2. Textures Assignment: V.K.W Cocos DIXIE
3. 32 Short Pieces About Glenn Gould
ii. Um easy
5. Exterior projects
iii. Pop/Indie demos
This semester has been particularly productive, though at times I've felt swamped and unmotivated, and entering the holidays now, I feel excited about possibilities of future projects. Writing for the Glenn Gould assignment helped me develop a sense of automatism, which in turn helped me become less critical and more productive while writing other pieces (particularly the dance collaborations). However, after an initial burst of creativity and motivation, my energy levels tapered out so that many of the Glenn Gould pieces ended up with little things unfinished, like no tempo mark on the score, or not getting a recording. With the orchestral/instrumental pieces for My Life in Robes, the issue was that in focusing on score presentation, I surrendered any hope of a presentable/accurate MIDI playback. Some of these MIDI files have been uploaded, just so that some audio files were submitted. At the other end of the spectrum, many of my pieces for My Life in Robes were performance/improvisation based, so getting a recording was difficult. The other Glenn Gould compositions, Um easy and The Unmoving Vine Shadows were more easily recorded, and I am satisfied with their quality.
In terms of the Viva Voce write up, I used my website blog to start uploading bits and pieces during the semester. I find the blog format very approachable, because it feels less like an assessment and more like a personal record. It also appeals to the part of me that wants to curate a 'compositional identity'; collating my compositions/writings in one place feels like I can more easily gain/create a sense of what my compositional goals/aesthetics are.
Though my ideas are always changing, and I am still at a very malleable stage in my career/life, my experiences this semester (and last year) have led me to a particular interest in field-based vocal recordings and audio recordings/documents as a source of artistic material. This makes sense as I have always had an interest in the human voice, and the beauty in the mundane. I have taken to recording conversations with people (with their permission), which started as me gathering audio for my installation Five point one and a piece of four by two. The idea of building up my own audio library of field recordings and conversations/interviews really excites me. This interest may lead me to becoming involved with interview/audio journalism, podcast writing/production, radio, audio documentation etc.
I also have registered as a 'Researcher' at the State Library which simply means I have access to the archives, including the oral history archives, which has an extensive catalogue of WA based oral history. I plan on perusing this during the holidays, and possibly working on collaborative works next semester using any appealing recordings that I find.
Thinking ahead to my recital next year, I think my aesthetic will be drawing on my folk roots and my new interest in experimental music/improvisation/field recordings; perhaps finishing off the GRIMM project that I started this sem, which uses the Grimm brothers' fairytales as prompts to write avante-folk pieces. This might include a performative aspect (I wanted the stories to be read, in between pieces).
ENGAGEMENT WITH CLASSES
Lee's recording unit has been so helpful and enjoyable, even though having to grapple with recording/production techniques has brought to light my inadequacies/inexperience. These feelings have also arisen with my desire to write more electronic music: the lack of female representation in this scene, and the expertise/virtuosity of those already involved is very intimidating.
I've wanted to spend some free times working on max msp these holidays, using the skills learnt in Interactive Music, to create my own interface for live performance, integrating vocals (live & sampled) and field recordings. This might be particularly useful for the avante-folk duo I've started with friend/composer Alex Jones (see here). This seems to bypass some of my insecurities in creating electronic music/using hardware in a live performance context as I would be using personalised max patches, not a software like Ableton that already has abundant advanced users.
Techniques of Composition, particularly the Glenn Gould assignment, has really increased my productivity. Even though I haven't necessarily tried every technique presented in class (nigh impossible), being exposed to different approaches has in turn extended my own approach to composition. Rather than having a study-related motivation I've had a genuine interest in implementing different techniques, even outside of my uni writing.
Aural with Michéal is (as always) challenging and highly enjoyable. Strengthening my sight-singing skills has been on the agenda this semester, and probably will be next semester too
Erik Griswold and Vanessa Tomlinson were both incredible composers and performers and had a very strong influence on my composition & performance practice, as well as my general excitement/enthusiasm towards music and the arts. Griswold's album Pain Avoidance Machine spoke to both the experimental and pop inside of me, and his piece A Wolfe in the Mangroves was one of the most capturing live performances I've seen. His use of toy instruments has actually influenced the writing I've done in a duo with Alex Jones, using my plastic treble recorder & tin whistle to create textures with a loop pedal. Vanessa's performance with bowls and rope, and her piece with paper/pencil really inspired me to become more physically engaged with my own performance; not even necessarily with performance art, just becoming more engaged and focused during my folk/pop gigs.
Last year I only collaborated with film makers, so collaborating with two dancers this sem has been challenging but so enjoyable. Both dancers have been very inclusive and collaborative, and our respective aesthetics have really complemented each other. I have always loved dance, and being able to become involved with rehearsals and the creative process has allowed me to gain a lot of insight, and will hopefully help me to continue collaborating with dancers in the future.
Since the FRINGE season, collaborating has been something I've done not for the purpose of my portfolio, but just because I really enjoy it, and want to become more involved in other disciplines. FRINGE was also a great way to network, and I have a number of collaborations on the cards that have stemmed from this, including my work for Kate Thresher's video piece SUBURBAN SOLASTALGIA.
2. Textures Assignment: V.K.W. COCOS DIXIE SHOW
This is a tape recording of my grandfather's last time hosting the Jazz radio show on Cocos Island, where he was deployed in the navy. At the time of recording, he and my grandmother are about to return to their property in Stoneville, Perth, to spend the remainder of his life after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
My grandfather died before I was born, but I feel a certain connection to him from what my mother and family have told me about him, namely because of his love of music; he was fondly called Dixie, because of his interest in dixieland jazz music. It seems cruelly ironic that his granddaughter has such an interest and affinity with music and that we never met.
Hearing this tape is the first time hearing his voice. There is a tactility to this, more than photos or videos (we have some super 8 footage with no sound); the radio format almost makes it feel like a present broadcast.
The piece explores how my idea of my grandfather Dixie has been pieced together from various sources, and how this process defies chronology because there is particular difficulty in removing information from my own temporal circumstance & consciousness.
The structure of the piece takes the radio show as an underlying form, then cuts out part of it to be replaced with other samples (most of the chronology of the radio show has been maintained). Samples of my mother talking about Dixie and her mother are played alongside field recordings relevant to my own life eg. at a bar with friends, the clock at my family's holiday home, having a cup of tea with mum while she's on the phone. These field recordings are panned so they seem to share the same temporal space as my mother's narration. This comments on how everything I know about my grandfather has been received firmly within my own personal context, and also that my idea of him are almost inseparable from my mother and her connection to him. It feels like he only exists in his relationships with the people who are alive in the present.
The piece ends with an iPhone recording of me singing/playing Eye on the Sparrow, the sound quality creating a feeling of mundane intimacy, like the listener has caught the protagonist (me, for want of a better word) in a moment of private reflection. By ending the piece in the present, it constructs a sense of now, as if the entirety of the piece before hand is really a collage of the protagonist's memories, (or at least that the piece has been heard through the protagonist's perspective).
The title V.K.W. COCOS DIXIE SHOW is taken from the label on the cassette, similar to my other radio composition SONGS FOR LIZ: JULY 1985 (see link below). The two pieces share the same aesthetic approach
embracing the imperfections of cassette/vinyl recordings
abrupt changes between samples, using cassette button clicks as the transition (which implies a meta narrative, as if someone is physically curating the audio with a cassette player)
sampling popular/jazz music of the time (all music samples were taken from the recording of Dixie's radio show)
multiple perspectives/characters; Dixie, and Elizabeth (my mother, his daughter)
focus on creating narrative through the arrangement/collage of possibly unrelated samples
panning as a way of contributing to narrative, by creating separations in audio realms eg. between Dixie (past) and Elizabeth (present)
COLLAGE AS COMPOSITION
The main restraint with this genre of composition is working with set material; all there is to do is select which parts of the audio will be used and where they will be placed. Of course electronic effects such as reverb/EQ could be used, but I attempted to maintain as much of the original quality as possible.
3. 32 Short Pieces for Glenn Gould
About the assignment:
Semester 1 2017, Composition and Music Technology, WAAPA, ECU
Assignment 1: “32 short films about Glenn Gould” (aka “20 short films about Springfield”) Create a set of related works, each work should be very short between 1 and 30 seconds. The works should vary as much as possible in their approach to melody, modes/harmony, accompaniment and rhythmic treatment. The works should also explore “sound illusions” and other psychoacoustic effects. Instrumentation is open. The total duration of the works should be between 7 and 10 minutes.
3.1. My Life in Robes
A collection of modular pieces written in response to Leonard Cohen's poem of the same title
1. After a while
2. You can't tell
3. If it's missing
4. A woman
5. Or needing
6. A cigarette
7. And later on
8. If it's night
9. Or day
10. Then suddenly
11. You know
12. The time
13. You get dressed
14. You go home
15. You light up
16. You get married
My Life in Robes (Moses, using Cohen text) was a composition exercise, working with compartmentalisation, parametric thinking, and automatism. The experiment in place was testing how modular interpretation of a poetic text would influence the composition process, and whether the end result could be presented as a modular composition, or whether the outcome would be incoherent and conflicting. It also tested how text can prompt automatic music composition, and investigated how connotations and associations particular to that text were expressed musically.
In conclusion, I feel this approach made it clear that poetry and text follow a kind of gestalt theory - the sense of the whole is something more than the sum of its parts. Separating the poem into individual lines, and composing a piece for each line, the integrity of the whole was lost. The result was a collection of works bearing little to no relation to the original poem.
Though framed as a negative, this could also be a positive; a way of drawing completely original material from something pre-existing. It's interesting to see what alternative meanings can be created when approached in a new way. It might be seen as a technique similar to collage, in that new work is created from fragments of old work, though in this case, the new work is being created in one medium (music) by responding to fragments of old work form another medium (poetry).
Read through creative process in this blog post
See scores here
See annotated scores here
3.2 Um easy
A collection of 6 audio collages using vocal and accordion samples
1. It's a
2. But um
3. Mm or
4. So this
5. One when um
6. Made in
1. It's a
The opening track is the longest track at 30 seconds. The accordion sample (an old accordion that belonged to my grandfather) gives the piece its structure, following the 'exhale' and 'inhale' sections/phrases. Vocal samples (myself, and my mother) are arranged as an audio collage, at times appearing in clumps, at times appearing in solitude accompanied only by the accordion. All the vocal samples are using the conjunctions, or 'filling' phrases of a conversation ie. 'um', 'and', 'or'. I guess a kind of irony is formed between the unimportance of these words in the original context, and the prominence of them in the new musical context (being mixed to the foreground as the solo instrument). It's a establishes the musical pallet, and places samples spaciously in order for the listener's ear to adjust to the macro time line of the piece.
2. But um
Track 2 opens with an accordion sample, keeping to the key established in the previous tune, but in a lower voicing, that has a shuddering growl because of this particular accordion's damage and wear. As the accordion chord stops, a collection of vocal samples play at the same time. Panning has been applied so that the samples surround the listener from all directions. A chorus of 'mm's blend together, but the phrase 'but um' can be heard as distinct.
3. Mm or
In this piece a number of 'mm' samples follow each other in a linear manner. Whereas the 'mm's in But um are stacked vertically, these 'mm's are arranged horizontally, allowing the listener to perceive a very obvious variations in vocal pitch. Again the samples are panned so that they appear as individuals, rather than being panned together and perhaps being perceived as a single melody line. There is no accordion sample in this piece.
4. So this
Vocal samples are arranged horizontally, with a less regular rhythm than Mm or. A number of samples are found in both Mm or and So this, but the latter seems far more chaotic, because of the irregular timing, panning, and volume variations.
5. One when um
The piece consists of three samples only: 'one', 'when' and 'um', all vocalized by the same person (my mother). The most prominent of the three is the central 'when', playing from R, and the two samples bookending the piece, 'one' and 'um', play from L, at a lower volume. The volume level is that of the original recording (ie. the samples are all taken from one conversation from one session, and the gain wasn't changed during this session). Though all vocalized by the same person, we get a duality of character, the L pan more quiet and hesitant, and the R pan louder and more sure.
6. Made in
The last track is the only track that uses only one vocal sample, and that has a length equal to the original sample (it hasn't been cut and pasted together, it has simply been extracted from the conversation as an 8 second chunk). Interestingly, the sample sounds as if it has been cut together: there is an abrupt cut between one speaker and the other, then a return to the first speaker (ABA), all without actually speaking at the same time. Original stereo panning, their distance from the microphone source and their speech delivery contribute to the feeling of a collage. This effect is exaggerated by collaging 2 accordion samples together to mimic the dialogue exchange.
This is also the only track that has a recognisable 'sentence' structure in the vocal sample: "That's the same one that makes the mouth organs isn't it?" With no context given, the sentence makes little sense, and used in the same manner as the other samples, it raises the question: what is it that expresses meaning in dialogue/spoken text? What makes a sentence meaningful?
See scores for Um easy here
APPLICATION OF COMPOSITIONAL TECHNIQUES
3.3 The Unmoving Vine Shadows
The idea for this piece actually came from a composition exercise I did when preparing for my last Viva Voce portfolio. I had a chord that was going to underpin the harmony for the duration of the piece (The Sisters), but to produce new material from the same chord, I wrote out a number of possible voicings of the chord, ie. inversions, doubling notes, omitting notes etc. It was a useful exercise for generating new material, transitioning into different tonic centres (the chord itself was harmonically ambiguous) and finding new melodies from having different notes in the melody.
This seemed fitting for the Glenn Gould assignment as each little variation could be treated as an individual composition: a single attack chord fading into silence. Having a time restraint of 30 seconds, you write within a very different time sphere (to quote Stockhausen). With such a short duration, very minuscule changes that might have gone unnoticed in larger schemes become the focus point of the composition.
4.1 Five point one and a piece of four by two
Annika Moses and Shannon Lyons
Five point one and a piece of four by two is a collaborative multi-media installation between myself and visual artist Shannon Lyons, exhibiting in July at Mundaring Arts Centre. My interest in this project stemmed from a desire to remove experimental sound art from its usual concert performance context, and increase the level of engagement on a community level. Once I started collaborating with Shannon however, it became more inclusively about sound and visual arts, and how the conventions and expectations of a gallery space can enforce a prescribed interaction; one that can often deter the audience from fully engaging with the works.
The sonic of the exhibition is an 'audio catalogue' detailing the visual works. This audio catalogue is presented over headphones, and at first seems like a direct translation of a printed catalogue from text to speech. But as other sound clips begin to culminate, the viewer realises that the catalogue is the sonic art. Aesthetically, the sonic work has a focus on collage/arrangement of field recordings and interview/speech based material.
Shannon’s visual art practice is very site specific, and her work borders on architectural; for this project she plans on building a wall within the gallery space to block the well worn paths and disrupt regular/prescribed gallery interaction. “I’m particularly interested in how I might be able to make visible that which is often made (and intended) to disappear in a gallery space. Sound, in gallery spaces, is often emitted by hidden speakers. All of the wiring and tech is carefully tucked away from view. In larger institutions, sound baffles are constructed to prevent sound from entering gallery spaces where particular works are situated (and, conversely, to reduce the sound from any one work leaking into another space). I work casually as an art installation technician (installing exhibitions in gallery spaces), and it’s often my job to hide speakers and to work on ‘cabling’ (hiding all of the cables and wiring). For Five point one and a piece of four by two I’m thinking that I will try and turn what I usually do in my day-job on its head and really examine the sculptural potential of the materials and forms commonly used to ‘sculpt’ sound within a gallery space.”
Shannon has been living in Melbourne, which has made the collaboration process somewhat challenging, but the large majority of the work will be created during the install period (because of Shannon's site specific approach, and because of the sonic work's dependency on the visual work). So far the composition process has been conceptual, as well as gathering a large amount of audio to be used in the audio catalogues (interviews, field recordings, recordings of the gallery space, voice memos, iPhone field recordings).
4.2 SUBURBAN SOLASTALGIA
This video work was exhibited in KICKSTARTISTS: SYMBIOSIS (April 10-23); I worked as the composer for Kate's project. The video explores a family's emotional response to the natural environment of their semi-rural property being disrupted and subdivided for residential development.
Read more in this blog post
4.3 Pity Party: dance collaboration w/ Olivia Hendry
[The music excerpt above can be followed using the timeline image below]
My first brainstorm with Liv was finding the aesthetic cross-overs between poems that she was using as inspiration for movement, and some demos that I already had recorded:
THIS HAS A LITTLE TO DO WITH YOU
Today I bought 16 mangoes.
I accidentally left the house without a bra on.
I forgot to wash my hair again.
I am having some trouble keeping it together.
I STILL DIDN'T SAY IT RIGHT
I am trying to write a poem about the way it feels to wake up in the middle of the day, filled with the dull ache of missing you.
I was never asleep,
I just can't articulate the kind of heartbreak that slumbers like this.
This piece meets somewhere in the middle of hysterical laughter and emotional devastation, focusing on this duality of human nature and finding the absurd in everyday life. I've used a lot of foley sound/field recordings/sound effects rather than explicit music, (something that Liv asked for) which has really taken my interest, and let me develop writing skills for an aesthetic I was already becoming interested in (moving towards more acousmatic/sample based 'radio composition', see
I've become very emotionally invested in the project; Liv's approach and aesthetic choices really gel with my compositional practice, so I hope we can collaborate in the future!
The Books - Lemon of Pink [sample based + playful]
Alt J - Bloodflood ['sad' section, bass line focus]
Feist - Any Party [foley sound at ending]
Akufen - Deck the House [sample based beginning section]
4.4 Dance collaboration w/ Rhiana Katz
Rhiana's idea for this project started as an exploration of Meridian lines, and energy pathways through the body, and has gradually morphed into being more about energy in the sense of 'electricity' within the body. The most obvious binary is between the ensemble cooperating (a balance in energy), and the ensemble clashing, (an imbalance of energy) for example one dancer taking more energy, and other dancers losing energy. Rhiana has wanted to express this musically through rhythm (synchrony vs. irregularity) and harmony (consonance vs. dissonance). The only other overall aesthetic direction was 'lots of bass', which has been implemented in lethargic sections as well as high energy sections, used in different senses.
The piece begins with an awakening, like waking from sleep, where the energy is gradually growing. I combined ambient synth sounds with human sounds (breathing, singing, humming, mouth sounds, face rubbing) in a sparse sound scape, with occasional electronic samples (bass drum/toms) from the later sections, half hinting at the state that the energy will soon transition into.
The second section collects itself together, using sounds from the awakening, and pitch shifting the vocal samples to create a repetitive melody at 5ths and octaves. A bass drum outlines a steady pulse, bringing a sense of rhythm/purpose/drive that mimics the energy beginning to grow and move together. This collective energy soon dissolves into near-chaos as dancers move in individual pathways across the space, and the music begins to glitch and fall apart, soon falling to the same 'awakening' state (in terms of energy levels).
At this point, one of the dancers 'eats' the energy and we enter a section that Rhiana and I have come to refer to as 'Hectic'. This is the first obvious imbalance of energy, and Rhiana wanted an explosion of energy, harsh synth sounds, a driving pulse (kick drum) and thick textures. I was pretty stumped for this section, and in the end I just needed to take a risk, write something extreme, then get feedback from Rhiana. I used this buzzy bass synth sound, kind of junky, outer-space, weird electricity noise (and not much pitch), paired with a heavy, fast-paced kick, and the sound effect of an earthquake (satisfying Rhiana's request for more bass).
DANCE COLLAB EXPERIENCE
Sharing half-finished work can be terrifying, but as a composer it's important to realise that the dancer is also sharing their unfinished work with you! Things get easier when you have each other to bounce ideas off.
Meeting in person is so so so so beneficial
Ask for example tracks/sounds from the dancer so that you can both find the right words
get the whole picture
sharing inspiration (like poetry/art/writing) can be super great because it's something not exclusive to either music or dance; suddenly you have an aesthetic source of inspiration that isn't favouring one or the other, but can be translated into both.
Most recent timeline/brainstorm
4.5 Collective: Noemie Huttner-Koros & Kate Thresher
Noemie (performance artist, 2nd year BPA student WAAPA), Kate (visual artist, videographer) and I have been meeting and discussing artistic goals/ideas to start working on installation works as a collective. Our first action has been applying for a residency at PVI to develop an performance installation work exploring our relationship with Perth and 'place', to be performed at FRINGE 2018. Though we haven't completed a manifesto, our core ideas centre around:
'art as experience' rather than product
an increase in female based art/performance
an inclusive environment for female creators
engagement of Perth community (in political discussion, creative discussion, 1-on-1 experiences, and kind/thoughtful action)
4. Exterior Projects
Collaborating with composer/guitarist Alex Jones
Vocals, guitar, keyboard, loop pedal, Ableton Live effects, treble recorder, field recording samples
Two approaches to writing material: Improvisation approach contrasted with pre-meditated aesthetic/lyrical choices (explored in discussion before playing)
Connection to Australian culture/identity (particularly Perth) in lyrics and accent
Glitch and electronic music influence, exploring glitch folk as a genre eg. The Books
Re-creating electronic/glitch effects in a live acoustic music context
Adaptations of, and responses to selected stories from the Brothers Grimm Fairytales
Exploring the Grimm Brothers' macabre themes and our fluctuating relationship with folk stories and songs as we mature into adulthood
Influences: Dirty Projectors, St. Vincent, Current Joys
Influences: Dirty Projectors, Lorde, The Books
Photo by Jack Jenkins
iv. Gamelan Study
I studied gamelan music (playing ugal/kantelan/pemade) between 2010-2014 at Helena College Senior School. During this time our ensemble received tutoring from Dewa Alit, a contemporary gamelan player and composer from Bali. Having also studied Bahasa Indonesia to a WACE level, I want to utilize and develop these skills.
My plans for December include traveling to Bali to take private lessons with Dewa Alit at his gamelan studio. This will be for ~7 days, for ~3hrs each morning, (with consolidation and practice for ~3hrs each afternoon, in his studio by myself).