Twenty-Seven Areas of Contention: celebrating the life and work of Basil Kirchin

October 26th, 2017

Twenty-Seven Areas of Contention is a piece I was commissioned to write by Serious, for Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story, and was premiered at Hull City Hall on February 19 2017. Devised using two of my favourite electrically-powered musical instruments: the LAMM and my beloved Roland Re-201 Space Echo tape delay, Twenty-Seven… is more an exploration of the intangible-yet-perceivable aspects of Kirchin’s musical ouevre.

For those of you who are familiar with the album, moogmemory (2016), you will hear I have used the same sound (patch 36 – my all-time favourite LAMM programme) as for I Loved Her, Madly – albeit explored in a couple different ways as the piece progresses.

It was easy to be consumed by the breadth of Kirchin’s work to the point of paralysis: “exactly how do I transmute the individuality and diversity of one man’s work into a single solo ‘response’?

I chose to focus on only one or two elements: firstly, I was given a recording of an interview Kirchin gave for Late junction, broadcast some years ago, and chose various segments of dialogue I thought interesting from a storytelling viewpoint. Krichin mentions finding his musical soulmate, Ian Firth (who, incidentally, was the sound engineer for the live event) – and felt a sense of genuine warmth and generosity that I wanted to make explicit. In one particular segment, Kirchin sings three notes – and it is these pitches that become a source of variation and manipulation in the second half of the piece.

Secondly, I was particularly drawn to the works that make up the Primitive London album. Kirchin didn’t use any synthesisers (as we know them today), but, he does manage to conjure up a sound world that is somehow reminiscent of electronics, but without being overtly so. There is something about the aesthetic of his sound world in these pieces that I really connected with.

So, by taking a tiny part of the essence of Kirchin’s work, I attempted to attend to this throughout the writing process. I use the term ‘writing’ not in its traditional sense, as much of how I work relies on the repetition of a loose set of ideas, performing them again and again until they become almost automatic: the piece becomes an extension of my faith in improvisation as a means of completing any piece – and, ideally, brought to life in a live performance setting.

Many thanks to Serious, Hull City Council, the BBC for permission to use the live recording, and, of course, Basil Kirchin; for allowing me to be included in what was a truly special occasion.

So, why is this piece titled Twenty-Seven Areas of Contention? Well, Basil Kirchin might just tell you, himself…

Twenty-Seven Areas of Contention and a live version of Sam, are available as a FREE download on Bandcamp.