underpasses i have known and loved

33105018753_c46ae855b3_cI’m walking repeatedly around a square of four underpasses, making an air recording with my trusty zoom while pushing my son in his buggy. Overhead you can hear the traffic at the junction of Chester Road and Edge Lane. These tunnels will be filled in soon when the junction is redesigned. The underpasses must date to the widening of Chester Road into a 3 lane highway and the building of Stretford Mall. Currently the underpasses are the only safe way across the road at this junction; after there will be a roadcrossing. They need a little love, some bulbs need replacing in the lights, murals made by local schools and Gorsehill Studios are not in bad shape, some of the paintwork elsewhere could be redone. When we first moved here I realised that the underpasses made me feel at home. This is to do with a specific memory of the underpass between Leicester train station and Granby Street. This is now filled in and replaced by a roadcrossing. This one was pure old school, stank of piss, often had buskers in it, always had a couple of homeless guys seeking shelter. It was  the link between the city centre proper and the train station on London Road. As schoolboys  we used to walk up from the clocktower where the 61a dropped us, down Gallowtree Gate, up Granby Street through this underpass, past the station then left down Conduit Street. There on the corner was Sheehan’s Music, a few doors down was Ultima Thule (a record shop specialising in prog and krautrock). Inbetween the two and about 5 floors up was our destination; Stayfree Music, where we would rent by the hour rehearsal rooms with huge crackling amps and flabby drums (we didn’t know you could tune drums til much later) to jam out the two chord structures and melodies  we used as songs. At very quiet moments just before sleep and when I’m very tired I can hear a D in my left ear and one an octave lower in the other. In fact its quiet at home now in the daytime and as I’m thinking; writing about my tinnitus it comes into focus and I can hear the notes come into focus. Those jams at Stayfree were the beginning of about a decade of exposing myself to very loud music all the time. I’ve worn earplugs the last decade which has helped. I’m back at home now listening to the recording I made in the Stretford underpasses. What I thought I would hear which was the slight ebb and flow in volume of traffic on entering and exiting just isn’t there. What marks the tunnels is Alex doing baby shouts to hear the short reverb. He does it on entering each tunnel and then stops when we are in the brief bit of open air between.

Stretford February-April 2017


Spiral Compositions




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!


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….


Sketches on Sound, Listening & Learning

Sound, Listening and Learning


Sound, Listening and Pedagogy


Frequency, Listening and Education


Vibration, Listening and Pedagogy



Sound is defined as any frequency or vibration, audible or non-audible to the human ear. Vibration permits the motion of air towards the ear where it is ultimately heard leading to the possibility of listening.

(The same motion of waves maintains a flow of air containing oxygen entering the body and the brain. “music produces sound which is a manifestation of variable changes in atmospheric pressure…In this respect music is a motivator for the transport of the essential factors of the life force- oxygen” Milford Graves.) This is important in relation to breathing and calmness, interaction between body and breathing and ablity to apply oneself and listen.

Listening is defined specifically in reference to Pauline Oliveros ie. That“to hear is the physical means that enables perception. To listen is to give attention to what is perceived both acoustically and psychologically”.

You can hear something without listening but to listen you must first hear and then listen. The ability to listen is a prerequiste to learning, without this a learner cannot engage fully in dialogue, gain understanding of concepts and schema, partake in rigorous debate and/or challenge possibilities presented to them.

Final word is trickiest to define, lets try “Learning/Education/Pedagogy” something like: to learn, gain knowledge, to grow and realise ones self as a human being, to become truly conscious of being human, gain skills confidence, possibilities of economic, social and “spiritual”? well being. An inability to listen can isolate the individual from being an active agent and particpant in their educational and wider cosmos. The possibility to enter into dialogue and engage.

More to follow as this develops for sure…