Posts tagged music

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.


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
Some house concert links:
Steve Lawson:
Emily Baker:
Concerts In Your Home guide: (I’m definitely willing to play to fewer than twenty people btw)
Marian Call:

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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


At Source

As I sit writing this, I am listening to the current version of the recorded part of the piece I shall be performing on Friday 25th. A few weeks ago I took the train up to London and spent a pleasant afternoon recording sounds in the area around the venue. The original score I wrote for this piece is below. Bear in mind that I was writing these essentially for myself, to start ideas flowing and get me working. They are rather like a set of rules, perhaps reflecting my teenage war-gaming days ;)

A text score for a site specific performance piece

The performance shall consist of live sound from one or more performer(s) and recordings made in advance. Length shall be decided first.


These should be made within one mile of the site where the performance is to be held. Whoever makes the recordings has only one hour to do so. Any found sound may be used so long as it is made in that hour and within one mile of the site.

Once these sounds have been gathered, they can be manipulated and combined in any way that seems appropriate in order to produce a soundscape of the required length. Once this has been made, the performer(s) should not hear the soundscape again until the performance.

Live Performance

The soundscape will be played and the performer must respond in whatever way seems natural. The audience should clearly be able to hear the recorded part of the piece, the aim is not to drown it out but to respond to and comment on it.

Destroy recordings?

If yes, when precisely?

The questions at the end probably reflect the influence of Bill Drummond’s work with The17. Certainly I think the soundscape itself should only be used once, I’ll delete that after use. I should say again that although that entry in my notebook is written as if to someone else, it was really intended only for my use. As soon as I started seriously working on the piece, I found my own rules too restrictive. Although I only recorded about half-an-hour of sound, I spent more than an hour doing it. The idea remains in the online descriptions of the gig, because I feel like the idea of a time limit was a meaningful part of the evolution of the piece. However, there is already enough control in the limitation to one mile. I didn’t actually measure out a mile at any point, but simply wandered around the area making sure not to stray too far. I do think limiting the amount of actual sound recorded could be more useful by making one focus more effectively.

When I met Leah Kardos last month, she asked if the recorded part of the piece should make the listener think of the area itself. I think I said yes, but then started saying something about how it might also try to subvert that idea. I think it would be more accurate to say no. The point of using sounds from the area is not to make people think about that place, but to reflect on how there is beauty tied up in the everyday things all around us. We tend to remain blind and deaf to this. I have stretched, distorted and manipulated the sounds so that only some of them will be recognisable, while others will sound like things they are not. If we could listen differently, perhaps the world would always sound like this, just as it would look different if we could see in infra-red or ultra-violet. The piece I have made remains as chaotic as everyday sound, but it has been reshaped so as to be less familiar and thus (hopefully!) draw the ear more.

Over this I shall improvise slide guitar. Against the everyday, we set humanity’s attempts to create our own beauty. Again, I rejected my original rules: I see no real need for the soundscape to be unfamiliar to me when I perform the piece, I think this would only be interesting if the performer had never heard it before. Perhaps someone out there would like to use the piece in that way, but for a solo set it’s clearly impossible.

Yesterday I named the piece At Source. At some point I shall make a more user friendly text score for it, changing the rules as I have outlined and making the whole thing a bit pithier as well. I’m hugely looking forward to the performance!


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Physical goods

Greetings all!

I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but have finally decided that my music should be available in a physical form. Rather than go the usual route of paying to produce some CDs and then selling them, I’m offering to make one-off CD-Rs of some of my releases. I’ll create a unique package just for you. This saves on costs for me, of course, but also means you’ll be getting something very special for no great cost as well. I’ve chosen the three releases that I feel best represent my work:

The Re-Education of Ned Ludd £6

ME £5

newfanglements £5

Postage is free in the UK, £1 to Europe and £2 to the rest of the world

Thanks for reading and listening


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Improvisation 27/10/11

Acoustic slide guitar. You may just be able to hear the faint crack of distant fireworks at the end.

Now available to download in a wide choice of formats here

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video for one of the tracks for a charity release to help those affected by the UK riots. I’m one of those who contributed sounds. It will be available from Monday at

From the video description:

"SoundFjord, Audio Gourmet’s Harry Towell (Spheruleus) and Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq) have come together to curate an album created ‘by the people, for the people’, to raise funds for those affected by the recent riots in the UK.
It was carefully put together after an appeal for short samples of sound, which resulted in the use of work from over 70 artists from around the world.
All profits raised will go towards assisting those that have lost their homes and livelihoods and to provide opportunities for philanthropy, creative expression and collaboration via local community projects.”

List of contributors:

A Company of Enthusiasts
Alexander Wendt
Alexandra McGlynn
Andrew Riley
Anton Mobin
Chad Clark
Critical Best
Damian Valles
Daniel Thomas Freeman
Danny Clay
Darren McClure
Des Coulam
Eig Eigenheimer
Ekca Liena
Eric Boivin
Fari B
Foci’s Left
Gerry McDermott
The Inventors Of Aircraft
Isnaj Dui
James Andean
Jara Tarnovski (Gurun Gurun)
Jessica Rowland
Jez riley French
Joe Stevens
John DeMetrick
Jon Tipler
Juanjo Palacios
Julien Demoulin
Laurence Moxon Byrne
Lights Dim
Marco Lucchi
Marihiko Hara
Monolyth & Cobalt
Neil Russell
Paul Devens
Petri Kuljuntausta
Raul Fuentes
Riz Maslen
Robert Curgenven
Roderick Price
Sam Grinsell
Sarah Boothroyd
Sebastiane Hegarty
Seth Chrisman
Seth Guy
Sheinagh Anderson
Shintaro Aoki
Simon Whetham
Small Things On Sundays
Specta Ciera
Stephen Ferguson
Steve Roden
Stuart Towell
Szymon Kaliski
Thomas Leyland-Collins
Wil Bolton
Yukinori Kida

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November 25th Gig

As some of you will know already, I’m performing as part of Leah Kardos's launch show for her new album Feather Hammer. Leah is a wonderful pianist/composer who I met on twitter, and it’s great to see online connections having real world results! Also performing are the Ligeti Quartet, who will be playing a varied selection of contemporary classical music.

I will be opening the night, with a piece using field-recordings taken from the area around the venue. I’ll create a soundscape using these recordings, and improvise over them using slide guitar. My aim is to create a one-off piece of music, never to be performed again. The process involved in creating it, however, could certainly be used again, and I’ll probably be making a text score of the piece too.

I’m really excited about this event, even if I wasn’t performing I’d probably be going as an audience member, so it’s great to be put alongside such talented musicians. It would be wonderful to see as many people there as possible, so please come along if you can, and share this post around.

This will all be taking place at The Wilmington Arms, in Clerkenwell, London, on 25th November 2011. Tickets are available for just £5 in advance.

The event is being put on by Chaos Theory Music, here is their description of what will be occurring:

Friday 25th November 7.30pm

The Wilmington Arms, 69 Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4RL


£5 advance

£8 on the door

Chaos Theory are proud to present three fiercely inventive talents premièring their contemporary works during this one-off event. All of the musicians tonight combine various disciplines, technology and defy tradition. In the true spirit of what Chaos Theory wishes to promote, we invite all of you who wish to experience challenging new music and art.


Leah is a multi-talented composer, producer and pianist whose latest work will be showcased tonight. Her breathtaking new album Feather Hammer (released on 19th September) combines tonal and ambient soundscapes which fuse contemporary classical and electronica styles.

The recorded version of Feather Hammer uses the sounds of acoustic pianos, making use of the hammer, strings and wood percussion of the piano as well as playing them conventionally.

Tonight, we will witness a special presentation of the album featuring digital piano, electronics and video art by Matthew Greasley.


A brilliantly innovative quartet who we’ve had the pleasure of hosting at our monthly night Candied Nonsense. Continually looking to promote the music of established and emerging 20th and 21st Century composers, these graduates from the Royal Academy Of Music, Royal College Of Music and Oxford University never shy away from the new and the experimental. Over the past few months they have premièred ten new works.

Featuring Mandhira De Saram and Patrick Dawkins on violin, Valerie Welbanks on cello and Richard Jones on viola, tonight they will present short pieces by contrasting composers including John Cage, Anton Webern and Harry Partch.


Opening the evening will be this gifted soloist, who will be creating extraordinary music using his original music concept.

Gathering field-recordings within one mile of the Wilmington Arms over the course of one hour, Sam will be manipulating the sounds to forge a one-off soundscape purely for this evening, adding no new sounds whatsoever. He will accompany these recordings with his improvised slide guitar.

A unique start to a unique evening.

This is a rare opportunity to see such vast talent together in one evening and we invite you to come and see how limitless music can be.

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Improvisation 28/8/11 - electric slide guitar. This will be added to the downloadable improvisations on my bandcamp soon, in the meantime it’s exclusively streamable here! Comments welcome :)

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