Highlights from Andy’s former career as a musician and composer can now be heard online, beginning with the re-release of his album Music for Crop Circles on YouTube…
Andy’s new book The New Heretics includes a section on the social effects of modern music production, inspired by his own experiences in the music world. Those who attended the recent Changing Times 30th anniversary event were treated to a montage of crop formations to the accompaniment of his own album Music for Crop Circles, originally released in 1992. The tracks were happily well-received and apparently stand the test of time.
Created with co-composer David Swingland, this project was inspired by the complex glyphs which arrived in the fields from 1990 and which redirected Andy’s own life into mystery investigation. The idea was to create electronic but ‘organic’ music which expressed something of the enigmatic, playful, exhilarating – and sometimes melancholic – feelings evoked by the patterns. Selecting ten crop designs from that period, a piece was constructed to reflect the atmosphere of each one and these can now all be listened to (with simple animated visuals, showing the formations) on the new Thomas and Swingland YouTube channel.
The pieces can be heard as a playlist which runs them as an album in the original intended order. Alternatively, click the images below to take you to each track.
These will be followed this up very soon with the sequel album, Earth Changes, together with some of the best of Andy and David’s soulful pop songs. If you want to know when new pieces are being added, just click ‘subscribe’ (this is free) when you are on the channel.
TRACK BY TRACK:
Music For Crop Circles 1 – Alton Barnes
This piece was inspired by the first of the highly advanced ‘pictogram’ crop designs and was discovered at Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, in the beautiful Vale of Pewsey on 11 July 1990. Its appearance caused a sensation (it eventually graced the iconic cover of the Led Zeppelin compilation Remasters) and marked the beginning of a surge of far more complicated geometric patterns after many years of simpler circles and rings. On the night this appeared, dogs for miles around reportedly went wild with barking and thousands of people subsequently came to see the formation, hence the dogs heard in the fade-in to the track and the faint sounds of ecstatic visitors later.
Music For Crop Circles 2 – The ‘Whale’
This meditative piece celebrates the best entry in a series of finned and elongated lozenge-shaped crop formations which appeared in 1991, quickly dubbed ‘whales’, rightly or wrongly. Arriving at Lockeridge, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, on 30 July 1991, the music attempts to reflect the pattern’s slightly comic yet dignified and rather uncanny look and picks up on the aquatic theme with understated suggestions of sonar noises and perhaps whale song.
Music For Crop Circles 3 – The ‘Gaia Figure’
This curiously odd track is a tribute to a strange but atmospheric crop pictogram which arrived on 2 June 1990 in The Gallops area, Cheesefoot Head, Hampshire, site of many circles over the decades. It was widely considered to have the air of something sad and wounded, and its resemblance to ancient ‘Gaia’ mother goddess figures soon led to speculation that it represented a hurt Earth, needing healing from environmental destruction. Crude by the standards of some crop patterns, there remains something moving about it and the music attempts to reflect its slightly sorrowful demeanour, while offering a note of balancing hope.
Music For Crop Circles 4 – The ‘Serpent’
This composition was stimulated by the unusual but striking crop formation discovered at Chilton Foliat near Hungerford, Wiltshire, on 18 August 1991. A wild mass of broken squiggles and small circles, it had a sense of fun, if also being a little disturbing at the same time. With a coherence of its own nonetheless, it was quickly nicknamed the ‘Serpent’. The music reflects a slinky, slithering quality and incorporates something of an eastern flavour, complete with sampled sitars.
Music For Crop Circles 5 – Barbury Castle
This piece honours the crop formation which appeared below the Iron Age hillfort of Barbury Castle, near Swindon, Wiltshire, on 17 July 1991. The arrival of this complex arrangement of symbols, hinting at Kabbalistic and alchemical symbolism, finally put to rest any notion that patterns of this kind could be unlikely freaks of the weather and it remains one of the great entries in the circular canon. The track attempts to emulate its intense, baroque intricacies and cathedral-like presence, hence the slightly Bach-like passages and church organ. The eerie crashing noise partway through is a nod to reports that the night the formation appeared, a loud unexplained roaring was heard in the vicinity.
Music For Crop Circles 6 – The ‘Windmill’
This composition was inspired by one of the early petroglyph-like formations which appeared at Etchilhampton, near Devizes, Wiltshire, on 28 July 1990. Although humble compared to some masterpieces, its striking simplicity was celebrated by several observers and was dubbed, for obvious reasons, the ‘windmill’. The music imagines the ‘sails’ of the design spinning slowly, eternally, around, in an insistent repeating motif.
Music For Crop Circles 7 – The ‘Key’
This piece commemorates one of the best of the initial pictogram formations, which was discovered not far from the ancient mound of Silbury Hill at East Kennett, near Avebury, Wiltshire, on 27 July 1991. One of the most sharply defined formations of its kind, incorporating ‘keys and claws’ as part of their oeuvre, the music in turn takes a harder yet still atmospheric approach. The outro’s similar ‘crashing’ sound to that of ‘Barbury Castle’ reminds us that the appearance of this formation was also, reportedly, synchronous with a loud roar heard on the night of its appearance.
Music For Crop Circles 8 – ‘Mr Curlyman’
This jaunty yet nuanced tune celebrates the stick man-like figure which appeared at Amesbury, Wiltshire, on 28 July 1991. Some found its slightly cheeky quality too much to take and considered it a man-made invention, especially given the presence of two curving loops which some would later suggest were a signature of ‘Doug and Dave’, two elderly gents who burst into the media a few weeks later to claim responsibility for the whole circle phenomenon (a claim never proven and widely doubted by many). The music attempts to capture the design’s slightly wacky and yet at the same time – if the claims had any level of reality – underlyingly sinister air.
Music For Crop Circles 9 – The ‘Trident’
This pensive and mysterious track conjures up the air of the three-pronged pictogram formation (or ‘trident’) found at Upton Scudamore, near Warminster, Wiltshire, on 21 July 1991. Although not the crispest-laid of formations, something about its demeanour and the accompanying odd ‘comma’ shape and small circles which laid nearby gave it all a strange, dreamy quality which the music taps into with its gently incantation-like cycles. Listen out for one little three-note motif woven into the arrangement, which imagines ‘plucking’ the three prongs of the trident end of the formation…
Music For Crop Circles 10 – The Mandelbrot Set
This grand arrangement is a testament to the remarkable crop pattern which appeared at Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, on 12 August 1991. The majority of formations are obscure in their meaning but the resemblance of this to a ‘Mandelbrot Set’, a ‘fractal’ pattern which emerges quite naturally from nature’s own equations when generated by advanced software, was undeniable, making this the very first of a minority of more literal crop glyphs. Its relative proximity to the Cambridge universities where the science of fractals was developed was seen either as suspicious (though no-one has ever claimed authorship of the formation) or perfectly synchronous and correct. The music, with its endlessly bubbling repeated riffs and mathematical-like motifs reflects something of the design’s fundamentals and makes for a suitably climactic ending to the ‘Music for Crop Circles’ cycle.