Saturday, December 19, 2015
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!!!
...EVERYONE COMES HERE LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT...
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
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
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.
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 www.chillvillemusic.com .
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.
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.
Friday, August 21, 2015
I was about eight years old when I wrote down my first piece of music...Biro on manuscript paper. By the time I was fourteen and had decided I wanted to be a professional composer, I had become used to pencil on paper and continued writing in that way until now.
My recordings have benefitted from technology since I started writing music for media...MIDI and digital recording have made it possible for me to write and record a huge amount of work over the years.
Now, technology has made it possible for me to write with an active pen onto a tablet to produce beautifully notated scores which, most importantly, can be made to produce parts in a couple of clicks.
So, at this point in this book of continuing experiments, Multiple Field Sketches, Book 2, I'm moving my notational efforts to Staffpad on Microsoft Pro 3.
I just have sixteen bars to fill out before I can upload images of the remaining pencil on paper manuscripts for MFS, but will be continuing on Staffpad until then.
I'll miss sharpening the pencils.
The music above is the first page of "Power Harrow" the first fully non-paper Multiple Field Sketch.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Vale Of White Horse - May 2015
It's been a busy few weeks and great fun...Here's what I've been up to...
- Orchestral session went well and I am now mixing the files.
- Went to see Bill Lawrence at the Union Chapel with my composer friend Peter Aagaard...Great stuff with two Snarky Pups in the line up.
- MIDEM in Cannes...Met up with lots of publisher friends and made some new...Fantastic weather and an amazing room at the Carlton.
- A very enjoyable visit to Copenhagen to see my friends at Apollo Music followed by a fantastic meal at the Tivoli Gardens and a go on the Dæmonen rollercoaster!!!
StaffPad continues to amaze...The new version has made flats much more easily recognised and the selection of signs and symbols has been made much more intuitive. I had an instrumental session (trumpet and oboe/Cor Anglais) last week, so I tried writing the parts/scores and printing them out directly from StaffPad with great success. I even imported a couple of the pieces into StaffPad from Cubase via a MIDI file, tidied it up and used it as the starting point for writing the parts out for the session. One of my instrumentalists was amazed at the power of it and could see how useful it would be to have, particularly for her teaching work.
The veg patch is producing nicely...We've had asparagus, potatoes, garlic, courgette, strawberries, shallots onions, spinach and chard. The weather has been alternately hot and wet, so growing conditions are very good
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
It's hard to believe that my visit to the US was about a month ago as it's been a very busy time since.NAB in Las Vegas was fantastic and I met lots of my publishers from around the world and made some great new contacts too. I then met up with friends and family and had a few meetings in Los Angeles before returning home. I made the trip with my brother, agent and sometime publisher, Aaron.
Since then, I've written another album for Artful which I'm please to say has been very well received by my publishers around the world. I've also been writing and prepping scores and parts for an orchestral session which is coming up soon. I've been using StaffPad to write the music and then prepping the score and parts in Sibelius. It took a while to work out how detailed I could be before transferring to Sibelius with MusicXML, but I now have a good workflow worked out. I now have the updated version of StaffPad, so I'll enjoy seeing how much more work I can do with it.
One problem I was having with StaffPad was in writing flats. The new version has improved recognition of flats written with two strokes (which is what I have always done), so hopefully this will be a great improvement for me. Sharps were also tricky, until I worked out that StaffPad liked them written flat on, rather than at a jaunty angle as I usually write them on paper. Anyway, I'll be writing more with StaffPad soon and will review the new version when I've given it a good try out.One of the pieces for the orchestral session was inspired by a visit to the Mayday celebrations in Highworth, Wiltshire which we visited a couple of weeks ago.
About one hundred and eighty years ago, my Great Great Great Grandad and Grandma, James and Hannah Judd left the town of Highworth in Wiltshire to try their luck in the City Of London. Unfortunately, they soon found out that the streets weren’t paved with gold, but they began the line of North London Judds, which I am part of.I've always wanted to see a Jack-in-the-Green Mayday parade...This is where someone inside a framework which is covered in leaves and greenery (looking rather like an Xmas tree, see pic above) parades around the town accompanied by characters like Sap-Engro and Copperface. It just happens that Highworth has this very celebration, so what with the family connection, it seemed a must to go.
It was a proper old-fashioned day out, with a Punch and Judy show, Morris dancing, Jack-in-the-Green followed by beating the bounds and a great live band in the square after.
So, 'Highworth Jack-in-the-Green 2015' is one of the pieces which will be recorded in a couple of weeks.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Had a fantastic time in the USA meeting old and new friends in the music publishing world. I've returned to find that the garden has really taken off...Here is some cherry blossom that has come out in the past few days.
StaffPad and Surface and Sibelius.My review of the new notation recognition software seemed to go down well...Thanks to everyone who shared and retweeted. I've also demonstrated it to several composer friends from the UK and USA. I noticed that Sibelius are promising an upgrade which will take more advantage of the Surface facilities, but I don't think this will include handwriting recognition. Stuart Pitts from the Surface team at Microsoft was kind enough to retweet and looking at his timeline reminded me that the Surface is a fully featured Windows 8 computer and will quite happily handle Sibelius too. So, one of my next projects will be to load it up and see how the workflow can be handled between the programs on the same machine.
Incidentally, I handed the Surface to my cousin who is an artist when I visited my family in Southern California last week. She thought that it was the nearest thing to real watercolour and paper that she had ever tried...This was FreshPaint which came pre-installed. The first thing on my wishlist for the Surface is that they produce one which is two or for times as big so you can set it up like drawing board...Would be great for composers, artists, architects etc... alike!!!
It's occurred to me that the Surface has accomplished something I have managed to do with my recording desk, which is to create a familiar hands on user interface which has the power of digital underneath. I'm still figuring out how to fit the Surface into the studio...It would be great if Avid (who produce Sibelius and the Artist Control series) could get the Sibelius transport (and possibly the mixer functions) to be controllable by the Artist Series hardware.
Ping.It's been pointed out to me by a fellow composer and publisher who has fitted a fully functioning studio into an RV, that the length of ping from dish to satellite makes it impossible for collaboration to take place using Cubase Connect Pro. So, time to rethink the internet collection here in Much Hadham.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I've always considered myself very lucky to be around at the time when music technology really took off. Without MIDI and computers, my output of recorded music would have been much smaller.
With instrumental sessions and my written 'serious' music however, it has been more of a struggle to get the music in a state to be played. I started my career writing music with a pencil onto paper. It's the way I mostly visualise all my music as I make it, so it's great to just grab a pencil and just write it down. The problem with this, of course, is that you have to write it all out again when you need parts.
I've had the scoring program Sibelius through several different versions...I'm now on 7.5 and it has vastly improved over the years. However, excellent though it is, I find it a real effort to write music with it. Give me a pencil and paper and I'll happily forget lunch, but having to drag notes onto a staff or play notes in manually and editing them is just not fun. NotateMe was great, but it was still not quite intuitive as the handwriting recognition took place in a different 'window' rather than in situ.
So, when I heard about David William Hearn's StaffPad, I was very interested indeed. It's an app which allows the composer to write music with a pen onto a tablet screen. The music looks like handwritten music when input by the pen, but when the end of the bar is reached, it snaps into proper engraved music notation. The price of the app itself is a very reasonable $69.99...I'm sure they could charge a lot more, but the bad news is that the only hardware that can cope with this is the Microsoft Surface (ideally the i5, 259GB Pro 3 version). It's the active pen which makes the difference.
A couple of years ago, I moved over to Apple products and have since become quite an annoying Mac enthusiast. The thought of having to buy a Microsoft machine for one app was a bit of a leap, but the lure of being able to write music so intuitively was simply too much. So I went and bought myself a Surface and here is how it went...
My first hour or so with the Surface was very frustrating. I had a terrible job trying to get my UK Microsoft account to work out that I was in the USA and I wanted to pay for StaffPad on the US Microsoft store with a UK card. In the end I decided to start a new account and try over again which eventually worked.
In my rush to install StaffPad, I realised that I wanted to change the default folder for storing StaffPad scores. Not being familiar with the Surface, I emailed StaffPad support and was amazed to get a response from Matthew Tesch, the lead developer himself by return, despite me being on Pacific time meaning that it was in the early hours in the UK...Top marks!!!
Now, onto StaffPad. Friends and acquaintances will know that I am a naturally reserved type of chap. When I first put pen to Surface and my first bar popped into perfectly engraved notation, I quite literally whooped with joy. I might even have punched the air.
There is a tiny bit of a lag in the pen movement (maybe there is a setting for this, I will explore later), so it takes a bit of practice to learn how StaffPad likes you to input for best recognition. As I'm getting used to it, it is becoming much easier to write in a way which the app understands. Recognition is improved if you zoom in for writing...The usual pinch gesture works nice and smoothly.
The various functions are really well thought out and intuitive...For example, to copy and paste, you double tap with your finger to select a bar and then tap on the end bar to select the bars to copy. You then click on the copy button which is on a toolbar which pops up when the first double click is performed. You then select where the pasted bars are to go to select and then click on the past button. Transposing is just as easy.
In the few days I've had StaffPad, I have created a nice stack of music, all in various stages, happy in the knowledge that I can go back to them and work on each one as I get an idea...Much better than working on a stack of papers or a notebook.
I've opened StaffPad scores in Sibelius and vice versa via MusicXML and this works very well...Especially (as suggested by StaffPad) you store your scores in your OneDrive folder so it syncs to your Sibelius computer (there is a Mac app too). I reckon that I'll be writing and printing for smaller instrumental sessions directly from StaffPad, but would want to polish the larger work in Sibelius and print from there. This is ideal for me as it was always the inputting the notes that I found arduous. StaffPad are promising various upgrades and improvements, so this may well change.
FYI, it will also play back the music for you...Something that I find troubling, as I have all along with Sibelius. I've said before that if you can't hear what you're writing in your head as you write it, you really shouldn't be bothering at all. However, I suppose that it's handy for checking that all those pesky notes and accidentals are in the right place and the export .mp3 function is useful for demoing ideas for clients before any expensive sessions.
The Surface is very comfortable to work with and the pop out stand presents it at a comfortable angle for writing landscape style. I prefer portrait myself, so I don't use the stand much but the screen bezel makes it easy to handle in portrait mode without pressing things you don't need. It can also sense when you're leaning your wrist on the screen which makes it just like writing on paper.
I have a few instrumental sessions coming up...One orchestral, so I'm busy writing these parts on Surface. The only part of the pencil/paper method I really miss is taking five minutes to sharpen up the pencil and make a cup of tea. I've got a feeling that I'll be missing more than just lunch from now on...I could do with losing a few pounds!!!
Monday, March 30, 2015
I recently went through a box of old tapes and found some albums I'd written *cough* years ago. Two were DAT masters and the other was a cassette copy whose DAT master has long since gone missing. After listening through, I thought I'd try cleaning the music and remastering with Izotope RX4 and Ozone 6.
Most tracks were fine as they were as they were basically 'classical' orchestration, but there were a few dated sounds which I was able to either edit out or re-record the track. The DAT masters were nice and clean, as you'd expect, but even the cassette master cleaned up nicely with fingerprint processing on the RX4.
I'll go into one track in particular in detail. Georgia's Lake At Midnight consists of a synthesiser ostinato with a slight build which features flute and fretless bass solos over. Unfortunately, the solos didn't sound great to 2015 ears, so I decided to try to extract the ostinato (which has a very characteristic sound and movement) and rebuild the track from scratch.
This was from the cassette master, so the first job was to remove the tape sound with the fingerprint method. There was plenty of tape noise to sample at the top of the cassette and RX4 cleaned the music nicely, while leaving the music intact. The next problem was that the track begins with sea surf and birdsong which continues and slowly fades as the ostinato plays at the beginning of the track. The solos begin just after the surf is faded out, so there is no clear instance of the ostinato.
So, I fingerprinted the surf sound and ran that...This made a vast improvement, but there were a few crests of surf, which showed on RX4 as amorphous blobs. Spectral repair rendered these barely noticeable. I used the same method to remove the birdsong, which show up as spidery wisps on RX4.
This left one last sound which took me a while to identify...I eventually realised that it was the sound of massed frogs!!! These were in a very narrow frequency band, so I was able to notch those out without damaging the music.
With a bit of EQ and reverb, the ostinato sounds better than new and is now assembled into a full track and ready for the solos. I'd like to keep the flute, but I think I will replace the fretless with Cor Anglais. So this particular track is waiting for an upcoming session before completion.
I have finished the two other albums and they are available on iTunes...Click on the links below...
The Age Of Steam
The Book Of Knowledge
Monday, March 09, 2015
The garden is coming to life...More bulbs are up and the first early potatoes are going in soon.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
We've had snow and ice over the past few weeks, but are looking forward to a milder time...For a while at least. Spring is beginning to spring and snowdrops are beginning to appear throughout the garden.
Work on the new room is well in progress, the multicore and other wiring is in the walls, electricity, internet and heating are all installed as well as some pretty solid security measures. Just a few finishing things to do and I can then make the switch from the old room to the new...Exciting!!!
Thanks so much to Alan of ASAP Europe, Stefan at Masteringworks and Rod at Sterling Modular for supplying the Artist Series desk and also for sending over an extra pack of rack screws FOC when the originals went missing (I must have put them somewhere safe!!!).
I've been concentrating on writing for Artful recently and have released a record number of albums this year as well as remastering some old commercial tracks with iZotope's Ozone5 and 6 for Chillville and some tracks for Gold Leaf. I'm really looking forward to getting into the new room, hooking my legacy gear into the system and get writing in there
Talking of upgrades, I've recently upgraded to Sibelius 7.5.1, Cubase 8 and have moved on to Yosemite on the MacBook Air. The difference between Ozone 5 and 6 was huge. I transferred over all of the presets from 5 to 6 as handy familiar starting points, but as the difference between the two versions is so great, they're sometimes more of an approximation to the intended preset!!! 6 has a standalone mode which is very handy as you can have a whole album loaded and flick between each track and tweak them individually.
I've also been very happy with Ian Shepherd's Perception which is a plug in that equalises the levels of pre and post mastered tracks, so you can get a true idea of the differences your making in the mastering rather than being thrown by levels. Ozone 6 has a similar feature built in, but I can see myself opting for 5 sometimes, so Perception is still a useful thing to have.
Anyway, a quick round up of 2014 which was a fantastic year...Here are a few highlights...Went to my very first Edinburgh festival, saw Stewart Lee, Russell Grant, Rob Newman and Barry Cryer...Saw the John Byrne exhibition in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery...Edinburgh Botanical Gardens...Had a dance with Russell Grant...Lovely time in the USA in Las Vegas and visiting friends and family in San Diego...First glimpse of Sun in Cannes...Hotel Carlton Cannes...Return to Great Tew...Short tour of Ireland, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Bray, Dublin...Taste 2014, Dublin......Malvern Spring Show...Best Man at pal's wedding...Lovely!!! Many beer festivals...Much music and progress with house and studio.
Looking forward to the rest of 2015...Plans include (apart from making much more music!!!) NAB, Las Vegas (with a stop in LA to see friends, family and have a few meetings) in April and MIDEM, Cannes in June. If you're going to either of these, then please get in touch to arrange a meeting.