The Maker #32 – Simon McCorry

This isn’t the first time Stroud-based cellist and composer Simon McCorry has taken part in an interview feature for RTR. Back in 2020, Simon talked about the impact of the pandemic and creating optimism through must in ‘Music in a time of Global Crisis #15’, available to read here. Next week sees the release of Konstruct’s ‘Three (squared)’ (RTR041); a collaboration between Simon, Andrew Health and Phonsonic (Alexander Caminada). The album explores creative limitations, with each artist contributing three sets of three short sounds that would then be manipulated and processed to create the album in its entirety. Simon’s solo efforts have appeared on labels such as Polar Seas, Naviar Records, Herhalen, Disco Gecko Recordings, Woodford Halse, and close recordings, adding to an impressive list including music for film, dance, and theatre.

In this feature, Simon talks about his introductions to ambient music, drawing inspiration from patterns, a constantly changing approach to making new music, and the importance of the cassette medium in his musical journey. There’s also some favourable words for Floating Points & Pharaoh Saunders – ‘Promises’, and album that will undoubtedly appear on a lot of best of… lists by the end of the year!

Simon McCorry, performing

How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?  

Actually, my route into ambient/experimental music was through the music of Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby. I loved their creative use of the studio as an instrument and the sparseness of their arrangements where every sound counted and was given its space. I’ve been recently revisiting their recordings, some of Lee Scratch Perry’s work from the late 60s is extraordinary, pared back and emotively powerful. At about the same age I was introduced to the prepared piano music of John Cage when I was studying music at Morley College, so the two sound worlds intermingled.

What inspires you to create a new body of work?  

These days I’m always experimenting, exploring and recording. Sometimes I find a phrase, a sound texture or structural idea and it catches, and I find the track flows quite quickly. Sometimes recordings of ideas sit on my hard drive for years to emerge later. I’m fascinated by patterns and numbers and quite often these are the wire frames for a piece to mould itself round.  

How do you approach working on a new release?  

It’s pretty much different each time. I’m lucky to work creating music for theatre & contemporary dance & sometimes film. Sometimes I’m given a musical mood board of existing work which pushes me to explore outside my comfort zones. Which is always a good thing. Sometimes a concept/approach to a production becomes an organising principle. At the moment I’m working on a play where a train arriving at a tube station figures quite strongly – someone gets pushed under it – so I’m thinking of different ways to hint at that event without to obviously giving the game away. Will a release crystallise from this – I don’t know – but I’m back to exploring electrical hums and detuned oscillators creating phasing rhythms – something I did last year for my EP The light Only Blinds? Itself fallout from work on a theatre play. 

Konstruct – ‘Three (Squared)’ (RTR041)

Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?  

‘Promises’ by Floating Points & Pharoah Saunders pretty much blew me away on first listening. Probably a lot of people are saying that, however I’d be dishonest not to admit it. The sound of tenor sax played by Pharoah Saunders is such that I could curl up in it and drift. With a musician of that experience and depth there is an attitude and intension in the playing that is a universe in itself .

As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?  

If it wasn’t for the humble cassette tape, I would not be a musician! I was given instrument lessons at school because I confused a tape recorder with the recorder.  So, when asked who played the recorder, I said I could. 

Konstruct’s ‘Three (squared)’ is available to pre-order now on tape and digital, to be released in full on Monday 31st May.

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