Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ArtsLab 44

ArtsLab with Mark Sheeky
Show 44
Broadcast Wednesday 24 August 2016, 4pm to 5pm GMT.
Special guest Rina Tillinger,

Sparks, This Is The Renaissance (2008)
Telly Savalas, Rubber Bands And Bits Of String (1974)
Deborah Edgeley, The Orgastic Future (2016)
Salvador Dalí & Igor Wakhévitch, Être Dieu Overture (Extract) (1985)
Tiny Tim, Tiptoe Through the Tulips (2012)
Delta Goodrem, I Can Sing A Rainbow (2004)
ELO, Eldorado (1974)
Punishment of Luxury, Puppet Life (1979)

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Composing For Piano

For most of this week I've been working on some piano music, initially for a performance at Chester Cathedral on September 23rd 2016. My first public performance of any sort was in July 2015, at an art preview. Myself with artist Sabine Kussmaul had been asked to do "something" at the opening of an exhibition then, and I asked an artist friend, the enigmatic "Escargot" to help too. I largely improvised music to accompany Snail's automatic stories for that; no pressure, as the result was destined to be "avant-garde" and should merely be expressive, which is simple. Falling over can be expressive, and for an artist always is. An artist doing anything is art. Honest expression is the root of art and the duty of the artist, so to act this way is simple.

Here is a photo from that event a year ago...

The music then evolved, and that performance, named The Anatomy of Emotions, became a series of six piano tunes of about 4 minutes. These tunes grew independently. The last one was a simple single chord melody. The second tune was an improvisation around A minor and E minor, those two tunes were present at that first performance. The others were written for the second performance, and were very simple melodies and arpeggios, each amounting to about two minutes which then repeated with a bit of variation. Earlier this year I released the set as an album, lengthened a few tracks and added a few more in a similar style, some live improvisations.

Now I'm tasked with new music with a similar layout, again to accompany videos by Sabine.

This time I had to write everything from a starting point, and I wanted to create something unified, like a six movement sonata. My self-taught piano playing is far from performance standard, yet I knew that I could improve by inserting a few parts that would train me by virtue of having to play them, but I still felt very lacking in the performance skills that I needed to truly compose the music I'd like. Thus, I must create something with a rough outline but an artistic heart.

The six parts represent different ideas related to architecture; Organic Flow, Old Versus New, Perpetual Change, Death/Collapse, The Night/Healing, Rebirth Connections.

I began with a simple cycling tune that reminded me of perpetual change because it created in my mind the image of a perpetual motion machine. This melody was in D minor and made up of a group of four notes with the emphasis on the last note. I thought of expanding this idea, and made an outline of the "death/collapse" tune use the same melody. For the rest though, something new was needed, so I inverted the melody a bit, making it climb up in D minor, using slightly different notes. Then I created a positive version of the same melody in C major, a happy version. This eventually became the main melody in the final part.

In drama or music, one trick is to create a cresendo, or single moment that summarises the whole, then build towards it. In a limerick it's best to write the first line, then the last, and so in music too, creating the start and then the ending, then make everything pull towards the ending. This is the key. The end is always a destination that should be longed for. Alfred Hitchcock said that he wishes he'd not had the climax in his films, to keep his famously tense audience, tense. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony essentially begins with the famous Ode to Joy, yet the music doesn't start with it, instead lighting a touch paper that drops hints towards it all over the place, such that the audience expects it, unconsciously.

I fear that my conclusion is a little more overt! The seeds of my first piece "Organic Flow" are sad and searching. Old Versus New will be largely improvised on this theme, thus bridging the gaps between it and the slightly different (yet related) perpetual change, the only part in 3/4 time.

I'm still working on a lot of this, and learning apace to read music. A thousand curses that I didn't do this earlier, but we can't change the past. I'd not played a piano at all until 2008 at a friend's house, and only started playing "seriously" last autumn, just as I only started painting "seriously" in January 2007. Memorising the 30 minutes of new music requires a few mental tricks, hindered a little by a performance of The Anatomy of Emotions the week before the premiere of this music, but we can't fail, if we are expressive.

Meanwhile here is a poster for the accompanying art exhibition, which I'll also be submitting some sculptural work to.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

ArtsLab 43

ArtsLab with Mark Sheeky
Show 43
Broadcast Wednesday 3 August 2016, 4pm to 5pm GMT.

The Buggles, Video Killed The Radio Star (1970)
Marcel Duchamp, The Creative Act (1957)
Brin Addison, Ludwin van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op 27 No 2, Moonlight (1801)
Telly Savalas, Rubber Bands And Bits Of String (1974)
Elaine Snelson, Soulless Puppet (2016)
Detroit Spinners, Rubberband Man (1976)
ELO, Eldorado (1974)
Splodgenessabounds, Yarmouth Five-O (1981)
Marcel Duchamp, Playing White Vs. Daniel Noteboom (1931)
Focus, Sylvia (1973)
Abba, The Day Before You Came (1981) to Martin Galway, Ocean Loader 2 (1985)
Martha Argerich, J.S. Bach, Partita No. 2, Capriccio (1726)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

ArtsLab 42

ArtsLab with Mark Sheeky
Show 42
Broadcast Wednesday 27 July 2016, 4pm to 5pm GMT.

Jackie Lee, The Rupert Bear Theme (1970)
Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet Suite: Madrigal (1935)
Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane (1967)
William Shakespeare, Sigh no more (1598)
The Passions, In Love With A German Film Star (1981)
Deborah Edgeley, Dry Grass Sings (2016)
Alphaville, Summer in Berlin (1984)
ELO, Illusions In G Major (1974)
Leona Anderson, Rats In My Room (1958)
Tim Watson, The Stars (2016)
Mark Sheeky, Starscape (2016)
Origa, Shooting Star (2013)
Abba, The Day Before You Came (1981) to Rentaro Taki, Moon Over The Ruined Castle (1901)
Mark Sheeky, The Hague 1882 (2006)
Don McLean, Vincent (1971)

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

MIDI Variable Length Value Code

I added a Type 1 MIDI export function to my sequencer software today, so I thought I'd post the MIDI delta time code I used as I couldn't find any other code snippets online.

lword tempstore[4], tempstorecounter, i, deltatime, trackbuffersize;
char trackbuffer[];
// This will convert a long word time variable in deltatime into variable bit rate MIDI delta time
// format, storing it as a string of chars in "trackbuffer"
// tempstore is used to invert the significance of the bits, as the MBS's need to come first

for (tempstorecounter=0; deltatime>127; deltatime=(deltatime>>7))
for (i=0; i<tempstorecounter; i++)
if (i<tempstorecounter-1)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ArtsLab 41

ArtsLab with Mark Sheeky
Show 41
Broadcast Wednesday 20 July 2016, 4pm to 5pm GMT.
Special Report From Philippa Wynne.
Live Phone-In With Alex Staniforth.

Jeff Wayne, Eve Of The War (1978) into The Flumps (1977)
Mary Black, The Fog in Monterey (1989)
Jim Clarkson, The Whale (2016)
John Taverner, The Whale (1968)
ELO, Nobody's Child (1974)
The Shaggs, That Little Sports Car (1969)
Delta Goodrem, I Can Sing A Rainbow (2004)
Yann Tiersen, Porz Goret (2015)
The Day Before You Came (1981) to Herb Alpert, Spanish Flea (1965)
Mark Sheeky, Space Love (2008)
Audial Arts, Fate No. 7 (1991)
Paul Sheeky, PTHazard Still Life In Blue (2008)

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ArtsLab 40

ArtsLab with Mark Sheeky
Show 40
Broadcast Wednesday 13 July 2016, 4pm to 5pm GMT.

Alfred Piccaver, There'll Always Be An England (1940)
Art Garfunkel, Bright Eyes (1979)
Queen, Ogre Battle (1974)
Gabrielle Aplin, The Power Of Love (2013)
The Piggleswick Folk, Teddy Bears Picnic (1967)
Alizee, Jen Ai Marre (2006)
ELO, Mister Kingdom (1974)
Abba, The Day Before You Came to Brad Fiedel, The Terminator (1984)
Deborah Edgeley/Dave Hulatt, If Bach Had Been A Beekeeper by Charles Tomlinson (2016)
Bach, Cello Suite No.1 Prelude (1717)
Peter Gabriel, Blood of Eden (1992)

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You can listen live during the broadcast on:

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A Free Will Of Infinite Possibility

Free will is our ability to imagine any possible future, even though we are destined to enact only the one that was always fated. It is the barrier between these states that causes all of our agonies.

The mind-body gap, the gap between the real world and our thoughts, is the gap between the certainty of the universe and fate and the uncertainty, the infinite possibility of the imagination. If time is a dimension then the future is necessarily as firm as the past, and destiny is certain, but we can think anything that we do not enact. It is this very freedom, akin to a quantum state of flux that gives us the illusion of freewill.

The very moment when our thoughts are read by our perception then, those thoughts snap into reality, but before this our thoughts are free to conceptualise anything. This is pure freedom versus containment on one level. Perhaps at that point, the ball is already rolling and fate will create a pattern of thought and argument that will end with an inevitable action on the world, but crucially, there is a point where infinite possibility exists, or at least a fluid potential that is not a definite and certain action. This is freedom, and the barrier between this free state and a future certain state marks the boundary between free-will and fate.

In emotional terms, I suspect that wrestling with this barrier, which much surely be an organic, evolving and fluid, psychological membrane, is the root of human distress.

This writing is also duplicated in the Writings section of