Two days (well, a day and a half!) until I host and perform at what promises to be an awesome gig! Croydon come on down

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Live in Croydon

Good evening all!

You may already know that I am planning a gig in my home town of Croydon, South London. I’ve been playing with this idea for some time, the number of great musicians and composers who I’ve met through twitter, or just interacted with online, is one of the great pleasures of social media for me, and I wanted to be able to help share some of their music. A month or two ago, I realised that I was now in a position to at least try to do this. The result is a concert on Saturday 3rd of August, which I have called A Whispered Shout. For some years I have had the phrase “sometimes a whisper is louder than a shout” in my head. I am not entirely sure where it comes from. (It’s a quote from something or other, I’m just not sure what!)

The venue is a wonderful cafe and co-working space which is also at the heart of Croydon’s art scene. I’m really excited to be performing there and think it’s exactly the kind of place to present an eclectic selection of contemporary musicking*, which is my aim. 

I’ll blog more about what I plan to play myself nearer the time, but here are some details of the fantastic performers who will be there. It’s awesome that they’ve all agreed to play, and I think each brings a passionate engagement with the making of new music and a dedication to their craft which will help create a special event. There’s a deliberate eclecticism in the music which will be presented, I hope to offer a selection which will provide something new for almost any listener!

Carya Amara

A project of Birmingham based electronic musician Kevin Busby, Carya Amara takes delight in variety and does not settle in one genre. It began in 1980, with performances since 1999.

Chrissie Caulfield

is a classically trained violinist who performs in both rock bands and orchestras. Her innovative solo works explore the compositional possibilities of amplification and effects.

Norah Lorway

is a live coding performer, composer and programmer. She creates complex and subtle works and has performed as part of BEAST, BiLE and BEER. She recently founded Xylem Records.

Lauren Redhead

is a composer and researcher interested in the aesthetics and sociology of music. She will be presenting a selection of contemporary classical works.

Stuart Russell

is a composer who works with electronics and conventional instrumentation. He uses computers to extend the possibilities of composition and create music of haunting beauty.

I hope it’s clear from all I have said that I think this will be a fantastic afternoon, a gig I would like to go to. There is a facebook event page which I’ll be keeping updated, if you’d like to invite people on their that would be especially helpful, the more people know about the event the better!

Tickets are currently available at a special low rate of £5, only these tickets will be at this price!

I hope to see as many of you as possible there :)

much love

Sam

*yes this is a real word

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RPM Recorded!

Dear listeners,

All the pieces for my RPM2013 album have now been recorded! The album will consist of two suites: ‘The Orton Road Suite’ and ‘Ten Failed Photographs’. The former is a five part exploration of a two-part melody, borrowing ideas from raga and twelve-tone music; the latter consists of ten miniatures inspired by photographs I have taken which ended up with more darkness than picture. This will be my first purely solo acoustic album, and the music represents a real progression in my musical ideas. I am currently wrestling the recordings into a releasable form, which may take a little while due to technological frustrations (and my own limitations).

The album page is already up, though obviously no music yet. Hopefully I’ll have it ready for the official RPM release date of 1st March.

thanks for listening and reading…

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RPM Composing Update

The RPM challenge is about when you record the music rather than when you compose it, so I’ve been working more on the pieces I’ll be playing. Things have moved on from my last post! I have ideas for two separate suites, one based around melodic improvisation, and another around short pieces based on photographs I’ve recently taken.

I’ve been working on the first idea for a while, and it’s coming along pretty well. I could record a perfectly good version of it now, but I think living with the idea for longer will bring more things out of it, and anyway it isn’t even February yet!

The second idea I just started working on today. I have been playing around with analogue photography, and received my first set of prints back. Ten of them immediately struck me as making an interesting set, as they were all in various states of darkness. In some almost nothing is visible, in others some features stand out clearly while others are swallowed by darkness. Given my interest in failure, and imperfection, I knew I wanted to start interpreting these images in sound. I’ve just been scribbling initial notes down this evening, and I’m pretty excited about this idea :)

I’m not yet sure how these suites will interact. The first idea is probably long enough for a short album in itself. If I have composed the photo pieces in time, I will probably also record them and it will be an album of two halves, an idea I’ve always rather liked. If not then I’ll continue writing those pieces, and they can be their own release or become part of another project. If both these suites get recorded for RPM, that would probably be the longest release I’ve ever done!

I’ll be updating this blog with more composing stuff as things progress…

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RPM Challenge 2013…

It’s been a while since I made any new music, partly because computer issues mean I don’t currently have access to any recording software I actually know how to use effectively. This makes adding to the One Year project impossible at the moment, though I may return to it, or at least works in a similar vein, in the future. I have been having ideas for a rather different album for some time though, and I will start work on this soon!

For those unfamiliar with the RPM Challenge, it’s a pretty straightforward concept: 

This is The Challenge - Record an album in 28 days, just because you can.

(from rpmchallenge.com)

Throughout February, all kinds of different musicians take part. I think I first heard of it in 2011, but only became really aware of it in 2013 when several of my twitter friends took part, including Chrissie Caulfield and Stuart Russell. I even played on Caitlin Rowley’s album! I feel like I’ve forgotten some people, but anyway that’s enough to be going on with :)

For a while I have wanted to record an alum of just me and guitar. I spent a long time waiting for my new guitar, which I new would be more suited to solo acoustic work, and since then I have been very busy. Also I lacked any real musical idea of what I wanted to do. I am now beginning to come up with a loose kind of structure, based on two different improvisatory approaches. For a while I have been working on an approach to building melody-based improvisations by starting with a pentatonic scale and progressively adding notes. Half the album will be made up of pieces using this basic idea, the other half will be more free-form improvisations. I may come up with a theme for those, at the moment I am undecided. I am also unsure how the album itself will be structured: I may choose to alternate the two kinds of piece, or have an album with two ‘sides’. Both approaches have their appeal, I probably won’t know until I’ve done the recordings.

As I normally record using a portable Korg recorder, the actual recording of the album presents no challenges. As I mentioned at the start, my computer doesn’t work properly, so the actual production of the album will need to be done on someone else’s machine (unless I suddenly find myself with funds for a new computer!). This doesn’t really worry me, I can borrow from family or friends, but it could lead to a delay in getting the album released. All recordings will definitely be done in February though!

This will be the first album made in my new home of Leicester, and I’ll be working that in to the art work and probably the name as well. I’m really looking forward to it, and enjoying the preparations. Hopefully it will be my best album yet :)

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House concerts

Good morning good morning good morning etc
I have been thinking for a while that I ought to try to play live more, but that I’m not sure my music really fits into conventional pub-gig kind of setups. In fact, I have my doubts about that whole approach to live music anyway. There’s probably a separate blogpost in that, but suffice to say I think they often fail to deliver a fully satisfying musical experience.
I have been thinking about house concerts for some time. They seem to be a pretty well developed phenomenon in the US, but less so over here although there are exceptions to this. I’m attracted to the idea of just being able to turn up with a guitar and play to a group of people ready to listen. There also seems to be a higher possibility of making a bit of money from this approach (notoriously difficult for those starting out in ‘conventional’ gigging).
Another point that appeals to me is that, except in unusually large houses (!), I’d be able to play purely acoustically. Too much of the music we hear comes to us via PA systems, it’d be nice to reconnect with truly acoustic sounds.
All that said, this can only really happen if people invite me to do it! So if you’re reading this thinking that it sounds intriguing, maybe you could host one. I don’t mind playing to small numbers, so you almost certainly do have room! I would like to make some money from this, exactly how we approach this (paying in advance or ‘passing the hat’ for example) I’d be happy to discuss and be flexible on. I’m currently based in South London but plan to move to Leicester in the next couple of months. I will consider going anywhere but I will need to cover my costs! If you’re far away/abroad do still get in touch, in the long run I’m sure we could arrange something. If you’re thinking it could all be a bit scary, check out some of the links below.
As I’ve said, part of the attraction is turning up and playing acoustically. If, however, you’re more interested in some of my electronic music, we could totally talk about that too ;)
Thanks for reading, hoping to hear from you soon
Sam
Some house concert links:
Steve Lawson: http://www.stevelawson.net/2009/03/house-concert-hosting-a-beginners-guide/
Emily Baker: http://emilybaker.co.uk/houseconcerts/
Concerts In Your Home guide: http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/CIYH_HouseConcertGuidex.pdf (I’m definitely willing to play to fewer than twenty people btw)
Marian Call: http://mariancall.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/house-concerts-101/

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Greetings! I charted a course through stormy ‘net connections on Sunday to bring a new release to your ears. As this is the first new piece I’ve released for a while (other than additions to Improvisations) some words on its creation, and my current musical thinking, may be of interest.

At the start of the year (or maybe it was the end of last year, but the date is unimportant) I decided that I should spend twelve months gathering field-recordings, and perhaps pictures and words too, to form the basis of some kind of release to be constructed at the end of 2012. I had no idea for the form of the final work, but I wanted to try a creative method that would lead to a longer gestation period, to get away from my tendency to create in sudden short bursts of activity. Perhaps the cultural significance of the year itself played a role: London had, after all, been preparing for 2012 for what felt like most of my life. I toyed with the idea of blogging regularly on my progress, but I decided this could easily lead to the project feeling like a chore, and that the important thing was the final product, not the story of its creation. I have gathered many recordings so far, though perhaps not as many as I would have liked.

It was in Birmingham last month that a new idea for a piece marched boldly into my head, as they occasionally do. Many times I have created a soundscape and then improvised over it, but now I thought of recording a long improvisation and treating this as the soundscape, creating a piece by adding snatches of manipulated field-recordings. I sat down that day in my hotel room and recorded myself playing for around 25 minutes. I consciously left more space in my playing, aware that this was the basis for more sound, that I was, at some level, accompanying something I could not yet hear.

The piece was created over the following weeks, using recordings from the same Birmingham trip, and also treated samples from the improvisation. As I often do, I allowed the sounds to guide me: I had no specific aims in terms of expressing ideas or moods. The piece is an experiment in approaching my usual ingredients in a slightly different way: the sound of me playing was treated in the way I generally treat field-recordings. I hope that creating it has helped me develop my sound-manipulation skills further.

I wrote myself a minimal set of instructions for my field-recording project, and titled it One Year. As the end of 2012 approaches, I am beginning to gain a sense of what I shall create from what I have gathered. There will be a series of standalone pieces, all made in somewhat different ways, but all using sounds from 2012 (of course!). Together, they will perhaps express something of what I am musically at this time. Birmingham Impressions is the first, listen out for more over the next few months.

thanks for listening/reading

Sam

*a copy of these instructions is a bonus item with the Birmingham Impressions download

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Sounds and Silence and All That’s To Come

I’ve been a little quiet here of late, as you may or may not have noticed. Compared to the rapid production of pieces during the winter and spring of 2010-11, the last six months has only seen odd individual track and some collaborations. So what have I been up to?

Well, I should perhaps point out that I have a day job now, with I didn’t then. But that’s not really why I’ve released less. I am currently gathering sounds and images for a larger work. Near the end of last year I decided that I should spend this one gathering raw materials, from which to create a work reflecting my experience of 2012. I am not yet sure what form this will take, but I do know it will involve me using a wider range of my abilities, such as they are. Previous releases, especially The Re-Education Of Ned Ludd, were created within particular constraints. Ned Ludd is the one I’m most happy with, but I want to start bringing together the things I have learned from each set of pieces, mixing guitars with the electronic and field-recording sounds that made up that album. This is what I was doing before, of course, but I want to aim for a more thorough integration of the two, and get away from the idea of one being background to the other.

Meanwhile, I have been looking into sound in a broader social context. Some of you may know that I studied history at university, and in the past month or so it has become clear to me that there are ways to combine these two passions. Sound or aural history is still a new field, which is rather appealing to me. I am currently reading as much as I can about the subject, and looking into potential masters courses that might accommodate the study of sound in history.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Of course, I’ll still be releasing improvisations from time to time. I’ll also have a new guitar later in the year, which might inspire some music. And every now and then I return to trying to make music inspired by Oscar Wilde’s Poems In Prose. But the main projects are the two outlined above, the piece exploring a year and the study of sound in history. I’ll blog more about them from time to time.

Thanks for reading

Sam