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Radio ›› The Squiggle Game

From the album liner notes:

Soon after beginning work on this record I experienced a stifling creative block characterised not by an absence of inspiration but by an excess of ideas as to what it could be. Seeking a strategy to overcome this I asked Fabrizio Gilardino, co-owner of this label and designer of its album covers, to design a cover in advance of the music. I proposed this would be done complete with titles and durations for each piece, invented by Fabrizio, as well as credits for guest musicians of his own choosing. My task would then be to create the music that fit within these parameters. Fabrizio obliged enthusiastically and a few months later I received a draft of a blue and gold cover for a record called Dust that contained thirteen tracks with very inventive titles.

Although the plan worked well initially, I soon began to feel constrained, particularly by the titles and durations of the pieces, which seemed more and more in conflict with the music that was emerging. I persevered but soon realised it was pointless to let the music be compromised by a set of rules that were meant to inspire it.

At this time I was reading about the English psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, who played a game with his child patients in which he would draw a squiggle on a piece of paper then ask the children to continue the drawing. He called this ‘the squiggle game’. Reading this, it occurred to me that Fabrizio’s album cover and the included information, rather than functioning as a kind of musical colouring book, could be treated as a set of squiggles on which I could elaborate more freely.

Neither the original graphics nor any of the original titles remain, although many of the durations are quite close to the originals. The only thing unchanged from the original cover is the inclusion of the three exceptional musicians whose contribution to this record is, more than anything, what made it what it is. Corinne, Nicolas and Sam, merci, merci, merci.

Alexander MacSween

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