PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Ridges Photography
Daniel Liam Glyn
IT has been fascinating talking with Daniel Liam Glyn…
about his album, Changing Stations, and living with synaesthesia. He tells me how music and imagery and combine; how his way of seeing the world leads to unique and highly illuminating music – whether there is a track from Changing Stations that stands out to him.
I asked Glyn about sourcing London commuters and the intricacies of the Underground on the album; how his home of Manchester is faring in terms of modern music; if there are albums that have impacted him heavily; if there is a new artist we need to look out for – the songwriter looks ahead and gives me an impression of how his future will pan out.
Hi, Daniel. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m great thanks! My week has been productive - it’s mostly been spent doing some preparation work for a future music project I’m hoping to start soon.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Daniel Liam Glyn and I’m a composer from Manchester, U.K. I’m probably most known for combining my music writing with my neurological condition synaesthesia.
Your album is called Changing Stations. Can you talk about the sort of themes that inspired its creation?
There are so many themes that inspired the album at its inception.
I’d say the earliest influence was The Planets suite by Gustav Holst, which is a series of orchestral works based on each planet in our solar system, along with their corresponding astrological character. For years, I was interested with the idea of creating a collection of piano pieces based around characters within a concept, all of which to be composed in different key signatures. I read a lot of literature dating back to the 1800s regarding the different types of light and shade that different key signatures can possess and cross-referenced them with my own thoughts and opinions.
Being a lover of graphs and maps, I found that the London Underground not only had a fascinatingly complex design, but each Tube line was colour-coded and I began to be drawn to the different routes and the history behind them. Musically, I was inspired by the simplicity of Erik Satie's piano works of the late-1800s, but I also wanted to push it further into more modern times with the use of twentieth-century techniques (such as John Cage and Steve Reich).
I know each of the main lines on the London Underground is covered over the eleven tracks. Do you have a favourite line/track from the collection?
I'd say Abode (Northern Line). I used to live in Kentish Town on the Northern Line, so that quickly became my favourite. Mainly, because it reminded me of going home to my flat after work but also (to) heading to Euston to catch the train back up to Manchester. The opening couple of minutes of the track feature the main compositional theme which I composed when I was eighteen and I've always wanted to use it within a composition.
The track was remixed by my friend Damion O'Brien (Designer Thumbs) last year and released as a standalone single along with an accompanying video shot by People Staring production company.
How difficult is it conceptualising and recording music with synaesthesia? Are there challenges that you face? Is it true you recorded Changing Stations using grapheme-colour synaesthesia?
I'd say the main setback to using synaesthesia in the creation of composition is the not so obvious connection between what's real and what's not. Synaesthesia isn't something that is finite and the connections between the colours and what you have assigned them to is mainly involuntary; so it can make little sense to the person who has it.
With this project, I just wanted to assign the Tube line to the key signature in my mind, going off the colours of the alphabet. A = Red = Central Line; E = Pink = Hammersmith & City Line; F = Green = District Line…and so on. Another main challenge is that the listener might feel alienated because, on most occasions, the colour associated is distinctly unique to the creator.
Synaesthesia is visualising and associating numbers with colours. Does that association seep into people and colours? Do you view humans in the same way you look at numbers?
From what I've read, there are hundreds of different forms of it and it can be either mild or severe on the synaesthetic spectrum from person to person. For me, personally, it's less about how I perceive humans and more about colours that I have assigned to numbers, words and letters. I also have spatial sequence synaesthesia, so I visualise all these things in my mind, too, almost like I'm looking at a celestial map of space.
Every month of the year is represented as a planet with a designated colour, illustrated in an uneven circle. I move from day to day coasting through the map and, when the circle is complete, it leads onto a new year and then the orbit begins again. People like me with spatial sequence usually have a long-term memory; remembering dates and random events through the year.
What did you learn when writing about London commuters and collating the impressions/sounds of the city’s rush?
I've learnt that anything can be music! If you take a journey on the underground and close your eyes, you will begin to hear music in everything: the rhythmic beat of the tracks under your feet; the rush of the air flying through the tunnels and into the carriages through the open windows - even the swooshing and beeping of the doors opening and shutting.
It was important for me to not just rely on these recordings of sounds on the underground, but to also make sure I imitated these sounds and beats using rhythmic and melodic techniques during the composition of the music. It was fascinating hearing from different types of commuters, about their journeys; their destinations and their attitudes towards the different Tube lines.
I felt like I wasn't alone with the thought that each Tube line possessed a different type of atmosphere and feeling. In most scenarios, the commuters I spoke to agreed with my affection and disdain towards certain Tube lines and also how different journeys made me feel in regards to how I composed a particular track. For example, the District line felt lethargic; the Jubilee line looked pretty but didn't go anywhere exciting and the Central line felt mad-busy with such a fast rush as it cut through the city centre.
You are a Manchester-born artist. How much of Manchester’s music and history do you take influence from? What sort of music did you grow up around?
Manchester is known for its industrial and cultural growth and Changing Stations is a nod to the London Underground's history and its evolution into the modern day. It was important to me that recordings for the album took place between Manchester and London because they had both been my home and I liked the aspect of travel being involved with its creation.
We recorded sounds and noises through the use of computers and mobile phones, which pays homage to the revolution in technology on the London Underground over the years. I've always felt really proud to be a Mancunian and the city has been through some difficult times over the past twelve months, but I've been really proud of how everyone has come together and it's a testament to how strong the people are as a city….
Although there are many fantastic music acts from Manchester; I feel like most of my musical influences growing up came from the music my parents listened to. I think it’s possibly because I'm from a generation where I had so much music available at my disposal from all around the world via the Internet; that I didn't invest as much as I maybe could have into local music. The Beatles and The Beach Boys were bands that my dad liked. They both taught me about chordal structures, melodies and harmonies.
The same can be said for Motown acts that my mum was fond of - Diana Ross in particular. Kate Bush was someone who I always knew (of) when I was younger, but it wasn't until I was sixteen when I began to notice her for her incredible songwriting. Goldfrapp was a group who also grabbed my attention in my teenage years and I've stuck with them ever since.
I'd say I take influence from artists who aren't afraid to rely on their strengths, but also know when to throw tradition out the window and try new things. When I look at the back catalogues of acts like of The Beatles, Kate Bush and Goldfrapp; I notice such incredible growth and progression from their early works right up until their later albums.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I'm due to work on a new project with my long-term collaborator Katie (Tavini) and I also want to start work on my next album. I have several ideas so far but nothing set in stone, so I'm excited to see what the outcome is. I'm also trying to get Changing Stations and its remix album, Changing Stations: Derailed, in front of as many people as possible. The C.D. and vinyl are now stocked in Piccadilly Records, so I'm hoping to get it stocked in other record stores nationwide.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
It's so difficult to just pick one - but I'll probably say my album launch was an incredible evening. Changing Stations was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, so the launch night was the perfect opportunity to thank all the people who pledged for it to be a success as well as inviting local members of the press to join the evening.
I think Alison Goldfrapp writing me a letter to say she had a copy of my album was quite an astounding moment too!
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Possibly the most difficult question! These change from time to time, but (in no particular order), I'll say:
Goldfrapp - Black Cherry (2003)
Woodkid - The Golden Age (2013)
Kate Bush - Aerial (2005)
Lyrically, musically, and concept-wise, these three albums have inspired me on so many levels. I'm drawn to music that builds in motion, with layers of incredible harmonies and non-traditional structures. They've each taught me a lot about how I approach making music - not just the music itself but the concept and the imagery.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Never give up. Nothing happens overnight and sometimes, the biggest setbacks will feed you with an even bigger determination to make something work. Stay committed and take advice where you can, but be sure to trust your own decisions during the creation process. Also…be nice! Credit where credit is due: it's important to respect other musicians and producers you work with along the way.
IN THIS PHOTO: Toya Delazy
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
One who springs to mind is Toya Delazy. She's not necessarily new but is probably unknown to a lot of people. Her latest album is called Uncommodified.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Making music isn't my full-time job so, when I do get time to chill and unwind, it's usually music that I aim to focus on. Though, when I am busy with making music and I feel like I'm working on a project that consumes my every minute, it's good to take a break because there is only so much creativity you can conjure up. Sometimes, taking time out to listen to genres of music that you think you wouldn't necessarily be influenced by can actually surprise you.
I'm someone who can easily get caught up in the world of social media; so having a blackout from all my apps and putting my phone down can be a perfect way to unwind and get away from the world.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I'm going to go for the new Goldfrapp track, Ocean, featuring David Gahan from Depeche Mode.
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