Beyond Tree and Stone

I am proud to announce that the doom tuba duo ORE I am in has release it’s debut EP – listen here

Beyond Tree and Stone is the first official release by ORE. Proceeds from this EP will go towards the costs associated with transporting two large and unwieldy brass instruments and their players across the English Channel as we join Oxbow’s “Oxbow Chamber Orchestra” in Paris and Brussels in October 2012.

PRSF New Music Incubator – Initial response

Last week I attended the UK leg of the PRSF New Music Incubator, for which I was selected earlier this year. This was held at Brunel University, the Swedish leg takes place in some remote northern Swedish town in April 2012.

Here is a list of the current participants.

I decided to write an initial response to my time there before memories fade. I have not reflected on stuff in great detail, in fact I just wanted to blurt some stuff out there. I find this a valid part of how I document stuff and also quite cathartic. More measured thoughts to follow…maybe.

The schedule and process was pretty intensive. Each day we’d make our way to the food hall at 8am for breakfast, then to the main hall for 9am to be divided into groups and to be given our theme for the day. Each evening at 8pm we would “perform” whatever we had managed to achieve that day. Days were pretty long, creatively charged and were followed by long sessions to evaluate what had been presented. These were sometimes quite impassioned affairs.

On the first night it became apparent that the people chosen were all really pleasant, as were the people leading the programme. That was a great start and put me immediately at ease.

For me personally it was an emotional time. I had to travel back on the first day to attend a meeting to see whether the studio I had spent all my life savings on having built could be rescued from possible demolition, as it was too tall. I find planning a pretty dull subject area but the potential consequences were substantial for me and had been causing me stress and bouts of depression for months. I was really nervous but I am so pleased to say that it was passed and can now be finished. This is GREAT news but the whole episode left me even more emotionally drained than just the intensity of the programme itself. My instinct was that I wanted to be around people I was already close to that night and the next day but it was actually really nice just getting on with stuff and seeing how happy those who I told were for me. Again, it showed how damn pleasant the people on the programme are.

At times I felt out of my depth. I am clearly at a different stage in my musical development to pretty much everyone else there, which included accomplished composers, players, or experts in their fields. By the last day this feeling got to me a little but overall it was really good to be given an indication of what level I should be looking to achieve. It also meant that I learnt shedloads from everyone else. I hope I was able to give something back but some of the time I just felt I was leaching expertise.

I was reminded how much I want to excel on an instrument or in a given area, rather than as is currently the case, where I am fairly proficient in a number of areas. People demonstrated some amazing work throughout as part of how we got to know each other. On the last day I had demos from Robert Ek, a hugely accomplished clarinet player, and from Mark Fell. I consider both of them to be at the top of their games. This just made me want to concentrate my efforts more than ever.

As ever I didn’t document stuff as well as I’d have liked. We were busy! The best I did was take a few photographs of my group on the last day (below). More material will no doubt surface in due course.

Lina Lapelyte

Robert Ek

Mark Fell

My kit

We all provided feedback about the programme on the last evening. There’s no need to go over that here, other than to stress one thing, I think it could be even more successful given a broader range of people and influences. I don’t really know what sort of music PRS hope the programme will result in but for me the participants were drawn from too narrow a selection of musicians and backgrounds.

I have not stopped thinking about the week we had together. In the shower, on my morning bike ride etc. It has really challenged me and I believe it will focus my efforts greatly. In particular the single-mindedness and expertise demonstrated was just a big kick up the arse for me. I admire so many of the people on the course, it was great to spend time I their company. It was all I could’ve hoped for.

I am really looking forward to Sweden and am confident interesting collaborations and future works will arise.
I’d like to thank everyone involved in the programme and a special thank you to Capsule for nominating me. Your support is hugely appreciated!

A little knitty ditty

I am enjoying concentrating on my non-commercial music and arts projects during my sabbatical but when I was offered the chance to do a funky little ditty for this Hobbycraft campaign, with my business partner at Stereographic doing the visuals, I went for it! It was great just concetrating on creating a little tune and not having to deal with any other aspects of the project ;)

Note: not sure why the audio is a little “clicky” in parts…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rugXQAmVscE

Dooooooh Doo Doo Dooooh

I’ve been doing quite a lot of work with young people over the last couple of years. This mostly involves introducing them to new ways of making and thinking about music. I have continued to do this work during my sabbatical as I hope it might go some way towards creating a more enriched future.

The latest event I attended was the “Change Day” held at Billesley Primary School in Birmingham. I spent between 45 minutes and an hour with groups of 15 kids, showing them how sampling and looping works and then writing a short tune using this technique to form the basis. Given the short period of time available I was really pleased with the results. As well as creating the rhythm and the “bassline” the kids also wrote and sang the lyrics.

Here is the catchy ditty year 6 created:

[audio:http://www.mrunderwood.co.uk/audio/Yr6_I_Want_My_School_To_Be.mp3]

I would like to thank everyone involved for helping make this inspiring day happen. The other creative practitioners were really great and I think the goals of the day were exceeded.

For Trish

Broadcast singer Trish Keenan died this morning. I spent this afternoon writing her a piece of music to say goodbye (right-click to download)

I didn’t know Trish well personally, although I spoke with her a few times after gigs during the short time I lived in Birmingham. Her influence on me musically is very strong and I will definitely miss that. Most of all though it just hurts when one so young dies. R.I.P.

Grin Scab is alive…

Back in September 2009 (!) I briefly mentioned a new project I was involved in called GypScab, with my friends Grinner and Seamus (with Justin doing the artwork – above). As part of that I did a liveset about a year ago as a test. It went well but then I got busy with other things.

In the meantime I have worked on some really interesting sounding stuff as part of this project but nothing will be formally release until next year.

Recently though Seamus and Grinner got fed up with waiting for me, took the live recording I did and fleshed it out into a fully-fledged 39 minute long tune! They also got scared of offending travellers, so we are now named Grin Scab. Behold…

Grin Scab on SoundCloud

Open Sound Group

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Open Sound Group session, run by sound artist and friend, Graham Dunning. Graham has been on residency in Rea Garden for a while now and he was keen to get local experimental musicians together to create compositions based on the space and objects at the Rea Garden site.

I first met Graham at Sonic Weekend. To open the session yesterday he spoke about how his time at Sonic Weekend was one of the inspirations for getting everyone together to make some recordings. As ever with these things I was a little unsure of the plan, and myself, to start with but Graham explained the idea and everyone was very welcoming. A few familiar faces helped too, in the form of AAS and Antonio.

Alongside the familiar faces there were many I hadn’t met before. I was particularly excited to meet Dallas Simpson, Sarah Farmer of Lombard Method fame and Andy Ingamells. Dallas had spent the previous day doing binaural recordings of the site, which were available to all as a form of inspiration for their pieces. Sarah was most pleasant and had a lovely approach to sound generation and looping, focusing on the sound of physical objects on an ancient turntable. Andy really blew me away. A young chap with some amazing ideas. I love people who focus on the voice and novel ways to score pieces. His piece for the group was made up of a list of words and phrases he had come across in the area and was scored using a visual score, based on the boldness of the felt lines he had drawn on sheets at the site the day before. The rain had randomly altered the score, which lead to an unpredictable cacophony of sound, with all of the group partaking. Great stuff!

Overall it was a really inspirational and stimulating event. It was great to see the variety of styles and working methods coming together so well. Having been very busy for a while now, with workshop planning and midi-octopus building, this was a welcome break. It was all consuming, yet lots of fun. If the outcomes are as good as it felt on the day then we are in for a treat. Good stuff Graham!

Glatze News

Just a quick update from the world of Glatze.

Despite keeping a low profile for a while, to allow my other selves to flourish, I have been asked to play a gig on the 20th of August in Cheltenham, which I was very happy to accept! Callie who saw me play at Supersonic last year has sorted out a night for me to play in place of the July Supersonic this year. The only problem is Cheltenham didn’t seem to have its act together for a July date, so she has lined me up an August date instead. As ever, it’ll be balls-out live fun from me…come along if you can!

Also, I have been putting the finishing touches to my new, self-titled “Glatze” EP. Never one to do things half-heartedly I am producing some lush demo CDs (mock-up below – I’m loving my black faced CDRs) and sending this out to some people I want to sign me. Mike Patton, if you are reading this, that means you! :) I hope the world is ready for my new Romany Surf Step genre. The mighty Centrifuge certainly are, and I am happy to announce that they plan to release it soon, thanks Wassim!

I have two “reviews” in already. I sent it to BJ Cole, who I’d like to work with if anyone gives me an album deal, and he said “I have had a listen to your tracks, and think they are great! You have a very original direction“. Also, the chap who mastered it said “It’s great stuff! I’ve never really heard anything like it. Sure, it’s music, and it sounds like a lot of stuff, but there is a unique voice, and it’s good!“.

As they are the only two people that have heard it entirely so far, I am pretty chuffed with the response. I’ll keep you posted on what the wider world makes of it…


Thanks to Ben Waddington for the main artwork.

Theremin Day

Just a quick announcement and some further information on my upcoming event Theremin Day – 24th April 2010.

I am delighted to be able to work in association with the fizzPOP crew, to deliver both a daytime workshop and an evening of music, all with a Theremin theme. The day is split in two with an afternoon workshop in which you can build your own Optical Theremin, and an evening of live Theremin performances. While tickets last, you can attend either or both! Let’s start with the evening event…

DO NOT TOUCH – An evening of Theremin Live Performances

A special evening of audio/visual delights, based around the Theremin theme. The highlights are:

Ms Hypnotique
This is an opportunity to see one of the nation’s most renowned Theremin players. She has trained with Lydia Kavina, the grand-niece of Leon Theremin, and performs in many genres from classical to surf-rock to industrial. She has given numerous performances and recordings for artists including Bob Moog, Damien Hirst and TV appearances include “James May’s 20th Century” and “New Paul O’Grady Show”. In 2009 she performed on the fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square, as part of Anthony Gormley’s “One and Other” project and in April 2010 she will perform at Ether Fest at Royal Festival Hall in a 20-piece Theremin orchestra.


Ms Hypnotique also features on one of my soon to be released “Romany-Surf-Step” tunes. I am very pleased she is coming to Birmingham for Theremin Day.

Listen to this!

Image: copyright Jason Knott 2002

Mr. Underwood & Friends
Yes, me! I’ll be doing a super rare performance of Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music, using four torches and four Optical Theremins (of the same kind made in the afternoon workshop). The performance will be in darkness and will peak in a cacophony of squealing sound.

Pete Ashton
Pete will be wowing us with his Thingamagoop (see video below) and some 8-bit sounds. He will also be collaborating with Ms Hypnotique and myself in an improv session.

+ a selection of other Theremin audio/visual delights

Do Not Touch – Build your own Optical Theremin Workshop

During the workshop, people will be able to make a 3 oscillator Optical Theremin, which makes noises like this, when light is shone on it:

[flv:/video/theremin.flv 524 294]
I will soon be adding a video showing the finished article, in a nice shiny box…

The event will take place on the 24th of April at The Edge, Cheapside, Birmingham. I am very grateful to fizzPOP and Friction Arts for supporting this event. All profits go to fizzPOP in order to help them go on to bigger and better things. Birmingham needs you!

I hope we can fill the place for this highly distinctive day of workshoping and live performance, Theremin Day.

Tickets are available here: Workshop – Sold Out! and here: Event Tickets

Further information is here: Workshop Details and here: Event Details

Glatze, back on “the road”

After a good while in the studio working on my Glatze liveset and EP, and lots of other musical treats, I am back on “the road”.

Tomorrow night sees me performing my new liveset for the first time. I will be headlining a night at The Portland Arms, in sunny Cambridge. This gig came about through some peeps that watched me play at Supersonic last year. Since then I have reworked large sections of my liveset, which is all well and good in my studio, but I’ll be keen to see how it goes down live.

For a taster of what to expect, although it’s a rollercoaster ride as ever, here’s a live recording of the last track in my new set:

[audio:glatze.mp3]

Looking forward to playing in front of someone other than myself again…