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  • Stephanie Power

Composer and sonic artist Joanna Bailie has described her creative journey to date as a series of ‘not entirely reconcilable’ stages. This article introduces her work through a broadly chronological survey, tracing her career and offering a detailed consideration of her recent and current musico-aesthetic concerns. It will become evident that paradox and the juxtaposition of ‘not entirely reconcilable’ elements are, as it happens, key positive components of Bailie's art on many levels. Moreover, it will be seen that her work posits a conscious and highly personal response to certain perceived crises regarding ‘contemporary classical music’, a term which Bailie herself detests. Particular reference is made to Bailie's ongoing series of concert pieces combining acoustic instruments with field recordings, Artificial Environments, and a series of site-specific audio-visual installations, the place that you can see and hear.

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1 Bailie's website is at Many of the works discussed in this article are available to hear, read about or download there, together with further information and an extensive worklist.

2 A short preview of Waning, for solo oboe and chamber ensemble, recorded by Ensemble Exposé, can be heard at: (accessed 16 March 2014). This and other works by Joanna Bailie have been published by Contemporary Voices (BMIC): (accessed 16 March 2014). Others of her scores are available to download from her website (see note 1).

3 Originally scored for clarinet and string trio, a short preview by Apartment House can be heard at: (accessed 16 March 2014). Bailie's 2006 version for string quartet appears on the London Sinfonietta CD ‘Jerwood Series 4’: B001DLUCM6 (2008).

4 Available on CD: Endymion, Sound Census, c. Geoffrey Poole: NMC B003HID8LU (2010).

5 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author, 21 January 2014.

6 Feldman, Morton, ‘Give my Regards to Eighth Street’, in Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman, ed. Friedman, B.H. (Cambridge, MA: Exact Change, 2000), p. 55.

7 Joanna Bailie, liner notes for London Sinfonietta recording. See note 3.

8 Matthew Shlomowitz, in an article for BMIC Counterpoints bi-monthly newsletter, now unavailable but provided to me by Joanna Bailie.

9 Other important influences and supporters include Bailie's peers: Matthew Shlomowitz, James Saunders, Simon Steen-Anderson, David Helbich, Laurence Crane and the electronic duo Tape That.

10 See Peter Ablinger's website for audio samples of works created with his computer-controlled ‘speaking piano’: (accessed 16 March 2014). An interview with him about the instrument and its relationship to speech is available to download at (accessed 16 March 2014).

11 A short interview is available on YouTube, in which Joanna Bailie discusses the SPOR festival, Peter Ablinger's ‘Speaking Piano’ and works programmed by her: (accessed 16 March 2014). Ensemble Plus Minus also have an ongoing performing link with Ablinger's Voices and Piano series.

12 Ablinger describes hearing the difference between wheat and rye, standing in a field near the Hungarian border:

13 Sugimoto describes a ‘near-hallucinatory vision’ upon developing a long exposure photograph of an entire movie: (accessed 16 March 2014).

14 A video of Bailie's debate on ‘Music's Mystery’ with writer Philip Ball and physicist Michael McIntye, hosted by Gabrielle Walker, is available on Institute of Arts and Ideas TV: (accessed 16 March 2014).

15 Bailie talks about this transformative experience and about field recordings at length in an interview with the composer James Saunders: (accessed 16 March 2014).

16 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

17 The full title is: ‘Transcribing Reality: How Sampling in Audio and Visual Media Transform the Way We Perceive’.

18 Available on CD: Exaudi, Exposure: Huddersfield Contemporary Records B00DOXBTTG (2013).

19 Bailie has also worked collaboratively on a number of projects, notably on a series of camera obscura installations, C.O. Journeys, with scenographer Christoph Ragg. For information on C.O. Journey #2 go to (accessed 16 March 2014).

20 Joanna Bailie, video interview with Julia Eckhardt, Sounds of Europe, 17 November 2011: (accessed 16 March 2014).

21 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

22 Joanna Bailie, interview with Julia Eckhardt, see note 20.

23 A score of the instrumental parts and an audio file can be found at (accessed 16 March 2014).

24 By means of a Max/MSP patch based on elements of a program designed by Jean-François Charles. See Charles, Jean-François, ‘A Tutorial on Spectral Sound Processing Using Max/MSP and Jitter’, Computer Music Journal, 32/3 (Fall 2008), pp. 87102.

25 See for instance Plummer, Sandra, ‘Photography and Duration: Time Exposure and Time-Image’, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, Issue 23 (2012), (accessed 16 March 2014).

26 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

27 Paraphrased from a draft chapter of Joanna Bailie's thesis, courtesy of the author.

28 Albright, Daniel, Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources (University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 76.

29 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

30 As Bailie points out in interview, this is explored by Kittler, Friedrich in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Writing Science), trans. Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey and Wutz, Michael (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).

31 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

32 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

33 Joanna Bailie, interview with Julia Eckhardt. See note 20.

34 A response to Michael Rebhahns’ talk at Darmstadt, 2012: ‘Hiermit trete ich aus der Neuen Musik aus’ (‘I hereby resign from new music’, trans. author), requested by Nutida magazine (Sweden) and published on Johannes Kreidler's blog Kulturtechno, 31 May 2013: (accessed 16 March 2014).

35 Joanna Bailie, interview with the author.

36 Notably a forthcoming piece for cello and field recordings of trains, which will further explore ideas from the aeroplane recordings / treatment of Harmonizing, Artificial Environments No. 7.

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