Masters Project: 4. Circuit-Bending Toys (Part 3): What’s in a Name/Workshop 2 & 3

In this mini-series I will talk about circuit-bending as part of Creative Project, as well as occasionally, how it will relate to my Main composition project.

In the last post, I introduced you to the instruments by how I bent them. But now it’s time to Name and Fame them!

There are now three circuit bent toys being used in my Creative Project, I shall introduce them in the order of their naming.

(The descriptions of the instruments were written by Natalie Perdu, a member of Canterbury Christchurch University Scratch Orchestra, and fellow Masters Student. Without further adieu, here are the instruments they helped to create:

 

First of, let me introduce you to Lady Penelope. 

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Lady Penelope

She is the only one to be described in a poem:

Pink whiz, heart attack girl.
Plastic face, no disgrace.
Living the life rarefied,
no second place.

Higher and higher the doyenne of cool.
Refined sugar sweetness,
distinctly old skool.

With vim And with vigour,
and clipped elocution,
she’ll draw you right in for your execution.

This is the game she loves to play.
The more you hold on,
the more you will pay.

Right to your core her electricity flows.
You’ll be bound in her net,
and trussed with pink bows.

 

Secondly, there is 8 Bit Guitar:

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8-Bit Guitar

A Garrulous and dynamic individual. Naïvely enthusiastic. 8 Bit Guitar gallivants into situations into situations where angels fear to tread. Attention span of a washing machine on full spin, with the hear of a tiger. Always tries hard and the results never fail to bring a mile to the stoniest of hearts. Needs to be watched over or may try too hard and exhaust themselves.

 

And lastly, but by no means least, Farmageddon:

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Farmageddon

 

Bright, breezy, bubbly! Who wouldn’t be drawn to the cheery soul of Farmageddon? When you find the online, you will be drawn into their sweet, cheery, and oh so polite persona. There is nothing Faramgeddon won’t do for you. You will be made the center of their world.  Until you’re not. Until their darkness begins to show. You always though the darkness was there, but you brushed that thought aside. Now you know. Now you see the sociopath that is Farmageddon.

All three of these instruments, along with a fourth in it’s prototype stages were showcased as part of  a concert at Canterbury Christchurch University on the 19th April.

The fourth instrument named Gallitronia (no points for guessing the influence of the name or what toy was circuit bent). As mentioned, this instrument was presented in its prototype form during the performance, therefore its full potential has yet to be realised. But don’t despair, I will talk about it more in detail at some point in the future.

Throughout this process, my good friends and Videographers Michael-Paul Thompson of CinemaTree Media, and Nathaniel Beddall are creating a short documentary-style video of this project which whilst its main purpose is to document the project for my Creative Project Module, it will also be available to you lovely people via my YouTube Channel.

 

– Jason Hodgson (21st April 2017)

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– website coming soon –

Masters Project: 1. Introduction

This is an introduction to the post series which focuses on my main compositional project for my Masters.

For roughly the next 18 months, I will be studying my Master of Music at Canterbury Christ Church University, with a focus on Composition.

My aim for my Main Project as it stands at this point in time, is to create and develop an installation which gives the majority of compositional decisions to the audience (or users… this term may change). This installation will use and utilise an eclectic mixture of electronic devices, whilst allowing for a variation to the level of control given to the audience.

My initial reason behind doing this project, is not one that I could justifiably say was academic…. (apologies to my personal tutor Alistair Zaldua)…. I want people  (non-musicians) to be able to get stuck in, and be able to explore the more experimental side of music, without the fear that comes with attending a normal or more traditionally presented concert or performance.

Overall, this comes out of an impression that I get about a lot of experimental music, and the lack of accessibility for non-musicians. I have found that the way most of these experimental pieces are presented to the public beyond academia can come across as being very cold, very dry, and highly academic.   This can be off-putting for those not used to the format, traditions, and more technical aspects that come with the art. It can also come across that if you don’t understand the music, or even appreciate its finer aspects, then you are lower than those who do.  I have yet to hear this said explicitly, nevertheless it certainly feels that way to some, including myself. In addition, where and how these pieces are presented can also have an affect on its perception by an audience. For example, conferences, though open to the public, the audience that attend tend to be those already interested in the style or discussions that are being presented. And new audiences whose main focus in life is not to search for ‘new’ music may miss opportunities to widen their knowledge and to experience new world that they may have not been previously aware of.

Therefore, when it comes to my projects, I try to think about how I could present my work to those who are not accustomed to the strange sounds that can occur in such an experimental world. I also try to look at how music that has already been successful in this, and which have unusual (or non-traditional) elements have been presented, and represented successfully to a wider audience outside of the academic world. I hope to help progress this further. This does not mean I can guarantee that I will be successful in doing this myself, but an exploration is needed. In addition, this way of thinking about presenting new works to a wider audience does not mean “dumbing down” the end work, but instead looking at how these works are represented to the wider community.

In the past I haven’t always achieved this successfully, and even I will admit that sometimes I do enjoy the odd piece that explores a technique in a purely academic and explorative fashion. But I do feel that new music needs to also be for the wider community, not just for the academic musicologists in their ivory towers.

In fact, last year I put on a concert with pieces from the my three years of studying my Bachelors, to test out one idea about how to present my work outside of academia. (You can read it here: https://jasonhodgsoncomposer.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/inside-the-machine-concert-part-1-language-is-a-fictious-fact/

I do have a list of devices I would like to use in this piece already, however I will not write it on here for the moment. This is for one reason and one reason only: it will change, and probably drastically over the coming months. What I can tell you is that they spread throughout the past century.

The style of these posts will be one of documenting the processes throughout the development of the project, as well as discussing about how each part fits in both my end  installation, and its context within other realms of art and music. Most of the time this will focus on the positive, but I will also talk about the difficulties, (and frustrations), I discover along the way. The posts may also be accompanied by videos, photos, and audio clips. I may also discuss how particular parts of the project fit into my wider studies.

In addition, nearer the end of project there will be shameless plugging of the final event, and possibly beta-tests prior to this.

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That is all for this post. There is much more to say about my project, and I have even started on one and a half parts. Keep an eye out, and don’t forget to like my Facebook Page where you will see shorter and quicker updates. They is also twitter account in the works. It’s a-go here.

– Jason Hodgson (27th January 2017)

Review #1 – Emily Peasgood: Lifted (2016)/Crossing Over (2016)

Review #1 – Emily Peasgood: Lifted (2016). What do you get when you mix community, small spaces, muzak, and a brilliantly bonkers composer?

Above: Emily Peasgood with the Lifted choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Lee Thompson

In 2016 I had the pleasure to bare witness to a strange, bizarre, and frankly quite claustrophobic piece.

Lifted, conceived by Emily Peasgood in 2011 and completed in 2016 features a live choir singing movements between floors in an elevator music installation. Peasgood’s intentions were to make us re-think about how we perceive and value music, particularly of the background music genre ‘muzak’.

Lifted premiered in the The Turner Contemporary lift (Margate), on Sunday the 17th January 2016, and with its mixture of jazzy scats, tingling harmonies, almost meditative moments, and its unconventional moments, Lifted certainly made an impression on the audience. I have never seen so many bodies all crammed round a lift and up stairs to watch and hear people sing in a lift. It truly was surreal.

Since then it has been a part of the 2016 Folkestone Fringe Festival Profound Sound on Saturday the 13th of February, where it was performed in smaller and more modest lifts in places like Asda. Further, even though it’s been more than a year since it’s premiere, I have yet to get all the ‘do dos’ and ‘mind the doors’ out of my head. Truly a majestic ear-worm.

 

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Above: Emily Peasgood with the Crossing Over choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Jason Pay

One of Peasgood’s most recent projects, entitled Crossing Over (29th November 2016), was also performed at The Turner Contemporary at the end of 2016, to mark the anniversary of the Zong Massacre. The first movement consisted of selected recordings of politicians and other figures in the media that oppose migrations and refugees. This was juxtaposed with recordings of people in the community describing what ‘home’ meant to them. Audience members were asked to put on blindfolds in order to experience the sound and meanings emanating from the performers.

Many audience members, and performers, afterwards were left with a new sense for the meaning of ‘home’.

The choral part of the second movement was complex in its simplicity. Starting with a powerful “Ex Patria” moving into a soft lullaby, and ending with the performers calling home to their loved ones, you really did get this sense of longing, of belonging, with a hint of sadness, mixed with melancholy.

I was astounded to learn that both these pieces were performed by (to all intents and purposes), an amateur choir, with members from all over the Kent community. Peasgood is well known within Kent for creating BIGMOUTH Chorus, a choir which is made up of members of all abilities from the wider Kent/Thanet community. To this day, Peasgood provides the right mixture between experimental, contemporary, and community.

Peasgood is also in her final year of here PHD at Canterbury Christchurch University. I hope there is much more to come.

– Jason Hodgson (27th January 2017)

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For more information about Emily Peasgood, you can visit her website at:

http://empeasgood.com

BIGMOUTH Chorus can be found here:

http://bigmouthchorus.com

You can watch a 20 minute documentary on Lifted here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm6pK8vJYMs&feature=youtu.be

You can also read more about Crossing Over on the Canterbury Christchurch Music and Performing Arts blog at:

https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/mpa/crossing-over-by-emily-peasgood-open-call-for-singers/

Featured Photo: Emily Peasgood. Credit: Lee Thompson