Sam Gillies


Sam Gillies is a composer and sound artist with an interest in the function of noise as both a musical and communicative code in music and art. His work treads the line between the musically beautiful and ugly, embracing live performance, multimedia and installation art forms to create alternating sound worlds of extreme fragility and overwhelming density. Sam’s music has been programmed at both national and international conferences and festivals, including the Test Tone Series at Superdeluxe, Tokyo and the International Computer Music Conference. Sam is currently studying a Masters in Composition at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Composer website:


Snowden (Eyes in the Sky), for Bass Clarinet and Electronics.

“The musical project Snowden is a conceptual framework, the germ of an idea that is at once a response to the monitoring of our online activities and an attempt to create something new and creative from the frameworks of these mechanisms of surveillance.

Most recently I’ve been been analysing raw data files to derive pitch and gestural material for acoustic instruments. In Snowden (Eyes In The Sky), web browser data and cache files were analysed to derive structural and gestural ideas that could be manipulated and notated graphically across the range of the bass clarinet, resulting in music given form by the recorded data of online behaviour.

In turn, the computer monitors the performer and extracts information about the component parts of their performance. This metadata – pitch, volume, noise, and brightness – governs the electronic output, creating music built from the relationships of these changes in musical phrasing and timbre, creating an electronic manifestation of surveillance to accompany the acoustic performer.”

Featured in Playlist 7: Eclectic Waves, 31/7/2015

The Days When Crows Would Watch Us Play II is an audiovisual work.

The Days When Crows Would Watch Us Play II was my first early experiment with combining traditional and graphic notation in a single score. Here different blocks of conceptually related material are combined together to play with the assumptions we make when we read a piece of music. The result is a piece that feels structured and yet retains the character of the individual performers in the ensemble. The score itself was most recently exhibited at the ‘A Backwards Glance’ exhibition at the State Library Perth, as part of the 2015 Totally Huge New Music Festival.

Featured in the playlist:  Immersive Waves (1/02/2016)

The Aura Implicit, Bass Flute, Bass Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Electronics.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about scenes, details, descriptions, actions and ideas that do not have words to describe them. To my knowledge, there is not a word that labels this phenomenon; otherwise I probably would have used that as this works title. I suppose that the widely reported idea that Eskimo’s have an unusually large number of words for snow is a reflection of language attempting to classify the unclassifiable, while simultaneously failing to translate to the English vernacular. (It is a wonderfully poetic idea that the Eskimos familiarity and understanding of snow is so detailed that their language attempts to conquer the infinite variations of snowfall. It is somewhat heartbreaking to learn that this is a fallacy, and that the Eskimo language has about the same number of distinct root word descriptors of snow as English). Inevitably if a word does not exist many other words must be strung together logically to convey the happening in question, filtering the individual’s years of experience and understanding towards the point in question. There is however, a limit to how precise an occurrence can be understood by two individuals. The phrase ‘the aura implicit’ is a reflection of this intangibility of description. Sound relationships given form and structure through music and notation pass through several mediums for communication – the score, the players, the audience… These thoughts have been flying around during the creation of this work, attempting to escape in some form or another. There is no straight line in composition for the work I create at the moment; for the last few years I’ve been approaching composition from a more sculptural perspective – taking raw materials and shaping them with the processes of composition, leaving a finished work that can be taken on face value or approached from multiple perspectives to be given due consideration. However, the aura implicit is present in every artistic work, a divisive element of communication that, depending on the strength, determines the extent to which we see, experience and comprehend the idea that has no single communicable word of its own: a blind spot in our communicative codes.

Commissioned and premiered by Decibel New Music – Cat Hope (bass flute), Lindsay Vickery (bass clarinet), Aaron Wyatt (violin), Tristen Parr (cello), and Stuart James (electronics)

Featured in Space Waves – June 2017, curated by Marlene Radice.