Recent reading…

Haruki Murakami A wild sheep chase London: Harvill

Harry Partch Genesis of music New York: Da Capo

Ian Stewart Natures numbers London: Orion

Goscinny & Uderzo Asterix and the chieftans shield London: Hodder

Lloyd Spencer & Andrzej Krauze Hegel for beginners Cambridge: Icon

Guy Debord Society of the spectacle New York: Zone Books

David Minton Teaching skills in further and adult education London: Thomson

Yvonne Hillier Reflective teaching in further education London: Continuum

Augusto Boal Theatre of the oppressed London: Pluto Press

Raymond Williams Culture and materialism London: Verso

Variant Issue 35 summer 09 Glasgow: Variant

Oliver Sacks Musicophilia London: Picador

George Lewis A power stronger than itself: The AACM and amercian experiemental music London: University of Chicago Press

Herman Hesse The glass bead game London: Penguin

Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the oppressed London: Penguin

Spiral Compositions

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Started work on a few drawings after having not really done any drawing work for quite a few months. This began just trying to start out with one of the simplest shapes and one of the first recorded marks by mankind: theres spirals all over prehistoric stuff. Also it tied in with some of the ideas relating to microtonality or true tonality or Just Intonation; whichever you want to call it: that  the circle of 5ths actually being a spiral due to tiny differences in frequency as you add up.

Also wandered about the possiblities of using spirals in graphic scores: a great shape to describe shape, mass and weight as well as giving an impression of length, could be combined with boxes and shapes as potential time indicators too.

Currently Im also figuring out some actual practical applications of whole tone ratios for the guitar. After a summer reading up on the ideas of Harry Partch and Just Intonation and being slightly bemused but very excited about the theoritical possiblities I finally realised a bit of simple maths, a ruler and a glass slide was all I needed to actual make it practically relevant with the guitar.

Im going to put a longer post explaining all this in a lot more detail once I feel like ive totally got to grips with it!

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Kalbakken in a field in Levenshulme

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Summertime a few years ago I think, at the Klondyke in Levenshulme supporting Lianne Hall and Drei. Was such a charming June evening we decided to play out in what passes for a wild flower meadow in Lev. From what I recall there was only one incident with a passing car; there was also an audience, sadly out of shot, I suspect we’re probably trying to interact with them in the middle shot.

In the final one im playing my esraj, its only live outing so far. You can hear it on the Kalbakken record though, track 9 I think.

Thanks to Bela for the photos and Daz for lending me his lovely Taylor guitar you can see in the first two pictures.

More anarchosyndicalist bike aktion

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All photos by Helen Brealey
All photos by Helen Brealey

Some snaps above of our ongoing bicycle based horrorshow live at Islington Mill in Salford last night. Show was notable for my nearly totalling all of the bike based instrument sculptures with my first physical gesture of the set.

Disaster was narrowly avoided via some careful cable wiggling and shouts of “Youve ruined Christmas now Jimmy” from the more lively parts of the audience. Managed to lay down some good grooves though eventually; mostly informed by the rhythmic memory of Huw’s 90s reggae tape that we had on repeat in the Volvo on the way over. You can’t make this stuff up.

Bike Orchestra wise we’re playing on the Thursday 29th of October as part of the Vaudeville night at the Greenroom in Manchester. We will be in the studio with the talented and brave Joshua Kopecek in the next few weeks and hopefully this session will produce material for a download and CDR release on Manchester’s Concrete Moniker and a tape split on Ikuisuus.

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Manchester Ship Canal

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Picture taken heading from Trafford Bridge towards the Lowry along the promenade on my way to rehearsal last night with Ad Hoc dance. There’s a lot of incredible open views in that part of town; the expanse of water pushes the horizon way further out. Im not surewhat it’s like in the day time but theres a real desolate end of the world feel at night.These long quaysides totally devoid of people, only the scale gives a hint to the original purpose and labours of the place.

With the music im writing with Ad Hoc ive been trying to isolate fragments from improvising along with the dancers as they put the piece together and then to use this as a more solid base for improvising out of. Refining and refining. Guitar is tuned to D/A/D/Fsharp/A/D Some notes below:

  • Paintbrush (point 5) under 9th fret playing on either side with left and right hands. So right hand pulls out rhythmic pulses and some rhythm from guitar body. Left pulls on strings behind brush on guitar neck, can also fret some notes here to produce really clipped chimes.
  • Guitar flat in lap brush end 12th fret; percussion on front and sides played with hands and soft mallet; totally open rhythms; timing in response to dancers; they all have individual moves at this point; really open and improvised.
  • Sparse slide guitar around the words “aching, arching, anchoring” and their connotations. Added words form dancers own personal writing.
  • Piece in Em7 and pulling to D for a duet. Really flows in a welcome energetic way; as with flamenco. This is interspersed with slowly, gentle, mournful passages of making sadness, waking up and remembering the flow from before.
  • Interaction of rhythm and movement; not so much finding pulses but watching to find peoples place and individual timing. There’s something with the brain and juxaposition so you start seeing patterns and making sense of whatevers happening?

Performance is on 9th November at the Lowry Studio theatre.

Booker White

Been following up a long standing interest in why acoustic guitars are so quiet when compared to other instruments of a similar body sized (the cello being the obvious example). This orginally came about at kalbakken practise when we noticed just how much louder Kirsty’s violin could be at full pelt compared to my guitar, which considering the different volume of the sound boxes seemed pretty wild.

It seems to be something to do with that alot of very careful design and consideration has gone into the exact shape of the body of the violin to create natural resonaonces which produce a bigger sound; also a bowed instrument is louder due to the nature of the sustain.

All this to lead me to look at the design of most acoustic guitars today; flat back and front, round sound hole, which is relatively inefficient as a means of projecting sound but appears to be the most usual design. With this in mind I started looking at the possibilities of archtop guitars which maintain some of the features of the violin/cello style in the angled back and sides and f sound holes; as luck would have it Ive ended up with a lovely framus archtop fromt he 60s on loan from Pascal which sounds great.

Eventually as i continued thinking around what other possiblities of guitar design there were it struck me: the amazing metal resonators used by blues players. The potential for volume and sustain could be incredible. A quick scrabble around the web and what do i find? The video above of Booker White playing resonator. Seriously, he does more in the first 30 seconds of this video than most musicians could ever hope to….

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Live Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra Action!

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The group operates in an as yet undefined area between intuaitive ritualised musical theatrical performance and shared collective improvising around musical and lyrical themes developed by all members of the group. There are various aims and objectives.

To function as an accepted method of therapy for members to express and explore ideas and behaviours in forms that would be unacceptable outside the realms of performance.

As a theoretical machinery that allows the musicians and audience to interrogate their own ideas of the boundaries and interrelations between sound, music, tone, vibration, movement, theatre, performance, spectacle, art, and catharsis.

As an ongoing process of instrument building, adaptation and reclaimation from that which is not specifically an instrument but with which sound can be made. This use of scrap, discarded and recycled objects rebuilt as instruments locates a utilitarian power with the players and for anyone who wants to imagine and construct their own instruments.

See more here and also here.