Creation is a difficult affair. It is the ultimate climax of influence. You are posed with the burden to define oneself in a state most agreeable to the current situation with full knowledge that it cannot be a true representation of what adds up to make the individual. Yet, we must. Otherwise our art risks misperception and escaping to riot. How do I blend identity? This is the most difficult task of the creator and one that will plague me until the end. These works are an attempt to cover myself. I placed my humanity in every aspect of this creation, some of which are hidden, yet, in clear view. It should be noted that this is primarily a documentation of myself for myself and reception second. Every piece of sound, every word, every concept, the recording, the mixing and mastering, the artwork are all my own. Meet me, listen to my music as a friend. I can only wish I am accepted with kindness and understanding.
The essence of everything that is my music, in reference to the visual artist, and the birth of my creative identity. My professional music career so far has primarily been in collaboration with other artistic mediums. These sounds would not exist without them and it all leads back to my final year of university in 2014 where I started to take hold of my own sound of music. Ironically, this involved trying to forget everything I had ever learned in music and let improvisation and visual influences take hold of me. Initially, this was through identifying the key elements of paintings: colour, brush strokes, shapes, general theme and occurrence or absence of time. I tried to play the paintings, and Wassily Kandinsky’s Improvisation #31 was one of these. His method of abstraction and improvised composition remained with me after university as I was determined to refine my translation of his work. Now, at the time I had not even started playing piano, guitar was my primary instrument, which felt limiting towards this new ambition. It was not until I moved to Glasgow in 2015 that I bought myself a piano and began translating all my guitar pieces to piano, incorporating the same elements of improvisation and inspiration to attain a grasp of the instrument until I could comfortably perform. I began forming collaborations between different art forms, with improvisation, translating and conversing being the key to force my skills. I even incorporated this into my shows, requiring painters to create in response to my music, bringing the conversation full circle; from art, to music, and back again to art. The track followed multiple variations until its true form arose during a collaborative effort towards a depiction of time and labour, titled Escapement, which of course, showcased improvisation as a prime feature. I improvised my way into Kandinsky, like the painter did before me. It is an anthem towards improvisation, cross medium inspirations and the artist himself. He is my absolute basis of influence.
2. Arpeggios for Salvino
This is a workout. It simply is a test to myself of my knowledge and ability around the piano at speed. As mentioned above, I incorporated painters into my live performances. An Italian gentleman, Salvino Volpe, was one of the first to take the role and his quality of work was greatly inspiring. This is my best effort at an emulation. There is no real history to this track. It is an ode to Salvino and to be shared with all.
I have always been curious of others opinions of Haiku. I imagine it is seen as a ‘non-track’ or a kind of filler but I hope it is met by some with an account of curiosity. Out of all my pieces it is the most truly composed and improvisation played no part at all in its formation. And because of this I can never remember how to play it. It is also the first formation of poetry.
Through my journey of attempts to solve the question of how to accurately translate one medium to another I happened upon an old French composer called Francois Sudre. Now, I’ve always had an affiliation with composers who pushed compositional techniques to more prepared and mathematical means. It creates auditory effects that you wouldn’t experience otherwise, I enjoy serialism because of this, no matter how dissonant it becomes. Sudre had his own practice called SolReSol, that allowed the musician to literally translate words into notes relying simply on the solfege scale through placing the seven tones in different combinations.
For example: MiSiSol = Happy, FaDo = What, DoLaReSi = Wine.
Intrigued by the possibilities of this and the potential it provided, I decided to apply the technique to a haiku that I had written shortly before. One, which I felt was an accurate representation of myself and a grand generalisation of my work. Those who own the physical copies of my album know what this is but I pose it as a challenge to others to try and work it out for themselves, to try some reverse translating.
The system did not end there however. It is even ingrained within the album title itself. As well as Do/Re being the first two notes of the solfege scale, and a fitting depiction of a debut, it can also be translated to mean the word ‘I’. I felt it was the most perfect way to introduce myself to the world. It is my epitome.
4. Abstract #32
Abstract #32 was difficult. At the time of its conception I was struggling to find a path into society, post university. I was suffering from an internal crisis. I didn’t know what my life should involve and there was nobody to guide me. I fear this may be the case with the majority of new artistic graduates. There was too much noise around me and there was nowhere I could run to in my current climate. So, I escaped to the wonder of France. I could not speak the language; my phone was not set to work internationally and I had no instruments occupy the space. My thoughts could freely manifest. At the time, I had been involved with studying the words of the beat poets, fascinated (of course), by their improvisatory workings stylised under a ‘stream of consciousness’. It was then upon waking of my second day that the first line ‘The dissonant forms of monotone drones and a brilliant explosion of architectural abstraction with a symphonic poem of artistic proportions was the religious body stroke I required to compose myself a love song that praised everything that I hate’ came fully formed and seemingly had a clear direction forward. I had become inhabited by the Beats and decided it shall be a piece of purely improvised writing. However, that never came. No matter how hard I tried, nothing could compare to that line. It then took me over a year of trying to compose what I deemed suitable but still with the stream of consciousness construct. There are far too many references in this for me to explain but almost every word has a purpose. I am fully aware of the meaning behind every line, again, it is me and my documentation through a different mode.
For those of the keen eyes, you may have realised there is a concurrent theme throughout the materials, particularly the titles. They are all a note of gratitude to the other arts. Either in praise of their influence towards myself as an artist or in reference to past collaboration ideas with these other mediums that have been expanded upon. In the case of Arabesque, however, it never originated through such means. Rather, the arrogant ambition that it is a piece, which shall be priority in future endeavors with a dancer. I find this form of creation to be the master of human expression. It relies solely on the self. There is no external limiting conduit on which to rely, such as the paintbrush and canvas, instruments or electricity. If my music can find its way to becoming the soundtrack to a particular dancer as an extension of their identity, then that would be fantastic.
What may dominate slightly more on Arabesque than it did on Kandinsky is the usage of electronic effects. If you have never seen me live then you will probably be unaware that all the effects, including drums, are actually created through a Nintendo 3DS due to the usage of a Korg MS-20 digital replica that, for some strange reason, was available for download on the console. I stumbled upon it by chance and after a period of experimentation I decided it would complement my music nicely until I could afford the real equipment. Or that was the intention. One thing that I have always found enjoyable in composing and performing, is the push towards receiving reactions from the audience. When I am seen starting up a 3DS alongside a piano, the response is always entertaining, there is always a big deal, and for that reason alone I decided to keep it as part of my repertoire. It also provides as a fine metronome, not so much for myself, but for the rest of the band when they join me, as my improvisatory habits led me to change the layout and timings of the song repeatedly, so I was forced to endure a script. In slight retaliation to this, my introduction of the piano varies on its arrival to keep the audience and my violin player, Lesley, alert. I’ve never met anyone to get startled so easily, it is actually quite funny and happens every performance. I always try to make her lose her composure as much as possible. It is also the most difficult of my pieces to be performed live due to the amount of lengthy counting required so I probably shouldn’t really do that….