Jim Franklin: Songs from the Lake


+ Freeshipping
Article number: NEOS 12029 Category:
Published on: December 4, 2020


Hovering like morning mist above the mirror lake
(Allan Marett, Eliza)

This work has developed over a period of about twelve years, although some of the soundscapes are somewhat older; they come from my time as a composition student in the 1980s. I performed earlier versions of some movements at numerous concerts and shakuhachi festivals in Europe, Japan and Australia between 2008 and 2020. I polished the pieces and designed the overall composition.

The essence of the work, and of this recording, is intentionally performative. The shakuhachi, a deceptively simple-looking Japanese bamboo flute and a very physical instrument, is heard in all movements. This flute and the combination shakuhachi / live electronics (i.e. electronic processing of the flute sounds in real time) were performed by just one player (me) at a time and recorded in single, complete takes - without time-separated recordings of the electronics and mostly as a direct stereo mix . In effect, this is identical to the way the pieces are performed at concerts; an attempt was made to reproduce the nuances (and inevitable "imperfections") of live performance, as opposed to the (apparent, often "disembodied") perfection of studio construction. For some movements, all instruments were played by me in real-time, including additional electronic resources beyond real-time processing of the shakuhachi (e.g. shakuhachi and theremin / live electronics simultaneously in Ripples as well as shakuhachi/live electronics and hooks ContinuuMini simultaneously in surface trace). Even where several synthesizers were used, the multi-track technique was reduced to a minimum. For example, the complex, synthetic soundscapes in Mirrored Depths recorded as just two layers of recording (real-time stereo mixes, admittedly sometimes using performatively manipulated, sequenced elements rather than tone-by-tone recordings).

As a result, many of the movements can be played by a performer, despite their complexity; these are the pieces I have performed at festivals and so on. For the other sets, either two players (Spiral EddiesCrap, Departing) or three players (Mirror Depths) required for a live performance. These pieces are presented for the first time on this CD.

All pieces are semi-composed, structured improvisations: a pre-composed form in which the "signposts" and turning points are clearly defined; but the exact route between the points will vary from performance to performance. I've allowed myself this liberty, partly because I like the focus and centeredness of live performance and improvisation, and partly because the assemblage of instruments used is highly idiosyncratic. Probably no other shakuhachi player has access to the specific synthesizers and such (purchased between 1985 and 2020) that I used. I felt, therefore, that there was no point in composing the pieces note by note and notating them in legible form when it is very unlikely that anyone else would be able to assemble the necessary instruments to perform them.

Accordingly, part of the compositional and recording process consisted of recording multiple, semi-improvised iterations of the pieces (or in some cases, the sound layers within the pieces). I then selected those shots that I felt represented the best "route" through the pieces.

The overall title of the work and the titles of the individual movements come from two sources. First, for many years I have been fascinated by images in the natural environment, where the overall shape is more or less static, but the details are constantly changing. Prominent among these are images of water, flowing or still: the incessant ripples and currents in a flowing stream, the glittering patches of sunlight on the sea, or (an image that has stuck with me since I first saw it about 35 years old) a frozen lake in winter, with wavefronts flowing, half-seen in the cold midday sunlight, on a water surface beneath a thin layer of ice: always changing, always the same.

A second source of inspiration for the work is the world of Buddhist thought and experience, particularly in the form of Zen. Water is often used as an image of the spirit, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm and flat like a mirror. For me, the »Lake« is not only an image of nature, but also a metaphor and object for meditation, deepening and purification, always with the clear, still, mirror-like state as the goal: the environment of the lake is reflected as it is and yet becomes the ground or source visible that feeds it.

So for me it is Songs from the Lake not only a sonic representation of images of the natural environment, but also a meditative process: always the same, constantly changing, still, and yet constantly moving.

Jim Franklin, 2020

Forth from the mirror lake
Our dreams dance
(Allan Marett, Eliza)


[01] crap, descending for shakuhachi / live electronics 07:00

[02] Ripples for shakuhachi and theremin / live electronics 09:09

[03] fluid convex for shakuhachi / live electronics 11:14

[04] Mirrored Depths for shakuhachi and synthesizer 11:50

[05] surface trace for shakuhachi / live electronics and hook ContinuuMini 07:42

[06] Spiral Eddies for shakuhachi / live electronics and theremin / live electronics 10:05

[07] Crap, Departing for shakuhachi / live electronics and synthesizer 06:42


Total playing time: 64:16

Jim Franklin
Shakuhachi, Theremin, Synths, Haken ContinuuMini and live electronics


World premiere recordings

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