Earlier this year Chris Bennett and I started working on a new piece for solo cello and electronics. In June, after I finished working at Limelight Magazine, I started meeting with Chris regularly to collaborate.
With this piece I wanted to draw from a variety of creative methods I’ve learnt from dance and theatre workshops I’d taken over the past few years, so I incorporated movement, improvisation and discussion into the creative process.
We came up with a subject close to both our hearts - that of nourishing the creative spark… both from the day to day “how to make it work” perspective as well as incorporating in our discussion pedagogical, nature vs nurture, and socio-economic factors. We also discussed various music techniques we’re interested in exploring, what we’re strong at, what our weaknesses are…
And I recorded our conversations.
I’m particularly inspired by several works that use recorded voice as the premise of the rhythm and pitch of instrumental parts, so I went through our conversations to find pivotal sentences in the conversation that summed up the overall narrative of our discussion, put these through a spectral analysis and tapped out the rhythms… transposing every-day conversational speech into traditional music notation, I discovered, is very detailed and a lot of fun!
Last week we presented the score in progress to a couple of supporters who have helped by commissioning the work - we’re delighted with the progress.
But the process will take longer than I expected - by now I should know the gestation of a piece like this takes about a year… it’s only an 8 min work, but there’s a lot of detail in its creative approach and I’m thoroughly satisfied with the depth of the exploration. I suppose one can only discover the nature of the work by working on it, so it’s impossible to determine what the creative pathway will be like before beginning to tread it… and each work, it seems, can be unique (if you want it to be).
This piece is self-referential work and as such can be triggering to work through - even though the reality and pedestrianism will be abstractified for audiences, for Chris and I as creators, we imbue personal meaning in the notes as they have come from our words, and those words have come from our histories, some poignant memories and realisations. “Vantage” is as much about perspective as it’s about the Advantages and Disadvantages felt by everyone when comparing themselves to their ideal self they are striving for, as well as the inequalities experienced (for better or worse) that simply come with existing.
Although we’d hoped this work would be ready for performance this week, we’ve decided to postpone it until next year. The material is too raw and needs time to be processed and refined, and this decision to allow it the time it needs makes the whole creative journey of this work that much more comfortable, and is already yielding a beautiful, mesmerising work as a result.
Another piece I’m working on is a series of soundscapes for Dean’s next gig “Remote Control” which is on in two weeks at ESCAC in Darlinghurst, Sydney. This piece is a journey through Dean’s creative and neurological development, the relationship between his formidable artistic output over the years and his neurodiversity as expressed through Aspergers, ADHD and complex PTSD.
We’ve been inspired by other artists who use voice over soundscape and vocoder, so I’m using my (limited) tech skills to come up with a vocoder to make his voice compliment aspects of his stories, and I’m creating a series of soundscapes to underpin it all.
The last piece we worked on together, Dying to Sea at the Festival of Death and Dying, used some soundscape I cobbled together at just about the last minute before his Threshold:NRC gig at PACT earlier this year… so the process of making these soundscapes for Remote Control is very different - not cobbled together on samples that Dean’s found and given me but created from scratch. In addition to software synthesis, I’ve been recording myself playing guitar, percussion and piano and using a variety of techniques to transform the sounds into works that create feelings of energy, foreboding, intrigue, innocence. Also in my last gig with him I performed some live sung voice - this time, if we go there, I’d like to incorporate both our voices in a soundscape - we’ll see if we get to it!
The rest of the year is looking quiet however, giving me some much needed reflection and planning time. I think the effects of no longer being the director of a publishing company and owning Limelight Magazine have been positive for my creativity - I’d not realised how much my mind was absorbed in the business. Although I loved writing all the works I wrote (and am proud of them) during my time as Limelight’s proprietor, I’ve come to really appreciate a quieter internal space, where my mind can have the freedom to relinquish itself to playful inquisitiveness and not have a constant pull towards business responsibilities.
I hope to see you at Remote Control next week!