Sean Williams

on titles and automated sprinklers

posted on 3 Nov 2006 at 2:36 pm

At the end of this post I’ve listed the names of my current top twelve favourite ambient tracks. Their titles fascinate me. Underworld, by far the most famous of any of these artists, seems to be deliberately drawing attention to itself, or trying to, by rambling on and on and on, while four of the artists choose the untitled route, perhaps to achieve the same effect.

It must be extraordinarily difficult to find titles for music that at times resembles little more than a single-note drone or speaker hiss. The risk of sounding like a New Age tosser is ever present.

Finding titles has been occasionally problematic for me too, and never more so than when I was writing music in high school. I once composed a series of small pieces for piano with titles like “Voyage of the Automated Sprinkler,” “Attack of the Killer Automated Sprinklers,” “Lonesome Death of an Automated Sprinkler”…you get the picture. (Click here to download one of them, live from 1984.) One of my examination pieces was called “La Suite Acide”, an equally silly title, and I’ve talked elsewhere about “Cowled They the Rampant Gargoyle Down”, a piece that ended up winning the 1984 Young Composer’s Award under the title “Release of Anger”. Coming up with titles for novels is much easier, all things considered. At least there’s a story to tap into, phrases to mine, and literary allusions to make.

Saturn Returns, like The Crooked Letter, has already prompted questions about what its title refers to. Here’s the answer for The Crooked Letter. And below is the text I’ve added to the beginning of Saturn Returns. Hopefully this will clear up any mysteries.

I’m not trying to be obscure, honest.

The planet Saturn takes 29.46 years to circle the sun and therefore, according to Astrological traditions, to return to the House it occupied at the moment of an individual’s birth. During a “Saturn Return”, the light of this cold and distant world shines on our lives, encouraging us to examine our choices, our aspirations, and our disappointments. It is a time of endings as well as beginnings, and will be dreaded by those whose path through life has been ill-chosen.

“Make Believe” – Anders Ilar
“Untitled” (track nine of “Fearsome Jewel”) – Andrew Thomas
“Shenzou” – Biosphere
“And I Got Left Behind” – Donnacha Costello
“Pop 4” – Gas
“14:31” – Global Communications
“Drifting Between Stars” – Maneki Neko
“Untitled” (track five of “In Moll”) – Marcus Guentner
“Let’s Move On” – Patrick O’Hearn
“Perfect Dream” – Steve Roach
“Submergence” – Thom Brennan
“I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and this is My Horse” – Underworld