Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Art Lounge Preparations

A busy day, starting with preparations for setting up work at The Macc Art Lounge. The last time I was there was in 2016, where I visited Macclesfield just about every week to help staff the shop, and took part in every exhibition. Here's photo from back then.

The shopping centre was undergoing renovations at the time and the use of the Lounge space was on a rolling contract. Throughout the year, the brilliant managers Ché Finch and John Eastwood were never sure if the space would be in use, and certain that the place would close at the end of 2016, but the deadline kept being pushed back at the last moment. Amazingly, the shop has kept going since. I asked to return in autumn 2017 after being told that I would 'always be welcome' back, and felt hurt not to even be replied too, but I feel pleased to be asked back for November and December.

I've no idea how much space I'll have, so I'll bring a selection of paintings based on how many I hung last time, and a range of prices, mostly in the lower bracket with a few 'showcase' paintings. One big change since 2016 is the framing, I've re-framed most of my paintings so they look much more stunning than before. The Sunset with Rose Petals, for example, now has glass and a black and gold gloss frame. I'll also show a Richard Dadd print; I've sold five of these limited edition prints at the Art Lounge in the past.

As well as packing work, price lists and labels need to be made, hanging tools packed and the day documented for future reference.

Not much time today for other work but I managed to buy presents for my mum and aunt's (they are twins) birthdays. I'm also toying with a new chorus effect which uses eight voices that rotate at specific frequencies. This is a distraction; I know I should get back to music, but for some reason I am a little unmotivated.

I'll visit Macc at least once per week until Christmas, a long and somewhat costly bus trip both ways, but this will be a change to my routine and I'm rather looking forward to it. Since the end of the monthly 'Mash' nights, I've hardly been to Macclesfield and I've gradually lost touch with any artist friends as there is no art community here, except any I might build myself.


Here is my poem for the Nantwich Speakeasy I wrote on Monday. Kevin Emson and others pointed out how close to a war memorial it was, but that was pure accident. I had in mind school friends, the generation we are lumped with at random, and must sail with through life.


I rest and recall childhood
a land of mists,
misremembered hills of moss
and lost voices.

The comrades there,
pushed together to train
to survive the seas of a hard journey
towards shrouded monoliths.

With jingle bells we trot together
bemused at the younger and older ones.
Equal gifts are unwrapped
for our fun.

I turn, and find myself alone
among the stone.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lullaby From Your Cells

A slow day that started with a dark tiredness, listlessness. I awoke with stomach pain and wondered if the stomach represents a connection to the world, as though Bergman's effusive stomach was an outpouring of something. Mine is more knotted, contemplative perhaps. The moronic politics of lying, blame, and selfish bitterness in Britain, and the wider world, at the moment, would sadden anyone, but ignoring these fools is the best option. Politics is an essence of gossip and ego, the domain of the loudest cackling moron, and yet these squabbling idiotic chickens can have power over us all.

To art. I started to day by recordings some vocals for one of the Burn of God songs, Lullaby From Your Cells to Your Mind, which is the Bach-like Air On A G-String sort of tune. It's a song sung by cells. Cells, this community of creatures, perhaps perceive our overall consciousness as a sort of god-being:

Sleep and rest your tired mind and dream of a better day, our god, dream of the people of your world who struggle for your love.

Like most of my words, the poetry is more important than how the fit musically; unless I'm working on a specific pop-song that is. There are an infinity of choices and structures available to choose from.

I then re-framed a print of The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd, print number 12 of 100. I framed this yesterday, but there were slight dots of white dust in the frame (the framer's regular curse!) so I just had to take it apart and reframe it. This uses mirror plates to hold the print in place, which is both secure and kinder to the frame and materials than nails or 'points'. I sold a photographic print years ago and for reasons of correct limitation have designated that print 13, so the one after this will be print 14.

This afternoon, worked on the Kyrie intro again, adding some monk-chant like vocals, and finalised the production of the Confession song, although the vocals are to do. The song is in B-flat minor, partly because the next song starts in that key, and I wanted to preserve this flow.

Then, wrote a poem for tonight's Nantwich Speakeasy poetry group. I like this groups because we talk about the poems rather than merely read, and generally have just one poem each. A lot of poetry groups can be a bit ego driven, people really reading too much of their own work and not caring about others. A large group with a small number of poems works better, although, it necessarily means a very varied quality, but then, we can each choose our favourites.

I'm keen to get this album out of the way as soon as possible. Perhaps I'm too impatient. Life is learning, training, exercising, fitness, becoming better, and these things are best done slowly and with rational consideration. Nothing too fast, nothing too slow but at the most efficient place. If the album takes a year, at its most efficient, then that is the right time. No must has taken me this long, but learning new skills and pushing to new areas necessarily takes time. Nothing easy is good. That which is difficult is good.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Kyrie Vocals and Macc Art Lounge

Two days of steady work. I realised that small additions to work can be a lot less stimulating or encouraging than making large changes, or rushing out something finished. A lot of my music now, my art generally, unless I'm very lucky takes a lot longer than in did, but that's because I simply, literally, spend more time on it, to make it better than that which has come before.

Yesterday began by recording the vocals for the Kyrie, 40 layers of vocals in the end, which produced a wonderfully smooth sound. Each layer was 30 seconds long, so that's a lot of data and processing to edit together. A female voice an octave higher would probably have suited the song better, but the results are good enough, remarkable for a song made on a computer, actually. Blessed be Prometheus.

In the evening I started on the next song (the kyre still barely half complete), a fast drum and bass or rock style song called Confession. It's so fast that it was all over in 45 seconds, but more was needed and a mid section came to mind, a twangy slow section in 3/4 time. the song is about a first confession, and being instructed in this, so I included the word naughty to recollect childhood and as some light relief from the otherwise sinister feeling, and to push the effect further I rhymed it with 'caughty' meaning caught later; truly surreal.

Lots to do on both songs, and I feel I'm making so so slow progress on it all. I've been offered an opportunity to show paintings in the Macc Art Lounge soon, which will be a lot of work but it's a perfect time for this, so it seems that the next eight weeks or so will be busy with some painting retail duties, assuming this all works out.

Perhaps I'll re-record The Infinite Forest too, a project for next year. My skills and instruments are much better now than the ones in that old album, and I could work on some new 600dpi artwork for a possible CD (there are less than 20 copies of the current CD-R burned album, very few have been sold, but one or two have I think, at places like the Macc Art Lounge, or other public events).

Friday, November 08, 2019

Kyrie Eleison

The end of a few listless days of programming and the angst and self-avoidance of creative work. A few bugs found in my music software, mainly related to effect buffers, and one naughty one about division-by-zero when copying a blank engine, I'm back to music.

I spent an hour or two last night, visualizing and feeling how I want the album to move next. I had been stuck partly because of dead ends, which when pursued, can linger in the mind, a desire to finish them or use them, but there are times when the best option is to discard. I've had a few false starts with this section.

The first 'movement' (well, the first few songs) lead to a natural gentle close, and the next step, the start of the next section always felt like it should grow from darkness, like the sparkles around the creature in Night of the Demon, or the golden letters in Rembrandt's Belshazzar's feast. I also wanted a Christian Catholic section in the album. I could make some general comments about god-ness and beliefs, but my experience is this, and this is where the emotion must come from. I can't be emotional about analysis.

I've spent the morning working on the entrance of God the father, as stated, something like Zadok. The goal chord was D minor, the broad tonic of the album, so I began with it and migrated away on a wandering journey, in steps like something from The Spiral Staircase. The hard part is adding a melody, the right amount if it, of sorts to simple two-syllable words and powerful chords that generally lack the need for melody, but without it, music is nothing, it's a void.

Anyway, the chords are complex:

But the music is progressing well. The key part, with sequenced music, is to work dry and simple, so that the melody and the mix of notes are clear and as simple and efficient as possible. I never use any form of equalisation to balance music, merely melody and the timbre and loudness of the instruments, and I keep effects to the optimal level, which, when composing, is as few as possible. After this, space can be added and the feeling of each note sculpted.

After this orchestral choir music, the music will jump into drum and bass, or something like it, a high speed rock song about confession.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


Started the day with coding, first locating every time I'd used the 'Moog VCF (mono)' engine, which has now been superseded by a stereo version (I chose mono because it was originally faster, but after testing it was nearly the same speed anyway, so I replaced it years later). It turns out that about 150 songs use it. No matter, the new 'conversion matrix' feature can automatically find and replace it upon loading, so for the first time I have all-new and all-recent plugins.

I also found a memory accumulation bug, which has probably been in there for 15 years or so, since inception. Suffice it to say that deleting an instrument didn#t free up the effect buffers for it. Not disastrous, as these are shared anyway, but it would mean this area would grow over time, if songs were repeatedly loaded and saved. Anyway, now fixed.

Then started on a tune called Kyrie, which has a rambling, Indian raag sort of mood. It's one of my first where I played some live guitar on it, but it's all very hard work; the timing is essential in such tunes, they are easily boring and the climax must be amazing. I have in mind Zadok the Priest, and it must at least sound close to this (I expect Beethoven had a bit of it in mind for his Kyrie too).

A second day of headache. I've started to take Phosphatidyl Serine tablets, which are supposed to be good for memory. After two days, I can just about remember their name, so they have worked. I think the headache is stress related more than Serine related. The tension of trying to finish this music, but now the software is updated, so I have no excuses. The next step is to make a clear list and plan.

In other news, the first video for Future Snooker is on YouTube, and is excellent. I'm hopeful that the game will be a success.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Music Coding Updates

Busy couple of days back programming (and, yesterday morning, ArtSwarm filming, editing, uploading).

The problem with software upgrades is that sooner or later, things get superseded, and a lot of my programming updates this time are about trying to tidy up old song files. I have about 1000 pieces of music, and some of the older ones use obsolete effects or plugins. This is fine, except that over time, the number of old ones starts to grow, and eventually the software is more complex than it needs to be, filled with plugins and effects that shouldn't be used or needed nowadays. The efficient solution is to tidy them up, seek every old file and replace the old things with new things, but this is a big job, so I've been coding a few functions to help with this.

There are a couple of options. One is an automatic translator, so that upon loading, one effect can be swapped with another. For this I've used a script, so you can sort of program what to swap with what. This has a few other uses, in that you could use it to, for example, swap all of the sine waves in a song for saw waves, or do other things. This operates on a song by song basis, and so it's ideal for mass updates, but is still useful when replacing (or accidentally finding) obsolete things.

I have one plugin "Tuned Flange II" which doesn't even exist any more, either in my code or the software. I thought I rarely used it, and that I never would again, but it turns out I used it quite a lot. It's essentially a 'combed' flange effect, that is lots of delays (7 I think), each slightly different, and all, on average, centered around the frequency of the note being played. When applied to white noise, for example, it creates a breathy tone, a bit like ghostly pan-pipes (you can hear it in a tune of mine called The Train, and the Dance of Spring from The Twelve Seasons). I need to create mock version of this effect so I can replace it with newer, more efficient, versions.

Anyway, my second helper function is to search a pile of files to look for problems. This will list all of the plugins used in there. This could be used as a global 'instant tidy' option, but automatically converting and saving over 15 years worth of music is risky, something might get lost or converted incorrectly, so this merely displays information.

This is all part of cleaning, tidying, organising, sorting. This takes a lot of time, a seemingly endless task. I love tidying and organising (I've surmised often that this is the purpose of life and intelligence itself), but it can harm new, original creative output, which is another vital goal of life. Hopefully I can get these changes done soon, then move back to art.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

ArtSwarm and Prometheus

A slow day. Started by compiling the new ArtSwarm show, converting new videos and editing the audio for some, this took until lunch. Then music work, completing the string tune from yesterday, and trying to push forward on the album.

In the evening, I decided the reprogram my software, adding a few features mainly to help with tidying up old songs. The first feature was to expand phrases, which are tracks that are full of notes that are repeated often, for example a drum-loop, so that you can point to the phrase track as a shortcut rather than typing the same notes over repeatedly. I used to use these a lot more than I do now, particularly for repetitive tracks; you might have a bassline that is identical throughout the song for example, but now I hardly use this feature because I tend to craft every note individually. Even when the notes are technically the same, the timing, the volume, and the feeling are different each time in a piece of music, so now my music takes more time to make but is less mechanical.

Yesterday, looking back at the some The Infinite Forest music, I thought that it would be nice to remake it, but the notes in each phrase track would need to be manually copied where it was used, which would take hours, so I've added a feature to automatically expand and copy all of the notes in all of the phrases used in a song.

This programming is a distraction tactic so that I can avoid thinking about composing. I'm most productive when working on several things because one thing is too powerful and too intense. The ideas are too thick and overwhelming to allow themselves to be used, so I need to work on several jobs at once. More coding tomorrow, while the music stews.

I'm listening to Genesis' Trick of the Tail for the first time which is inspiring. Phil Collins' voice on the album sounds remarkably like Peter Gabriel's, and if anything, better. Still, I think the golden age for Genesis was this foursome or the fivesome, rather than the later, less varied, output.