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

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
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
by benwoolsey
Comments Off on MUS8161: Studio Improvisation

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
by benwoolsey
Comments Off on Pure Data Guitar Synth

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…