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Release Date: January 1, 2012
Catalog #: NV5860
Format: Digital & Physical

Method Music

Imaginary Sitters Imaginary Galaxies

Lawrence Ball composer

Meditative yet propulsive. Structured yet sprawling. Gossamer yet muscular. Inspired yet meticulously constructed. METHOD MUSIC by Lawrence Ball is all of these and more, a double album of highly adventurous electronic music by a master innovator of algorithmic composition.

But this album possesses a unique and illustrious lineage that, despite the clear difference in style and genre, connects it to one of the most famous works in the rock music repertoire - the ideas behind METHOD MUSIC are both the outgrowth and the foundation of the legendary LIFEHOUSE project by Pete Townshend, the conceptualizer and co-producer of the album, and presents a theoretical system of musical portraiture in which a listener's personal data is translated into a unique composition.

Utilizing the conceptual underpinning first implemented in The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (a track initially part of the original LIFEHOUSE project, and one mirrored on the opening cut of METHOD) along with Ball's own computerized compositional system called 'Harmonic Maths,' Townshend, with Ball and programmer Dave Snowdon, created a website called The Lifehouse Method which turned this theory into reality. While active during 2007-2008, the website offered users the ability to instantaneously create a customized piece of music, and during its run generated over 10,000 unique works based on the users' own individual characteristics and personal traits.

What you hear on METHOD MUSIC evolved from the tests conducted by Ball and Townshend, which proved the viability of The Lifehouse Method system. Disc One, Imaginary Sitters, features a disparate set of portraits designed to showcase the potential diversity of the Method, while Disc Two, Imaginary Galaxies, expands the forms into larger structures with greater permutations, variables, and variety.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
DISC ONE
01 Imaginary Sitters: Meher Baba Piece Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:09
02 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 9 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:08
03 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 10 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:09
04 Imaginary Sitters: Victoria Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:08
05 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 11 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:08
06 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 12 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:09
07 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 13 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:09
08 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 14 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:09
09 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 15 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:08
10 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 17 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:12
11 Imaginary Sitters: Sitter No. 16 Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 5:03
DISC TWO
01 Imaginary Galaxies: Galaxy No. 1 (for the late Syd Barrett) Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 20:13
02 Imaginary Galaxies: Galaxy No. 2 (for the late Hugh Hopper) Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 20:13
03 Imaginary Galaxies: Galaxy No. 3 (for the late Gyorgy Ligeti) Lawrence Ball Lawrence Ball 20:13

Lawrence Ball: Composer, programmer, and discoverer of Harmonic Mathematics (1983) 

Pete Townshend: Conceiver (1971) and producer of Method Music 

Myles Clarke: Co-producer and engineer 

Dave Snowdon: Developer of Harmonic Mathematics since 1993, designer and engineer of the Method web system from 2004 

Michael Tusch, James Larsson and Francis Monkman: Harmonic Mathematics development support since 1983

Special thanks to the late John Whitney, computer film-maker and the inspiration behind the discovery of Harmonic Mathematics

Elizabeth Churchill: Design and consultation on the web design overview

Bill Martin: Helper and consultant with the Method web system

Richard Evans: Original design and art Direction, utilizing elements from the Visual Harmony software developed by Lawrence Ball and Dave Snowdon

This release in memory of Nick Goderson manufactured under license from Eel Pie

Producer Bob Lord

Production Manager Jeff LeRoy

Product Manager Chris Sink

Art Director / Product Designer Leeann Leftwich Zajas

Artist Information

Lawrence Ball

Composer

Lawrence Ball is a composer with over 150 scored compositions and 3,000 recorded piano improvisations. Lawrence has composed in a wide range of kidioms and genres, including Turkish sax music, music for Sufi meditation groups, piano improvisations, symphonies, multimedia installations, and auto-generated music. He has performed in the U.S., Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the UK.

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Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend

Producer

Pete Townshend, The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, was born into a musical family in Chiswick, West London, on May 19, 1945. His father Cliff played the alto saxophone with the Squadronaires, the RAF Dance Band, and his mother Betty Dennis sang professionally. An aunt encouraged him to learn piano but after seeing the movie Rock Around The Clock in 1956 he became drawn to rock’n’roll, an interest his parents actively encouraged.

Having dallied briefly with the guitar, Pete’s first real instrument was the banjo which he played in a schoolboy trad jazz outfit called the Confederates. The group featured John Entwistle on trumpet but after John took up the bass guitar the two friends joined another schoolboy band, the Scorpions, with Pete on guitar. Pete and John both attended Acton County School where another, slightly older, pupil Roger Daltrey had a group called the Detours. Roger invited John to join and around six months later the nucleus of The Who was in place when John persuaded Roger that Pete should join too.

Meanwhile, Pete had graduated from Ealing Art College, where he broadened his mind on a diet of radical performance art and American blues music, both of which would eventually inform the Detours as they worked their passage through the West London club and pub circuit. With the arrival in 1964 of drummer Keith Moon and managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, The Who were on their way, with Pete increasingly cast in the role of leader and spokesman.

Pete soon found himself at the forefront of the British musical boom of the sixties. As guitarist and composer of the band, he became the driving force behind one of the most powerful, inventive and articulate bodies of work in rock. From early classic three-minute singles like “My Generation,” “Substitute” and “I Can See For Miles,” through to complete song cycles in the shape of Tommy, Lifehouse and Quadrophenia, Pete established himself as one of the most gifted and imaginative musicians working in the rock field.

Pete spent all of the sixties and much of the seventies concentrating his creative energies on The Who. In concert he became recognised as the most visual guitarist of his and future generations, careering around the stage, leaping into the air and spinning his arm across the strings in his trademark “windmill” fashion. He developed a unique guitar style, a cross between rhythm and lead which veered from furiously strummed chord patterns and crunching power chords to chromatic scales and delicate arpeggios. On top of this he frequently smashed his guitar into smithereens at the climax of a performance.

In 1967 Pete became a follower of the Indian avatar Meher Baba which inspired him to release three privately circulated devotional albums. These led him to compile Who Came First (1972), the first of a series of non-Who albums, beginning with Rough Mix (1977), a collaboration with fellow Baba devotee Ronnie Lane, and followed by the solo albums Empty Glass (1980), All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man (1988), an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ children’s story, and Psychoderelict (1993). In 1984, with The Who temporarily disbanded, he led an ad hoc group called Deep End which released a live album in 1986, and he has also issued a series of albums called Scoop which feature Pete’s demos for The Who songs, solo material and miscellaneous unrealised projects. At various times throughout the nineties Pete toured North America with a solo band, initially performing Psychoderelict but, as the decade wore on, he presented shows that included his solo material as well as The Who classics. Many such shows, including occasional concerts in the UK, have been done in aid of charities.

Long acknowledged as one of the most intelligent and articulate of rock performers, Pete has run his own book publishing company and worked as an editor at the literary house of Faber & Faber, which in 1985 published Horse’s Neck, a collection of his short stories. Ever inquisitive about new ideas and technology, he has turned his attention to the Internet on which his regular and often frank journals and essays provide essential reading for fans. In many ways Pete can be regarded as an Internet pioneer, insofar as Lifehouse, the project that embraced the songs on the album Who’s Next, included ideas such as the “Grid,” a national communications network, and “experience suits” where life programs were fed to individuals via the Grid.

At the time most observers were unable to grasp these science fiction ideas but with hindsight it’s clear that Pete’s concepts were not too far removed from the web and virtual reality that we know today. In 1970, the technology wasn’t available for the project to be realised and it took Pete almost 30 years to see it through. It was only fitting that when he did get to perform the Lifehouse music in its entirety it was available to a global audience via a webcast.

Pete has run successful websites and blogs, takes a hands-on approach with this medium and, indeed, has been nominated for a number of awards. As well as his diary entries, he has often made available free MP3s of rare tracks and “work in progress” materials, video diaries and PDF downloads of short essays.

He has also made available for sale at www.eelpie.com exclusive material, such as his live “signature” series of CDs as well as the standard back catalogue. The site has also been used for charity auctions and in 2000 it raised in excess $250,000 for Oxfam’s relief effort in Mozambique when Pete auctioned off many of his personal effects.

Townshend has ambitious plans for future artistic endeavours using the Internet. They include continuing to distribute free music and selling CDs and DVDs. But most importantly, he is still looking at ways of using the Internet to present musico-dramatic works (musicals, light operas) with a degree of audience interactivity akin to that enjoyed at live concerts.

In the meantime Pete continues to write and perform with The Who, and 2006 saw the release of Endless Wire, the band’s first new album in 24 years.

Notes

Method Music is the direct result of an idea created almost 40 years ago and presented as a crucial narrative mechanism in a sophisticated, advanced multimedia fiction, a deceptively simple concept that would play an important role in one of the most written-about, deeply analysed, obsessed-over musical phenomena in 20th century music.

It is also an exploration by Lawrence of the theoretical and musical potential of the idea of musical portraiture, a further refinement of his own compositional techniques, and a proof of concept for what is known as the Lifehouse Method.

Launched in 2007 and operated for 15 months until being placed in temporary stasis, the Lifehouse Method is a system created by Pete Townshend and implemented with Lawrence Ball and software designer Dave Snowdon which realises a concept first explored in Townshend’s Lifehouse project wherein participants’ (“sitters”) personal data are analysed and used to create a unique musical portrait.

The Method itself is the software that creates the music, allowing you to “sit” for a portrait just as if you were being painted, and its users created over 10,000 pieces of music during its operation. As outlined on the Lifehouse Method site at the time of its launch, “After you’ve sat for your Method portraits, you can download them, play them back at your leisure, share them with your friends, compare them, noticing the similarities and differences between them, which will vary according to your input into the process. You may not like them, you may love them, you may prefer one to the other two, but, whatever your reaction, they will be authentic portraits, unique to you, based on the information gathered by your interaction with the Method software.”

Method Music evolved from Pete Townshend’s question to me about generating unique pieces of music from the input of personal characteristics as data, a question related closely to his ongoing project Lifehouse. I wanted to see what the music could sound like prior to designing the proposed system of portraiture, and I created the tracks on Disc One, Imaginary Sitters, as a touchstone towards designing the software which would eventually execute the task itself. I generated and then selected melodic streams, which were then woven together on computer with a sequencer. This is a part-programming and part-editing job, but it begins with imagining and developing patterns of notes, often cascading canons with intricate phase changes.

Disc Two, Imaginary Galaxies, is meditative and mostly orchestral music, evolved from Imaginary Sitters and also from earlier pieces of mine such as “Crystal Mists In Silver Air” (1994) and “Silver Stream” (1985). These pieces use very slow tempi, and the unusual combination of slow, steady development and structure with floating sounds; the Galaxies have the same 10 segment structure as the Sitters, but are much slower.

Work on Method Music was done primarily at Pete Townshend’s Oceanic Studios in Twickenham using a sophisticated array of samples and speakers (36 speakers, to be exact). This release is Method Music.

METHOD MUSIC
Sitting online you are invited to share some sounds and visual material. This personal interface acts as a fine-tuning that creates a very specific character and composition of music. The Method software is set to handle an astronomically high number of possible choices. The input material is used to hone in on one very precise set of these choices. This set is one of millions of facets within the Method’s “crystal” of musical possibilities. The input has no musical significance in relation to the output, but is a personal conduit for the sitter to allow their data to pluck a precise piece from the totality. All Method Music has the same format: 10 segments of 30 seconds, each containing 20 bars of 4/4. Within each segment, the music is consistent in sound and texture, although things will develop in highly organic ways. So there is a contrast between the continuity within a segment, and the contrasts that occur across their boundaries. It is many pieces conflated into one, all vying for the spotlight. The Method’s format makes it possible to play the music of two or more individuals together. When we become more aware, we see how our music fits together with that of others. Two Sitters can be played together in parallel, either synchronizing their beginnings, or the beginnings of any two segments. Pete’s idea in his novella The Boy Who Heard Music is that we all have our own music, and at some great future event we might see how our music fits together with everybody else’s.

To make an interlocking jigsaw of hundreds of thousands of potential pieces, I devised a kind of alphabet – a way to combine parallel streams of continually changing melodic loops with just a few rules as to how they can be assembled. This is all automatic; the creative process is in setting up the programme beforehand, which is very different from composing a single piece.

Method Music starts off as a portrait for an individual, but is then capable of evolving further, through development perhaps by Pete, or myself, perhaps eventually into a song, and then into a live performance. So this is mutable music – a very different concept. It starts life differently too – it is unique to the sitter, and may become more so. An example is “Fragments” on The Who album Endless Wire which is built out of the “Meher Baba Piece” on this album.

Another possibility is through elaboration incorporating live musicians and generated material. We accept music as the ubiquitous recording, but perhaps now it can outgrow that fixity, and get up on its own legs.

HARMONIC MATHEMATICS
This “universe of possibilities” has been in development for 24 years by myself and many students and friends. Harmonic Maths is used exclusively for generating all Method Music on the album and on the web. Harmonic Maths is an extensive development, starting on a foundation of the late John Whitney’s use of harmonics to control speeds of the motion of visuals in his computer films.

It’s a way of choreographing a teeming set of component parts, which can form a graphic image, a timbre, a melody, a rhythm, etc. In this process all the elements (points, notes, beats, etc.) continually move, or change, in such a way as to regularly become in turn chaotic and then crystallised into order. This is what pressure patterns of air molecules do, at hugely faster speeds, in the presence of harmonically related frequencies of sound (also known as a chord!). This relates to why we love harmony. This dynamic motion of component parts obeys highly aesthetic laws of harmony.

The Maths makes possible continuous, controlled, organic transformation of melodic loops. No software available at the time of writing did or does this, and all Method Music – on this album and on the web – uses Harmonic Maths programmes.

This can be taken a lot further in concerts by engaging the audience in their more personal contribution to inspire particular kinds of songs. Through the Method Music being created on the web, people will find a much greater joy of sharing in concert situations where they might hear their own music turned into a song, such as with “Fragments.” The idea is to build on the portrait as step one in a process that results in a concert of songs or music.

The implementation and interfacing of music on the web, and the co-production of versatile software to create the Method were realised by my longtime collaborator Dave Snowdon.

— Lawrence Ball - London, February 2007

For decades I have been entangled in this thing called Lifehouse. I blamed the frustration it caused me on its innate simplicity and my innate verbosity; one cancelled out the other. The story contained ideas that were once regarded as overly ambitious. I felt like a jungle explorer who had stumbled upon an Inca temple of solid gold and become impeded by roots and vines in a knot of undergrowth, only yards from civilisation. One day I would emerge crying aloud that I’d discovered something marvellous, but would be patted off the head and indulged in my triumphant ranting.

In 1971 I wrote a film script of Lifehouse for Universal Pictures. It was never realised as a film or any kind of theatrical narrative drama until 1999, when it was developed by my company Eel Pie and broadcast as a radio play by the BBC. Many of the songs intended for the Lifehouse project as originally configured are of course familiar to listeners as staples of rock radio, television, and more: “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “The Song Is Over,” and many more were all part of what was to be Lifehouse.

The idea of Lifehouse originally centred on an idea about a self-sufficient drop-out family group farming in a remote part of Scotland who decide to return South to investigate rumours of a subversive concert event that promises to shake and wake up an apathetic, fearful British society. Integrated into society is a Virtual Internet Grid through which users are delivered, via government-mandated “experience suits,” everything they need: safety, energy, nourishment, and lavish entertainment programming so highly compressed that the subject can “live out” thousands of virtual lifetimes in a short space of time.

A young composer called Bobby intends to hack into the Grid and offers a festival-like music concert – the Lifehouse – which he hopes will impel the audience to throw off their suits (which are in fact not necessary for physical survival) and attend in person. The family arrives at the concert venue early and takes part in an experiment (represented in what I would come to call the Lifehouse Method) that Bobby conducts in which each participant is both blueprint and inspiration for a unique piece of tailor-made music based upon his or her own specific personal data. Bobby hacks into the Grid and plays the music of all the participants of
the concert, sharing them and their music with the world, and calling each other together to celebrate.

There have been alterations and expansions made to the story in the years since its creation, but I stop here in this particular summary to explain that what you now hold in your hands, Method Music, is simultaneously the theoretical framework for the Lifehouse Method as presented in the original fiction, a snapshot of Lifehouse’s continued development, and a look at what is yet to come.

The music contained in Method Music was created by the composer and mathematician Lawrence Ball as a demonstration of the principles I explored in the film script and have sought to fulfill in the years following. In the finale outlined above, members of the audience attending the Lifehouse concert provided personal data to powerful computers, and heard the results. Every single piece of music was then combined, and a mathematical yet wonderfully creative metaphor for the universality of the human spirit was demonstrated.

Today it is possible to do what in 1971 I could only dream about, and I still wanted to produce music for people who want something unique, special, perhaps secret — a true and authentic musical reflection to call their own. I asked Lawrence to build me a software engine that would facilitate the “composition” of such music based on what subscribers choose to share with us. Lawrence prepared the brief for the software designed by his colleague Dave Snowdon, which would in theory achieve what the Method originally promised. Changing little from the Lifehouse story of 1971 and adapting a programme he calls “Harmonic Maths,” Lawrence delivered me what I had conceived of more than 35 years prior.

In 2007 the Lifehouse Method website was launched, powered by the software we developed. After entering some simple facts and information, and doing some simple tasks, users of the Lifehouse Method site received their very own unique piece of music, custom-tailored to themselves, a musical equivalent of the long-established tradition of artistic portraiture. The result was a representative one, not definitive, and we generated more than 10,000 unique pieces of music while the site was active.

An example of music created using the Method can be heard as the underpinning of the song “Fragments” from The Who’s 2006 album Endless Wire. The individual’s data chosen to enter into the system was that of the spiritual teacher Meher Baba, the same inspirational source I used for “Baba O’Riley.” That music (without the tracks overdubbed for “Fragments”) is included here on Method Music as the lead-off track.

I have always hoped that the Lifehouse concert referred to in my original screenplay can happen in reality. I imagine a celebratory gathering at which a large number of individuals hear the unique compositions or songs created specifically for them, and, perhaps, as in the finale of the script, all those pieces could be combined – we could hear the music of the spheres, or a busy night on Broadway, or maybe the sound of the ocean.

Since the closing of the Lifehouse Method site there has been much speculation as to the fate of the music generated, the possibility of re-opening a new, revised Method site, the staging of a Method concert for large live ensembles, and various other ideas affiliated with Lifehouse. While I can say nothing specific regarding those potentialities (or eventualities), the fact remains that Lifehouse, despite my best attempts, is a book that simply will not let itself be closed. That there is more to come is inevitable; what form it takes remains to be seen.

— Pete Townshend, Adapted In Part From The Liner Notes To Lifehouse Chronicles With Additional Material Written In 2010

How did the Method Music collaboration between you, Pete, and Dave Snowdon come about?
The idea of having a computer that made music based on someone’s personal data is something that Pete had been carrying around in his mind for 30 years prior to when he approached me about it. He’d been involved with my third and fourth Planet Tree Music Festival, and we got to talking about robots, art, whether computers could have consciousness — all kinds of interesting things. I think he must have had it in the back of his mind that I may have been the right person to help him. Five years later, he said he’d like me to do this for him. Immediately I thought of my friend Dave Snowdon, who had been working with me on software using Harmonic Maths for motional visual art.

What was Pete’s role during the recording sessions for Method Music?
From December 2003 to July 2005, I was using a synthesiser to experiment with what the music should sound like. When Pete heard the pieces, he was very enthusiastic about the results and thought they should be released. We felt we should use high-quality samples, so he invited me to create improvements in the studio.

We spent about 18 months getting the sound really good. Going from working on a synthesiser and a computer in my home studio to a very high-powered recording studio with all the possible improvements you can make is quite a jump! For the final recording, Pete acquired a whole host of loudspeakers in his studio so that he could separate all the sounds. Even orchestral samples can sound very flat if they travel through wires and electronics only. We moved heaven and earth to get a really good sound. With separate speakers for each instrument, Pete’s “myriad” system allowed each voice to really stand out in physical acoustic space.

How was the music composed?
It was all arranged in a sequencer but the material that was put into the sequencer was first created using harmonic mathematics done with software I wrote myself.

I developed Harmonic Maths on the basis of some techniques evolved by the late John Whitney, a computer filmmaker. The idea is that you have a set of elements, and the elements can be any medium – it doesn’t have to be sound. The elements go through gradual changes, but the speeds of the changes are harmonically related. So what you’re really experiencing in the changes of form are very similar to what the unconscious picks up when it hears the natural beauty of the fundamental and harmonic overtones.

On the album I did a lot of editing. When I worked on the album, I not only had the ability to create melodic patterns that shifted very gradually and evolved in really fascinating ways, but I also used lots of parallel versions of the same melodic loop that went gradually in and out of phase rhythmically (again according to the Harmonic Maths).

This could create a very beautiful, gradually shifting canon not unlike Steve Reich’s piano phase, but with many more layers. The rhythmic exhilaration you can get when these layers re-align and then separate to more cascading echoes is quite wonderful.

If you could slow down a sound wave, I think you would see something similar to what the visual application of Harmonic Maths produces. In the case of the music, you get this teeming chaos, and order appears out of this chaos periodically in the most beautiful way. It’s a way of working with elements of any images in any medium, in such a way as to have this magic that happens when you have harmonic relationships operating on the speeds of the different changes.

How do these works differ from your other compositions?
In some ways I have very extreme approaches to music. When I sit at the piano I deliberately don’t want to know what is going to happen, so that I can be in a state where I can follow something beyond the mere mind. With the Method Music and with some of the scores I’ve created with Harmonic Maths, you’re looking at a situation where every relationship between each note in the entire piece is calculated. These are polar opposites, but they both influence and affect each other.

For example, I’ve noticed when I play spontaneously I get these very gradual, very precise changes that can sometimes mimic the Harmonic Maths approach.

How did these recordings affect the Method Portraiture?
When we evolved this double album, a lot of work went into deciding how the Method portraiture should work. I created a structure for every piece of 10 segments of 30 seconds each. The idea is that across the end of each segment, the instrumentation changes. It’s exhilarating because you don’t have too much changing instrumentally until those transition points. You know something is going to come up that’s going to give you a lot of continuity, but it’s quite a white-knuckle ride over the top.

Pete wanted a structure where you could employ two people’s portraits, and you could play them simultaneously. That works very well; we had a number of people experience that with great results. They’re superimposable. His idea was that when we die, we get to find out how our music fits together with everyone else’s — a metaphor for the soul. It’s rather beautiful.

What do you want the listener to experience while listening to this music?
I’d like them to be free of the expectation or the agenda for any experience at all. The Sitters music makes you want to get work done; it’s very energizing, very rich, and very full. The Galaxies are very enchanting, very meditative, but also mindful. It’s very hard to pin down what experience one might invite from music because people bring different aspects of themselves with their approach. But if I have any kind of model, with all the music I create, it’s that the ultimate experience you can give someone else is for them to be free to be themselves, in whatever way that might be.