29 May 2017, 5:30pm
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by benwoolsey
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HSS8121: Research Proposal – ‘Taste’ and Social Media

I was initially under the impression that the Research Proposal could be used to plan for the Creative Practice Project module, which I was very happy about. Obviously I see that these are different modules and should be kept separate, but I had my hopes up after reading the uni guidelines on Proposals:

‘If you are studying for a Master’s degree, you will almost certainly be required to write a dissertation proposal, which may be formally assessed as part of a research methods module.’

On top of this it just seemed logical to use this for the CPP, as most people will have decided on topics that they are very invested in which in turn could have produced some more passionate proposals/presentations. However, I do appreciate this as a ‘practice run’ for planning the research involved in CPP, and despite my initial annoyance, I came to quite enjoy writing this proposal.

As someone who spends a (worryingly) large amount of time discussing music taste online, I’m surprised I haven’t written on the topic before. Discovering the academic roots of something I’ve often pondered was fascinating and eye-opening. The main problem within this area was finding my own niche that would be suitable for research. As I didn’t have a specific idea in mind when starting, I decided put my faith in unearthing something during my research; which I did. The talk of ‘social network theory’ really gripped me, and an obvious link is the more commonly used context of ‘social network’, pertaining to social media websites. As I mentioned previously, I engage in discussion on music tastes very frequently online, and often this is with complete strangers. In a way I am already engaging in the research I proposed (subconsciously), and have been for a long time.

I can’t say whether I will be pursuing this topic with any intent in the near future (the Creative Practice Project kinda gets in the way of that). However, I think assessing the topic will make me more conscious about how I’m engaging with people online and how social ties and online communities effect my music taste (and maybe how I effect the taste of others).

29 May 2017, 4:47pm
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by benwoolsey
Comments Off on Seven Stories, Bears, Constellations and Stress

Seven Stories, Bears, Constellations and Stress

I found the Seven Stories brief alarmingly challenging, considering I had expected it to be one of the more ‘fun’ assignments. However, being so far outside of my comfort zone proved to be a bit of a problem when developing the initial idea for my response. This is maybe due to my tendency to overthink everything but I won’t get into that…

When starting this assignment I had that all too familiar feeling of being similarly happy and overwhelmed by the freedom given. Initially I took to ‘Yossarian’ (the lateral search engine introduced in one of our final lectures) to get some thoughts going. I kept it simple, using works from the program themes for May 2017; namely bears and aliens. In all honesty this didn’t get any sparks flying and turned out to not be very useful. I can’t actually remember where my final idea of using the ‘Ursa Minor’ – ‘Little Bear’ – constellation came from (I think it was somewhat of a ‘lightbulb moment’).
When researching for this idea, I constantly battled self-doubt and kept on abandoning for short periods of time to try and think of something else before returning. My favourite of these other ideas was a giant teddy bear sampler. However, not wanting to have wasted so much time researching my other idea I eventually convinced myself that it was/is a good idea. I realise this sounds like I ‘settled’ for something I wasn’t satisfied with, but I do have faith in the idea and it provided much more depth of discussion than any other ideas would have.

Despite not being overly-enthused with this assignment, I do feel like it was a good exercise to do. I certainly feel that in future situations such as this I would be more prepared to respond in a professional manner, and of course outside University I would only respond to something I am personally passionate about (meaning ‘ideas’ would be less of an issue). In a more general sense, engaging with topics related to Seven Stories has given me more of an appreciation for children’s literature and entertainment. Having attended two ‘story times’ now (once on our day visit and once at the late shows), I am very impressed not only by the artists’ engagement with children, but with all age groups.

28 May 2017, 5:25pm
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by benwoolsey
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MUS8161: Studio Improvisation

For the ‘Free Music Practice’ module we were given a wide array of choice with what we could submit. This was a hard choice, particularly considering I have a number of active improvisation practice projects as it is. I chose to pursue writing an album for mine and Alexei Crawley’s metal band, ‘k//hORdE’.
This project didn’t begin with improv in mind, it sort of happened by accident. It started with a talk by Prof. Will Edmondes (who is also the head of the Free Music Practice module) on ‘Black Metal, Gnosticism and The Body’. Above all we left this talk feeling inspired to create something horrible sounding in the studio, calling on our backgrounds in metal/hardcore that neither of us were utilising at the time. The first song we recorded was ‘semi-planned’ and by that I mean we had a couple of riffs and some lyrics in mind before we entered the studio, but that was it. We realised that the spontaneity of this method served really well for the project, and also made it stick out from other extreme metal acts. After several more studio sessions, producing as many new songs and leading to a performance (as part of the Contemporary Music Practice module in my Undergraduate Degree), I have been desperate to record/create something on a larger scale (i.e. an album).
I knew I wanted this album to epotimise the urgent, sporadic nature of the k//hORdE creative process, so I only booked 12 hours of studio time (of which we only used 8). Nothing was planned prior to these sessions, creating a tense atmosphere, which I think is great for creating intense music (seems a little obvious after writing it down). If I were to say we had a system it would be something like: decide mood, decide tempo, decide starting instrument (usually guitar or synth, sometimes bass), improvise the ‘song’ in parts. I realise that because we record the instruments separately that the drums and vocal aren’t 100% improvised as we’ve had time to listen to the initial instrumental tracks. However, these parts are still created in the same spirit, entailing one or two listens to the guitar/synth, followed by a one take ‘improvisation’ of the new part (sometimes two takes if there’s a really big ‘mistake’). These tracks are then treated ‘traditionally’ and produced (sometimes quite heavily), with added effects and layers. The quick nature of the process has led to a really mixed album (in style and lyrical content), inspiring me to name it ‘sPOrAdICA’.

Whilst I am very happy with the end result from this project, there are maybe a few things I would change. The inconsistent tone is a slight niggle for me. Although it’s indicative of the album’s process and our attitudes at the time of recordings, I feel an urge to separate the jokey songs from the more serious ones. Maybe this is something for future projects though. I think to tear the album apart would detract from the process with which we made it. This is a frequent dilemma that stems from the very nature of improvisation. When recording improvised music the outcome is (almost) always a surprise, and therefore can lead to personal problems with it on closer inspection. The tendency as a ‘conventional’ musician and producer is to alter something and make it perfect, but so often the charm lies within imperfection and that’s how I feel about this album.

I also created some artwork for this album, in a similarly urgent approach to the music. It is made of a picture of myself dancing to Kanye West’s ‘Freestyle 4’ with a mouthful of Wasabi Popping Candy… This was then edited using pixlr, by messing around with distortions, colour, hue/saturation and opacity filters. It’s then layered with some logo work I produced last year in a similar manner.

You can listen to the album here: https://soundcloud.com/kovertbass/sets/sporadica/s-o1fLr

 

Please do NOT share publicly, this is a private link and we do plan to release the album through our label, Real Sesh Records.

9 May 2017, 11:04pm
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by benwoolsey
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Pure Data Guitar Synth

I’ve been making lots of small patches in Pure Data over the last couple of months to help myself learn technical skills that I could later funnel into a larger performable patch.
I had a bit of a breakthrough today, after returning to a patch that I had attempted to make into some sort of vocoder. It had come close but more just Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 12.02.53 AMmade a kind of formant-y gargle in reaction to sounds (which to be fair is amusing). Anyway, I’ve made a few adjustments to this (with the help of the ‘fiddle~’ object) and decided to plug my guitar in to see how it would react. After more tweaking I have myself a glitchy, gritty Guitar Synth patch.
A short example can be heard here:

Turning a guitar into a synth using #puredata #realsesh #synthesis

A post shared by Real Sesh (@real_sesh) on


I’m going to expand on this with another set of oscillators responding to a different input (probably a microphone).
I like the idea of appearing on stage with a guitar and microphone like a singer-songwriter and then making a series of horrible noises through PD.

I’ll be using OSC to make visuals in Processing as well…

29 Mar 2017, 12:48pm
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by benwoolsey
Comments Off on Human memory vs. Computer memory

Human memory vs. Computer memory

I found the lecture on memory storage from the start of the semester very interesting, and I have been thinking about it quite a lot. Recently I lost about a week’s worth of data from my laptop and it got me thinking about memory more.
One of the things I had lost was the project file for a new track I’d been working on. The track was sort of finished, but I hadn’t been happy with the ending and there were some touchups I would have liked to make. However, I was now unable (at least without a lot of work) not able to do so. Fortunately for me, I had exported and uploaded the unfinished track on Soundcloud (privately), so I still had what I’d made. Instead of ditching the track (as I sometimes would in this case), I decided to work around the context of the lost project file.
The track is musically very simple, revolving around a piano loop and a breakbeat and some speech samples. The main speech sample says “Take this mild drug, and you will have a nice sleep without any nightmares.” So I thought about how when I don’t sleep well (as is often the case), it usually revolves around some uncomfortable memory, and the ingestion of a drug would be to effectively ‘repress’ these memories. Perhaps my laptop needed to repress some memories and that was the problem?
I thought this fit weirdly well with the structure of the song as well. The repetitive nature of it, accompanied with growing distortion and a sudden cut at the end mimics (at least for me) the process of trying to sleep and the stress involved (sometimes), followed by the sudden unconsciousness. The track can be found here:

 

I made some artwork to reflect this as well. I started with an MRbrain2I Brain scan, that I distorted using a ‘pinch’ tool (I changed the colours too). This was to mimic shrinkage in the brain (associated with memory loss), but also happened to make a nice pattern (pictured right). This aesthetically pleasing result of my ‘damaged’ brain reminded me of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, which provides some interesting insight into human memory (as well as just being a great film).
Anyway, I wasnrepression art fix‘t totally satisfied with this as a final artwork, so I went in search of a damaged polaroid filter (I guess to make my point more obvious). The one I settled on has the appearance of the top half being burned away, which when overlaid with the MRI scan, removes most of the brain (pictured left).

 

 

I guess my thoughts at the end of this have been about how we like to intervene with memory. A perfect memory is often seen as a virtue, and yet I’m sure most people have things they would rather forget. Preservation of memory is perhaps easier, particularly in this age where you can record almost anything you do. The removal of human memories is something that people perhaps fantasise about, and is actually the basis of the afore-mentioned ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. There would of course be problems surrounding this (which is explored in the film), as often our negative experiences shape us, and the removal of them would make us ‘less human’. As I don’t want to babble (I may have already), I’ll finish on a Nietzsche quote:

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”

3 Mar 2017, 11:27pm
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by benwoolsey
Comments Off on New Music – Possible Direction for Final Performance

New Music – Possible Direction for Final Performance

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating ‘Metal’ music through purely electronic means in my head for a while now. This came about when thinking about my final performance in August. As much of the music I have made over the last few years has gone between Electronic Dance Music and Metal I think this would be an interesting way to subvert both practices. As I would be making electronic music, but not for a club context as I normally would; and I would be making metal music but not in a band context. How I would perform this is not clear to me yet, but I feel I’ve made progress towards a stylistic direction this week.

This was actually unintentional, and just started from me messing around with ‘dream2’ from the new Code Orange album when on a long train journey. I didn’t really have an intended outcome with this

(which is often how I like to create). This resulted in a lo-fi mash of genres from Trap to Gabber. Drawing from Gabber brought me to an interesting realisation actually. It is not a style of music I like,

however I found that using the style outside of a Dance-Music context gave me a different perspective (it’s basically an electronic blast-beat).
Anyway, here’s the track:

I’ll be starting work on some original (and performable) songs like this pretty soon…

20 Jan 2017, 2:28am
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by benwoolsey
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Final Post-Truth Post

Thought I’d post a little summary of my work on here now that it’s all done.

First of all, my manifesto. As explained in a previous post, my manifesto has takemanifesto final i thinkn a somewhat motivational approach (however this could be interpreted as ironic). I wanted to play on the simultaneous importance and meaningless of opinion. So the large text in the forefront conveys the importance, whilst the background is all opinionated YouTube comments (a mixture of positive and negative) which have almost no meaning 99% of the time (perhaps unless it is supporting an up and comer who actually sees/reads the comments).

Second of all, my project which was also explained in another post. For this I took inspiration from ‘The X-Files’ as the show focuses so much on concealing/discovering the truth. I have written an application that displays the iconic ‘THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE’ section from the opening credits of The X-Files in a loop in the background, with two more image loops on top. For these other loops I’m playing on the phrase ‘illegal alien’, as I find immigration has been somewhat of a hot-topic in Post-Truth politics, and aliens are obviously a focus in The X-Files. One of these loops flicks between various headlines (from the Daily Mail and The Sun) that are either about immigration/refugees or UFO sightings/alien conspiracies. The other loops uses images from such headlines. These two loops select images randomly so they go between mismatched (aliens alongside immigrants) and matched sets. For me, this is a commentary on how immigrants and refugees have been often portrayed as ‘alien invaders’ of sorts in the media and by people such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. There is also some heavy glitching going on over all this, which I feel adds to the theme of ‘distorting the truth’.
For the soundtrack, I have a sci-fi style ‘space rumble’ atmosphere as the basis. I then layered a variety of different quotes from both The X-Files and real political speeches (from people such as Tony Blair, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage). The X-Files quotes all circle around lies, secrets and the pursuit of the truth. I like this play on how uncovering government lies is exciting in The X-Files, and yet could be argued as common practice in our ‘Post-Truth Society’.

Lastly, my presentation… I’d rather not give much away for this, but I will say that I’ve chosen a surreal, satirical style that gets pretty weird.

Sources:

http://trademark1013.tripod.com/epindex.htm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html

https://www.thesun.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04m7zrs

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/33496/1/adam-curtis-hypernormalization-bbc-film-power

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38557838

17 Jan 2017, 10:55pm
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by benwoolsey
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More Progresses

My project is taking form now! I have written a program that displays two random image loops of headlines and photographs that play on the phrase ‘illegal alien’. I have some glitching on over this as well, which adds to the theme of ‘distorting the truth’ (and it looks pretty cool). The audio element is also getting there. I had originally thought of doing something musical, but it’s more electroacoustic sounding, with some quotes laid over and loads of wacky effects. I don’t want to give away too much just now…

Truth 1

14 Jan 2017, 9:43pm
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by benwoolsey
Comments Off on CDP Post-Truth Progress

CDP Post-Truth Progress

My head has been sort of trapped in a whirlwind of post-truth possibilities lately and as things are materialising, I feel I should make a blog post.
For my Manifesto, I wanted to focus on the opinionated element of Post-Truth politics and transfer this to art. As art criticism is very subjective and personal, this is quite a direct link. As much as it can be meaningless, an opinion can be sort of empowering (it defines who you are). So I’ve gone for a (potentially ironic) motivational message, on a backdrop of opinionated YouTube comments… This will most likely develop some more before the deadline.

A radio show I listened to mentioned how when people are ideologically or emotionally invested in a claim, they react hostilely to contrary information and sometimes reinforce the claim more in their minds. I find this concept interesting and think it would be fun to play with.

For my project I’m leaning in a musical/sound-based direction, but probably with a visual element too. I’ve been watching lots of X-Files recently and I find the show quite relevant to Post-Truth, as much of the conflict revolves around the concealment of the truth and government lies (‘The Truth is Out There’ being the iconic line in the opening credits and throughout the series).

 

6 Dec 2016, 11:42pm
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by benwoolsey
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Documentation

For this task I chose my GIF for Jade’s activity which showed a relaxed setting with a stressed guy emerging and distortion growing (http://giphy.com/gifs/l2JhwETvUrhUnw5bi).
So I wanted to focus on the contrast of relaxation and stress as a documentation of stress, as that was my inspiration for this part of the project.
I did this by getting quite drunk and listening to relaxing music, and then trying to complete Dead Space 2 with virtually no ammo and health and filming it in a timelapse…