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LISTEN: New Daniel Thorne Album
Christian Eede , March 12th, 2019 17:47

Immix Ensemble director, saxophonist and composer Daniel Thorne steps out alone with his new album

This Friday (March 15), Erased Tapes will release the debut solo album from Daniel Thorne.

Past work from Thorne has seen him act as artistic director for Immix Ensemble who've worked with the likes of Luke Abbott and Vessel amongst others, while the Australian-born and Liverpool-based composer and saxophonist has also spent a number of years working on various specially commissioned works.

His debut album, titled Lines Of Sight, is all about the power of limitation though. "I’ve long been a fan of studio-based composition, but have always found the infinite possibilities on offer daunting and, often, a stumbling block," Thorne explains. "To get around this I set myself a challenge of limiting myself to the physical instruments in my possession – a few different saxophones and a bass synth, with no more than four tracks to record them."

In turn, he's produced an album that sees him, in his own words, blur the lines between "acoustic and electronic, organic and synthetic, composition and improvisation."

You can hear the album for yourself above and continue reading below for a quick Q&A with Thorne about the record. Pre-order it here ahead of its Friday release.

You say this record was about limitation, of using the instruments in your possession. How did that change the process in comparison to the past collaborative work you've done? Did you find it a more helpful way of working?

Daniel Thorne: It wasn't so much to do with moving away from collaboration-based work, but it ended up being a very necessary way of working as I'd been dabbling in electronics and studio-based music for a while, but I'd never managed to finish anything that I felt was meaningful. I was finding that a lot of the time I was getting stuck on one of two questions, either 'what instruments am I writing for?' or 'how would I perform this?'

In the end, the easiest way for me to get past these roadblocks was to give myself an 'ensemble' of my own - four saxophones and four synthesisers - and to make the decision to lean into the 'studio album' aesthetic and make it practically un-performable on purpose. I did the bulk of the composing in the same way that I would for a 'real' ensemble, notating everything, then once I had recorded it all I sat back and started to sculpt the sound more and more. For some of the later tracks I moved away from that specific restriction, but it had done it's job as it allowed me to wrap my head around making music in this way.

Would you say your work as artistic director for Immix Ensemble has considerably fed into this solo album?

DT: Absolutely, one of the reasons that I love playing in new music ensembles is that you get a really unique insight into the way that people create their sounds, whether that's in terms of notes on a page or any other way that those sounds are realised. In particular, being able to work closely with electronic virtuosos like Vessel and Luke Abbott was an incredible learning experience, in terms of getting a really amazing insight into the possibilities available when utilising electronics, how they perform, and their philosophies around music and art. I feel really privileged to have been able to witness some of those things first hand. Similarly, the players in Immix are of a ridiculously high calibre, and every time we play together I learn something about the art of performance and interpretation.

You say that a number of your compositions are highly calculated. Can you explain this further and does it sometimes make composition a more laborious process than you'd like?

DT: Quite a few of the tracks grew out of some strict processes involving ratios, long range polyrhythms, that kind of thing. Sometimes this was just to influence the structure and proportion of a piece, and in others it was responsible for creating the majority of the musical material, which I would then shape and sculpt afterwards. Probably the most heavily process-driven is 'Threnody for a Burning Building' - harmonically it is just a chord progression moving at three different speeds, while the variations in the rhythmic texture were dictated by a number of long-range polyrhythms and their interaction with each other.

In terms of being more laborious, I think it's a different kind of laborious - it can definitely feel miles away from making music when you're literally just typing notes like you're editing a spreadsheet, but then the payoff can be fantastic when all of a sudden there's a mass of new sound to work with, that isn't something that I'd have come up with if I was just messing around on the piano.