Inchcolm release details

Format: Audio CD-R
Length: 17:00
Catalogue number: MAG444
Price: limited edition 5, unlimited edition 3
Packaging and artwork:
White CD face printed with black text around the periphery (click here for an image). Limited edition (16) version comes in white digipak with seven lines hand-painted in gloss varnish (click here for an image), and includes a hand-made card inlay printed back and front. Front is heavyweight gloss inkjet paper, printed with a composite image formed from ten layered scans of the Inchcolm Antiphoner manuscript (click here for an image). Each of the sixteen inlays has a differerent mix of opacities between the layers to produce a unique image. Reverse is heavyweight white card, hand printed in black with the release details (click here for an image). Packaging designed in collaboration with Sam Collier. Also available in unlimited edition in a clear plastic CD sleeve.
Music:
The CD contains a single track of layered, detailed choral music (click here for an excerpt), produced through a process of site-specific work within the Abbey on Inchcolm, inspired by Alvin Lucier's 'I Am Sitting In A Room'. This process is described below.
The Abbey on Inchcolm is associated with an ancient manuscript of Celtic plainchant known as the Inchcolm Antiphoner. The manuscript is a fragment of an appendix to a book of devotional chants or 'antiphons'. The appendix contains chants dedicated to St. Columba, the patron saint of the Abbey. Musicologists believe that the Antiphoner was compiled around 1340 AD by monks living in the Abbey, and that the chants in the surviving appendix would have been sung on the day of the feast of St. Columba, June 9th. The chants from the manuscript have been recorded by Scottish vocal ensemble Capella Nova, and released as a CD entitled 'Columba, Most Holy of Saints'.
On St. Columba's Day, 9th June 2007, Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo travelled to Inchcolm island with a portable loudspeaker, a sound recording system and a short excerpt of the Inchcolm Antiphoner music from the Capella Nova CD. The excerpt was chosen for its qualities of simplicity and repetition. Following their arrival on the island, the band set up the portable speaker and sound recording equipment in the chapterhouse within the Abbey. The chapterhouse is octagonal in plan form. Owing to this design, sound reverberates within the room in a way that the band found pleasing.
The band played the excerpt of the Inchcolm Antiphoner music through the portable speaker, and at the same time recorded the sound that this made within the chapterhouse using the sound recording system. The result was a recording of the Incholm Antiphoner music altered slightly by the acoustic properties of the chapterhouse and combined with the background noise within the Abbey. This recording was designated as recording number 1.
The band then played recording number 1 through the portable speaker, and at the same time recorded the sound that this made in the chapterhouse using the sound recording system. The result was a recording of the music altered slightly by the acoustic properties and background noise of the chapterhouse. This recording was designated as recording number 2.
The band then played recording number 2 through the portable speaker, recording once again the sound that this made within the chapterhouse. This resulted in a recording that sounded similar to recording number 2, but altered slightly by the acoustic properties of the chapterhouse, its reverberations and resonances. This recording was designated as recording number 3.
Recording number 3 was then played back through the portable speaker, and the sound that this made within the chapterhouse was recorded to produce recording number 4, which again was slightly altered by the acoustics of the chapterhouse and the background noise within the room.
Recording number 4 was then played back through the speaker and this was recorded to create a recording whose sound was, in comparison to the previous recording (number 4), altered slightly by the acoustics and background noise of the chapterhouse. This was designated as recording number 5.
The band then took recording number 5 and played this through the portable speaker system, recording the sound that recording number 5 made within the room, and thereby producing another recording. Once again, the sound in this recording was slightly altered by the acoustics of the chapterhouse, so that the voices of the singers became quite indisinct. This recording was designated as recording number 6.
Recording number 6 was duly played back through the portable speaker; the sound made within the room was recorded; and this recording was designated as recording number 7. In comparison to recording number 6, recording number 7 was slightly different due to the effect of the acoustic properties of the chapterhouse and the background noise of the Abbey.
Recording number 7 was then played back within the chapterhouse via the portable speaker, and the sound of this, altered slightly by the reverberant acoustics of the room, was recorded once again. In this recording, the voices of the singers from the original excerpt were almost impossible to discern. This recording was designated as recording number 8.
The band then took recording number 8 and played this back within the chapterhouse through the portable speaker, recording the resulting sound. This produced a further recording, which was slightly different to recording number 8 owing to the effect of the acoustics of the room, and the addition of the background noise that could be heard therein. This recording was designated as recording number 9.
Recording number 9 was then reproduced through the portable speaker, and the recording system was used to record the resulting sound, altered further by the acoustics and background noise of the reverberant chapterhouse. In this recording, the voices of the singers from the original excerpt are no longer apparent. Instead, a series of tones can be heard at the various resonant frequencies of the room, speaker and recording system. This recording was designated as recording number 10.
Recording number 10 was, in turn, played through the portable speaker, and the sound of this recording reverberating around the chapterhouse, with its unique acoustics, was again recorded. This recording was designated as recording number 11.
Recording number 11 was then played back in the chapterhouse through the portable speaker. Whilst the recording was being played back, some other sounds could be heard reverberating within the chapterhouse that appeared to be created by the crying of seagulls outside the Abbey. The sound within the chapterhouse, consisting of both recording number 11 and the seagull cries reverberating within the room, was recorded. The recording was designated as recording number 12.
Recording number 12 was then played through the portable speaker. During the playback of recording number 12, an aeroplane could be heard, presumably flying along the flight path over the Firth of Forth. Once again, the sound recording system was used to record the sound within the chapterhouse to produce a further recording, designated as recording number 13.
The band then took recording number 13 and played this back within the chapterhouse via the portable speaker. Again, the resulting sound within the chapterhouse was recorded and this recording was designated as recording number 14. In this recording, very little can be heard apart from a series of tones, rising and falling in amplitude, at three different frequencies: a very low tone at around 79Hz, another at around 180Hz and a third, quieter than the other two, at around 580Hz.
Recording number 14 was then played back through the portable speaker in the chapterhouse, and the resulting sound recorded, and the resulting recording designated as recording number 15.
Recording number 15 was played back by the band within the chapterhouse, through the portable speaker, and the resulting sound - shaped by the reverberant acoustics of the chaperhouse, and the background noise of the Abbey (including some indistinct vocal noises that sounded as though they might have been made by a child visiting the Abbey) - was recorded. The recording produced by this process was designated as recording number 16.
The band took recording number 16 and played this through the portable speaker in the chapterhouse, recording the results to produce recording number 17. In this recording, affected further by the acoustics of the chapterhouse, only two tones can be heard, at around 79Hz and 180Hz respectively. The tones rise and fall in amplitude independently.
Recording number 17 was then played back through the portable speaker in the chapterhouse, and the resulting sound recorded to produce recording number 18.
Recording number 18 was, in turn, played back via the portable speaker. As the speaker was situated in the chapterhouse, the resulting sound was altered slightly by the reverberant acoustics of that space. This sound was recorded, and the recording designated as recording number 19.
The band took recording number 19 and played this back through the portable speaker within the chapterhouse. Once again, the sound was altered slightly by the acoustics of the chapterhouse. Almost nothing could be heard apart from two tones, at around 79Hz and 180Hz, rising and falling in amplitude. This sound was recorded using the sound recording system, and the resulting recording designated as recording number 20.
The band then packed up their equipment and returned from the island.
Some time later, in their studio, Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo assembled the music for the Inchcolm CD from the 20 recordings made within the chapterhouse. Using computer software, the band created a single composition, 17 minutes in duration, though a process of sequentially layering the 20 recordings, first accumulating and then removing the layers. An image showing the structure of the final composition can be viewed here. The structure can be described as follows:
At the start of the track, recording number 1 is heard. Next, recording number 1 is heard at the same time as recording number 2, so that the two recordings are mixed together, or layered. Recordings number 1, 2 and 3 are then heard at the same time, layered together, followed by recordings 1, 2, 3 and 4. After this, recordings number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are heard all at the same time; then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6; then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7; then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. After this, recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are heard simultaneously, followed by recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, likewise layered and combined together. With each successive cycle, the acoustics of the chapterhouse, its reverberations, resonant frequencies and background noise, become more clearly audible. Next, recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are heard together, then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Subsequently, recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are heard mixed together, then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16, followed by recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, all layered and mixed together, and then recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, again, all layered and mixed together. After this, recordings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 are heard together, and then all 20 recordings (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20) are heard simultaneously, layered and mixed together. At this point, the sound is at its most dense and detailed. Listening to the piece at this point, at around 8 minutes into the composition, it is possible to hear both the voices of the singers from the original excerpt and the resonant frequencies of the room, merged with the background noise and reverberations from all 20 recordings.
After this process of accumulation, the layers are then removed one by one, starting with recording number 1 and progressing numerically. After all 20 recordings are heard at once, recordings 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 are heard, layered together. Then recordings 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 are heard at the same time, then recordings 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, followed by recordings 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, followed by recordings 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. In each succesive cycle, a further layer is absent, so that the voices of the singers from the original recording become progressively more indistinct, and the resonant frequencies of the room progressively more distinct. Next, recordings 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 are heard mixed together, then recordings 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. By this point, at just over 11 minutes into the piece, the original sound of the singers is virtually impossible to distinguish, while the resonant frequencies of the chapterhouse are becoming more and more clearly audible. After this, recordings 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 are heard, layered together, then recordings 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, followed by recordings 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings recordings 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, followed by recordings 17, 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 18, 19 and 20, then recordings 19 and 20, and finally recording 20 is heard on its own. The piece then finishes.