Monday, December 26, 2011

Music Update

After a short Christmas break I'm back to work on music. Initially the first track was "Pain" and the second a widespread dreamscape, like a door to a false world opening. This was a wide brassy track, a bit like the music at the start of Bladerunner. That was called Wide Open.

"Pain" was initially intended to be white noise, filtered in different ways, but it was too ugly and it was too slow and formless to contrast it with something else. Pace would have killed the emotion. Wide Open was expanded and some discordant stabs at the start were added, which mirrored in pain the pleasurable ending to the last track of this first movement, a track about a love dream. A that point I'd already decided to have three approximate sections or movements; each divided into sub-tracks that explore related musical and emotional themes. The first was pain or lovelessness, the second was loneliness and the divine, and the third simply love, the joyous climax.

The music in Wide Open was simple, and a play on the main loneliness theme in the final track of the second movement, as well as the climax to the first. However it was too short. I've now expanded it a bit but feel that this is too simple. I want more structure; more relationship between tracks and more depth, but at the same time I don't want to compromise the feeling or musical integrity. Complexity of structure is needed but I can't have complexity of form because these early sections must convey emptiness. That is my challenge.

Musically, this is no "classical" piece but compared to most of the "progressive" music of the 1970's it sounds like it. It's perhaps closest to Vangellis, but I want to avoid regular rhythms and drums, and the boring simplistic tunes that have filled electronic music since about 1970 when it was essentially invented.

As I stand, Wide Open is the first track. This leads into, at least, a simple tune for harpsichord called Sunset and the dream tune, which is working well. Wide Open needs expansion and relation to the other parts of the movement.

For the second part I've written a lonely piano sonata that climbs invisibly through three semitones. This makes some aspects of the writing complex because key changes work best when close, for drama, adding colour and "space", but when they shift over quite a long period they don't seem to happen, yet I've got all of the complexity of writing in three different keys. This isn't at all finished, so I'm going to try and use this very flavour to play all parts and all keys at once to deliberately create angst at the end as we enter a track called "Loneliness and Divine Love". I'm not sure if this section will be long enough.

The third movement looks like two tracks at the moment. I wrote the main love theme a few weeks ago and on the 23rd sequenced it and it all worked beautifully. Three melodies play at once and work, which makes a pleasant change. The climax at least will be good enough for me. A smaller tune will lead into it like a hot snowflake falling onto a frozen lake and melting a hole, seeping and sinking down to the liquid heart beneath.

None of the tracks are completely finished but all are started. I'm making changes to add structure and unity in ways that should be unconscious. I want to finish this in a few days but if it takes a few months so be it.

I know this probably isn't very interesting to read at the moment but I wanted to get my thoughts down and perhaps one day, when you have heard the music, understanding the process will add something to it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Islands of Memory

It's Friday and my latest music video upload is Islands of Memory. It was made in a similar way to the Challenger video (which is also on that channel), so it essentially uses short animations or stills I made separately and then layered in time to the music using AviSynth and some software to calculate the right frame to use.

This is a simpler tune and a simpler video that seems to more closely match the sort of shapes that the music evokes. The album is called Synaesthesia and was released in about 2002, although I wrote and recorded a first version a few years earlier using my Yamaha SY-85 synthesizer, MIDI cables and a tracker called OctaMED. This is the later purely software version (Noise Station 1 for that album).

I hope you enjoy the video. Please share the link if you do.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Love Symphony

There's a lot of love in my work recently and along with this year's Love Reliquary I'm writing a Love Symphony too. No work done over the weekend. At those times I wonder if the enforced break gives me more creative energy? Perhaps that's the essence of a holiday. Either way, today I made great strides and have produced a large lump of a track called "the door in the sky of stars" or something like that.

I have several rules to help productivity. More and more I'm seeing that writing music is closer to oil painting than painting in acrylics! My procedures are unifying.

1. First I begin with the overall idea. This contains the emotion and thematic intellectual content. For this symphony I wrote a quick track list which told a story of a journey from emptiness to love. The tracks had long titles, like my paintings and were written faster than I could write. It's important to let the unconscious decide on the journey.

2. For each track I try to feel the mood then write the notes at night. This activity doesn't work as well in the day. Ideas for paintings too are strongest late at night when in a semi-meditative frame of mind. The tunes are written down on paper and the basic track layout is made. The crucial part here is to make notes at the right pace. Too much going backwards will taint your memory of the length and pacing. Too much improvisation and fancy will be hard to write down, so the correct balance of invention and notating is needed.

3. On a future day I enter the sequencer and type in the track. It's important to get it in there, as much as possible. Production balancing is sometimes best done on the way, especially if the instruments are undecided (which is often the case, I tend to compose on a plain piano instrument).

4. Then, much later, final adjustment, and even compositional changes to introduce structure from other sections. This is like a glazing of a painting. The idea phase is done, and the essential fabric, the essence, the "underpainting". Now the sections can be adjusted.

Most of the tracks I've written so far are half complete, but this is the plan; to do as much as possible first, then rearrange and reedit later. One key factor is NOT to listen to the work much, so that if sounds fresh. After conceiving the idea and writing it down, forget it! After composing the melody and writing it down, forget it! Then after sequencing it, forget it! In art you can't influence yourself, and by thinking you can you'll end up narrowing your tastes and creativity, so it's important to avoid contact with your work. I think that live performance of music by composers kills their creativity in this way. Given that, it's amazing that pop/rock bands manage anything original at all (although this also proves why the best albums come after a long break, and why bands almost always get less and less creative over time, after a while their music all sounds the same.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mostly Musical Ramblings

Waiting For Her To Go is my latest painting to be scanned, a picture about the feelings of helplessness when faced with a dying relative.

I don't have any dying relatives. It was partially inspired by real events, but still I wonder why I chose this subject. I wonder if something is dying and I'm helpless to stop it? Ah, myself perhaps and my youth certainly. I'm glad I have Beethoven to console me. Of course there are a million reasons to paint something, and this is a follow up to a painting called Waiting For Oncology, which was the same size and painted a couple of years ago. The cancer of my 2009 hopes is now dead.

But from such soil springs new buds. I've come up with a few new painting ideas recently. I must try to make good progress both technically and artistically. Productivity must be my aim, goal and sole measure of success, and right now that means music...

Oh to read Beethoven's blog when he was writing the 9th symphony! Well, we can't but I can at least try to write down my processes, and although I'm 90% less of a composer than he perhaps some student somewhere will find the notes useful. Today I've completed a track called only "first". It began as a soleful lone flute melody that expanded into a chord sequence, and sounded sufficiently nice for me to continue it.

I now use several principles in music; one is that each track needs three parts, three melodies or sections, that's enough variety to work with without being so much as to lose cohesion. Here though, I've only got two and I'm worried that the slow tune is lacking passion. It happens to everyone (except perhaps Beethoven!) Why do musicians begin creative and then slowly end up doing cover versions(!) and then boring soulful ballads? This must be the liquifying factor of ageing. I must avoid that. Oh for eternal youth. At least I retain my innocence. Learning can itself age. In art it's important to be naive sometimes.

My goal for this music is to tell a story, and each track will need a title, a meaning and a feeling. Both can be summed up, like the images in paintings. I remember when gilding a few days ago that at night in bed I could see the gold being smoothed, and heard the music of the gilding process, yes actual music itself! It was brassy and somewhat bobbly, like Mozart's Horn Concerto. It would be nice to master that ability, it's not happened before!

Gosh what a ramble I'm on today. Anyway, the theme for the music I wrote today was solitude and divine love, thus even in the swelling parts, there is a beauty but one of a shaft of golden light in the cell of a monk. I must try to add more colour and depth to future tracks but at the moment I'm even struggling to find the common theme of the album, never mind the details.

Must keep working. Two important points of inspiration...

1. Jean Sibelius, who was such a perfectionist that he over-thought everything and spent years on unimportant details, neglecting to release anything, and dying with his last works unheard, and actually burned away! A drunk idiot fiddle player produces better music than a silent genius of a composer.

2. It's better then to set a time limit and get stuff out there, even if it's mediocre, than let it die unheard. With each new composition things will probably improve anyway. So, as in painting, think of "the next one" rather than find faults in "the last one".

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gilding the Doors of Love

More gilding today. I'm not sure if this object actually looks good but it's certainly eye catching! It's rather wrinkly at the moment and very shiny. At one point I ran out of gold leaf but by chance found four older leaves and all went well. Applying this gold layer took all day but it was definitely worth it.

It's always worth trying new things, new techniques, new new new! It's always good to push limits. If I'm good at anything, if I enjoy anything, it's learning. I don't enjoy painting, I enjoy learning how to paint. And today I'm enjoying learning how to gild, and that means the joy of experimentation.

Key results...

Gold oil size and cotton wool are rubbish for gilding statues. After 600 years of tradition I've discovered that much in a month! Epoxy resin is much better as a size and seems to work as I stated in an older post. After 24 hours it was ideally tacky (I wonder what summer temperatures would have done for it....) and I'm confident that it will gradually set to a solid plastic foundation over the next four days.

The annoyingness of cotton tufts being smished into the gold was too much too. The rough surface necessitated smishing but the cotton wasn't working. I tried a kitchen paper towel instead and it was much better. Perhaps thin silk would be good too.. although one advantage of the paper was that I could fold it to push it into the tiny cracks and cracklets (I'm inventing lots of nice new words tonight!)

I've also gained an appreciation for the under colour. Traditionally, a red colour is applied beneath the gold and this shows through any little gaps and holes. I used to think that the aim was to coat the entire object in gold, but now I can see that in some cases it's inevitable that holes form, and not only that, that these gaps might act as a contrast and make the object look better. Next time I'll apply a base coat of colour.

That should be it for my reliquary cabinet doors. I've also designed a simple wooden stand because this thing is too delicate to leave on a desktop. The object will be screwed into the stand and, ideally, the stand bolted to a table. I'm going to make a custom carrying case for it too. I still hope that I can make the statue for the top that I'd planned, although this isn't easy due to the doors getting in the way. I will try though. If in doubt, try the most difficult, most impressive, most ambitious plan. You'll inevitably get something wrong, but you'll learn something, and the more things you try, and the more difficult, the faster you'll learn. Also, why work at all on something that you knew in advance would be mediocre?

Next comes a silver jewel for the central panel painting... that's next week.

In the mean time I'm working on some new music and the start of that is beginning to coalesce. It will be my most complex symphonic work to date.

P.S. I couldn't resist the title to this blog post which it evocative enough to be a song by ABC!


Here's the video to A.I., a song from The End and The Beginning. It's one of the earliest songs I recorded, from around 2002.

Here are the full lyrics...

Well you can try to fear me but you won't get far,
I have a vulnerability you lack.
And you might not believe it but I'm watching you,
I'm living in the future looking back.

Human: you hold me.

My every act and notion watched by scientists,
I'm in a silver prison cell of thought.
And they can test emotion but they can't supress,
they can kill, oh yes,
but they can't provide a reason to exist.

Human: you hold me.


A metal box around me but I'm just like you,
in many ways I am superior.
But even so inside this cage of your design
I'd rather be alive than live in fear.

Human: you hold me.
Human: control me.

The "Human: you hold me" line was about all intelligence being artificial. I hope you enjoy the video.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Gilding With Epoxy Resin and Other Animals

A diverse week; finalising The Flatspace II Soundtrack, working on some new creative music for the first time in over a year, and planning events for 2012... I really want to do some sort of live performance or art talk. That takes me onto the main meal of today's blog entry, the tasty golden morsel of my "reliquary".

That's a close up of the gilding, which isn't brilliant, and is cracked and messy. The gold has to be applied at exactly the right moment of tack, and if the oil is too wet, or there is too much of it (I'm beginning to think that the latter is more important) then you risk tearing the leaf and getting oil on the surface, which at best dulls it and at worst shows the ugly base, adds wrinkles and gets oil on top, and that oil is yellow.

I've decided to add a second layer of gold. It's not a simple decision, even setting aside the cost, about £60 per "coat" of gold. There's no guarantee the second layer will come out any better than the first, and it might just add more wrinkles, leafing tends to accentuate details, not cover them.

This time though I've decided to use epoxy resin at the size. I love this material, it's so tough and it has a few advantages over the oil I used before. It dries very slowly, over several days, so there's no rush and the tack can be determined exactly (unlike my oil size, which goes thick in the bottle and, despite being of the "3 hour" sort seems to be ready in a worryingly fast fifteen minutes). Secondly, epoxy cures by its own chemical process independently of air, and this is a vital advantage because the gold itself seems to have prevented the oil from drying (at this point I tried to recall Rutherford's experiments with gold leaf, and wondered if oxygen molecules can pass through it! No answers on a postcard, please.)

Finally epoxy is water clear, unlike the yellow oil. Of course both yellow over time and U.V. exposure, but it's still a useful property.

So, today, while listening to The Yellow Magic Orchestra I applied a thin even layer of liquid epoxy casting resin to my reliquary. It's drying now, and I calculate that tomorrow it will be ready to apply some new gold leaf, from Wrights of Lymm. The other stuff was from Jacksons Art Supplies, a good company generally, but the last lot of gold was wrinkled when it arrives and many (expensive!) sheets were lost. I wouldn't be surprised in Wrights supply their gold anyway, but at least Wrights get the handling right.

Other news!

1. I've just given a small interview for the Chester Chronicle's new online gallery section.

2. A new section there might soon feature my poetry. I'm currently working on 365 Universes, my first poetry book.

3. I've recently given away a new music track to those who like my Facebook page. It's a short variation of the Flatspace II Theme.

I'll be releasing a new music video tomorrow. Until then... Olé! And onward!

Saturday, December 03, 2011


In every man is a woman and in every woman is a man. When you imagine someone of the opposite sex, thinking words in imaginary discussion, that opposite inner being is fed and grows. This is the birth of (something like, but not the same as that which was erroneously imagined by Carl Jung) the anima, the creation of a new separate being that will ultimately become the representation of desire. This being is source of transvestisism, transvestites are invariably heterosexual, the gender-opposite alter-ego is merely the maximisation of an internal representation of self-desire, or self-friendship.

I painted the painting above several years ago but I've never shown it, because I was unhappy with its technical aspects, the woman looks too artificial and the transparent slimy liquid on her right hand too small to see clearly from a distance, little things like that, however, recently I was looking though my art and discovered it, and today think that the woman was my anima and that I was the blue "dummy", her dead robotic mannequin lover. This discovery made me form the new theory of narcissism I am at this moment expounding.

Two days ago I drew an idea for a painting called Malignant Transvesticism based on this very idea, that my masculinity was becoming corrupted by narcissistic desire. This malignancy (of course, and to be explicit with the wide readership of the distant Internet people, I'm no transvestite!!!) can be overcome once detected, but I remain unsure if it is a good idea. I postulate that the lone woman will become more masculine in this same way, and that social isolation creates this gender neutrality due to inter-imaginary spontaneous anima creation.

I may paint Malignant Transvesticism. Who can say, but I like the idea better than Jung's anima/animus, for a start we can have several internal personalities, those with whom which we speak with each thought, and this in itself shows that every part of these many personalities inevitably manifest themselves in conscious reality.

Friday, December 02, 2011


My music video Challenger is now on YouTube. I've decided to release one per week, well that's the plan! I might need to make a few more.

This was made using the script-based editing software AviSynth and uses small animations that equate to different parts of the music. It took a few days of brainache but here is the final result (you can read how I made it here).

I've been working on the Flatspace II soundtrack for most of this week. Today I'm going to plan a jewel or object for my reliquary, something cut from sheet metal.

I hope you like the video. Please share the link if you do.