Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Something simple and magical

I'm tired tonight, but this just came out as soon as I got home (late). It's very simple (just left hand chords) and a repetitive melody on top. soothing. maybe magical. the repeating pattern somehow holds things together, but gives leeway for embellishment so that it's not monotonous. So it's sort of like the march and the 'sad song' - a regulating repeating framework which grounds, whilst the embellishment tugs at the body.It may be of earth and heaven, but (more importantly) it's at the interface between public and private: between the love that's felt and its proclamation.
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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Thumpy march

Now for the sort of patriotic love that can be evoked by military marches, etc. This is a bit bombastic (and goes wrong at the end!), but what are its features? What makes this something that evokes (in some) 'love' of country, etc? Is it down to the identity thing again? Someone  (or maybe many people) listens to this and thinks "that's where I belong!" - but what does that mean? Is the belonging evoked by a 'successful' communication (Luhmann)? It is absolutely steady, totally regulated rhythmically, but harmonically just enough interest for it not to be tedious (although maybe not in my attempt!). So again, I might suggest that it's 'of earth and heaven' at the same time...
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Monday, 28 April 2008


One form of love is the enchantment of seduction - that peculiar intangible thing which is at once of earth and heaven. With this improvisation there is ground and the public exposure of dance - in the form of rhythm and open 5ths, but the eastern scales subvert it, playing with something bodily - almost teasing with the body. Enchantment is fundamental to love; Our children enchant us; lovers enchant each other. Is it all double-bind?? Spoke to dad on the phone this evening. The love for one's parents, particularly when they are ill, seems to rest on the most profound sense of human identity and sense of self.
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Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sadness and Love

I'm not feeling sad, but the gamut of emotions - particularly those relating to love (gained and lost) are occupying my thoughts at the moment. Luhmann says "love isn't a feeling; it's a pattern of communication" (or something like that). I think that's quite a revolutionary statement, and deserves some serious attention. But the love of lovers is not the same as the love of one's children, or friends, or the love of music, or knowledge. Luhmann's description may fit, but it needs thinking about.
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Saturday, 26 April 2008


This one's made up out of arpeggios. I now feel comfortable with this territory - the private-public thing works as a way of making distinctions: it boils down to differences in the regulating framework of the music. I suppose I can be more confident that I "know what I'm about". The fault-line that was defined by Locke is shifting as a result of technological change; the private-public fault line plays out as a religious fault line, but also in many other ways. Is it too grand to say it's probably going to be the story of the coming century... an age of insight?? Must start to notate my Turing piece or I will be in trouble! Must look at love next - it is the common denominator.
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Friday, 25 April 2008

Friday's improvisation

This is still using the altered chord harmonies of the Jobim-style improvisation the other day, but with a more rhythmic bass (slightly crap!). Really getting into Locke at the moment (and my obsession with this music is very much about it!). Karen Armstrong talks about religion being at the fault-line in political disputes. I know what she means, but I think the fault-line is the line between private and public: after all, religion is a public set of practices to express deeply private sentiments...

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Thursday, 24 April 2008

Janacek Improvisation

This is 'grounded' through using pentatonic melodies and repetitive motifs (like Janacek). I was reminded of it as I took Isobel swimming this evening and the sun poured in through the window onto the water - like the swimming scene in "The unbearable lightness of being", with Janacek's music. It's been a good day - lots of good news and my presentation on evaluation seemed to go down well.
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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Stripper Blues

I was going to do some 'stripper music' (a bit like the raunchy music in Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue and Riffs), but it came out more like a weird blues. Actually it's not a million miles from what I intended. The features are obviously the regular pulse, cross-rhythms, and chromatic passing notes. It seems to create a very earthy feel! Very different feel to yesterday's, though...
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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Aspects of chromatic harmony

These are more latin experiments. The first is a Jobim-inspired thing which loses its way a bit, but which typifies the chromatic falling harmonies of Jobim's music.

The second uses very similar harmonies but in a less rhythmic way. This is more like the 'fragrant garden' music of Delius. I was in Fletcher Moss gardens with Isobel this evening which was quite idyllic, and this sort of music seems very appropriate. What's the difference between them - answer: the second lack the rhythmic regulator of the first, and therefore feels more 'personal'. The first is a curious blend of personal and public with its insistent rhythm - maybe a bit like 'stripper' music (that's one for tomorrow!)
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Monday, 21 April 2008

Latin experiment

This really is an experiment (it's virtually unlistenable-to!) - but I really want to improve my skills with regard to the latin sound. The public-personal thing is strong here. Had a good day at the automatic..

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Something still

Apart from the jazz stuff, I'm still interested in 'grounded music' - so there's lots of pentatonic scales here, and open 5ths in the base. Heard Arvo Part's 'Fratres' for violin and piano today - that's very deeply grounded...
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Jazz on Sunday

My jazz playing is getting better slowly .. these improvisations are still a bit painful! It's a good antidote to everything else I do, though...

.. it would be nice to hit some right notes occasionally - but what the hell...!
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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Folk songs and scales

Here's another one for Saturday (since I didn't do a blog yesterday). I think this is quite successful (strange how the more technically-focussed improvisation often turn out best) - might have some potential for working into the Turing piece...
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I'm feeling short of ideas at the moment, and as before in this situation, I revert to something a bit more pianistic and technical. Here it's scales. This is very much like Britten's "Young Apollo" (which I don't much like, but it's good technically). Heard Tippett's Ritual Dances last night at the Bridgewater - it really stood out (against Britten and Walton) as truly great music.

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Thursday, 17 April 2008

Turing Dances

I think this is my 'Turing piece' - heard the Gershwin Cuban overture this morning, and it occurred to me that something so life-affirming might be quite alien to an autistic computer-obsessed individual. So whilst everyone's enjoying themselves, someone remains locked in their own world struggling (and to some extent succeeding) to make sense of it all. The impact of what they do changes what the people do ("as computers become more like people, so people become more like computers"). Could be fun! Need to write some notes now.
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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Song improvisation

Nothing special this evening - playing through some Gershwin songs, and this improvisation came along (after trying a few other things that were a bit more ambitious!!)

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Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Mechanistic piece

Having explored a world of continual tonal change yesterday, this piece is much more tonally static, but instead most of the interest is in the rhythm. Not unlike the 'drumming' piece a few days ago.

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Prokovieff ideas

This improvisation experiments with changing tonal contexts - very much in the way that Prokovieff does it, to create something that's stable and unstable at the same time. Interesting thinking about this in the light of d'Indy's theory about the relationship between the body and tonality...
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Sunday, 13 April 2008


One of the best things about Madrid was seeing the Picasso collection again - this time with Guernica. I was struck by the big feet, hands, etc of so many of the figures - the bodily response is to feel these as a deep sensation of 'grounding' in the world. I'm sure this was Picasso's intention. So here are two attempts to write 'grounded' music - not sure they're that successful, and there may be other ways to do it...

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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Back from Madrid

And glad to be home! Had a good time though, despite lack of sleep. Came back thinking of Bateson's metalogues, so these two improvisations are around this idea. Each plays with different tonal centres that gradually converge - a pattern which might reflect the melodic content of the material.

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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Public and Personal

Not all of these improvisations can be executed quite as I intend... this is a sketch for an idea of opposing fanfare like sections with jazz-like sections (which sound a bit like the jazz sections in Tippett's 3rd symphony). It's very rough - but the ideas are there, and the difference between public and personal is perhaps clearest here than in any other. Off to Madrid tomorrow, so probably no piano!
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Monday, 7 April 2008

Public Space 3

This is my first thought about the challenge to write a piece for the Alan Turing building at Manchester University. It's acoustically dead, but has a long 'nave' down which a procession might be possible. This 'fanfare' collapses into something more personal. It's ok, but not got much to do with Turing yet...
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Sunday, 6 April 2008

Public Space 2

Went to the Manchester Museum with Isobel after church this morning - encountered this character from the Congo - a figure which has nails stuck in it for good luck. A very private phenomenon with a public representation - isn't that all religion?? Made me think of ritualistic trance-like drumming  - hence first improvisation - another aspect of the 'public' - not regular, but entrancing...

And this entrancing aspect of the public made me think of minimalism for the second improvisation - this entrancing aspect of the public is common to a lot of the psychedelic aspects of modern dance music...
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Saturday, 5 April 2008

Public Space 1

I'm intuiting these categories of 'private' and 'public'.. to a certain extent the detail doesn't quite make sense, yet these two examples, the first with a slight 'broadway' feel, do feel slightly more 'anonymous'. I put it down to the increased regulation in rhythm, harmony (less chromaticism): there is a greater probability of communication with an audience - which is important if you want to deliberately manipulate peoples' feelings (no. 1) or coordinate them in singing (no. 2) or maybe both...

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Friday, 4 April 2008

out of the cradle..

... endlessly rocking (Whitman).. This is a 'sea piece'. It's been such a mad week, on top of no sleep, and very dull meetings, etc, I'm in need of something soothing. The extraordinariness of music's capability to calm in this way never ceases to astonish me - it's as if body and world become one for a brief moment.

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Thursday, 3 April 2008

Personal Space 4

This is the most chromatic Delius-like yet (been listening to the 'Song of the High Hills' - very beautiful), but I've not got back until late and am doing this in a rush, so it's not that good... but still interesting, I think.. certainly 'personal'

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Personal Space 3

This is a Berceuse-like piece which is a bit Britten-esque. It contains regulating features including the regular bass-pattern, but also chromatic features in the melody {and a stable high-variety harmony}. It lulls and soothes, takes us into a comfort-zone, provides a 'safe space' within which to dwell. But does it give us insight into our condition? Is it more insular than transparent, more private than public?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Personal Space 2

This is something sacramental - (maybe something like a weird 'Ave Verum'). It mixes the 'personal' aspects of musical language - particularly chromaticism, with harmonic regulating forces more akin to 'public' church music (thinking of Poulenc and plainsong). Simply by playing with these forces creates a different sort of difference. To make public communication of personal experience more probable we need to deepen personal insight through these differences - the religious (meta) dimension may be an important element to this. Music itself cannot be 'meta-music' (Silvestrov) - the 'meta' dimension must transcend appearances. (But in the sphere of art all communications are 'relevant'...)
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