Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I Went To A Music Technology Symposium Part 3

Nino Auricchio and Paul Borg sat side by side with their modular synthesisers, twiddling knobs and sliding faders to produce gentle burblings, plinkings and bloopings from what Paul called the 'third era of electronic instruments'.
He told us that using computers to make digital music made him feel as though he was doing his accounts or his homework; he loves it that there is no screen attached to these old synthesisers. His oblique feelings were articulated almost poetically:'This takes me back to somewhere that I was, and that I've never been... we are creating performance rather than typing in performance data'. They have to do analogue things, like synchronising the clocks of the machines, keeping them at a constant temperature to stop them de-tuning, and closing their cases carefully so they don't jog the wires and make the sounds completely change.
I liked this.
The Orpheus Institute presented an almost metaphysical discussion in which they proposed a random trust in technology's ability to imagine through music. Just as I was imagining the wind blowing a voice away, they put up a slide saying that 'Music is literally inconceivable without technology'. It was an absorbing talk, but in my head I was arguing all the way through.
Anat Ben David said that the most sophisticated technology we have is our own body and our own brain; external technology creates a loop that makes us fold back on ourselves. This made me think about the way that everything that artists make is an attempt to create some sort of mirror that we talk to, while simultaneously trying to escape from our real reflection. Anat had  little box. I wish I knew what it was; she told us that everything she did came out of this little box, much like Pandora's.
Sadly, I had to leave before the end.
Here is Kris Halpin. Stay with this video; it's brilliant:

Song Dreams

I dreamt a song this morning, just before I woke up.
When this happens, I never register what has happened at first, and then have to remember to record it on to my phone or some other recording device.
Usually, I'm listening to it on the radio or watching someone sing it; this time it was a boy band and I didn't like the song, but let's see what happens. Unfortunately, I woke up before it got to the chorus.
The weirdest song dream was that I was at a deserted Butlins in the dark and could hear a strange reverberant sound coming from a distant building. I followed the music, and walked into a huge, deserted, dark, plain room with a stage at one end, where a little woman was lit by a spotlight, singing and dancing, and this is what she was singing:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Went To A Music Technology Symposium, Part 2

Just hop over the toothbrushes and look at the photographs from 2 postings ago.

1. Amit Patel showed us his Cobra project, so called because it exists as a tiny sound processor on a Cobra beermat. After manipulating noise with twists of two dials, he told us that he used to work in a record shop and thought of his beer mat as a 'white label'; unlike some music tech enthusiasts, he's not interested in what happens under the bonnet, but wants to play with the noise that come out of the machine. He uses one mono output and includes the risk of it breaking down as part of his practice; and sometimes, he pick up the local Asian radio station in Leicester, where he works, and makes that part of it all. I loved that.
He packs it away in a Tupperware box to take it about the place, and if he's going abroad he just buys a battery when he gets there. 'Why take loads of stuff and not use it?', he said.

2. Jenn Kirby had adapted tethers (called that in laptopese, I believe) from a failed golfing game made by Gametrak that she bought cheaply off eBay, with voice processing tech soldered on to it; she describes the human voice as 'the best instrument there is'.
The audience shouted and she recorded the noise, and played with the resulting sound wave by moving the tethers. The start point of the program began by raising the left hand, and the end point by raising the right; volume was changed by moving up and down. All the time, she balances up technology with what the human body can do and makes certain that the audience will enjoy hearing the results.
She demonstrated some golf swings at one point, and has also used the windmill guitar gesture to trigger electronic sounds; she told us of the joys of risk in performing live with technology, otherwise she would just build a machine.

3. Robin the Frog had a lot of luggage and had been held up by rail replacement buses. He unpacked quickly and soon had three audience members becoming part of his tape decks by holding scraggly loops of tape at different distances away from the machines.
He told us of his love for tape that developed after working at the BBC, when 'sound loses it's moorings and just floats off'. 'Editing platforms give you what they think you want, whereas tape gives you everything, whether you want it or not'.His relationship to what he does is deeply engaged: 'When I let go, I submit to chaos'.
In Portugal once, a tape machine called Delia ceased to work until 90 seconds from the end of the show. It was 14 years to the day after Delia Derbyshire died. 'The machines are dying, and by using them like this you are dramatically reducing their lifespan, and that of the tapes as well. My plan is to follow them down and document their destruction'.

Wow. At this point I began to realise how much music technology performers are exploring their own spirituality through their relationships with machines and the sounds they make; I know that Sherry Turkle studied this with computer programmers, but it was interesting to hear this articulated by so many different music tech people is such different ways.
I thought about the gigantic Heidelberg press that I used to operate when I was a printer, and how you almost had to dance with the thing to make it work, learning the tension of the levers and the sound of the pistons to make it do exactly what you wanted it to.
Suddenly I started to value things in life that I have hidden under cushions and put in cupboards. Perhaps more on this  at some time when I feel like writing about what I am studying at evening class....

4. Next were KUDAC, a Kingston University laptop improvising group who did a live rehearsal for us to listen to. There was much turning of control buttons and some interesting watching. Afterwards, the questions were about what happens if someone accidentally makes a beat, and if the volume spins out of control. The best question was that about lack of eye contact, normally vital for improvisors. 'We plan to work on that', someone said. But they can recognise each other's patch bay. One chap murmured something about call and response, which i thought was really interesting; another wryly observed that he was not above miming to another member' moment of genius.

I'm going to take a tea break now and continue later.

Toothbrushes, Part 2

All the toothbrushes in the pharmacy this morning have lilac handles. Wish I'd taken my phone out to prove this with a photograph.

Toothbrushes

If you've tuned in for tales of music technology, sorry bout that; I have more pressing concerns.
Me and Offsprog One, who currently lives here, needed new toothbrushes. My old one is lilac-handled, hers green.
I looked in the cupboard for new ones. Two lilac toothbrushes.
Is this like the pink marshmallows that nobody wants and that get left till the end?
She took one and wrapped gaffa tape round the handle in a black stripe, and I have carried on with the old one, splayed and full of character.
My project this morning is to acquire a new toothbrush that isn't lilac, but also doesn't have too many 'features'. Who invented toothbrushes with 'features'? Different coloured bristles that point this way and that, different lengths, handles with assorted grip patterns and a general air of being a fighter jet rather than something for polishing your gnashers.
Actually, the mundane task of replacing an old toothbrush has now begun to feel rather exciting.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Asking The Internet

I asked the internet
'What is the meaning of life?'
'I am God',
It replied
Before dropping its connection
And leaving me in the lurch.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Wind

... blew me down Camden Road this morning on the way to work so I held on to a bench on the station platform, just in case. People have lost their favourite hats, I hear, and sometimes garden sheds.
A cheap bookshop in the Stratford Centre had a pile of books called Vinyl: the art of making records which were too tempting to ignore. And when I got to work Karina played some live-streamed whale singing from the mid-Atlantic and we talked about rats and budgies for a while.
I'm pausing for a moment of reflection after marking 28 pieces of work. It felt like a physical workout.
It's evening class tonight.
Foolish Girl, do you still read this blog? When are you coming to my house to play ukulele?

Storm Doris, 4 U

McMum's friend Pam sang this to my brother and me when we stayed over when McMum and McDad were away. It was on the radio, and she was mixing porridge in time to it in a pan, and singing along. It was a formative moment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

O Chords, Chords, Chords

Now I'm writing out the chords of every song. It's hard, hard, hard.
I wish I had written them all in just three major chords, but then they would sound different and I wouldn't sing 'em. The typeface is Bembo, which is an old-fashioned typeface that was my favourite when I worked in Lewes in Sussex as a typesetter for veterinary tablet envelopes, using old lead type and spacings, and setting the letters one by one before printing them on a massive Heidelberg letterpress machine. Offsprog One showed me how to download it from the internet. It has a lovely open look to it without looking like a children's book typeface.
This is what I'm doing:
Em7                       F#m7          Bm7
Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
      Am                   Em         F#m7    Bm7
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Em7                   F#m7       Bm7
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on
      Am                Em          F#m7    Bm7 Em7
The wonders of the world are sketched in sand.

Em7                     F#m7 Bm7
Lie down lie let the sun caress you,
Am              Em             F#m7         Bm7
People of the world, in the heart of the beast.
Em7         F#m7     Bm7
Holiday to calm and rest you
Am                  Em            F#m7 Bm7 Em7
What could ever drown your sleep in peace?

      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea.

Em7                       F#m7          Bm7
Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
      Am                   Em         F#m7    Bm7
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Em7                   F#m7       Bm7
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on
      Am                Em          F#m7    Bm7 Em7
The wonders of the world are sketched in sand.

  Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea.

A7
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand
                       Em
Hand in hand in hand.
A7
Take a souvenir from the contraband
                     F#m7 Bm7
Of this promised land;

      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea,
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
The sea.

Em7                   F#m7      Bm7
Fight man fight to get to the shore
      Am                Em           F#m7    Bm7
The crashing of the waves, the battling swell;
Em7                     F#m7     Bm7
Bursting boats can’t take any more
             Am                 Em          F#m7 Bm7    Em7
While the monsters in the deckchairs curse you to hell.
      Em7 F#m7 Bm7
“Go home!
     Em7 F#m7 Bm7
Go home!
     Em7 F#m7 Bm7
Go home to your war
Em7 F#m7 Bm7
zone!”

Em7                       F#m7          Bm7
Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
      Am                   Em         F#m7    Bm7
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Em7                   F#m7       Bm7
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on
      Am                Em          F#m7    Bm7 Em7

The wonders of the world are sketched in sand.
Copyright Helen McCookerybook, 2017

Almost Finished

Well, this one is almost finished: the freewheeling bicycle chap. I've been droring round at Gina's this morning. We do Art once a week now; Gina has been doing coloured pastel drawings, and I've been monochrome.
There's no need to tell me if I've got the music wrong; I don't mind.
There is no need to tell me if I've got the bicycle wrong either.
I have also been contacting promoters for September gig dates, and recording jingles for Colin Kane at Radio Wey who plays my music sometimes. They are on their way to Radio Wey, Colin! (note brain affected by jinglese).
Reminder to self: key signature or sharps if I can't do that.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sly And The Family Stone

This makes me want to play bass again. I will.

Trees 4 U



Songbird

Underneath the carpet on the forest floor
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Buried there forever like a Squirrel's store
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Visited by Ants and the Badger's claw
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
This is woodland treasure that you can't ignore

Guarded by an Owl with blinking yellow eyes
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Covered by the leaf mould in a dry disguise
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Hidden by the treetops from the cotton skies
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Time to catch the pleasure of this nature's cry
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm

Who will be singing when the East wind blows
Who'll still be smiling when the moonbeam glows
Who throws a party on a Songbird's wing
Who grows a blossom out of anything

Instrumental

Who will be singing when the East wind blows
Who'll still be smiling when the moonbeam glows
Who throws a party on a Songbird's wing
Who grows a blossom out of anything

Diana is the hunter and she's on the run
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
She's lighting up the city with the Norfolk sun
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
Bringing fresh the air to town for everyone
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm
What a germination what a world of fun
Oak Ash Sycamore Holly Elm

credits

from Suburban Pastoral, released January 2, 2013
Pedal Steel: BJ Cole
Samples/Rhodes/Vocals: Helen

Señor Burns (You Know Who I Mean)

Antidote to Andy: Sly And The Family Stone

Terrifyingly Smoove: Andy Williams Under Paris Skies

Watch what you do! Andy Williams will creep up on you with his reverb!

Photos From Cultural Traffic, First Site, Colchester on Saturday

All courtesy Albany Arts.







I'll Play The Fool

A few of us had this album in the squat where I lived in Brighton. Sometimes on weekend mornings you could hear people singing along to it behind their Saturday doors. It's a happy song.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Song!

Self Portrait With Green Goddess

B*gger selfies. I stretched my arm out just a couple of minutes ago and took a photo while I was rehearsing for tonight's gig in Croxley in a café that used to be called Coco's, and is now called something different. The Green Goddess is out to play tonight because the style is doo-wop and she has been called forth to match the music with her f-holes. Somehow that sounds rather rude.
I'm learning one of Paul Eccentric's songs, probably somewhat late in the day, and will be singing that with him, and then a clutch of my own selfies, which is the new name for songs you write yourself (I've decided). I will probably do Femme Fatale because I have 3 more CDs to sell, and Paul's partner Donna will be there doing all that selling stuff for us all. Ten people will be singing, playing or reading poetry tonight, all for a fiver.
Yesterday's thing in Colchester was brilliant even though the whole day lasted 13 hours. I met some great people as I learn to be friendly to strangers and not to hide behind extrovert friends. I will write about it in the week. I am spending most of today eating because all I ate yesterday was some Syrian soup which was very nice but I was starving when I got home, and the cupboard was bare.

The Tiniest Garden

Nature does not care where she plants a garden; even the top of a concrete post at the tube station will do.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Philip Leo

Many moons ago Philip used to go to a music workshop at Peckham Settlement where I worked. I wonder what happened to him? He had a great voice and wrote some lovely songs. And Patrick, and John, and Dawn, and Cecil, and Hilary and Trevor and Louis, and Nicola and the man who sold Holiday Property Bonds and played the trumpet.

I Try Not To Go To Charity Shops

But I did. And I bought a cheap Fables of La Fontaine illustrated by Gustave Dore because I wanted to look at the black and white lines. Two pounds fifty.


First Site, Colchester Tomorrow

Blimey, that's come round quick.
Tomorrow a bunch of ne'er-do-wells will be heading by charabanc to First Site, Colchester for the Cultural Traffic Fair.
Follow the link- it's gonna be a good day.
For the first time in my life, I'll be reading a bit from The Lost Women of Rock Music (and also singing some songs and selling some of my vintage comics and some CDs). I will have money-off vouchers for the book.
There will be food- a Syrian pop-up cafe!
And the second last day of the Gee Vaucher exhibition which I am REALLY looking forward to seeing.
Not to be missed if you live within hiccuping distance of Colchester, and worth a day trip if not, I'd say!
http://www.firstsite.uk/whats-on/cultural-traffic/


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Engineer's Friend

This is commitment. Out go the sewing things, into a plain metal box; this tin is now at the ready to be charged with a fresh batch of Fisherman's Friends Originals.
The entire studio session has been fuelled by these little peppery drops. When I'm desperate, I can usually find a few kicking about in the bottom of my bag from a burst packet a month ago, but I don't share those ones because they are a bit grubby.
Hey-ho for seafaring sound engineers!
(We had competitions at school to see who could keep one in their mouth the longest. I never got one into my mouth in the first place, because I was scared of them at that age).


Hearing Things

One of the best things someone said to me once about one of my drawings was that it was 'loud'.
I love the idea of a picture making you hear sound.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Icarus Dive in Camden

I'd left them at home; a thorough search of the bottom of my bag revealed seven assorted pens but not what I needed; luckily the bar guy had some. You can call me a wimp, but I need my hearing for my job as a musician and I can hear just fine through those blessed little foam plastic earplugs!

Icarus Dive are on tour at the moment and this was their only London date, so I headed on down to the pub with no name in Greenland Place, and followed the swarm of people up the stairs.
Progressive rock is alive and strumming in Camden! Guitars were tuned, the lead singer/guitarist Joe mounted the monitor (ahem) and off they went.
Time signatures blasted from the stage and the audience nodded along with enthusiasm; the band are skilled musicians, well-rehearsed and very tight, which they need to be in order to weave their complex arrangements into atmospheric and sometimes surprisingly poppy music (they are good singers and know how to craft a harmony). Louis the drummer is a master of dynamic drumming and Alex picked some fabulous guitar chords, face hidden behind a mountain of red curly hair.
They also have a very funny rapport with the audience. The bass player Harry asked for a bit more of his vocals and guitar on stage.
'Me! Me! Me!', quipped an audience member in a whiny voice.
'Can I have a bit less Harry on stage?', enquired Joe.
'More Harry! More Harry!', chanted the crowd.
This was a short, punchy set that culminated in Joe leaping into the crowd at the end; some people appeared to be rather surprised. It was Wednesday, wasn't it?
They have more dates to come, and if you're a fan of neo-prog you should definitely go to see them; Bristol, Peterborough, Guildford and Brighton all at venues on the poster below:



(I have to declare an interest- I am the aunt of one quarter of the band).

A Beautiful Pigeon


Walk Tall

Why can I remember the entire lyrics of Val Doonican's song Walk Tall, yet not remember the lyrics to some of my own songs?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Not Making Banana Bread

I woke up this morning.
Sounds like a song title? Yes, that's what I did. I wrote a song and recorded it in a very rough and ready form just because the recording stuff was set up in the kitchen and I seem to be embedded in a very deep seam of music at the moment.
It was a song about trains, surprise surprise: steam trains. I think I will spend Tuesday writing, finishing and recording songs so that I don't get bored with playing the ones that I've just finished recording.
It's hard to leave the music alone but the house needs to be cleaned, and there are two old bananas on the side that should probably not be wasted. They should probably be made into banana bread and it should probably be me who makes it.
I hate throwing food away; this is a legacy of having a ten year period of time when the fridge had nothing in it and I would never let people go to get milk for their tea in case they saw that that was the only thing in the fridge.
It is difficult to jettison the bananas without an enormous amount of guilt, and banana bread smells lovely when it's baking and tastes lovely when you eat it.
I also need to finish marking some essays, which is why I am writing blog posting. I am putting off making decisions because it's been so lovely to make some music.
My hands feel happy because I have been playing guitar such a lot and my heart feels happy because I have been singing. I don't care if it's cold and rainy outside and for once I have stopped worrying about other people for a few hours and realised that I can't solve their problems on my own, because I can't even solve my own problems on my own.
A bit of music making is like having a holiday from yourself without even leaving your body.
Actually, that's rubbish because you take your body on holiday with you if and when you go.
I'm not a very successful consciousness-streamer so I'm just going to shut up.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Redwing

Ten years ago a cold winter spell brought a redwing to the garden of the big house I used to live in because fallen apples had clustered underneath the fruit trees the previous autumn. The next day, the bird came back with a collection of pals to share the feast. I had never seen one before and was blown away by the jewel-studded breasts of the birds and the flash of red under their wings.
They almost looked as though they had been embroidered on to the garden.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw what resembled giant sparrows in the graveyard yesterday; one of them hopped up on to a weather-worn gravestone from the grey winter grass, and sure enough, it belonged to another small flock of redwings that had probably floated in on the cold February winds from Scandinavia.
What a beautiful sight, and echoing such a similar personal situation; maybe they are magical messages of hope. Or maybe they are just pretty birds.

Break

Ahhh... just managed to finish a bit of work and just about to start another. Working at home can be surprisingly productive.
I've got a load of marking to do as well, but I'm having a break to eat a healthy meal of Doritos and cherries. That's what I call balance.

A Day In Which Everything Goes Slightly Wrong.

I was expecting to have a full working day today in the studio after a very busy week in which all the students who don't normally show up suddenly decided to show up with their bags full of motivation and their heads full of ideas. On Tuesday Paul Eccentric came over rand we worked on one of his songs, and then in the evening Andy Diagram came to record his trumpet part on Women of the World. It's brilliant.
On Wednesday I visited students on placements, one in a secondary school in Stoke Newington and another in a drum'n'bass radio station in deepest Essex. On Thursday I went to evening class (mysterious!) and then to The Green Note where The Gem Andrews Band were playing- they were great and had a very warm and supportive crowd watching them. Good sound, too.
Now I'm waiting for the kitchen appliances to cease their cycle before I can sing in the kitchen.
It's been a peculiar day. In the café, the proprietor charged me seven pounds and thirty pence (or tried to). He'd got it backwards; it was three pounds and seventy pence. He wasn't trying to con me because he counted out the right change before I told him.
He was very embarrassed.
Offsprog Two came to take a photo because she's going to do an embroidery. She was a bit worse the wear and and sat about with me for a while.
I left the newspaper on the tube.
Now I'm home, and recording what I thought I was going to record today in the studio, in the kitchen but I can't do that with the sploshy water sounds so I'm waiting.
I've tried to do some editing but Logic won't delete the bit of track that I want to get rid of . It will do anything else I ask, it says, but Not That.
How unbearable to have a music recording programme that has a personality.

An Evening With Hoxton Radio

On one of the coldest evenings of the winter, Hoxton Radio was set up for their outside broadcast at Old Spitalfields Market. There were still shoppers about, and workers on their way home who clustered around the tall heaters to absorb some warmth while they watched and listened.
Michael Sebastian was playing his Stratocaster in his coat when I got there, his fluid improvisations ringing across the market and adding to the atmosphere. People warmed their hands on coffee cups, or sipped wine to warm their bodies, but still managed to raise a loud applause for him at the end of his set.
This was the first time I've ever been able to see my breath while I was singing; like a dragon, steam poured out of my mouth when I sang, and luckily my fingers didn't seize up till the last song. The upbeat mood of the Hoxton Radio team really helped and the sound guy was great. Offsprog one borrowed a fiver off me to buy a beret to keep her head warm and then was happy to eat chips and take photos. We loved the stylish little girl who danced along (I want one at every gig now).
Hats and Scarves, hats and scarves and gloves, and a lot of smiles. A salsa class followed but I was too stiff with cold to join in and I'd also walked eight miles around London doing various different errands, so it really was time to go home and read a good detective novel.
I did love it though. These events happen every two weeks- live music on Fridays in the market- so follow @hoxtonradio if you fancy going along.
Impressed by the matching mohair jumper and speakers? I hope so.





Friday, February 10, 2017

Bang!

I'm sitting at a conference not far from the exploding man.
He has already exploded once, targeting a harmless presenter for his presentation of statistics that the exploding man does not value.
The presenter was talking about perception, and not truth: the statistics he presented are the ones that everybody uses, so they have the effect he is discussing, whether or not they are correct.
The exploding man disagrees even more with the next speaker, a local MP. The exploding man has changed colour. He has become very red and very shiny, and he has started to stab his sheaf of papers very hard with a pen. He is frowning and clenching his mouth in a downward grimace. Head in hands, he holds his tension under quivering control, leaking twitches and harsh shuffles, scribbling frantically, biting his nails, and crossing his legs and uncrossing them.
His forehead is ploughed with furious furrows; his eyes have disappeared into angry sinkholes somewhere in his face.
The speaker he objects to is just winding up his presentation.
Now the exploding man has his spectacles on. He leans back, arms tensed against the table, like a catapult ready to spring.
Five
Four
Three
Two
One.....

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Rickenbacker

In the Cancer Foundation Shop in High Barnet this morning- six hundred and fifty nicker if you want to spoil them; this is a child-size Rickenbacker and it's gorgeous!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Lend Us A Tenner

A Japanese retail assistant in the shop where Offsprog Two works borrowed a tenner off her one day.
This is how she returned it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Protesting, Marching and Shutting Down

I was talking to Offsprog One about the way some people are being so scornful about the women's marches against Trump. 'Why weren't you marching against the Saudi arms trade?' or 'Why don't you support British causes like the NHS?'.
The answer is that I do these things too, and so do a lot of other people, both men and women.
Offsprog One says this is called 'shutting people down', which is denying people the legitimacy of their voice.
There is a lot of manipulation and policing of what people say going on at the moment.

Monday, February 06, 2017

OK, OK, OK

I think Karina at work might have solved the recording problem. I was too tired when I got in this evening to try it out, but I'll have a go at it tomoz morning. I have my fingers crossed; I'm glad I didn't  trash the recording equipment in a huff. I'm feeling optimistic, which is way better than feeling mad with techno-frustration. In fact, I'm looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning.
There was a productive lyrics workshop earlier today, in which the students wrote a lovely song in an hour. It was quite laid back, but on a Monday morning that's only to be expected.
It made me remember one time when I was stuck for an idea to set the ball rolling in one of these sessions, so I decided to ask each person who came in to the room what animal they were.
Every single male student was a lion, even the quiet and placid men; the one female student was a monkey. They ended up writing a story about a monkey trapped up a tree that was surrounded by hungry lions pacing around underneath it. The monkey had to use its ingenuity to escape, and it asked the lions 'Which one of you is going to take the first bite out of me?'.
Being competitive, they started to argue, and as the argument became more and more heated, the lions stopped pacing around, and started to scrap. Quick as lightning, the monkey slid down the tree and escaped, leaving the hungry lions still fighting underneath it.

I had bought a packet of Jammie Dodgers today for the students to get their teeth stuck into, but I forgot to get them out of my bag so I had to eat them myself instead.

Night Market, Hoxton Radio This Friday

I will be playing on Friday night at Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 this week, at some time between 6-9 p.m. as part of Hoxton Radio's Night Market series of semi-acoustic events.
The show will be broadcast live and it's suitable for all ages.
It will be fun!
http://hoxtonradio.com

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Found In My Shooh

An uncomfortable walk down the road, one recent morning.

The Truth, The Post-truth, And Nothing Like The Truth

In yesterday's newspaper there was an interesting article about the sliding, slithery thing we call truth. I found myself agreeing with what the writer said and noting how well-written it was, and then saw who it was written by.
Jimmy Wales is a co-founder of Wikipedia. I laughed.
I know Wikipedia is trying to become a serious presenter of facts (they are trying very hard to engage with universities at the moment, getting undergraduates involved in research in the USA, for instance, and I took part in an event where a representative was talking about their move to become accepted as an authoritative source of truthful information).
Well, a musician of my acquaintance read in her Wikipedia entry that she had died, and I spent a long time haunted by the fact that Wikipedia said that I'd stopped performing because of stage-fright, which was not only a negative statement, but also completely untrue and lifted wholesale, I think, from the Faber Book of Popular Music, who simply made it up.
I am happy to say that someone has re-written my own entry and it's now more truthful, but we were talking about this this morning, and someone mentioned that they used to rewrite their school teacher's information every week to annoy him!
Wikipedia is not a source of reliable information, no matter how hard they try to be. I can appreciate that the founders hope to be associated with truth, but if you're managing a massive amoeba-shaped online encyclopaedia, you don't stand a snowflake's (original meaning of the word) chance in hell.

Hellebores

I love these flowers; one here already and more on their way.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Tryna Do Some Recording

Humph. I've spent two hours with this darn computer and it's saying 'no' all the time. I've emptied it's bowels, switched on an off, plugged and unplugged, renamed, rebranded and still the darn thing says 'no'.
I will try again tomorrow.
I have been severely tempted to smack it's little electronic botty for it, but I do understand that this would be counterproductive, and would not solve the problem, no matter how much better it might make me feel.
I'm going out to buy a birthday card for my friend whose birthday it is tomorrow, and the card will definitely not have a picture of a computer on it.
So there.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Cultural Traffic In Colchester

We'll be travelling up by coach, and there will be stalls, music, readings. More info soon, but it's where the Gee Vaucher exhibition is on, so it will be a good day!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

"I Once Was the National Centre For Popular Music"

It was strange to see this building again, which is now the Student's Union building for Sheffield Hallam University. Shortly after it was built (in between its opening and the avalanche of complaints about what was inside it, and the prices in the café), the PRS invited a bunch of people up there for a one-day meeting. We were schools and composers (or in my case, a songwriter), part of their Composers in Residence scheme. I was to work with Sedgehill Secondary school in Lewisham, and four feeder primaries on a Pop Nativity; we were to devise songs to perform at Christmas that year at Sedgefield so that the primary children could get a taste of what it might be like when they moved on to secondary school.
Once the project got going it was really interesting; the primary schools were so different from each other. I would go to one and the teacher would be sitting on the floor surrounded by children with recorders, all tootling away in a little bubble of their own; in another, it was chaos. Funnily enough, the chaotic class came up with the best idea- the story of the Three Kings told by the star:

"I'm a big bright star and I'm shining tonight
Looking down from a dark blue height;
I see Three Kings upon the sand
And I'm guiding them to the promised land".

Anyway back then, music technology was just about to enter a growth spurt and we were invited to sit in a chair in the centre and experience surround sound (no, thank you). The thing I liked was the virtual mixing desk, but a lot of the rest of the stuff was a bit underwhelming, almost as though someone's uncool Grandpa had organised it all.
It's probably a lot better off as a student's union building.


Hope And Social At Greystones, Sheffield


For a change of air, I went to Sheffield (just as polluted as London, I think). But really, I went to met Mick, June and Laura, who sell merch for Martin Stephenson. I hadn't seen them since November and they treated me to a ticket to see Hope and Social, the guitarist of whom teaches Laura to play ukulele.
It was lovely to see them again. We ate pie, peas and chips in Greystones, which is a great venue which I have played a couple of times in the past. There was a support band, Sowerbee, a male/female duo with lovely voices, and then Hope and Social (all 8 of them) picked their way through a stage crammed with musical instruments and began their set. They have a three-piece horn section, bass, drums, two guitarists and a vintage keyboard player (the keyboard, not the player), most of whom multi-task throughout the set. They have catchy songs, they are well-rehearsed, but most importantly, they have universally sunny dispositions, which were most welcome on a rainy Tuesday. Their wit is sharp and self-deprecating (the keyboard player was congratulated on passing his driving test last week. 'He'll be losing his virginity next', quipped the guitarist), they encourage the audience to join in, and they have running gags with their sound guy at the back of the room, who works bloody hard to change over between dodgy vintage synths, quirky drum machines, blue plastic trombones and all the other kit. As singers, they are exemplary and include amongst their number Gary Stewart on drums, who is also Yorkshire's numero uno Paul Simon coverer (and who sang a Paul Simon song last night). The best bit was when they walked away from the microphones towards the end of their set and sang acoustically and in harmony. If I had a criticism it would be that there's not enough opportunity to hear their good musicianship- at one point just the sax and trombone played some truly beautiful little licks, as the music backed off a bit.
It was an uplifting night though, in spite of the fact that they dissed London. I had to have a wee heckle about that,  although I don't care a fig for The Smoke and I've always felt like a foreigner here.
They're actually playing The Islington tonight, in Tolpuddle Street, Islington, believe it or not. Try to go- you'll enjoy it, I promise, and you may well find that they sing a song in London that disses Sheffield.
Let me know if they do.