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Yesterday I was lucky to attend a creative workshop on Sound, Gender, Feminism and Activism at the London College of Communications. I’m still recovering from the (happy) shock of being in a room packed full of people who get excited about the same things as me – making electroacoustic music, adventures in sound, women in music, gender equality – and being able to talk together, easily, without having to explain too much.
We listened to a talk about how sound engineers are taught to “clear up the clutter” of mid-to-low range frequencies in female vocals to – in the words of one Kelly Clarkson – “compress the hell” out of them to produce the hard, shiny, flat sound of commercial recordings. This was followed by a marvellous anecdote about Bjork poking her engineer with a stick whenever he reached for the EQ (there was no EQ or compression used on her vocals for Biophilia). One upside of producing your own work is that you can preserve the tonal and emotional range of your vocal expression without having to reach for the stick, even though it makes mixing a more lengthy and considered task.
I could – and should, and may yet – write an epic post about the event, linking to the blogs of all the speakers – but at the moment there’s just time to share this piece of 1930′s film, which a filmmaker presented as part of her research into gender and the machine. It’s the original vocoder, operated very skilfully by a woman to produce a male voice. Get your head around that act of sonic gender b(l)ending!
I also learned about BBC radiophonic workshop pioneer Daphne Oram who, perhaps because she wasn’t responsible for the eminently hummable Dr Who theme tune, preferring more abstract sonic territory, is less well-known than Delia Derbyshire. Here is Daphne’s ‘Pompie Ballet.’ Only one word for it – Oramic. And magic.
Well, I’m feeling totally energized this morning after last nights’ FULL-LENGTH ONE HOUR LIVESTREAM CONCERT (yay!) which ended up being more like a 1 hour 20 minute concert thanks to my rambling between songs. It seemed inconsiderate to my guests not to, you know…speak. So, speak I did. At length. To the extent that the video recorder ran out of space. Sorry, folks who wanted to watch later, but the footage cuts off somewhere in the middle of ‘Frauenwerk.’ We’re going to edit some highlights and stick them on YouTube shortly.
All in all, I’m feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and even achievement at having performed all fourteen of the album songs, back to back. My voice handled it (I’ve been building vocal strength with daily exercises) and stayed strong until the final crescendo in ‘The Family.’ I was able to really get into my flow, instead of having to stop just when I felt I was getting started (the reality of playing in small London venues, where you’re to consider yourself lucky to play for 30 minutes, unless you’ve taken over the venue for the night). I wasn’t fighting feedback or a swampy PA system. And, thanks to not having to use a microphone, I could swivel in my chair and sway around as the mood took me.
Yes, this performing-your-own-music schtick is just the bomb. The absolute best. Joy central.
But enough about me. How was it for you? I haven’t found a way to read messages onscreen while keeping both my head and keyboard in view, but I was able to read some of your messages at the end before they were swept into webby oblivion. Thanks for all the lovely comments, requests and general back slaps. I have no idea who some of you were but I appreciate them all the same. From the numbers, it seems everyone who tuned in at 8pm stayed watching til 9pm and beyond. I think that’s an endorsement! Having you there, in your far-flung locations, was essential to the live experience.
Long and short of it, I’m going to make this a regular thing because it’s so damn enjoyable. As music friends & fans in the US have pointed out they’re unlikely to be able to tune in on Friday lunchtimes, I thought I’d try one on a Sunday evening in the UK to catch them on Sunday afternoon. That time would probably be better for my central European friends too. I’ve been trying to communicate with my Malaysian friends using an online translator, but the first attempt doesn’t seem to have worked…I’m working on that.
I’m pleased to announce that, on 28th May 2012, 14 English Outcasts will be available on iTunes and Spotify. I was pleased with the number of streams of ‘Supernova’ even if the rate isn’t yet at the level it should be. The Joy e.p. is going up there, too, on 22nd April (in honour of my dad’s birthday). I’m also going to give MySpace Music a try. Call it misguided loyalty. I very nearly deleted my profile when Murdoch bought it and the functionality went up the Swanee, so this is their last chance (I’m sure Wendi is reading this – SORT IT OUT WENDI!). I may start using Soundcloud for remixes, live downloads and the odd single only, as that’s what it seems to work best for. I’ll stick with Bandcamp, so the album is still bloggable and sharable, but make sure the price is the same as other outlets.
Watch this space for more livestream news.
So, my lovelies, here’s the last livestream ‘rehearsal’ in anticipation of Friday’s full, one hour performance. I shared ‘A Queen’s Garden’, giving some insight into what the lyrics are about (clue: Victorians! new and old), along with a brand new, MIDI-rich take on ‘The Family.’ The new version grew out of the album version like a fresh branch from a sturdy tree. Now it’s shooting off roots of its own…As I’ve got to grips with MIDI programming in the last month, and find myself delighted with the new sonic landscape opening up before me, album number two will certainly be heading in that direction.
That said, I’ve also been exploring Bjork’s Biophilia app some more. She has set the bar so incredibly high, in terms of making beautiful and enlightening music you can experience through three (four?) senses. I’ve loved watching the MIDI-style animations as her complex, dense compositions unfold. Needless to say, Ms Guðmundsdóttir’s creation is acting upon me like the magnetic field generated by a volcano, tugging at my own creative urges and helping to shape the new songs I’m making. Can I access a new layer of richness? Will it lie in apparent simplicity? The story continues…
Have you tried the Biophilia app yet? It’s just…amaze. You can download it from the iTunes App Store here. So worth it, trust me. Every song is also a game and an animation. The accompanying text is thought provoking. And there’s even an introduction from David Attenborough. Not your average album release, then. I almost wish it had not made me want to release album number two as an App…
Hope to tweet with some of you this Friday. Remember: 8pm GMT from this very website.
So, *thanks* for coming along to Friday nights’ livestream micro-gig. This time, I shared a live version of ‘The Mirror’ based around synth lines rather than three cellists (it’s quite a coup to bring three great cellists together) and a juicy version of ‘Thundersong.’ What joy! At the end of the second song you might be able to detect a feint ‘miaow’ from my trusty feline mascot (and beloved pet).
I’m going to start a poll or two soon, to find out which of three tracks you’d like to hear me do a cover version of and to find out which tracks from 14 English Outcasts I should release as singles.
Here’s the video of my last livestream:
Hope you’ll join me, here on this site, on the evening of Friday 13th for a one hour concert of all the songs from my debut album. Remember you can subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow this blog by e-mail to keep in touch.
Love and rockets,
Hello folks (at some point I may have to stop prefacing each post with that, but for now it feels more personal), I hope this finds you in good spirits.
So, a lovely commenter on my last post, by the name of Marc (here’s his blog on music and film) asked what inspires me. As that’s a tough question to answer in a comment, I thought I’d write a post about it – with moving images and soundtrack. His blog mentions that the first piece of music he really connected with was the Ave Maria. You know – the piano version penned by Schubert…
BBC3 are having some sort of Schubert-fest at the moment, so it’s sweet that his name should crop up. Marc’s choice resonated with me because this same piece of music was the sound of my childhood in a Catholic school in South East London. Good choice, Marc!
There’s something about that chord progression and the looping arpeggios which creates a sense of serenity and peacefulness. It brings to mind the cadences of breathing and the soaring of hope, punctuated with moments of doubt, fragility, and more than a hint of despair. I don’t want to analyze it too much. It’s an exquisite piece of music which transcends time and place. Even though I’m now a heathen, this piece never fails to take me to another place up above the rooftops. And start the tears!
I think devotional music and hymns have had an enormous impact both on my need to create music and the kind of music I create. As a kid, I sang in the church choir. I would strum a Spanish guitar with my music teacher in assemblies and sometimes played the piano. She once let me play the church organ and set me loose in a store cupboard full of dusty, unused instruments, which was how I discovered the Zither and Dulcimer. Really, after my mother, she was my first champion, the first to make me feel that music was vital and that I should experience it in as many ways as possible.
Thanks to Mrs D, then.
The other piece of music that perhaps set my course for life was played to me by my mother. It was on a collection of chamber music hits which I played until it fell apart. You’ll recognize it. Although widely attributed to Albinoni, it’s actually by Giazotto.
Neither composer has a website, so…
This piece dominates your emotions and reveals a truth. It conveys the sadness and fragility of human existence but makes suffering and striving beautiful. Like life, it branches out and cycles back upon itself. Thanks, mum.
More soon. Before I sign off, I just want to shout out to Tom Robinson and Co who played ‘The Prayer’ again on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Cheers, Tom!
Hello dear webchums,
Well, last night was Livestream No. 4. The big livestream concert on 13th April is approaching fast. I’m practicing as much as possible, between making my second album, and wondering whether I can pull it off? This first attempt to perform ‘Frauenwerk’ live went a little pear-shaped, but like a pro, I soldiered on in the face of…running out of song. It’s strange that you can know a song perfectly in rehearsal then find important bits fall out of your head when you’re under the lights. Perhaps I need to work on my lyric memory palaces? Such is the risk and peril of live music. It’s worth it for the kicks.
Another unexpected peril, during last night’s performance, was the intrusion of a certain furry band member.
He has four legs and a tail. Did you spot him in the background, shaking his gourd?
My breathless rendition of ‘The Prayer’ was dedicated to DJ Tom Robinson and the the soon-to-be-web-only Freshnet team. Thanks in advance for playing my track on your BBC6 show – again – tonight. You rule.
I decided to brave the 4chan trolls and remove the password protection from the warm-up livestreams, so do come along for the next one on 30th March. A Facebook Like, a Twitter share, a Blog Follow, or a mailing list sign-up to therealarielarcher [@] gmail [.] com are always welcome.
Here’s the video of last nights’ micro-gig, for those who slow down to stare at car crashes
In case you didn’t know, all this Friday night micro-gigging is building towards a full 1 hour performance on Friday 13th April 2012. Do join me. If you come along, I’ll say thanks by giving you a free album download.
p.s. can I just share the video for Sylver Tongue’s ‘Hook You Up’? This is none other than Charlotte Hatherley, accomplished solo artist, ex-Ash and recently of Bat for Lashes. It’s such a luminous track, I’ll let it speak for itself. Charlotte and her band are playing live a lot at the moment – go see her if you can. Sylver Tongue website.
…perhaps not without going off like a firework, baby.
The stimulus? Well, I just found out that the divine Tom Robinson and his BBC Introducing Freshnet Team are going to play a track from 14 English Outcasts on his show again this coming Saturday night/Sunday morning. Huzzaaaaah! Three cheers for their support for new, independent music!
So, to mark the occasion (it isn’t every day that your own hand-spun, organo-tech sounds are played on the national radio-uh-oh) I’m going to play that song live during my webstream on Friday night. It’ll be my first ever attempt to bring it to life as a live performance, with the limitation of having to stay within the scope of my webcam. Otherwise, I’d be boinging around like nobody’s business.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to share the work of two artists I just adore, whom you may not have heard about – Kate Havnevik and Cornelia. I’ve followed Kate’s output for several years and discovered Cornelia more recently. They have in common an inventive, emotive, highly individual approach to making electronic pop. Everyone should know about them, so I’m doing my little bit to wave and point at them. It was a close call deciding which of their tracks to blog, but in the end I went with my absolute favourites, which by complete coincidence both happen to contain the word ‘day’ in the title.
So, enjoy Cornelia’s scintillating track ‘The Meaning of that Day’ (Cornelia on Camp Mozart)
…and Kate Havnevik’s serene ‘New Day’ (Kate’s website)
I will be tuning in on my wireless (warmer sounds than DAB, IMHO) to listen to the broadcast. Feel free to join me for a Tweetfest.
As for the livestream – be there or be…a dodecahedron (and PLEASE PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO PUT APRIL 13th IN YOUR DIARY!…if only for the free download version of 14 English Outcasts
Love & rockets,
In the wee small hours of Saturday night (1-3 am), Tom Robinson is going to play ‘The Prayer’ on BBC Introducing. Tom Robinson is our generation’s John Peel, except with hits to his name. This is massive. I’m staying up for it because I’m totally uncool and find the prospect of national radio play too exciting. This month is the last month before Tom & the Freshnet Team’s show becomes internet-only, so I’m delighted to have made it onto the national airwaves. So many people listen to it online anyway, it’s still going to keep its audience.
Last night I invited my webchums over for my third livestream and shared my first attempts at live versions of ‘Whisper in the Rain’ – with a soupcon of Stylophone (see above) – and ‘The Girl with the Knife.’ The lyrics for both of these songs are so…direct, so clear a statement of my beliefs, that I find it strange to sing them straight to others…the temptation to obfuscate and hide myself is STRONG with these two.
Don’t miss no.4 next Friday 23rd March 2012. Be there or be…a rhombus. Yeah – you heard me! A RHOMBUS.
It’s been lovely to see the Facebook Likes building up. A Twitter share or a Blog Follow, or a mailing list sign-up to therealarielarcher [@] gmail [.] com is always nice as it means I don’t have to dash around cyberspace saying “hey! come and party with me.” Or, not quite so much.
Here, for party animals and couch spuds who missed last nights’ micro-gig, is the video:
The point of all these quickie micro-gigs is to build up to a full 1 hour performance on Friday 13th April 2012. For the moment, while I effectively rehearse in public, the streams are for friends only. If you want to be there, just message me for the secret password and access them via the new ‘Livestream’ link on this site.
You can still download the audio from the first livestream from Soundcloud in just 2 clicks.
Thanks for coming last night – it’s invaluable to have an audience to sharpen up a performance! Mua x
Don’t forget to put 13th April in your diary – the biggie. To everyone who attends I’ll give a code to download 14 English Outcasts for freeeee.
Love and rockets,
It’s been a good week here at Ariel HQ. I’ve been informed that a track from 14 English Outcasts is going to be played on BBC Introducing by the wonderful champion of independent musicians Tom Robinson and his Freshnet Team, including my ladymusic heroine Ruth Barnes. That makes me burst with pride a little. ‘Tis all my own work. I can’t wait to hear my song on national radio and to know how many other ears it will reach. Big love to all the friends and supporters who asked BBC 6 Music to play my music.
Well, last night was the night for livestream number 2. The tracks I decided to share were ‘The Aviatrix’ (which takes me away somewhere whenever I play it) and ‘Gentlewood’ (a song close to my heart). If you were among the viewers, you’ll know that I went off on an almighty tangent about the origins of the second song (escaping from a busload of tourists I had just handed over to the tour guide at Versailles, stumbling across a shady wooded area and falling into a romantic slumber) which I might edit for the download. Can I talk?! I surprised myself. I doubt I’d win any prizes for captivating between-song banter, but you can be the judge of that.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed myself again and am looking forward to number 3, next Friday 16th March 2012. Be there or be cuboid!
Wrap your peepers around the video of last nights’ micro-gig (have I invented a word?):
Unless either myself or my Mac are kidnapped by extra-terrestrials, I’ll be livestreaming a couple of songs from 14 English Outcasts every Friday night, building up to a 1 hour performance on Friday 13th April 2012. It’s a constantly unfolding work-in-progress. For the moment, the streams are for friends only. You can message me for the secret password and access them via the new ‘Livestream’ link on this site.
Thanks again to the special friends who joined me last night.
Feel free to come again next Friday 16th March 2012 at 8pm GMT for another live micro-gig – and to put 13th April in your diary!
Love and rockets,
Hello good folks,
Thanks to the wonder of Soundcloud, you can download the audio recording of my first livestream performance of songs from 14 English Outcasts – free. The recording is of ‘The Actress’ and ‘The Surgeon’ from 14 English Outcasts, my debut album. It was sheer joy to perform live, even though it’s a little like communicating through a two-way mirror.
I would really appreciate a Facebook Like, a Twitter share, a Blog Follow, or a mailing list sign-up to therealarielarcher [@] gmail [.] com to say ‘cheers!’ – but, as they say, c’est a vous choufleur (trans: it’s up to you, cauliflower…?). Or, in the immortal – and less surreal – words of Bjork, “I can control what I give but I can’t control what I get given.”
I hope you enjoy listening. You can watch it, too.
The plan is to livestream a couple of songs from the album every Friday night, building up to a 1 hour performance on Friday 13th April 2012. It’s a constantly unfolding work-in-progress. For the moment, the streams are for friends only. You can message me for the secret password and access them via the new ‘Livestream’ link on this site.
Thanks to the lovely friends who joined me last night!
Feel free to come again next Friday 9th March 2012 at 8pm GMT for more live musical fun.
Love and rockets,