When Madison cellist Mark Bridges and Vancouver composer Scott Morgan perform together as the ambient musical duo High Plains on Thursday night at the Gates of Heaven synagogue, the show will last a couple hours, tops.
That’s nothing that would normally bear mentioning. It’s just that their first collaboration resulted in a collection of music that literally never ends.
Bridges, who also plays in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Willy Street Chamber Players, flew out to Seattle in 2015 to record music for Morgan’s next record under the solo moniker Loscil. The two had befriended one another at a musical clinic in Alberta the year before, and were eager to collaborate.
The new EP, called Adrift, was no typical project, though. Morgan wanted to release the EP as a smartphone app that would play infinitely long tracks of ambient music — “free-floating, sustaining environments of music that don’t really have a beginning or an end,” he said.
Download the fruits of their labor, now available for the iPhone, and you’ll find four tracks named after famous “ghost ships,” ocean vessels that have been found at sea with no life on board. It’s not hard to get the metaphor — the computer-generated music sets randomized strings of melody adrift, floating aimlessly over oceans of noise.
To help create the computer-generated tapestry of sound, Bridges recorded pages and pages of musical “phraselets” that Morgan had written for him — little chunks of cello melody, lasting 20 seconds at most. Morgan said while the process was a bit “robotic,” he was eager to bring Bridges and other instrumentalists’ acoustic sound into the mix.
“Part of the reason I wanted to include the live instruments and players was to see how this abstract idea would be interpreted by humans,”…