Hard to pin down with Ailie Ormston

Glasgow composer and performer Aillie Ormston makes music that’s beautiful and strange. The music is very detailed and specific, yet feels effortless. We listen to and discuss two works for small ensemble and electronics. If you’ve checked out Ailie’s publicly released albums or their work with Tim Fraser, you might not have heard these two works completed for Ailie’s master’s degree at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: Outside Dining Inside is for saxophones, harps, strings, guitar and electronics; and Of Importance Now is for organ, electronics, percussion, and keyboard.

We also listen to some picks from Ailie, including Madvillain, Micachu and the Shapes, and Julia Reidy.

Ailie Ormston. Photo: Bradford Bailey

Ailie Ormston is a composer and musician from Scotland making experimental electronic music and chamber music. Ormston works with a distinctly playful, holistic and reflective approach,informed by their creative experiences in visual arts practices. Over the years, Ormston has received festival commissions from Counterflows and Tectonics, released solo and collaborative albums (bison, 33-33, 50% PURE, Domino) and performed extensively across the UK’s most celebrated experimental venues, showcasing a range of eclectic musical activities. Improvisation and assemblage are the keystones of Ormston’s work, with additional interests including timbral abstraction, temporality and collaging hi-fi and lo-fi sound materials. With a foundational music history rooted in performance, having trained as a trombonist, guitarist and drummer in childhood, Ormston went on to study Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh and recently completed a postgraduate in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under David Fennessy and Bekah Simms.

In the interview, Ailie Ormston and Josh Thorpe discuss the materials aspects of some of the pieces, the processes by which they are made, and some of the defining characteristics that Ailie finds important. Ailie’s pieces often have a quality of a sound world built of many detailed events that effortlessly circle around themselves. Then all of a sudden things can simply change. The harmonic content is fairly consonant, but there is space for dissonance as well. I could listen to Ailie’s music many times and indeed I have.

Listeners might also enjoy Josh’s interviews with Martin Arnold and Semay Wu.