Michael Clarke/Frédéric Dufeu/Peter Manning

Towards an Analysis of Trevor Wishart’s Imago: Form, Structure and Technology

Imago is an electroacoustic work written in 2002 by Trevor Wishart, one of Britain’s leading composers in this field. Typically, Wishart realized the work using software he himself produced.  The software package Sound Loom provides a suite of processing algorithms that can be applied to recorded sound files.  All the sounds in Imago derive from the transformation of one brief recording. A wide variety of material results from the processing, ranging from short events lasting less than one second to long sustained textures. Often the sounds are the result of many stages of processing applied in sequence.  The work itself is formed by the juxtaposition and superposition of the many sound files resulting from such processing.  Usefully, both for the composer and the analyst, the software enables users to keep a record of the sounds and processes used so it is possible to trace the creative development of the work and relate this to the final composition.
This paper describes the approach taken to analyzing Imago. It is an approach that combines top-down analysis, interrogating the finished work, with ground up analysis – study of the creative process and tracking the development of the musical materials toward the completed piece. Only through this dual approach can a rounded account of such works can be produced.  Since the work is a ‘fixed media’ piece, existing only as a sound recording (there is a descriptive score by the composer for sound diffusion purposes, but this is only in summary form), our analysis has largely been conducted within the sound domain. Innovative analytical software we have devised to assist with this will be presented.
This work is part of TaCEM, a 30-month project funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council.