Thursday, 28 April 2011

Approaching the Eternal Now

I had been working on a new album of auraloramas since the Promenade event at the local arts centre (Norden Farm), when I was fortunate enough to work alongside Julie Potter as she went through her yoga routines. It was a tremendously worthwhile event and opened my eyes to possible applications for my soundscaping.

Some of the results of this session can be found on my Youtube page. The event threw up four basic improvisations, which then became Clearing the Mind, Relaxation, Uncertain Start, and Walking Home in my studio over the next couple of months.

I was actually getting into gear with the pieces and was about to start work on others when that old beast called desire stepped in and I decided that I wanted to get a guitar synth. Well, as is so often the way with desire, obstacles throw themselves in front of you in order for you to be absolutely sure that this is what you really want.

Immediately became Christmas, became the New Year, Became February, became March and, finally, in April, I was up and running with the new Roland GR-55 guitar synthesizer – and a jolly fine piece of kit it is, too.

Thus, six months after I started work on the Meditation album, the direction has changed considerably – not to mention the sound. Before I was using a selection of Boss and Digitech pedals to create the pieces, but now I am down to the delay unit, a echo unit and the synth – it has certainly made the floor before me when I play a far tidier space.

While trying to get a handle on the synth, I did what I assume anybody would do and simply went through the patches, making note of what sounded good, often getting distracted by a particularly nice noise and going off on a tangent to see how an idea might develop. At one point I came across a number of brass instrument sounds close together and started noodling with these.

The effect was, I thought, extremely dramatic, so a couple of weeks later I was back in the studio working on the piece. It starts off with some bells and vibes, played quite randomly and then a ‘Dark’ trumpet comes in, followed by a high trumpet. Then a French horn and finally trombone.

The sounds of these synthetically produced instruments is not quite natural, yet certainly reminiscent, and the looping creates a quite ethereal sound when each sound begins to layer over itself.

I remember speaking to Theo Travis after the Travis & Fripp gig at Gloucester University and he said how he liked the looping of woodwind instruments because it created a sort of Mellotron sound. It certainly does – and it lifts my spirits very much to be able to create such drama.

I chose the title of the song from something I have heard along the way from various people that are into spiritualism of one sort or another – the Eternal Now… a moment when everything is in harmony and time seems to stand still. I certainly can’t claim quite such a moment, but I thought this might be something like the moment before everything falls into place… What happens afterwards goes beyond representation, I should think. I am really pleased with this first synthesized auralorama and I hope you are too.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Quantifying the process

Just finished writing my private diary – a good old-fashioned notebook, which I make entries using a pen (gosh! How quaint!). It is something I am trying to make a habit out of, in order to compile something of a record of this final ‘push’ in my life to achieve something I value.

Robert Fripp says ‘to try is to fail’ and how right he is. But my trying here is a step on the road to a discipline and it is more succeeding than failing and it will become less trying and more doing until it is established as a habit. And a habit is a hard thing to break.

I mention Fripp because (a) I always do and (b) because shortly before writing my own diary, I saw this on his entry for April 11th 2011…

The Aims Of The Diaries.

Public Aims:
1. To engage the listening community at an earlier stage of the creative process than is commonly available.
2. To inform the listening community of the practicalities of that process.
3. To de-mystify the process which is, essentially, practical.

Private Aims:
1. To encourage the Diarist to recapitulate their experience.
2. To provide the Diarist with a pointed stick.
3. To expose the Diarist to public ridicule.

And, of course, this is exactly what I had wanted to do with this blog, only hadn’t been able to articulate it quite so succinctly.

Now, some might say it is an act of sensible modesty to consider one’s work with music (which nobody much listens to nor cares about) uninteresting enough to leave well alone, but it is precisely points 1.1 and 2.3 that encapsulate everything I want to do. I want to show that even I can make music and it is no big thing as far as I am concerned (music, is a big thing, but the fact that it is willing to work with me means (a) music is utterly wonderful and (b) music doesn’t care who it works with – it simply wants to work with you/one/etc…

Pont 2.3 explains that, while putting one’s self in the ‘limelight’ by saying, here I am, I am a musician, one is actually still a human being and needs a bit of humility in order to prevent the (oh so frequent) crawling up one’s own arse in search of illumination.

I certainly hope I never do that.

So, blogging will be my public diary. There won’t be the revelations of scandal of anything any publisher might be interested in, in fact, it will all be a bit dull, but it will provide a simple man’s search for music and how that process is available to all.

Tomorrow will see the first public airing of a new auralorama, so please stay tuned, as I feel that it will also herald a new direction – all tied in nicely with the various social faces I have on show and all, hopefully, indicative of normality.

But feel free to ridicule…

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Adele better

I’m working from home now… That is, I’m doing the work the earns me money at home now as well as the work that doesn’t (but there’s still time). This has had two immediate effects: First, I have a heap load more time to do both the money earning work and the non-money-(but-hopefully-one-day-will-earn-money) work. Second, I am now free of the (generally) bland garbage that people mistake for music and insist on having pumping through the office. I have often said ‘can we have no music at all one day?’ but people always seemed to think I was joking. I was not. When I do listen to music here at my desk in my home, it's music I want to listen to – and God, I am enjoying it immensely. Third, I am more relaxed now than I have been for well over ten years, possibly more…

Three immediate effects…

Listening to music I really enjoy got me to thinking about those poor souls in offices where only shite is allowed through the speakers. Where does all this shite come from? Is it chart music… Well, yes, of course it is. I checked out the UK chart website (which makes it very clear that we should use its right and proper name when referring to it, but I forget what that is, so ‘the UK chart website’ it shall remain) to see what kind of awful, pitch-corrected, aural monosodium glutamate sort of noises were being passed off as music at the moment in order to ridicule them on this blog…

Then I got to thinking. The singles charts have always been rubbish. Even when The Beatles and Stones and Kinks were regular participants of Top of the Pops, the vast majority of music hauled in front of us was pretty lame. To say that the charts today are in any way worse would be open to some serious argument – and it’s an argument I’m simply not ready to take on just yet.

Then, across the screen (all of three inches to the right, but it took me while to see it – I am a man, after all [so my wife keeps telling me]) I noticed the album charts. Aha! I thought to myself in a sort of watery ‘eureka’ moment. I can take the piss out of this…

Well, the Foo Fighters are number one, and although I am not a fan, I would be effectively putting myself in front of a firing squad to say that they were bringing music down in any way. They play hard-hitting rock that they write themselves and are as tight a unit as one could hope to find.

In the number two and three slots was someone called Adele. I had absolutely no idea who she was, but I figured that this was what I was looking for. I licked my lips and prepared for acrimony. The first thing I discovered was that she is 22 years old and already has three albums to her name. I was positively salivating now. Surely this was exactly the sort of record-company excrement I was after.

Then I listened to some of her songs. Okay, so the ones that aren’t saccharine ballads are, at best, quasi-chirpy, but godammit the girl can sing – and she writes her own material. Further perusal revealed she has publicly agreed with critics who have said her voice is far more mature than her songs and that she has said her music is for the ears and not the eyes. Even more maturity.

I gave up on looking for anything bad to say about Adele. She doesn’t deserve it. She’s actually as good a guardian of the singer/songwriter throne – if not better – as any. But then came my release. On the wikipedia page, a bloke called Paul Rees, who is apparently editor of something called Q magazine who said in praise of Adele that it was ‘refreshing to hear something different after a thousand years of identikit bands who want to sound like The Libertines.’

Identikit bands that want to sound like the Libertines? Are there many? I mean apart from Babyshambles and the other Libertine spin-off (which I can’t remember the name of). A thousand years? I mean, come on. A bit if exaggeration is a good thing, but let it match what you are talking about.

There are a couple of ‘dudes’ that truck around the open mic nights in my area who obviously try to sound like The Libertines, but they all deny it – and all of them seem to be pretty unpleasant blokes, actually, but I can’t say I had noticed the sort of epidemic that Rees seems to be implying.

Rees has got it right in one respect, Adele is refreshingly different, albeit from the recent school of Duffy and Joss Stone, but with sincerity and soul. But what she is different from is the trail of pitch-corrected, bland RnB stretching back over 20 years, Bland, ballad singing, tonsil gymnasts that are the worst kind of musical bubble gum, as they are the bubble gum that has been chewed all week and plucked from the bed post in the morning to chew some more, tasteless, formless and utterly pointless, but thankfully as forgettable as they are unpleasant.

Just look at the singles charts at the moment and rejoice that the album chart still seems to maintain some degree of quality and musical nouse.

Good on you Adele (and get your comparisons right, Rees).