The working relationship between Philip Brophy and Philip Samartzis goes back many years. Both were involved in many of the projects released on the Present label and both lectured in Media Arts at RMIT University in Melbourne. Ph2 is their collaborative venture.
Ph2 projects arise from the opportunity to present or perform, at which point a project is developed. Surround-sound exploration is central to most of these works, combined with ways in which the two can conceptualize, score and improvize. Most works start off as pure experiments to see what outcomes will arise. Successive performances then gel the work into a form, which is then at some stage recorded in multi-speaker configuration. Some of these works eventually found their release through Sound Punch Records.
Roto-tom drum & synthesizer - Philip Brophy
Banjo & synthesizer - Philip Samartzis
HARD & SOFT - E242, Melbourne
Recording session @ Gelatin, Melbourne
The idea to develop Secret Acts Within 4 Walls came from improvizations both Phils had been conducting on non-electronic instruments: Philip Samartzis was exploring the banjo, with a sound more akin to Toru Takemitsu's KAIDAN than the score to DELIVERANCE; Philip Brophy had been experimenting with hand and finger on large roto-toms, creating rumbling tone more than percussive events. Both also owned Roland SH1 synthesizers with expander modules, so the idea to integrate these 4 sound-making modules with the acoustic instruments in a new performance grew. Performed only a few times to date, Secret Acts Within 4 Walls is a scored interaction between these instruments.
For the live performance, both the banjo and the roto-drum are close miced, with the banjo being fed into variable reverb effects and the roto-drum fed into a voltage-controlled fuzz-wah filter. In each case, the level of intensity brought to bear on the instrument accents the effected component of its sound. The score is a visual chart that dictates a series of directions controlled by each Phil at different times, with each Phil deciding alternatively when to move to the next movement. The piece starts with the roto-toms, then after an improv on the instrument, PB punches in the mixer so as to unleash the programmed patches of the synths, which in contrast to the isolated gestures of the drum rumbles and taps generate a thick sheet of noise. This noise is allowed to develop, with each Phil slowly and subtly altering the settings of their synth patches. PS then cuts out the sound and launches into a solo improv on the banjo. While he does this, PB changes the setting on his synth, then gets ready to cut back in the synths once PS has finished his improv. This is then repeated but with the tasks changed between the Phils.
The recording replicates this in some measure, with some cleaning-up in the changes between sections.