Liam Carey compositions and recordings


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Recordings of a few of my pieces, some with scores


Yes and No, for 22 solo strings (2017)   -mp3-   -pdf-

Throughout the history of music theory a number of theories have been put forward to explain the phenomenon of harmonic consonance and dissonance. Two prominent examples include Jean-Philippe Rameau's theory of the fundamental bass (Treatise on Harmony, 1722), that is the idea that any group of notes belonging to the same harmonic series will be heard as being harmonically consonant, and also Hermann von Helmholtz's theory of roughness (On the Sensation of Tone, 1863), which argues that two very close frequencies cause an unpleasant beating sensation as their waveforms interact which is heard as being harmonically dissonant. It is the contention of the theorist Ernst Terhardt that musical consonance is not one or other of these perceptual processes but both, and that they work together as part of two component concept: “Music consonance is thus composed of two principal components: sensory consonance and harmony. . . Harmony represents the principles of tonal affinity, compatibility, and fundamental-note relation. . . Sensory consonance is defined as the more or less complete lack of annoying features of a sound; it is pertinent to such sensory parameters as roughness and sharpness.” (The Concept of Musical Consonance: A Link between Music and Psychoacoustics , 1984). If Terhardt is correct this leaves the harmonic series in a a contradictory position: extended chords created from it will be both consonant as they are harmonically related, but will also be dissonant as the higher intervals of the harmonic series become increasingly smaller and have audible roughness. This piece consists almost solely of a single 22 note chord made up of the first 22 pitches of a harmonic series based on a low C. The aim of the piece is to play with this contradictory nature of this chord – at one moment sounding highly consonant, the next highly dissonant, and then fusing the two together to create a sonority which is an ambiguous combination of both at the same time.


Two Systems, for tenor trombone and live electronics (2016)   -mp3-   -pdf-

The aim of this short piece was to explore the tension between the symmetry of the whole tone scale and the asymmetry of the harmonic series. The whole tone scale provides the trombone with it's primary melodic material which is highly repetitive and, due to the structure of the whole tone scale, symmetrical. Against this we hear the the electronic drones which are based on the harmonic series, which due to it's structure are asymmetrical although harmonically very consonant. The idea is that as the piece progresses the electronic drones become increasingly louder causing dissonance between themselves and the trombone's melodic line. The two scales act like two independent systems which function well by themselves, but which cannot be resolved to each other - the music can either be melodically symmetrical or harmonically consonant, but not both at the same time.


Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis Act 4, live soundtrack for quintet and electronics (2016)     -pdf-

My soundtrack to Act IV of the 1927 silent film Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis. The work was a collaborative piece with four other composers, each writing the music for one of the first four acts and then working together to create the music for Act V. This is just my music for Act IV in which I attempted to explore the film's thematic tension between the old and the new.



I would go home but my house is on fire, for Pierrot ensemble and live electronics (2014)  -mp3-   -pdf-

The idea for this piece was to use two different types of dissonance against each other to create an unresolvable contradiction. The first type of dissonance is the harmonic/tonal kind which is created by the electronics using resonant delays to produce a harmonic series of the note D whilst the other instruments move around it creating various degrees of dissonance and tension. The second type of dissonance is timbral, which is created by the electronics adding harsh distortion to the live sounds. This distortion is designed to be frequency selective, so it only happens on the note D and it's overtones - the same notes which are produced by the resonant delays. So the result of these two effects, when used together, is that whilst the delays create harmonic/tonal tension and make the live parts want to resolve back to this tonic, the distortion that occurs on these notes makes the live parts want to move away again, and the music is left in an unresolvable situation in which no complete resolution is ever possible.


Nothing New, for piano and electronics (2014)   -mp3-   -pdf-

A short piece for solo piano which is also amplified and the signal delayed to create what is essentially a two part canon. The idea was to write a piece which played with the idea of gestalt in music, looking at how we group and organise what we hear. The two parts, although identical, at times seems to fuse to create a single part, and then other times seem to separate and work against each other. Can also be played on two pianos without electronics.


Duet for Clarinet and Computer (2012)   -mp3-   -pdf-

One of my first pieces written for solo instrument with live electronics. Live clarinet with audio processing in MaxMSP.


Clarinet Duet (mvt 3), for two live clarinets and electronics (2008)   -mp3-

This piece was original writing for two clarinets only back in 2001. It wasn't until 2008, after I had begun to get a better understanding of the possibilities of digital sound processing that I went back and created the electronic part by putting recordings of the clarinet parts through various digital processes such as granulation.


Ecotone, recorded sound (2008)    -mp3-

An ecotone is a geographical term meaning the transition point between two neighbouring but contrasting ecosystems. Ecotones can be sudden or gradual, but all are defined by being a point of transition. The idea behind this piece was to use electronics to create lots of different sections of music, each having it's own character or sound environment, and then to edit them together to create a series of acoustic ecotones.


CD Requiem, for a large number of portable CD players (2016)    -mp3- -pdf-

This piece should be performed by a number of portable CD players arranged within a single space. All the CD players should have an identical copy of the CD provided which each CD player plays on random (or 'shuffle') mode – that is it plays the tracks of the CD in an indeterminate order. The idea is that this should create a polyphonic texture as the different tracks of the CD become superimposed. This piece can either be performed as a single performance in which each CD player is started individually and then plays through all of the tracks of the CD once, in which case the performance is finished when each CD player has played each track on the CD and stops playing. Or this piece can be played as a continuous installation performance in which each CD player is put into a 'repeat random' setting and continues to move randomly between the different tracks of the CD for as long as it is turned on. This recording is a single performance version of the piece played by 30 CD players.


Harp Octet, for multitracked harp (2006)   -mp3-   -pdf-

This piece is made up of a multitracked recording of eight harps. The lines are canonic but each part moves at a different speed creating a sound similar to the textures of Indonesian Gamelan.


Remixes - I also sometimes make remixes for friends and family, here are two a made a few years ago:

Gospel - D.I.F.F.I.C.U.L.T.Y. (remix)   -mp3-
Future Stars of Football - Paddle (remix)   -mp3-