Jem Finer was one of the founding members of the Pogues, typically playing banjo and writing many of the band's most popular songs (including, yes, co-writing "Fairytale of New York" with Shane MacGowan).
After the group parted ways, Finer committed himself to making some fascinating and critically-acclaimed sound art. His first major work was "Longplayer," an algorithmically-generated composition that will play for 1,000 years.
It began playing at midnight on the 31st of December 1999, and will continue to play without repetition until the last moment of 2999, at which point it will complete its cycle and begin again.
The composition of Longplayer results from the application of simple and precise rules to six short pieces of music. Six sections from these pieces – one from each – are playing simultaneously at all times. Longplayer chooses and combines these sections in such a way that no combination is repeated until exactly one thousand years has passed.
After writing such an unyielding piece of long durational music [as "Longplayer"], I became interested in the idea of making a new piece that rebelled against the strictures of fixed duration and score, creating instead something totally indeterminate.
The starting point was the suikinkutsu, a Japanese water instrument. In Japan, rhythm was traditionally conceived of as obeying the unpredictable qualities of nature, like water dripping from a roof. The suikinkutsu is a literal manifestation of this idea: a buried ceramic pot containing a small pool of water forms an acoustic chamber into which water drips. The delicate sounds of water falling on to water percolate upward, creating a subtle, beautiful, minimal music. Honing one's ears to catch these sounds, the sonic landscape of the surroundings is brought into sharp focus – leaves, rain, birdsong.
Conceived as a composition of indeterminate length and score, water dripping into a deep underground chamber strikes both tuned percussion and a pool at the bottom, the sounds are piped above ground through a giant horn that stands seven meters above the ground.
You can learn more in the video above, or check out some audio sample from the website. It's a pretty cool project!
Score For A Hole In The Ground [Jem Finer]
Going Underground [Jem Finer / The Guardian]