The Music Room

for trombone and stereo tape

Tim Souster

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for trombone and stereo tape

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Composer Tim Souster
Year of Composition 1977
Duration ca.15'
Categories (all composers) , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-ts1tmr1


Music-theatre piece for trombonist and assistant.

The Music Room was commissioned by James Fulkerson in 1976 and first performed by him, assisted by Stephen Montague, at the Wigmore Hall. The tape part was realised at the Keele University electronic music studio, which I had just begun to set up. One of the origins of the piece lay in the discovery, made during equipping the studio, that a firm which was supplying me with amplifiers, loudspeakers and so on, also had a contract with the army. Not convinced that there was any great enthusiasm in the military for electronic music, I eventually found out that sound was being developed by them as a means of interrogation and crowd control. In Northern Ireland, IRA suspects had been subjected to highly amplified white-noise over extended periods of time as part of interrogations by means of ‘sensory deprivation’, the effect of which was heightened by the use of blindfolding and loose-fitting clothing. The consequences of this procedure were no joke. Not a single ‘terrorist’ was unmarked by these means and several ‘guinea-pigs’ suffered severe, permanent psychological damage. The British Government was eventually condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for allowing these techniques to be used. The area where the interrogation took place was called ‘The Music Room’.

The score consists of three pages of text which instruct the performers.

‘In a concert devoted entirely to British and American music of the last decade, Tim Souster’s new work The Music Room was the most impressive item, impressive above all for its potent handling of intertwined musical and dramatic images. The trombonist, a dark hooded figure, is led on to the stage by a man in a white coat; he is, it was seen, confined in an institution and compelled to play his instrument. As he plays, his sounds are electronically modified and greeted by a tape comment, at first white noise, eventually a distorted patchwork of marching music. This rises to a climax and the player is overcome; perhaps he is a victim of the deadening effect of music used to homogenise a society. Souster’s music, however, strikes deeper than such an easy interpretation, and it presses its points with a snarling wit.’

– Paul Griffiths The Times December 1976

Performance of this work requires an additional electronic ‘tape’ part. Upon purchase of this item, the audio files will be sent to you via file transfer service.