by Sean Williams

Portrait of the composer, aged 17

Budding DJ, c.1984

Budding DJ, c.1984

I started writing music in high school under the tuition of a wonderful teacher called John Drake. My ability to play music was nonexistent, but I loved theory and composition, which I took to my final year. I felt as though I was using the same part of my brain that enjoyed mathematics and writing novels. There's a sense of grammar and structure to all three that greatly appealed to me.

Here are some of the results. Four of the pieces are in a formal style, performed for small ensembles of musicians or singers. Two were composed on tape recorders in my bedroom, reflecting the resources I had at my disposal (and also my interest in concrete music). The recordings are very old, so please forgive any imperfections.

You'll hear flashes of my favourite composers at the time (Satie, Schoenberg and Zappa among them) but although I won an award or two for my efforts, I was no budding Beethoven. At 17 I was convinced that there was no such thing as unmusical sound, a philosophy that applied to my own efforts especially.

Fresh out of school in 1985, with the help of a four-track reel-to-reel machine, several sound effects records and old synths, I recorded my most ambitious soundscape to date. Perhaps too ambitious: the ending never felt entirely right to me, and I lacked the resources to fix it. Not for the first time, ambition substantially outstripped resources.

Only in my 20s did I discover for myself what computers made possible on both fronts--writing words and writing music.