Two years after the collaborative albums with William Basinski and Alessandro Cortini, Brisbane-based sound artist Lawrence English is back with new music. Lassitude is out now via his own label ROOM40. He explains: “It may not be apparent on first examination, but the pipe organ has played a significant role in most of the work I have produced over the past decade. On Wilderness Of Mirrors and Cruel Optimism, the organ was central in helping shape many of the pieces. The clearest and most audible example is in Negative Drone (from Cruel Optimism), but there are many other moments when the Pipe Organ has been fundamental in affecting my work. I feel then, it’s about time I give this miraculous instrument some overdue focus.
Not far from where I live in Brisbane is the Old Museum. It was the site of, as you’d guess, the Queensland Museum across most of the previous century. Today, the space is used more for performance-based work and, as part of that, it houses a beautiful organ built in the late 19th century by Melbourne organ manufacturer William Anderson.
The organ has three manuals, 28 speaking stops and a mechanical action. For me, the critical thing about this instrument is the way the stops operate. In an organ, a stop is the device that allows the pressurised air into the organ pipes. Each organ has a very unique quality and the stops on this particular organ allow for some very slow shifts in tonality to take place. It’s this potential that is at the heart of these two works. This is slow music, and I’d like to think, music that deepens.
The first piece, Saccade, is dedicated to my dear friend and source of endless inspiration Éliane Radigue. Éliane’s work has been my constant companion on tour since the release of Wilderness Of Mirrors. I can’t tell you the number of flights on which she has kept me company. Her work has smoothed out the unease of bumpy atmospherics and soothed states of deep exhaustion. Trilogie de la Mort, Adnos I-III and L’île re-sonante are pieces I return to again and again. This piece is a dedication and in some small way both an acoustic homage and note of thanks for music that has left an indelible mark on my appreciation of sound’s motion in time.
The second work, Lassitude, draws breath from Phill Niblock’s work. I have had the fortune to spend much time over the past year listening to Phill’s music with the view to a new project celebrating parts of his legacy, and Lassitude is indebted to his recognition of and interest in vibration, timbre and, dare I say it, patience. On a personal note, what makes this piece special for me is that it’s the first piece of music I have ever published that is a performance one take on one instrument; no edits, no processing, just a very sore mid-thoracic and thighs after holding the bass pedals and manipulating the stops ever so delicately.
While the ideas for these pieces have been brewing many years, their execution in this moment feels somehow apt. I hope the work offers an opportunity for you to become lost in sound, in time.”