Watched Quatermass and the Pit (the Hammer 1967 film version), still frightening 40+ years on. I have nearly completed a new album titled "The Beginning of Winter: October Sketches" a canonical work of organ and strings, moving me yet closer to a modern Classical compositional style. A friend points to Arvo Part as a comparison - a composer I have not (conciously) listened to, though will have heard as he is used widely as incidental music. The tracks are all mixed down. I just have to compile and burn the CD now. I hope to promote it as a classical work. There are other composers who do not use traditional notation and scoring so I am not alone in my composition methodology. Fortunately I completed the work last week - on Friday I fell down stairs at home hurting both arms badly. Typing this has been a painful struggle.
28 August 2008: I have added a new section to the website, Essays, where I will place my more structured, less informal thoughts, reserving this blog for news and off the cuff comment.
03 August 2008: I opened up a Facebook account and have been populating it with my favourite films, books etc. I left a message for actress Tina Holmes - she crops up in a lot of my favourite shows and films: X Files, Six Feet Under, Pretty Persuasion and her Wikipaedia biography shows her background as solidly academic. I continue to meet interesting folk on Atmoworks, notably Peter James who uses a very limited array of instruments, distorting the sound to produce some magnificent cascades. On Virb I was befriended by the sublime Golden Sores and left them a comment: "Achingly wonderful drones. Touching the same place as early period Popol Vuh, but bringing a sensibility of their own to bear - this music moves at my pace and gets my recommendation."
24 July 2008: My friend Mark Tamea has invited me to another social networking website, Atmoworks and I have put up a Landschaft at Atmoworks page, mirroring to some extent this and my Virb site, but with an Atmoworks slant. I intend to add the whole of my Nostalgia album in MP3 format to try and stimulate interest.
18 February 2008: I have completed viewing the epic two series of Carnivale - HBO's masterpiece production, a tale of good vs evil in dustbowl America. The pace and plot development established in the first series was maintained right to the end of the second. Immaculate production values, wonderful photography and the opening montage titles sequence is perhaps the best I have seen (it got an Emmy) - surpassing Lemony Snicket. And finally, a very special soundtrack by Jeff Beale - in the Thomas Newman style, with the fluent and infectious title music by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (that is THE Wendy and Lisa of Prince offshoot fame). Wikpipedia's entry on Carnivale is comprehensive and well worth a read AFTER watching the series. Sadly the sequence was cancelled after two series of the planned six.
14 February 2008: The application of the Golden Section in Adobe Photoshop is quite easy to set up, and provides an invaluable template for composing image composition. The Golden Section is a fundamental ratio of composition defined by the proportions 1.61803 to 1. It was defined in classical times and informed the proportions of amongst other things the Parthenon in Athens and Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. It is still very much used and can be found in lots of modern designs. I have made a Golden Section mask in Photoshop so I can slide the main image layer containing artwork, photograph etc around to fit the intersections and boxes within boxes. To maximise the photograph frame area I used the frame width as the starting point and then worked out the height and put a guide in. It was quite easy then to put in diagonals made at 1600% zoom for precision that mark the intersection points of the other boxes that diminish in size following the Golden Section Spiral. I only did 3 iterations. There is a wonderful book, Geometry of Design by Kimberly Elam; Princeton Architectural Press, ISBN 1-56898-249-6 that sets it all out and explains everything very concisely and elegantly. The book then goes on to deconstruct design classics in geometry terms using tracing paper overlays with grids marked out showing the symetry. The book is geek heaven and I thoroughly recommend it.
7 January 2008: The Chronicals of Lake Narocz by Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz, 1945, published in full with extensive (and growing) commentary and additional background material. I have spent several years, on and off, transcribing the work, picking up new snippets of information along the way, including an email from Lisiewicz's daughter telling the remarkable journey across war-torn Europe that the author's wife endured, carrying the manuscript with her. See the book in full in my History page.
27 December 2007: A busy busy month. Putting the finishing touches on a long project in support of my Indistinct Borders album - the inspiration for the music in fact - transcription of a long out of print Polish book "Chronicals of Lake Narocz" by Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz written immediately preceeding the outbreak of WWII, set in what was then the Polish/Lithuanian borderlands. Making valuable contacts with new Virb friends, notably Nagual Art in Germany - see Reviews and continuing correspondence with Mark Tamea who is getting a lot of interest now in his excellent "Buried Traktora" album on Jamendo.com - much deserved! Reading Ian Mitchell's valuable record of the famous Lord Aldinghton vs Tolstoy libel trial concerning alleged doings post Yalta at the end of WWII. Listening to Nagual Art's sublime "A Lucid Winter Wonderland" album (see Reviews). And the Justice "cross" album - that I would describe as a soundclash between Parliament and Air - with the P-Funkers comming out on top. It's all a bit quiet on Virb over the holiday as folk do the sensible thing and keep the computer switched off - unlike Deviant Art where my wife "lives" and which was rocking on Christmas Day. I have re-worked my album cover to "tone poem for hidden places viewed from a train" in Super Jewel case format, with perhaps my best artwork to date (which suggests a rework of my other album art...). The package costs me a lot (50p for the case, 1.70 for the paper, 15p for the CDR = about £2-50 for material costs), so it would now be nice to sell them. My wife is a search engine optimisation whizz, so I will be enlisting her efforts in the new year. But I AM already Google ranking number one on "Battle of Lake Narocz" - part of my Lake Narocz work - wait until I upload the entire book plus supporting commentary! Watching Le Carre's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" and "Smiley's People" both c350 mins long, the stories unfold at glacial pace - just the way I like it - both are aging nicely - but "Tinker Tailor" is the better story and also the better dramatisation of the two. A bit of movie trivia - the bridge at the end of "Smiley" is in my home town, Nottingham (England) and was "dressed" - convincingly to look like Berlin one cold winter's evening!
2 December 2007: I was watching a TV prog that featured Namibian native music. The beat, hand-clapped was identical to Spanish Compás - that distinctive off kilter flamenco beat that is hand clapped and foot stamped, or is this a coincidence? The Sahara separates the southern part of Africa from the north and Europe and, apart from the sea is a pretty effective cultural barrier. If it found it's way to Spain, or vice versa it had to be by sea. How did that happen - did the Namibians pick it up from Spain who were extensive travellers. Maybe not as Namibia was under Germany control as a colony.
25 November 2007: Neuro-economics and the applications to Drone: An article in today's financial pages of the Sunday Telegraph pronounced on this new field of psychology: that financial market events trigger the same neural responses as in the wild; that fight and flight kick in at the onset of bad news. This part of the piece interested me: "The human brain is a pattern recognition machine amd neuro-economists have shown that it takes only two iterations of a stimulous for your brain to form an automatic and uncontrolable anticipation of another repitition." The same principle could be applied to music. Music is a pattern obeying mathematical rules. The brain's anticipation mechanism works within 12 milliseconds, or one-25th of the time it takes for the blink of an eye - thus your brain responds before the next note or beat and anticipates it on the basis of pattern recognition. And rewards you with pleasure when you get the anticipation right. That could explain the instant gratification of a simple pop song and the need for multiple listens to more complex musics like jazz before the anticipation-reward mechanism starts to bear fruit. I would like to apply that principle to drone: The cultural rules of music, that there will be beats and change fools the brain into expecting a pattern. By the time there is no pattern, it is already too late - the brain has already anticipated one, and the time taken for the drone to change sufficiently to match the expectation with the actual is, if it exists at all, much longer than with the formal music model of simple and quickly evolving structures of amplitude, tempo, timbre and melody. The brain builds upon this and self-fuels itself with more and more anticipation, building complex evokations that may be different upon each listen of the same piece of drone. External factors such as location, mood, time of day and so forth could seed the new evokations. Thus, the near monotone could be said to be the most complex, in response terms of all music.
In a reductive, stripped bare way, I am trying to arrest the process of degeneration of memory. With my tone sculptures and selective investigation and exposition of the small histories that have been passed over. Memories as ripples; echoing in concentric circles of diminishing energy until they are forgotten. A peaceful reflection for today this day of remembrance. My grandfather, a casualty of the Great War, in mind and body, John Walker, here is your name etched in electrons and light for all to read and wonder who you were.
11 November 2007: Tarkovsky's "Mirror", a wide weave of sepia archive footage and remembered history. Without discernable plot, pinpoints of light and scene capture precisely those snapshots moments from childhood that distill the experiences of years to vigette visual poems. You can almost smell the crisp bed-linen, feel the wind on your face, the bite of the frost. This is Tarkovsky's best and achieves the goal he failed to find in "Nostalgia" and other ponderous works. The movie is in the context of film theory said to be "dream art". The term oneiric ("pertaining to dream") is applied - a filmic parallel to the "stream of consciousness" technique in literature expounded by Strindberg where a narratve did not distinguish between fantasy and reality. The territory beween fantasy and memory is a blur, and that blurring and reinvention of history is the area where nostalgia moves, enclosing us in it's motherly comfort, reassuring us with pictures of a past filtered by the need to know that a once better place existed. Summed up in the words of Polish poet Boleslaw Lesmian: "I recall that now recalling it all can't be done: The grass beyond grass world vast I'm calling someone".
Sunday 21 October 2007: I have completed Myles Hildyard's Letters Home 1939-45 This remarkable record of one man's war through the Mediterranean, North Africa and the D Day landings is one of the great narrative histories of World War II. Reading Hidyard's memoir has given me the impetus to start the history tapestry that underpins my creative muse.
Tuesday 16 October 2007: My least favoirite journey by train, the central England route to Reading via Birmingham, most of the way on the execrable Virgin Trains. As usual late (50 mins on a two hour journey) and the seat reservations messed up resulting in me being evicted by a rude oaf who I now suspect had got on the wrong train. The joy though was five or six hours of reading and a trip to the well stocked Reading Oxfam bookshop. James Sutton and Alan Bartram's "An Atas of Typeforms" bought for a very reasonable £9-99. Have nearly completed Myles Hildyard's touching "Letters Home...", a book I have been drawn into - an eptiaph/ review of the work and author will follow when book completed. At Reading walked back to the station from the office through the marvelous Georgian suburbs and called into the small City art gallery where there was showing an exhibition of Robert Gibbings' work. Book engravings and typography. Gibbings, a comtemporary and associate of Eric Gill and other c20th art luminaries had his own press and produced marvelous crisp woodcuts and craft edition books that I now covet.
Monday 15 October 2007: My London Commute day. A walk down Charring Cross Road and a dip into my regular port of call, Henry Pordes Books. Two books of film poster art "The Queer Movie Poster Book" and "Polish Poster Art and the Western" bought to add to my growing collection of typography and graphic art references. After my meeting, a walk back across town to St Pancras railway station via the back streets of Lincolns Inn and Bloomsbury. The London Plains still with their leaves in this marvelous Indian Summer - a few massive ones inhabit the green space of Lincoln's Inn. Calledin to Falkiner Fine Paers to collect some bookbinding materials for the next landschaft cover. Announcements in French for the first time at the station as it prepares for opening as the international terminal.
1 October 2007: Reading William Wordsworth's "The Ruined Cottage". This quote: "...When I stooped to drink a spider's web hung on the water's edge, and on the wet and slimey foot-stone lay the useless fragments of a wooden bowl. It moved my very heart." Almost Haiku like in it's form, and gentle simplicity. But as English as Vaughan Williams and the pastoral idyll that is the England of nostalgia.
21 September 2007: A review of Mark Tamea's Energy Does Matter on my reviews page.
21 September 2007: Readers of this blog will know Landschaft's fascination/obsession with nostaligia; our idealised interpretation of the past. Today I took a trip over to the US Holocaust Memorial (USHMM) website. I found an image of Narocz, the inspiration for one of my pieces on my "Karelia" album; an image of some children plucking chickens outside a "tourist hut" as Lisiewicz (see later) describes them on Lake Narocz in 1931, at Narocz image 42658 About the same time as the book Chronicals of Lake Narocz by Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz. Nostalgia made all the more poignant given what followed this innocent holiday snapshot. There was a small Jewish community in the Narocz environs, in a the villages Miadziol and Hatowicze. The USHMM returned no links for this community. I could find no meaningful references on www.jewishgen.org either. Chronicals of Lake Narocz is out of print, the www turns up no information; a small community, undoubtedly touched by the tragedy of the holocaust. I will continue my search, but at the very least the fate of this small community, a mirror for thousands of similar un-documented un-remarkable communities has left a footprint for history to follow. My first album Indistinct Borders is a testament/requiem for the shifting borders of the Baltic states and the nostalgia that is the only connection with the past that it's peoples in exile own.
20 September 2007: At last the disc art for Nostalgia is complete. I'm getting the CD commercially duplicated and printed and will send it to be produced tomorrow. The design is a very low key and minimal and was a real struggle to produce. I've been dedicating a lot of time to building my VIRB friends network and am starting to get interest in Landschaft music after years in the wilderness.
07 September 2007: A new Landschaft website at the excellent VIRB: Landschaft at VIRB. VIRB is a lot more contexted towards music - and a lot of serious composers have made it their home. The styling is very i-Pod - meaning you don't have to spend an age pimping the site to make it usable. I aim to mirror my blog on this and VIRB. Watching: Carnival series 1: the opening titles, a montage of tarot cards and archive footeage are spectacular - only bettered in my opinion by the Lemony Snickett credits sequence (by coincidence, Carnivale's music by Jeff Beale is very similar to Thomas Newman's Lemony music). Carnivale has a 9.1 rating on IMDB.
24 August 2007: Green Park is a part of London I am drawn to again and again. Today the wind was in the treetops. Avenues of stately London Plains tower over pathways that follow gently undulating contours. And joining and separating at crossways guarded by solitary lamposts.
14 August 2007: New album "Jute" released (see home page for details).
14 August 2007: The Daily Mail, an English newspaper has been giving away episodes of the classic 1974 TV series The World at War ... It's been a sobering experience contrasting the presentation of history 30 years ago with today's documentaries. Then, the footage comprising the series was a lot grimmer and more representative of the horrors of war than the sanitised presentations we get today. Remembrance of conflict is a strange mix - of the best of years, of trauma and loss and the obsolete phenomenon of "duty" that led my parents and grandparent's generation to defend their freedom. I should document my own family history. The anecdotal, not the dry who-married-who stuff. For instance, of my maternal grandfather who got expelled from public school for climbing up a gas-ometer for a dare in the midst of WWI; a jolly jape in counterpoint to my paternal grandfather's gassing at Ypres that meant he had to sleep upright for the rest of his life lest he drowned on his own destroyed lungs. The music I create carries a small vestige of their past with it; that which rubbed off on me. So sayeth Dylan Thomas ... And death shall have no dominion. No more may gulls cry at their ears Or waves break loud on the seashores; Where blew a flower may a flower no more Lift its head to the blows of the rain ...
6 July 2007: My exploration of nostalgia drew me to The Hours. A hugely complex matrix of choices and regret - as one critic on IMDB pointed out: as we get older we accumulate memories. And taking that thesis further, we tend to build structures on and around them romanticising and idealising their import. Thus, the lives of three women are told through the common thread of Virginia Woolf, herself iconised and embellished in legend. A study of yearning for what might have been had different choices been made at the forks in the road that each of the characters were confronted by in life. At once harrowing and intensly uplifting, this is a film to cherish. David Hare wrote the screenplay - and evoked similar emotions explored in his little known Heading Home. Both movies inhabit the same space as Ondaatje's work that I respect so much. The choice of Philip Glass for the score was a masterstoke - his mechanical arpeggios created a tension that hightened the sense of a rush towards tragedy that was quite extraordinary.
4 July 2007: Completed Anil's Ghost - which contains one of the most emotionally charged moments I have encountered in 30 years of reading. I was heartened to learn Ondaatje has just completed another work, "Divisadero" an exploration of similar territory to Anil's Ghost and The English Patient. I read a critique of the authors style - that he claims to be Cubist. A metaphore I interpret as meaning shattered and exploded with vestiges of representation only just visible through and between the disrupted plates of reality - an assertion I support. Because like an accomplished Cubist work, there is balance and harmony amid the first impression of anarchy.
30 June 2007: Reading Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost: Drawn into a menacing world of political murders and disappearances, ethereal, poetic. The mark of a masterpiece; you must cherish every page mindful the book will soon end, reluctant to use up it's precious energy, drawing out the pages in long reflection for as long as you can. Anil's Ghost unfolds in short, intense chapters that compel you to pause and reflect; electrically charged, leaving an after image, terrifying and majestic, the characters caught in a bubble. Or a drop of rain running it's complex course down a leaf shaken by birds.
22 June 2007: Have finished Gitta Sereny's opus, "Albert Speer: His Battle with the Truth" started in early May. The reader is led into Speer's world by Sereny who over ten years has cross referenced the extant source records, interviewed the participants, triangulating in on each successive recollection to get as complete a personal history of Speer as will ever exist, barring categorical proof, as yet unfound of his active (rather than passive) involvement in the Holocaust. We are led through the rise and rise of Speer in Nazi Germany, his falling victim to vanity and sacrificing his soul on the anvil of ambition. And then the fall. The following Spandau years were ones of reflection and a seeking for redemption - or self pity, depending on how you look at it. 5000 books read, many on theology and morality, notably Karl Barth's "The Church Dogmatics", which with very dark irony is six million words long - six million words - atonement for one Jew murdered every word read? Sereny points out he was the only survivor of high ranking Nazis intellectually equipped to recount the workings of the inner circle - and clearly recognised everything he said had a veneer to it requiring enquiry and substantiation to unpick the facts from the manipulations. Sereny I think recognised Speer's need for hero worship, and played along with the game of falling under his spell as so many had fallen victim in the past. But in her final words in the Postscript, she sheds this mantle and goes in for the kill, delivering the coup de grace in the shape of her narrative on his extra marital affair and seedy death, a betrayal of the wife who stood by him through his incarceration. A powerful metaphor for his life, revealing Speer's posture of the redeemed sinner as pretension and hypocrisy. This biography is as good as they get. An honest and valuable dissection of a life - and a valuable rebuttal of Speer's attempts to manipulate history.
07 June 2007: Discovered; a rare first edition of H. Plunket Greene's countryside classic from 1924, "Where the Bright Waters Meet". As readers of this blog will recognise, I have a thing about pre-modern countryside writing, a taste acquired from the tales my grandmother used to tell of her childhood in a moated farmhouse in Yorkshire.
28 May 2007: I'm "resting" my music for a few days - mixing down "Nostalgia has saturated my objectivity. Concentrating on getting my new Reviews page populated and live (thanks Alec for pointing out I'd forgotten about this orphan link). So many projects, so little time... of which - I've taken down my mySpace site for a few days so I can give it a major re-fit. The Hellset Orchestra are playing this week, as a 3 piece, 31 May, as luck would have it in a bar venue called Hotel Deux that is just 5 minutes walk from my front door. I will be there.
26 May 2007: my chums in Formication have emailed me with news of their first commercial release, "Icons for a New Religion". I will buy it in a shop, when it's released on 11 June and review here. The guys' some time ago, sent me a copy of their "The Untitled Wasdale Recordings" - see my Reviews page for the complete Landschaft critic.
25 May 2007: Listening to Kate Bush's Aerial, amongst other things, a wonderful ode to the joy of motherhood. Bought a tear to this old fella's eye - perhaps because Kate has been with me all my life - I remember her doing Wuthering Hights on Magpie, her first TV appearance, and both she and I have had our children later in life.
21 May 2007: just returned from a business trip to Edinburgh. The air today was crystal clear; limpid, you could say. And before my meeting, I captured some wonderful photo's of the city's architecture and clean new spring trees.
11 May 2007: At last Nostalgia is mixed down to my satisfaction. It presented quite a challenge. My usual dilema of what order to present the pieces didn't happen this time - it was intuitive. But the volume dynamics nearly drove me to dispair. v1 was so loud the volume peaks distorted; v2 too quiet; v3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 through different compressor/limiter combinations - v3.3.1, the final mix was a refinement of v3 that produced a sufficiently loud mix lifting the quiet bits up slightly and squashing down one really troublesome volume and bass peak without overkill on the limiter stifling the wide dynamic of the whole album. For anyone out there with the VST PSP Vintage Warmer - it went through the "Tapetrack Fast" preset. When reviewing the final mix, I tapped into a stream of conciousness thing to title the pieces in the context of the continuity of the album - the titles all happened by instinct and are deliberate forshortenings of longer texts that genericise the mood and make it a mood piece that everyone can tap into. The album comprises 12 piano based pieces: memories from a lonely place, clouds, rediscovered photograph, a conversation, fenlands, suspended in time, generations, stepping forward, across water, the positive things, resurgam, impressions (edit). The next stress is choosing a font and cover design that represents the mood I wish to evoke. It has to be a serif font, that I am clear on, but over the next few days I will agonise endlessly over my font library for a typeface. I collect typography references - a pamphlet by Anthony Blunt from 1973 (published six years before his fall in 1979), and a little like Peter Saville's design for Section 25's Always Now album art is a strong contender for a little postmodern re-appropriation. As for artwork, I as yet undecided. As with my previous albums, I like to present a holistic package of music, typography and artwork with the presentation as carefully crafted as the music. Nostalgia has, on and off taken me three years to produce and I think it is an epiphany of light.
09 May 2007: Reading - Gitta Sereny's extraordinary disection of the mind of Albert Speer - "His battle with the truth". As much a revelation about Sereny as Speer, her interrogation technique - for that is what this book is, a stealthy unpeeling of the layers of denial of the enigmatic Speer. A piecing together of fragments of truth - or as close to it as we are ever going to get, given most of the participants are now deceased. Sereny's art was in extracting small bits of information in seemingly inocuous questions, then glueing them together, backed up or exposed as untruths - and by extension - proof of guilt or denial of the truth by meticulous research from the archives. The BBC mini-biography of Sereny states "At the heart of her work lies an obsession with explaining evil and discovering what makes people commit monstrous acts", a quality she shares with Gordon Burn, who, in "Happy like Murderers" gets drawn into, and almost seduced by the world of his subject - in Burn's case mass murderer Fred West. One gets the feeling that both authors, in getting so close to their subjects sacrificed something of themselves, and for that we must be eternally grateful.
27 April 2007: Watching: A Handful of Dust; a thoughtful faithful capture of Waugh's novel. Typical Waugh territory - a document of the decline of the English aristocracy with the main charcters swept along on a tide of misfortune and bad judgement. I've not read Waugh for 30 years and this film made me want to re-read the Sword of Honour trillogy sitting patiently on my shelves since I last read it when I should have been revising for school exams. I test listened to Nostaligia today. The track order and separation time works (silence is a key component of all Landschaft productions!); but there is a lot of distortion when I listen to it after having normalised the tracks when I burned the CD - too much bass or volume peaks. Some more work due before finalisation.
26 April 2007: At last Nostagia is nearly ready - I am reviewing the Beta of the compilation. I have agonised over this cyle of music for nearly three years, paring down from 24 to the 12 pieces, adding to and taking away. There's an apocryphal story about Mike Oldfield's tubular bells - that it was multiple overdubbed to such an extent the tape snapped and he had to start again. Nostalgia suffered a similar fate in it's birth - two major system crashes (motherboard on one occasion and a software corruption on another). A good backup regime saved the day. I have completed my conversion to Word format of Chronicles of Lake Narocz (224 pages of WWII era lumpy paper OCR-ed and proof corrected - a real labour of love! I am next going to footnote it extensively with explanations of the geography and history behind the factual events recorded (it's a strange mixture of fact, reflection and auto-biography) and maybe publish it - I was some time ago contacted by author Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz' daughter and I would hope she supports me in this. My chums in Formication have issued another of their periodic updates announcing: a website overhaul - see Formication, have announced the May 2007 release of their first commercial recording release titled "Icons for a New Religion" on the Lumberton Trading Company label.
16 March 2007: And once again to Virginia Woolf in Marleen Gorris's understated adaptation of the novel "Mrs Dalloway". With Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha McElhone perfectly cast as the older and younger Mrs Dalloway. As with Orlando, the themes of passage of time, nostalgia and gentle feminine strength blossom in this wonderful film. In reading more about Woolf, I find a reference to Laura Viers' album Carbon Glacier and her song "Rapture" that I recently bought, and played in the dark watching car headlights sweeping across the wall. What better way to sum up: ".and young Virginia Woolf death came and hung her coat love of colour, sound and words is it a blessing or a curse? Enraptured."
9 March 2007: Completed, my Concerto No 1. See home page for details. My chum Jez Modulator Creek today passed me his new 74 minute epic "Zeta Reticuli", a huge swooping analogue-synth tone-scape. Very Zeit era Tangerine Dream in flavour and my favourite Modulator piece to date. Contact via the Modulator webstite for a copy.
21 February 2007: A journey by foot across London, from the Gothic Revival of St Pancras, via the backstreets of Bloomsbury and across town via Long Acre, past Rococo fronted London pubs in the limpid sunlight of an early February morning. Speedy Place, a tiny passageway not far from St Pancras. London, a city of constant surprises for those who keep their eyes open. A falconer with Eagle atop the vast ziggurat-like building, Victoria House fronting Bloomsbury square. And the ornate frontage of Stanfords the map shop; both a reminder to always look upwards for the best views of London.
17 February 2007: Watched Jean Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement". As expected the story was told with the director's usual quirky flourishes. A touching tale of a woman's search for her fiance missing in action in WWI. Saturated colour post production, flawless cinematography and a plot that never grows stale. French cinema at it's best. Listening to Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer's soundtrack to Gladiator was a spot the influnce experience - Holst's Mars and the choral/operatic bits in the ST to Avalon were the ones I recognised. Not one of Zimmer's best.
25 January 2007: I have long been intrigued by the works of Bach; often very clinical, highly technical exercises, starting with a simple musical theme that is built and developed. The Well Tempered Clavier is perhaps the ultimate expression of this, the fugal form, that laid the foundations for the Romantic classical composers; the ones everyone thinks of as Classical music. Evoking mood via modulation (seamless transition from one key to another) was made possible by the fugual form and are what puts the passion into music. I would like to start to examine the Well Tempered Clavier; to deconstruct and reconstruct it's themic developments to better understand the powerful uses of modulation that I can take to Landschaft, applying them to my own drone forms to see how they hold up spread minimally across 30 or more minutes instead of two or three. Modulation, to perform that emotional flip between one key and the next relies on a mixture of the listener expecting continuation in the originating key, expectation of change and surprise at the seamless change to the destination. Whether that same flip can be achieved in the drone form remains to be seen. I suspect it can.
17 January 2007 - Today a walk past one of my favourite buildings: Euston Firestation. A classic in the Arts and Crafts style built in 1902, the vertically orientated façade in red brick and Portland stone has a castle like appearance with small windows and bays in the upper storys. The next time you walk down Euston Road (next to the railway terminus), stop and spend a few moments to look and soak up some of the harmony of this building's design. Note the ideosyncratic faux latin spelling of Euston: "Evston" and the elegant typography. Onward, my walk (forced by underground closure) took me to the door of Henry Pordes' bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Needless to say, I was drawn in and I ended up buying from the bargin box in the porch an auction catalogue of old books and ephemera, source material to inspire future Landschaft design.
16 January 2007 - A trip today to Ely, Cambridgeshire; cathedral city (though in size and character a town- I would define a "town" as a settlement with an independent butcher and baker on the main street - Ely has both). The Ely Oxfam is excellent - a bag of books bought, among them Debussy sheet music and a 1938 travellogue detailing a journey across the middle East from Egypt to Iraq "Through Lands of the Bible" by HV Morton which I will read soon to counterpoint Fisk's present day take on the same places. Also Roger Dean's "Views" - classic LP art from the 1970's. Caught a brief moment of winter sunshine below the clouds as the sun started to set throwing a raking light across the fens.
16 January 2007 00:05 GMT - Performance Review Modulator ESP, Emkah, ?DJ?, Formication: Sat 13 Jan 2007, Orange Tree, Nottingham, England. It's a while since I last saw Jez aka Modulator ESP play. His sound has matured beyond recognition. He is in control of the machines - and there are a lot of them. Jez has scoured the planet in the quest for his racks of vintage instruments. This performance gave us a dense wall of interweaving Phaedra era Berlin School. Lots of flutey, choral melotron and huge chunky analogue 8 step sequences. Jez - this is no criticism, just my preference - I would have liked a build into a classic Blade runner end-titles sequencer blow-out to produce that tingly scalp perfection. Emkah was not my reason for attending the gig. But a very accomplished set. Just not my cup of tea - a bit too drum machiney for me. Followed, by a DJ that destroyed the mood and demolished the build up that the two preceeding acts worked so hard to achieve. Why did the DJ leave a ghastly sample loop playing for about 15 minutes after he left the stage??? This left Formication with a lot of work to do. Coupled with a PA and room accoustic that could not cope with the sonic complexity of Formication's latest beat driven dark sample synthesis, the performance did not reach out and captivate - the potential to do so was clearly there. I had to leave half way through the set so this review is very much qualified by a number of downer factors. I would like to hear this performance again at high volume in an accoustically balanced auditorium and then I would love it. Finally, a plea to Modulator and Formication - try and find an esoteric venue that does your rerspective genius credit - you've both moved beyond playing in pubs full of a reluctant captive audience. How about this for an idea - look for sponsors that stump up investment capital and save up for a bigger splash venue/PA - you are both ready for the next step up. I would chuck an unconditional 20 quid in the hat to get things started.
12 January 2007 06:18 GMT - Completed Fisk's book [see 22 November entry]. A 1300 panoramic exposition into what drives the politics and responses in the Middle East. Fisk is a witness to what politicians would prefer to keep secret. In summary, the Balfour declaration of 1917 comprising just 125 words - see Wikipedia - Balfour Declaration 1917 - that set in train the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire post WWI and all that followed. We are still in the outermost ripples of the break up of the great European empires and the arbitary borders that were set up thereafter. Add in the resource politics of oil and we are where we are now, part-way along a domino effect of epic tragedy. What is the solution? Politics are driven by short-termism, events are influenced by events and mistakes compound leading inevitably to extremism and polarity. Post WWI that manifested itself in preposterous militaristic dictatorships; post WWII in the Cold War; post Cold War into religious fanaticism, destabilising industrial globalisation and resource imperialism. Is Landschaft political - not overtly, but an observer, and like Fisk, leaves you to make your own mind up.
11 January 2007: Karelia is completed. The cover and package art took longer to design and implement than the music. Landschaft is as much about design as about music, so that's to be expected. The music, two pieces in the dronology sub-genre of Ambient has been revisited since earlier comment on this blog/site with further treatments added to broaden the depth and width of the stereo image. It was mixed down, as I always do, on high-end headphones (Sennheiser HD 580 Precision) that give me a neutral reference that allows me to place the sonic components of my soudscapes with absolute precision. My view - speakers are a waste of money - for £200 you can get the same qualitative return as a state of the art accoustic space and a set of reference monitors costing thousands. Back to the cover art - it incorporates an A5 size Super Jewel case, hand made Japanese screenprint paper, typography influenced by Jan Tschold/Faber & Faber poetry bookcovers and a short poem - my footfall shaking raidrops from flowers passes by and is forgotten -
22 November 2006 23:41 GMT - Robert Fisk in his "The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East" humbly claims his journalism as the first draft of history. I would put to him that his is also the final word. His first pass at the truth has the benefit of first person observation and his witness accounts stand as unimpeachable monuments to the past. The Great War that drew the map of 20th century EurAsia ha,s for the Middle East, never really ended, with ethnic borders scrificed to political expediancy and post-colonial divide and rule. I was particularly affected by Fisk's account of retracing his father's footsteps through the Flanders battlefields (Ch 9; 'Sentenced to Suffer Death'). He was able to take the few photographs and papers left upon his death and piece together a picture of this difficult-to-like character that I think gave Fisk peace of mind. Perhaps his life as a nomadic comforter of souls was borne of the restlessness of never being sure of his father's feelings? I too went on a similar journey through the flatlands surrounding Ypres hoping to make sense of my grandfather's life where the bleached headstones of the fallen echo the whiteness of the skeletons below.
29 October 2006 - A jouney north. Bolton railway station, remains of the past etched on glass; '1st and 2nd class ladies waiting room' in it's lozenge shaped de Chirico-esque platform architecture. In Edinburgh, my hotel near Old Saint Paul's Church, I was drawn to the faintest sounds of choral music issuing from the granite. Sunday Evensong. Revelation, candles, incense, perfect choral hymns, near-dark, afterwards, the congregation, as did I, issued forth into the night on our own private way.
16 September 2006 - This website took root from a number of influences and stimuli, one of which a book, "Chronicals of Lake Narocz" (out of print) by Polish author Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz that I found on one of my many research forays. I received, in July 2006, an email from Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz' daughter and was touched by her respose to this website and my recognition of her father's work. Lisiewicz' daughter said her mother carried the manuscript to "Chronicals of Lake Narocz" from Poland through Russia and Palestine, South Africa and finally England where the family was re-united after 3 years after WWII. I did a bit more web reasearch and hit Google from a new angle, coming up with a complete map of Austria Hungary c1910. Przemysl, which I have vistited (and where I bought a wonderful antique candlestick) is now on the tri-national border of Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia, was in 1910 about in the middle of Austria-Hungary. I bought a scrapbook set of newspaper cuttings from the 1914-1918 period, and hope to publish them, or at least some of them on this website. This maps resource will help me no end. I have maps covering the post WWI territory settlement, but until now didn't have any maps pre-WWI. They are pretty hard to interpret, more so due to the fragmentary nature of settlements in central Europe. Two very satisfying pieces of the Landschaft jigsaw puzzle put in place today.
06 September 2006 23:47 GMT - reading: William Pitt the Younger by William Hague; Listening: Metamatic by John Foxx; art Tachist art room at the Tate; software: Extendscript Toolkit for Asobe Photoshop; exercise: bricklaying; drinking: coffee in the Pret a Manger opposite the Photographer's Gallery near Leicester Square. Must admit Tachism was an art movement I've not heard of until today. Dropped into the (old) Tate on the way home from a meeting; my policy: view a litle art at a time. The Tachist room is I think part of the recent re-hang and the abstract works. Artnet - Tachism will supply the full history and definition of the movement - esentially a mid 20th century abstract movement employing spontaneous stream of conciousness non and semi figurative applications to a surface - look at any surface of cast-reinforced concrete and imagine Tachism. On my frequent travels with my job I wanted a worthy read after finishing a life of Churchill - who better than arguably the greatest British leader; William Pitt, on evidence greater than Churchill, and what better than William Hague's erudite, witty telling of his life.
03 July 2006 09:20 GMT - My obsession with maps continues. Bought a 1922 edition of The Times Survey Atlas of the World for a mere £15-00 GBP from a very tightly packed secondhand bookshop (aren't they all). It is huge at 45cm x 30cm and contains all of the post WWI borders and city names. Fascinating for map geeks like me! The bookseller remarked that it was the biggest book in the shop. I desperately need more shelfspace for my expanding library.
18 June 2006 00:48 GMT - Watched Jarhead; soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who Sam Mendez' also used for American Beauty. The ST is a West vs Middle East fusion, (a rather clumsy trope, and the same cliche that Hans Zimmer fell into with his music for Black Hawk down) Jarhead has Newman's usual smorgasbord of fretless bass and pingy percussion. Not much original music though - most is iconic pop, doing the same job The Doors did for Coppola in Apocalypse Now (another hackneyed trope). I've promoted Solaris to No 1 in my soundtracks "best of" (at the bottom of this page) and demoted American Beauty to No 3 and The Ring to No 2. Solaris just gets better and better every listen. I've not got the CD (which is $80 on EBay!!!), but have the DVD on - which is even better as you get all of the space ambience and dialogue in one 90 minute stretch.
05 June 2006 23:49 GMT - If anyone out there reads this journal, sorry for the prolonged absence. Home renovations and a busy day job have robbed me of Landschaft time. Recent listening: Hans Zimmer's Da Vinci Code ST - very similar to his Hannibal ST. I put the DVC ST in the "I like" category of Zimmer's work, but it added nothing original to his body of work. Nowhere near the monumental Ring STs. Grabbed some re-issue CDs of early Human League. Both Travelogue and Reproduction are nicely bundled with sets of singles included. I bought "Travelogue" on vinyl when it was first issued - it has dated well and I enjoyed my first re-listen in 20 years.
01 February 2006 - Formication with whom I have been exchanging emails (see 20 January 2006 blog), kindly sent me a review copy of their "Pieces for a Condemned Piano". Packaged in a sumptuous round edged jewel case. The parcel came in a wonderful cardboard envelope thingy, the address label incorporating the formication insectomorph logo and addressing details in a clean grey sans-serif font. I had to tear the box to get it open, and for this chap who keeps his Peter Saville sleeved Factory Records immaculate 20 something years on this was somewhat of a trauma. However, ripped, the box will be retained as a record of the moment that is Pieces for a Condemned Piano and makes my copy of the "product" unique. The CD insert comprises a photo of the frame of a piano against a black/near black background. Black and Gold. I've always marvelled at the innards of a piano, and recall early sonic experiments, age 5, strumming and xylophoning the stings of my grandparents' upright Grand. Lettering is in a classical serif font. A good start. Landschaft approves of the serif. Pieces for a Condemned Piano is an exploration in 3 movements of the sonic possibilities of the carcase of an abandoned piano, left open to the elements. The first two movenents "On the Dying Pathway" and "The Final Stage of Trauma" derive more overtly from accoustic field recordings of the piano; captured in situ then processed, cycled and interwoven with wholly electronic sounds. Exit, longer and leaning more towards dronology, is 28 minutes of unfolding transitions of dense murky darkness, the piano samples less overt and the piece that I prefer. I will send Formication a copy of Karelia that aims to capture a similar mood.
20 January 2006 00:27 GMT - A trip into the real world for a change and, no less, a gig review. The mighty Formication. Slabs of glacial ice, found narrative, submerged ambiguous soundscapes. Inhabit a landscape somewhere between Future Sound of London, Zoviet France and Chris and Cosey. Nottinghamshire is the place. If Nick Cope and any ex-Tiab Guls are reading, feed at the Formicarium. New Noise breathes and lives.
17 December 2005 - Something I've been meaning to do for some time is produce a top ten soundtracks list- and here it is at last. I'll add to it as I uncover new gems and remember old ones! At No. 10 is Andrei Dergachyov's understated score to Vozvrashcheniye (The Return). Dergachyov was a bedroom composer on his first scoring job that he got by word of mouth from a friend (according to the "Making Of" documentary on the DVD -and shoots straight into the soundtrack hall of fame. Only watched the film tonight and this ST, in the Cliff Martinez vien may well move up the chart after another listen.
1. Solaris - Soderburgh remake (Cliff Martinez)
2. The Ring / The Ring Two - remakes (Hans Zimmer / Henning Lohner / Martin Tillman)
3. American Beauty (Thomas Newman)
4. Sex Lies and Videotape (Cliff Martinez)
5. Aguirre Wrath of God (Popol Vuh)
6. 2001 (various)
7. Diva (various)
8. Down by Law (John Lurie)
9. The English Patient (Gabriel Yared)
10. The Return (Andrei Dergachyov)
17 December 2005 (contd) - Since dicovering Hans Zimmer's ST to Hannibal, I've been hunting down other of his work: Black Hawk Down; The Ring; Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron. On a first listen, Spirit gets the no vote as there's way too much of Bryan Adams' cheesy crooning - but I'll give it a more precise listen and winkle out any nice instrumental bits. Black Hawk is very listenable with losts of interesting Thomas Newman like use of in-context instrumentation and artists. But I reserve the best until last: the magisterial soundtrack from the remakes of The Ring and The Ring Two. In it's earlier "movements" it's a Stravinski meets Prokofiev on bass strings workout, metamorphosing through to a Ramstein-like goth metal stomp. Lots of repeated motifs which sew the ST together. This now sits at No 1 in my ST chart, nudging American Beauty off top spot (just). Am awaiting Zimmer's score to The DaVinci Code with baited breath - he's at his best when he's writing for darker movies.
10 October 2005 - Have been exploring more soundtracks. Hans Zimmer's massive production for Ridley Scott's Hannibal. Thomas Newman's patchy soundtrack to Joe Black - part peerless exposition on nostalgia (listen and you will recognise the piece), lapsing towards the end into over the top sentimentality.
10 June 2005 - I've bought an upgraded web hosting package which means no Easyspace advert pop-ups and more bandwidth - preparing the way for some rich media content soon. Also tidied up the site layout a bit. Watched Mamoru Oshi's Avalon since my last blog: a Japanase movie set in Poland - with real people in rather than Manga as in his cult Ghost in the Shell animation. Avalon delivered some wonderful moments - the soviet helicopters and ghostly sprite girl to name but two. But the conclusion was an anticlimax. Well worth watching though and filled another gap in my search for Matrix references (confirmed by the blurb on the DVD quotes Larry Wachowski "...Oshii is a pioneering director of new styles whom I follow closely, always on the lookout for new ideas"). Hey - we live in a postmodern world, so more power to his referential elbow.
11 May 2005 - Having watched "House of Flying Daggers", a parallel with Ridley Scott's "The Dualists" suggests itself. Both are movies plotted around rivalry and landscape.
04 May 2005 - I must share the experience of Casshern with you, a peerless anime movie - (with real actors, rather than animation which I have difficulty engaging with) which blows The Matrix away. Nhilistic, doomy and oddly constructed. A review can be found at the excellent Far East film review site, www.lovehkfilm.com - Casshern Review - but it gives a lot of the plot away so take my word and watch it first. For Japanese movie fans, another 10 out of 10-er is Uzumaki - super saturated colour, a fractal plot (oh yes) and utterly compelling. You can pick it up in Asian Shockers box set (which comes with two other tasty morsels: The Spiral and Evil Dead Trap for about 15-00 quid (GBP).
11 April 2005 - Part two of my Karelia Cycle published. Watching: Uzumaki; strange and beautiful to behold, this Japanese movie sits somewhere between Donnie Darko and Delicatessen.
12 March 2005 - Aidan Higgins in "Lions of the Grunwald" places the thought "Music is a system of farewells" with one of his characters. So true. As I complete part II of my Karelia cycle, I savour those resonant words and hope to place something of them in my humble offering.
10 February 2005 - Investigating the Pauline Oliveros Foundation website, discovered via Epitonic. Pauline, the founder of Deep Listening has been filling spaces with experimental pioneering soundscapes for over 50 years. Her and her collaborator's music is as much about the space it occupies as about the sound itself. Search out the free MP3 of Deep Listening Band's "Suiren", an extract of a cycle of pieces recorded in a vast underground chamber with a 45sec reverberation tail. Pauline's links page is a comprehensive resource of American experimental composers - it led me to Kyle Gann, a microtonal music composer and guru - again many free resources on his well stocked website.
3 February 2005 - Reading Aidan Higgins' autobiography "Donkey Years" - Wringingly honest and bitter sweet as all lives are. Listening: "Start Breaking my Heart" by Manitoba - was well recieved by critics, but I'm not sure yet. Sits somewhere between Four Tet and Cinematic Orchestra. A grower I suspect (hope!)
11 December 2004 - A pleasant Saturday evening spent watching all three episodes of the delightful Tipping the Velvet. The soundtrack is by Adrian Johnston who complements the production with reed, strings and esoteric percussion compositions; drifting uplifting chamber pieces sewn with diamonds. He also wrote the music to the equally charming Stephen Poliakoff directed drama The Lost Prince. Johnstone's music is high on my recommended list. It goes to similar places as Roger Eno's classic chamber-ambient "Voices". Roger Eno is credited as composer in the TV drama "Mr Wroe's Virgin's", and as it happens, John Chapman produced both "Mr Wroe's Virgin's" and "The Lost Prince"...
02 December 2004 - Have been researching web design. I went to the excellent Japan related websites search engine, put in a random design related word and hit the search button. Then found a site with a good links page and followed them in turn, saving the good sites back to an empty favourites folder. Afterwards, reviewed all of the links and kept the best of the best. This technique will find you wonderful sites you never would have discovered by a conventional search on a western-centric search engine. Managed randomness from another culture. One of the very nice sites I found: mintel.cool.ne.jp
25 November 2004 - Reading: Natsuo Kirino's "Out". Dark Japanese crime page-turner, to date her only translated work, alas. Listening: various systems and electronic tonescape works by 4m33s. Watching: Various HK and Japanese crime flicks - the cheesier the better - "Black Angel 2" recommneded.
22 November 2004 - Blog page created and uploaded - lots more to upload soon. My first Blog starts with a big thank you to my chum Jez Creek at Modulator-ESP who motivated me to expand my site and get around to releasing all of the half completed music I've prevaricated over for the last couple of years.
20-21 November 2004 - V2 website shell published in response to web forum interest at EMforum.nl. Visit the forum as a guest if you're at a loss what music to explore in the ambient / electronic genre. Landschaft V2 is wholly style sheet driven with the design influenced by... well you spot the influences, style junkies!
04 November 2004 - Karelia album released - see Home Page for details.
31 May 2003 - Indistinct Borders album released - see Home Page for details.