Posts tagged composition

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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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 for other people

This blog has been rather neglected of late. A winter working long hours in a cold warehouse has allowed time for musicking, but little to spare for writing about it. I hope to be posting here more in the coming months. This is an update of what I have been working on lately.

In the past my music has been driven by me from start to finish, it is a very personal pursuit which has only gradually become something I share with others. Thanks largely to twitter I now have connections with many wonderful musicians and composers who I would not have met otherwise. This led to the two gigs I played at the end of last year (in Colchester and London). I am pleased to report that this year’s musical work has involved more collaboration and thinking about other people’s approaches to music and sound.

Many of my musical friends took part in the RPM2012 Challenge, to write and record an album in one month, February to be precise. I have toyed with the idea of doing this before, and may well in the future, but I don’t feel that output has really been a problem for me, and most of my releases have been done in a month or so. I don’t really feel it’s useful for me at this stage. I have, however, been involved in someone else’s.

UK-based Australian composer Caitlin Rowley issued a call for volunteers to commission and record new pieces for her RPM album. I was one of the people who stepped forward, and so was lucky enough to work with Caitlin on what became ‘I Want It To Kill People’, the seventh track of her album. It was a real pleasure to enter into another person’s approach to making a piece. She took my work with field-recordings as a starting point and created a tape part for me to play over, with a graphic score to guide my playing. This really helped focus my performance, especially as the piece is quite short and I’ve been working with longer forms lately. I’m really pleased with the result, and we hope to work together more in the future.

Meanwhile, I am working on a piece for a project for an audio-book version of Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. Again, this is an opportunity that came to me through the wonders of the World Wide Web. SoundFjord, a gallery specialising in sound art, issued a call for musicians and sound artists to express an interest in contributing. Those who did so have all been given some text to work with, selections will be made after they have the submissions. I hadn’t come across the book before, and have enjoyed exploring it’s dark reflections on the emptiness of everyday life in Lisbon in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties. I also view this work as a collaboration, though of a very different nature. Trying to distill the atmosphere of even one section of a complex literary work into ten minutes of sound (and sound that can be spoken over) has proved quite a challenge. I’m not quite there yet, but pretty close. I’ll hopefully have something to post in the next few days.

Thanks for reading, I will blog again soon

Sam