I have three tracks now with a more developed percussion track. The one with Violin and Viola (Unbounded) is working out very well!
I am excited about this one. Thats just called track 7 at the moment. Track six (Pothole Pirouette) has a spacey Violin part. With old space echo. There is another Violin part that is all grunge, crunched up. They work together in a weird way. Track two (Springboard Activist) is working well with percussion. The textural piano part and the walking synth with 2 key changes can now, strangely, work together OR separately. It is very interesting what percussion does to the composition! I have been writing a piece that has two very contrasting piano sounds today. Early days. So I have eight ideas on the go now.
Its getting there! I am blown away with the percussion effect for track 7 ( Unbounded ). Very Very Exciting!
Worked hard on one track yesterday. (Back to the Head) It's a textural dance vibe. I wrote this in 2010 so it's been in my head for a while.
It is in a major key of G. There is a crunchy string pad going through it that is very happy.
The main fast moving line is from a Nexus synth. The lovely German creation. Peter Dudley faded in and out a bitcrusher effect that has given the piece even more legs.
Had a very good day in the studio today. Everything seemed to go so naturally well.
I played the Violin along with one slow track. (Springboard Activist) Didn't bother to record it yet. Just doubling the synth melody on one section then soloing freely on the other, one A min chord, section. A continuous 7th sounded interesting so I will probably start building up simple 2 note chords tomorrow. I may get a better feel for a Violin solo then. I played the piano for some time. The Ivory German D sounds good with some effects on. Clear and strong sounding. Not too spacey.
Suddenly after playing a while I got a melody straight into my head. (Grandiloquent) Recorded it immediately over this strong, epic sounding 4 chord thingy I have. I wasn't too sure about this track. Didn't really know what to do with it.
It was too good to throw away though. It had something.
This melody has really brought it to life. It's very up and clear.
The album needs a track like this so what a productive day.
Ended up doing a bouncing C on the Violin. A minor 3rd. The continuous 7th, a G, didn't really work. It's repetitive but has a warm Violin sound. (Springboard Activist) The key becomes ambiguous. Neither A Minor or C major.
Interesting. It sounds better soloing freely on the other section that has the doubled up synth melody. I will keep the melody back a bit.
Listening to the other one with the epic melody again. (Grandiloguent)
I like it! The melody is in single notes just below the string pad in pitch. I have tried it above in octaves while having the pads lower. As a variation.
Had a good week but quite tough. Started off with no real inspiration so got nothing much together with the music. At times like this I tend to practice and play the piano. I usually get ideas later. It did not happen this time. On Thursday I decided to confront a piece I had been avoiding since I wrote it last August. (Dip) A bit of an odd thing to do really when I was not feeling very inspired. Going against the grain! This piece came out as a short 16 bar entity back then. Really different. It is immediately troubled sounding. Dark, unsettled, agitated and desperate. I am intrigued by it as it is instantly all these things the moment it starts.
Back in August I had to stop writing and start preproduction and programming work for the upcoming Ultravox tour.
I have written more for this track now after many weeks. I replaced the string synth sound with the Violin. Two Violin parts playing in octaves. Deliberately mid twentieth century classical sounding. I just love to hear the clear acoustic sound of the violin when it comes in adding to the piano.
It is quite pulling as the first note is an open A string. What was alienating becomes a little bit emotional and human. I later added my CS80 weird string sound to it in consecutive octaves with a third. I know it sounds a little involved all this but it is just one of those tracks that has to be just right. It has such a unique feel. It is a fine line between steering it and allowing the music to find its own natural way.
I don't ever want to get too sure about music.
I also did some work on the track that has Violin & Viola. (Unbounded)
It was important to leave this one for a couple of weeks.
It is near completion now.
It just needed a few small tweaks with the form. Nearly ready for mixing now.
Had a great week working on the track with the epic melody. Track 4. (Grandiloquent)
I shaved it down a bit.
Needed another couple of sections. I ended up taking an idea from track 10, (Dip) which wasn't really working, (it did work eventually) and put it with 4 and it works well. I had to bring the key down from A minor to G minor. This idea is kind of light and subtle. That is why it fits I think.
The epic bit is so strong. They offset each other. It didn't go
back into the chorus section very well though. The keys were too similar. It didn't take off!!!!
Another idea that had been kicking around from track 2 (Springboard Activist) which I unsuccessfully tried in track 10 (Dip) fitted there. It had octave pianos with whole tone scales like some of the tracks on Transportation and it worked in A major with a sharpened 4th.
(I later used a synth for this part)
I will drop most of the percussion out on this section.
It now goes back strongly into the epic melody section which is in C minor with a flattened 7th.
It needed something a bit off the wall. I got it!!!!
Last week I worked, again, on Track 2. (Springboard Activist) This is the one that I put a bouncing Violin C on. A few weeks ago. This seemed to open up this section to the possibility of a Violin solo rather than the other part that had the synth melody. I got on and did the Violin solo. The solo has three Violins playing at the same time and the same rhythm. I found a very interesting effect that makes them slide down together, in unison, at the end of a sustained note. The three Violins are playing different notes like sound clusters. Sometimes quite dissonant other times just octaves. This is a Logic effect that just sounds brilliant with a Violin. This is over the textural, echoey piano part in A minor.
I have been working on the track which is dark and desperate. ( Dip) It engages me as soon as it starts. The last time I worked on it, a few weeks ago, I hit on this idea of moving the dark, lonely minimalist Violin section further in the piece and start it with a heavy synth riff with pounding electronic drums. I am back on it now. Experimentation!!!
It starts full on, then moves to the quiet, dark, desperate sounding Octave Violin section that has no percussion..
It's an interesting turn around.
These ideas are strange when they come.
Doing lots of percussion on the other tracks as well.
It's going good.
I have finished track 10. The "dark and desperate" one. (Dip)
Monday I did my VAT. Great. Tuesday I wrote a new piece. It was like a bed to play Violin on. Like an exercise. Nothing great.
It had a huge spacey Omnisphere synth pad. (A Feint Idea)
The next day I liked it better so I decided to try it in the Track 10 idea. I was looking for a third part. I could wrap it up then, I thought. You are probably thinking that I am like a dog with a bone dealing with this track whereas THIS idea had ME like a dog with a bone.
The new idea fitted quite well. It went in from A minor to B minor.
This new idea, with the big pad, naturally dipped so it didn't feel right going in with a key rise. I transposed the whole thing to F sharp minor instead, repeating it in the original key of B minor.
That was interesting. It all went back into the heavy electronic drum section nicely. Finishing in A and starting the next section, which was in A, sounded good.
I kept having doubts though because the chords sounded like a Pink Floyd track.
I love the Pink Floyd though, especially those electronic bits in Ummagumma. I loved them much much more when I was 20 though! These chords I had were too derivative
I dumped this idea. I can always tell when I am getting near the mix stage. I start searching and mopping up ideas that I dropped a while ago. This is what I did on Thursday. To get more focused I tend to go through periods of dumping ideas. To get a clearer view.
I did this to track 5 because it persistently felt like an intro.
I couldn't move it on with another section.
I tried it in my track 10 "dark and desperate"piece and it fitted perfectly. (Dip) It starts in G minor. I kept its original tempo of 120 bpm so it pushes forwards when it comes in. The original piece is at 100 bpm.
This idea also ends in A (major) leading back into the heavy electronic drum section which is in A.
I would have thought that this key effect would be very UN dynamic but it works great!!!
It's been a productive week.
I enjoyed the sun last week. Musically I played some Viola on track ten. (Jump Spin) I have just two tracks with Viola. One, track 7, (Unbounded) has Viola and Violin working together but this is Viola on its own.
Legato notes on the bottom two strings. C & G.
The Viola is a fifth lower than the Violin and has a much bigger body. The sound is large with a kind of Rasp. The rasp of the Viola. Unique!
I started writing a new track with a very compressed piano sound. (A Feint Idea) Using the Waves plug ins compressor. The piano sound swirls, not unlike the beginning piano section I played on Ultravox's Distant Smile. Ha Ha Ha.
I am enjoying the Tai Chi meeting on Monday evenings run by my teacher Ian Orchin. This is for friends. It's not a group lesson from the major corporate gyms we have around here. I am a member of one of them though. I try to get there three times a week. It's bloody expensive so I would be mad not to!
I try to make sure I have time to fit in the MUSIC. Only joking. You can certainly get a clear head when you have been to the gym.
Very good for taking a candid look at the structure of a piece.
My writing is going good. A bit slow though. I carried on with the piece I started last week. The one with the overly compressed piano. Glassy and swirling. (A Feint Idea) I have written another section which is faster. Moving arpeggios with the right hand. Two chords that enable me to play a constant F sharp on the Viola. The reason I did that is because that note, on the D string, makes a great sound when I play near the Bridge keeping continuous pressure with the bow. It howls away up an octave and other overtones. Like a guitar making feedback. If you leave a guitar in front of the amp, turned up, it starts to howl up an octave! And then goes completely mental.
Fun stuff! The improvised Viola on the original idea sounds good also. It makes me want to do more and more. This Viola, made in 1933, London, by Georg Rost, is fabulous. The fellow went to New York and carried on making them in his 90's.
I have now completed the track I was working on last week. (A Feint Idea) The overly compressed Piano and Viola piece. Ne percussion. I wrote another part that makes you feel like you have been hit in the face when it comes in! This part picks up the track with,stark, sparse, anarchy. Sharp electronic percussion.
Cabaret Voltaire! I finish on a peaceful meditative piano melody. This part reminds me of the feel of Compassion. The track from my album Accidental Poetry of the Structure. It sings peacefully and quiet. I used quite a bit of volume automation on the Viola when I finally had the form complete.
The F sharp feed-back vibe needed to be faded in otherwise the D major 7th chord sounded OTT. A bit sickly. Its amazing how something like a fade-in can change everything on the fiddle. The producer Conny Plank was fantastic at sorting things like that out for me. Finding the place in the mix of the music for the Fiddle. His father was a Viola player. That is why he understood fiddles. It was a blessing to find someone that could work with them in Electronic Rock! I would certainly be working with Conny now if he was still around.
I have worked, this week, on a track I came up with two months ago. It was a quick, immediate idea that I did not work on further or think about too much. A swirling synth melody over a driving rhythm. On tuesday I started a new track. A blank page. My ninth piece. I am coming to the end of my album now. I know. I am keeping the writing momentum up so all my tracks keep a high standard. It is easy to drop the ball near the end.
This ninth track has a contrapuntal style melody between a synth and piano. (Etoille) Intermingling. The piano goes across the four four bar because it is four four then six four.
Its pulling around. I then moved to the Viola for a rhythm part. I have been doing that for the last three days of the week. I have recorded many different ideas. It is in D Major. A good key for resonating strings. I wanted it to work with just the Viola and drum machine then with the melody. At the moment it just works as an accompaniment to the melody. I have pulled the volume back a bit so it is more of a natural string texture in amongst the synth and piano.
It gives the track that rough stringy vibe.
After a Bank Holiday of lazing around I got started with my music on Wednesday. I did do Tai Chi on Monday evening though!
Wednesday I played the piano for a couple of hours. To loosen up. I usually get ideas after a while but I didn't.
No worries. I got my fiddle out! Played Violin along with track 6. (Pothole Pirouette) This piece already has two Violin parts. I was just enjoying it and eventually came up with extra parts.
Thursday I intended to record these new Violin parts but decided that it would make the piece feel too fussy and too classical sounding. I like it as it is. There is no rhythm on this track. I spent the rest of the day tweaking all the nine tracks. I especially worked on track nine. ( A Feint Idea ( The one with just Viola and Piano. I put the form together. It is extended now. I think I have one more little tweak to do next week.
On Friday I took the idea from Track 12 (Jump Spin) and put it with Track 11. (Etoille) Track 11 is the one with the Swirling Synth over driving electronic rhythm. Track 12 is the one with the big contrapuntal melody vibe. Piano in six four. Big European synth melody in four four. Playing at the same time! Viola being low pulse rhythm. I had to bring them both to 140 BPM and change the key of track 11 up to A minor from G minor. They work fantastic together!!!!
I love doing things like this. Very Exciting! I never thought of trying them together and then you just think, while in bed just going off to sleep, YES!!!! That could work! Messing with the keys in Logic is great fun! And so immediate! It is quite easy to do as well! The photo definitely sums up the week.
Finished Track 13. (Balletic Transcend) Work went very well on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I just seem to be on a roll. I composed two more sections for this piece so there is the fast moving Synth part moving in and out of the diminished plus a quiet and emotive section. This part has no rhythm. Sparse instrumentation. The piece starts with another new section that is simple and repetitive. Ambient. The fast moving Synth section is the main part of the track though. It returns at the end in a different key. There is a four bar melody in three - four time with a fast moving electronic rhythm doing a three bar four - four section long with it. They meet up every three bars of four - four time. It is not overly complicated. They just sound like they pull way from each other and then come back together again. It just gives a strange feeling that I like. It is not being overly clever for the sake of it. I am just thinking about the music.
I am very excited about the way the melody comes back at the end. The sparse section ends on an E diminished string chord. I could have gone back, very powerfully, in F minor but I decided not to do that. It sounded a bit obvious. The four bar melody starts on the fifth of the chord so I came back in B flat minor. F being the fifth. The melody starts with a very strong note. As it resolves the key is actually B flat minor. The plates of the planet seem to shift.
I had a very good day on Monday. I was still drawn to Track 13. (Balletic Transcend) It has an intro section then the big melody part. I decided, finally, that this big melody section was in six four time. Having a cycle running of three bars of four four on the percussion with a melody and fast moving sequence doing four bars of three four running concurrently was just too weird. It did not really help the Melody. The rhythm was accenting the wrong notes. It works well now!
The track then goes to a slowed down sparse section with just piano and strings. I decided to take the melody from this section and use it again in the earlier big melody part as a counter melody. It works fantastic! I only had to change one note. It sat so well!
I like it so much that I have dropped everything else out except these two melodies and the rhythm. It is very emotional. I bring everything back in later when it goes from A minor to F minor. That feels good! Very strong! The lower sequence sound is a typical minimoog sound and the top is a very spiky sound. They work well together. I do this type of mix arrangement at the end as well. It is definitely a case of less is more.
I spent the rest of the week practising the piano. I always need to keep doing that! I also worked on another project as well. I can't say much about that yet.
Hope you are all very well. I am working away still on what will be a ten track album. I have track 11&12 to complete then I will start to thing about titles. I have 13 tracks but 1 was used as an intro for 13 (Balletic Transcend). 3 was disbanded. 5 was used as a middle section for 10 (Dip). That leaves ten tracks. I do love this time of thinking about titles. Words. To feel the pictures that words conjure up in my mind and see how they connect with the pictures and emotions that my music creates. This is a picture I took of the beautiful landscape of the Totteridge and Mill Hill area. This is Lake Darland. Folly Brook flows from here. I named one of my tracks after the stream.
Hope you are all very happy and well!
This is a photo from way back in 1968. I am in there leading the Viola section, with the long hair. When I was at the Huddersfield Music College we did lots of concerts around the Yorkshire area. Not sure where this is though. The Bruch Violin Concerto is being performed here. My viola teacher is playing the solo violin part. This is a very emotional piece. We all had our hearts on our sleeves. If you look at my teacher, Herbert Whone, you will see his fantastic technique.
The bowing arm is producing power and pressure on the string without tension. You can actually see that from the photo! I spent four years trying to learn that from him.
Many a time I would be playing the music for him in my lesson and he would just suddenly grab my arm to demonstrate how tense I was. Being left handed my fingering hand was light years ahead of my right handed bowing arm.
If I had gone on to the London Royal Academy, where I managed to get a place, I am sure I would have got quite close to accomplishing this technique through the oncoming five years there. It was not to be!
I have a different type of technique now after playing in Performance Art groups and Bands for many years. I learned how to apply the bow, with pressure, near the bridge when I needed high harmonics and sometimes a screaming sound. It has become
my electric violin style. An electric violin sends out these harmonics in a much more powerful way! It is an exciting journey which I am still on.
I am working on the Viola at the moment to play on track 12. ( Jump Spin)
I am going to get two parts going then the Violin chorus lift comes in with the Bluesy type Proggy Riff. (I dropped the Violin part when mixing)
There is an excellent article in The Electricity Club. About my 2006 album Accidental Poetry of the Structure.
Here is the title of my new album.
Had a great day today with Dave Spiers. Great to meet Chris, his partner at G force, as well! The Oddity 2 looks & sounds brilliant. It has this amazing simple programming part, at the top, that allows you to add extra LFO's and ADSR's and lots more thingies to each slider. Changing what each slider can do. It has three filters mirroring the three different Odyssey's. Mark 1 Mark 2 and Mark 3. I still prefer Mark 2 but it is great to be able to have all three and mix them.
Adding the third oscillator is
mind blowing not to mention the polyphony.
Had a good chat with Chris (Chris Cross)
Enthusing about the set for the November gigs.
It's that time again!!!!!!!!!!
Had a very good day today starting the mixing of my new album. I am really tired. A satisfied tired. Peter Dudley who is mixing the album with me came over and we went through the whole album together in my studio. We have started mixing the first track.
It is going good!
BALLETIC TRANSCEND is the title of the album. I haven't got all the titles for the tracks yet.
They will come with the mixing. It is good to actually have the title of the album now. It usually comes later. Have all the mixing dates in the diary and sorted. We will finish at the end of the week. Friday 18th October.