Michael Begg – Titan

How would you describe the piece?

TITAN is my attempt to reframe the context of an already impressive and important structure. In the face of a socio-political climate increasingly founded on fear, and the enforced alienation – geo-politically, economically, culturally and psychologically – of nation states and their populations, TITAN stands, brazen and severe, as an articulation of the increasingly endangered idea that real strength, real character, real value, is contained within our capacity to imagine, design and build whatever we can in order to connect meaningfully with the world beyond our increasingly restrictive borders. 

I also wanted to try to produce something tender from the most uncompromising of materials. I spent much of the summer alone on the crane, gathering raw material. Over time I realised that the sounds up there, the sounds of metal under strain, of harsh winds caught in taut wires and cables actually resonated with a deeply engrained sense of anxiety I had been feeling for some time. Any anxiety is diminished once it has been recognized and described, and that seemed to be the case here. I stood in the wheelhouse – a cold, unwelcoming cabin smelling of steel and oil, and peered out of the dirty windows at the shape of the Clyde winding in to the city, yawning in the other direction out to the open sea.  Titan’s achievement in terms of scale, ambition and purpose captured me, and made me feel a lot better about things, somehow - assured, and clean. And so my wish for the audience was, I guess, to have them arrive in this space high above the Clyde and take a quiet moment to reflect in this most unlikely setting, and allow the fabric and the voice of the crane and its attendant winds to permeate their hearts, and perhaps attain a new perspective and a new resolve.


How did the project come about?

There was an open commission call from Cryptic Sonica to produce a site responsive installation work of original electronic music focused on the Clydebank Titan. As part of the submission process there was a site visit arranged. I was incredibly fortunate in that the moment I stepped out onto the viewing platform at the top of the crane I had a very clear picture in my mind about what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it and how I hoped that it would be ‘felt’ by an audience. I knew immediately that the crane had its own voice, and that it would be accompanied by the wind. I knew – somehow – what I had to build in order to harness the voices of the wind, the steel, the cables. Happily, my proposal was successful, and it gave me immeasurable satisfaction to see the work resonate so deeply with the audiences who came out to Clydebank during Sonica 2017.


What other projects do you have on the go at the moment?

At this exact moment I am more focused on putting food on the table for my family and paying some bills – but later this year I have been invited by the Mexican Center for Music and Sonic Arts (CMMAS) to take up a composer residency in Morelia, Mexico as part of the Seeing Hearing UK Mexico partnership. With Fovea Hex I’ll be busy putting together material for the concluding part in our ep series; The Salt Garden.  I’ll also be chipping away at my longstanding efforts to gain traction on longitudinal sound projects based in the Pentland Hills. That said it does seem to be the way of things that my own plans seldom come forward in the way I originally anticipate and the most interesting things I tend to become engaged with arise mysteriously and with no warning. And that is fine.


What other works have you seen or heard in the last year that you think will stand the test of time?

Nothing – but my sense of time may be somewhat different from yours. It should certainly not be read as arrogantly as it might appear. In 2017 I recorded and released 2 albums, TITAN and One True Vine, spent much of the summer on top of a crane with a tangle of microphones, processors and recording devices, or in the back garden designing and building Aeolian harps from downpipes, shark fishing line and old, unloved violin bridges. Then there was the second installment of Fovea Hex’s Salt Garden trilogy which we put out on 10” vinyl and CD. There simply wasn’t time to listen to anything extraneous to all this activity.


In an ideal world, what is the piece or project that you would most like to write or create?

I don’t think I have any real conception of what an ideal world would look like. It is one of those impossible constructions with which we continually taunt ourselves. My ambitions are diffuse, and subject to chance. They are also increasingly governed by my growing awareness of mortality, and the limitations that this awareness places on one’s sense of time. That’s not maudlin or overdramatic – that’s just middle age.

I am on a very singular path and I really think that the best I can wish for is that I continue to be able to pursue this path, that I continue to meet and work with inspiring people, and that for listeners I continue to be in some small way useful. 


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