My early musical memories include Grandma Dorothy’s upright piano in Chingford, my elder brother’s harmonica and, sometime later, the family’s first three LP records: Frank Sinatra’s ‘Song for Swingin’ Lovers’, ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ and–just for me, aged eight–’Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks’.
I must also mention hearing Ray Charles and the Raelettes singing ‘Hit the Road Jack’ on the car radio, as we drove home from Brighton to Littlehampton one night. A grown-up song that hinted at adult life to come. After that, The Chipmunks seemed embarrassingly childish, but their little voices kept me interested. My scientifically-minded 14 year-old brother explained that people sang the songs slowly, then the tape was speeded up. Perhaps my later interest in electroacoustic music began there. What followed was a career in pop, jazz, classical and film music.
Though I’m now retired from professional music-making and education, the subject remains endlessly fascinating. And so, nothing has changed, but everything has changed, like a riff repeated in different harmonic contexts, from the blues, to jazz, to pop, to contemporary art music and back again. The organisation of sounds into meaningful patterns can take many forms, some of which I should like to explore here.