HECTOR MACINNES sound artist | musician | producer
flightpath (2020 - online)

From 1943, with James Shaw Grant as secretary, The Lewis Association in the Outer Hebrides began investigating and publishing reports which described the social and economic problems affecting the island. Addressing themes such as changing agriculture, the tweed industry, communications and the impact of the war, the reports also offered a number of speculative proposals and solutions.

One of these noted Stornoway's position on the 'Great Circle' flight paths between Europe and America, and its potential as an air transport hub and re-fuelling stop - an east-Atlantic counterpart to Gander in Newfoundland, which prospered in a similar role through the mid-century period. Just as it might have become possible to realise this future, however, more efficiently designed aeroplanes had started to make long-haul transatlantic flights without re-fuelling, and the conceptualisation of Lewis as prime Great Circle real-estate dissolved.

Where other failed development projects - such as Lord Leverhulme's half-built island railway - still criss-cross the landscape of Lewis, SYY International Airport requires an archaeology of the imagination to uncover it - sifting layers of geopolitical dreams through a filter of possible travel.

Flightpath is an experimental instrument which uses the structure of this future-that-never-was as a synthesis engine and a performance interface. It comprises a pressed steel globe with inset push-buttons, a microprocessor, and a MaxMSP patch.
Flightpath Interface  
While selection of a single airport achieves nothing, and inputting one long-haul flight from LA to Moscow simply creates a looping note, exploring different routes, networks and stopovers creates intermingling pitch sequences, rhythms and interference patterns. The player interrogates the possibilities that sit under the hand in this part-travel-agency < > part-Haang drum.

This piece developed out of a period of experimentation during the covid-19 pandemic. Living in Bristol and unable to get home, I began exploring the west coast of Scotland through various maps - trying to find ways to use those maps to unite interface design, synthesis and score. An earlier idea - Sheet 60, below - was based on an admiralty chart of the small isles, Rùm, Eigg Muck and Canna. By guiding the MV Loch Nevis around the map, the performer moves through different perspectives on the coastlines of the islands, which are then sonified both as non-standard synth waveforms and as shifting and overlapping arpeggios. A journey through timbre and melody is created in the video below, in which I perform (across a scaled time-span) the Caledonian MacBrayne emergency pandemic ferry timetable as score.

<<< index