Tag Archives: music

Simple starting points

I’ve started making a new piece of work. I’m at the beginning of the process and although I’m beyond the first sampling and trying out stage, I’m still in, ‘not quite sure exactly how this will turn out’ mode. I thought I’d write a little about some of its origins and a few ideas I am pondering at the moment.

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The form of this work comes from Minimalist music that originated in America in the mid-sixties. This type of music broke away from the classical tradition to be more chaotic and you could say, less musical.

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Some of the features of Minimalist music are:

  • Layers of repeated rhythmic, melodic or harmonic patterns that are repeated many times (the proper word is ostinato).
  • Repeated patterns that gradually change over time.
  • Layered textures

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Composers included Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

I remember taking part in a performance of Terry Riley’s In C, when I was at music college and being completely amazed by the way a seemingly simple score could create such complex sounds.

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In C consists of 53 separate bars of music in the key of C, each with a different melodic and rhythmic pattern.  Players repeat each bar as many times as they wish before moving onto the next. The result is an ever-changing web of sound where complicated patterns and unpredictable combinations of the set bars occur.

The idea that one simple form, when repeated over and over again, can produce complex and multifarious patterns is very beguiling and is also very relevant to visual art. The work I am making at the moment is made up of a simple, repeated form. When assembled these forms will create an altogether new and more complex work. I think that this work is the simplest interpretation of the idea…..

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….but already my mind is moving on to how I could make an even more complex work from the simplest of ideas: very, very, simple repeated, rhythmic layers that slip in and out of sync with each other to make a complex work.

However, for now, it’s on with the sewing – there’s a lot to do.  More on this project later as I progress!

 

 

What happens when you think

The hermit-like side of my personality relishes the opportunity to be alone for short periods of time and over the past week I have had the opportunity to shut myself away, take solitary walks and think. This brief period of reclusiveness is nearly over (I should now busy cleaning the house and cooking as my family is coming down like a deluge for the Easter weekend!) but I have come to a bit of a decision about my next piece of work.

A reflective period is always good. It’s a time to let your mind wander along no particular path, to let thoughts come to the fore or to consolidate ideas that have been pushed back but that won’t go away. One of those niggling ideas has been scratching away at me for some time and I’ve now decided that I don’t want to push it away again.

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As you may have realised I’ve been drawing a lot recently and my sketchbook has accompanied me on nearly all of my walks – quick sketches, watercolours and drawings have all found their way onto its pages. I seldom work from my drawings. Instead they work as a sort of discipline – to stop, to look, to listen – to pay attention and to understand what is going on around me. I have been thinking that I should take these scribbles out of the sketchbook to live a life of their own but I realise now that I can’t (or won’t) do it.

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Instead I’ve been thinking back to a piece of work that I did 7 years ago that was inspired by the music of Benjamin Britten and the North Norfolk landscape. It was a visual notation that merged landscape and music – a graphic score based on writing down sound through drawing. This piece connected the repetitive and rhythmic elements of the music and movements within the landscape.

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Postcard 1

Sea Interlude, 6m x 50cms, 2008

I’ve always wanted to do another piece on the same scale but felt that it would be going backwards – a  re-tracing of old ground, but I’ve realised that it couldn’t possibly be a going backwards. Everything I’ve done between then and now would intervene to prevent it from being a rehash. Even using similar textile techniques it wouldn’t ever be the same. My recent drawing activity has reinforced the idea that looking at the rhythms and energies of nature is (in my mind at least) the same experience as listening to it. I have a need to do another piece of work that connects and consolidates these ideas.

I’ve talked myself into it – I’m doing the research and going for it!  More details later …..