Friday, January 24, 2020

War and Clowns

A slow day yesterday, I awoke with a desire to just lie there and rest, which is most unusual. I didn't for long, my main jobs now are to work on War is Over and the Apocalypse of Clowns, the next two Fall in Green releases. A Crewe town performance has been roughly pencilled in for May but this is to be confirmed. I think it's connected to Creative Crewe, who I used to be part of, producing their On Track bulletin of local events for a year or two. Like many voluntary jobs, the workload tends to grow until it all becomes too much work for too little reward and in this case the antagonism from a certain member of the organisation made working with them too unpleasant. Generally though, it was a great team to work with, and I always got on well with Carol Wilkinson, the driving force behind Creative Crewe who has been a massive contributor to local arts in Crewe for decades, often working in obscurity and for little reward. Her shop, The Cubby Hole, was quite an arts hub and it was a sad day when she had to close it.

I managed to start the production work on Asylum Flowers, and later attended an inspiring meeting of local art related organisations and politicians. It was a very positive meeting, I felt that the group was capable and enthusiastic of any number of arts related activities. Carol was there, but I didn't get a chance to say hello.

Last night I woke at 3am with shivers and a throbbing pain in my right side, it appears to be a nerve or muscle pain originating in my back. A tension energy knot, like a bioquantum event. I feel it's the result of recent pressure.

Today, it's Flatspace launch day and I released the game, tested it, sent out my Cornutopia Software newsletter email, announced the game on Twitter and Facebook, and on the Steam community pages. I've also ordered the proof of my next poetry book, The Burning Circus, and I thought that it would be an interesting target to have a launch of something each month this year; this could include Burn of God, The Burning Circus, the two Fall in Green albums, a second Marius Fate album, or other books and games.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Second Burn of God Draft Complete

I've had a listen to the full album and made a few tweaks. I decided to extend the short tracks and merge them into each previous track. The many short tracks does affect the pace or feeling a little too, and it feels better with only 16 rather than 20 tracks. In sound terms, the album is nearly identical. The tiny bit of segue at the start of these short tracks has improved things though.

The art is also complete. I had a few iterations between dark or light for the rear art. The background could have been a strong red with light writing. A plain white one, mirroring some of the internal art, looked nice too, but I eventually settled on this:

I've burned a full test CD and will set it aside for a week or more, then listen again with fresher ears. This end stage can often make me feel like there's no point to any of it, the time to ask why I've bothered, but this self-critique will be forgotten when the next idea comes along.

I'm broadly happy with it but I can see a lot of scope for more, to build upon it, to push further in this new type of art, an album symphony. In structural terms this album reminds me of The Wall or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a collection of songs and instrumental music with an overall idea, and some cross links between them. I've divided Burn of God into four separate sections, but these also cross-link so each part isn't like a symphonic movement. There are lots of options for future work. I want this to be one of many, each building on the last. Now, at this stage, it is the flaws I can see most clearly. This powers the energy to move on.

I've had a bit of a fraught night due to a throat problem, an annoying blood blister. One dream involved a tiny bird, about 5cm tall with a long neck like a peacock (although it was brown like a peahen), who flew down from a light above a dinner table to sing to me. It was then pounced on and eaten by a predator (I think it was a squirrel or pine marten or something like that). Thinking now, perhaps there were visual links with Jan Weenix's art here.

Another dream involved a shoot-out with five green-clad Germans (exactly the green of green wellingtons). I had an arsenal of weapons available (also made from green wellington rubber) but I needed a sniper rifle, which I lacked. I merely waited for the attack, rather than firing with one of the inadequate weapons (some machine guns, grenades, a knife).

On with the day. I will begin on the War is Over album for Fall in Green.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Short Tracks and Digital Music

More music tweaks today. I re-recorded the vocals for Lullaby From Your Cells To Your Mind; this time relaxed and gently, as though singing a lullaby itself, which really improved the song. I panned the vocals quite hard right, which I'm unsure about. It is unusual (which is a positive), and perhaps emulates being sung a lullaby, but can be a little distracting and uncomfortable when listening with headphones.

I've also completed the internal tray art, and CD disc art. I probably will print some CDs, although none of my albums have sold more than five copies, in recent memory. I think it's important to have a physical entity of music though, this is the art, and it is a way to share the music and the art in an engaging and attractive way.

One issue concerns me. Some tracks are very short, a few seconds, by way of an introduction to the different sections, like chapter headings. This can work on a CD, but for a download album might not be permitted or cause other problems (can someone buy one of these 9 second tracks?). I don't know what to do about this. I could merge adjoining tracks, but it feels artificial because these headings are different in tone to the tracks either side. I don't want separate track lists for the CD and digital versions of the album (that would be an administration nightmare).

All of this reminded me how unusual this album is. I'm making highly polished recorded music at a time when musicians are caring more about live performance and hardly recording at all. When they do record, it's short, simple tracks (not months in the studio, this has taken me four months) that can catch on, or music developed to support a live show, like merchandise rather than the product itself. Big label acts must make music, as ever, then spend a year or two touring to promote it, which I have no interest in doing.

This album isn't like that at all, it's more like the complex rock and pop music of the 1970s by bands like Queen, Kate Bush, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra.

My music is also designed to be listened as an album rather than individual tracks, and is rather long. This is in complete opposition to current trends, where Kanye West releases albums of under 30 minutes. My best single-candidate track is nearly 7 minutes long, and several tracks are under 20 seconds.

Well, this, if anything proves that I'm pushing at some boundary. I'm very pleased with everything so far and will certainly create more albums in the same style, but I will have to think about the track length problem.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Peterloo Poetry and Tweaks

More tweaks and work on Burn of God over the weekend. My idea for the 8-page booklet is to represent the ideas and tracks visually, so I've removed lots of text. Here's an image, that is connected to The Tree, a track about the connections of energy between things:

Deb and I also went to Manchester yesterday to join a few poets for the launch of the Peterloo poetry book. Nice to meet a few friends and fellow poets there. Performers included Bridie Breen, Janey Colbourne, Margaret Holbrook, Randy Horton, Nicole Hulme, Jess Hulme, Judy Morris, Peter Branson, Greg Nowell, Gordon Zola, Andy N, Anthony J. Parker, as well as host Paul Morris. Deb performed Janus Never Blinks, which is part of Fall in Green's War is Over set. Here's a photo by playwright and arts journalist Claire Faulkner:

The publisher spent some time announcing two forthcoming collections of similar, protest-centered poetry; one on the theme of the Newport Massacre, one on Women's Suffrage. I'm unsure how entertaining poems about such dour and sad subjects are to read. Political poems often remind me, in a bad way, of the mock student-poems of Rick from The Young Ones. I have read and heard a few moving poems about tragic events, John Lindley's poem about the Grenfell fire is excellent, but protest poems often make me feel uncomfortable, as though hearing the rant of a bully, or helplessly witnessing a beating; perhaps because the words are telling rather than showing, simply bad writing because there is no dialogue. Good art is half talk, half listen.

I will write something for these two collections, and perhaps try a drawing or two as before.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Polishing Burn of God

A full two days working on Burn of God, making small change after change, refining album art, refining the album, listening, tweaking. Still changing almost every track with each listen. Recorded several lyrics for The Great Conveyor today. This stage can take a long time but I want to get it finished as soon as I can.

When to stop? There comes a point when you're not sure if a change is better or worse, and when that happens, either is fine.

I'm off to Manchester tomorrow to perform my absurdist Saxon Blood poem/sketch for the official launch event of the Peterloo poetry book by Seven Arches Press. I've made my props and have practiced remembering the words.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Garden of Love

Here are the words to the penultimate song on Burn of God, Garden of Love. The album is in four sections with a one-track epilogue. This is from the final section, which is about a positive spin on an atheist universe, and this song is about my beliefs that we live on in the minds of the people we knew, and in the difference we make to the universe.

A damp day
dark and bleak.
A crow sends a note
to the winter's sky,
for I am dead today.
See there the weeping few.

In their minds I am alive
and in their hearts I will forever be,
and everything I've done
is part of the universe.

Do you think I've missed out by not being in paradise
when the living think of me so well?
Would you be disappointed not to live in a garden of spring,
or sad that the bad aren't in hell?

In you
I will live forever.
Take care of my soul
and my memory, for you are my heaven.

Do not cry,
for your friends will be your garden of love
for you,
when you die.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Burn of God Booklet Art

Awake from 7am after a nightmare about children stealing 'our' front car wheels, specifically the front right one. I caught them later and they became sort of tiny balloon people for me to squeeze and punish but they were sneering at my puny attempts at revenge.

A long day, all spent working on the internal CD art for Burn of God. I will aim for an 8-page booklet, but can't include detailed lyrics as the image for this scale of printing are images, sp excluding cursive text. I've made images for each page. I was happy with both Cycles & Shadows and even more, the Music of Poetic Objects art. Like many of my albums, I try to find a visual motif or theme or icon to repeat and use.

Until Music of Poetic Objects, my art rarely included any references to the tracks, and were generally backgrounds for credits or liner notes, but 8-pages gives more room and possibilities. Most CD booklets are broadly blank, with lyrics on top. I'll have no lyrics (or few) so the booklet must be art, perhaps like Snakes & Arrows by Rush; a band always inventive and surrealistic with their cover artwork, reminiscent of the Hypgnosis covers used by Pink Floyd, Genesis etc. These suit my style of music, but I want each cover to be different and creative in its own way. In some ways, the other artists like Marius Fate, are good ways to experiment with this.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Burn of God First Draft

I thought that today was a slow day, yet I seem to have got more done than expected. I sang the vocals to Garden of Love, and the song called Organon (although I'll probably change the title). I think I'm improving at singing, but who can say, perhaps I'm merely more used to hearing and toying with my own voice.

There are many aspects to singing. Each cell should express itself when your body is an instrument. Generally I think of my body like bagpipes; some air in the chest like a bag of potential energy, and a tense stomach like the grip on the bag, used to squeeze the sound, with control, through relaxed upper parts which target the note and timbre.

I took four takes to record Garden of Love. Each was generally ok, the music isn't complex or demanding, but the feeling is crucial for such a personal song, the song of a ghost to his mourners. I remembered that the important part is to speak to, to sing to the listener as though talking intimately to one person. The accuracy of everything else; timing, pitch, is secondary to this. We are speaking directly into a loved one's ear. It's not a performance or show for mass, but an intimate act of communication, this is the key difference between live and recorded music.

The first draft of the album is now complete. Many of the early vocals need to be recorded and finished, and the artwork.

I'm very proud of this album, but know that the world won't care (but I hope, and remain assured, that it will one day). After I've been making videos for my early electronic music I'm reminded that this music is nothing like that (although Riding Pi has definite Jean-Michel Jarre influences), but a massive complex mix of every influence, from Beethoven to Pink Floyd to Scott Walker to Kate Bush, a logical step on from the good second half of Cycles & Shadows, and yet also a commentary on God in the way that Ingmar Bergman commented on subjects.

It feels unique and special. I hope that this will be my first of many such works. Painting, without an outlet for me to exhibit or sell, is secondary and I have few plans for paintings this year, only perhaps one or two for my solo (well, hopefully local community) exhibition in Nantwich Museum in December. This is no bad think. My existing works suddenly become more rare and more expensive!