A Caesura for Reflection

The world is a blur full of demands for our attention.

Sometimes a pause for thought and perspective is in order.  The last few weeks have been worthwhile times for reflection however before I get into that please take a moment to stop, close your eyes and listen to this drone.


A few months ago I was approached via email by Dennis Remmer of Transmission Communication.  In 1990s Brisbane this was a hugely important label that helped proliferate the burgeoning electronic music scene through live gigs and releases. In the early 90s I was a consumer and gig attender but by the late 90s and early 00s I was DJing on 4ZZZ Community Radio and performing odd experimental electronic music around the place as Poota or Diaspora.   Dennis was contacting me to ask if I would like to contribute some tracks to the BNE Project – an attempt to catalogue the independent electronic music scene in Brisbane.  It is a ridiculous undertaking but historically worthwhile and he certainly seems to be pulling some of the old crowds out of the woodwork.  While polishing up a couple of Diaspora tracks for the compilation I got to thinking about how far I’ve come from making noises for my stoner buddies with a Pentium 2 and cracked software.  And I have to confess to feeling a little depressed.

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Back in the day it didn’t seem real hard to do something and be noticed.  We certainly had our moments of playing to empty rooms (and emptying rooms) but for the most part there was  a constantly shifting set of inappropriate but welcoming venues and an enthusiastic participatory audience that fed a creative healthy and curiously diverse scene.  Here we are playing our first real gig in the car park of 4ZZZ.

My memory may be haunted by nostalgia (or dulled by psychedelics) but I recall these gigs attracting a fairly sizable attendance.  Noisy weird music has never been super popular but what we had was for a time beautiful and sustainable.

Sometime around the first half of the 2000s the experimental music scene in Brisbane fragmented into at least 3 archetypes:

  • the party oriented stuff (which took on aspects of electroclash and / or went full rave)
  • the chin-stroking stuff (which got arts grants and venues like the Brisbane Powerhouse and the IMA)
  • the garage punk / improv stuff (which for the most part stayed in pubs until the coming of Audiopollen Social Club)

Certainly occasional festivals like 4ZZZ Market Day, Straight Out Of Brisbane and This Is Not Art / Electrofringe would gamely reunite the tribes but for the most part these scenes have evolved into their own tidy little ecosystems.  At one time I felt that we could be all of them and none of them and still manage to fit in.  It wouldn’t be a rave without a performance from Kunt.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Perfect Lovers at a pool hall in the middle of the city.  When Diaspora played at the Orient Hotel we had a power cut twice because someone tripped over the power chord running to the PA.  Despite this we managed to use some of those tracks to build our first album.  Our “Let’s Hear It For The Vague Blur” release has played at festivals here and overseas. Over the last 15 years i’ve played in every sort of venue from abandoned warehouses to the Melbourne Planetarium to Issue Project Room in Brooklyn.  In every situation I never felt I was entitled to this success, I merely played along out of a sense of curiosity but never with an ounce of real professionalism.  I have been a perpetually naive child playing a game of “i’m a real artist me”.  However right now I feel that the game is up.

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As you may be aware I have been working with Numerology and my Nord Modular setup to create a live system for semi-improvised jamming and live performance.  After playing a successful gig at the Vision gallery all signs pointed to the need to release a “souvenir” of the performance dedicated to the memory of my personal hero, Nevill Drury.

The end product remains something i’m really happy with.  I feel it is a big step beyond what I have been doing with the Nord Modular as it manages to re-orient the acousmatic skills demonstrated  on stuff like Mise En Scene or Remnants with a more populist urge to produce music that is actually a bit fun as opposed to all chin-strokey.

To celebrate the release I generated a bunch of codes and distributed them to some of the music forums I contribute to – my Facebook page and some friends who have inspired me now and past.  So far only 2 people (my regular patrons) have bought the release.  This doesn’t surprise me too much – I don’t really care so much how it sells.  What has surprised me is, from 30 codes given away to specific people – only 11 have actually redeemed them.  From 20 codes given away on forums, only 3 have been redeemed.  Now I am somewhat legit, teaching music technology in academia, actually owning software and hardware and knowing how to use it.  Yet it seems I can’t even give my music away!  One person I offered a code to said the following when I suggested some of it was danceable “if yr creative”:

“I’m creative, but a bit over work.”

He has not downloaded the album and is unlikely to read this.  There are too many better distractions clearly.

After reading this article by Bob Ostertag I was intrigued by his description of CD Baby and have thought about using their service to get my stuff on iTunes and Spotify which might actually help legitimise my work and introduce it to more people.  Or it could be just shelling more money out to be ignored.  Either way I feel kinda foolish even suggesting i’m a “musician” when the interest in what I do is so low.

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This is me making that drone from before.  What you see is Logic X, Valhalla Vintage Verb and the Nord Editor streaming from the tablet.  I was going through some tutorials about wave-shaping and hit upon a nice sound which I felt like sharing.

I’m going to have to stop doing this so much.  This over-sharing has polluted the internet.  Soundcloud is great for posting experiments and sketches however, every day I get another 40 things that I won’t have time to listen to and I can’t imagine things are better for other people out there.  Even more than that I need to stop thinking that packaging my music and presenting it to an audience is in anyway important, relevant, and legitimising.  It isn’t a dearth of ideas and i’m not attempting to chastise the world for their disinterest by threatening to give up my music.  However I think it is time to stop pretending I am important and posting stuff as if people care.  I feel hugely embarrassed and ashamed that I gripe and complain about my lack of time to make and post music online that almost no-one listens to while my 2 yr old son plays alone with his toys.

It’s time to hibernate.  To work on some ritual music for myself and some offline compositions over a longer period of time. And to be with my family. For those who have supported me recently, and in the past.  Thanks for your patience and encouragement.

This is not the end of Makrotulpa, SecretKillerOfName or Lloyd W Barrett – merely a Caesura – a pause during which time is not counted.

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7 thoughts on “A Caesura for Reflection

  1. A heartfelt and well considered post!

    Please don’t ever underestimate the impact your music, your processes and your thoughts have on those (although few) people that are truly interested and invested in what you create! We are nowhere near as important as the quality time you spend with your family (I can certainly relate) but you are continuously a source of inspiration and a seemingly bottomless well of creativity! One of the big releases that people are harping on about is the James Holden album, which although good, lacks the depth of listening experience and spiritual nourishment that Inner Visions has. So, IMHO, the two albums share similar sonic territory, but Inner Visions wins hands down in an arm wrestle of modular sequenced goodness. Not that what I think is going to help with conversions to sales!

    I am coming to the realisation that playing a numbers game on the internet is a futile experience, at the moment I am still in debt with production costs at the label that put out my last release, and it seems that with no matter how much coverage, reviews, posts, whatever I or the label put out there, the conversion to physical sales just doesn’t happen, regardless of quality, production values or genre of the release.

    So what is left? For me, and maybe for you, is the innate need to be creative. That amazing cathartic release in the alchemical process from turning something from a base metal into gold. Even if no one besides yourself or a few others experience the gold, the value is in the eye of the beholder as they say. There has been many a mental or emotional fugue dispersed with quality time in the studio (read room in my house). The description of making ritual music for yourself sounds just perfect- just please do share with the few of us who dig the shit out of what you do!

    1. Thanks for the comment Scott. I guess my nostalgic reverie for glories past might come across as bitter old man grumbling but i’m actually more reflective than that. I think what is needed is a re-evaluation of the core value of what i’m doing.

      I’m totally with you on the innate need to be creative. It was always about the process of working with sound primarily and I only started sharing my work because people noticed I was doing stuff and seemed genuinely interested. The problem with this is that it sets up behaviours and expectations that in my case have been reinforced all the way to my current tenuous tenure in music technology education. I’ve been trained to prioritise the sharing of my work and process as the primary reason for doing it when in fact it is a not entirely unnecessary result. I believe my previous successes were not just the result of “talent” but also networking: being a key person in the Brisbane experimental music scene as a DJ and gig curator. I haven’t done that for sometime now and therefore have no relevance to the current scene. This doesn’t need to be a problem, however I need to short-circuit my current expectations. I have so much to play with on so many levels and so very little time to do it. I feel I should make my time work for me as doing what I imagine is expected of me clearly isn’t working.

      There are three main things I’m looking at changing:
      1) Working on ritual music for personal meditation – something i’ve been putting off because I keep just making tracks and sticking them on the web! As simple as something for public transport meditation as i’m spending around 4hrs a week on a bus where I could be doing useful internal work 😉
      2) Working on some long form composition over months / years rather than weeks. For the last decade i’ve tended to jam out stuff and share it as quickly as possible. This has culminated in the excellent Numerology/Nord setup that is great for therapeutic jamming but it need not be the only approach I take. This isn’t calculated – it is just a habit influenced by the research i’ve been doing and a habit that I think I need to challenge for my own sake. Slow down – deliberate – take time. Not that I won’t put stuff up on Soundcloud but I think I need to use it differently.
      3) Griffin is coming to an age where he is dealing with contemplating Mumma as a separate entity and I think its really important that I step up. Stacey is also keen to push her own career forward and needs more time. Also I’ve come to a startlingly banal (but important) observation that home/family frustrations increase in inverse proportion to ones engagement with them. That is the more I engage the easier it is… kids making mess and noise are frustrating and annoying when you are trying to “work” – so I could continue to feel frustrated and annoyed or just stop working maybe and enjoy it. 😉

      There are a number of necessary realities associated with my decisions to “hibernate” however none of them involve me stopping making music.

  2. don’t stop sharing. I enjoy reading your posts. I haven’t been able to download / buy / listen to much music online lately due to traveling so much (work) and having ridiculously low data caps in hotels. & sometimes I miss the posts. I have a folder of emails to sort through though

      1. basically I still listen to my old music. sad I know, but I love it. there’s only so much more I can add to my brain. so I’ve been sticking/rediscovering what I already have. & when home, with some time then I try out some new sounds here & there. I still prefer my records & cds to downloads. (downloads tend to be previews). I found I had to “slow down” too – as it was getting too much and I wasn’t loving a lot of the new stuff like I did the old stuff (apart from some exceptions). I guess it’s a matter of filtering

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head with point 3. The more you try to work and “not pay attention” to your kids, the noisier and more disruptive they become. They’ll be at school before you know it.

    1. All true David – needs to be organised somehow though. We are starting to collect camping gear so that we can do the “family” thing that way. I’d certainly like Griffin to be used to / appreciate it though I get the feeling Stacey’s girls will be less keen as Minecraft is more interesting! Certainly not stopping the music making – just think the expectations need to be different and spread out. At least now I can jam out for a couple of hours and come away with something that I feel is 1/2 decent without it requiring hours of fiddling.

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