Thursday, November 26, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The videos URL is http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=100618114
or you can watch it here
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
A student (Kristoffer Paulsen) composed a fairly interesting piece investigating both these ideas. Here's some video of it
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Well die we didn’t, in fact we lived on with frightfully good energy. I wont bore you with the details of the following gig except to say it was in an astoundingly classy jazz club. In fact this club had so much class it bordered on the ridiculous and pushed it more towards the cliché of an astounding jazz club. Right up to the point of demanding the band play 3 one hour sets, who has the tolerance to listen to three sets of any form of music…..not me and I was on stage . The club was called “Once In A Blue Moon” which was displayed behind the bandstand in classic blue neon. I think you get my point, lets move on.
A four hour bus trip later we were in a huge TV studio setting up for the Korean equivalent of Top Of The Pops. Now I have been involved in some strange situations , many in this small tour alone, but this one was absurdist. The day was already long, set up was followed by a seven hour wait before it was our time to take to the stage for our one hour blistering set that was to be broadcast to millions of Korean houses. The endurance effort required to wait 7 hours in a TV studio with no one to talk to except the people you ran out of conversation with 3 days ago and little to entertain you except a large plasma TV playing 72 channels of Korean Soap Opera, and 2 small bottles of whisky is significant. The line up for the show was to include a famous Japanese piano player who had nailed down the less than significant style made famous by Richard Clayderman in the early 80s followed by us and wrapped up tastefully with a Japanese boy Rock out fit, all to be interspersed with interviews conducted in three languages by a giggling Korean teenage host and her staff of interpreters. Perfect, I thought to myself. Why wouldn’t millions of people watch a smorgasbord like that?
Well perfect it was in true asian style. The studio audience was full of screaming teenagers that never let their energy levels drop below hyperactive as the put their heart and soul into mimicking the correct dance steps for the fast numbers, getting all teary on the slow numbers, hopstepping when required. The band played it up realising that we were taking part in some strange miniture reinactment of a Beatles concert. I kept my suit jacket on the entire hour despite the ragging heat being caused by the massive lighting system spraying spotlights and psychedelic colours all over us, thought it would be more authentic to keep it on. I love Sydaney was yelled by many of the delightful audience, no mention of Melbourne which I can understand. And at one stage I heard one of our band members names being called out again and again until he finally looked up to be met with a youngster making a heart like shape with her arms towards him. I can only presume this was to indicate her new found love of his chromatic soloing style.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Madness descended on the band last night. It was the second gig of the tour and we were scheduled to perform in the university precinct, naturally this was a lot cooler than the jazz precinct we performed at the previous evening. We were doing a double act with local Korean Ska superstars Kingston Rudi Ska including a number together which would involve putting 20 musicians onstage hopefully overcoming cultural and language barriers (Musical language as well as the normal use of that word) to successfully belt out a cover originally composed by a patois speaking Jamaican.
The Korean band performed a version of Ska which could only be described as Asian including there well known love for all things kitch, colorful and bright, moving into areas that the Western mind can only find psychedelic. The crowd was full of young women screaming at every move of the lead singer as he ran his fingers through his hair and crooned the crowd with his falsesetto. But the group was lead by the trombonist who had all the makings of a trombonist the no mater what country your from or what patois you mumble. He was defiantly left of center, in fact center had become a foreign concept to him (as is the case for most trombone players). As all twenty members got onstage for our preshow rehearsal he grabbed the mike and with the only English words he knew he yelled WELCOME TO OZRALIA KOREA SKA YOUR VELY WELCOME….TONIGHT WE DIE
And we almost did.
Both Sets went to plan many encores were given (Koreans love calling for an encore) the gig finished and the bar emptied quickly, in very Korean style and we were left with Just the bands and a few hangers on.. And thats when things started to get interesting. Knowing how the struggle for successfully dialogue was going to pan out I took it upon myself to get our trombone playing friend back on stage and peforming. Little encouragement was needed and soon most musos were back up performing the regulatory trance like broken rhythms and jilted bass lines matched with wailing banchee like vocals that can only occur late at night when all musicians have been plied with alcohol and decide to perform on instruments that they aren’t familiar with. I’ve always wanted to be a drummer and nows the time. At some stage of the night a tatoo artist was summoned and mistakes were made. When a post gig session starts this way and is to proceed for many more hours you know death is immanent.
Here’s some video footage from the show last night.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Well things seem to be progressing smoothly not discounting the usual hiccups that occur when you are touring with 11 other only slightly familiar males in a foreign country where hardly any English is spoken. At this stage no rival factions have been formed within the core elements of the band a fact I presumed might have occurred owing to both the large size of the ensemble as well as the lack of any female presence. Seoul itself is an unusually well organized and compartmentalized city. Structures appear to be very important in this place. Every city appears to be divided into zoning regions with the zones consisting of a common theme. Eg, block 1 is allocated to shops selling kitchen sinks, block to is allocated to shops selling light fittings block 3 is allocated to some other home appliance. Block 458 was allocated to bars and it took a little while to find.
I’m presuming tonight’s gig is allocated to bars dedicated to early ska music but we will see.
Yesterday we rehearsed in a venue we play at later in the week. For our rehearsal we were given a full back line (drums bass amps guitar amps) a grand piano full percussion set, music stands, stage, food, drinks, a sound technician who sound checked the band pulling a perfect sound onstage and off, when the keyboardist leads were playing up and electrician showed up to make him new ones…..you get the idea and all at no expense to the band. Melbourne a city that boasts of its love for music has a little to learn in regards to how to treat musicians as well as professional attitudes to presentation….without me launching into a rave about free trolleys at the airport.
Regardless it is a privileged life musicians lead. To constantly find yourself in new environments with new people. To be able to move rapidly over the banality of introductions to strong creative outputs in constantly new environments is an excitement that is addictive.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Today kicks off an 8 day tour with the band Skazz I have successfully managed to negotiated getting the king size bed while my room mate had to settle for the single bed. Always a stressful but important task to be handled with much care when touring. If handled incorrectly you can create an enemy for yourself for the rest of your stay in that particular hotel. My tactic was to surround the bed with my luggage thus claiming my territory, while still allowing him access to the bed by not actually placing a bag on it. While it would take a brave soul to actually do that they are still left with the feeling that they had some choice in the matter.
There will be many tales which I will tell using the means of this blog but to give you an idea of what this very cool band is about here is a video
Monday, July 20, 2009
The key concepts that we taught were:
1. The need for a bassline and its role – to hold the piece down harmonically and rhythmically.
2. A Melody line and what it does – adds character and individual taste to a composition – it’s the thing on top that gives spice.
3. An accompanying part either using a counter melody or chords and what it does – it enhances the melody and provides some substance.
4. An A section and a B section for interest sake – to provide variety for the listeners ear.
5. A Rhythm part.
The kids all worked in small groups of 5 and co-composed all the parts and then each person performed one part. Finally we filmed all the performances and did some quick editing using Final Cut Express
The kids love this and are all very confident in their ideas and with the idea of being able to compose. Marimbas and basic metalaphones are great to use when composing with kids because they are generally diatonic (all in the same key center) so allow kid to instantly play and sound quite good.
I often just encourage them to hit a couple of notes and decide if they like the combination of sounds and then they are off and running.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
As the sampler/turntables were the instruments that were the key to the music being composed, the music that was written for all the other instruments had to be subservient to the sound produced by the them. One of the roles of the other instruments was to set up a musical environment that the turntablist could work within or over. While the parts of the other instruments also had other roles to play, those roles could never overrule the sampler’s sound. The idea for the band’s repertoire and performance style was to play a number of quite long pieces (over 20 minutes in length) interspersed by short ones that lasted no longer than about two minutes. (The reason for the short pieces will be better explained in chapter 2.4.) Much of the music written for the other instruments contained the characteristics of minimalist music. These characteristics include the notions of stasis, repetition, nonlinearity and time stretching.
When dealing with memory in composition I believe it is important to create an atmosphere that attempts to play on the notions of clock time. Memory is so placed in a notion of time that providing an atmosphere that alters clock time assists in the rearrangement of those memories (memories that have been triggered by the samples). Music that goes for a long period of time and is of a repetitive nature starts to alter people’s perceptions of real time. What might seem like 5 minutes can easily be 20 minutes. What might seem like 20 can have actually have been 20. As Bob Snyder states, “Time is an abstract construction of the human mind based on aspects of memory and the concept of an enduring self. Time isn’t experienced in the same way that physical objects are experienced. Rather as humans our subjective notion of time is constructed from our perceptions of objects and events and its qualities at a given moment depend on the relationship between these perceptions. Indeed what we perceive in a given amount of time to some extent determines our sense of the length of that time” (Snyder 2000, 212).
As humans we tune out behavior to the environments we live in and events within that environment act as clocks for us to synchronize to (Michon 1985, 28-32).
Effecting factors on our memory and perception of time include:
3. Temporal perspective or the construction of a linear ordering.
In writing the music to be performed by the other instruments (apart from the turntables) I was attempting to work with all three of these factors. Musically there has been much work done in this area with compositions that include all of these concepts. Compositions that are long in duration, compositions that play with the natural idea of an ordering of events and nonlinear music.
Iannis Xenakis Bohor (1962) is a piece that is both nonlinear in construction and works on the notions of duration in an attempt to effect perceptions of clock time. In describing this music Jonathon Kramer says, “ It seems to have adopted the requirements of moments (via stasis) as their entire essence. When the moment becomes the piece, discontinuity disappears in favor of total, possibly unchanging, consistency. The result is a single present stretched out into an enormous duration, a potential infinite now that none the less feels like an instant…Thus I called the time sense invoked by such music ‘vertical” (Kramer 1988, 55).
After reading of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories (1981), described as surgery of memory I started to think how I could effectively lengthen my pieces. David Toop says about Feldman’s piece “their organization of lengthy durations is compelling, yet the divisions between notes, those absences we call silence, demand a huge effort of memory in order to retain a grasp of this unfolding structure (Toop 2004, 90). This gives it an accumulative effect of time frozen. This was the effect I was after with the parts written for the other instruments. If I could play with the notion of memories within the structure of the music as well as through the manipulation of samples themselves it would give the music much more strength.
Steve Reich and Terry Riley’s idea of time contradicts traditional Western Music, in which the musical argument is the result of a subdivision of time. A lot of their music is ‘vertical’ in nature. When explaining vertical music Kramer states “ A vertically perceived piece does not exhibit large scale closure. It does not begin but merely starts. It does not build to a climax, does not purposefully set up internal expectations, does not seek to fulfill any expectations that might arise accidentally, does not build or release tension and does not end but simply ceases. A vertically conceived piece defines its sound world early in its performance and stays within the limits it chooses. Respecting the self imposed boundaries is essential because any move outside these limits would be perceived as a temporal articulation of considerable structural import and would therefore destroy the verticality of time (Kramer 1988, 55). In a similar way to these composers I am attempting to move to what Wim Mertens describes as “the idea of time as being an empty one so that a higher level of macro time can be reached” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 311).
For instance I attempted to deal with the notion of “timestretching and memory” in what was composed for the trumpet and trombone in the piece Log Lady. The basic structure is: the brass instruments play a melody and then rest for as long as I, the leader, can mentally hold out before bringing in the second melody. In using the phrase “mentally hold out” I am referring to the onstage pressure one feels as bandleader to move the music forward and to bring in the next section. That pressure can emanate from the audience, the musicians on stage or from ones own self and preconceived ideas of what makes for good music. In the rest period the remainder of the band continues to play as instructed. Their parts are repetitive in nature. They achieve stasis by never altering in regards to intensity of playing and dynamics. Each melody (written for the trumpet and trombone) is an expansion on the last. I took the opening 2 phrases, a B flat leading to C and started interspersing them between each new phrase. The idea of the new phrase is to build in length as another note of the 12-tone scale is added. Each phrase also develops rhythmically on the previous phrase. So I interspersed them with the beginning two notes and always stretched the length of those two notes out as well. Each phrase or melody is referencing the previous phrase and the phrases that have gone before. This gives the listener the feeling of familiarity while stretching that idea and subsequently stretching time.
There is repetition in the melodic structure but only after a long time (approximately twenty to twenty five minutes) and each repetition isn’t quite exact. Log Lady as well as the other lengthy pieces also apply the common “Aleph” type techniques which are a type of texture that transcends time by juxtaposing fast tempi and slow melodies (Trochimczyk 2002, 278). This is a technique used by Louis Andriessen in his masterwork De Staat (1972 – 1974) and De Tijd (1979-1981).
De Tidj (1979 – 1981) is Andriessen’s attempt to capture the essence of timelessness or where real time stands still (eternity). He devised many techniques in an attempt to replicate this ambience of eternity or timelessness. He speaks of attempting to create a situation of “sustained, glorified musical motionlessness…. A feeling that time had ceased to exist; the sensation of an eternal moment.” (Trochimczyk 2002, 113) . His inspiration for this was the writing of St Augustine. Augustine says,
“ If only their minds could be seized and held steady, they would be still for a while and for that small moment they would glimpse the splendor of eternity which is forever still. They would contrast it with time, which is never still, and see that it is not comparable. They would see that time derives it’s length only from a great number of movements constantly following one another into the past because they cannot all continue at once. But in eternity nothing moves into the past, because they cannot all continue at once. The past is always driven on by the future, the future always follows on the heels of the past, and both the past and the future have their beginning and end in the eternal present.”
This feeling of stillness or stasis is what Andriessen is attempting and what I also am attempting in my music. It is obviously an impossibility but the illusion is achievable.
Referencing some of Andriessen’s investigation’s into time manipulation I have built slight accelerations and decelerations into my drum patterns across almost all of the pieces written for The Escalators. There are moments where the drum pattern pushes slightly in front of the beat and others where it deliberately falls off the beat while the bass is unmoving. The drums circle the beat as it were, but over a great space of time so it is virtually unnoticeable. Andriessen speaks of the need to fix attention, since without attention time doesn’t exist at all. He built scarcely noticeable accelerations into the motion which precisely create the impression that everything remains the same but not quite the same; more in the way cathedral towers are the same and yet not the same. (Trochimczyk 2002, 124)
When talking about repetition in hip hop music Paul Miller states, “The repetitive nature of the music allows for the unfolding of clock time in a recursive spatial arrangement of tones that has parallels in the world of architecture where structural integrity requires the modular deployment of building materials to create a buildings framework.” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 350).
Repetition as a technique is also being used in my music for all the same reasons that many minimalist composers use repetition. Composers such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Phillip Glass as well as Techno producers Derrick May, Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson who have popularized the technique. By using repetition these composers are discarding and challenging the traditional harmonic functional ideas of tension and release as well as the musical narratives that go with them. It is used to try to eradicate the expression of subjective feelings through the music. It is used to move beyond the linkages of clock time and real life experience with the music. As stated by Ron Rosenbaum, “It is trying to create an extra historical experience of time brought about by discarding teleological and dramatic elements” (Ron Rosenbaum in Cox and Warner 2004, 309). It is attempting to express nothing except for itself. Minimalist music tends to restrict itself to a small number of ideas while stretching those ideas over a long period of time. Kyle Gann says “The length of the work actually underlines the intense restriction of materials: you might write a four minute piece using only seven pitches and no one would notice, but write a 30-minute piece, and the austere limitations become a major phenomenon of the composition. (in Cox and Warner 2004, 299).
In the use of repetitious grooves I am allowing the listener a way in, giving their ear something familiar as an access point. However by locking the groove completely, almost in the way electronic instruments loop, I intend the listener to move into an area of discomfort. The music becomes vertical in nature rather than linear. This repetition can be found in the way the drums are performed on Log Lady. The ride cymbal was to be played in a fast continual fashion. The drummer was instructed not to move from the original dynamic setting and technique used on the ride cymbal. Only after 10 minutes is he allowed to add a second drum (say the bass drum) and this must then lock in the same fashion as the ride cymbal. While doing this on percussion I want the bass player to play sliding grooves that both move the time and placement of the ‘one’. These types of parameters for all the instruments were set to avoid clichéd ‘groove’ sounds.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Chapter wo from my thesis relates to Sampling and Memory. If you want to hear the music you can go to the bands myspace page. Click on the link.
The sampler/ turntablist was the key position in The Escalators and in many ways his sound was the most important sound in the ensemble. Broadly defined, turntabilism is a musical practice in which prerecorded phonograph disks are manipulated in live performance. DJ Babu a member of the DJ crew the Beat Junkies introduced the term in 1995. The name distinguishes the turntablist from the traditional DJ, someone who plays records but is not traditionally thought of as a musician. Although turntablists consider themselves musicians their originality is sometimes questioned because they perform on machines designed for automatic playback. The use of the term “ism” therefore, lends weight to the practice, suggesting an art form with a cohesive doctrine it confers a seriousness that demands respect. (Katz 1970, 115-116)
John Oswald described the art in this way: "A phonograph in the hands of a 'hiphop/scratch' artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced -- the record player becomes a musical instrument." (in Cox and Warner 2004, 132).
The choice of a turntablist DJ Element was ideal. He had developed a great number of technical skills through his years as a “battling” DJ but he also had a wide appreciation of art and art practice, sensitizing him to the need for collaboration. Many of the DJs I had previously worked with had developed their own sound and technique or set of DJ tricks and were unwilling to adapt to new ideas presented to them. He was a turntablist that had the capacity to develop new techniques depending on the sounds required from him. Many DJs develop a personalized library of sound sources and are reluctant to move beyond them. These sample libraries are comparable to the collection of “licks” used by jazz musicians. The escalators project required a DJ that would bring his own library but would be willing to add to it on my request. DJ Element was perfect for this role. We spoke at length about the differing sounds required.
For a number of years now, I have been creating music that is reliant on digital samples, both in a live context and studio context. Katz defines digital sampling as “ a type of computer synthesis in which sound is rendered into data, data that in turn comprise instructions for reconstructing into sound. Sampling is typically regarded as a type of musical quotation, usually of one pop song by another, but it encompasses the digital incorporation of any prerecorded sound into a new recorded work” (Katz 1970, 138). The sampler as a machine has a long history that started with the Singing Keyboard made in 1936, a machine intended to store sounds that could be linked to film, as well as the Noisegraph, the Dramagraph, the Kinematophone, the Soundograph and the Excelsior Sound Effect Cabinet, all machines that employed some sort of disk or other mechanism to store various sound effects and were all put to work in the Hollywood cartoon tape editing techniques developed by film editors (Chanan 1995, 143). Appropriating hundreds of bits and pieces of other peoples work to generate new sounds by remixing them is a technique very common in the hip-hop community. This includes artists such as DJ Shadow who released a seminal sample based album entitled Endtroducing (1995). However, prior to that it is a technique used widely by composers such as Pierre Schaeffer with his musique concrete compositions of the 1950s, Gavin Bryars in his piece Plus Minus which incorporates a collage of the slow movement of Schubert’s C Major String Quartet and Barry Ryon’s pop song Eloise (1969) as well as John Oswald’s seminal recordings entitled Plunder phonics (1989).
My interest in sample-based music arose from my work with Des Peres, a Melbourne based band in which I participate as composer and leader. Des Peres recorded and released a number of albums that are either sample heavy or entirely created using samples which have been garnered from my own and others record collections. Sampled based music is a music that allows for great freedom. A composer can take sounds from anywhere, mix them together and then apply their own touch. The restriction of the samples themselves is offset by the manipulated recontextualisation that can take place. It is a form of music that ignores the rules of genre. Rather it leads to the creation of new genres. Style is placed upon style, classical is placed upon rock beats, folk or country is placed all over jazz drumming, fusion bass lines are interspersed with blues guitar and its all mixed together.
The main limitations with what might happen, is the creativity of the composer. One’s limits usually stem from ones imagination rather than one’s talent. It is an idea that seems to build on the statements made by Cage with his piece Imaginary Landscape (1939). His composition consisted of chance recontextualisations using turntables and radios. In his famous essay, “Experimental Music” he says, “Any sound may occur in any combination and in any continuity.” For Cage the sounds of one environment were meant to be taken out of context and shifted through many new ones.
My interest in sampling with respect to The Escalators has narrowed to its relationship with human memory. The questions I am interested in include:
1. what takes place in perception when a person hears a sample?
2. what is happening within a persons memory when sounds that are familiar to them are recontextualized?
3. whenever a turntablist or sampler is used in music are they making a direct correlation to a human memory?
The primary sound source for the instrument is past recordings. These recordings are chosen because of the direct link they have to memory makeup of both the performer (turntablist) and the listener. Paul D Miller states “DJ culture is all about recombinant potential. It has as a central feature a eugenics of the imagination. Each and every source sample is fragmented and bereft of prior meaning – kind of like a future without a past. The samples are given meaning only when re-presented in the assemblage of the mix” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 349-350). The meaning held in memory is being remixed, changed, altered, made new, given new meaning, bettered or worsened.
Furthermore, Miller “considers sample mixes to be mood sculptures operating in a recombinant fashion. Based on the notion that all sonic material can be manipulated with the same ease that computers now generate composite images, the DJ or sample reliant composer combines the musical expression of other musicians with their own and in the process creates a seamless flow of music. The sampler can be seen both as a custodian and questioner of aural history, constantly crashing different voices and traditions together to give a reinterpretation of history (or memory) that is a contemporary and personal commentary” (in Cox and Miller 2004, 351). The choice of the samples is always significant. This was so for The Escalators.
A human memory is, in the phrase of eminent psychologist Daniel L Schachter, a “temporary constellation of activity” – a necessarily approximate excitation of neural circuits that bind a set of sensory images and semantic data into the momentary sensation of a remembered whole. These images and data are seldom the exclusive property of one particular memory. So when one hears a familiar sound, for example a two second excerpt from Madonna’s song Like a Virgin (1985), what the memory of that consists of is a set of hardwired neural connections among the pertinent regions of the brain, and a predisposition for the entire constellation to light up when any part of the circuit is stimulated. The sound of a Madonna sample acts as a trigger for the memory that is deeply rooted in each individuals life experience and acts as a kind of oral history. Each time it is heard it enforces the constellation of images and knowledge that constitute that memory and each hearing further strengthens the dendritic connections among its components, further encouraging the firing of that specific set of synapses. (Franzin 2002, 8-9) . Each human memory is deeply locked into a system of personal referencing, i.e. a network. Ken Jordon states, “Once every sound had a distinct source. A door slammed shut, a horn was blown, a guitar was strummed. Audio came from a discreet event; it was tied to a discernable action. Networked music challenges this notion by displacing sound from its origin, moving audio freely from one location to another, giving it a presence in and of itself” (in Miller and Jordon 2008, 104). Sample-based music is a form of networked music, linking into the networks of the past and creating new networks to be referenced in the future.
The conditioning of each individual through genetic, cultural, religious, psychological, and linguistic information forms a separate and unique unit. These can be known because of their differences and their connections to those outside themselves. Each fragment has its own network with its own intentions, time, space and history. (David Shea Arcana p146). Sample based music connects into this idea as it is music of arrangement rather than direct invention per se. This is true for all acts of creation but sample-based music is one of the more obvious. Sample based music takes its sound sources from an original setting and then places them within a new one. It rearranges the meanings given to the original sound source based on each individuals network of understanding related to the original sound source.
Human memory consists of three processes: echoic memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Bob Snyder in his book Music and Memory links these three phases with three corresponding time levels of musical organization
1. level of event fusion
2. the melodic and rhythmic level
3. the formal level (Snyder 2000, 3).
At the echoic level the inner ear converts sound into trains of nerve impulses that represent frequency and amplitude of individual acoustic vibrations (Buser and Imbert 1992, 156-171). At this moment the data is uncategorized and raw but through processes called feature extraction and perceptual binding the data is perceptually categorized. (Bregman 1990, 213-394) ( Bharucha 1999, 413-418). These categories or events are placed into groups based on similarity and proximity. These events subsequently activate the parts of long-term memory, which are activated by similar events in the past.
As Snyder states, “Called conceptual categories these long term memories comprise knowledge about the events that evoked them and consist of content usually not in conscious awareness, which must be retrieved from the unconscious” (Snyder 2000, 4).
The formal level is where the music for The Escalators is attempting to work especially with regard to syntax. Syntax is sets of relations between identifiable patterns (Snyder 2004, 200). Musically that can include ideas of genre/style or expected patterns within a piece. Snyder states “primary parameters are central to the creation of syntax because they are the aspects of music by which patterns are identified and related to each other” (Snyder 2004,200).
Syntax is made possible by categorisation and memory. Musical syntax consists of learned rules that generate certain types of patterns or gestures that in turn can signify specific types of musical functions. Sampling is primarily concerned with the syntax of genre. Genre or style is a syntax that depends on the perception of patterns occurring at different times as very similar or identical. Syntax depends on the perception of identity.
Sampling through the means of displacement would alter a person’s syntax within their memory. Music provides a sensory experience that activates memory. Meaningful reception of a musical message depends on appropriate context in memory, a repertoire of schemas and categories that are both personally and culturally activated (Noth 1990, 176-180).
In the original choice of samples made for The Escalators a statement is made. I am attempting to influence the listener to make a selection from their memory schemata that is hopefully similar to mine. I am presuming they will all be able to identify the samples from the culture from which extracted. It is through the use of memory principles such as similarity, proximity and continuity that various pattern units are marked out. As higher-level relations between basic pattern units involving long-term memory enter the picture the listener’s personal and cultural schemas begin to have an influence (Snyder 2000, 208). It is in the recontextualisation and displacement of the sample that memory sabotage occurs.
Snyder states that music can be divided into two categories based on the use of memory:
1. music that attempts to exploit long term memory by building up hierarchical and associative mental representations of large time structures
2. music that attempts to sabotage recognition and expectation by frustrating recollection and anticipation, thereby intensifying the local order of the present.
Sample based music falls defiantly into the second category. The continual genre bending of the music creates a kind of anticategorisation technique that creates sounds that cannot be easily framed in the listeners memory system. The rapidly changing samples in new settings create a nuance overload where every sound is a new event and cannot be easily identified as being in the same category as the last sound/event (Snyder 2000, 236). Discontinuities are commonplace in Western art of the 20th century, from the cubist art through to the splicing techniques used in film.
With The Escalators I have injected a significant number of chosen samples into the framework of the music. These samples that play with the ideas of discontinuity and recontextualisation have been sourced from the world of popular culture, things such as pop music, film soundtracks and TV bites. I have also used samples obtained from field recording. These are to be used as “Sound Markers” (Toop 2004, 94). The field recordings were of sounds such as fire, church bells, doors opening and shutting and footsteps. Each sample has preconceived meaning to most audience members.
Michael Forester describes “sound markers” as certain sounds or sound conglomerates that become lodged in memory as markers of security “The sound of the family moving around the house gives me a sense of security and belonging,” sounds can exert a powerful sense of centeredness, or perhaps push a door open within a darkened mind, offering a faint sense of escape. (Toop 2004, 94). The sounds of the church bell, fire and footsteps were to be my own sound markers to be used within the framework of The Escalators. These common sounds, have meanings for every member of the audience and would provide a sense of aural security. They also could be manipulated in the context of a musical performance.
What happens when these sounds are inserted into the musical performance while constantly manipulating and distorting them? A sense of the familiar shifted sideways should result. Of the piece Jesus Blood Never Fails Me Yet (1974) in which Bryars sampled the singing of an old London tramp, looped it and then composed an accompanying chamber orchestra score, he says the methodology was ‘the idea of assemblage, and taking iconic things and recycling them.’ (in Toop 2004 161).
The music of The Escalators was to be always creating a sense of the familiar simultaneously always pulling the listener into a state of unease. The recontextualising of memories through sampling will naturally have this effect.
Always shifting things slightly off the axis they are meant to sit on.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The Escalators is my latest ensemble and something I'm very proud of. I started my masters in composition in 2007 and am very close to completing it. My main achievement through this process was the creation of The Escalators and the subsequent music written for it. The band has recorded our debut CD which is now available from our myspace site. This Sunday we are performing all the music at a concert at my warehouse (see the myspace page for details)
I was required to write a series of compositions an then write an exsegesis of the process which I am going to upload parts of to this blog over the next couple of weeks.
The band The Escalators together with the music uniquely composed for it, emerged from a key area of research, sample-based music and its relationship to human memory. The strategy of triggering memory with the use of existing musical recordings has been the dominant determining factor of the music. Additionally a number of other interests, have been influential. These include:
1. the film and TV work of David Lynch and the atmosphere it generates
2. structured improvisation
3. aspects of minimalism
4. a desire to compose in a style radically different from anything I had produced previously
5. the possibility of creating an ensemble and a recording that I could sell to a wider audience
These concepts defined the bands composition and makeup.
The Escalators’ distinctive identity is a consequence of crossing once-sacred style boundaries. In using samples, a composer can create hybrids that were previously unthinkable. This has the capacity to produce new, unique and personalised musical identities.
Concept development, writing the music and choosing the musicians for the Escalators commenced in 2007. There are two reasons for the name. Firstly, for me the name elicits the feeling of a constant returning to the same place, likewise, in my opinion, sample-based music also seems to have this effect. It creates memory confusion and a sense of return. The second and less obvious reason was Escalators starts with the letter E. All my jazz/improvisation groups have had names starting with the letter E (En Rusk, Escargone, The Electricians, so now the Escalators). Doing this creates a sense of uncertainty in those who have followed my career, as well as a slight confusion when talking about one band compared to another. The state of minimal uncertainty or subtle confusion is something that has always interested me.
The ensemble consists of Pat Thiel playing trumpet, Mark Hannaford playing piano, Joe Talia playing drums, Mick Meagher playing electric bass, Lawrence Folvig on electric guitar, DJ Element playing turntables/sampler, and me on trombone.
At the early stages of development the shared improvising/compositional language that the players possess has allowed me to rapidly explore concepts. It has helped me decide what to keep and what to discard. It frees me up from having to constantly produce physical written work that might or might not be kept, thus saving me time in decision making and allowing for a more flexible, responsive approach to the final pieces. The distinguished clarinetist Anthony Pay states “I am the sort of player who is more disposed to start off from the accuracy point of view rather than starting off from the musical point of view. You can with some modern music start off and say : ‘I’m not going to pay any attention to the notational aspects of it, but initially I am going to decide what the music is about, the gestures – and language – the sort of thing, if you are improvising, you have to deal with.’ Now, I tend when I’m approaching a modern score, to start off by trying to get, as accurately as I can, what he’s actually put down on paper.” (Bailey 1992, 67-68) That premise is precisely what I want to avoid.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The boogie shack was where we were playing for the night, in a town that had multiple double letters in it’s name. The place has been set up in the style of a 1950s American Happy Days Dinner. Set up by a mad woman who is obviously great at collecting things but not so great at collecting anything of interest. Instead the diner is crammed with old coke bottles, ash trays with pin up girls splashed across them , old parts off a hundred drum kits hanging from the ceiling, half mannequins with the ugliest of 1950s clothes draped on them, the metal parts of a babies bassinette, Hawaiian carvings and hula dolls everywhere, four poster tables, horrifying murals of 1950s swing dancers plastered to the walls, diner style menus filled with dust that was also from the 1950s, the stench of cat urine filling your lungs with every breath, a waiting staff taken from two spectrums of life. They either looked like life had relentlessly wore them down or had the fear in their eyes brought on by ones first paid employment. The joint was packed with rockers, bootscooters, swing dancers, Goths, costumed cowboys and every other social group that stakes a claim in the 1950s American adorance of Fonzie. And the longer the set and night went the more they took to their cartoon like characters, cornering me against the bar to inform me of the movies that they want to one day act in, how they sustained their arm injury by chopping wand then polishing wood, what sort of guitar they play and why, informing me of the absolute ineptness of the four people who were gyrating on the dance floor, girl number one doesn’t move her feet enough, girl number 2 moves them to much.
They were all very assured and defiant in their place in small town Queensland.
I dared to order the only thing on the menu a hamburger, although the hamburger could be ordered in a number of different ways, as a JFK as a Big bopper etc. and I immediately regretted it. I seem to have no ability to not attempt to fully immerse myself into whatever scene I’m currently in despite the obvious harmful drawbacks , and this hamburger was harmful.
The DJ for the night, playing before and after us was an elderly gentleman well into his 70s who’s quiff stood higher than a crack addict. His suit was jet black his shoes shiny. The flyer informed me that he was “very popular” . “I likes to play music that sets a scene.” He slurred at me. I’m not sure what his version of a scene was but Big Mumma Thornton is defiantly in it. The mad woman stormed around. Moving things. Dust took over my lungs making me sneeze. I had a headache.
The mad woman’s husband and part owner of the place asked us to sign the “superstars wall” a wall left for textad autographs crammed in between the million other trinkets. This wall never gets washed, he proudly announced, I showed no sign of surprise..
Unusual things have gone on in this place and this town and this state. Bad things maybe.
The venue seemed to have rubbed off on the band who played one of the better, looser, stranger sets of our tour filled with greater improvisation , humour, lies and purpose . We roamed around the stage like madmen intent on some form of destruction. If we escaped fast enough it might not be our own.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I loved the size of the room, the beauty of the room. The feeling of age and history. I loved the feeling that you were playing at a venue that made you feel like you had achieved some level of success. I love playing in Sydney. Driving in to Sydney always makes me feel like I’m getting into a big city, a city with more possibilities for trouble, a city that has more levels and each level goes slightly deeper. Even the shallow levels go to a deeper place; the trash is better, cheaper, filthier.
There’s a greater energy in a big city. There’s a greater energy when you play on a big stage. All of sudden there is a larger amount of space in between you and the other members; you have more room to establish as your own. There’s also a greater space in the sound. It comes back at you different. It leaves you differently.
The backstage is bigger, almost like a house, your hotel room is bigger, still not like a house.
The rider is larger and the meat platter is fresher.
The energy of the band is way higher. There’s more people and more possibilities.
I love playing to Sydney people, they’re focused, they sing in all the right spots.
I loved that the venue had way to many over enthusiastic security guard all Indian of course. If ever a nationality has conquered a profession this one has.
I loved the fact that when in our last song an over enthusiastic audience member climbed onto stage there wasn’t a security guard in sight, in fact so hopeless where they in getting him down he didn’t know what to do with himself so he broke into an Arabian style snake dance that went to places dance should always go. Finally an Indian gentleman was seen politely asking him to please stop and come off the stage.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I attended the AMP awards the other day in Sydney. An event that was bathed in strangeness, desperation, and a need to be loved, well maybe just liked, by all in attendance and further afield despite the lack of substantial qualities that lend themselves to liking or love. AMP stands for Australian Music Prize giving off the deception that it is a reflection of what is to be regarded as good in Australian music. Instead it is an example of what can be done when a good publicist jumps into bed with media, industry, washed up rock starts pretending to be holders of some sort of knowledge and keen to be washed up rock stars all glittering and shiny in their rap around Ray Bans or T Shirts with designs from a previous decade emblazoned over them, and a tiny sample of talent.
The ceremony conveniently took place at the corporate offices of one of the major sponsors, an energy drink company that not only provided slabs of their gum decaying ridiculous ideas of a drink but also provided the gold colored girls wearing air hostess uniforms resembling an era long since past where to be an air hostess was to be sexy even if slightly plastic. It was there job to hand out the free slabs of Red Bull on offer and then wonder aloud “why isn’t anyone taking the drink” . Everyone instead had made there way up to the corporate nightclub, past the corporate basketball court, skate ramp and whatever other retarded idea some corporate designer thought would be appropriate to put in the offices of a corporation keen to represent energy and youthfulness as well as ensuring their employees had the BEST DAMN TIME at work.
The nightclub quickly filled with people, aromas and blazing afternoon sun pounding through the windows. Mixing in with the aromatic delightful musk of media types was the rotting sweat of young rockers together with the bland aroma of advertising people. The Presets were up for the award, not because they were likely to win it as they have gotten to large for something like this, no a decision would have been made in some small office by those who are running this award in conjunction with the major sponsors to ask them to be on the shortlist, maybe even pay them some money to be on it and show up. This would further legitimize these awards making it even more attractive to sponsors.
So many people with simultaneously so much to gain and lose in this room. So much in their own eyes so little in everyone elses.
A media type who had been at our gig the night before was gushing in his praise of our band and how sympathetically we played. I burst out laughing then realizing the inappropriateness of that action and how much of an uncomfortable situation it had paradoxically caused I excused myself and went to the bar and ordered a drink of the boutique beer company owned by one of the Industry types in attendance.
I was starting to feel a stickiness all over my skin and a claustrophobia not helped when a shrieking young representative /presenter from Channel V started squawking in the microphone espousing the greatness of her employer and her all round excitement at presenting this life changing award (that’s $30000 to change a life). Here was a girl who had entered the workforce to early in life therefore depriving her of the ability to compare it with any other from of reality, she seemed to truly love her company. Her shrieking was only matched by Renee Geyers loud and forceful attempts to speak for everyone while successfully speaking for no one screeching at the young presenter to Shut the F..k up and get on with it. Now didn’t that cause some confusion.
A performance by a clichéd riddled band with a confused front singer not old enough to know how to be the embodiment of cool from such a bygone era he was imitating was followed by the announcement of the winner. The confusion of all my senses was growing evermore extreme and the idea of violence had a soft fluffy type feeling to it. It was time to go. When the arts gets involved in money making, back slapping self deception it always makes for an intolerably boring occasion and subsequently an intolerably boring story. I apologize.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
That was fine except that it was moved to a venue with no alcohol, food lamingtons or refreshments of any sort what soever.
People don’t take kindly to this, it doesn’t matter who you are, and many a grumble could be heard.
In act more than grumblings down right dissent was streaming forth from various sober mouths.
While it would be incorrect to assume that panic hit the band, we were previously made aware of the situation and had prepared ourselves accordingly, there was a level of panic coming from the Music Industry members of our small party. They were the ones in the direct firing line (they were assigned to the door).
At this stage our illustrious leader, realizing the responsibilities that come with that title grabbed the bull by the horns and assigning my good self and fellow ship mate the task of manning the big wheel and steering our cruising yacht down to the nearest refreshment house to stock up with supplies. On our return arms was handed out to the poor suffering thirsty patrons (despite the protestations of the Music Industry specialists present under the guise of us becoming lawbreakers) and boy did the mood lift.
Sometimes it’s not only the music that is required to have a good show.
Here is a cartoon drawn by a member of the crowd that night and here is a link to his blog about that gig, Its always interesting to read the perspective of an event from someone else and his is fabulous. And his pictures are likewise fabulous
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The first gig we played on this tour was in a placecalled Bunbury in a joint called The Prince of Wales, while the gig itself was as uneventful as the place I did have one interesting experience which might sum up the gig, Bunbury, and in fact most of Western Australia. On arrival and after eight hours of travel getting to this Mecca of sterility we stumbled in the back door of the hotel. Right in front of the stage sat 4 old people, all well into their eighties, all drinking beer from a pint glass all complaining loudly about the noise we might be about to make. I was immediately enamoured by this sight so I sat down with them and got chatting. We made some decent conversation despite the obvious inhibitors created by the hearing aids and my mumbling and I discovered that this group of 4 was once a group of 20 and had been travelling down to this pub from Perth by train every year to attend the Bunbury races (trots and normal horses). The absence of the other 16 members of the group was due to death which I was loudly informed by the only women who hadn’t as yet spoken, would happen to me sometime so I had better get used to it (I presume she was talking about old age preceding death but it doesn’t matter). I wished them all the best, told them not to loose to much money and headed off to my room. Strange place to come for a holiday I thought, this was no pleasant English country pub rather a dank smelling beer drenched pub, the walls covered in posters of other touring bands, the flat screen TVs adorning the walls blaring out video hits and announcements of the weekly bingo games or dog racing and where I believe one of the owners of the sound system is currently doing some time because of an untimely death to one of his ex mates. Oh well I though, maybe it was different 40 years ago.
The next morning I got up, showered the headach out of my head, and not daring to sample the breakfast on offer I decided to go for a walk. I had to pass through the hotel and here were the 4 elderly people sitting around the same table with beers in hand and empty glasses on the table in front of them. “Are you heading off to the races?” I asked after some cordial small talk.
“No Why would we do that,” they answered, “we’ve never been. We’ve got all we want here, beer, there’s no crowd (there was defiantly none of that) and the race is on the TV all day.
“Fantastic” I thought, what a great 40 year annual holiday you can have in this part of the world.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
About to head out on tour again with CW Stoneking and the Primitive Horn Orchestra
The support act for this tour is Mamie Minch a singer from New York who sounds cool -
Here are a list of dates
Saturday, 7 March 2009 VIC - Port Fairy Folk Fest
Sunday, 8 March 2009 VIC - Port Fairy Folk Fest
WED 11th - Prince Of Wales Hotel, Bunbury WA
THURS 12th - Fly By Night, Fremantle, WA
FRI 13th - Octagon Theatre, Perth, WA
SAT 14th - Spiegeltent, Adelaide, SA -
SUN 15th - Spiegeltent, Adelaide, SA -
WED 18th - Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
THURS 19th - Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
FRI 20th - The Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
SAT 21st - Canberra Playhouse Theatre, Canberra, ACT
SUN 22nd - The Clarendon, Katoomba, NSW
TUE 24th - GPAC - Blakiston Theatre, Geelong, VIC
FRI 27th - Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
SAT 28th - Earth Hour - Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne VIC
SUN 29th - The Palais, Hepburn Springs, VIC
SUN 5th April - Tivoli, Brisbane
TUES 7th April - The Boogie Shack, Toowoomba QLD
WED 8th April - Sands Tavern, Maroochydore QLD
FRI 10th April - Byron Bay Blues Fest, Byron Bay NSW
SAT 11th April - Byron Bay Blues Fest, Byron Bay NSW
FRI 17th - fly to Perth
SAT 18th April - West Coast Blues Fest
I tend to blog more frequently when I'm on tour due to the amount of nothing time that you have to deal with when touring, time spent waiting, waiting for the tour bus, waiting for a plane, waiting for a soundcheck to start and definatly waiting for the sound check to end waiting for the support band to finish and your gig to start, waiting for the rider to arrive, waiting for the merchandise part of the night to end and for everything to be packed and loaded, waiting for the adreniline to leave your body, waiting to fall asleep.
Anyway in this waiting time it's good to write
We also just finished a filmclip If you click on the link it will take you to it
Friday, February 6, 2009
Hey all Des Peres are playing Feb 14 (Valentines night) at the Toff, we have called the night Objectophillia out of respect to all those individuals who have developed love for inanimate objects and for whom Valentines night must indeed be a strange night. Also playing are Splitfoot a great new Melbourne band
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Here is an example of a piece written by a group of five, elevan year olds. They were given 45 minutes to write and perform this piece. They have been composing in my classes for about 4 years now so are very used to that sort of task expectation. You can hear they have written a four part piece of music including an A and a B section. It totally rocks
Heres some more venue reviews
The Powerhouse – BRISBANE, QLD
Cool room Uncool people running the show – they take a cut of the door, cut of your merchandise, cut of your rider,anyway to make money of the band they will - and I got a paper cut as well
Joes Waterhole – EUMUNDI, QLD
Strange town strange pub. It’s like your in the set of a 1980s cliched Australian soap opera, complete with a meat raffle, dog, men with beards down to their knees that look like the dog, rugby shorts, blue singlets, photos of old school boxers and fights in the crowd.
Lake Kawana Arts Theartre– CALOUNDRA, QLD
0/10 I loved this joint but don’t recommend it to anyone