Journal 2018 (and before)

16th December 2018: That's Umber finished. Not sure how I feel about this one. Two more to go, both of which have had plans and ideas skecthed out and scrapped several times already.

10th December 2018: Just created mono primo - a sort of mono greatest hits - as a single CD download.

11th November 2018: Just had some inspiration around both Umber and (to a lesser extent) Harlequin. The latter certainly opens up something which I hadn't thought about at all.

Also had a weird experience a couple of days ago where my Kindle seems to 'fall open' at 1984 which I have started re-reading properly, maybe for the first time since I was at school. What strikes me is how much of it is what we are living now. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Some things have to be said and other things are banned from thought and speech. Worse yet is the arch prediction that what was once never was, and vice versa. Our friends are now enemies and our enemies now friends and that was always the situation, and if you remember otherwise then you are wrong and dangerous. Fake history is fake news. And truly, it appears that ignorance is strength.

3rd November 2018: Imperial has just been finished, which leaves me now with Umber to finish off and both Harlequin and Ultramarine to start off, completing the series.

Without doubt this is one of the hardest and most taxing things I have ever had to do, requiring

  1. A complete sense of the project and what it is trying to say
  2. A view of what each component section represents in the overall expression
  3. The marque of each section within the overall project, such that it does not fall outside the scope of the project but also retains an identity of its own
  4. A lack of repetition, at least within each component
  5. A constantly changing voice to pronounce each idea within the project individually and collectively

In other words, it requires constant thought and invention. That is hard to do, as any musician will tell you. Doubtless I have missed the mark in some places, but the slowness of the project overall - at least for me - gives me a fighting chance of getting out of it what I wanted. Stygian may seem to be the most taxing of the series, but it reaches out for the Heart of Darkness that I have been looking for and trying to recreate since I was about 20 years old. This music is not for everyone. I also managed to listen to Oriole all the way through recently half in and half out of sleep, and couldn't even place it as my own. It appeared seamless, like some unwinding bolt of cloth, panning through one movement into the next. It's taken thirty years, but I am finally getting there.

Those of you with a keen sense of the absurd will also notice that each section has its own title which brings with it it's own 'meaning' within the scope of the project, thereby defining its voice. Imperial has at its core the strength of the voice, distorted through the use of technologies old and new, but always recognisably human at its centre. The removal of humanity from the human is in some ways what I have been striving for as long as I can remember.

26th September 2018: Stygian now done. This is very difficult stuff. Probably the most determinedly abstract thing I have ever done, but it is structured and it is almost perfect for what it is supposed to represent. The listener may have few favours here, though. It's the sort of thing one has to encounter in the most unlikely and unprepared circumstances.

19th September 2018: Umber is taking shape now, plus there are plans for another in short order.

18th September 2018: That's Marengo up now too. Very mysterious stuff...all fell into place very quickly indeed. Quite alarmingly so, in fact.

2nd September 2018: Well, after that hiatus I have managed to pull a few things together. Colours is back on track, albeit not being created in the same order as before. Vermillion, Oriole, Topaz and Blanchette are written and released. I now have a better and more concrete idea where the rest of the project is going too. One clue is that the former Heliotrope has been renamed Imperial.

At least half the problem with getting this done has been with my primary software. ACID PRO (which used to be made by Sound Forge, then Sony, now Magix) has a legacy as being a loop-based DAW, but in fact it's now way more than that. Sony let the product rot on the shelf for years, then Magix bought it up and - best of all, I thought - made it 64 bit and added a few new features. Sadly, these have proven to be buggy and horrible in equal measure. The fixed colour scheme is now grotesquely dark, and there is no built-in retro support for 32 bit plug-ins, which to say the least is a bit of a blow. Fortunately, JBridge exists but that's getting away from the issue. There are lots of other instabilities at large in the software which makes you wonder if what you have just done will open again right afterwards. (Believe it or not, that is actually an issue.) I am bored being an upaid beta tester, Magix.

All this makes you wonder if you should start a project at all. Doubtless I have been hit by a lack of musical inspiration, but I am certain that the ruinous state of the software has contributed to me thinking is this even worth it? And so, I didn't so much for a while. I had plenty of ideas, but the thought of trying to flesh them out into actual sound was just too dreadful a prospect to face, so I didn't. I hope they get their act straight soon. Acid 7.x is way too long in the tooth to return to now, and since some projects are written in Acid 8.x and it isn't backwardly compatible then I am stuck with it.

And finally - on request I uploaded Resonance 10 to YouTube only to find it reporting it as someone else's music, which didn't make me feel great, to say the least. What it did was recognise some samples used from an open toolkit, but the manner in which it reported this implied I was thieving someone else's efforts. So no more YouTube for now.

15th May 2018: Umpteenth false start on the next stage of Colours. Time to give up for now, then. I'll be dormant a while.

2nd May 2018: Revelation - that's a pun for the knowledgeable.

Yes, Pet Sounds. Yes, The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Yes, Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Yes, Trout Mask Replica. But it has to be Forever Changes. I doubt this one will ever be beat by anyone. Not in this lifetime anyway.

29th April 2018: Illness precludes much making sense, so I have given up moving Colours for the time being, though I have ideas for it now that bear a bit of mulling over, having heard a couple of soundtracks recently.

22nd April 2018: A trusted pair of ears has given a wonderful criticism of Waves as a whole, and Consonance in particular. That makes me very happy indeed.

9th April 2018: Consonance has been released. I am very happy with this one. Give it a try. One track, 42 mins long. That is the Waves project over and done. One more to go, maybe.

If the music has a theme at all, it is that through chaos comes order, and that through order comes revolt, and through revolt comes disorder, and through disorder comes chaos. If anything, that is the central theme of Waves as a whole and of Consonance in particular. By the end of the piece the themes establish at the beginning are turned around and mutated into something else, something less stable yet still strong.

Waves has been a terrific project, and like all of them I am sad when they are over and yet happy that they are out there. Like so many things I do they never seem to come out exactly the way I intend from the outset, but tend instead to grow and change and express as they find their feet at a far slower rate than I had intended. Listening to (say) take 4 of the first part of Consonance, or the first take of the fourth section make me think I was listening to a different tune altogether. He's doubtless a melodramatic and over-wrought windbag at times, but it's a truth that - just sometimes - music leans across and takes you into its confidence. Then, it just vanishes on you completely leaving you wondering when it will next appear. Maybe it's knowing that the moment might come back that keeps us all alive to the fact that we should keep going.

19th March 2018: Harlequin being considered. Also spent three hours just listening through Consonance so far. Feeling quite smug, although there is clearly work to be done on it. Waves is on track for being my favourite project overall, I think. Then again, I always rate the latest thing I have done and tend to see all the possible improvements later. Wasn't it Magritte who was caught bringing paints and a brush into an exhibition of his work?

12th March 2018: First part of Consonance has just had some gravy added to it, and even though I may say it myself the music is strong and powerful and very good. Really pleased with this one. There is one line in it that (I think) makes it. Will anyone else spot it?

7th March 2018: Back to Consonance again. The good bits are great and the unfinished parts are distinctly unfinished. There is always the temptation to re-use something good from the past, which is something I am actively trying to avoid.

28th February 2018: Oriole has been released, as volume two of the Colours series after volume one which was Vermillion. But Oriole needs some explanation.

In 1974 The Residents recorded Not Available which, in accordance with the Theory of Obscurity proposed by the Mysterious N. Senada, was never to be released until the band had completely forgotten its existence. That always struck as weirdly impossible, in that if I were to record something with the express intent of forgetting about it, then that intent would certainly ensure my remembering everything about it and the theory would disprove itself by failing. (Whether the theory exists, fails or succeeds, the record is worth listening to. Best described as a 'Dada Opera' it's probably their best composition from their early days and has some of their best ideas, which lasted right up until they did Eskimo and it all started to come apart)

To me, though, the Theory seems to be a valid and interesting one. According to this philosophy, artists do their purest work in obscurity, with minimum feedback from any kind of audience. The theory adds that with no audience to consider, artists are free to create work that is true to their own vision. Like a lot of creative types, I tend to work alone, plus I have also made so much - most of which never sees the light of day - that I have forgotten some of the things I have done. But that was by accident, not by design. So to make this theory work, it has to be taken to an even more obscure level - where your will to forget is removed - which is where Oriole comes in. Like Vermillion, Oriole is programmed music in that it follows strict rules on construction and voicing. However, Vermillion was also edited in some respects, as well as being previewed, produced and ultimately 'known'.

Not so with Oriole. This music is entirely programmed - to the extent that I have never heard it. And I never will either. I therefore don't have to forget about it. I don't even know it in the first place. In that, I think I have out-obscured even The Residents. That's pretty obscure.

20th February 2018: Consonance has changed tack a little. No longer split into tracks, the whole piece will now comprise one length piece of about forty to fifty minutes. Let me tell you something else: I think it's just superb. The first movement is so overwhelmingly strong, it blows the doors off just about everything else.

30th January 2018: Consonance 01 now complete...again. What I thought was complete was actually not. It's now maybe the biggest, most overwhelming thing I have done. It also breaks a record, having gone through nearly 40 iterations; 15 or so is my usual number. It merges into Consonance 02 which is a total contrast and features some very delicate playing and timbres. Already thinking of #3 and also thinking of another idea - merging all of these tracks into a single movement. Might do, might not.

23rd January 2018: Consonance 01 now complete. It's very strong, and has led me into an idea about 'thematic repetition' and variance on a melody throughout the entire album. A definitie idea exists for parts 02 and 03 now, as well as for the start of Oriole.

16th January 2018: Vermillion has been completed. It's on nodding terms with previous structures. But far from being disheartening, this has actually given me another idea. Does this stuff write itself? Can this stuff write itself?

1st January 2018: Consonance has stalled a little after the first arrangements for 01 and 02 stopped making sense. The plan is intact, but the execution is suspect. Ho hum. It is the way of things. What progress can be made without some doubts about the path?

Work started on the Colours Project Vermillion. Like mono it's programmed music, but with more choices and with a more considered approach. So far it feels good.

26th December 2017: Consonance is started. The first thing to do is some general husbandry around my file structures. When I see how I used to keep some of the old Systems Theory stuff I feel vaguely faint. If I was asked to resume some of that then I'd find it incredibly tricky. Order is everything! Also wrestling with a 32bit DAW in a 64bit world. More on that topic later. To work.

25th December 2017: Dissonance is released. The web pages are going to be improved shortly. Earlier notes indicated its release was due for Q1/2018 so I am a little ahead of schedule right now, which is unusual. I am not being that silly (yet) about a schedule for Colours. (yes, someone has actually asked already - more details later)

24th December 2017: Dissonance is done. I'm really pleased with this one. Working now on the web site to get it released. Thank heavens this was done by the close of the year. Consonance now beckons.

26th November 2017: The last few weeks have been spent on something else entirely. As well as my 'real life', I have been focussing on rendering a version of Howard Skempton's outstanding composition Lento which Martin Smith introduced me to. It's simple to listen to, but the score is a work of witchcraft, with more time changes that just about any piece I have ever worked on. Fortunately, I have the composer's ear on this one so that might prove to be to my advantage.

31st October 2017: Some weeks away, mulling. Dissonance is coming along very well and reasonably fast, and there are ideas floating for Consonance now too that need expression quickly. Better yet, the next ten albums in a series known as Colours is being mapped out. As I see it this will take me the next four years and may lead into the last music I will make. That's thirty three albums of my own material. Also thinking of video recordings again. More news to follow.

10th September 2017: After some thought (and a few technical problems) Oddzial has found a CD release. This edits each of the movements down to two minutes apiece (as opposed to the usual 50) which allows it all to fit onto a CD quite comfortably.

As I say elsewhere, I prefer the full-length immersive version of the music to this kind of 'sampler' edition, but I do know that the album has its fans and that many of them would prefer something they can listen to in a briefer form. It may also serve to introduce a new audience to the music.

Still thinking about Dissonance. I might have to go to the piano for this one.

8th September 2017: Re-thinking Dissonance now, and thinking that work on it so far may be scrapped completely and restarted wth the original intention in mind. Mission creep abounds. (Or abounded) The earlier ideas that brimmed sounded far better in my head than in sound.

7th September 2017: Work has completed on Oddzial, with the remaining parts being completed. This brings the total number of movements up to the planned number of 29, with the exception of 14 which is still withdrawn on purely artistic grounds. This project is now closed. A playlist is supplied to allow intrepid listeners to spend something like 24 hours in its dark ambient company.

I also have an idea to put together a CD length release of Oddzial as well, featuring crossfades of each section on separate tracks, maybe two minutes of each being featured. It's just an idea at the moment, though...

4th September 2017: A new compilation entitled Curated is now available, comprising 14 tracks composed over the last six years or so. It's quite a mixed bag ranging from the full composed to the improvised and all abstract states in between. On re-listening to it I was struck by how long it was before the listener to this album hear a single planned note. That said, I don't think I am much use as an arch-improviser unless I get lucky. For every minute of improvised music I release there is probably about an hour that I do not. That people far better than I agree with this ratio is encouraging.

I have also changed the artwork for the album from the rather mundane placeholder that was there before.

24th August 2017: Resonance web site now complete. Moving on to Dissonance now. First track started, scrapped, reimagined and scrapped. Something else has been taken out of these ashes now. Some careful consideration of what follows is now required. I can actually see this being scrapped again, for different reasons.

Vibrations played in the car today. Better than I remembered. I do recall the creation of Vibrations 01 with particular pride - that track is/was 100% improvised, yet it sounds the most composed of them all. Some of the modulations are startling; the lift that starts at 00:19 and drops into a minor-glazed fuck-off is something I really like. Yet at the time I remember watching myself playing the tune and thinking the game is now playing me. I read this from a musician hero once; how one lives for these moments and how they justify the rest of it. And then it all collapses.

Why collapses? Maybe because I read some stories and spat-narratives about a musician I respected and found him to be seriously wanting as an individual. He cannot dress it up any other way; the guy is a dick to work with. What is testing about the expression 'gentleman's agreement'? Nothing as far as I can see. Maxim #1: Never meet your heroes. Maxim #2: Never work with your heroes. Maxim #3: Never try and accept your heroes' justification for anything. That leads me to Punk Maxim #1: All heroes are useless. I've met a few and some seem fine. I have yet to work with any (at least in a musical sense), and feel that this may be a situation worth continuing. I can only think of one heroic person and he was brutalised by a country that should have been on its knees begging his gratitude.

Some more ideas about the shape of Consonance. If this comes off it will be unlike anything I have ever done before.

Seeking some solace in curating another compilation on request. No title for it yet, but it will contain music from my more abstract periods. Abstract but not that abstract. Call it constructed abstractism.

Also read this today. Oh boy. It's execptional. As it this by Robert Webb. Outstanding writing, both of them. Also just finished Flowers For Algernon and found it exceptionally good. I'm so glad to be back reading again. Time to revisit James Joyce and MIlan Kundera, maybe. I sometimes get a greater sense of musical inspiration from what I read than what I hear, probably because the latter gives you it all up front and doesn't give you the space in which to sow your own ideas. That's why I have to listen to something then try to forget it so I can remember it.

8th August 2017: Resonance is done. I am very pleased with this one. The web pages will be integral to the music, so give me some time to get it together. Track one is something I am particularly keen on.

Work is also stampeding ahead with Dissonance . Brimming with ideas for this one.

Further - I have decided that Vibrations, Resonance, Dissonance and Consonance will form a series known as Waves in four volumes.

16th July 2017: Resonance is now up to nine tracks, with most of them being tightened up for the final release. Part of the issue is that it's suffering a little from the well it sounded alright last night syndrome, where something that seemed to be balanced and mixed down fine suddenly shifts somehow and sounds muddy and inarticulate. Getting there, though.

8th July 2017: Resonance is steaming ahead at full speed - faster than I had expected, really. A couple of inspired moments have mean that tracks #6 and #8 have taken on a very different tone than what was planned for them. This could be revisited on another couple of tracks elsewhere which need a bit of tightening up.

There is also considerably less use of the Mellotron on this one than elsewhere (probably nowhere since the early days of Oddzial) because I am looking for a different palette here. It does make an appearance here and there, but for the most part it sits in the corner and shuts up. Still love the damned thing, though. I would imagine that much is obvious.

I also have the germ of the base for Dissonance 01 which actually contains some sounds I am a little nervous about using. Listeners with acute hearing powers may be able to tell why.

27th June 2017: Planning has started for Consonance for planned release 2Q/2018.

26th June 2017: Resonance well under way. Five tracks started, the first almost completed - the bed track is fashioned almost entirely out of samples that you would never recognise now, and from found sounds that have been treated to such an extent that they have become something else entirely. I'm also particularly pleased that a pile of five recordings made over the course of a decade can be blended together to sound as though they were recorded in Sumatra, even though none were recorded further than a mile from my house.

Expect more rhythm in this one than before. Sometimes shockingly so.

25th June 2017: All the Radiohead related hoo-hah has caused me to upload my take on No Surprises to Soundcloud for an appearance on a pretty dormant group on Reddit.

6th June 2017: Planning has started for Dissonance for planned release 1Q/2018. Expect something difficult here.

5th June 2017: Work has commenced on Resonance for planned release 3Q/2017

21st May 2017: Vibrations released - 13 tracks of primarily choral compositions, including abstract soundscapes, orchestral and electronic music

30th March 2017: I'm absolutely done with Facebook. Lots of reasons why, really but it has become so tiresome recently that I never even really read it. Those of you who need to contact me can get me on Messenger if you need to, but that's it for me.

Some people view social media as essential for music to proliferate and to a very large extent this is true, but I am more interested in staying away from the endless polarisations of an awful lot of it, where you are either one of us or you are one of them and where there is no middle ground, agreement or compromise. Godwin was an optimist, not unlike Murphy. What was designed to draw people closer together is really only being used to do so by polarising different factions and pulling them further and further apart. Pretty soon we will have disparate 'opinion islands' whose inhabitants cannot understand how the other thinks because they are so far over the horizon they cannot be seen, only heard about. People are much more complex than that; to reduce you to one colour or another subtracts from your humanity, leaving you with the only choice of 'am I in it or am I out of it?'

So, I am out of it.

20th March 2017: Movements released. More orchestral colourings along with some rather incongruous arrangements.

13th February 2017: Planning started on creating twelve further tracks for the infamous Oddzial project.

26th November 2016: Work finalised on Spectrum, a single track which contains slow-changing electronic waves and patterns together with the sounds of protesting machinery and the even more distressing sound of an actress nearing the end of her solitary rope.

29th May 2016: Work finalised on the mono project - an attempt to see if it is possible to complete an album of ten tracks of four minute's duration, all in a single day, together with accompanying YouTube videos. Five albums were completed for the project (named mono 1 to 5) over the course of a single week, amounting to about fourteen hours' work a day.


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