Ideas emerging…

Blaise and Alex in the control room

Blaise, Alex and Tom in the control room

Our second official meeting today, with the added intent of actually figuring out some music instead of just talking about it. Alex, Blaise, Tom and myself (Ben was ill) booked a studio and put our heads together to see what we could come up with musically. Based initially on some experiments that Ben had put together from audio samples I had provided, Alex set up a ProTools session that would loop this content so we could jam along in time and also record the proceedings. I chose to take on a percussion role, as Tom (piano) and Blaise (acoustic guitar) already had the melodic and harmonic side of things covered, and Tom had some musical ideas he wanted to try out.

Alex in the control room

Alex in the control room

The headphone send from the studio didn’t appear to be working unfortunately, so we abandoned the idea of playing along with a loop and purely improvised; as this was our first official session of playing together, it was more to get a feel for each others musical sensibilities. Tom had an interesting idea of superimposing a 6/4 motif in his left hand against a 5/4 in his right hand, which sounded great when it worked, though it took a while to settle in – Blaise attempted some hammer on techniques on guitar, while I attempted some syncopations and atmospherics on congas and cymbal. Sometimes this worked well, sometimes it almost fell apart, but as this is still early days I feel we’re only tentatively begin to feel each other out musically, so will withold any judgements for the moment!

The studio set up

The studio set up

Although not a total waste of effort, as there were good ideas that emerged in the recording, we probably spent unnecessary time setting up microphones and recording the proceedings – at this early stage, I feel we should concentrate more on idea generation in a musical sense and not so much on audio fidelity. I suggested upon hearing the playback of the session, that we each come up with a short musical phrase that we could extrapolate upon in the next session. I again reiterated that if this group is to be truly representative of the ‘soundscape’ aspect of the unit, we need to not only use parts of the university soundscape to manipulate, but we need to show the progression from that soundscape into the manipulated sounds, whether they be musical or otherwise – I believe this is key and fundamental to the project.

Tom putting an idea to Alex

Tom putting an idea to Alex

Tom has some musical ideas that I believe are quite valid, using repetitive motifs reminiscent of Terry Riley and Mike Oldfield, in C# dorian (relating back to the E major drone of the previous subgroup), which gives a nice, floating quality. I will attempt to come up with something similar this week in a related key and hopefully will be able to slot it into what we’re doing. Four weeks until presentation and counting…

A rough demo recording of todays session:

Subgroup 6 – beginnings

Our first ‘official’ meeting took place today, and proved far more productive than I could have imagined – we have a bunch of go-getters here! Blaise is quite pro-active in getting everything organised, and  Alex I sense is itching to get the soundscape off the ground as soon as possible – both he and Ben are well versed in Ableton Live and are prepared to take on more of the ‘tech’ duties. Despite my audio background in using ProTools, it’s probably to my advantage to take part in the live performance itself for once, and to be perfectly honest, I’d like to leave the technical details to someone else and concentrate on how to pull off the best live performance.

At this early stage, we’re still thrashing around ideas of the best way to tackle this part of the project – I ventured that using short audio sample as a way to build up rhythm tracks for performance would be useful, which seemed to be taken up. Another idea ventured by Ben for using industrial material that already has inherent tones, to use as pitched material was also useful. We auditioned  tracks in a small audio studio in O Block I had no idea existed (so much for three years of a degree!) and decided for practical reasons to get a group DropBox underway to swap audio files.

This is an auspicious start, and if we can keep the momentum going, I believe we could have some valuable material to contribute to the final project.

More developments

After having a weekly meeting for our tutorial group on Thursday, it appears the ‘music degree as production’ idea wasn’t a bad one after all; this project has some quite real potential, as in one fell swoop, it serves as a great promotional device for the music degree (and the university) and of course, it has a ready-made audience in future students for the course.

Bruce Crossman, our lecturer, is already excited by the potential of the project, and has recommended to talk to our technical staff and to Rachel Bentley at TVS (the university television station) about marketing potential for the project. I do believe this thing may have legs on it….

The soundscape emerges

Had another meeting, today with my ‘subgroup’ (one of the smaller groups within the main Music Project group) and caught up with Blaise Parnell and Alex Salazar, who along with Ben Turner and hopefully Thomas Hodson (another member, Jeffrey Tchung, has been strangely absent) will constitute Subgroup 6, officially in charge of the ‘soundscape’ aspect of the project. By way of explanation: as per the previous blog, the overall concept is that of showing the progression through our degree, by each subgroup performing an aspect of it. Blaise, Alex, Ben, Thomas and myself will be incorporating aspects of the Sound Synthesis and the Sound Environment unit, which employed as one of its projects, a sound collage, very much in the style of Pierre Schaeffer and musique concréte. Each member has something quite different to the mix: Alex is very much into electronica, Blaise is a talented guitarist, Ben is a bass player, Thomas apparently plays keys and I, amongst the various instruments I play, also have a background in sound engineering. I’m quietly optimistic about this project, it has a great deal of promise already!

First thoughts on the big project

An interesting couple of days – our group as a whole (well, 13 of us anyway) met yesterday to discuss initial plans for the production of our major project for the final year performance unit entitled, aptly, ‘Music Project’. In a nutshell, this will be an hour long presentation, to be performed in November to our peers and notable others. We are one of three groups of roughly 30 students, who need to divide into further subgroups of roughly 5-6 students each. The production needs to have theme of some description, and needs to come together as a cohesive whole, with our blogs reflecting not our individual contributions, but those of our subgroups and of the entire group and production overall… phew!

Fortunately, things seem to be moving along quickly: following yesterdays meeting, a theme has emerged, that of somehow portraying the Bachelor of Music degree itself as the production, reflecting aspects of what we’ve learnt in the degree through vignettes performed by each subgroup within the production. This has a interesting aspect to it, as in a way we already have a potential audience in future students who may be thinking about studying the degree, as the production will showcase aspects of what we’ve already studied, and will give future students an insight into the degree in an entertaining fashion (hopefully).

Ideas are fermenting, and discussion is underway… it’s getting interesting. 😉

Its been a hard days blog…

… and I’ve been working like a dog – well, not quite. This first foray into the blogosphere for me, is probably timely – having blindly stumbled around the internet for the last few years, in varying capacities as graphic designer/musician/photographer/songwriter etc., I’ve strenuously avoided actual commentary anywhere, apart from the occasional update on my own music site ( and business site ( – I’ve effectively let the art do the talking.  But little by little, those Facebook posts have become more regular, more elaborate, perhaps more informed and dare I say it… almost enjoyable.

Following a quick holiday last month to New York, in particular Brooklyn, I found that my posts were becoming an almost daily event, and I felt almost deprived lest I’d missed posting a new image or recollection on a particular day… people actually seemed interested in all the same wacky things that were capturing my attention, and that in itself was a compelling reason to keep going. Spurred on by a requirement in our final performance unit at the University of Western Sydney that we document and indeed maintain a blog of our activities in the unit, I finally have a legitimate reason to blather on…

And so endeth the first blog. There will be more, much more soon. And so, without further ado… let the literary adventure begin.