Friday 26th June
I’ve been spending a few days focussed on the quality of another album that I’ve uploaded to BandCamp. Every track – note by note. I’ve re-recorded a couple of guitar parts. Passing Clouds took around twelve takes before I was happy with EVERY note. I could have used drop-ins, but decided that I wanted truly authentic (even though I only share one take with you!). This is the result, with which I am entirely happy.
When I’ve uploaded tracks to BandCamp or Soundcloud in the past, I’ve often been aware of a gap between perceived quality and expectation. That gap was filled with doubt and disappointment. I now realise that it is difficult to spend the hours, sometimes days of concentration and effort that each track deserves while trotting off to work for forty hours each week. I notice that I carefully haven’t been listening to the rest of my BandCamp offering in case I realise that I need to re-do every other track! I’m not sure that the same applies to Soundcloud, since that site is more about where an artist is at a given moment. The offerings there aren’t available for download or sale. However, with BandCamp, I should only be offering those things that deserve the price I’m asking. I think I know what I’m typing my way into!
Saturday 20th June
For several years I’ve been involved with a podcast called What Are You Afraid Of? It’s featured elsewhere on this web site. Yesterday and today I’ve applied myself to arriving at a compilation album of the songs developed for the podcast. It is now all uploaded to BandCamp and is available for sale!
I went through each track, making sure that I was happy with the quality, the instrumentation and the mix. I also sent an email to Fox, the founder of What Are You Afraid Of? so that we can figure out how to divvy up the spoils!
Friday 19th June
With Marie’s help, I think I’ve arrived at a final version of the project I’ve been working on. She suggested a choir type voice in there, so I was working on that for much of yesterday afternoon. I was also adjusting the synth voice and paying close attention to the mix.
Marie also suggested that the title might reference lockdown, so I decided to call it Locked Down. I was expecting to be back at work by now and this period of isolation is feeling increasingly surreal.
Wednesday 17th June
It’s been a few days, but this is about speaking when I have something to say.
I’ve devised a piece from a guitar chord combination that I devised a few months ago. Just at this moment I love it, though I’m stuck with the usual problem of figuring out what to call it.
This is most certainly a first draft; something to play around with the notes and the voices. But it feels like a mighty good start.
I have it in my head that what I’d really like to do is develop short incidental pieces for TV, film and video. This is definitely in that mould.
Thursday 11th June
I think Thunderstorm is the most listened to (by me) and edited piece of music I’ve ever played around with. I’m still happy with the underlying chord sequence – the one I’ve been happy with for a couple of decades. My impression was that the additional flute would provide melody; a bright little tune that would weave in and around those melancholy chords. Nothing I tried worked. I came close to finalising on just the guitar and nothing else. So, where we are today is that the flute follows the pattern established by the guitar. It does add something, but that isn’t a chirpy embellishment.
Wednesday 10th June
I’m not so sure about Thunderstorm (the title). It doesn’t fit. Suggestions welcomed. Still working on the flute – certainly not yet finished.
I came across the Zipf-Mandelbrot law yesterday and apparently it can help me to compose pleasing music. I need to explore this further. I’ve often wondered what the secret to successful composition is, since the evidence would suggest that I practice the antithesis of whatever it is. People seem to enjoy or at least appreciate my live performances, but that doesn’t translate into fans, followers or supporters. I suspect that whatever energy I can muster goes into creating the product rather than cultivating the audience for that product.
I’ve finally arrived at what feels like an acceptable version of Thunderstorm.
I’m not sure that I’ve finished, but I have moved it forward. I find it interesting to incorporate instruments that I don’t actually play. I have to think about how it would feel to play a flute. Where would I need to breathe? Would going from that note to that note be too much of a stretch? Quite often I don’t know, I just have to go with what sounds credible and right.
Monday 8th June
It’s amazing what a sleep can do to help re-order thoughts and priorities. While they were busy hauling down statues of slavers in Bristol, I was trying to figure out what sound goes with Thunderstorm. Whilst what they did was rather more significant, this morning I woke up, went shopping and then settled down to listen to the piece once again. Cubase offers an ethnic flute and that is exactly what I’m looking for. I’m now figuring out what notes, what length of notes and what kind of pattern. I may have something to offer this afternoon. Maybe not.
Sunday 7th June
I’ve spent the weekend banging my head against a brick wall. I recorded that sequence of chords I spoke about on Friday. I made several attempts and finally ended up with one that I’m reasonably happy with. Happy enough to present it.
Then I decided it needed some kind of additional track – swelling chords – maybe an arp – that sort of thing. Cubase has hundreds of them and I’ve listened to most of them between Friday and now. It was driving me up the wall. I couldn’t find the right sound. At this moment I’m at the conclusion that there is no “right” sound, so it stands alone. I reserve the right to change my mind though.
Friday 5th June
Having finished Passing Clouds, I thought I’d have a day off – kick back, feet up, catch up with the stuff on the set-top box. Then I had an idea. A sequence of chords. A very strange sequence of chords that have been with me for at least twenty years. How about I record them? Right now. Why not? So off we go again.
I haven’t yet developed anything I would care to share at this moment. But I will post something as soon as I’ve developed it. I did hit on a new way of working. A few days ago I mentioned that I hate working to a click. It’s usually when I move from one section to another that I lose the beat, ‘cos I’m too focused on the click. So this time I recorded each section separately, making sure that it was in the groove. Then I cobbled them together so that I had the beat, but you could hear where I’d joined them together. Then I switched off the click and recorded another track all the way through, listening to the joined up track. Then I deleted the joined up track and was left with exactly what I wanted. It felt like I was working with another musician, which is much better than a metronome.
I did sit and read for an hour or so and one book in particular impressed me. Talk of publicity leaves me cold. This gathering up of “followers” and “likes” makes me cringe. Austin Kleon, in his book Show Your Work! suggests that you share your work and invite people in rather than chasing after potential fans. So I’m following some of his suggestions.
Wednesday 3rd June
OK, I uploaded the video and a couple of hours later, I wasn’t satisfied with the images. I’m very happy with the audio, but that’s how it goes when you add an extra dimension to something you’re happy with. It might make it more interesting but it multiplies the opportunities for dissatisfaction!
I’ve spent the last thirty minutes jiggling around the video sequences and the way they melt into one another. I now need to make sure it all synchronises with the audio as I would wish. However, I’m currently listening to Mahler’s Symphonie No. 9 and I have no wish to disturb a master in full flow. When he collapses in a sweaty heap at the rostrum I’ll get back to work. When I upload the finished offering, I think I’ll host both of them so that you can make your own comparison and decide whether a new edit was justified. But that will be in a couple of hours. Gustav still has a lot to say!
Herr Mahler has now finished, so I can now present you with the second attempt at Passing Clouds. I’ve called it Passing Clouds again, which suddenly introduces an unlooked for medical aspect. Ah well. I was proud of the first attempt. Now I’m proud without that lurking doubt at the edge of my mind.
Tuesday 2nd June
Well, I finally figured out how to do fades, wipes and dissolves. I now have a product of which I feel proud.
I got footage of clouds. At five different speeds. At X64 it takes quite a while to get 30 seconds of video (32 minutes of course!). I could go with my favourite and leave it at that. But no, I want to layer them so that as the music proceeds, the cloud speed increases and then it slows down again. One speed dissolves into the next. It might look great. It might not. Working with unfamiliar video editing software, it’ll probably take all morning. And then I’ll decide I’m not happy with it. That’s how creativity works.
So anyway, in late March I did a video recording of the poem Night by William Blake. It was for Library Services, pleading for content. But they haven’t used it, so I thought you might enjoy it.
Maybe it’s because my right hand looks enormous. Perspective .. think about perspective.
Still a cloudless sky. More washing sorted out though.
Monday 1st June
I spent a large chunk of the day familiarising myself with Kdenlive video editing software. I have a feeling that videos to accompany my audio will be increasingly important and it’s an area that I’ve almost completely ignored up to now. I have established that Windows Movie Maker doesn’t cut it!
I put the final finishing touches to Passing Clouds and I’m still waiting for some passing clouds. According to the forecast, Wednesday will be the day. Making the most of good clothes drying weather though.