Liam Carey compositions and recordings

home      biography       recordings      works      contact

Recordings of a few of my pieces, some with scores

Concerto for Piano and Electronics (2019)  

This is a traditional three movement classical concerto but for soloist and video instead of an orchestra. In the first movement the video is a mash-up of 214 different pieces; the second movement the electronics consist solely of sine waves which are visualised by lissajous figures, and the third movement the video is made up of recordings of a grand piano being plucked and hit in various ways. The overall narrative of the piece is a progression from instability created by a restless movement between two extremes towards a point of equilibrium.

Yes and No, for 22 solo strings (2017)  

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. 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. According to Rameau this chord is harmonic and therefore consonanct, however the higher intervals of the harmonic series become increasingly small and have audible roughness, and therefore according to Helmholtz this chord is dissonant. The aim of the piece is to play with this contradiction – at one moment making the same chord sound 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.

This is not a manifesto, for 13 players and video (2019)  

Written for 13 players and video, the video for this piece comes from an interview with the serialist composer Milton Babbitt in which he criticises the use of new sounds for their own sake. I thought it was ironic that a modernist like Babbitt would take such a reactionary position and it seemed like a good start to a piece that deals with the tension between new and old. This recording is a live performance of the piece by the Berg Orchestra in Prague. Unfortunately the recording was audio only, so I have added the video elements of the piece to the score video to give you an idea of how they look.

Dear Henry, for Pierrot Sextet (2017)  

This piece is for six players playing at five different tempos. The cello plays at 96 bpm, the flute and bass clarinet at 108 bpm, piano at 120 bpm, vibraphone 132 bpm, and violin at 144 bpm, and so that they remain correctly in sync each player has their own click track on headphones. These tempos relate to each other in the ratios 8:9:10:11:12 and were inspired by the composer Henry Cowell's theory of rhythm harmony that he first set out in his book New Musical Resources (1930). The aim of this piece is to use this technique to explore the concept of rhythmic consonance and dissonance, for example using the complex ratios such as 8:11 to create rhythms with dissonant rhythms, using the regular convergence points between the different tempos to create moments of consonance and unity, finding the the common relation points between the different tempos to create simple consonant pulses, and also using different tempos to create dense textures of Ligeti-like micro-rhythms.

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.

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.

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