Saturday, 4 October 2008

Musical Scores VII: Descriptions

The various journo descriptions of music I used in my popbloks. 

Musical Scores VI : Last Popblok!

This was the last popblok I did. It was for a soundtrack to a friends film and I never ended up making the music (although I did finish the soundtrack - pleased with it as well!), but I really like it. Getting a bit more specific with this as I wanted to perform it live with my band. 

Musical Scores V: Popbloks

The other half of my final show. Kind of complicated to explain here, but not too complicated in practice (despite learning experimental music I'm not technically accomplished and always tried to put a pop spin on everything). 

Basically uses John Cage's module type structures (I think thats right anyway) and time as the ultimate measure of what can be classed as music. I split each piece into three sections of one minute to create a three minute score (after the typical length of a pop single). I thought if its short enough, it doesn't matter how experimental and noisy it gets.

I then filled those minutes with various ways of inspiring music - my clok music (which provided a nice solid bedrock and rhythm to anchor the noise), scrabble lyrics (I play a lot of scrabble and kept a notebook of each game to use as a random lyric generator), journo descriptions (love these - descriptions of music from reviews that always sounded more exciting than the actual music), and then various other diagrams I looted out of charity books to provide a kind of inspiration (for example a picture of a horse might mean to make the rhythm galloping). 

I then personalised these for my friends using images that suited them and sent the scores out to them. They created the music they thought the score represented and I did the same and I ended up with two versions of each score, sometimes similar, always inventive. 

The versions here are copies of copies, but one day I'll find and post the original full size versions up along with the karaoke stuff. Might even put the music up somewhere, although that could get tricky. 

Musical Scores IV : Clok music.

I came up with this idea to automatically create rhythm, at the same time keeping a lot of creative control. So it was kind of random, non random. As the rhythm continues, parts will go out of sync and evolve creating new clashes. Eventually it should all cycle round and begin again but it had enought variation for me. 

I later realised I could use it to create notes, riffs and chords and its really flexible. Still use it today. I also found out its pretty similar to what Steve Reich has been doing for years already, but at least it introduced me to him. 

Most of all, I think it looks really pretty. 

Musical scores III: Karaoke

This was part of my final show. This was a little different from the rest of my work as the musical scores weren't originally planned as part of the work. The idea was all about authenticity and what is judged 'real' and 'fake'. It seemed to me too much emphasis was placed on this when all that mattered to me was the final outcome. 

I asked friends to pick songs that were important to them for some reason. I then re-recorded these songs, sometimes as accurately as I could, and sometimes putting a new spin on them (I made Christian Vogel's techno 'Plaster Cracks' into a kind of country slide guitar disco stomp and the Carpenter's 'Super Star' into a mix between their version and Sonic Youth's cover). 

They then had to record vocals without aid of lyrics and retakes. I allowed them two takes so they could add backing vocals if they wanted, or just have one more go. It was really brave of them and I will be eternally grateful as there's something horrible about hearing your own bad singing, and they had no chance to practice or even hear my versions before they started. Having said that, I got the results I wanted and I absolutely love the versions they recorded, some of them are really touching. 

Anyway - because I had to figure out the music I made a lot of notes and ended up really liking them and using them as the inlay for the CD. Here's a little. I particularly like the grid patterns as I figured out the drums (I can't play drums and had to sequence them all). 

Musical scores II: Sideways music

I came up with this in the bath in my second year in Manchester. Everyone always used backwards guitar riffs to create a psychadelic feel, but why hadn't anyone tried making music moves sideways? 

I attempted to fix this by creating formulas to make sideways music versions of Bowie's 'Five Years' and The Stone Roses ' Waterfall'. Think there was one more, but I forget what it was. 'Waterfall' was the most successful, I basically took the length (in bars) of the song and used that to create octaves and I think the range of the notes in the song created the length in bars. Or something.

I had to use MIDI to play it, though now I think it would be served better by human error. It was played in a kind of chattering MIDI piano rumble and sounded really, really spooky. 

As was with much of  my Sideways music, my friends didn't seem to want to hear it. 

EDIT: You know what? I think the guitar part here is only one page of a six page score that stretched all the way down. Hmmm....

Musical scores I : FRACTAL REVS!!

Here's something I came across in one of my old sketchbooks. They are full of stuff like this, little sketches about new music ideas. They are mostly new ways of inspiring music. So the idea is, if I ever get stuck I can turn to these and spark something out of nothing. 

This idea was to start with a bit of music that then speeds up in tempo, raises in pitch until it resembles a really rapid loop. This then becomes a rhythm and a new bassline and rhythm (or whatever) kicks in with the rapid loop. This then all increases in pitch and rhythm and creates another new loop. Etc etc, each new bit of music becoming a loop that the next bit of music uses. 

Quenched Metal II

After posting the last blog I thought it would be nice to post something after all, and as music was on my mind I thought I would post some of my old music/art work. 

I got into Fluxus at art school, and from there got into video art (for about a year) then, as I was into music already I got into experimental music. My university years were spent doing experimental music and learning how to use a recording studio and, for the first time, MIDI and sequencers.

I didn't want to sacrifice art to do music, and after getting into John Cage, Steve Reich and, in particular, Corenlius Cardew (check out Scratch Music if you can - its a very rare book though, I finally got my hands on on a couple of years ago), I realised that it was the perfect way to combine artwork and music.

Because a lot of the music was about new ideas, it meant that the music scores were also new, and this is where the art side came in to it. I always meant to go back to doing it as I felt I had just started, but this is about as far as I have got so far.

Thats the intro - here's the stuff.  

Quenched Metal

Me and my flatmate Chris were talking about all the books we have and making recommendations to each other when he mentioned his 'Introductory to Solid State Physics' book and how nails it is. After flicking through we found the phrase 'quenched metal', and decided that it would make a really cool name for a new kind of music. 

Following the original idea of quenched metal, the music of Quenched Metal would involve playing music to an ever-increasing tempo to white hot speeds and then abruptly slowing the tempo down to a crawling pace. I think it would sound amazing and may have to work on it. 

Had to blog it as I don't want to lose the idea. Probably no drawing this weekend because I have loads of work to do (an actual excuse this time!).