Thursday, June 04, 2020

Subterrain

A poem today inspired by the Sacred Wonders of Britain documentary on BBC2 this morning, the Neolithic practice of digging for flint, although flint is plentiful on the surface, so it was speculated that it was a partly reverential act. I was reminded of the song Rawhide by Scott Walker, a song about Neolithic life.

Subterrain

With our picks of antler
we bite at the chalk flesh
of the earth, down
we go
removing the barbs
of black flint
which hurt it.

Lit by the sun's eye
we descend, man, woman,
then, like a hand sideways
into finger-holes of blackness
to feel damp chalk,
and glass flint.

We breathe the cool air
of these stone lungs
and become the earth,
air and ground together,
nurses
to tend the universe
as the universe tends us.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Fun

Working on music today. I feel in the artistic zone, trying to avoid the news and focus on new culture, history. Topics for reading today included Heiner Müller, plus Liu Shouxiang, Henri Richelet, Abraham Palatnik and kinechromatic art.

Most of the day has been spent working on the music for a new song, currently titled Song for Ron and Russell, but it probably won't be called that in the end. The key element with art is to be new, to be pushing something somewhere, somewhere new. I'm happy with this album so far, partly because the songs are of an unusual structure. I feel that I am pushing somewhere. Anyone can just output anything; anything can be called art, but it has to be difficult to prove its worth, because this makes it rare, and rarity makes it special. New art should always take effort, energy, thought... an entropic reversal. Life is about entropic reversal and art should be the paragon of life.

I want to create more songs now, to push and learn in new ways. Today's song was developed (as you might guess) as a tribute to Sparks, the band who have inspired much of this album. One thing about their music is it is fun, perhaps this is their most American component, and yet, it seems that for year and year they had album after album that seemed to go nowhere. This is what being and artist is, truly, but I felt a sense of fun vs. tragedy that I could use for a song.

Musically I've used my new Hammond Organ simulation for the bluesy chorus. The verse production was inspired by Tonight We Fly by Divine Comedy with bits of This Town Ain't Big Enough. Other influences so far include Scott Walker and David Lynch, but my palette needs pushing wider, into new, stranger worlds. Of course, Tree of Keys/ArtsLab did this a little. Let's see what happens. Meanwhile, here are my words so far:

Fun
You had fun
We had fun
It was fun
It was so much better, don't you think...
...than tragedy?
Oh, you don't know how hard it's been
You have no idea what it was like
The long years
Desert years
Of dust meals
Of flake and thirst
The trail of claws, in silence,
Brittle hope
And faith
Only faith

Shakespeare writing The Tempest
While my monkey weeps
Fun
It was fun
What choice do we have?

The Watusi
The Twist
The Charleston
The Strand
This dance ain't big enough for the both of us
The Dreamer
The Unwoken Fool

Monday, June 01, 2020

Cherries

Slow, buy steady, progress on my music project. I want to make some songs that are inventive and energetic, with the primary artistic aim of more practice of vocal work and production, and to create. The results so far sound good, but I'm running out of ideas so these next few days must be inventive. This should be the fun part, the joyous part, but it's strange that they often feel unpleasant, like being thirsty and tasting sips of many unsuitable drunk recipes.

I'm trying to listen to new and different music, seeds of inspiration. Last night I listened to Tilt by Scott Walker, one of the strangest albums in my collection - I have 100 CD albums at any one time. There are others that I don't think of as good enough, compilations etc. that I store in the 'wallet of shame', but the 100 are the 'best'. When I get a new CD it enters a trial period and if it is better than the worst of these 100, then it replaces it, thus I evolve the 100 best albums ever (in theory).

Anyway, Tilt is one of the strangest (the others perhaps being The Shaggs album and the Van Def Graaf Generator albums). All of the Tilt songs are long, with amelodic and non-repeating vocal lines over an orchestral backing, which barely seems to follow the vocals. It's an extension, perhaps of Climate of Hunter, but that was far more conventional. Tilt reminds me, in tone, of Beethoven's Late Quartets; strange music from solitude. I've yet to appreciate it fully and keep it in the 100 partly because it is extreme rather than appealing or technically excellent.

One song, Patriot, inspired me to write a song in a very approximate imitation this style:

Cherries

When you're young you like sweets
Tastes of cherries
As you age you explore
And crave nuance
Your mature tastes are bitter
Dark and strange
And my tastes are bitter
And eclectic

But you don't know where it will end
Where it will end
Where it will end

It reads (and sounds, musically) like it is about some sort of perversion, perhaps in a way it is, as it is about liking weird music. Tilt isn't remotely children's music; not catchy, not sweet, barely musical; like bitter chocolate, a Bendick's Mint, a bite of rocket; very much an adult palette, which is what Cherries is about.

One other thing I did today was emulate very closely a Leslie Speaker, an audio gizmo, by using a chorus effect that also used the same triangle oscillator for the effect depth. The Beatles used a Leslie Speaker a lot on Revolver, apparently. Yes, Revolver is one of my 100.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Since You Kicked Me Out

More music work yesterday, in particular finalising the sequencing to Since You Kicked Me Out, a fun song, perhaps in the style of The Darkness, or Mika, early Sparks, or even Queen at their most fun. It seems all of the backing for these songs is rock based, distorted guitar, bass guitar and rock organ generally.

I have several motivations here, mainly to create more songs and boost my vocal production skills. I've created a huge amount of instrumental music, but I'm more interested in words now and pushing at limits in this area, so another motivation is to produce more song music to move the way my music feels and exists.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pyjama Music

More music work yesterday and today but the going is very slow. These songs are unusual, and all are more complex than I'm used to. Every one varies in tempo or time signature within the song, and sometimes breaks sharply in unusual ways, which I can feel as I'm writing them, yet sequencing them is proving to be complex and time consuming, slow due to uncertainties. Except For The Hatred is just about complete (without the vocals recorded, this will be fun and saved for last), however, but I've got three other songs in half stages, including a version of the Actor song (now called The Actor's Lament).

Most of the time yesterday and today was spent doing other things anyway; preparing a live chat event for Steam for Taskforce, using Discord, which I've never used, or heard of. A quick search for Taskforce: The Mutants of October Morgane resulted in the game being seemingly everywhere. I even found the 2004 version apparently on sale on Amazon (well, it had a page, listed as sold by me and unavailable, very odd). I've been contacted about a Chinese translation of 21st Century Surrealism too. Today I've been installing garden fences, which was some welcome exercise in the sun, after many days or weeks inside.

I'm delaying, unsure. In creative lulls like this, the trick is to break things into emotionless, logical steps and coldly calculate the problems and solutions, the resources needed, the time needed. All uncertainties need to be removed and rationalised into certainties. My songs are stuck somehow because of uncertainties.

In art, the result must be fully realised in the mind and soul before starting to construct. For my paintings, this happens at the instant of conception, and sometimes for songs too, although not usually. For these songs the words tend to come first, then music, then I make changes to words, then to music etc. in a complex dialogue. If I start with purely music (or both at once), mentally, the results can be repetitive and similar to other older work, too easy, not musically complex enough. This doesn't tend to be the case with words because of the meaning, the emotion. Perhaps this emotion is the key thing, this 'orb', as I describe in my book.

One song, Since You Kicked Me Out, is proving fun. It began, in my head, sounding very differently, with the main refrain sort of screamed, and certainly in 4/4 time. The song as I've sequenced is very much 3/4, a jig-like jaunt reminiscent of a folk song or children's song. It is acceptable, fun, but the finale needs to stop this somehow. It has two verses which are the same structure with a third which has parts of the other verses in different orders.

So, I need to work out if this needs new instrumentation. In this song, like the others in this project (codename 'Pyjama') the drums are key and I'm taking a lot of time on the percussion.

The key thing is emotional freedom, and this means timing, timing. Getting the timing to match the mood. Timing and volume, the two things that computers destroy by default, are the primary keys to emotion in music.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Music

I'm inspired and have a few ideas for new songs in an art-rock/new wave/experimental style. I feel I'm still learning in the production and vocal recording side of things and have more to want to keep pushing and experimenting, also, I find these songs interesting and different. I want to play with time signatures and pacing.

I'm very inspired by Kimono My House, but partly in comparison to the other Sparks albums I have. The relatively recent Exotic Creatures Of The Deep is a remarkably similar album to Kimono in songwriting terms, many of the tracks are as inventive and witty and lyrical, yet it lacks energy and emotion and punch by comparison due to the production, perhaps due to digital production, and this is what I want to battle. The certainly 70s sound of Kimono, heavy on guitars (if Queen performed that album in the 70s, I'd accept it as a Queen album without question, it's so reminiscent of A Night At The Opera or Queen II), and especially the drums; these are the star instrument on the album, at the front of the mix. Digital drums are generally awful and yet these are the absolute key instrument for emotion in a song, second only to melody (which can be any instrument). Drums and the bass are the foundation, the heart.

Have spent today sequencing a song called Except For The Hatred, inspired a little by my painting of the name (and perhaps recent events, the curious politics of anger). I've also revisited an older song called Norman Bates with the aim of re-recording it. I've changed it quite a lot in balancing. I've certainly learned a lot about the music engineering side of things in the past year or so.

I don't want to spend a huge amount of time on music, I've no plans to perform any of it. I make music like I paint, as independent art, not as a commercial venture. I know that one day, like the books of Blake, like the paintings of anyone, the music will find a home and shine. This is true art. It is important that it is good, artistically valid, the best I can do and carefully crafted. It still must be a showcase, but touring or performing holds no appeal at all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Actor

Very little done today, an astoundingly slow day. I have an idea for some music, again revisiting some old songs but also wanting to make new ones with new structures and themes. I wrote these words today. It seems that of the three or four songs I've written so far for this project, most (maybe all, I'm unsure) are 3/4 time. I want to write in a freer style. The best songs, I think have free and open lyrics and free and open music, perhaps even both unconnected. I need to find a way to keep both free yet make them fit so I'm trying to sequence some music as a way to compose it.

The stage is lit
but there's nobody here
there's nobody here
to be dramatic at.
The lines are pitiful,
the tears are real,
but there's nobody here
to notice the feeling.

There's no pathos or gratitude
no applause or acclaim
to acknowledge the pain
of performance
because there's nobody
nobody
not a soul
to witness
this actor's
lament.

The gods echo back
to the nobody's ears
to nobody's ears
who are listening today
The damage is wasted
the blood has spilled over
for the special effects
are second to none

and there's nobody
nobody
not a soul
to witness
this actor's
lament.

There's nobody caring.
There's nobody crying.
There's nobody noticing
the actor dying.
There's nobody seeing
the make-up peeling
except the sad mirror
so old and so cracked,
and so to the mirror we act.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Refuge Video

Have spent today working on a video for Refuge, one of the tracks from the new Synaesthesia release. I've long wanted to make a few videos for this album, and Refuge is one of the strongest and most dramatic tracks on the album, so I decided to put together a video. The imagery of a wooden shed or shack, perhaps a warm fire-lit party, some time in the 1930s, in a swamp, with a sunglasses wearing, bowler-hatted, black man playing the piano... these were some of the images I've always had with this music. And yes, I've had to cast aside most of it, but stuck to some of what I could.

I began with the idea of a contrast of in and out, the dramatic finalé making use of the amazing clouds from a few weeks ago (April 30th) when I recorded a time-lapse video of the skyscape, a dark storm rolling in. For the bulk of the song I took thirty small clips of the interior of our wooden shed, and edited these together into 80-frame segments, timed with the music. There needed to be more so I added a few clips of a window, as though looking out, and then some grasping hands, piano playing hands, and myself as if trapped in the screen. The balance is always between the digital and clean, and the rough and organic; always the crucial balance. I've added lots of flicker, scribbles, shudders and other elements to add roughness to the video, while retaining quality in other areas. Perhaps there could be something more enigmatic here, more intellectual content. I always seem to begin with a simple and large-scale edit then add lots of layering and tiny changes, almost like sculpting. The grasping hands were a good addition. I kept feeling the urge to add words.

I'll pause now, and look at the video again tomorrow and over the coming days. This is not a complex work. I've sometimes spent weeks on one music video, but, of course, I want it to be the best it can in itself, and have a unity that matches the music to some extent.