Generator was written for Mark Eden and Chris Stell. It was partly inspired by H.R.Giger's paintings of 'bio-mechanoids', hybrids between man and machine which exist in bleak visions of the future. These surreal and often disturbing images were the inspiration for Ridley Scott's movie 'Alien', which earned Giger an Oscar in1980 for 'Best Achievement for Visual Effects'.
The piece depicts the birth, life and death of one of these bio-mechanoids, combining 'human' tonal elements with machine-like percussive sounds and extended techniques. It opens with a mysterious and spacious slow section in which sounds emerge tentatively from silence. A series of mosaic like ideas, partly ordered by the performers, accompanies a rising melodic progression, with 'electrical sparks' symbolising the machine's creation. Eventually an engine-like rhythm ignites and the music comes to life with vigorous rhythmic energy, passing through a series of contrasting musical episodes until the symmetry of malfunction, death and decay finally brings the piece to extinction.
Along the way Generator showcases the extraordinary array of sounds possible on the guitar and blends them with musical influences both ancient and modern. There are many sources of inspiration which, through a kind of musical osmosis, have been absorbed into the piece. These include techniques used in electronic dance music, urban free running, obsessive thoughts, cloning, the harmonic series and its relationship to the blues scale, ritualistic chanting and electric guitar techniques. Both guitars are also re-tuned to B, B, D, F#, B and E, incorporating elements of renaissance lute tuning and ideas in electric guitar playing.
The paintings of Max Escher also influenced Generator via what the artist described as 'rhythmic repetitions'. These can be seen in many of his works, where patterns and mathematical tricks and illusions like those used in his famous painting 'The Eternal Staircase' create images and structures that are only possible in two dimensions.
The evolution of the piece was also shaped to a lesser extent by the films of the Oscar winning British director Mike Leigh, whose scripts are strongly based around improvisation by the actors, which is then in turn refined and shaped by the director. With this in mind, some of the musical material in Generator was initially intended to stimulate new ideas in the performers, who then steered the evolution of the piece via subsequent rehearsals and performances of the work.
The piece was first performed at the Bath International Guitar Festival, UK in August 2005 and will feature on the Eden-Stell duo's CD 'Music for an Island'.