Monday, February 23, 2015

The Love Symphony

I'm gearing up for The Phenomenology of Love. This two week show will really be a once-in-a-lifetime event, it's rare to have things like this these days! At the same time I'm reading Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, a wonderful book and I feel that this show will be a breakthrough moment like his move to Vienna!

Here's the poster for The Love Symphony premiere. There will be more showings, including one in Shoreditch on Saturday 14th. Any showings will be posted in advance on www.phenomenologyoflove.com. This is a good film and worth seeing if you can, you might never get the chance again. If you know any film critics, journalists, bloggers, video bloggers or people who might like to write about the night or other special nights during the exhibition then please invite them and I will be happy to treat them as special guests.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Love Symphony: A Fantasy of Darkness and Light

I've spent the past couple of weeks working on a film. At first it was mere accompaniment to music, something better than a blank screen to look at, but it quickly evolved into an artwork in its own right. Fundamentally it's a non-narrative film, a collection of stock footage and other segments of film to portray a mood, rather than carry a definite plot. This sort of places it in a similar field to very few other films, Disney's Fantasia, Koyaanisqatsi (Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi, other similar films), some pop music or 'art installation' videos, but I think my film is different. I don't think those other films really worked well as artworks. What is their aim? What was my aim?

In the end my film became like a visual symphony more than a story. A music symphony is not the same as a book. I think there is a good story to a good symphony, that Beethoven's 5th Symphony is about something, but it's not something with an obvious plot like a film such as Pulp Fiction or North By Northwest. The Love Symphony film rapidly became like a symphonic film, it about something; one could say it's a love story, but it's not something tangible and explicit in plot. The Love Symphony is different from Fantasia and the Qatsi films for a few key reasons.

Firstly I used repetition. Of course, all music uses this, although notably the earliest music didn't. Musical forms evolved to repeat themes and build upon them. I decided that I'd like to use the same film clips or similar films clips, such as the same clip played at different speeds or with different edits, throughout the film. As in a musical work, I think this adds an important structural element that helps reinforce meaning and help cognition. Without repetition it becomes hard to build any drama because drama comes from contrast; differences that exist only in similarity.

Secondly, I fundamentally based the images on the mood, and much of that was directed by the music too. Putting images to the music is really important (or more specifically, putting images to the mood, which the music defines). Adding music to images is a backwards form of film-making, for films of this type.

Ultimately the result is something like I imagine Richard Wagner would call a Gesamtkunstwerk. That most multi-spectral of artists would surely have seen cinema as the realisation of his ideas; yet cinema now is primarily a narrative form. There are musicals, or plays, but the vast majority of cinema is either a filmed stage-play, or filmed opera. We might have increasingly sophisticated special effects (sets, costumes) but, for a medium that can convey any image, sound and emotion, the mere transposition of play to screen seems to miss out a whole type of film.

There are other types of film though; trailers and advertisements are films too, and yet are rarely considered genre works in their own right. These are unique, most have no 'plot' as such, or characters we can involve with.

My film is made up chiefly from royalty free stock footage. A lot of old films were used, bit here and there. The full gamut of human emotion and experience is contained in those films. What more is needed as a palette? Sometimes I needed special scenes and I filmed those myself; I wanted a candle for example, and a ticking clock.

The liberating thing about making this film was the speed, the lack of technicalities. It's all a matter of editing, going straight to the artistic, creative, emotional content right away, not spending hours or days hiring actors, building sets, buying equipment, converting file formats, catering, finding funding! And all of the time wasting technical periphery of film making that probably frustrates every artistic film-maker. This is real film making, it was like composing the music in the first place, which of course is as symphonic in scale and content; that here is as vital as the written script in a normal film.

The music is ultimately why Koyaanisqatsi worked; Philip Glass' score fitted the images and mechanical doom-laden mood of that film, the only one that works artistically. The music in Fantasia is amazing, but rather that choose one symphony they chose a mish-mash and the confusing lack of consistency is why that film didn't work as an artwork. An artwork must have one theme or central idea. One.

"The Love Symphony: A Fantasy of Darkness and Light" is about 45 minutes long and will be premiered at 5pm on March 7th 2015 at Gabriel Fine Art, Old Paradise Yard, London. The hard part for me will be to get enough people seeing this! I do hope enough do. One of the difficulties of film as a medium is just this; from great directors and huge film production companies to small independent film makers, the problem of getting a finished film seen is as hard as making the film in the first place.

For details of the venue where you can view this film, see www.phenomenologyoflove.com

Monday, January 26, 2015

Norman Bates

And now, a second new song from the album. Firstly, I must say that my mother is really the best in the world! However, she did hurtfully criticise my singing at one point. She was quite right, I'm not a good singer! but when I started painting I was not a very good painter, and as with any skill it will improve with time. Besides, the important thing about a song is what is said, not how pretty it is, in fact the main, key, and vital reasons for making this album at all was to escape from the awful over processed "perfect" music that seems to be ubiquitous at the moment. I won't go out of my way to make something sound bad, but nor will I stoop to correcting self-expression. You can't correct self-expression, only stifle it. Can you "correct" the brush strokes of van Gogh?

I've dedicated the album to the memory of Anthony Perkins (and Joseph Deacon). I'm pleased with this song, and aimed for a sort of operatic or musical style in it's production, perhaps a little like Kate Bush did in Hammer Horror. It's also a second song on the album about a mad knife maniac. Oops. Here are the lyrics.

Norman Bates

Oh Norman Bates where are you?
I need a little help.
I need some reassurance from a friend,
my mother's voice is grating
inside my head
to make me sad again.

I know I should not ask you
but you might understand.
I think you are alone inside like me,
and in the dusty mirror
of my dry mind
you're the one I see.

Norman Bates inside your
castle, your silhouette is
staring at me, you long for
love too.
Norman Bates!

Permit me to be forward
but when did things go wrong?
I wonder when the moment was with you?
It's hard to place a finger
upon a why,
perhaps you have a clue?

Oh Norman tell me something.
Any word will do.
I like the little messages you send.
My mother's voice is grating
inside my head
and she's my only friend.

Norman Bates inside your
castle, your bedroom light is
shining for me, you long for
love too.
Norman Bates!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fear of the Thing Itself

Such joys! Summer is the best time to paint, and the old masters way of working was to design during the winter and paint at summer. Modern studio lights mean that that's not strictly necessary, but I agree with it. Winter is ideal for music and for the first time in a long time I've felt exactly like doing music at the right time. I wrote a series of songs a couple of years ago, and after trying to find a singer for some time decided that enough was enough and that I would sing myself.

I wasn't confident of my singing voice, but so what? For a start, as in painting, it's what you say that's important not how well. Lots of the best music of the 20th century makes that evident. Secondly, like any skill singing will start poor and get better with use and feedback. Nobody is perfect at the start, and (almost!) everyone is a better after trying.

Most importantly though I really wanted to deliberately avoid getting everything perfect. I dislike so much about modern music. It seems as if technical perfection is so easy that all commercial music has the audio equivalent of Photoshop applied, every track, from classical film scores to advertising jingles, and especially pop must sound perfectly in time, in tune, compressed so that the volume levels are all even without contrasts, and all therefore cold. It's an act of artistic vandalism, the mechanical extraction of feeling. It's odd that I, when my very last album was totally synthetic! would say such a thing, but some music is just fun and not intended to be deep or meaningful or truly artistic. There's room in the world for a pretty picture or technical experiment, but such things aren't great art, and an artist's aspiration should always be to do that; to create meaningful and lasting music that says something about the universe or world or human condition.

And so it's with happiness that I start my first journey into song recording. I've been writing songs for 13 years, over 400 penned although hardly any recorded. Many are good, so for this album I've chosen a few and simply had a go as setting them down. I wanted to include a lot of variety, a mix of styles. There's no overall theme, although many of the titles were inspired by a random quote generator.

The title track "Fear Of The Thing Itself" is about Richard Dadd. I painted The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd after being inspired by his painting The Fariy Feller's Master Stroke. I heard about that painting because of the Queen song of the same name, so (to come full circle!) I decided to write a song about Richard Dadd in a similar style to the Queen song, with harpsichord and all! The words tell of the painter's madness. Here is the album cover image followed by the song lyrics...

Fear Of The Thing Itself

The clock hits twelve.
The moonlight in his cell.
He strokes and preens and awaits...
the arrival of the queen.
The one he met
those years ago in wet.
The night she changed his life,
with the mission and the knife.

She comes!
She comes!
She comes!
Her words like running waters flow.
The voice
of hea-ven
speaks!
The voice commands his hands to dance...

Long white beard,
bent and weird.
Twisted fingernails.
Eyes afeared.
Whispered voices to himself.
Messages from the elf.

Twists of joy.
Curls of lust.
Skin of leather and
mind of rust.
Fairies dancing on the shelf.
Fear of the thing itself.

She comes!
She comes!
She comes!
Golden halo of the queen.
Her words like flowing wine.
Showing images unseen.
Enraptured by her love.

He sits and paints
in solitude and peace,
he baits the trap and awaits
the arrival of the priest.
The doctors say
his mind is miles away
but such is genius
with a touch of murderous.

She comes!
She comes!
She comes!
Her words like running waters flow.
The voice
of hea-ven
speaks!
The voice commands his hands to dance...

Long white beard,
bent and weird.
Twisted fingernails.
Eyes afeared.
Whispered voices to himself.
Messages from the elf.

Twists of joy.
Curls of lust.
Skin of leather and
mind of rust.
Fairies dancing on the shelf.
Fear of the thing itself.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Being Bacteria

Being bacteria is not much fun,
well that's what I expect.
When people call you slime or scum
they're technically correct.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Music Art

I've been intensely working on music artwork for the past week, revamping all of my CD art, in preparation for new release Art by Machine. Here is the CD cover...

My recent albums all have a four page booklet, with rear CD case printing, inner case printing (for a transparent Jewel Case) and on-disc printing, but many older albums didn't have any of that. Synaesthesia for example only had a cover and a half cover that could be printed and folded, and no rear image. That applied to many others, so, enjoying the nice feeling of having everything neat and in matching order, I decided to revamp the artwork for every album.

Arcangel, was a good case. The original art wasn't 300dpi and only included a crude cover image. Here is the old cover...

That's the full resolution I had. It was blurry and just one layer, so I had no opportunity to modify it. I had to start from scratch and, once I'd created new 300dpi templates, created a new background texture, re-rendered the 3D model of the game logo and created a new cover style completely...

Rather reminiscent of the Quake artwork perhaps, but then so was the game from the year 2000, and in fact the art matches the rather creepy analogue music quite remarkably. For the text and general design I decided to make use of the stone effect and made the lettering like gilded carved Roman text. Here's the rear case image...

You'll also note the circular logo in the centre. This modification of my 'Aleax' logo is the new logo for Cornutopia Music. I created the label name in a hurry when registering the music with the authorities, but haven't felt the need to create a logo until now, so there it is.

After 20 or so albums (yes, it's been a busy few days!) I had to recreate the CD surfaces. The printing here was simplistic before, partly to save ink as I printed these myself. There's often a balance between artistry and practicality, but this time I decided to aspire to professional printing for all of my music, and so aimed to create two alternatives; a complex colour work that showcases the artwork to the best of its abilities, and a black and white simple one for personal printing.

I wanted a standard design, so fixed the logo in one quadrant of the disc, then used a modification of the cover art for the rest of the disc. Here is the Art by Machine CD surface...

All of this inspired me. I remembered that I love the album as an art form. It's something that seems to be less popular these days, with downloads of individual tracks happening often, and music sales languishing. I decided that I'd try to reverse this trend and make albums that were artworks; beautiful to look at and hold, as well as to listen to. Art to inspire and love. To that end I decided to finally create a custom website for my music www.cornutopiamusic.com, with the slogan and ethos of the album as art. Here is the logo up close...

The art I've been working on inspired me to re-enable CD sales too, and so now for the first time in over a year all of my CD albums with existing artwork are on sale for £9.99 plus postage. This means the existing artwork, for the older albums, is limited edition. If (should I say "as"?) each one sells out it will be replaced with the new artwork.

My next task is to complete and release Art by Machine, which is due in December. This album will be ground breaking because it's my first release that I didn't compose or arrange; although one could say I did indirectly. All of the music on Art by Machine was composed by an artificial intelligence I developed a few months ago. It is probably the first commercial album in the world to be entirely composed, and substantially produced, by an artificial intelligence.

More on that soon...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doctor Who

And now the (long awaited) words to the Doctor Who theme...

Doctor Who, who are you?
Flying through time in your box of blue.

Who are you, Doctor Who?
Can I come and fly away with you?

I do not know who I am.
I'm just an illusion
just a romantic dream...
in a dream...

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Matt Smith and the Dream of the Future

I had a strange dream last night.

At one point, during an evening conversation with some classic car racing drivers, Dr. Who actor Matt Smith was talking about what he understood about time travel. I said that you can't know the future for certain because it can change, but you can know about the present. Then I thought that the present is then defined by a sharp shift in knowledge and I quickly drew a graph like two curves, one going up and one coming from the base, marked plus infinity to minus infinity, like this (this is all in the dream).

I realised that knowledge accumulates more and more until it reached the present, the time of maximum knowledge, then instantly falls of to zero, the immediate future being time of least knowledge. Knowledge of the further future becomes more certain as it can be predicted or anticipated. Knowledge of the past falls away gradually too, from the time of greatest awareness to a murky past of memory; the crucial moment is the present when a point of maximum awareness touched the point of minimum awareness.

The next day (again, in the dream), I was in some sort of dining room at breakfast, still thinking about the nature of the present and quickly thought that you can't have minus infinity, that's just zero. I lacked paper, so used an orange crayon and some light coloured gauze, like stocking material, stretched over a hoop to write down more. I started to write about it being 1800, and if it was, how would you know when it was, assuming that there were no clocks or calendars, to illustrate the question; how would you know when now is? The answer was information, that you would look around and gain more knowledge and thus determine your location in time. I drew a new graph with zero rather than minus infinities. The graph looked something like this; two upward curves, with the present defined at the point where the top of one curve (point of maximum knowledge) jumped to the bottom.

It was difficult to write much because of the chunky crayon. Then Matt Smith peered over the end of the hoop, trying to look at what I was writing. This annoyed me a bit as I wanted to focus on my work.

At that point I awoke.