Monday, July 04, 2016

New gig...

Very busy time here...I've got the job of writing music for a show which is going to be presented by one of my favourite actor/comedians exploring one of my favourite places and will be working with one of my favourite directors and one of my favourite editors. To top it all, I got the job with my favourite agent...Thanks AJA!!! :-) I'll post full details when I'm able to and the press releases go out.

So, I've been getting a bit ahead with Artful releases which has meant a lot of mastering and editing, as well as writing about 30 tracks for other publishers and a meditation album...Phew.

I've also started a 'classical' piece called Village Fête and Thunderclouds, which is my take on current times and Brexit etc... It's for large orchestra and female chorus and I might make it part of a three movement piece.

I've put some sheet music up at as some people have asked to see the scores of Field Sketches and The Green Man and there is some free stuff there too. The Piano arrangement of Elegies (and Energies) is also there...This was the last score which I finessed in Sibelius and I'm now totally writing notation with Staffpad.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I've recently become a power Dropbox user and a big fan since my return from the USA.

Since then (and thanks to the meetings I had over there) I've been writing music for several different publishers and I've found that Dropbox is a fantastic tool to distribute the music to them. So, I now have Dropbox folders for each of my publishers and clients, so I can simply just drop a finished piece into the right folder and it'll find its way to London, LA or Copenhagen etc..., almost like having a network of wormholes from one place to the other. :-)

I also use it to sync files between The Artful Corporation computers and, on a more micro level, to sync files between my Mac and my laptop PC, which I use for music metadata.

Dropbox also comes in handy for sending music to directors/editors...The other day I was contacted by an editor who wanted to use one of my pieces on a TV show. I opened up and shared a folder with him, dropped the piece of music in the folder and it was on his timeline within seconds. Better still, the folder is still active, so I now have a solid method of transfer now set up for the next time he needs something.

A couple of other things I've found is that if you want to send a set of pieces to someone all in one go, you can upload them as they are finished one by one to the main directory of Dropbox and then move them en masse to the destination folder...They'll then show up together instantly at the remote end as they're already present on the Dropbox servers and don't need to be uploaded to be moved. It's also fun to export finished demos or masters directly into the destination Dropbox folder...You can't get hotter off the press than that!!!

One final use I've been trying out is as a collaboration tool. I have a folder shared with a fellow composer so we can work on the same files directly...Great stuff!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back in the UK

Just returned from the USA...Had lots of very promising meetings about future work and I'll be returning in mid-October. I started with a week in LA, followed by a train trip to San Diego to visit family and then ended up in Las Vegas for NAB to meet a lot of my international sub-publishers.

My timing was good, as I'd just missed a week of rain. The locals were very pleased to have had the rain, but having just left a wet and windy London, I was very pleased to enjoy the Sun!!! My second day of meetings was in mostly in Venice and I had a wonderful stroll up the boardwalk. I'll be going again in October and will be based mostly in Santa Monica which I'm really looking forward to. This time I was mostly in Beverly Hills (which is well positioned for meetings) and a couple of days Downtown, before heading off to San Diego via Union Station. That station is really quite something and I really enjoy sitting in those comfy leather sofas and watching the world go by.

So I could carry on working, I took my basic portable set up which is...

Macbook Air running Cubase and various other audio plug-ins/programs.
M-Audio Keystation Mini.

When space isn't at a premium, I can also take...

Lacie 500Gig SSD containing more sound libraries.

...and if space is even less at a premium...

Focusrite Scarlett Studio interface, and the Hohner Steinberger guitar and bass...And a mic and other instruments, if needed.

I've had a lot of music released recently...Firstly, my orchestral album Field Sketches is at...

The rerecorded and remastered On Vacation is here...

...and a couple of compilations containing only my music are On The Orient Express...

...and Sands Of Meditation...

I also have music on new releases from Gold Leaf and Artful and wrote the theme and incidental music for as TV programme called Take Two, which features interview with British screen legends...People I've admired for ages, so it was a thrill to do!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Running a 66 piece orchestral session with StaffPad…

I recently had a 66 piece orchestral session and decided to produce all scores and parts with StaffPad alone. This is stretching the purpose of the software which is intended really for inputting via handwriting recognition, but because I need to produce scores and parts quickly, I thought I’d try a quicker workflow to see how things went. I’d already slipped a couple of scores and sets of parts from StaffPad alongside the usual Sibelius finished ones into an earlier and smaller session and I had no complaints from the conductor or musicians, so I had great confidence that it’d work OK!!! The music project was one of my own for Compendium Recordings, so there were no deadline problems to encounter, but I could use any experience for future work where deadlines will be important.

The workflow was this…

Write score in StaffPad.
‘Print’ score and parts to .pdf.
Proof parts on Mac, make changes to Staffpad score on Surface.
Print A4 score for me.
‘Print’ A3 and A4 score and parts to .pdf.
Zip up and send to orchestra.

I printed the first score on paper for the proofing session, but I thought I’d save a tree and proof on two screens for future scores.

I’ve sent a couple of suggestions of things that would make things easier to StaffPad and look forward to those appearing soon, but generally speaking, the experience was incredibly easy and efficient.

Mixing is now well underway and there'll not be great amount of editing as the orchestra were fantastic. I've had a dry run at mastering some music and the results are great (though I say so myself!!!), even at this early stage...Here is a link...

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Green Men, Kingfishers and arranging with StaffPad

The Green Man orchestral suite is now available on iTunes by clicking on this link...

The album also includes a piano arrangement of Elegies (and Energies) from Book 2 of Multiple Field Sketches for small orchestra. When I decided to make this piano reduction, it occurred to me that I could do this in situ alongside the original orchestral arrangement in StaffPad. This would mean that I could refer to the score as I proceeded into the piece and even copy and paste parts into the piano arrangement. So, I copied the StaffPad orchestral version, opened it and subtitled it 'piano arrangement' so I had two new identical versions. There may be an easier way of doing this...Maybe the StaffPad people could enlighten me, but I wanted to preserve the orchestral version as it was and this was the best way I could figure out to do that.

I then added a piano part to the new version and found that it was a delight to work on this while referring to the original version alongside it. Copying and pasting worked a treat...In 'Elegies' there are some pretty complex cross rhythmic hemiolas which would have been a bit of a task to replicate and I found the new lasso to select function very useful. Pasting selections into different voices is, necessarily, a bit fiddly as you have to keep selecting the right voices to copy and then paste into, but StaffPad intelligently sorted the beam directions (even in interweaving parts) and made the job easy.

Before very long, I had a complete piano arrangement and I then deleted all the other instruments...Fantastic!!! If you do this from a fully notated (with directions and dynamics), these can be copied and pasted in with the actual music.

I'm currently working on some arrangements for large orchestra and am working in a similar way, except I added the new instruments to the orchestral score resulting in a sort of semi-filled template.

Of course, like all music where there is a possibility of copying and pasting, you have to guard against being lazy and think about whether the voicing and timbres will work when one part is transferred to another instrument, but that's what being a composer is all about, isn't it???

We had a huge thrill recently when we spotted a kingfisher diving for beetles in the pond. It's a couple of years since we removed the Koi carp that we inherited (they were not doing well as the water was not properly filtered for them, so we found them a lovely new home) and removed the leaky liner to make it into a natural wildlife pond. It took a couple of weeks, during which we smelled permanently of silt, but we've ben really pleased to see all sorts of wildlife make their home in there...Great diving beetles, water boatmen, greater crested newts, dragonfly larva are all in there and there are often ducks and moorhen on it. The kingfisher was a real surprise...We're not sure where it comes from, but there are larger areas of running water nearby where it must make its home.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Keeping in touch with nature...

Writing and recording music can be a very esoteric enterprise and it's easy to lose touch with the natural world. Living in a thatched cottage in a tiny hamlet is a lovely way to keep 'grounded'. For example: This is the time of year when it's good to have a tidy up in the garden and have a bonfire to get rid of any branches and twigs that have fallen and been collected with any other garden rubbish. It's also the time I tend to get rid of any royalty sheets/accountancy stuff that we're no longer required to keep, so I literally 'cook the books' on the bonfire. This is where nature stuff like the wind direction comes in. We normally have a southerly wind here, which would blow any smoke back towards us and our neighbours, So, when the wind turns round to the north (usually bringing colder weather) conditions are ideal for a good burn up.

This happened yesterday and I soon had a good blaze going with the smoke giving our neighbour across the field a wide berth and continuing into the open countryside beyond. I took the opportunity to get some of the cut logs that have been seasoning down the end of the garden beyond the summer house and split them ready for the cold snap that the wind was bringing. 

Log splitting with a heavy maul is a very satisfying thing, especially when all goes well and the log splits in half first time with a lovely crack...A bit like hitting a six in cricket, or I suppose a home run in baseball. There is a sort of 'Murphy's Law' with logs which states that the smaller and flimsier a log looks, the harder it is to split. The only thing more welcome than a clean 'six' is the first proper cracking noise a stubborn log makes after a sustained battering!!!

All this is a nice contrast to wiring up the legacy rack and the second monitor in the studio. The rear speakers are in their permanent home on their new brackets made by a local metalwork/blacksmithing friend. On the musical side, Artful released a new disk last week which is now available worldwide and I'm at the final stages of mastering my first classical release for Compendium Recordings.

Snow followed the northerly wind overnight...It didn't settle for long despite cold temperatures and ice on the pond. This is also the time of year that our thoughts turn to warmer climes and we begin to plan the annual trip to LA and Vegas. I'll be in LA from 11th for five days before heading off to Vegas via San Diego. I'll probably be back in LA in October.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Meet Edgar...

I'm all for things which can make more time for composing and Edgar has proved to be very useful in that regard.

It's a way of posting to social media from a library of posts which you can add to when you have time, and then schedule those posts to a timetable, rather than have to think them up and post them on the fly.

It's incredibly easy to use...The way of adding to the library of posts has been particularly well thought out and makes the process very straightforward. This makes it easier to come up with posts that will really interest your followers. Posts can be grouped into 'promotional' and 'funny/inspirational' and then scheduled by type and social media accounts via a grid. Accounts can be with Facebook (including pages), Twitter and LinkedIn.

All in all, great stuff!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

That Which Rolls and a notable placement...

Delighted that my track, Easter Bells has been placed in the feature film, The Forest, starring Natalie Dormer. This suspense-filled supernatural thriller was directed by Jason Zada and will be on release in the USA from 8th January 2016...Many thanks to my fantastic US sub-publisher, 5 Alarm for all their hard work!!!


Along with a couple of TV commissions, I'm working on the latest orchestral sessions which took place a few weeks ago. This will complete the suite, The Green Man which will be available on Compendium Recordings soon.

Here's another transcription from the mini-Molseskine notebook. It's called That Which Rolls for harp, string quartet, flute and Bb clarinet and is a tribute to Alfred Jarry and his bicycle which he called, "That Which Rolls." I wrote it when I was out and about discovering the footpaths and bridleways around Much Hadham shortly after we moved from Hertford.

HERE is a link to the score and a StaffPad realisation of the music (unmastered) follows...

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Shipping Forecast On Lundy

My recent post about the English Experimentalists reminded me about a piece I had secreted away in a mini Moleskine notebook. I use the notebook for general notes, but it also has a couple of complete pieces in it. One of which was a piece I wrote in 2011 on the island of Lundy which is slap in the middle of the Bristol Channel between Devon and Wales. The picture above is of the piece being written in situ. HERE are a set of photos of the piece in the notebook. As you can see, the notation is quite 'experimental' in that the string orchestra and oboe parts are notated separately which enables the piece to be notated in relatively few pages. I wanted to make an aural snapshot of the island and the beautiful but bracing clear air and skies that we were lucky to have in our time there.

This was back in 2011 before I'd become a devotee of the Herman Miller Aeron chair and I'd given myself a bad back by sitting for hours in front of the computer and mixing desk on a cheap office chair. We visited Lundy one Spring with a bunch of friends and I found I couldn't keep up with them yomping about the island, so I would find a nice vantage point over the sea, make musical notes and listen to the radio. I'm a Shipping Forecast fan and I was listening to it on BBC Radio 4 one day and realised that I was actually IN one of the places that was being mentioned in it.

I transcribed the piece more normally, so the piece runs from beginning to end with all parts in line. Here is an .mp3 share directly from StaffPad with a link to the StaffPad .pdf score.

Link to score

Link to score

Link to score

Monday, November 09, 2015

English Experimental Music

I became aware of the music of the English Experimentalists through visits to the BMIC, back when it was situated in Stratford Place off Oxford Street in London. It was run by Roger Wright (later Controller of BBC Radio 3) and was a real centre of contemporary music. I met Percy Grainger's biographer, John Bird there and Hans Keller was often studying scores at one of the benches.

The BMIC was a repository of scores as well as a venue (my Three Knobblers for Piano was played there by Leslie Howard together with pieces by Leonard Salzedo and Alan Bush) and looking around the scores, I became aware of a type of music that appealed to me. At the time, serial/atonal music was the order of the day, so when I heard the music of John White, Gavin Bryars, Benedict Mason, Dave Smith, The Garden Furniture Ensemble and others, it instantly appealed to me.

Their music was largely tonal, although chance and systems were part of their make up...Some scores were text (or graphic) only. HERE is an excellent piece about John White's piano sonatas and HERE, is Gavin Bryars biog. There are plentiful articles on the English Experimentalists on the internet.

Through the BMIC, I was lucky enough to meet a few of them and John White, Gavin Bryars and Benedict Mason were very kind to me...I must have been a bit of a pain turning up and questioning them about their work, but they were very helpful. I went to quite a few concerts...One at Huddersfield Music Festival (which repeated at the ICA in London) was particularly memorable, with performances of some John White symphonies and Gavin Bryars' Ponukelian Melody.

Later, at university, us students were asked to give a lecture on any (musical) subject. My lecture was called, 'Atonality is a red herring,' and concerned my belief that music wouldn't progress by merely getting more tonally complex to the point where there was no central tonality, but it would progress by the changing of attitudes to how and why it was composed. I cited my main influences which were Percy Grainger, Erik Satie and the English Experimentalists.

I still think the same way and feel that in my 'serious' music, I'm getting close to those thoughts I set out all that time ago. Pieces like Elegies (and Energies), Scatterbird and Power Harrow in the Multiple Field sketches are coming together very nicely and I'm looking forward to recording them soon.

In other news, I've been very busy writing music for LEXI which is a graphics system which explains the category system for the Rio Paralympics and other IPC games. This will be shown worldwide and is a very exciting project.

Also, I've been writing a string quartet arrangement for a pop recording. I wrote the arrangement in Staffpad and then tempo mapped the original demo and imported the Staffpad arrangement as a MIDI file...Worked very well...I'm just finalising the arrangement before printing the parts for the session.

Just starting a mastering session for the next Artful project...

Monday, October 05, 2015


Please note that this is an older post that didn't get published!!!

Lovely weather here in Hertfordshire, so I've been able to work outside. Here's a nice spot on the new patio which catches the Sun in the mornings before it hides behind the big field maple next door. I had a lovely sunny editing session here before transferring back to the main spot at the back of the cottage and then remained there all afternoon.

Editing isn't my favourite part of the job, but it was very pleasant under the parasol with the sound of conbine harvesters moving to and fro in the background. A wood pigeon kept swooping low over my head as it collected sticks from around the pond for the nest it's building in the big oak in the front garden.

Earlier, I'd loaded up Cubase Pro 8 onto the Surface thinking that it might be convenient to edit on. I thought that the pen might be a more intuitive way of moving the music to the correct length and drawing in the fades. Sadly, it wasn't to be as Cubase defaults to a screen resolution which made editing fiddly and also the audio insisted on coming out through the speakers rather than the headphones I'd plugged in. I'm sure that this is easily resolved after a bit of tinkering, but I'm up against a deadline and haven't got time to mess around. It'd be great to use the Surface for editing...Apart from the possible advantage of using the pen, it'd be much easier to use on, say, a plane. I've done a bit of editing on long haul flights, but on a laptop with the constant worry that the passenger in front might recline their seat, probably shattering the laptop screen in the process!!!

I posted about moving Multiple Field Sketches to Staffpad...I'll be doing these scores as final versions, i.e. No polishing with Sibelius. While it's really useful to go into Sibelius via .musicxml files for extra neatness, it does add a considerable amount of time to completing a score. The whole idea of the MFSs was to put down ideas quickly, so that's what I'll be doing. The scores and parts will be perfectly readable. I'm planning some more orchestral sessions soon, so maybe the recently finished Power Harrow will find itself as part of those.

I've recently finished a rerecord/remaster of On Vacation, an album I originally recorded *cough* years ago, This will be available on iTunes etc... very soon and also via .

I'm also starting a 'classical' record label. When we recorded Leslie Howard's two albums for Artful, Leslie also recorded some music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Grieg. It was always my intention to put these out digitally via a new label, Compendium Records. The first Leslie Howard album will be followed up by some original compositions by Leslie and a further album containing some orchestral music by myself. More news on this soon.

Runner beans are now on stream (my favourite veg) and the sweetcorn is swelling nicely and should crop soon. The sound of combines have been toing and froing day and night despite a few interruptions due to rain.

I had a holiday!!!

We've not had a proper holiday for ages...We've always taken short breaks when we've been travelling for business, but decided it was about time to have a proper do-nothing holiday.

So we booked a week in Sardinia, and very nice it was too...As you can see from the pic above, the scenery was stunning and the hotel and food was very nice indeed. It wasn't quite a do-nothing holiday, as I took the Surface pro 3/Staffpad along and did a bit of writing...But that's how I relax, so it was allowed!!!

While we were there, I read two books...Gone Girl (having seen the film last year for BAFTA) and The Martian. The book made it plain that there was an upcoming film coming soon and within a week of returning home, I got tickets to the London premiere. There was the usual embarrasment of walking up the portion of the red carpet that everyone has to with the reporters thinking, "Paul Hollywood has let himself go," but we got in to find that it was in 3D. I liked the film, but wasn't too sure about the 3D. Anyway, a nice evening out with a very good dry Martini in the Hampshire Hotel on Leicester Sq.

I've just launched a new classical imprint...Compendium Recordings and our first release is Leslie Howard plays Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Grieg and it is available HERE . The next releases will be Études in Black and White op.47 played and composed by Leslie Howard and then The Green Man and excerpts from Multiple Field Sketches, by me.

Also in progress are the latest album for Artful and a very interesting international TV project which I'll tell more about at a later date. I'm also planning two more orchestral sessions, one of which will definitely be this side of 2016...I'm busy with the score and part making right now.

As far as Tumbledown goes, it's definitely the last days of Summer with Autumn knocking on the door pretty hard. The leaves have begin to fall and there is a distinct chill in the air. I'll soon be adding to the Autumnal atmosphere by having a bonfire of the pile of tree and shrub trimmings while chopping up firewood for the winter (chainsaw maintenance needed!!!). We'll be self sufficient in firewood for another year as there is still a plentiful supply right down the end of the garden.

The vegetable patch is changing seasons...The runner beans are nearly finished as are the courgettes, chilli, sweetcorn and tomatoes. The leeks are fattening up, but we have an absence of parsnips as they didn't germinate, or were eaten by mice...Not sure which. I've rather taken to peppermint tea, so we're drying leaves to have over winter and the damson gin (first crop of damsons from our new tree) has been made and left to brew.