Although Machine was completed in 1971 it was not released until 1973, shortly after the release of Journey Into Space. Machine is therefore the first major composition by Trevor Wishart. It was composed at York University and was originally issued on vinyl as 3 sides of a highly adventurous 3LP box set called Electronic Music From York, released by the University’s own record label.
In common with Journey Into Space (also on Paradigm Discs), Machine makes use of a large number of volunteer contributors, mostly from the student body at York. With this recording, however, there are no instruments used.
Instead, the music of Machine is made up entirely from a combination of spoken text and carefully directed improvising choirs that take their lead from prerecorded factory sounds. These are extensively mixed and edited with yet more collected machine sounds and other sources of musique concrète, as well as occasional use of basic electronic sources. The scale of this work, and the degree of preparation involved in scoring it, seem to have more resonances with the world of theatre or film rather than tape composition. Much of Wishart's early work involved the use of musicians and artists being directed to perform in new ways, outside of their usual remit. A combination of late 60s openness, detailed scores that provide frameworks for improvisation and slavish editing have resulted in an incomparable sound work.
With a continuous playing time of one hour, the wild and previously unexplored terrain covered by this pioneering work of British experimental music moves in turn through the full range of possible audio landscapes from the oceanic calm of the doldrums to earsplitting factory mayhem.