Internal Combustion

Jonty Harrison

Internal Combustion has been performed in Aberdeen, Basel, Belfast, Birmingham, Bogotá, Bourges, Brussels, Cambridge, Chatham, Christchurch, Cologne, Coral Gables, Cornwall, Edinburgh, Essen, Gainesville, Glasgow, Istanbul, Karlsruhe, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Montpellier, New York City, Paris, Rome, Seattle, Sheffield, Stanford, Strasbourg, Toronto, Vienna, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Weimar…

I would like to think that the overt use of the sounds of car engines in Internal Combustion is an ironic underlining of the theme of environmental concern which lurks in the background of all the works in ReCycle — but I must confess to a dilemma here. The fact is I like cars, even though I fully acknowledge the damage they inflict on the environment.

In addition to recordings of car engines (many made using accelerometers as well as air microphones), other forms of transport (trains, planes, ships, bicycles, motorbikes and a Basel tram) are sonically present in Internal Combustion. The work is in four sections (echoing the intake-compression-ignition-exhaust cycle of the 4-stroke internal combustion engine), separated by dramatic ‘arrivals’ and ‘departures,’ and framed by more ‘environmental’ scenes (including traffic as an unavoidable part of our everyday experience).

Internal Combustion was realized in 2005-06 at the composer’s studio and the Elektronisches Studio Basel (ESB) of the Musik-Akademie Basel (Basel, Switzerland), and premiered on November 17, 2006 at the Museum Tinguely in Basel (Switzerland). Thanks to the University of Birmingham and to the Arts and the Humanities Research Council (UK) for Study Leave support; to Erik Oña for the invitation to Basel; to the Bartels Foundation for a residency in the Atelier Zum Kleinen Markgräflerhof (Basel, Switzerland); to Pete Batchelor and Daniel Barreiro for Max patches; to Keith Moule and Paul Rodmell for putting their vehicles at risk by allowing me to attach accelerometers to the engines. •• Internal Combustion is the work #2 of 4 that make up ReCycle which premiered in its complete form on May 25, 2007 during the Klangfest festival produced by BEAST at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham (UK).


  • November 17, 2006, Concert, Museum Tinguely, Basel (Switzerland)



Internal Combustion (2005-06), 11:43
8-channel fixed medium
Cycle: ReCycle



Date Work Program
December 19, 2008 Jonty Harrison, Internal Combustion (2005-06), 11:43 Zeit-Ton: Packendes Raumklangerlebnis / ÖRF Radio Österreich 1 (Austria)
February 6, 2009 Jonty Harrison, Internal Combustion (2005-06), 11:43 WESU 88.1 FM (USA)
October 17, 2011 Jonty Harrison, Internal Combustion (2005-06), 11:43 Électrain de nuit / France Musique (France)
January 20, 2013 Jonty Harrison, Internal Combustion (2005-06), 11:43 Électrain de nuit / France Musique (France)