Archive for the Creativity Category

Film Soundtrack: In Deep

Posted in Creativity, Film Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2015 by Gideon K

1900773_718520738204291_7976467905654113471_o

I met Keir at a film networking event. Josh was screening his Japanese Doctor Who film and Keir was screening a short film he had made. We got talking afterwards and he was telling me about this film he had shot all in one day with two actors and a soundguy. When he sent me a copy of the film I pretty much told him that he HAD to let me do the music for it because he wasn’t going to find anyone else who got what his film was about as much as I did.

I gave him some kind of bullshit rap about that which was 100% earnest and genuine, but seems kind of funny in hindsight. Then again, I guess it’s important to work with enthusiastic people.

Initially I had this whole other idea for how to go about the music for the film (quite a good idea that I’m not going to divulge because I plan to use it for another project someday). Partly it was based on metamorphosis and diversity since the film is quite long for a short film. Ultimately the initial idea didn’t work, and all that remained from my first sketches was the main theme that opens the film and reappears later on. I ended up pursuing more of that vibe and all of the pieces for this film have that soft, dreamy quality to them in one way or other. The aim was to capture a feeling of space and softness, mostly.

I tried to match the tone of the film in the sense of having two or more, but mainly two instruments weaving in and out of each other and tentatively touching around each other. Also, because of the relative sparsity of notes, I used a lot of tremolo and reverb on most of the guitars partly to try to accentuate the sense of space, light and softness, but also just because I like the sound of them.

Indulgence is ok if it works.

I started recording the pieces shortly after I had upgraded my recording gear, and it was a lot of fun experimenting with recording at home with some of my amps and outboard effects units rather than using just using plugins. I usually prefer the sound of a nice warm tube amp over a VST plugin if I have the choice.

One of the reasons this project took me a little while to finish, is that I have this ‘problem’ if you will, in that sometimes I can’t quite bring myself to make a piece of music that is only the duration of the bit it is used for – I feel like I have to make the segment or section used into a fully developed piece, even if it’s quite short. I don’t like leaving musical orphans lying around in my wake. So some of these pieces are 5 mins long even though they are only in the film for about 30 secs each. I don’t mind that though, because in the end I think film music should work as music that can be listened to on its own as well as with the film, in much the same way as I think often a good film will still work if you take all of the music out of it.

Sadly I can’t share the video of the film at this point in time. There’s a little trailer here (which I didn’t do the music for). But I will share the full film if/when I get the ok from the director.

In the meantime, all of the music below is in the film.

Advertisements

Film Soundtrack: The Watcher

Posted in Creativity, Film Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2015 by Gideon K

The idea for this film was to create a tense, action/thriller vibe. Although most chase scenes in action films are cliched to say the least, I had to find some way to approach the idea of a kinetic nature of an action sequence in a way that would be interesting to me.

Even though at least 80% of the sounds were computer generated, I like to try and add some ‘organic’ elements into the music to give it another dimension, hence the shaker, bongos, vibraphone etc. Plus I like the juxtaposition. You never want a piece of work to be 100% one thing otherwise it can get stale quickly.

I’m quite happy with how the music came out in the end, especially as I was making it all on a 7-year-old laptop with a cheapo 2-input Alesis soundcard. This was the last score I did before I upgraded my gear. In a perverse sort of way I kind of miss the simplicity of that old setup. Less options = more committing to decisions. (Although just this week I had to use the old system to open an old project, and I’m glad I’ve moved on.)

It’s kind of funny to admit this now, but I am willing to do so because I have very much learned my lesson:

The reason I ended up writing a piece of music that lasted the duration of the entire film was that;

a) The copy of the film file I was sent to work on had no foley or audio track, so I simply assumed I was scoring a silent movie and that the music had to do all the work, and

b) because there was no dialogue in the film it never occurred to me at that point that it might be effective to have some parts without music.

I’m laughing as I type this because of how dumb that sounds.

Honestly, I do sort of know what I’m doing.

PS I would have added a video link of the actual film, but it is not online yet/not released to the public.

 

The Soundtrack of Our Imaginary Lives

Posted in Creativity, Film Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2015 by Gideon K

Life is strange. You get caught up and focused on some things that you ignore or neglect something else. Then, when you lift your head up to have a look around you realise that more time has gone and wonder if you could have spent your time more productively or effectively.

It seems fairly typical of my creative patterns in some way – to start one thing, eventually get to the end of it (and I’ll allow myself some credit here – it may take a while, but I do finish the projects I start), then plough into some other kind of project straight afterwards that is perhaps on a completely different tangent to what I’ve been previously working on. I sometimes question how much of that is creative restlessness and a desire to explore new or unfamiliar ground, and how much of it is a form of escapism. Instead of sticking to one or two disciplines and mastering them, I fumble and play, I dabble with a number of things and don’t really master any of them.

I’m not sure yet.

But speaking of mastery, I believe this year I have put in at least a few more of the hours that will count towards clocking up the 10,000 hour minimum genius quota. Mastery of what, if anything, is a different subject.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year learning about recording and engineering sounds and music. What motivates me is the need to be able to record my own music on my own, at home whenever I felt like it, and to have those results be presentable in some way.

Part of this was brought into focus by putting out an EP earlier this year of punk/alt rock covers that were recorded mostly at home on my crappy soundcard and my old computer. I took it to get mixed by a pro, but it made me want to improve my home-recording skills.

 

To cut a long story short, most of the music I have been working on this past year or so has been soundtracks to short films. Like most other creative avenues I have dabbled in, film music is not something I had given much thought to or foreseen myself having a go at much before. I had done a piece for one of my brother’s film projects when he was studying, but nothing since then until July last summer.

I plan on putting down a few words in due course about some of these projects, but for now here is a little showreel I have put together of some of the music I have made for moving image.

 

The 4-Track Tape Trader’s Club

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2014 by Gideon K

DSC_0157

I mentioned a little earlier on that I’d been collaborating with various musicians on an experimental tape project. The idea behind the whole thing was to make music for the sake of making music.

I wanted to play with people without any kind of formalities or real responsibilities. It has been hard (in London) to find people who are willing to just let go of their egoic sense of purpose, band, career even and just find the time to make noise for the sheer joy of it. To take the leap and collaborate awkwardly and nakedly with strangers.

I was inspired principally by the idea of double-exposure on analogue film; where two different photographers take pictures over the same roll of film. The results are often chaotic, and either brilliant or a complete mess. I wanted to find a way for that gamble to translate musically, and given the inherent limitations of cheap analogue mediums, my mind turned towards 4-Track Cassette tape. I’d been looking for a way to use 4-Track for a while because of its ease of use, throwaway nature of the results, and to a certain degree the way it has now become almost entirely obsolete.

Of course, there is also a certain romanticism about 4-track tape, especially to someone whose musical adolescence was shaped in a big way by lo-fi independent music made using such equipment, but having learned of Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions, I had been searching for a means of doing something similar for a long time.
The problem is that in London, not many people have access to their own studios for recording a whole band live, and those who do are rarely up for the idea of getting groups of people together to record just for fun – they’ve got bills to pay. That’s understandable.

The tape idea has helped fill this gap to a certain degree. It may not have the immediacy of getting everyone together in the same room (in fact, at this point I still haven’t met some of the other collaborators on this project face-to-face yet), but the hidden blessing is that freed from other people’s presence, gaze, and breathing on their neck, everyone is free to do whatever they feel like within the confines of the tracks they record. It has been very surprising, and a lot of fun.

On a personal level, having spent so much time, effort, and focused concentration making sure all the Black Hay recordings have been ‘just right’, and working in quality studios, with quality equipment, for long hours making sure everything sounds nice, it is a nice relief to be able to rebel against that and against myself in a way, by throwing all of those notions and lessons out the window and just going wild with it. I’m not saying anything against quality recordings or the somewhat laborious nature of studio recording, just that a change is as good as a rest. It’s a welcome and invigorating contrast to be able to lay down such horrible noises, and for them to still sound ‘good’ to my ears.

Here are the results from the first ‘Project’. The second one has been underway for a while, but that particular saga is ongoing…

 

 

 

Some of what I’ve been up to in the last year.

Posted in Creativity, Me Oh My, Songwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2014 by Gideon K

Gideon K @ Velvet Tongue Autumn 2013

As you’ve seen I’ve  not been blogging much, but I guess I’ve been actually DOING a lot of stuff. Mostly musical projects:

Black Hay:

After finishing the EP and then putting it out earlier last year, I spent a heap of time finishing off a full-length Black Hay album. It was a lot of work because I wrote and arranged everything, and then played all the guitar and bass on it, as well as doing all the singing. In fact for the most part, it was just myself and David working on the tracks. There are a number of tracks with drums on where we enlisted the ever-reliable Guillaume to smash the tubs, and a few cameos by some mates of mine, but other than that it was pretty much a solo thing. It is a good thing because now I’ve mostly got that out of my system and can get on with making band music.

Also, regarding Black Hay, I’ve finally found a semi-solid lineup and we’re releasing a single, made a video directed by Josh, and featuring Missa Blue.

JB Newman & The Black Letter Band:

Since late 2012 I’ve been playing bass and upright bass with my padre JB Newman and his band. We’ve done a fair bit of gigging, most of which have been amongst the liveliest shows any of us have ever played. We recorded a bunch of tracks in march 2013 at River Rat Studios and have put out a single and an ep since then and played some incredible shows. One of the best bands I’ve played in.

4-Track Tape-Traders Club:

On top of all this, I’ve got a bit of a curveball to throw in. I started a 4-Track tape chain-mail group with a bunch of guys I found on soundcloud as well as some guys I already knew. It’s the furthest I’ve been into ‘experimental’ music and the project I have the least amount of control over. It’s gloriously unpredictable and you can hear some of the sonic chaos over here.

More on this little project soon…

I’ve been doing some session work here and there as well as writing more songs, and doing the occasional bit of poetry. I’ve become a regular at the amazing and still relatively unknown (erotic) literary event Velvet Tongue. I’ve done a bunch of different poems at their open mics that have gone down really well and have my first feature-length slot as a poet in May this year.

I’m intending to outdo myself this year.

How?

Finish writing another album and record it with the band. Play lots more shows with Black hay and JB, do more tape collaborations, work on some films, make some videos. You name it, I’ll try it. I’ve got too many ideas to fit into one year ahead of me.

End of Attempt 1

Posted in Creativity on April 7, 2013 by Gideon K

Well, for anyone who has shown interest in this little experiment of mine, you might have noticed that it has been a while since I posted up about my songwriting challenge.

 

Basically, I failed. Sorta

 

But that’s good – I can, and have learned from it.

 “I’ve failed over and over and that is why I succeed” – Michael Jordan

 

There were several problems about this challenge, including:

  • – My personal and work life had been neglected so I had no balance in my life, which seems to have some degree of importance in long-term artistic health. As you would expect.
  • – Writing about writing is something that I have decided I need to curtail somewhat, and to dial back. Especially because at times it has seemed like I had spent as much or more time writing blog posts as I did on the actual songwriting, which was neither my original aim, nor of much use or interest to me. I will start another challenge at some point and instead of posting a long bit of writing, I will simply have my goals as writing and demoing the song so as to upload it and display it.

 

How many songs I’ve written in that time? Irrelevant. Enough. Not enough.

“How much do you have to do to satisfy people who don’t care anyway?” Saul Leiter

I’ll go into this all in greater depth some other time perhaps. For now there are other things to think and talk about. I am also going to splitting blogging duties between this blog and this one.

 

One interesting side effect of this was getting very fed up and bored with my ways of writing songs, and as a consequences I started writing a lot more ‘poems’ and prose, which has been a welcome and interesting development for me at least. I’ve been posting them up as audio and have been attended poetry nights with some loose regularity over the past year.

 

At the moment it’s back to music. I’ve finished an EP with my project Black Hay, and am preparing for some more recording for an album, as well as a number of other interesting projects.

 

Hello again

 

G

Songwriting Challenge Week 10

Posted in Creativity, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by Gideon K

I know I haven’t been good at keeping this blog on a weekly basis, but they seem to go by with so much happening and I’ve been working hard trying to get all my writing done…

 

I’ll try and summarise as best I can.

 

I didn’t get much done as I was concentrating on mixing and trying to finish my EP to a satisfactory degree, and spent the weekend in the countryside with a friend I hadn’t seen for 5 years, so no writing got done then.

 

Regarding this idea of hard work, I thought I’d include a quote from James Ellroy’s brilliant ‘L.A. Confidential’ which I’ve just finished reading. It was a stupendously captivating and immersive reading experience. I had great difficulty putting it down at all.

 

‘I’m working hard at it.’

‘Work harder. Good efforts are for schoolboys, results are what counts. Go to it, gentlemen.’

 

The character who said it was a bastard – most of them are, but he had a point.

 

Also, I saw an excellent talk by the mighty John Cleese about creativity which is highly recommended, and I have been following his 90 min guideline since. This video is pretty much a must-see.

 

 

I have made a start at recording presentable basic demos of the songs I have accumulated on this challenge so far and will be putting them up on my soundcloud page soon. I decided enough paying lip-service to it all, it is time to actually display some of it for proof.