Funky Jam at Home

August sees us taking a short break from touring with Jah Wobble. We’ll be back on the road across the UK in mid-September. In the meantime here’s a quick, funky guitar improvisation as part of the “funk jam challenge” which has been doing the rounds this past week. If you fancy joining in you can find the original backing track over at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2eCjHP0QQ.

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Nimbus Out Today!

Today is the day! Very proud and excited to announce my debut EP Nimbus is out now over at Bandcamp. This past 6 months the album has grown from an individual university project into an important personal and creative statement (pretty much taking over my life in the process!).

I would like to thank everyone involved in helping me make this project a reality, particular my family and friends for all their love and support over the past few months. Also a number of special thanks to certain personnel who’s knowledge and expertise contributed directly to the finished product:

Professor Monty Adkins for all his help and constructive criticism supervising this project, helping me become a better composer and further develop my own musical voice.

Dr. Alex Harker for getting me started on the rollercaoster ride that is creative coding in Max MSP, a daunting world for someone with zero programming experience! Using Max has honestly changed my life and changed the way I write music.

Dr. Philip Thomas for opening up my ears to the exciting world of experimental/contemporary music, raising my awareness and wonder in the sounds that we take for granted every day.

Ian Sanderson for his time and effort taking me step by step through the mastering process. Truly a deep and dark art requiring patience and golden ears!

The Guitar and Processing Part: 1

Due to its necessity for amplification the sound of the electric guitar is shaped and processed from the outset. Beyond the coloration provided by the amp itself, effects pedals or “stomp boxes” offer numerous ways to transform the signal or create artificial spaces and ambiences. With the advent of the home computing revolution and the democratisation of technology a new wave of sonic possibilities became available to guitarists.

Working with pedals offers a spontaneous, improvisatory approach music creation processing the guitar signal in real-time either via the use of effects pedals. Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus uses a wide range of pedals, particular distortion and delay units to create darkly beautiful sonic vistas. Here signal chain becomes vitally important as each pedal can colour another depending on it’s position in sequence. Along with the amp they become as much an instrument as the guitar itself.

Within this digital domain a number of artists make use of the textural possibilities of the electric guitar, sampling raw sounds of the instrument before applying a number of audio manipulation techniques such as granulation or spectral processing. Many of these processes are non-realtime requiring a different compositional workflow. Software environment Max MSP has frequently been a tool of choice, allowing composers to tailor-build audio processing tools unique to their individual needs and stylistic tastes. Christopher Willits uses a combination of Ableton and custom Max patches to build rhythmically shifting patterns from sampled chords and single note lines, a process he describes as “Folding”.

Contrastingly, Touch recording artist Christian Fennesz largely eschews rhythmic elements, utilising Max to create shifting ambient noise-scales constructed from electric and acoustic guitars, often augmenting them with field recordings. He frequently uses Lloopp, a free, pre-written suite of Max patches for sound transformation created with live improvisation in mind.

Max 7 Harmonizer Patch

This patch came about through adopting a more bespoke approach to audio processing in an effort to further develop an individual instrumental and compositional voice. Coded in Max 7, the patch uses the gizmo~ object inside an FFT sub-patch to analyse peaks within given FFT bins before moving them along the frequency axis, shifting the sound up or down in pitch. Max 7 makes pitch shifting even easier with the inclusion of separate specific pitch shift objects without the need for a pfft~ shell however I still prefer to use pfft~ sub patches as they allow individual control over the FFT bin resolution.

GTR Harmonizer Patch wBorder

The patch also includes volume envelope control based amplitude threshold detection of the incoming audio signal and four individual delay lines (not shown in the patcher pic) routed to the two stereo output channels in pairs. In addition this post also marks a move towards recording video to document specific elements of the EP project.

An Insight Into The Jazz Of Norway

A major inspiration on the direction of this album are a number of jazz musicians originating largely out of Norway. Far from jazz’s original birthplace in the US, these Scandanavian artists draw upon a wide range of influences from traditional modal folk melodies, rock, free improvisation and contemporary classical music. Along with a certain minimalist aesthetic apparent in their work, there are a number of compositional features of particular interest to me including the use of drones, incorporation of synthetic percussion and the use of live electronics to process instrumentation.

This documentary highlights some of the artists currently active within this unique musical community including pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer and guitarist Eivind Aarset.