My favourite works of art are those which evoke the kind of profound emotional response which cannot be effectively articulated with words and defies all forms of analysis or deconstruction. These are the kinds of works which I strive to create.
I compose in the fields of sound art, ambient/electronica, acoustic, and vocal composition – and sometimes all at the same time. I do not see these as being disparate fields, but rather elements of an overall palette from which to draw.
I have long been inspired by impermanence, memory, and the notion that there is beauty, and thus creativity, to be found in decay and ephemera. As a sound artist, I have drawn from archival recordings and unwanted or unintended sounds (distortion, interference, etc.). Much of my academic research was concerned with the impermanent nature of both acoustic and digital media and the creative potential that arises from its increasing erosion through reproduction. This research interest also encompassed the visual realm and led to additional explorations in other disciplines.
One of my greatest passions is multidisciplinary collaboration. In learning about the approaches of other arts practitioners, I believe that I learn more about my own artistic practice – and there is always something new to learn. Some of my most rewarding creative experiences have been a result of collaborations in the fields of dance, theatre, film, sculpture, and the digital arts.
More recently, my compositional research has focused on the musicality of language – its melodies, rhythms, and timbres – divorced from the meaning of words. I compose, arrange and perform as one half of the Gaelic electronica duo WHYTE, alongside musician Alasdair Whyte who sings in a language which I don’t speak or understand. I firmly believe that this unknowing grants me the opportunity to objectively engage with the human voice in ways which familiarity and understanding would otherwise hinder.
My work as part of WHYTE has also evoked in me a new-found appreciation for many different traditional musics and folk cultures. There is a seemingly endless wealth of existing material to draw from and I am continually excited by the opportunity to realise this material afresh, both compositionally and performatively. But rather than simply reproducing that existing material, I want to reshape and revitalise it. I feel strongly that it’s possible, and often important, to produce art which is as challenging as it is accessible, and I believe that this is how traditions continue to evolve.
As I continue to explore the musicality of language in my work, the more I recognise and appreciate the ephemeral nature of the spoken word. In homing in on these fleeting sounds and realising their compositional possibilities, I hope to evoke a response which, ironically, cannot be put into words.
Ross Whyte (2018)