Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unpaused

Over the past two days I've been updating my music software NoiseStationII, adding the ability to fade between one parameter and another with a single command. This doesn't make anything possible that was impossible before, but it makes it much easier. I can, for example, set a start point and an end point to fade the song out or in, or fade the tempo down, or a filter, on the song, or any track or any instrument playing. Anyway, the changes took two days.

Today I've been trying to write a little tune about black holes but it's been a struggle for production reasons. The tune is fine, and I've got lots more noted down, but the sound isn't right. I imagined something big and booming like Mars in The Planets Suite, but a bassy lead sound like that is quite tricky because the bass marks a beat more than carries a melody. I've tried a strange brassy distorted sort of sound here. It'll come eventually. The melody is a little too slow too. Here it is so far...

MarkSheeky-BlackHoleIdea1.mp3

In the end I lost interest in it and went back to the "fugue" track in the post below which now sounds a lot better, thanks to some timing changes and the addition of a proper fugue, that is two melodies not just cycles of chords. At the moment it does have a sense of growing and good dissonance contrast but it's not got much to do with the big bang (although it's definitely approaching mathematics).

I need to add the next layer, which often comes at about this stage. This requires visualisation of the thing to convey, and new music bits and/or changes to what is there already to portray and represent the things in the scene.

Now, other news.

Tomorrow I plan to switch jobs completely and get back to painting. It's time to design this year's Christmas card for my friends. I'm pleased to say that the Thinking About Christmas painting raised £95 for the Resources For Autism charity I donated it to. I'll be attending a reception event in London next month where the total will be announced. There were quite a few famous names in this auction like Sir Peter Blake, Lord Norman Foster and Anish Kapoor.

My painting is now hanging in the Grosvenor Museum too. I'm in the local paper woohoo. The write up was very complimentary, I must send a thank you to the journalists. They mentioned my next exhibition too which starts on Tuesday. Tick tick. Tick!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pause Button

Okay, here is the music so far, after the post below...

MarkSheeky-BigBangSketch1.mp3.

I think that more melody and more contrast is needed. It's interesting that the slower tunes in here, the random-like notes, do present a melody but the faster version sounds more babbling. Timing has to be just right, it seems.

Regularity of the timing is a problem. Not just here, but in electronic music generally. There are things that are best conveyed regularly, but there's a lot of missing expression without it. In many ways the fact that an orchestra is lots of individuals playing at once adds feeling in a way that is very time consuming and difficult for one composer/producer to add in a sequencer.

I programmed my own music software, mainly because I could afford a book on programming but not any expensive music software, but I've been very pleased with the results. I want to add a feature to slide and interpolate parameters automatically, notably tempo. Currently I can modulate a parameter using a waveform or set it to a fixed value, but to slide it automatically to a target tempo should make it easy to add timing expression while remaining in control. If I can do it (it's not easy...) it should work for any parameter too and might lead to lots of new effects. Sliding the wet or decay on a reverb effect would be easy and might sound cool.

For now though I must rest. It appears that I'm dangerously anxious and need to recuperate. I've cancelled all but one of my future dates and feel better already. I aspire to be Raphael in all ways but his demise.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Banging On

I've been working like crazy in vain on this music and I'm getting rather frustrated. I've now got three production fragments of tracks, basic beats with chords that can be adapted to a variety of tunes.

Most of my work though has gone into a strange new tune that uses strange new methods! I began with the golden ratio and converted it to base seven, using the C major scale for notes. The idea was that this would represent chaos. I played the stream of notes along with a basic pulse in C, and added a similarly nonsensical chaotic counterpoint. This continued in F and then alternated between the two growing in intensity.

Then a new arrangement of chords began, a simple familiar cycle; A min-D min, G maj-C maj, F maj-Bb maj then E and E. This sounded like order and beauty by comparison.

But alas, this hasn't worked very well and I'm not pleased with it. There are a few problems.

Firstly, the tune lacks drama. It has a regular rhythm and the stream of notes, chaotic or beautiful lacks timbre and volume contrast. Injecting more contrast was/is difficult.

Secondly the tune lacks melody. Melody melody! is vital, and here we have a stream of notes instead. There is something hummable in there, and the beautiful part does sound pretty but I'm frustrated by the lack of tune. Adding a tune later is quite possible, but there are only a certain number of combinations.

Finally there is a lack of overall structure. I managed to fade the chaos into the pretty part quite well but the two parts are rather different. One key to creating drama is to lead into the key element. Once the target theme is set, lead into it. Alfred Hitchcock tried to sum up each film by setting one scene, one key that represents the whole film. It's the same in music, and this must be set first and built towards. How much of Beethoven's 9th Joy appears before it? Lots.

I need to rethink.

I also need to redecide from the beginning exactly what I'm doing and aiming at. I've been over thinking this! I must avoid getting tired before the race begins.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Big Bang


Now now! I've been writing music all day, well trying. It's difficult. I want to write an album on the big bang, the beginning and fate of the universe, something like Albedo 0.39 by Vangellis crossed with the planets suite by Holst.

Now, I'll let you into a secret in that the majority of my music isn't written for a subject, at least not at first. Generally I'll play with sounds and melodies until it gets quite far. I'll often start with a rhythm. After a while it might sound or feel like something, at that point I'll nudge it towards that thing and title it as such.

The Train is a good example. It began with a jaunty rhythm a little like the pop song Steppin Out by Joe Jackson. It sounded like a train on tracks, so I added the chack-a-chack background and other parts.

At other times I've written melodies beforehand, such as the music for The Infinite Forest, but usually I'll pick tracks from the half complete sketches, then push them towards something to make them fit. As such, it takes a long time to write an album, several months of toying and slight changes. Much more like sculpture than the way I paint.

This time thought I've got no sketches, so I must begin from the start. It'll be a new experience then, and after the experimentation of Pi I wanted to include some more atonal parts to clash with the melodies which I tend to fill my music with. These options are proving daunting.

I've begun by listing the main stages of the big bang and must now try to summon feelings for each event. This isn't that easy because it's all so mathematical and mechanical. Could Holst have written music about the science of the planets? No! He had to use the mythology because the passion and humanity was there. I will have to make this album metaphorical, or at least present my thoughts and feelings about the universe into it.

The coldest music there is is by Bach, and today I wrote the coldest organ fugue you could imagine! Incidentally I do not totally believe that his famous toccata and fugue in D-minor (BWV565) is by Bach... it's got passion and despite his genius, it is the one thing his music never has.

Anyway this has been day one and not much progress has been made but I have made some. I will keep trying. I'm not sure if my cold fugue will make it, but it is an ideal form for mathematics... the main problems being both the lack of passion, and that such things are often not beautiful (although Bach's concerto for two violins in very beautiful).

Tomorrow I will again attack Forces and Unification, the very start of the album which is about the part of the big bang where the fundamental forces of nature coalesce. I hope to represent this by having four different musical parts that overlay. I've been trying all day though without success. Music always takes a long time, partly due to technical matters (even Beethoven didn't have to cope with balancing tracks in a recording environment) but it is enjoyable and I feel strongly that I've not nearly shown what I'm capable of.

It's odd that in output terms I'm nearly on par with Jean-Michel Jarre. I do find that rather comforting. He's on tour at the moment (I'm following him on Facebook, which he updates daily, it's very interesting to see). I wonder if he would have been a better composer if he was less successful as a performer. He writes with flair but not brilliance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday

Time for a quick update! Today I've completed day three of glazing Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None. It's looking good so far and I think it will be my greatest painting to date. I should complete it tomorrow.

Despite being my largest painting it's not taken very long at all. Sometimes I work and toil like mad and fight to create something I'm not at all happy with, and sometimes great things happen with no effort at all. In fact it seems like my best work is often the easiest and quickest, and my worst is the hardest and slowest... yet I seem to have no clue which is which until it's too late! Rules are of no use because they would be restrictive. Perhaps the rule should be a time limit... but then, my best work is also unforced, and painted with due care...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cosmology

I've been thinking about the Big Bang recently because of Horizon. It struck me that expansion is not explosion and that thinking of the big bang as an explosion is misleading. We're in the big bang now, as much as we would be at the start of the universe... it's not like this is the aftermath of an explosion, that the big bang was an event that has passed, the expanding Universe IS the explosion and it's exploding now as much as ever. If it extends forever then we would effectively have infinite universes, although all smoothly flowing instead of "separately" here and there.

But enough physics ideas and back to more important things, namely painting. I'll probably start doing that tomorrow, glazing Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None.

Alas, Keele University has in its finite wisdom rejected my three paintings for the Three Counties Open this year. This is the first year in four that I've not got one in. I can only guess at why, and consider it a measure designed to make me paint superior paintings in future! So it's a good thing then!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Resources For Autism


I donated the above work to a project called Resources for Autism and soon they will be holding the international on-line auction to raise money for their charity. Here is the official announcement...

Resources for Autism are proud to announce their ART EXCHANGE ON-LINE AUCTION. Royal Academicians, Architects, Illustrators, Photographers, Fashion Designers and artists of all kinds participated in this unique project; exchanging artwork with the members of the RfA Adult Art Studio Group.

To view our on-line catalogue: www.resourcesforautism.org.uk/auction

To find out more about the art exchange project: www.resourcesforautism.org.uk/artexchange

The auction opens for bidding via eBay Friday 15th October. All proceeds will directly benefit the arts therapy program at Resources for Autism.

Artists who generously donated work include:

Lord Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Sir Richard Rogers, Ian Ritchie, Daniel Libeskind, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, Sir Peter Blake, Maurice Cockrill, Mary McCartney, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mac, Peter Brookes, Eileen Cooper, Anthony Whishaw, Renzo Piano, Philip Somerville, Bruce Oldfield, Mark Sheeky and many many more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Face Layer Two

Right right right! Back to work. Here are two pictures, before and after.



I needed to darken the face on this because it was too light for the rest of the body. Also a second opaque layer like this helps smooth things which is advantageous when painting a delicate face. The tones/shades are more important than the hues, which here are more brown than the surroundings. Hues are not very important at all compared to tones, and even wildly inventive hues on an underpaintings can still produce "realistic" flesh after a glaze or two. The medium was two parts linseed oil to one part OMS, an ideal medium for work like this. The hair and background are untouched, the difference there being photograph glare.

I spent most of the day relaxing and walking in this most beautiful of sunny days.

This evening I continued the Flatspace II update. As a Scarrid there is an exploitation bug where you can select a target and call for clan assistance, watching the ensuing battle and possibly scooping up the debris, all without incurring danger or penalty. I've addressed this today by adding some random elements. If you are not under attack by your target then you'll be assisted in combat most of the time, but sometimes you'll be exiled and attacked yourself for bringing shame on the clan, and sometimes a clan friend will move towards you to assist but not attack.

I'm behind on my poems too. More to be written later today!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday

Well it's time for a blog post but I'm stuck what to write. I was ill again last week and felt a little shaky for my exhibition set-up on Friday but by the night felt well. Fiona Bratherton and co. were there and Janet from my art group too, but out of 50 invites there were no other people there (ironically those two weren't sent invites), so the room felt rather empty. My horoscope said I should consider a change of career this week! How insulting!

Yet, perhaps prophetic. I've been programming over the past few days and have been rather enjoying it. I'm working on an update to my game Flatspace II and suddenly it seems exciting and addictive like painting once was. I must avoid having my time sapped!

I've got about a week's worth of painting this month, finishing off the works in progress I've shown on this blog before. I might set aside some time to try a bit of music.

The daily poems are continuing too, with mixed results. In some ways it's good to make yourself write something each day because I end up with the odd gem that wouldn't exist otherwise. In other ways it can kill complex preparation and mastery. I'll break with tradition and put one here. It took a long time to pick one!

Backwards

My hair was grey, and cracked away,
but now is fair, and rich, and soft.
My hands once rough and stiff to bend
are gentle, warm and young again.

My eyes once blind are open wide,
and morning scents are fresh and new.
My spine is straight instead of bent,
and my mind is open, fast, and excited,
by each new thing, new joy, new friend.

My smile shows love,
and my light is brighter,
shining out like a heaven's ray,
and each darkness ends a good day.
My loss has fallen all away,
and my great life is uncursed,
because it has reversed.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tick Tick


A busy few days. The picture is my painting being formally accepted by Cllr. Richard Short at the Grosvenor Museum Chester. It's now part of the permanent collection and to be hanged on St. Luke's Day, which is the 18th Oct - as we all know!

Not much creative work done since Friday, but some sound effect work and paperwork. Tomorrow I'll plan my November exhibition in the Lyceum. Thursday I'll do some work on my game Flatspace II, and Friday is the hanging of the Cubby Hole Exhibition, my big solo one of the year. I'm behind on my daily poems... I must write some! Sometimes making myself write produces good results. If you do what you feel you WILL miss out. It's important to push sometimes - yes!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Infinite Forest CD

Misc jobs done today. It's the start of a quarter, so my monthly and quarterly backups took up most of the morning, then updating my website with exhibition info and getting ready for the forthcoming release of the Once Upon a Time CD. Then! The printing for The Infinite Forest arrived, look!


As usual I ordered 20 of these. I'll have them on sale at The Cubby Hole for £10. I've hardly sold any so far, up to two of certain albums (zero for most!), but they are pretty, and the beauty of the prodcut matters, and the music is good quality too if I say so myself. While listening to some Vangellis music a few months back I was struck on how it, in its infinite success, wasn't really that different from mine in technical quality. One day my music WILL be discovered.

Briefly I wondered if I should update my music software for octaphonic sound (more practically; 5.1, but octaphonic makes more sense from a logical point of view). It would take a while but might be useful. Surround sound like this is becoming more common slowly, partly due to cinematic experience. Having a studio capable of producing such music will be useful. It would be quite a lot of work though I think, and some effects like my reverbs will need reprogramming. In fact, many of my sound engines have left/right parameters, and spreading that over 8 channels would be difficult if only for visible display reasons...

Anyway! My tasks for the week are mostly sound based as I do some more work for IndieSFX.

Artistically I considered buying some tubed watercolours after having fun with the seahorses below. Perhaps I'll think of the picture before spending a fortune on more art supplies. Perhaps..! I think it far more likely that I'll spend the fortune first. I've already made a list of colours I'd like!