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Utopia C1: As Idle As Drones

Utopia C1
Utopia C1

A wonderful ambient piece by New York’s Jeff Dungfelder is the top-centre piece of our Utopia map. Jeff explains how he used Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards to help inspire his piece.

As Idle As Drones – Jeff Dungfelder, New York, USA

“I started off the project by picking an Oblique Strategies card, one that read “Do nothing for as long as possible.” I was leaving on a trip to southern California, and decided not to do anything until I returned.

On the plane I started reading the book Utopia by Sir Saint Thomas More, and took notes of the phrases in the conversations that struck me as particularly interesting.

One of them, as idle as drones, became the name of the musical piece. While in California a couple of sounds piqued my interest.

One was the early morning bird songs I heard while walking near a nature preserve, and the other was the Pacific Ocean. I knew these sounds would have an influence in this project, and they ended up as a thread throughout.

By the time I returned home to New York City, I had realized that my dialogue notes would be central to the piece.

was surprised at how timeless the book was in its discussion of concerns, which are still relevant today. Even though it was written in the 1500s, Utopia somehow reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984.

I started the recording by getting my favourite quotes, and some text describing the island, into Logic using the Mac’s “text to speech” feature for a reference to the future.

After gathering several types of world/ethnic instruments and sound samples for consideration, I chose another Oblique Strategies card that read “Gardening, not architecture.”

This determined my approach to the composition, which was one of doing what felt right, without any regard at all to formal structure.

I was very inspired by the discussion of the world travels and observations written so long ago. Everything seemed to be falling into place, with decisions being made with ease.

Second guessing myself, I picked another Oblique Strategies card that read “Just carry on.” I took this to mean I was on the right path and continued.

With all references to virtue, heaven, sacrifice, kings, wars, poverty and wisdom in place, I was happy with everything. After sleeping on it, the next day I picked the last Oblique Strategies card, one that read “Is it finished? The answer was yes!”