I've always loved music and I've always loved making up tunes. When I was about
eight I can remember sitting in a bus with my classmates going to see a circus in Kirk-
caldy, and making up a tune in my head which became a sort of theme for the day. In
my memory, naturally, it was and is a great tune, but it's forgotten and gone forever. For
some reason I never did take to music at school, and certainly never learned to read or
write music. I had to wait until I got an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was in
my early teens before I could save my tunes by whistling them into the thing.
Later, at university, I bought a guitar but I never tried to get into a band, I just sat and
taught myself a few chords and developed my unique, eccentric and highly inefficient
fret-fingering style. The main change was that the tunes recorded into - by now - a first-
generation cassette recorder were in the form of the sound of awkwardly plucked guitar
strings rather than hopelessly inane whistling.
Nowadays I have a small but impressive home studio setup. It's not that comprehens-
ive, and wouldn't count as a studio at all by some definitions. I don't have any audio fa-
cility, for example - I can't record any acoustic instruments or vocals, but then, as those
few unlucky souls who have heard me attempting to sing will confirm, this is entirely a
blessing - but I do have lots of machines with a wide variety of numerous flashing lights,
which is, of course, a Good Thing. It's basically music processing, and enormous fun,
better than any computer game, and Gary Lloyd is the man who showed me how easy it
was to get started. Gary once wrote a long musical piece called The Bridge , based on my
novel. This took years to write and record - certainly much longer than the topic took to
write - and is probably even more complex than the novel. It has my voice wittering over
a few sections of the CD, but other than that it's brilliant.
Over the last half-decade or so I've been very slowly learning how to use MIDI and
my musical gear and during the last year I've created a couple of CDs, one with lots of
weird synthesiser noodling on it and one comprising of more conventional piano pieces.
I sent both to Gary a while ago and now he's got some thoughts to share.
The CD of piano pieces was sent to a few other friends I thought might be interested,
and all their views matter too, but Gary, as a professional composer and electronica ex-
pert, can probably offer the most cogent advice.
I take the A701 towards Moffat; a fast, still unspoiled road through some roundly
impressive Borders scenery, the wave-round hills stamped with great squares of forest.
Like the far North-West, the Borders hold some of the best driving roads in Scotland.
They're a bit busier than the roads of Wester Ross and Sutherland, but there are more of
them too, and they vary from the What-is-this-'police-car'-of-which-you-talk, Earthman?
to the A68. If you ever want to see a good road spoiled, drive the A68. I can remember
when this roller-coaster of a route was worth taking just for the sheer fun of it, but now
it seems to have at least one GATSO camera per mile and it's just a chore. We have only