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Michael Begg  'Vanitas' Ltd ed. CD

Michael Begg 'Vanitas' Ltd ed. CD


April 2019   :   A new release from Mr. Begg, a limited edition (150 copies) C, housed in a Japanese Artboard wallet. 

Here is what he says :

Midnight. Orchestras are tuning up in the verges of the hollow ways. I have built my own instruments from wood, antique metals and computers. I read a book about the harmonic consonance between planets - but the planets are all out of kilter. I see through holes in the past that manifest as chasms in the sky.

 I am so sad. I am so angry. This is my only voice. These are my only tools. I sit still. Very still. I jump in time, but I always land in the night. The beautiful night. God, I cannot tell you how much I miss the night.

 Yes, I meditate. It seems very obvious to me that these pieces come from that space, that place - but it doesn’t warrant any closer examination than that. Just, please, allow the seconds to decouple themselves from the minutes. Watch the hours drift up to that hole in the night sky. 

 This recording is a monument to a certain kind of laudable failure. It is what happens when someone with no gift for programming writes scripts in Python and Max in order to consume data and make the moon and the tide sing. It’s what happens when someone with cheap tools and the ghost of a sound to realise gets out of his studio and into the workshop to make doomed instruments from all the junk in the village. It’s what happens when a man with no formal musical education takes it upon himself to score and orchestrate an ensemble. It’s where ‘I can’t do this’ meets ‘I must do this’.

This is not creating something of worth from silence, this is more like recovering something once lost from the midst of a solid block of shapeless sound.

 The work is done. The coding is spaghetti. The instruments are broken; warped and ragged. Still, the moon sings in my ear. The machines in the studio haven’t been updated in over three hours so are obsolete. Yet Clea’s cello, formed in the year of Mozart’s birth, spins a silver thread in space and time.

 And so, another midnight. Wife and children sleeping. Another illustrated ruin in my hands. And under what skies? Out into the night. Close the coop, and put away the hens water. Look up. There is one word you need to find. And if you whisper the right word, it will carry beyond the dimmest star. 

 Now, back to bed, little pilgrim.


Michael Begg’s music is located in the place where formal composition and electronic erosion meet; a liminal space coloured by longing and discomfort. 

 The territory of VANITAS remains crepuscular, but the palette is expansive, informed, in part, by Begg’s development of custom instruments; e-bow autoharp, sampled wood burning stove, piano drone wires, stolen French music box, blow torch glass, and granular goblets.  

 These richly textured sonic narratives have been influenced by Begg’s early development sessions with his new group, the Black Glass Ensemble, a collective of classical and experimental players, and his time spent at the end of 2018 on a British Council/Cryptic/AngloArts funded residency at the Mexican Centre for Music and Sonic Arts (CMMAS) Morelia, Mexico. (This residency also resulted in a full length work, Sonambulo, which will also be released in 2019.


Michael Begg's music is somewhere crossing borders between experimental mood music, orchestral passages and long-form sustaining sounds; not that Begg plays necessarily long pieces. Within the space of 65 minutes he twelve pieces, ranging from a mere minute and a half to thirteen minutes, and overall it is one gentle flow. Sometimes he goes within one piece from mood to mood. 'Have Faith' starts out chilling with glass rubbing in a cavernous space, and ends with beautiful passages on a bunch of violins. As such one could see this album as a collection of twelve pieces or as one long piece, transporting you from space to space, from mood to mood if you will. Occasionally there is a bit of silence, the transition from one track to the next, but as it so happens, also within one track Begg moves all the time, so the distinction between one track and the next, seems to vanish from time to time. I very much like the fact that Begg takes quite the leap here and there, from atonal
quietness to orchestral expansiveness and still remains to keep the listener captivated with this. It is here wherein lies the biggest surprise of the music. The variety of approaches, all explored before by Begg and others, put together on a coherent album that makes great sense. This is music to fit one of those grey cold days in winter and while it is May, it feels like October today, so Begg's music is the perfect soundtrack to sip hot coffee, read a good book and have this one repeat. (Frans de Waard)


Named after Dutch Baroque artist Evert Collier's 1663 still life oil painting that adorns the front cover, 'Vanitas' is the latest work from Scottish composer/sound artist Michael Begg. From the off, the album is as alluring and mysterious as the assemblage of items in the painting - seemingly some sort of kit for gloriously unwholesome nighttime activities. And this is indeed music to play when the sun has retreated and lunar glow peeks through the gaps in the curtains. I was fairly astonished to read that Mr Begg has no formal musical training - clearly a gifted autodidact with a strong worth ethic, it’s remarkable to ponder how accomplished and visionary his work is without having served time in academia. He’s clearly quite the tinkerer, and for ‘Vanitas’ utilizes an array of self-built acoustic and electronic instruments that result in a gorgeous sound palette which he uses to paint tantalizing shadow realms and infinite night skies.

If you have a penchant for darker strains of classical and ambient music then this comes highly recommended. Released on the artists own Omnempathy label in an edition of 150 copies, housed in a lush Japanese Artboard digipak.




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