Degrees of Latitude

by Alex McKechnie

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Writing computer code is just another way of expressing ideas. The starting point for each track on this album was a computer program written in C++. People often think of programmers as people who make tools. In my case I use programming to compose music. For each song I go back into the program and rewrite sections, depending on what I am trying to achieve. The output from the program plays back through traditional electronic devices. I find music notation difficult and hard to control. Code is much more direct and intuitive. The end result is much the same - you produce a series of notes, rests and instructions for playing and listening to.

Here are some thoughts that popped up during the creation of this record:

Sometimes we play together so much we fall into predictable chord progressions. Other times we improvise so much we produce dissonance and noise. Sometimes our patterns play out alongside each other and the results are surprising. Sometimes we need the simplest arrangements.

Some move at a fast tempo and others more slowly. It can be nice to travel together at the same speed, but it’s not always necessary.

Sometimes we need a large arena, but often we find a small space is just fine. Sometimes even a digital space will do. Different spaces reinforce different notes. Not all notes are equal.

A shared language is convenient for most circumstances, but involves compromise. A subtle change of tongue might be necessary to achieve specific, local results.

Not everything is to our taste. It can take time to find out what our tastes really are. Sometimes a thing is apparently difficult or unpleasant, yet we keep being drawn back to it. Maybe the strangers hiding among us have different tastes. To each their own.

Some episodes are longer than others. They can seem very significant yet last only a few minutes. Others are like nothing much at all, yet last 20 years.

Need we always build up to a big ending? Sometimes we travel all round the world just to find out what we started with. We rarely resolve anything along the way; at best we make our peace with it. It does not require extra drama, nor less. A tricky balance.


released September 14, 2019


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Alex McKechnie England, UK

Alex combines computer programming and composition, taking inspiration from pioneers Laurie Spiegel and Iannis Xenakis. He has been making quality esoterica since 1989 with electronic duo Barbed. In the 90s he performed around the world with artists such as Add N to X and Negativland, His recent work is unashamedly computer music in the classical tradition. Each piece originates from unique code. ... more

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