Rob Mackay

Compositions by Rob Mackay

Work on Postcards from the Summer began in the Experimental Music Studio of Radio Bratislava in Slovakia during the summer of 1998.

The piece is inspired by the various soundscapes of the different places I visited in Europe during that summer. From a farm in North Wales and the sounds of Bangor, to the cities of London, Bratislava, Prague, and Munich.

In presenting these soundscapes, I have not consciously tried to conjure up the national flavour of the countries I visited (although some sounds inevitably do), but instead the piece represents snippets of my own personal experiences of these places. The aural images are not necessarily in chronological order, but instead weave a tapestry of different sonic landscapes.

Within this piece I have tried to continue my interest in transforming one recognisable sound to another, and using this technique to ‘travel’ from one place to another.

Postcards from the Summer was composed in the Experimental Music Studio in Radio Bratislava and the Electroacoustic Music Studios at Bangor between mid 1998 and early 1999. It has been published by ‘New Adventures in Sound Art’ on their ‘Deep Wireless 4 – Radio Art Compilation’ CD, with funds from the Arts Council of Canada.


For Clarinet and Computer (6’50”) – Clarinet performed by F.Gerard Errante

Taking a moonlit night on a beach in Majorca as its inspiration, Equanimity is an attempt to convey a sense of delicate balance between different environmental and sonic factors: a certain stillness in the air; the sound of different nocturnal creatures blending in harmony; the ocean shifting in the darkness.

I have tried to exploit the different elements that make up the sound of the clarinet, at the same time relating these to the natural sounds on the recording. A delicate balance is set-up between stillness and movement, knowing and unknowing. Is the listener hearing the sound of the clarinet or cicadas? Do they hear the performer’s breath or the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore?

Through the use of live electronic processing, the sound of the clarinet is subtly extended to aid this blending of instrument and nature. The through-composed nature of the piece reflects a gradual unveiling of the natural scene, shifting from the different harmonics contained in the clarinet to the sounds of insects and birds communicating on their own narrow bands of frequencies.

Equanimity was composed for clarinettist F.Gerrard Errante in Scarborough and Las Vegas (with support from the University of Hull and the great hospitality of D. Gause and Gerry Errante). A recording is available on the CD Delicate Balance published by Aucourant Records. It can be purchased on-line at

I have based this Composition on the following piece of text by Sophocles (from ‘Oedipus at Colonus’). Which I believe is still as relevant to us today as when it was first written:

‘The Earth’s strength fades,
And manhood’s glory fades.
Faith dies,
And unfaith blossoms like a flower.
But who shall find,
In these open streets of men,
Or in the secret places of his own hearts love,
One wind blow true forever.’

In this piece I have tried to mirror the meaning and mood of the text, both in its context within the play it is from, and in the more general relevance it has to people of any generation. A gloomy truth pervades the first four lines, but the second half of the text offers hope in the enormity of time and the universe.

Also the material for the piece (which includes the text itself) relates to the Greek ideals of music, set down by Boethius: Musica Mundana, Musica Humana, and Musica Instrumentalis.

Within this piece I have pursued my interest in transforming one recognisable sound to another, playing on human auditory perception and also using this to travel from the imaginary to the real and back again.

Voicewind was created in the electroacoustic music studios at Bangor in 1998. It won a special prize in the EAR99 competition of Hungarian Radio in 1999.

This piece is based on the opening of chapter 11 of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I find the chosen text to have a particularly musical quality, which comes as no surprise as Joyce intended it to act as an overture to chapter 11, which is inspired by, and a tribute to, the art of music.

The entire material for the piece has been created solely from recordings of readings from the text. Through different sound transformation techniques I have created a wide range of sonic material which mirrors the literal meaning of the words. I have tried to create a musical structure, as well as providing word-painting for the text and exploiting its innate musical quality. In order to respect the text, I felt it important to maintain coherence of the spoken word throughout the piece as well as using it to create supporting textures and gestures. The piece’s title reflects the way I have interpreted Joyce’s words, which to me evoke a vision-like quality.

The piece was composed in 2002 for the First Otto Joachim Project Studio Residency Competition, Concordia, Montreal. It was a finalist in the ‘1st Electroacoustic Miniatures Competition’, Confluencias, Spain. It is available on the CD of the same name, published with funds from the Junta de Andalucia.


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