Monday 22 December 2008

No more piano!

That's it. I've left the mansion now. So I've got to find a way of keeping up the blog without it. Hmmm. A creative challenge!

Thursday 18 December 2008

Eerie christmas

This eerie christmas improvisation doesn't really work, which I find interesting. It's quite disturbing, partly because (I think) there is no recognisable human voice here.

Wednesday 17 December 2008


This is not a vitriolic post, but something's happened this evening which has made my insides turn into knots. This is not a feeling I've had for some time. What's the mechanism for this emotion? It involves two clashing world-views, each one insisting that the other is different to ensure their own viability, each one perceiving threat in the changes that are being demanded of it. As with any double-bind, there is no way out. Change isn't possible, not-change will only heighten conflict. And so we have instant pathology, with a direct biological response to boot. Strangely, I feel better for having written this.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Sympathy and resonance

Thinking about sympathy and resonance in voices (following on from yesterday). This improvisation has one clear voice (a repeated melody .. a single pattern.. which is varied) and some sort of accompaniment which serves to bring out details, aspects of it. The classic 'litany' idea of continual reharmonisation from French music is a particular example of this (thinking of Alexander Goehr..).

Monday 15 December 2008

Eastern voice

Heard some amazing Turkish classical music this evening.. the modes used (phrygian, etc) create a very sensuous effect, and clearly there is a lot of melismatic voice over a drone bass. Definitely melody and accompaniment. Two voices? no, I think the drone simply 'amplifies' the voice.. it resonates sympathetically.. (interestingly we were talking about sympathetic magic and the Lescaux caves this afternoon...). The distinction between sympathy and conflict needs more thinking about!

The joker's voice

Here's some Haydn (which I used to be able to play better than I can now!). Haydn is a juxtaposer - that's where Beethoven got it from. But the frequent and unexpected changes in texture and mood are there to create a sense of fun.. humour in places (if it's done well). What's the voice? Like Bach, there are places where there are many voices. But I think really it's the voice of the skilled comedian, playing with our expectations. This is the voice that knows how voices work, and how we expect voices to work, and knows how to surprise us... it is a 'knowing' voice (Shakespeare is like this too)

Saturday 13 December 2008

For Astrid

I'm still exploring voices, which gave me the idea of doing some Schubert - which is all about melody and the profound evocation of a 'voice'. There is little music in the world as beautiful as this. And the words are a deep expression of love. So this is for Astrid.

Bach Prelude

How many 'voices' are here? In a sense we might say "one" - the musical consistency of the whole. But at the same time there is 'melody' and 'accompaniment'.. there are motivic patterns which cross between them. We hear this crossing. We interpret this crossing as 'crossing between different voices'... as an 'ensemble'. What is it in the music that makes us recognise this as 'ensemble'?

Friday 12 December 2008

How many voices?

Here is a Debussy prelude.. There seems to be a melody and accompaniment - the 'voice' (top) is initially quite clear.. but then the texture thickens, the harmony takes it to unusual places.. and in places that clear 'single' voice is subsumed into something bigger.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Flowing voices

Also heard the Vaughan Williams Mass today. Made me think about the opposite of juxtaposition which is the seemless flow of music of Palestrina, etc (and to some extent Bach) - and Vaughan Williams. It strikes me that this music has everything to do with 'voice'. We hear the voices of the parts, whose movements appear to us individually coherent (how - is there a vicarious element to this??). When the voice is broken (with new textures, harmonies.. or juxtapositions), there is a different level of engagement (what is this?) - the vicarious experience of motifs and ideas?


Heard some Prokofiev this morning (and evening) on my way to Birmingham (JISC thing). I learnt the 7th sonata as a student (always ambitious!), I've always loved the mellifluous melodies and unexpected changes to harmony and mood. There's some mileage here - it's sort of related to the juxtaposition thing... (what is the effect of this?)

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Juxtaposer composer

Much of the music I really love is by juxtaposers: Stravinsky, Beethoven, Berlioz, Janacek, Tippett, Ives, Monteverdi, Messaien. What is it about juxtaposition which gives their music such fluidity and vitality?

Monday 8 December 2008

Christmas dance

What is it about open 5ths that summon up a Christmas-like feeling? Is it because many carols, etc. use them as a throw-back to peasant dances? I'm not sure. I wonder if it's got something to do with 'grounding' - after all, the open 5th is so harmonically determinate. Superimposing them (like here) makes for a sense where grounding could come anywhere harmonically...

late-night theoretical musing

Just back from London and thinking about the link between Luhmann's communication theory, Harre's positioning theory and the ancient greek idea of Kenosis (as I've learnt it from Karen Armstrong). It's too late to think about, but useful to register the thought!

Friday 5 December 2008

Astrid's Twitter Poem

This is a development. I got Astrid to read her Twitter poem and record it. I then improvised and fitted her reading around the improvisation. A bit of (hasty) messing around with Windows movie maker. Plenty of room for improvement, but I like the effect...

Something a bit smoother

Did this improvisation a few days ago.. it was an attempt to simply relax at the piano. Nothing testing. Perhaps it's a bit anodyne...

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Wrong turnings...

This improvisation went wrong at the end (and at the same time, weirdly, the technology decided to screw-up as well). But wrong turnings are always interesting (I took some great ones yesterday on my way to the CETIS conference). Despite the fact that they're always challenging, stressful, etc... new things emerge from them. I think they should be encouraged. JISC's 'content' call could be a really good thing!

Monday 24 November 2008

Baroque disaster!

This is using quick-capture again, but for some reason the audio settings didn't work properrly - so it virtually unlistenable to... but I quite like the baroque thing. Birmingham tomorrow for Andrew Feenberg...

Sunday 23 November 2008

Sunday Quick Capture

I haven't used YouTube's quick capture before, but it certainly saves time (which I have to do because I've got a lot of work today). Difficult day. Took Izzy out of church because she was looking SO miserable! Shouted. Not happy (but not feeling great actually). Then we went to Pizza Hut.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Harp Song

This was a bit of an afterthought after a slow Saturday indoors. I should really do some work, but can't bring myself to it. Nice Thai meal with Carol and Phil. Thinking about moving house.

Ghostly and ineffible

Something very strange on this very cold day. Izzy made a video in preparation for her presentation in school. Bit of a battle. Astrid amused her on Skype from London. Technology's wonderful!

Friday 21 November 2008

Jazzy afterthought

This really was an afterthought. More of a technical exercise than anything else. Lovely package from Astrid this evening.

Something more lively

I want a finale for my quartet.. maybe not something this jazzy, but it does feel quite grounded. Rondo's are about being grounded.. always returning (I think this is why they are often final movements). This doesn't quite "always return", but not that different. Still haven't finished evaluation paper. Must do this weekend!

Tragic moods

Thinking a lot about tragic things (funny because I'm quite happy). But it strikes me that one of the great features of modern life is that we've lost some sense of mortality. Death is not ever-present as it was in the past (heard Schubert's Death and the Maiden quartet earlier today - a good example). Mortality is important - particularly when thinking about technology. It gives us the perspective where the ephemeral becomes eternal. So one quartet improvisation, but first "tragic" which I'm really pleased with (it was an afterthought!)

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Walter Crane

I forgot my camera. Sometimes things like this are real opportunities to do something different. I wanted to do something wistful, and the idea of combining Walter Crane illustrations with musical accompaniment occurred to me.. The aging of the movie works really well too, I think..

Teaching about video!

And here's a video I did for work to teach people how to create interesting videos for teaching and learning...


This might be the Scherzo movement for my quartet...


I wanted to do something in the manner of a string quartet... had something in mind when I left Astrid on Monday morning which I really liked, but now can't remember it (must write stuff down - need a notebook like Beethoven!). I think it involved Britten's flattened-major 7th clash chord.

Thursday 13 November 2008


I really like this improvisation - I was listening to Stravinsky's "The Fairy's Kiss" on the radio after taking Izzy home, and was particularly taken with the gentle tuneful chromaticism of it. (Nasty accident on the way home on the A34 by the way - teenager in hit-and-run. Police everywhere. Was troubled by this and late to pick Izzy up.) The music sounds more like Sibelius than Stravinsky, but I still like it.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


I did this improvisation just to do something different from the previous ones. I think I've done something like this before (it's a bit like Scriabin).. I can't remember..

Non-Stop day

It's been a non-stop day.. rather too much going on, with SPLICE (setting up evaluation day), strategy, IDIBL, etc... This is an atonal improvisation which I did after the chromatic one which I'm still uploading.

Another 16th Century improvisation

Here's something a bit different...

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Ground State

After the turmoil of yesterday's improvisations, this is much calmer. Using the open 5ths in the bass as a way of 'grounding' the music....

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Twinkle Twinkle Little War

Been thinking about war recently (it's that time of year.. and the american elections bring these things home a bit too). War is the one complexity that we can't really deal with. There is little adaptation one can do, it is more infinitely complex than any attempt to counter with it. Unlike any other threat, including climate change, or terrorism (and terrorism isn't war). All we can do is to avoid it, and ensure some resource to regulate its complexity (armies). So this first improvisation is about war. The second is something lighter based on twinkle twinkle little star.

Monday 3 November 2008

Happy times, sad music

The saddest music is often written at the happiest times (and vice-versa). This is pretty desolate music, but I'm quite pleased with it... I'm not feeling desolate at all (quite the opposite!), but my happy mood seems to free me up to express something deeply sad...

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Rest and Pumpkins

I did this one on Tuesday morning as Isobel was carving out a pumpkin (and hopefully not carving off her fingers!). Was I inappropriately chilled??

Monday 27 October 2008

Monday's Strategy

e-Strategy meeting and IDIBL presentation... it's been a non-stop day!

Hell of a week

It's been a hell of a week - concert, Izzy, Trafford Centre madness, etc, etc. Very tired. Astrid said this was a 'serious' improvisation. She's right!


Improvisation around regular rhythms and fibonacci numbers.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Sound Inquiries

This is an improvisation around the theme of 'Sound Inquiry'. Using PD for effects...

Friday 17 October 2008

What is music?

Thinking about combining talking and playing.. and here to inquire "what is music".. it gives us something to talk about... it is a fluctuation of possible events... a fluctuation of probabilities of action...

Thursday 16 October 2008

Improvisation from a couple of days ago..

I was tired when I did this one too! I called it 'through leaves' - maybe thinking of Janacek (although it's not Janacekian!)

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Harlech day...

I am so incredibly tired after driving to Harlech and back. But I'm always interested in the improvisations when I'm in this state. It's almost as if my conscious mind can't control what my fingers do, so my fingers have even more autonomy!

Monday 13 October 2008

something lively

Thursday 9 October 2008

harmony and proportion

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Two experriments with Golden Sections

These are two attempts to integrate Golden-section proportions into different musical styles. The first is a Bach-style piece, the second is Scarlatti...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

love of patterns

These improvisations may not seem to be about 'love' but I think they are. Thinking about Fibonacci series and patterns... talking to Izzy about maths this evening. What is a pattern? it is love... May look deeper into Norgard's mathematics. These are both quite Bartokian. Going back to my adolescent philosophical musings, where the most important thing seemed to me to be the emotional nature of logic... something that Vedic mathematical tradition emphasises too.

Monday 6 October 2008

Love is a pattern!

Heard some Webern on the Radio at Astrid's house this morning. Extraordinary music.. so I've had a go at doing a couple of things in a similar vein... What's the pattern?


Wednesday 1 October 2008


The Heart (by Astrid)

The heart is a strange organ. Small, with many rooms.
Did you know that blood circulates without a heart, right in the
beginning of everything new?

That is how strong love is, before it gets its different names.
Sea of love. Yes. Does it branch out? Yes. Does it have many rooms? Yes.

Love is never weak.

Simplicity is love. Complexity is tasty. Swallow it whole.

I collapse with mirth and laughter, I am helpless, I give in.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Proportions and the Vitruvian Man

The proportions of the Vitruvian man are really fascinating me at the moment. When so much of my work is about personal balance and proportion (particularly with technology), I can't help thinking Leonardo might have got there six hundred years ago. Bearing in mind that technology is an extension of the body, what might a modern Twitter-enabled Vitruvian man look like? The improvisation plays with proportion (tried to keep it to fibonacci numbers)...

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Slipping into sleep

Another poem by Astrid on Sleep:

When the satiny oil penetrated the surface
a message was conveyed.
Unfathomable and subtle.
More than you and I had anticipated.

Sleep 1

No sleep

At night I have to watch you.
To loose one moment of alert and distinct
Awareness of your presence

Is the loss
The flower feels when the bee lifts off its petal, to seek another
Or maybe
A sister saying good bye to her brother, before a long journey
Or maybe
An entire planet when its sun becomes so luminous, it will never shine again.

In other words, my love, I am tired to the bone.
In other words, you are the world to me.

But then, this is the least important thing.

What really matters is your and my ability to
Consistently and very conscientiously
Brave that much happiness.

Wednesday 17 September 2008


This is a fantastic poem that Astrid sent today: a mind whirring on as the day passes.. thoughts and feelings passing through it... the edge of wanting attention. My music tries to capture the relentless whirring, while the melody clings to it like the thread of lived experience.
In the morning the birds sang remarkably well
into the not-yet-lived day.

A light promise of muchness and an
emerging thread of sweet nothingness.

It is mid-morning. I too often say: I love you. And am in two minds about it.
It is true. And the slow and steady current running
beneath this day, that is advancing now.
It is superfluous. And has an edge of wanting attention, when I can leave this stream,
this ocean of love entirely alone.

It is lunch time. The reflection of the sun in the canal blinds me.
Have you ever run along the canal with closed eyes?
Listen carefully, this is not London. It is Utopia Village,
where other runners smile at you and I run farther.

It is afternoon. Two spicy cookies and a cup of instant coffee.
A fleeting wink, as the clock trudges on.

Evening is approaching. Dusk coming down and hugging this city.
Levelling. Slowing time and movement.

Night has come. As you are not here, I will not be wasting any further words of mine.


The poem today to me represents the very deepest human struggle of two people coming to terms with the power each has, and in the course of which, coming to terms with themselves. The improvisation represents this struggle in the lyrical 'cello' melody. The one-ness of the two and the whole process is represented by the C-major triads in the upper register...

One or two chrysalises
I start to see the plan you have.
I had not planned this myself, you know.
Never thought of two, only the one and the many.
So, now that it is you and I, as you are attached to my side, my  
heart and brain,
I got momentarily lost.
The I got another.

You can not plan for what you never experienced before.
All is changed, very different – slow down, run away.
That is the familiar response to any change.

Can you fathom the space of a minuscule moment in time where this can  
be entertained,
when in truth this heart is doing somersaults and this brain can not  
contain the joy for this that is new.
Testing, trying, pushing with infinite delight.

The I got another.

Tuesday 16 September 2008


Astrid sent me a very sensual poem about words. I imagined words initially falling like petals on the body, touching different parts, different colours, getting different responses, but always contained within a regulating framework like a beating heart which holds this fragile moment together. Gradually things become more solid, freer to play with the regulation, freer to dance, secure in each others nature...
I will overwhelm you with words today.

Words of affection, wrapped around my tongue,
pushed deep into your mouth.
Words of endearment, slightly licking the corners of you upper lip,
trailing your cheek and reaching your ear.
Words of lust, moving slowly under you.

Hold on, so many more words I found to give to you.

These are words of thinking with you on matters far beyond ourselves.
These are words of emotional rationality which takes care of you and me.
These are words of vision of what love amongst equals can accomplish.

Words of laughter.
Words of sweetness.
Words of fairness.
Words of politeness.
Words of musing.
Words of nonsense.
Words of light.

Fortuitous words.

Words to illuminate and to evolve that
which is occurring between us.

Words of love.

Catching up...

This is Astrid's poem "A simple week"

monday: I hear the laughter at my determination not to miss you
tuesday: I spread my wings
wednesday: I drink and am merry
thursday: I create my future
friday: make haste, my love, as I get ready
saturday: secret and unspeakable things
sunday: peace

I've tried to capture each day as a different mood. Not sure the music quite works, but there are some moments...

Thursday 11 September 2008


These two improvisations were around Astrid's poem below:

Running out of time:
24 is a cruel number.
How can the entirety of no-time
burst forth into existence
and then be contained?

Please, give me the gift of a few more hours,
to breathe, love and create.

Running in no-time:

I arrive.

To me, this is about the struggle to cope with complexity. What should we do? Should we attenuate, shut our eyes and meditate? Do we do the reverse and amplify our own complexity? Or maybe both.. Maybe it's the balance, the skilful hand on the tiller that counts. Today has involved lots of Skyping, Twittering, Blogging, Word-processing (and lots of coffee!). Lots of personal amplification. I'm Reminded of Norbert Wiener's comment from about 1945: "We have changed the world. Now we have to change ourselves to survive in it."

Wednesday 10 September 2008


Astrid's Poem
In the beginning, before and after

This is like the lush moss on the stone.
It is like the stone.

This is like the ephemeral fragrance in the flacon.
It is like the flacon.

This is like the fresh wheat shoot on the field.
It is like the field.

This is like the hurling time.
It is eternity.

Spiritual Growth

Different camera angle tonight. Time for something spiritual.. "After the clearing the whitish path". Moments of spiritual growth are indeed 'clearings'; everyday complexity is attenuated; the eyes are shut; perception (awareness of what cannot be spoken about) is extended and enhanced; finally, there are new things to speak about... a piece of music... what does it do to you? tell me...

Something Mellow

I did this playing around with another camera (much better quality, and pretty good mic as well). It's nice to do a bit of mellow stuff. Feeling very mellow as well. Good presentation at ALT-C...

Monday 8 September 2008

Love is Sacred

There is only One. There is not two.
And two are making One.


It's Monday, and just had an incredible weekend which has left me utterly transformed. This is Friday's improvisation which was to another poem from Astrid. I didn't think it was a great improvisation (the poem's much better!), although it tried to capture the playful mood. Writing now on Monday, this seems like 'ancient history'. I feel a completely different person. To paraphrase Eliot (and Bateson) I'm finding myself knowing love as if for the first time... it's a fantastic discovery!
Calla Lily
Carefully walking, on the outermost ridge of the spathe,
this thought and that thought,
this feeling and that feeling,
gliding to the centre.

Friday 5 September 2008

Seeking, Finding and Improvisation (and another poem)

Wondering about Astrid's poem yesterday... "I am a finder" reminds me of Picasso's famous comment about his creativity: "I do not seek, I find". The mark on the paper, the act, comes first. What we find in it then is where things go from there. That's improvisation, and it's very different from 'planning' things. The closest thing to it is sex... which would be ridiculous if each sexual gesture was 'planned': it's a continual (mutual) process of finding. Each line here is a finding process...
"Wake up, wake up.
It is not sleep that I seek.
A luscious phrase for the inside of my kneecaps.
A pithy word for each vertebra of my spine.
A trendril murmur for the tip of my elbow.
I will not keep them, but their colour and hue
will have changed, by the time they are back with you."
Is there a relationship between the finding process and an intention? My intention with yesterday's improvisation was different to how it turned out.. Astrid's intention (she says) was different to how her poem turned out.. But maybe 'finding' is the intention...

Thursday 4 September 2008

Astrid's Poem

Listening without radio,
To the rustle of trees and sluggishly slurring server,
An entire symphony within,
full for no reason.
I am a finder.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday 31 August 2008

Sunday contrasts

Interesting Sunday with usual Plainsong in the morning at Holy Name (very good), followed in the afternoon with a party with evangelical rappers (not my idea of a fun afternoon - but puppets were good.. Izzy enjoyed them) - something that didn't make any sense. I'm extremely allergic to people shouting about religion which, at the end of the day, is so deeply personal.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday 30 August 2008

Saturday Barbecue, etc

Great barbecue this evening. Izzy had a fantastic time with her friends and a guy who came round with lots of scientific experiments for kids. Great fun. Also went to see possible house - she liked it (and almost went roller-scating). Good day, happy improvisation...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Friday 29 August 2008

Something spiritual

Good day, mortgage sorted (I think), evaluation paper (yes, still working on it!) going ok. Pursuing the harmonic ideas from yesterday to use superimposed major 7th chords to produce something like the bitonal Tippett sound - always a continuously high variety of possible action (need a better phrase for that..) that maintains a sense of floating in the air...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday 28 August 2008

Bird of Paradise 1

I was reading R.D.Laing's Bird of Paradise last night and was struck by the beauty of it (I don't remember it creating such a strong impression last time I read it). Perhaps in thinking about Sabat's work on Alzheimers and Laing has brought it more into focus. This improvisation is using closed position left hand chords and a melody based on those harmonies. It's not any good yet, but I will explore these possibilities this week...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Jazz experiments

Haven't done any jazz recently... must get better at this - that's my target for the coming year! here's an attempt at a something bluesy and then something more relaxed... First day back at work - good meeting re regen (re-re-...), and interesting time viewing houses!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday 26 August 2008

The good, the true and the beautiful

This is an attempt to combine a philosophical discussion with music, which is also about music. Music about music interests me very much. The basic message is that "music gives us something to talk about"...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Betjemin song: Parliament Hill Fields

Extending yesterday's experiment, I suppose I'd better make the voice louder (although I'm not quite comfortable with this). I started setting the Betjemin poem ages, but it strikes me it needs some sort of jazzy treatment which I've tried to give it (not that successfully!) - too much to think about. Obviously the next thing is to sing... so the second is an attempt to set a Wordsworth poem (A slumber did my spirit seal).. Ok. it's only a first attempt. I need to do more of this.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Akhmatova Songs

This is a new departure for my improvisations... Improvising to poems read as I play. It produces little 'beads' of music which I quite like... one for each stanza, or for each poem. These are from Akhmatova's 'Wayside Grass'.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday 18 August 2008

Bleak and Happy

Two contrasting improvisations this evening.. one like Shostakovitch, the other like an English 16th century dance. Thinking about the latter - particularly the influence from Islamic sources from Cordoba on the musical language of courtly love.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday 17 August 2008

Back from Holiday... pastoral Suffolk

Back from holiday... nice to be reacquainted with the piano and now for the first of the next series of improvisations. This one picks the arpeggio idea that I started in the "last day before holiday".. it sounds a bit like Vaughan Williams in places... the countyside around Southwold was lovely!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday 2 August 2008

Saturday Mario Kart

I wasn't expecting to do an improvisation today... but have played a lot - mostly the late Schubert Bb sonata which I haven't played for ages. The piece is quite special - not least because it was about the last thing he wrote. Also bought MarioKart (for Isobel, of course!) - why didn't I do that sooner - fantastic - wonder what Schubert would make of it... maybe he would have had a bit more fun! In addition to MarioKart Izzy had a nice time with Bethany, Rose, etc in the garden (water pistols, swingball, consequences, etc). This is not improvised today - another from my 'bank' of improvisations on Youtube. It's a bit like MarioKart though...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Friday 1 August 2008

Critical Realism video

This is my video about personalisation for the critical realism conference...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Last day before holiday

It's been a frantic day.. bid went off (after some last-minute changes). It looks good, but we'll have to wait and see. Also wrote the bulk of another one... I'm really looking forward to a good break! Hopefully the rain will hold off!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday 31 July 2008

Balmy evening

Went to the theatre this evening to see a Noel Coward play - Hay Fever. It was ok - the play was more interesting than the performance... lots of very self-indulgent people on stage (in the play). Team work in Bolton is so good at the moment I found all this self-indulgence a bit odd and not very realistic! But that's not fair to Coward, because most of us are really like this, even if we don't want to admit it...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday 30 July 2008


I used this improvisation to comment on someone else's music - it strikes me that a musical response to music is the most appropriate response! More bid writing today. knackered!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday 29 July 2008


It's always interesting improvising when I'm tired. The general lassitude of this improvisation throws up some surprising moments. Good meeting about bid today.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday 28 July 2008

Hot day

Bid writing, emailing, sorting out great train disaster next week!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday 27 July 2008

Water Pistols at the ready

Very hot today... thinking about holiday (next week) and can't be bothered to do any more work. I am looking at the LWJGL and JOPS particle system for doing interesting visualisations of communication in institutions... Nice to do some programming again!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday 26 July 2008


I'm too tired to improvise tonight - but I have still got a bank of previous improvisations I can use. Went to see Wall-E today. Very good...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday 24 July 2008


Sometimes you have to know when to give up. I'm hemorrhaging  money on houses, expending emotional effort on people, and none of it is leading anywhere. So I'm giving up - and proud of it! This is therefore a resigned improvisation - relaxed, spiritual, etc...
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Wednesday 23 July 2008


Good meal out at veggie restaurant this evening - though rather expensive. Back late, so this improvisation was done the week before last... one of the "I wonder what I will be feeling like after seeing the comet again" improvisations!
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Tuesday 22 July 2008

The comet-observer's perspective

This is an improvisation for the comet observer - what does the comet do? it regulates a turbulent soul, and in so doing creates a clearing. And this clearing stays beyond the vision - it is transformative...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday 21 July 2008

London Comet

Saw a 'comet' (no, I'm not explaining that!) in London this weekend, not seen for a couple of years. Two years ago it heralded great change - wonder what it means to see it again? This is a comet improvisation... moving through the sky, from an immovable centre, spreading light out to those near, making them reflect, lighting the sky and the ground, getting closer, spreading excitement and laughter, then moving away, unchanged but changing things around it.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday 16 July 2008

JISC Innovation conference

Sitting outside waiting for day 2 of innovation conference. likes yesterday, but some of it was a bit alienating... obviously pre-prepared this improvisation...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday 10 July 2008

Mass producing improvisations

I won't be near a piano next week, but I still want to blog some improvisations so I've gone into 'mass production' mode. I'll put them on Youtube anyway and choose which I want to blog as the week goes on. Must do my video for CR conference... but tired now.. will do tomorrow (nothing like the last minute!!)
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Busy day!

Diabetes project meeting in Liverpool - very good, collect Izzy from school, take to nanas, drive to Bolton, another good meeting, collect Izzy, home, knackered. I've done two improvisations this evening partly in preparation for next week when I will be away from the piano. How will I feel next week. don't know.. could be interesting.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Vaughan Williams Improvisation

I'm not sure what this one is, but it uses a different sort of harmony - very Vaughan Williams.. Still working on evaluation paper.. will get there eventually. Made cakes with Izzy this evening. Liverpool for Diabetes Project tomorrow.
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Monday 7 July 2008


Continuing the happy mood from yesterday, a very positive day sorting out minutiae from SPLICE. Lovely evening singing at the piano with Isobel... Good work continuing on evaluation, and my probability of communication application. Must be onto something...
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Sunday 6 July 2008

Happy Sunday

I forgot the sermon this morning. "Religion is a great hobby... but don't take it too seriously" .. substitute 'religion' for 'life'. Think of angels sticking their tongues out in the Gozzoli frescos. So I don't stay miserable for long!
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Miserable Sunday

It's rainy and miserable, so this is an improvisation to match the mood. Sullen and menacing. No improvisation yesterday.. for the first time in ages I simply was too tired. Isobel had a nice drama show though which was enjoyable. Went to view houses in afternoon. Nothing happens without hard work and it's taking a toll at the moment...
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Friday 4 July 2008

Friday Tennis and Singing

Playing with social network stuff as part of my evaluation paper - JUNG looks really exciting - doing something interesting with in Eclipse. Also had a good meeting about the curriculum delivery call - looks like Wookie can be part of a powerful bid...
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Wednesday 2 July 2008

Social Networks

Thinking a lot about social network analysis after yesterdays presentation at metaphorum conference. How can it apply to evaluation... the arcs are communications - how does this relate to Luhmann? Playing with diagrams... very interesting in that some communications attenuate others.. tweaking communication knobs, etc... this is a mad improvisation based on a very simply triadic melodic. Going to play with JUNG...
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Tuesday 1 July 2008


No blog yesterday - in Hull for Metaphorum conference. Very interesting and good to meet people who I only know from writings. Some good contacts made. This improvisation is something a response to all this cybernetic stuff - a contrapuntal thing that starts in the style of Bach and gradually ends up more like Hindemith or Tippett. There was some discussion of Hofstadter's 'Pairson' and the challenge of this to constructivism - so given Hofstadter's obsession with Bach, the counterpoint seems appropriate...
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Sunday 29 June 2008

The human condition and catholicism

I feel I'm back in the realm of French catholic composers ... been here before. Music is in the vein of "Dialogue des Carmelites" - it's all about the purpose of human life, the meaning of our time on earth, the issue of human action, social efficacy, the metaphysical, etc. The 20th century French composers understood this and gave it a sublime musical voice - which I think is quite timeless (just as the English catholic writers expressed it in terms of the raw realities of human failings and vulnerabilities where love is all we've got)... There can be no hiding. This is what we are. All we can do is bear witness to it.
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Saturday 28 June 2008


Had a lovely sing-song with Isobel this evening before bed-time - Over the Rainbow, Blue Moon, etc.. that might be my improvisation tomorrow... This one is a continuation of me trying to emulate the Poulenc 'light' sound.. still too heavy, but getting there (have to think quick)...
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Friday 27 June 2008

Gallic feeling

Been wanting to get back to the music I really love - most of which is French (Poulenc, Milhaud, Debussy, Ravel, Messaien, etc)... but struggled with this.. need more practice. But I do find this music very therapeutic... it is definitely 'healing music' - maybe that's why it's got such religious connotations. Maybe the religion is in the notes themselves, rather than any association..?
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Thursday 26 June 2008

Light improvisation

It's quite difficult to improvise something light-hearted (I was thinking of the less serious Poulenc at the time) and this is the best I could do (well it's late..)... I really wanted something a bit lighter than this.. wonder if I can do it tomorrow..?
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Wednesday 25 June 2008

Death march

Feeling in quite a dark mood this evening. This uses the fourths from the jazz stuff but in a more serious way - a bit like Britten at his darkest...
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Tuesday 24 June 2008

English Summer

It's wet. But there's that special 'spiritual' English smell (I'm sure it's not only an English smell - but it feels rustic - church yards, hedgerows, cows, etc). I think Tippett captures this better than any other English composer (even Vaughan Williams). His use of bitonality, folk songs, and dance rhythms always fascinates me - it's utterly intangible, but nevertheless meaningful. It takes us to the point of being able to articulate the ineffable.
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Monday 23 June 2008

Sad Jazz

This was done over the weekend, but I'm posting it up today... more experimenting with these slow lyrical top parts and comped chords...
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Sunday 22 June 2008

Jazz on Fourths

Enjoyable day with Izzy and the other Johnsons... it's a take-over! Managed to escape from Badminton, Football, Wii, Hide and Seek, etc to do this...

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Saturday 21 June 2008

Jazz on a few notes

Had some technical problems - audio suddenly went pear-shaped (I think it was the webcam drivers I installed for the 21st century vision workshop). Thank god for system restore..! Trying to experiment with the melody not doing much and comping chords in the left...
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Friday 20 June 2008

Friday night

Recording won't work tonight! driving me mad!
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Tuesday 17 June 2008

Purposeful march

Got back from great IEC meeting in Bangor. A feeling of things progressing, coming together, momentum building, synergy, etc. So I came back in a positive mood wanting to motor forwards. This is a 'motoric' march - very Britten-like. Momentum is kept with the chord pulse, and scalic melody perhaps the individual moving against/with it. The Britten thing is interesting me at the moment because ultimately it seems so introspective (why?!) - those bodily 'tugs' of chromaticism that I thought about last month perhaps, or the expectations and frustrations of pattern...?
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Sunday 15 June 2008

nostalgic waltz

Nice weekend with family. It's late so this is what came out without much thought or planning...
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Friday 13 June 2008

Friday football

The second of these improvisations was interrupted by Isobel wanting to go to the park to play football - so I'm now completely knackered and injured. Good fun though. It's much closer to the spookiness I was after the other day - ambiguous use of dissonance creates a veil of perpetual variety - nothing is certain, all is questions; the result is a kind of fear.

The first improvisation is me wondering what I wanted to play tonight...

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Thursday 12 June 2008

Simple melody and variety management

This is a simple melody made up out of small cells which replicate themselves and are not entirely restricted to the tonal context - very much like Britten. I think I can explain the effect this has in terms of a melodic cell being a pattern, or perhaps a disposition - the ear 'knows' what to do with it - the pattern attenuates variety. So what then of tonality? This too is dispositional - the ear knows what to do with a tonal context - and with simple tonal harmony, there is a lot of attenuation of variety (dissonant harmony or chromatic harmony has greater variety). The music is in the conflict between these dispositions - different descriptions of variety.
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Wednesday 11 June 2008


This is a quite atonal effort where I was trying to do something 'spooky'. I think I can be spookier still... The supernatural is all about increased perception - particularly the raising of awareness of our vulnerability and loneliness and the proximity of death. It is the antithesis of communication... (but then, what is "communicating with spirits?"). Is anybody there?
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Monday 9 June 2008

Pastoral Music

Not really planning anything this evening, but this rather Tippettian pastoral music came out - lots of 1st inversion chords and sharp-flat key movement, and bitonal sections. Things moving ahead on e-strategy...
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Sunday 8 June 2008

Playing with PD Fiddle~

PD's Fiddle~ object is fascinating - picking up the MIDI note values of audio notes played - so I've made a video of just the pitches of the notes in my improvisation. Also been thinking about strings... might actually write this one down... watch this space.

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Saturday 7 June 2008


This improvisation is played to a series of Edwardian photographs of everyday life. These technological echoes of a 'modern' world fascinate because everybody's dead - it's like looking at ghosts (like the Mitchell and Kenyon films). One day our technologies like Facebook will hold the same fascination for us. Photos for these people must have seemed such a novelty.
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Friday 6 June 2008

Some week!

End of long day. SPLICE conference success. ALT paper snatched defeat from the jaws of success. Annoyed. Tired. Drama tomorrow.
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Thursday 5 June 2008

quick sketch

I'm going out in 5 minutes, so need to do this quickly - what is it? a bit of a mess - but bear in mind the thing about judgements.. does it matter? Nice day at zoo with Izzy.
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Wednesday 4 June 2008

Judgements and Music

I realise that in saying that a certain impro. is x or y (i.e. sad, happy, etc), I'm expressing my own opinion, and that to anyone else, it is something completely different. The issue of objectivity in making judgements about music (or learning, or anything else) is important. I think the judgements we make about things being a certain way (good or bad for example) are in fact a result of the function of the thing we are commenting on (music, learning, etc). They serve a function in increasing the probability of successful communication - the probability that we can say something. In saying something is bad (for example) we're actually demonstrating its success. So I've tried to improvise some 'bad' music - which I actually quite like... typical! (Maybe this is why things can be so bad they're good...?)
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Tuesday 3 June 2008

Dance, Music and Communication

If music is the interface between perception and communication, what of dance (music)? It is essentially the same, I suspect, but we are talking about a different sort of communication. A symphony or opera might bring us to the point of words, but a tango (or a Bartokian folk dance like this one) brings us to the point of physical intimacy - no less social! And whilst the words themselves serve as a context for other communication, so physical intimacy serves as a context for the communications of love: so contexts within contexts (VSM!)...
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Monday 2 June 2008

Childhood 2

Had Isobel in work today, and it brings home the disconnect between the world of adult life and the 'bubble world' of childhood! (losing her train ticket was one incident amongst a number that brought the two worlds crashing together!) The not-quite-formed regulators of the communication system are brought out in the rhythmic right-hand pedal in the first improv (very much like yesterday's). In the second (slightly sad) lyrical piece, there is an almost autistic focus on minutiae of motivic cells, scales, etc. Dance tomorrow - how does that relate to the communication system??

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