I read an essay over the weekend that dives straight into a mess and discovers things that can only emerge from a fearless dig. I admired the boldness of the piece, and started thinking about how much I love to find dirt in my music.

There are pieces that literally involve dirt. David Dunn directs a listener to ground level in Purposeful Listening In Complex States of Time. He also wrote Skydrift, described as “a large outdoor performance work for a large dry lake bed in the Anza-Borrego Desert, CA.” The first installation of Richard Barrett’s Opening of the Mouth included rusting machinery and decaying fish heads. Clay is the main component of one player’s instruments in Georges Aperghis‘s Seul à Seuls. I was transfixed by the rough beauty of that performance last year at the Huddersfield festival.

Simon Steen-Andersen amplifies very quiet sounds to bring out their fragility.

This opens up a rich micro-world of new sounds, in which normally suppressed or hidden subordinated sounds are integrated into an intense imagery of sounds.

Steen-Andersen digs beneath the surface of individual sounds in the midst of a live event to see how they are composed.

Charles Ives loved messiness for its own sake. His childhood memory of hearing multiple bands at a parade stayed with him, and affected his future work. In my experience, the sound of a marching band is rarely clean in the first place.

In my own work, I especially enjoy the alchemical reactions that can occur between sounds, or between sounds and objects. Sounds that would be relatively clean alone react with each other to make a rich sound world. Here’s one example from my enclosed set–a piece for euphonium and voice, played and sung by Jonathon Kirk.

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