The Wheel


Stillman, R. 2020. The Wheel. Migro Records.
Composition typeSound Composition/Performance/Released Recording
CreatorsStillman, R.
ContributorsWright, M.

The Wheel’ is a composition using a unique set of five LP’s onto which over 100 fragments of recorded solo improvisations have been lathe-cut as looping ‘locked grooves’. The research objectives for this project were: to test locked groove as a viable resource in sound improvisation; to understand how the material qualities of the technology influence the structural characteristics of the improvisations; and, to explore how the use of an ‘auto-destructive’ medium/practice impacts the work’s status as ‘composition’.

The project was created during the period November 2015 and May 2018 as a collaboration between composers/performers Robert Stillman and Matt Wright. The outputs consisted of a premier performance at Turner Contemporary, Margate; a live radio broadcast (BBC R3 ‘Late Junction’), and a digital/cassette release on Migro Recordings.

The first phase of the project consisted of Stillman recording of over 5 hours of improvisations on multiple instruments. These recordings were then edited down to 1.5 second samples and lathe-cut as looping ‘locked grooves’ onto a set of vinyl discs used by turntablist Matt Wright in recorded workshop/rehearsals in June 2016.

The research concluded that locked groove technology is a viable resource for sound improvisation. Furthermore, its physical characteristics distinguish it from other sample-based technologies in the following ways: the surface and groove imperfections of the format (crackle, pops, distortions), beyond constituting aesthetic components of the music, contribute a level of sonic ‘input’ with which the improviser must work and interact. Furthermore, the unpredictability of the locked-grooves’ playback introduces an additional level of randomized input that influences the real-time improvisation, and therefore shapes the (micro) gestures and (macro) structure of the resulting forms. Finally, the eventual ‘death’ of the piece due to the physical degradation of its own materials positions it as an ‘ephemeral work’ in comparison to the traditional notated score.

KeywordsElectronic Music; Turntablism; Improvisation; Music technology
Date06 Nov 2020
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Output statusPublished
Web address (URL)
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FunderCanterbury Christ Church Univ., School of Music and Perf. Arts (QR Funding)
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Sep 2021
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