I’ve always viewed painting and music equally. They are both disciplines that inform one another and deal with similar themes and processes but how can visual art influence the way we play an instrument?
The Scratch Orchestra‘s Ian Mitchell once said, “art school is like five years of developing your quirk”
British guitarist Keith Rowe had this to say about developing his own style.
‘At art school you have to find out who you are, what is unique about you, what you have to say…
You can’t take a canvas and paint a Georges Braque, or a Picasso, someone else’s paintings.. it’s an impossibility.
One of the great lessons for me was the professor pointing right into my nose and saying, “Rowe, you cannot paint a Caravaggio. Only Caravaggio can paint Caravaggio.” Suddenly trying to play guitar like Jim Hall seemed quite wrong.I probably thought about that for between five and eight years, just constantly reflecting on how to do it, and, in a flash, I found the solution. Look at the American school of painting, Jackson Pollock found a way- he just abandoned the technique of traditional European painting and worked on the floor. How could I abandon the technique? Lay the guitar flat!’
In order to move forward musically Keith Rowe needed to find a way to reinvent his approach to the guitar that would allow him to understand more about himself and his playing and to do this he drew upon the innovative techniques of the American artists of the 1950’s
Rowe was a founder member of the British free improvisation group AMM that lead the burgeoning experimental music movement during the late 1960’s alongside Cornelius Cardew and Christian Wolff. The British experimental scene between 1965 -75 drew heavily on the earlier work of Fluxus and experimental composers like Cage and Boulez but it also began to use electronics and amplification as well as emerging forms of rock music to develop its approach.
John Cage had written that ‘sound, in and of itself, could be as important as melody, harmony and rhythm’ and this ideology certain informed the work of minimalist composers such as Robert Ashley and Terry Riley. The idea is also evident in Clement Greenberg’s thinking of how Modern art & the Modernist art movement had used art to call attention to art itself and how it acknowledged the existence of the picture plane, the look of the paint and the shape of the canvas first before discussing any kind of narrative that the picture actually contained.
Artists like Pollock & De Kooning had begun creating images in the 1950’s that spoke about the nature of paint and the physical act of painting.
Art critic Harold Rosenberg coined the phrase ‘action painting’ in an essay he wrote in 1952 in which he described this new style of painting as an arena within which to come to terms with the act of creation and shifted emphasis from the painted object to the struggle itself, with the finished painting being only the physical manifestation of this process.
It can be seen then that both art and music were changing rapidly during the latter half of the 20th century and that both were rejecting the established forms and structures of the art world and the music industry.
If painting could be reduced to a dialogue which was purely about paint, the physical nature of the materials used and the creative process itself then guitar playing could similarly just concern itself with the simple nature and tone of the instruments sound and the physical process of creating noise.
I recently discovered Fred Frith’s 1974 album Guitar Solos which has encouraged me to re-examine my own guitar playing.
To record the album Frith had added a second pick up at the ‘nut’ end of the guitars neck which enabled him to amplify sounds from both ends of the guitar. He then split the freeboard in two with a capo which effectively gave him two guitars that he could play independently with each hand.
Going against convention, Frith placed the guitar on his lap or on a table top and went on to carve out a place for himself in history for innovation and technique which still has musicians puzzled over 50 years later.
I think that the development of Frith’s guitar playing draws parallels with that of Pollock and his drip paint technique in that both artists engaged and improvised with the point of creation from above and they both challenged the traditional notions of how artists were supposed to perform and approach their work.
When instruments such as the guitar or piano are adapted to change their sound they become known as ‘prepared’. Wikipedia defines a prepared guitar as an instrument that has had its timbre altered by placing various objects on or between the instrument’s strings.
Visual artists can also ‘prepare’ their materials such as adapting the paint they use by mixing it with other materials or reconsidering the surfaces they paint on and how they actually apply the paint.
A finger plucking a string creates an event of sound in exactly the same way that a hand holding a brush creates an event on canvas. When the decision is made to subvert traditional methods of practice we have the ability to take the art to a different level.
Like Rowe I’m aware that right now I’m also at a particular crossroads regarding my own relationship with the guitar and I’m beginning to feel the need to experiment more with the instrument and make some kind of reinvention for myself. I hope that I may find this new sound not only by engaging with the guitar in a different way but also by examining elements of contemporary art practice that interest me.
An artist’s journey can’t be allowed to stand still. If I am to keep my work interesting and fresh it is important to continually search for new sounds and approaches to music making and if that involves drawing sources of inspiration from other places then so be it.
Hi all. My new EP is now available in a limited edition CD format. The package contains an A4 story & info sheet, Nudie suit pictures & the tunes on a mini 8cm CD
price £5 + £1pp
To grab a copy please click the link below
You can also hear the EP and get a digital download at my Bandcamp site
Thanks everyone for all your support !
If your following this series of posts you will now be becoming familiar with the Nurse With Wound list and the hidden treasures that lie within !!
Here for your enjoyment are the E’s & F’s.
ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN
SUNDAY GIRLS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_577zKpgfQ8
PATRIZIO FARISELLI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8moLeZCz7M
PRESQUE RIEN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKq-LRYv1Q4
FILLE QUI MOUSSE
TRIXIE STAPLETON 291 – SE TAIRE POUR UNE FEMME TROP BELLE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coblJcdZl8A
FLOH DE COLOGNE
GEYER~ SYMPHONIE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TPd-6yfnyk
FLYING LIZARDS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPRYfSszKSA
SOCIAL GATHERING https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKeQi0VLpro
£3·33 No link found please help
JOYRIDE (RCA Victor SF 8027) # https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df2Bt5rfeGU
GUITAR SOLOS (Caroline C1508) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYn1RjOFj7o
I’m so happy to make the music free ’cause I want everyone to enjoy it but if you’d like to help support Pulco and you have a spare moment, I’d be extremely grateful if you could mention Pulco & post links to the EP on Twitter, Facebook etc and to blog and talk about the tunes on and offline. Conversation is the greatest compliment that an artist can receive !!
I thought it might be interesting and potentially useful if I outlined my setup and approach to music making in a little more detail and publish it here on the blog as a resource for others.
So, as Dylan Thomas famously declared – ‘to begin at the beginning’!!
My first experience of home recording began with a small cassette player that my dad bought in the early 80’s to load games on to our home computer. It’s important to emphasise what an amazing discovery it was and how it felt to be able to hear your own voice on tape for the first time. – “What! – you mean I can record myself on this thing AND play it back??”
It dawned on me that the complexities of sound were something of wonder and beauty and that like any of our senses, our hearing and our recognition of sound is a unique, subjective and personal thing.
I also recognised straight away that the hiss, grot and background ambience that found its way on to my recording was equally as interesting as the songs I was writing. The two worked hand in hand. Especially in the context of the environment in which the sound was captured. Recordings became a document of my life and the home that I lived in as opposed to being created in the confines of a recording studio where the objective would be to remove as much background noise as possible.
That part of recording in studios always disappointed me a little, as if it was an opportunity missed somehow. I hate losing sound!
So this was how my musical journey continued in to my teens. I began to understand the technicalities of what I was doing and as such my ambition grew as well as my appetite for experimentation. I just got excited by what I could make out of sound.
I think that I acquired my first cassette 4 track when I was 14 in 1986?
I understood immediately how the thing worked as it was so intuitive. That was the beauty of porta studios. You plugged in a mic, got a level and pressed record. It was all I needed to know about the science of recording and it still is to this very day.
I worked my Tascam to death – literally!! We used to use it to play backing tracks when I was in Derrero and eventually too many bits in it got worn and it lost the will to live.
By this time too we were busy recording as a band in a regular recording studio and contrary to my earlier remark I was enjoying the experience of discovering how studios worked and the possibilities of what we could achieve so at least for while I didn’t replace the Tascam and home recording stopped.
It wasn’t long however before I felt the need to work at home again
Over the years I’ve used Cubase a little bit, although I was never particularly comfortable using a PC, and I did have digital 8 track machine for a time as well. I’ve used minidisc and a hand held recorder but nothing came close to the ease of using a 4-track. I wanted a recording device that would be my friend and companion as I worked my way through my musical ideas. I didn’t need the hassle of fighting leads, sound cards, memory cards and plugins!!! arrr
Back in 2012 my wife bought me an iPad for my 40th birthday and I knew that there were likely to be apps on there that would allow me to record and get access to keyboards and drum machines etc.
I was excited by the possibilities of the device as I knew it was so easy to use
I tried a number of different apps but eventually discovered Multitrack DAW
The app costs about £7 and gives you 24 tracks of recording, basic eq, compression & reverb etc. All you need to do is get a level and hit record!! mmmmm hang on, that sounds familiar !!
I don’t even have to plug in a mic as the iPads internal mic works just fine for me although I did try a mic by a company called iRig which was quite good. The company also make interfaces for connecting instruments etc
As a rule of thumb I put the iPad about 10 cm away from the sound source that I’m recording and I just adjust the input level to make sure that it doesn’t peak too much.
An app I also use a lot is Everyday Looper
This app is great for creating rhythm loops and has six tracks available so you can build up a complete drum kit or grab everyday sounds to build beats with.
Audiobus is another useful app that I have. It allows me to internally connect other apps to the recorder so that you can add keyboards etc. without needing leads!! Yeah
If you wanted to take this setup further there is an iPad dock available that would allow you to use pro mics and plug in instruments etc. and it could be a way I might go in the future??
For now though there is no so much more to say about how I record. I have a few cheap guitars, a little Fender practice amp, a drum kit and myself. The important thing for me is that the iPad is something I can pop in a bag and take with me anywhere. I can work in the car while the kids are at gym class or I can go up the mountain and record the stream after a storm. That is priceless to me and far out weights any limitations of the setup in terms of quality. I try and make a feature out of the limitations and I hope that is what makes my music unique to me.
If anyone has any more questions please feel free to get in touch with me at email@example.com
Today’s post is a double dose of Krautrock, experimental & avant garde music from the famous Nurse With Wound list !
Dive in and enjoy outsider sounds from the C’s & D’s
THREE MANTRAS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmMSSefZewM
VARIATIONS IV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9yV-9eH0LE
APPUNTI PER UN ‘IDEA FISSA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzByOK7NOAo
MIRROR MAN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBk20ujrZZU
GRÜSS GOTT MIT HELLEM KLÄNG https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVw0EFfx2uk
CHANT POUR LE DELTA LA LUNE ET SOLEIL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCfg1-XU3q0
HALF MACHINE LIP MOVES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4WuRoIYrhE
CAPTAIN TARTHOPOM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bezftt6Am4Q
KONVERGENCIE . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWcjrHCMPl8
SFGATEVI BESTIE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms0RlEP7cD8
COMPANYIA ELECTRICA DHARMA
FIRST UTTERANCE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFmqHiHMC1Q
REALITY ASYLUM/SHAVED WOMEN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP-8q0Bd0v8
GREY SCALE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHBLd5qu5jM
LIKE THIS FOR AGES/KLUBA CUPOL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjBiWOq73Og
Lehrlings-Machtgebeat on the compilation: LEHLINGS HALTEN ZUSAMMEN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qlltRKqvuU
THE OIMELS . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvkhXme54E8
ICH BIN EIN SPIEGELEI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvTH2ht1SPU
DEEP FREEZE MICE
MY GERANIUMS ARE BULLETPROOF https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6UXEeVSbPY
END STARTING (S.F.P. 13006) – No link found please help :0)
LIVE AT THE BRAND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462vv1rQ_IE
RAMASSE MIETTES NUCLÉAIRE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hNP7RgLl_8
MUSIQUE BRUT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf34vJivNEk
ELECTRIC SILENCE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFnuQibbMPY
Hi Folks !! If you tuned in to my previous post on Wednesday you will be fully aware of the Nurse With Wound list . If your here for the first time I suggest you scroll down this page to find out what its all about.
Below are links to the B’s !
I’m gonna start working through them now
IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO
BANTEN – Sorry :0( no link found – maybe you could help
SOLO PIANO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhwPV0HJnQ4
MUSIQ MUSIK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35LhAvp7k_A
CECI EST CELA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sMN9NXe-KM
BIGLIETTO PER L’INFERNO
BIGLIETTO PER L’INFERNO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iIK3fIlUuw
BIRGÉ GORGÉ SHIROC
POT-POURRI POUR PARCE QUE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL1SSytqGu0
DON BRADSHAW LEATHER
DISTANCE BETWEEN US https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX1EiEe25Aw
SMILE A WHILE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tGVwyc7-5M
BRAVE NEW WORLD
IMPRESSIONS ON READING ALDOUS HUXLEY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InJGGhv4xuk
VON GOLDALFISCHER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6IPRRMLUOU
A little while ago I came across the Nurse With Wound list . This is a list of obscure outsider & avant garde musicians and bands that were printed on the front cover of ‘Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella’, the first album by experimental band Nurse with Wound in 1979.
I’ve begun working my way through the list over the past week and there is some amazing stuff to discover on it as well as a few old favorites.
I know that I’m certainly not the first to post about this and there is a lot of information out there on the web regarding the list & Nurse With Wound but if you’d like to join me on my own personal journey through the music I’ve provided a list of the A’s below and links to the albums to make each of them easier to listen to.
I’ll post further links as I move through the alphabet so keep popping back here if your interested in discovering some truly diverse and irregular music!
Diolch – Ash
ONE POINT MUSIC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy8G8NvCEDU
LIVE AT LACE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbxgibVhHrg
ALBRECHT D & JOSEPH BEUYS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meR8iM41TzQ
VAMPIRE STATE BUILDING https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5a5EiBhGOA&list=PL8a8cutYP7fqHGO9wZimvH0BbsffqCQnX
FRAMTIDEN ÄR ETT SVÄVANDE SKEPP, FÖRANKRAT I FORNTIDEN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP7zhQ0qqMk
VIBING UP THE SENILE MAN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vKujJt0Cc8
DRINKING MY OWN SPERM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW7pubvcw_0
PSYCHEDELIC UNDERGROUND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLVbubke2dI
AMON DÜÜL II
ANAL MAGIC & REVEREND DWIGHT FRIZZELL
BEYOND THE BLACK CRACK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38v48Ks2B4U
STÜRMISCHER HIMMEL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugpp0rkHJeg
UN PEU DE L’ÁME DES BANDITS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTHz1gHNj6E
ARBETE OCH FRITID
HALL ANDAN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aT-WTISzVo
MARRON DINGUE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xP9p_711zw
ARCHIMEDES BADKAR II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3CXWZvpemo
CAUTION RADIATION AREA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2FgYGRxyIg
HOPES & FEARS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOW4jWhqV8o
ART ZOYD III
ART ZOYD 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BabJM50buuI
IN SARA, MENCKEN, CHRIST AND BEETHOVEN, THERE WERE MEN AND WOMEN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWpzzG7Rwjs
ASH RA TEMPEL
SUN ROTATION https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09SOksctISA
Hi all. You may remember that back in January this year I released my current album Innovation In The Trade as a free download. Well I’m glad to announce that there is now a limited edition CD version of the album available !! The CD is packaged in a mini DVD case with an A4 information sheet inside
The release is limited to 25 copies only ! If you’d like to purchase the CD please click the link below
Many years ago I read a book by William Burroughs & Brion Gysin called The Third Mind. It is a collection of essays & poems showcasing their ideas of cut up and collage poetry. Cut-ups involve taking texts, cutting the pages, and then rearranging and combining the pieces to form new narratives.
The idea of using cut & paste and collage in musical composition isn’t new either. In fact I believe that Pavement used cut ups to generate lyrics and musical sections as did Cabaret Voltaire but the concept is also something that’s interested me for years too.
Combined with a love of found sound and field recording many of these elements have found their way into my own tunes over the years. If I’m recording a guitar why not have the TV on in the background and the kids shouting downstairs, a dog barking outside or the sound of a passing car. All of these things make a recording infinitely more interesting in my mind. Very often I grab lyrics at random from the first book or magazine I find. I’m cutting up in real time.
As an example of how I approach composing music with all of these various elements in mind here is the process I have used to begin writing the first song for the next Pulco album. A mix of this song can be heard at the bottom of this post.
I started with three separate abstract guitar riffs played to a click track to which I added bass and a 2nd guitar. After creating a rhythm loop to make a frame for the piece to work around I copied and moved about these three sections to create an arrangement for the song. Finally I put in some random bits including a recording of my daughter Myfi playing piano with her teacher. It sounds like a piece that could have been recorded all the way through in that structure (like some bastard son of Beefhearts Trout Mask Replica) when in fact it was shuffled around and constructed in my iPad.
Simon Jeffes from the Penguin Café Orchestra once explained the need for experimentation and innovation in music and it has always rung true with how I feel about it as well. He stated that the qualities of randomness, spontaneity, surprise, unexpectedness and irrationality in music are a very precious thing. If you suppress that to have a nice orderly commercially acceptable approach to music making then you kill off what’s most important.
I’ve often spoken about Pulco music being a kind of sonic autobiography. I listen to my own music when I want to remember a certain period or event in my life and I know which albums represent each part of that life journey. It gives me a context for my life and comforts me in the fact that I can return to the past through sound.
Constructing songs in this way is also an attempt to establish a new form of readability to the experience of hearing compositions that are still essentially pop or folk music.
I think that using a cut-up/found sound technique as a basis for writing music helps the listener create new connections to musical themes and the world around them and naturally as a consequence the range of vision and interpretation of our understanding of sound also expands.