A circle in 12 parts: Taurus

A live audio visual improvisation with images, video and vinyl selection from this years guest Taurus, Maura Hazelden:

An aural & visual dance duet, a reminder of birthdays past, I so enjoyed the immersion in apple blossom. 

It was great to feel a bit creative and to be creative in collaboration. I had thought I might use some of my work in terms of images but somehow it became a personal journey of images from birthdays & my life, some friends…photos of me (I’m not always fond of having my photo taken except in my work!), of a place close to my heart now gone, food and bluebell wood walks for my birthday, and … apple blossom.
 
How have I never made a link between Lily the Pink and my series of works with pink lilies?

I would like to apologise for both of us not realising that soundcloud advertising would slip in, and my lack of speed in silencing it! I might be a Quaker but I don’t endorse Franklin Graham…this is not a love song…

Thank you Jake for the invitation and a creative afternoon with plenty of joy! I am inspired to relook at some of my language/sound work and do some re-creation.

Are baby be beeping…postman puppy rabbits

Virtual Synthesis

A circle in 12 parts is a way of bringing together all the different strands of my practice, a way to include all kinds of material and processes, ideas and influences.

Back in 2002, when I first started to find and collect audio objects and make experimental sound works with them, I tried a few software synths – Rebirth and Reason were the go to programs at the time and I can remember using a block sequencer in Reason to make and hear visual patterns but I struggled to get past the limited steps and regular tempos. Not only that but I was trying to develop a practice with minimal cost and the expense of the software was significant! The found objects and their physicality and unpredictable nature of interaction possible with turntables and vinyl became far more interesting and accessible.

20 years on I found myself experimenting with virtual modular synthesis having discovered the amazing free software VCV Rack. I started playing with the synth app as an alternative to playing a dreadful mobile computer game called Marvel Strike Force. Why I got so absorbed in that game I’m not sure but over 3 years it took hours, if not days, of my time, steadily increasing the need to pay for things to stay up to date. I never paid for anything. Finding VCV Rack and it replacing my Marvel habit puts in in a curious place, is it part of my art practice? is it a hobby? entertainment? maybe all three? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.. whatever it is, it feels a lot more wholesome than Marvel US military propaganda!

Almost immediately after starting using VCV Rack I was considering its visual quality and trying to establish a way to make that a more interesting experience. Initially I was recording the sessions locally and trying different visual treatments with the recordings in post. In mid October 2021 I posted this video of a processed recording of a VCV Rack session. I used some databending techniques on the original improvised synth session recording and then further corrupted the recording live while streaming to Youtube.

It was around then that I started streaming most of my experiments with VCV Rack, sharing my screen to Youtube as a way of recording the sessions without filling up my HDD. In hindsight I can see it is in part the uncertainty around what these experiments are and how they relate to my practice that led to my decision to stream them privately, a decision I regret somewhat as my work is very much about process, embracing the failures and getting away from value judgements and hierarchies..oh well. Perhaps they are more interesting in retrospect anyway (perhaps not) as we can see some sort of progression and understanding of the software develop (hopefully).

A fortnight later I posted this glitch video with a bit of improvised synth sound.

Another fortnight later I streamed this next video with a longer bit of live synth sound. The MP4/HEVC glitching process usually gives me a file that just about plays in my streaming software but this file refused. It did play in VLC player so I was able to stream it.

In the following week I started using Vmix to alter colours, add visual. With the exception of 22022022022022 I haven’t posted any more synth videos since mid November but I have been playing a lot and continued experimenting with visual material too, streaming regularly to youtube to record. There is now over 70hrs of recordings of my learning the software and developing a live process with visual material, overlays, circle drawings, animations and extra software to offer more live interactions. I’ll start looking through and posting some soon probably..

22022022022022

Once in a lifetime. The precise second where the palindromic time and date hit last night.

It was 20 years ago in 2002 that I first started playing with virtual synthesisers. I rediscovered them recently and have been finding my way around the amazing free VCV Rack since last September, finding ways to apply live visual effects and overlays to live captured synth improvisations.

This fairly minimal droney one started at 22:00 on 22/02/2022 and lasted 22min. Annoyingly Youtube seems to have cropped a second off to spoil my Twosday!

A circle in 12 parts: Gemini

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Gemini is Ceri Owen-Jones:

“When Jake asked me to take part in this project, the first thing I looked into were the origins and myths of Gemini. At my friend Sue’s suggestion, I went from Latin to Greek (Castor & Pollux) and back to Gemini’s Babylonian origins in the Great Horse Twins, and the parallel Vedic tradition of the Twins, the Ashvins, which means the ‘possessors of Horse’. According to Joseph Campbell, the mastery of the Horse brought a new energy and vitality to the dawn of the Iron Age and its symbolism replaced that of the Bull.

There are many horse songs in traditional Welsh music. I chose to play & record a Ceredigion melody, Y Dau Farch. Y Dau Farch is a conversation between two horses, one old, one young, about their past and future, which feels perfect for Gemini, a sign with an emphasis on duality and communication. Keeping Gemini communication in mind, the albums that leapt out at me in Jake’s vinyl library catalogue were the Welsh language learning albums. I wanted to explore communication in a second language, the difficulties of learning and expressing oneself, how comprehension in certain registers and subtle expression can be problematic.

With what I now know is classic Gemini superficiality, I mis-read Jake’s guide to album choices. Once figured out, I was glad to see that amongst his base-line choices was The Planets by Holst and from this I liked an arrangement of ‘Mercury’ (ruling planet of Gemini) by Tomita, a fuzzy soft Moog version. Jake also pointed out that one of his Gemini readings by Melvin J Gunton and Brian Skinner was made in Canada, a great choice for a Canadian in Wales / a Cymro who grew up in Canada. The constant idea in my life is duality.

My birthchart has seven planets in Air signs as well as my Midheaven (I’m Air heavy!). To represent Air, I chose the tracks Air and Listening Wind by Talking Heads, Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones, and The Dragon by Vangelis (the Dragon, especially in Chinese myth, being a creature of clouds and air and a potent symbol in Wales). I saw that Jake has two copies of this last record in his listing – found at Emlyn Antiques – one with a cover, and one without.

I added a Miles Davis album as we share a birthday. It was a choice between Dr. Jekyll and Decoy. Although the title Dr Jekyll seems appropriate to describe the duality of Gemini, I veered off with the Decoy as the feel of the music seemed good for the flightiness of the ruling planet Mercury. This album was given to Jake by our great friend Peter Stevenson.

In medieval music, each modal scale was associated with a planet. Mercury was hypo-phrygian and as one of Gemini’s characteristics is the enjoyment of improvisation and the ability to adapt easily, I thought I would improvise variations on this mode based on the Welsh melodies Y March Glas and Triban y Cathreiwr (for the Ox in me).

Thinking of form: moving from calm to frenetic is the two parts, yin and yang, of Gemini. This will be based on feel, and collaborating with Jake. It’ll just have to happen as it happens.

Dragons swirl amongst the clouds. The heartsease, Viola tricolor, with its zygomorphic flowers, are like the Twins. A Tibetan singing bowl to clear the space and air, along with gifts given to me and Elsa (musical Twins) from Jake, completes the Circle.

I paired this with Taliesin of the Shining Brow: Canu y Gwynt; a riddle of the Wind.”

Ceri’s record selection: Talking Heads – Air; Talking Heads – Listening Wind; Aled Jones – Walking in the Air; Disciau Dysgu Difyr – Adar; Miles Davis – Decoy; BBC Radio – Welsh for Beginners; Cwrs Cymraeg llafar;