The grain of abstraction UK
Christopher Fox - 1998/9

The Grain of Abstraction is a companion piece to my ensemble work, Another Reality, and the percussion quartet, The Art of Concealment. Like Another Reality, The Grain of Abstraction inhabits a strange and complex harmonic world based on Pythagorean interval ratios in which prime numbers predominate: the guitar strings are tuned to the 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th , 13th and 17th harmonics of an unheard fundamental. These same ratios govern both the tempi relationships between all the rhythmic phrases in the tape part, and the durational proportions of the work as a whole. With The Art of Concealment, The Grain of Abstraction shares the use of self-similarity as a means of interrelating different rhythmic patterns (a technique introduced to me by the works of Tom Johnson).

What is particular to The Grain of Abstraction is the dislocation between the live and tape parts. All the tape sounds are derived from the half of the guitar string not sounded in one of the neighbouring live events, in other words the portion of the string between the left-hand fingers and the machine-heads. These secret sounds - a sort of private life of the guitar - were then progressively filtered and cropped so that they became acoustically remote from the sound of the live guitar. It is these various characteristics - a set of numerically simple relationships articulated in sound layers which are intimately interrelated but perceptually quite distinct - which led me to the title, The Grain of Abstraction.

The Grain of Abstraction is dedicated to Alan Thomas, who commissioned the work with funds from the Yorkshire Arts Board. It lasts just over 13 minutes.