The Confined Entropy Project
This music is largely inspired by the strange and mystical atmosphere that surrounded the impressive crumbling ruin of the Pyrmont Incinerator in Sydney in 1990. I took many photographs and recorded a number of sound sources at the ruined incinerator, which formed the basis for many of the Confined Entropy audio compositions.
Previously in 1989, I backpacked through Europe, mostly travelling around the UK, Germany and Austria. While in Austria, I decided to attend a music festival called ‘Absolute Musik’, which was held over a few days up in the northwest of Austria in the ‘Waldviertel’ in a small town called Allentsteig. There I met many local and international composers and forged a number of enduring friendships and influences, including Guenther Rabl and Wolfgang Musil. During my travels in 1989 around Austria and especially Berlin, where the infamous wall was still in place, I drew on a lot of inspiration and ideas for music and photography which I called on when I returned to my home in Australia.
Early in 1990, I had also been introduced to Tony Rapson-Coe who was seeking musicians to utilise a special microtonal scale, called the ‘Lucy’ scale, in a small ensemble of electronic keyboard, violin and electric guitar. Tony was a musical ‘enthusiast’ and not a musician. There was even a reworked Gibson SG guitar made available for the guitarist, Lenny Marks. This custom guitar was quite impressive, having 25 frets to the octave. Being a keyboard player who was interested in experimental music and alternative tunings, I was keen to get involved. For various reasons, the ensemble did not last long, and I proposed a solo project based on some ideas about entropy or decay and music that I had already been working on. Tony booked some recording time at the EMI Studios 301 recording studios and the rest is history.
The Lucy scale is a microtonal tuning system developed by Charles Lucy.Lucy derived the ideas for his tuning system from the writings of the famous English clockmaker, John Harrison (1693 –1776), who was very interested in temperaments and concepts of perfect tuning. Harrison also wrote about the use of Pi as a means to derive musical scales utilising the natural ratios of nature. For Confined Entropy, a 25 tone scale with two different intervals was used to tune the instruments and sound sources.
The Confined Entropy pieces were recorded over a couple of long days at the EMI Studios 301 in Pitt Street Sydney and later mastered to beta tapes and DATs in the EMI mastering suite. At this time, the recordings were made on the latest digital tape based technology – a 32 track Mitsubishi reel to reel tape machine. An automated Neve mixing console was used to input the various sound parts and instrument tracks and mix down for final mastering. The digital master tapes did not become available to me for a few years due to a falling out with Tony. Eventually I did get access to the original digital masters after Tony died. Guenther Rabl later invited me to the third Absolute Musik Festival in Allentsteig 1996, to air some of these Confined Entropy pieces for the first time.
All music composed by Guy Fleming 1990. Recorded and mastered at EMI Studios 301 in Sydney, Australia in May 1990 on 32 track digital tape. Music performed by Guy Fleming using an Ensoniq EPS-M sampler and Ensoniq VFX synthesiser. ‘Lucy’ guitar on ‘Inner Darkness’ by Lenny Marks. Engineered by Guy Gray. Voice citation on ‘Cut into the Present’ William Burroughs.
All instrumentation tuned to a 25 tone unequally tempered scale, commonly known as the ‘Lucy’ scale (developed by Charles Lucy based on the writings
of John Harrison). Thanks to Tony Rapson-Coe for supporting this project.
Acoustic material for sound samples recorded at the Pyrmont Incinerator in Sydney 1990.
© Guy Fleming 1991/2017
Publisher Günther Rabl
The Pyrmont Incinerator – a temple of fire
I first came across the spectacular decaying ruin of the Pyrmont Incinerator in 1989. I returned again and again to photograph it, right up until its eventual demolition in 1992. It formed a key part of my inspiration for the ‘Confined Entropy’ microtonal music pieces composed in early 1990.
Many aesthetic aspects of the building reminded me of the work of the Swiss artist H R Giger. I eventually amassed a large archive of several hundred photographs, many of which I sent to friends here and overseas. All people who view these photographs are impressed by the incinerator’s powerful aesthetic, apparently transformed by its ruin into a temple of fire.
The building seemed like some fantastic industrial temple from a romantic almost Blake-ian past. The building was designed by the husband and wife team of Walter Burley-Griffin and Marion Mahoney-Griffin, between 1932 to 1935, both of whom were architectural disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright, and are well known as the designers of the Australian Federal Capital, Canberra, Australia.
They designed twelve incinerators in Australia for the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company (RIECo) from 1929 to 1937. The Pyrmont Incinerator design is and was considered to be the most outstanding of the incinerators, recognised internationally for its architectural significance. Pre-cast decorative concrete tiles applied to its exterior in a four-themed textural system based on the four elements were inspired by Mayan designs.– The Griffin’s aesthetic intentions for this incinerator went far beyond the utilitarian.
By the time of my arrival, the building’s utilitarian function had been overwhelmed by its aesthetic origins. To me it appeared far more anachronistic.
It was reverting back to its Mayan origins under dutiful obeyance to the four elements, as if pre-ordained. G.F.