Saturday 31 May 2008

Playing with Bach

Still playing around today.. after nice barbeque.. this really is almost random... but it's interesting.. the way a recognisable reality fades in and out... perceptions and communications.. personal and public... all art is about epistemology!
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The structural coupling of the perceptual system and the communication system

drama, cheadle festival, barbeque, knackered. Still into Janacek - so first is an attempt to play "a blown away leaf" - which is how I feel at the moment. The second is an experiment with a regular 'pedal beat'. Thinking a lot about Luhmann's distinctions concerning art: the structural coupling of the perceptual system with the communication system.

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Friday 30 May 2008

Harlech day

Busy day visiting Harlech for SPLICE project. I watched "The unbearable Lightness of Being" again (for first time in years) yesterday. I think it's my favourite film of the last 20 years. It seems almost perfect in every way, and the music is particularly haunting - especially the piano music which accompanies Juliet Binoche's swimming. The first improvisation is not an improvisation, but Janacek's "The Madonna of Frydek" from "On an overgrown Path" (sorry about the laborious page-turn!). The second improvisation (which is an improvisation!) is a complete antidote to this sensual world - a joke.

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Thursday 29 May 2008

Bitonal Improvisation

Just playing with playing stuff in different keys in different hands. Interesting effects. Nice curry tonight. Very tired. Have to go to Harlech tomorrow. Going to bed!
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Wednesday 28 May 2008


Very long day (sorting out staff conference, etc).. busy day visiting SPLICE partners tomorrow. This isn't the first time I've done an improvisation when really tired, but I find it interesting that this one is significantly different from previous occasions. More use of silence, influence of Janacek, etc. I think it's a bit more successful (if a bit over-long)
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Tuesday 27 May 2008

Janacek's intimacy

Still thinking and exploring Janacek's musical intimacy - this is very much in the space of the quartets and piano works. Been reading Luhmann's "Art as a Social System" - he puts the conflict between the system of perception and the system of consciousness. It is art's function to create a structural coupling between perception and consciousness - something which they can do by no other means. I think in creating that coupling, it takes us to the point of being able to say something...
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Monday 26 May 2008

intimate letters

I realised after yesterday's blog that the territory of 'intimacy' is fundamental to everything that I'm doing regarding technology at the moment (learning design, personalisation, etc). I also realised that Janacek had been here before: his second quartet is subtitled 'intimate letters', supposedly letters to his lover at the time. So that was the starting for this improvisation. His music oscillates between public and private; so does mine. How can a letter be intimate? How can technology be intimate? Somehow it can... Maybe once again taking us to a point where direct communication about intimacy becomes more probable...
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Sunday 25 May 2008

Taking things to the point of intimacy

The question of the sensual in Wagner, Scriabin, etc and the relationship between this chromatic music and the music of deep intimacy (previous improvisation) is really interesting me. I needed to remind myself of the romantic idiom, and here it leads to a break-down of ideas with music sounding like the disjointed 'intimate' music. Romantic music increases the probability of communications related to sensuality; the intimate music practically engages with them directly.. Maybe that's all music can do .. it doesn't communicate anything itself, but it increases the probability of particular types of communication...
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Intimacy, Eroticism and Love

This is about as personal as it gets in terms of music... it's treating the piano as if it was another human body.. the touch is sensual, the sound other-worldly. An intensely personal moment of transportation to another dimension, which at the same time is made public. What's the difference between this sort of eroticism and the Wagnerian sort? or raunchy 'stripper' music? What has it got to do with love?
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Playing with tradition

Being stuck in a slightly stuffy University music department yesterday made me think about the conflict between the need the uphold a tradition of great art, and the desire to simply play with stuff in a much freer manner. Over-reverence for the past driven by pathological institutions is a pretty deadly combination. Maybe we revere the past because we are so uncomfortable with our present situation. People need to conserve tradition (and learn the necessary skills to do so), but there's a fine line between conserving and asserting a world-view which fundamentally undermines tradition.
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Thursday 22 May 2008


This is in preparation for Saturday - heaven knows what will happen. No time tomorrow because I have a mad day in Scotland going to see two projects.
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Eros and Sadness

This is a weird one - it struck me that eros and 'sadness' do not go hand in hand, but are nevertheless related. Here's an improvisation which was intended to be both erotic and sad...
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Tuesday 20 May 2008

Push-me, Pull-you

I've noticed how in the last three months this blogging activity has helped regulate my emotions. Emotional fluctuations once had a bigger impact on me than they seem to now. So when I might feel a bit emotionally fragile (as I seem to be at the moment - not unusual), it doesn't have the same effect on me. That's interesting. This impro is an experiment for the middle section of my piece for saturday (obviously too long). I like the jumpy arpeggios (like Beethoven, I think) create a sort of instability which I like - almost like a developmental section.
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Sunday 18 May 2008

Stream of Consciousness

Two different improvisations today... the first is an attempt to 'switch mode' quickly improvisation - that's difficult - one of the differentiating things between notated music and improvised is the ability to snap out of one paradigm and enter another. The second is an attempt to improvise the last section of my Turing piece - this is for next Saturday, so better get cracking...

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Saturday 17 May 2008

Beethoven dancing

This is still messing around with technology (I'm using a new microphone to reduce the problem of feedback). Actually, most interested in the idea of using many dance rhythms, one after the other, to create an almost Beethovenian effect. I think I'll use this next Saturday for the concert.
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Thursday 15 May 2008

Summer calm

No electronics in this one. Feeling emotionally perturbed, so need calming down. When these improvisations come from a direct emotional need like this, it feels more natural to sit down and do anything. What's interesting here is the capturing of the sunny mood outside - and how the bitonality contributes to that feeling of indeterminate warmth - which I find soothing as well.
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Wednesday 14 May 2008


Feedback is a problem when I'm doing this stuff - but it is still quite interesting, but the volume is best turned down for this one because it gets a bit painful in places! The problem is the reverb - those aspects which are immediate feedback. Still playing around with ideas. I'm aware of just trying stuff out at the moment, and having quite a good time doing it. Validation today seemed to go ok.
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Tuesday 13 May 2008

More experiments with PD

I think I need a uni-directional microphone (I wish I knew more about microphones - but it's so boring!). I'm using a different sort of resonator tonight, but it's interesting. This feels quite liberating... also playing around with other patches. Again, I suppose I'm back to being very technical (scales, etc) as a way of driving ideas. This is a rich seam!
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Monday 12 May 2008

Piano with Electronics

Went to see Nono's Prometeo in London this weekend. Quite impressive, but over-long (people were walking out!), and a tremendous amount of resource to do something that can be done now very simply. So here's my attempt at doing something with a few PD patches (reverb, echo, vocoder, etc)... control is the thing, which if I can do it in live performance would be really cool...
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Friday 9 May 2008

Summer evening

There's a beautiful smell in the air this evening - a rare summer smell, just before rain, that transports me back to childhood. Trying to decide whether to go to London tomorrow to see Nono's Prometeo...
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Thursday 8 May 2008

Playing with Pedals

One of the features of the funeral march was the use of pedal as a regulating feature. So here are a couple more variations on a theme, the second of which I did yesterday (straight after the funeral march). The second plays around with the strict rhythmic regulation (heard Glass's Concerto for Saxaphone quartet today which seems also in this territory - very good, and I don't really like his music..)

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Wednesday 7 May 2008

Funeral March

This isn't dissimilar from the earlier march - again a regulating pulse and enough harmonic and melodic interest to 'tug at the body'. So what's the difference between them? What's the difference between the solemn grief of this, and the magisterial  music of an Elgar march? The minor mode helps here to create mood, and effectively it does not attenuate as much as a major mode - it has more 'variety of possible action'. So maybe there is less harmonic regulation - most regulation is rhythmic. Think about equivalents maybe tomorrow...
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Tuesday 6 May 2008


Sleep and the night attenuate the soul, saving us from the differences of day, and letting the mind and what is entirely personal run free, abandoning any concern for social efficacy. Within this fantasy, love takes its deepest root. The music here is very simple - a few tonal centres, very simple melody, little dissonance, little tension. It feels 'grounded', sits deep in the gut. It is the acknowledgement of the fundamental 'personal' that sits at the heart of everything...
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Monday 5 May 2008

Mahlerian grief

Continuing the theme of love, I want to try something really tragic. Thinking a lot of Karen Armstrong's use of the Priam and Achilles example, and the aching pain of human emotion associated with loss, I've had a go at doing something Mahlerian. Perhaps not as tragic as I would have wanted  (just had a really nice weekend with family!), some elements are there. The chromatic colouring and dissonances tug at the body, with brief moments of consonance to regulate (they reduce variety). Heaven and earth again; public and personal. It's in the zone of oscillation.
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Friday 2 May 2008


The essence of the classical style is the musical joke. It was from the joke that Haydn is able to evoke such joy in his listeners, or Beethoven (particularly) was able to produce some of the most heartrending pathos in his music. The constant frustration of expectations creates a deep sense of identity. Why? For whilst expectations are frustrated, we are led by an expert into the world of the unexpected which at once seems so natural. A very busy week, what a lot achieved. Very tired, but not feeling as ill as last night.
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Thursday 1 May 2008

Dancing stars

Another very long day. Very tired. headache. So not much thought can go into this. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Sometimes when the defenses are down, the most interesting stuff comes out. jokes tomorrow.
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