The Onset of Turbulence WW
lan Willcock - 1988

for electric guitar and digital sampler

The title, and starting point for some of the formal proceduresin this piece, came from fluid mechanics - a study of how liquids or gases behave under various conditions - and in particular a collection of papers called Bynanucal Chaos, published by the Royal Society. The particular (strange?) attraction of chaos theory for me might best be explained through the words of one of the contributors, E A Spiegel: " ...the theory of chaos makes processes like intermittency and the appearance of coherent structures mathematically accessible..." In other words chaos, or turbulence, includes not only the predictable absence of discernible structures, but also, paradoxically, implicitly enables the construction of formal structures.

In The Onset of Turbulence, the process of movement towards a highly chaotic state - together with the concomitant development of structures, is overlaid by other processes - in particular, a sampling unit is used to take 'snap shots' of the instrumental activity at particular points throughout the piece. These repeated samples then function as references, sometimes recalling particular musical materials, sometimes reiterating pitch references (the guitar is constantly being transposed up and down using the tremolo arm). These reference points (or pedals) in turn, link to form a framework within which the narrative activity of the piece takes place.

The instrumental material is heavilyinfluenced by studies I made of playing techniques associated with urban blues. The idiomatic devices I identified became the basis for models describing particular strands of musical material. The idea is not one of quotation, but rather to use the raw expressive techniques (and in particular, those unencumbered by notational or theoretical constraints) to form new, still expressive, materials.