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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Sunday 1 June 2008


Went to fantastic exhibition on Child Art at the Whitworth Gallery today. I was thinking about the magic of childhood as I did this improvisation. Not sure how you capture that! It's interesting how powerful childrens' images are: their communication system isn't fully formed, so the structural coupling between their perception and their communication puts more emphasis on their perception. That may be why it's so powerful...
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Messy Jazz

This improvisation is made up of fragments .. things get going and then stop, are taken over by something else..
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Art and God

The relationship between religion and art is very interesting. At first sight they seem to be dealing with the same thing - particularly bearing in mind the structural coupling between perception and communication. But whilst art brings perception to the point of communication - to say something new, different, etc - thus increasing the probability of successful communication, religion does something different I think. Religion uses communication to heighten perception. Thus formal rituals belonging to the communication system heighten our sense of an inner world. Relgious music falls into this category...
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