WaveForms is the name I give to my instrumental music, inspired by the work of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno – wave because it uses a sustaining guitar, a guitar synth and looping techniques to set up gently rising and falling waves of sound.
For the listener, WaveForms is intended to set up an atmosphere of calm and even contemplation. I’ve played in churches but also in coffee bars, where the aim is simply to create a pleasant ambience, as ignorable as it is listenable. Each year I’ve played in St John’s Church in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festiva as part of the Festival of Peace and Spirituality.
For the player, the aim is to set up a framework within which to improvise, responding to each returning note as it arises with another note. Because each note you play will come back to you again and again, you must be alert and ‘in the moment’. Fripp’s term for it is ‘honour necessity, honour sufficiency’ – play what’s needed and no more. For me it’s an aspiration rather than a skill, and I’m still learning.
When I play at home, the whole thing is improvised, from the random selection of the first note. For public performance I’ve ‘composed’ a few structures where I know the key, the synth and guitar voices, and the stages in which I’ll add and change elements. The pieces still tend to take their own individual course.
Each track is the first take of an improvisation using a Fernades Sustainer guitar connected to a Roland GK20 guitar synthesiser, a Boss Giga Delay and a Digitech JamMan.
Somewhere I Loved You And Still
In November 2008, my friend Tom McEwan’s son Kyle was found dead in Dundee. He’d been missing for a few weeks and friends and family had mounted a huge campaign to raise awareness and find him, including a concert in Dundee.
I’d been due to play there and, after practising some songs the night before, and reading some of his friends’ tributes on websites, I picked up my guitar and WaveForms kit, set up a short Fripp-style loop and played this improvisation, with Tom and Kyle in mind. Apart from one small edit, this is exactly what came out that night.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s nearly eight minutes long, and not a lot happens. But it felt powerful to me, very sad, but with the closing fade evoking a lighthouse beam in the night, and the hope that Kyle would be found safe and well. Now it serves as a memorial.