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Circle Messages

I’ve recently released some music with composer and santoor player Atefeh Einali. The information about our musical process and collaboration is below.

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From Atefeh: We want to make a journey for our audiences step by step from the first piece to feel kindness, love, humanism, fear, sometimes anger, sadness, and all of our emotions, as we felt when we were composing these pieces. In our music, you see the merging of east and west. The Iranian part shows the new concept in making intervals, for example in Segah Dastgah we focus on one note that has an unusual tune in Iranian music (this is a quarter note). Also, in Chahargah Dastgah we have “Mojanab intervals” (135-145 cents), this is the third interval that is made with a quarter note. So, we want to merge these new intervals with the tonal ones in western music and arrange them with electronic processes, with noises, breathing sound, and singing that show our feelings in an innovative atmosphere. Finally, we want our words as music to connect with people around the world because music is a language that everybody understands.

From Melanie: For many months we sent messages to each other. Many with audio, even more in the Telegram app’s face ‘circle’. The first message that Atefeh sent was the video of the santoor with an explanation about tuning and the way it can be struck with different hammers. And then she played it and I was amazed and drawn in by its timbre and harmonies.
Circle Messages came together out of a need to hear our melodies, and to pair distinct harmonies with time-travelled noisy electrotextures. Often playful, with sections that occasionally jar, our sounds went from Tehran to Melbourne; from Melbourne to Tehran, to give form to our compositions. Sometimes this geographical space is audible in the music as surface noise, or in mixing and panning choices. In our messages to each other, we gave feedback about music, shared thoughts and feelings, frustrations, and joy. When I was remixing the final piece, Rast-panjgah, there were protests in Iran and the Iranian government shut down Telegram, an application that the population relies on to message each other like SMS. I mixed the rest of Rast-panjgah with a keen sense of Atefeh’s absence, and concern for Iran.

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Listen on the home page or purchase here.

 

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mind notes ..

.. and fragments. I just found this. Louis Althusser managed an academic career with manic depression (what psychiatrists called ‘manic depressive psychosis’). Here I am drawing attention to an event, in an otherwise productive career. Still, his methodology and ability stood out for me. And though I’ll never be as influential as Althusser, it did give me a ding of hope that if he could give seminars and have a regular following of students, or struggle with completing a large text (and yet still have his texts reach people in Latin America), then I can persist with my nonlinear brain.

. . .

Althusser was treated for a major depressive episode in a clinic, shut away from the May-June political upheavals of 1968 in France (Balibar 2014) [ On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses ].

His illness impacted on his ability to finish a text and while he finished many large chapters, it was released to journals in a fragmented fashion — as a “partial montage” (Balibar 2014, ix). Althusser conceives of everyday philosophy as resignation, “forms of submission to the ‘ideas of the ruling class’” (Marx) (2014, 11). However, transformations are possible and the everyday person can be conceived as a philosopher to the extent that she understands the socialist utopia she is working towards. Her mind is therefore active in this pursuit (Althusser 2014).

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Troll: a love story

Troll: A love story, by Johanna Sinisalo

A review.. Although this book is not perfect, I appreciated the troll character and its interaction with urban gay male culture and the way the protagonist slowly gets obsessed with the young cub. The protagonist had to research many fragments of troll culture and history to inform himself about his new foundling. This was interspersed between very short chapters.
At times this book was hilariously melodramatic and reached high farce.
I asked myself if that was intended to counter the advertising world Angel and Martes worked in. Apparently, Sinisalo wanted to bring the mythical and the humdrum worlds together, in interiors and apartments. A trolls’ world is outside, so I did enjoy this questioning of domesticating a wild animal, of getting at why they were coming to the edge of the cities, and of what it means to love something, even something bestial. However, placing these themes side by side with gay characters is questionable. Gays and queers are still compared to the bestial and charges of bestiality by the Christian right still occur. So I found this unsettling and not handled with enough political finesse. The writing was not poetic and was emotionally detached. But perhaps the Finnish is different and we are missing some of these subtleties in translation.

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A single take through western Sydney

The Tribe, by Michael Mohammed Ahmad. In this novella, Ahmad brings detailed family relationships to life within a minority Shi’ite Lebanese community in western Sydney. He does so from the perspective of a young boy at varying ages (between 7 and 11). I gained insight into kinship, tradition, and cultural identity through the curious character, Bani. At times, the language of the narrator did not seem match the excess of the content: the huge Arab wedding and dance scenes, scents and smells, the lead up to a fight, women’s and men’s bodies and clothes, illness and love of family. But maybe this disjunction indicates the difficulty of being socialised within ‘the tribe’ and looking out into other cultures, even other Arab traditions in Australia. The book conveyed a tight range of affects. It did not crack open it’s ‘show not tell’ techniques, so loved in writing courses. Rather, the whole thing unfolded like a single take (the Russian Ark) in film, as we see cousins and aunties and uncles and the suburban houses come and go in the present tense. Sometimes I got the feeling the youngster was overwhelmed by his tribe and confused by his role in it, and then there were times when Ahmad was a little heavy handed by concluding elements.

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Cross-pollination

I am lucky to have collaborated with many inspiring visual artists and musicians over the years. Our work cross-pollinated and grew in different ways. But when Jan Kather told me her student Sarah had made a tribute video to me, this was new! Thanks Sarah! Jan teaches video art and her students had to make a tribute video to a sound or video artist. Sarah’s first choice was John Cage, but in the end I won out. I have to say, that’s the first time that’s happened!

I find Jan’s video work captivating, particularly, this video — which draws our attention to how we ‘see’ women’s thighs in different epochs. In Lyric Visions, the artists respond to poetry, but Jan also responds to sound, remixing existing pieces. Finally, there is an agglomeration of word, video and sound-music. Meaning collects and pools. 

 

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EP – A triangle is worth two in the hand

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A triangle is worth two in the hand is a four-track EP, which explores the heart, nervous system and lungs in electronica. The EP covers a range of techniques, from 100% sampled work (Bird and Dolphin) to tracks made with almost-fully synthesised sound (Elysian Air). 

I first put these pieces together during a break late in my PhD. I generated synthetic ‘breath’ sounds, recorded and cut up percussion samples, and imagined bodily landscapes. I enjoyed the break in thesis-language — especially feeling each track’s sound-world and rhythmic momentum.

ESM-artificial designed the sleeve art work and Kramer mastered the EP. Kramer said he had an emotional response to mastering, which I found interesting. The best place to get the EP is from me, here, because it’s cheaper! It’s also on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify and other online media outlets. Thanks to those supporters who grabbed an earlier mix on BandCamp, this version emerged a little stronger, for 2018! There’ll be more music coming up, including free downloads, so please contact me if you’re into the music. 

Bird and Dolphin~

 

Descendant~

 

A triangle is worth two in the hand~

 

Elysian Air~

 

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h2o

Putting my feet in the water with the little fish and watching a pelican take off. Lucky to have Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve so close to the city, thriving amongst the western suburbs. I was surprised when I first came across this place at the back of large houses as it seemed like a hidden national park. Its condition can be explained by the fact that the land was isolated from development for over 80 years because it was a coastal rifle range. Now the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary protects all kinds of marine life. There is a saltmarsh area that has the largest occurrence of mangroves in Port Phillip Bay. This sanctuary is part of the Country of the Boonwurrung people, and I acknowledge their elders here.

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Flute resources

Just updating some flute resources I’ve used recently.

The Virtual Flute — search for alternative fingerings, microtones and multiphonics (more than one sound at a time). For me, the most valuable element, is being able to click on the flute keys. This often brings up a range of multiphonic combinations, such as C#7 & E7 and A#6 & C#7 & E7, with their ease of ‘note distribution’. This is useful for improvisation and composition.

Herbert Lindholm’s Basic Flute Technique is freely available. If you are teaching and need another source to build technique in young to intermediate players, this is a fantastic resource. If you are returning to (advanced) flute playing after a long hiatus, as I’ve been recently, it’s also got a lot of value. There’s a lot of short material besides the scales where you can really tune in to your body, your sound and your body as resonator in tandem with the flute. I usually improvise or play long notes in different registers, but a short whole tone exercise in thirds or octaves, for example, is refreshing, and also disciplines the fingers. As a bonus, Lindholm includes a trill chart for difficult fingerings, tremolando and microtones.

Flute players are often told to ‘support’ their sound with ‘air’, the ‘diaphragm’, the ‘airstream’. But this ‘support’ comment is rarely defined or explained. Perhaps the most detailed understanding I received was from my high school flute teacher, a Buddhist, who gave me a book to read called, “Why Breathe? A Handbook of Illustrated Exercises for Correct Breathing” by Irwin Kellogg (1929). The exercises drew my attention to the role of the chest cavity, the ribs, the lungs, the diaphragm and the abdominals in breathing — inhaling and exhaling. Still, what do we mean by ‘support’ in relationship to flute tone, the process of controlling sound over time, embouchure, and bodily technique? For a more intricate questioning of this, see flutist John Wion’s discussion on breath support (scroll down his sections….).

Regardless of defining support, clearly the body is involved in playing the flute, and I am thankful for flautists such as Jane RiglerRobert Dick, Jennifer Cluff, and Robert Aitken who draw attention to the role of the flautist’s physical body as a resonator. There is more work around these days that looks at how flute players use mechanisms in their bodies that are similar to singers and actors, who engage their vocal chords. This is great because identifying something and breaking it down makes it easier to learn and re-learn.Through conversations with Jane, I’ve also re-considered the Alexander Technique as a strategy for dealing with seizures that sometimes occur when I play the flute.

 

 

 

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Gothic – part 1

The familiar contemporary gothic trope of haunted castles on stormy nights, vampires, and werewolves seems to have no connection to the Germanic people who, it is thought, migrated from Scandinavia to the lower Vistula (Poland) in the early Christian era. From here the Goths split into groups and in the period onwards, raided the Roman Empire and warred with the Greeks, who were at that time under Roman control. I refer the reader to the above link for a detailed outline of the history of Gothic migration including the appraisal of textual sources versus archeological evidence. A condensed summary can be found here. The point is that the Goths moved throughout Europe as colonisers. And as colonisers, they would have been brutal, no matter how adept they were at preserving a falling (Roman) culture, as some of these sources contend.

Twelfth to sixteenth century architecture displays Gothic aesthetics and these were a testament to new building methods that were siphoned into the church. One of the first examples was the abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris.

‘When … the loveliness of the many-coloured gems has called me away from external cares … then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven.’
Abbot Suger, De Administratione (translated by Erwin Panofsky, 1946)

The people of the time would not have referred to architecture as Gothic — it was ‘modern’ and seen as new, light, and airy as a result of innovations like the flying buttress that enabled church spires to reach higher than ever before.

I visit the gothic trope and the Gothic people for the following reason. I was listening to a podcast whose soundtrack and sound design reminded me of the aesthetics of my own music, in an indirect fashion. According to etymologists, the word “goth” comes from a Proto-Germanic word, geutan, meaning ‘to pour’ or ‘to flow’ (Roberts 2016). The Goths fought and pillaged or ‘poured’ their way around and through Europe. I now switch from the historic context back to aesthetics and the later gothic tropes the emerged with the eighteenth and nineteenth century novel. I won’t discuss the category of the emergence of the gothic as a discourse, nor as a literature in dialogue with history. I will explore contemporary gothic aesthetics (including American and Australian gothic) in Part 2. For now, I’ll say that many characteristics of the gothic novel have been described. But it is more likely that the novels vary amongst themselves — and it is an uncanny or unsettling dynamic or quality within a novel itself, rather than universal elements that unite the entire genre (Roberts 2016).

My music contains percussive and puncturing elements, but perhaps ‘pour’ and ‘flow’ could also be applied. The music doesn’t sit in a song structure or fall into traditional classical music forms; it moves in a quicksilver way, at various speeds. Unsettled cycles reflect synthetic breathing (Elysian air). There is discontinuity, alternating with the uninterrupted and a surge to become something or become other. Lagging, dragging in the shadows (Bird and Dolphin), a sense of white noise overwhelms Elysian Air, like a sublime techno wave. The echo (Bird) is a response to impermanence, to real and imagined body terror; to dreamstates and feelings.

Gothic continues to pour mercilessly into visual, literary and fashion cultures. Popular podcasts show that the gothic flows into audio drama and aural aesthetics. From the ambiguous, unknowable, and subtly frightening, to the unexplained and paranormal; to mythical melodrama presented as mysterious documentary to the horrific decorated and enhanced with sound design — aural gothic seems very much alive.