are moved by themes of community, place, landscape and the environment.” Their first CD was ‘Three Cane Whale‘ recorded live at The Old Barn.

The Old Barn is a fabulous small venue, about half way up the side of the hill. There’s a nice picture here. The interior is T-shaped and has stone walls and timbered rafters.

Here is the outline of the proposed Symphony as it currently stands. This will doubtless evolve further over time, but the basic framework will remain the same. It will be an electroacoustic Symphony, but with some live elements, including: clarinet, voice, early instruments and live coding. It will also involve quite a lot of collaborative work with musicians, composers, programmers and all the contributors to the final Movement.

Kelston Round Hill Symphony

Andrew Hugill

The aim is to create a musical work that maps Kelston Round Hill in four ways: as a physical object; its history; its spirit; its people and buildings. The composition will be a four movement Symphony, as follows:

Movement 1: Kelston Round Hill as a physical object

This soundscape composition will use location recordings, specially composed materials and instrumental responses. These last will feature clarinettist Roger Heaton (Professor of Music at Bath Spa University). The performance will use a forest of loudspeakers to reproduce the spatial aspects of the hill. Gusts of ‘wind’ will blow across the auditorium, carrying musical materials as they do so. The aim is to reflect the circularity of the panorama, so the overall theme of this movement will be circularity.

Movement 2: The history of Kelston Round Hill

This will build an evocative audio history of the hill, using early instruments such as bone flute and hurdy-gurdy played by Matthew Spring (BSU). Three poems by Jon Hamp will evoke the past of the Roundhill, first in neolithic times, then during the renaissance, and finally present-day. These words will be sung by Sara Stowe. Musically, the gradual formation and elaboration of a drone and a modal melody will be the main component. The final poem will also be accompanied by a live coding element, performed on Thor Magnusson’s ‘Threnoscope‘.

Movement 3: The spirit of Kelston Round Hill

This will be a contemplative movement concentrating on awareness and widening horizons of the individual. As well as evoking the act of contemplation, it will provide a soundtrack for individual meditation, by drawing people into an intimate world of whispered sounds and very quiet sonic events. The Old Barn will be recorded on a hot day, creaking and cracking as its timbers move. These small sounds will also trigger small musical events.

Movement 4: People and buildings of Kelston Round Hill

This is a collaborative composition. Over a period of time, people will be invited to contribute material, either via the web or in person at the barn. The material may be spoken, sung or recorded. Orchestral instrumentalists will also be invited to take part, working to a score provided by Hugill. Once the contributory phase is over, Hugill will develop the material in conjunction with all those who wish to be involved in the composition. This will be done through an online studio. It is expected that the result will be busy, lively, and packed with personal meanings that will surprise and delight audiences.