Stay At Home Artist Residency

I am a sound-artist, musician and musical instrument designer. This has been my full-time occupation for six years now and I have been lucky enough to work on some great projects with some wonderful people.

I have completed a number of artist residencies during this time; from a year-long stint as artist-in-residence at the Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham to week-long residencies, such as that as part of last year’s Supernormal Festival. Based on this experience and my (possibly misguided) analysis of the likely state of UK arts funding in future, I have come up with an idea for an artist residency programme.

The Stay At Home Artist Residency

As the name suggests, this idea centres around commissioning me to carry out an artist residency here, at home, with all my toys and tools to hand.


Recording studio / rehearsal space

What’s in it for you?

You get to commission me to create work for your event/venue. This could take the form of a sound art piece, a musical performance or composition, a piece of research, a presentation, or just a documented process for others to draw inspiration from. But crucially, you won’t have to think about the infrastructure, the travel/living arrangements, energy costs, health and safety etc.

It’s also super-flexible. A Stay At Home Artist Residency can be as short as a single day (in fact, I’d consider shorter!), or left to run until a suitable outcome is reached. No time is spent getting settled, setting stuff up or familiarising myself with a new environment. It’s flexible in terms of geolocation too. Nice as it is to travel, with a Stay At Home Residency I no longer need to come to your gallery in Japan for two weeks. I just post the outcomes (online or by courier) when the residency period is complete.

Cheap too. A one day residency will cost you £100. A full five-day week, £400. We can discuss rates for anything longer than that but part of the aim is to keep it cost-effective. For example, I have a lot of resources and materials here. As much as possible, my aim is to use what I already have to build stuff. If I need anything specific for a given idea, we can discuss this but an aim of these residencies is to keep the cost down by reducing the material costs in this way.


Woodworking workshop

What’s in it for me?

First and foremost…focus. I generally remain really productive in-between commissions but I have a tendency to flit between ideas. This can be great for learning and research purposes but it has also led to a plethora of half-finished items that are never likely to see the light of day. Many of my experiments get posted to Twitter (see below) in the hope that they will inspire others but there is a significant difference between the types of outcomes that arise from this self-imposed research and those arising from commissioned work.

The Stay At Home Residency also removes one of my primary frustrations with residencies: that of being removed from the tools and materials of my art. I find it quite stressful to leave stuff I might need behind and doubly so if I start to create something which is crying out to be made on a machine in my workshop, or using parts in my materials store. These restrictions can of course be liberating too but when you have to compromise a design due to a few missing bits of metal or the absence of a drill press I tend to find this a little frustrating.

It also presents an opportunity for my work to be experienced by others at your event/venue, which is always something I relish. And it’s a different way of commissioning me to do work. Another way to get paid. That’s important to my survival as an artist.

Yeah, but…

Yes, I realise that one of the strengths of an artist residency can be to remove the artist from their normal environment; to provide fresh stimuli. That’s still something I hope to do through other residencies but I believe what the Stay At Home Artist Residency lacks in terms of interaction with other artists and new surroundings it gains in terms of familiarity, focus, flexibility and having the tools and materials of my craft to hand.

Crucially, I am not the sort of artist that has a Proper Job and therefore gains the freedom to explore their art by going to do a residency. In many ways, I have the opposite problem: too much time and too many options. I relish the structure a Stay At Home Artist Residency would provide me with and hopefully it can lead to some exciting work for your festival/event/venue.

And yes, you could just commission me to make something for your event/venue but that’s different. With most of the residencies I have attended the emphasis is not on finished pieces of work but the process. A Stay At Home Artist Residency is different from a straightforward commission in that it won’t seek to the fully define the deliverables upfront. This is reflected in the residency fee and the lack of any cost for materials etc.

I’m interested

Great! Let’s discuss it further. Send me an email and we can take it from there. Hopefully, it will lead to some great work we can both be proud of.


Outdoor microphone


Outdoor tuba

Creating Amplification 5

Amplification at Millennium Point

The final blog post detailing our work creating Amplification. Now on show in Millennium Point, Birmingham.

Overview

Week commencing 25th May
What a week! A bit of a blur really but we got there in the end. In fact, we had the van packed with Amplification by the end of play on Wednesday.

As ever though there was a lot of admin and surrounding stuff to sort out ahead of the installation on Saturday. OH and then within an hour of it being installed, somebody broke it…so we arrived at 7:30am on Monday to fix and reinforce it; so it opened at 9am as planned.

The early opening was because we got it installed early and thought we’d just go for it! It provided a useful phase of beta testing…

Day by Day

25th May

  • Buying parts for final tweaks – such as silver piping, plinth, polish
  • Cutting and test fitting plinth

 
26th May

  • Final work on aesthetics and strengthening
  • One last test build

 
last-studio
 
27th May

  • Packing up and loading into van

 
kit-of-parts-sm
 
in-van_sm
 
28th May

  • Project admin

 
29th May

  • Signage and paperwork
  • Final nice-to-have tweaks to headset &c

30th May

  • Installation at Millennium point, with David
  • As I arrive home I get a call to say it has been broken so make plans to come in first thing on Monday

 
start
 
end
 
1st June May

  • Fixed and reinforced piece opens to the public at 9am – BINGO!

All that remains is for people to enjoy it and for us to do the documentation and rounding off…yay! Oh and any further maintenance of course ;)

Have a look/listen at Millennium Point, as part of All Ears.

Creating Amplification 4

rush

Here is the fourth and penultimate weekly blog post detailing our progress creating Amplification.

Overview

Week commencing 18th May
Our penultimate week certainly had its ups and downs. Luckily our work on Saturday ended on a positive note.

Now we are into the phase of final tweaks – which always take ages – and nice-to-haves before pack down; ahead of installation at Millennium Point on Saturday. It’s going to be a exhilarating and tiring week. Let’s hope everything goes to plan…and then let’s hope people enjoy using it.

Day by Day

18th May

  • Day off; pondering

 
19th May

  • Plinth arrives – yay!
  • Setting out plinth and elements to go on it
  • More welding
  • More ordering of parts

 
Laying out
 
20th May

  • Drilled lots of holes in the plinth – EEK!
  • Set stuff out on the plinth
  • MORE ordering of parts

 
21st May

  • Spent all day tweaking, hacking and installing our first proper test rig – and it failed. As a test that is pretty useful; just a tad demoralising

Setting up
 
22nd May

  • Going round trading estates buying parts to fix some of the issues we were experiencing
  • Bonus: found a great local micro-brewery on a trading estate ;)

23rd May

  • Modified a few things and set up a test rig again. MUCH better. We even had it tested by some almost genuine punters; who loved it
  • Onward!

Sanding the base
Making new clamps

Knackered and exhilarated; in equal measure.

To follow: Creating Amplification 5…the final week.

Creating Amplification 3

happy

Here is the third weekly blog post detailing our progress creating Amplification.

Overview

Week commencing 11th May
As you can see from Phil’s face and thumbs, this week went pretty well. We got a serious amount of the production sorted, resolved a few issues and generally got a lot closer to finishing the thing. My role was sourcing the advice and parts we’d needed, consulting with Phil and holding/shifting stuff as required, trying to find someone to document it and making coffee; all of which I did! Phil just cracked on, as he does, with the making!

The main thing that remained outstanding at the end of the week was the lack of the main stage / plinth, which was a nightmare as that’s what it is all constructed around. I was chasing like mad but it still hadn’t arrived by the Friday. Somewhat stressful.

Day by Day

11th May

  • Researched and ordered flange bearings that could go on top of the platform
  • Chasing plinth

 
12th May

  • Spoke with Chris Keenan of Prime Objective about video documentation and he agreed to do it – yay!
  • New flange bearings arrive and are tested
  • Uprights polished and tweaked for use with new bearings
  • Chasing plinth

 
pole
pole1
pole2
 
13th May

  • Welding; lots of welding
  • Sent demonstration video and audio to Chris to check it was correctly set up for video – bingo!
  • Chasing plinth

welding
welding2
 
14th May

  • Ordering more parts
  • Chasing plinth

 
15th May

  • Set up ear trumpets on stands, using retort stands to clamp; Adjust, repeat…
  • First full mock up. Testing audio routing, via pipes through chair and into ear trumpets on stands. It only worked!
  • Found new local supplier for nuts, bolts and other hardware. Great!
  • Chasing plinth

As with last week, we actually did a lot more than that…including head scratching, coffee drinking and other actual work but sometimes we were too busy doing it to write it down ;)

To follow: Creating Amplification 4…

Creating Amplification 2

amplification2

Here is the second weekly blog post detailing our progress creating Amplification.

Overview

Week commencing 4th May
We made significant progress this week. Many things started to fall into place and many of those things you can only really assess once you put stuff together were tweaked accordingly. Gradually we are reaching the tipping point where it goes from rushing around trying to source stuff and work stuff out to just bolting it all together. That’s not to say that it will all work when we bolt it together and there is still a background chance of total failure but that’s always a feature of making ambitious new work. Sometimes making art is scary; not only in terms of getting it finished – for example, this week we drilled through a very expensive chair. EEK!

In addition to the development of the piece itself, we also had – at last – some positive discussions with someone who might video document it. Yay.

Day by Day

4th May

  • Researched and ordered: hearing defenders, p bone mouthpieces, pipes and fittings

 
5th May

  • Researched: bearing options, pipe milling, machine shops

 
6th May

  • Received steering wheels
  • Drilled into expensive chair
  • Desoldered and reconstructed custom sousaphone pipework for routing audio via stands
  • Bought more tools
  • Received various items in the post – a now daily occurrence
  • Sent pillars to be machined
  • Discussed ideas for linking rotation of stands – David Morton as technical consultant

holes
heat
valves
build
 
7th May

  • Made base for chair
  • Made headset
  • Made base pivots / bump stops
  • Tested headset via pipework through chair

 
base
headset
 
 
8th May

  • Pillars returned, fitted, and tweaked (to eradicate wobble)
  • Found a new supplier (Acorn) for bearings and other parts – they actually took us seriously and want to feature the finished piece in their promotional materials!

Each day we actually did a lot more than that, including head scratching, coffee drinking and other actual work but sometimes we are too busy doing it to write it down ;)

To follow: Creating Amplification 3…

Creating Amplification 1

Amplification

This is the first in a four-part series of blog posts to document the final stages of work towards the installation of my / MortonUnderwood‘s most ambitious sound art installation to date. I must confess that for a while now I haven’t felt the urge to spend time writing about my work; as you can see from the date of my previous blog post on here. There are various general reasons for this, from not wanting to spend my time in front of a computer to wondering who would be interested in reading this stuff anyway.

Where this project is concerned though, there is one other thing that has held me back from documenting it: fear. Specifically, fear that it won’t be completed on time and what I will be documenting is in fact a terrible failure. Suddenly, last week – with four weeks to go until the installation – I had a change of heart regarding this. This stems from the fact that I think the chances of failure are now somewhat diminished, that I am bound to documenting it as a condition of the funding I received, and crucially, that I feel documenting even total failure might be of interest and help to others. So here we go…the first of four blog posts documenting the creation of Amplification.

(Unlike the remaining blog posts on this, as the first, this documents the process so far; rather than just the week prior.)

The story so far…

As an introduction to the project itself, let’s start with some blurb from the press release:

Amplification is a stereo acoustic amplification system, developed to encourage deep listening to environmental sounds within a space. Users of the system will augment their listening through two large ear trumpets. In addition, they will be able to adjust the stereo field of what they can hear by swiveling each horn; creating a distinctive and unusual listening experience.

During their time exploring the collection at the Birmingham Museums Trust, MortonUnderwood was struck by the efforts made by developers of the music boxes, gramophones and orchestrions in the collection to amplify the sound output. In a world where we can easily dial in more electronic amplification, many of the innovative approaches seen in the collection are now obsolete. Through Amplification MortonUnderwood hope to highlight the beauty of passive, acoustic amplification systems.

That’s the plan and I put this idea to the Arts Council, who duly supported the idea via their Grants For The Arts scheme.

grant_jpeg_black-sm

I am so pleased to have received their support; and at the first time of asking as well.

I could finally make something where money didn’t pose so much of a constraint. Where cobbling together could be substituted with professional fabrication. Where taking a few images and posting them online could be substituted with full video documentation.

BUT, as I know from years of running my own businesses, with every opportunity comes risk. Any step-change presents many challenges as well as openings…and that has been the story of this project so far.

The first thing my colleague David Morton and I had to do was make it a solid idea that properly sparked our interest. We played with a few ideas and prototypes before deciding on the approach outlined above. I suspect most people have seen or even used mono acoustic listening devices before and with David’s experience of using a mid-side microphone array we were confident we could create some interesting effects by making a stereo listening device, with a matched, stereo pair; where the user could alter the stereo field. It sounded easy enough at the time!

amplification3-sm

At the same time as developing a prototype of this ourselves, I started to look for firms to fabricate it and contacted someone I had used before about documenting the project. I anticipated that finding a fabricator might be hard but sadly even the chap who we had hoped would document it was unavailable, due to personal reasons.

In the end I wrote/drew a full specification for the piece in order to take it out more widely to fabricators. I was soon reminded of the benefits of cobbling together. In the words of one fellow artist I contacted regarding this, “It’s usually communication issues with commercial outfits in my experience, different mind-sets etc”. And so it went on…until one day, with time rather tight, we found a fabricator. Sadly, it took us two further weeks to discover they weren’t the right people for the job either, at which point we took the bold / scary decision to try and find another fabricator with only five and a half weeks left…

The only reason I feel able to write this now is that our new, and final fabricator, Tuba Phil (pictured below) and I are making reasonable strides now and will have something to present at the end of this month. I kick myself that I didn’t think of Phil before. I play in Collective43 with him but for some reason I didn’t consider him for this job until pretty late in the day. So far it has been a great pleasure working with him and I can see much good coming out of this in future. For one thing he acts as a conduit between what’s in my mind and the means of making this a reality…but also, we have a mutual respect and understanding.

One further thing I realised through this is that giving up the production of one of our pieces is going to be harder than I anticipated. Event pieces like A Word In Your Ear – where the idea was predominantly David’s, the box was produced by our friend Neil and all I did was manage the process and install the electronics – I had to play some part, beyond just the conceptual side of things. Maybe this will always be the case but I hope I will one day accept that the art is in the idea and you can happily let others create the piece itself, as they are probably better at that bit…

tuba-phil
Photo: Dave Grubb

To follow: Creating Amplification 2…

What would happen if I presented a Late Junction?

When Verity Sharp left Late Junction I got very close to recording a “Guest Mix”, as an experiment in What would happen if I presented a Late Junction? I was really just hoping that some good would come out of this situation. Maybe a renewed enthusiasm to explore who presents the show. Possibly even regular guest mixes!

Then, last week, Mara Carlyle hosted a week of shows. This was a revelation. I found her shows really exciting and it made me think hard again about why I hold Late Junction so dear. I realised that most of all it was the enthusiasm and commitment of the presenters to their bit of the musical world; to what makes them tick. So this time I carried out the experiment…and here it is:

What would happen if I presented a Late Junction? by Mrunderwood on Mixcloud

[Rather embarrassingly I messed up the URL. You can use this link if you want to share it without an error. DOH!]

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I realise this might be a bit of an odd thing to do and there are probably a few errors too [beyond the mix URL]; both technically and in the information but it was just an experiment. Think of it as a bonus fourth Late Junction, for one week only. Oh and granted some of my commentary may sound more like Mixing It than Late Junction but I am cool with that. I think it gets better as the show progresses too…t is my first ever Late Junction after all ;)

I welcome any comments.

Please buy any of the music you like. I have detailed the artist and track names in the Mixcloud tracklist.

If wet…

I recently spent some time in London. I did the following things:

– Met with Richard Whitelaw at Sound and Music
– Appeared on the panel at Wire Salon
– Met loads of inspirational folk at Café OTO
– Spent time with my dad
– Wandered around looking and listening
– Appeared on Graham Dunning’s show on NTS
– Visited Tate Modern
– Stood for 30 minutes listening to some live Klezmer on the South Bank
– Read Wire magazine on the train home

It was a really inspirational couple of days which resulted in the culmination of an idea I had been pondering for a while. A number of things me and David Morton had been trying to address suddenly solidified around a single idea. I love it when that happens!

And so it is that we (MortonUnderwood) will be starting a monthly night in my local village hall. A night dedicated to sonic exploration and the demonstration thereof. Somewhere for people to show what they have been working on and to get some feedback. Somewhere for panel discussions. Something that isn’t yet another blues rock band playing in a pub. We hope it will bring some people out of the woodwork locally and act as a nurturing environment for investigation and collaboration. And, like so many nights run by enthusiasts, we hope that one day we will be able to fund people we admire to come to us…

Behold “If wet…”, in the village hall. To be held once a month in Callow End Village Hall. More details soon…

EPIC October

I am sat in front of the fire writing this after one of the busiest and most exhilarating months of my life. I guess I have built a bit of a reputation for achieving the unachievable but October 2012 was always going to be a HUGE challenge. So many things had conspired to come to fruition at this time that I knew well in advance what I had to look forward to. What follows is a summary, one with holes in no doubt but I hope it covers most stuff.

This is the longest blog post I have ever written. It is many thousands of words long. I have been doing A LOT of stuff. If you are only interested in pictures, scroll through until you find them. If you want specific content, scroll down to the relevant section headings. If you want a full-on read through all of it then I hope you enjoy it. AND if you want yet more you can read Stuart’s tour diary here and blog posts on the MortonUnderwood website about the Supersonic Noise Boxes and the MU Water Instrument here and here respectively.

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October starts as September ends, with me and David Morton (www.mortonunderwood.co.uk) making a water-instrument for Swedish composer Jonas Asplund and building noise boxes for Supersonic Festival, plus all the tuba playing I can fit in. We are pretty flat out, with David staying over at my studio night after night. Things range from highly productive to frankly insane. Lots of fun though and crucially proof that when the fan is covered in poo me and David can work hard together without annoying each other.

iShed

Before I could deliver any of the results of this intense phase of production there was the small thing of the start of my time as Artist in Residence at the iShed to consider. I am collaborating with Tim Atack on a project based on my Sonic Graffiti work and his skills in creating narrative structure. We put this little introduction together. Despite only being scheduled for three days at the start of October and being extremely excited by the prospect, I was worried how this would impact on other stuff. David and I were working flat-out in the run up to the first day at iShed. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to adjust to this but actually it was really positive to be able to switch my head on to something else that required my attention. Noise boxes and water-instrument would have to wait whilst me and Tim stroked beards (our own, not each other’s) and talked about pie-in-the-sky instruments and sound art pieces over coffee. Success! I am so happy with how this has progressed so far and I am looking forward to further developments over the coming weeks. More info on this as it happens…

One Water, Sweden

The first results of the MortonUnderwood production-blitz were delivered to Sweden on the 11th of October. I flew out Stockholm with the instrument Jonas commissioned for a week of rehearsals before the performance on the 17th. There are lots of ways in which this was scary / unusual for me. For one thing it is only the third short haul flight I have been on since the end of a ten year period in which I didn’t fly short haul for environmental reasons. The trouble is Scandinavia is so damn cool to work in and is such a pig to get any other way in a timely or cost-effective manner. I landed and was greeted by the lovely Annika, who co-ran the project. At the airport I was as much waiting to hear her raucous laugh as see her raucous hair. As she pointed out afterward it was unlikely, even for her, that she would be walking through the airport laughing out loud to herself. On the way back to the flat we called into IKEA to grab a few pieces for the instrument which it made no sense to ship. It didn’t pass us by that getting parts from IKEA for an instrument to be delivered to Swedes was rather amusing but it stems from one of the core features of our approach as instrument makers; make sure you have access to lots of spares and you have considered the various modes of failure.

The next day me and Jonas headed to the studio at EMS in order to rebuild the instrument, ready for rehearsals the following day. I was nervous. All our hard work could come to nothing if I messed up at this stage, or moreover if Jonas didn’t like the look or sound of the instrument in the flesh. Luckily, it all went well on the day and the next day we were both keen to show it off. One thing that was clear to me as soon as I had built it was that, due to a lack of time in the run up, I was going to have to spend time in Sweden learning to play the thing better. In one sense the pressure was off as David pointed out that “at all stages of the learning process you are the world’s leading virtuoso”, but I spent as much time alone with the instrument as I could. I soon worked out that for me it was most naturally played as an odd stringed-water-percussion-instrument. I would play the bowls and the strings mainly with beaters. Another section utilised the two Sustainiac setup we used for this and at BEAM Festival earlier in the year.

The next few days were spent rehearsing. The group was made up of six people who I had met on the PRSF New Music Incubator and two others, a dancer from Finland and a cellist from Columbia. All were fantastic at what they did. I went through short periods feelings ranging from elation and self-doubt but the overriding feeling of working with such a group of professionals was sheer joy. Occasionally I would remind myself that this sort of stuff is now my day job. YESSSSS!

Here are some photographs of the instrument / stage etc. Once more material becomes available I will add it here…

Final test setup in studio

On stage in Sweden

My view from behind the instrument

Much fun was had working on the piece together and we delivered our best performance on the night! We all really played our socks off. The only sad thing was that there were only about 40 people in the audience. I am not sure why this was but I guess sometimes the promotional stuff is last on the to-do list. Also, it seems that might not be so unusual for New Music in Sweden. We were all pretty philosophical about this as it had always been considered a starting point for this project. A very successful one I would say. Also, LOTS of people liked the look and sound of our instrument. We did a few postcards in Swedish for people to take and send back to us with details of any instruments they want made on. We haven’t had any back yet but plenty were taken.

One thing I always try to bring to projects I work on is humour. Not always to everyone’s taste but humour nonetheless. I think this is useful when groups don’t know each other very well, and despite being consummate professionals throughout I had them calling me “The German Muslim” and doing the doom claw regularly by the end of our week together. Oh and one night we went to a bar with a German oompah band. It made us smile so much each time they sparked up that from then on whenever the conversation got heavy we just sang “bom bom bom bombombom bom bom bom” to invoke that feeling again. MOST amusing! No matter how serious the work is what’s the point in not having fun?

So, more success! Jonas and the One Water team were really pleased and I am sure we will all work together again soon. Oh and the cherry on top was that on meeting the head of EMS, Mats Lindström, I was afforded Guest Composer status there, which basically means I can go to use their lovely facilities in Stockholm any time I like. BINGO! *whispers* “They have modular synths…”

More information on this instrument and other pieces at : www.mortonunderwood.co.uk

Supersonic Festival, Birmingham

Next up, Supersonic Festival!!

It’s Friday morning, and I am a little stressed. My plan is to leave for Supersonic and not have to return home until after the tour with Oxbow. Having only been home for one day after a week away this no easy task. Given my almost legendary ability to forget my passport when going abroad I triple-check this is packed.
I am used to doing so much stuff at Supersonic that I barely see anything as a punter. This year was no exception but things started nicely with the Companis Sonic Feast in the Old Library. I had never been to a Companis event before but their reputation precedes them, which is why I was VERY SILLY INDEED to wear my white Fantomas t-shirt! When we got there we were asked to don a “bin bag coat” before entering. Uh oh! Given the t-shirt faux pas I chose to keep this on throughout, although I think it was only intended for the gargling session, where a drink (gin?) was poured from aloft into our mouths and we were each asked to gargle a tune. I was too confused to come up with anything decent. The rest of the evening was conducted in a similar vein, it was fantastic. We made a rhythmical salad, popped the bubble-wrap table cloth, burped, slurped and gulped into the microphone on each table. Much fun. We also sang Supersonic Happy Birthday and spent time in the company of ace people. On my table, Niko Werner and Celine of Oxbow, Laura McDermott of Fierce Festival, Frances Morgan of The Wire magazine and Capsule Jenny. Fookin’ marvellous company! Their influence ranged from Laura insisting we blow peas across the room, to me discussing mechanical music and electronics with Frances.

Companis delivered a great event. It was fantastic that Kaye Winwood was there to take some applause and a hug from me. What a star! Next, home to get stuff packed for the remainder of Supersonic and our tour with Oxbow…

Prior to the first rehearsals on Saturday morning I had merchandise to deliver and sort out. This is harder than it sounds but I just about sorted it before heading over to South Birmingham College. This year we had a stack of ORE merchandise (including some bits we forgot to put on the stall) and me and David had built a few MortonUnderwood Austerity Synths to sell alongside the ten hand-painted noise boxes we gave as a present to Supersonic.

Supersonic Noise Boxes

Austerity Synths

The first Oxbow Orchestra rehearsal is scheduled to run from 11-4pm on the Saturday. ORE are first on the scene. It turns out we normally are. I guess that means we are the least rock & roll band going but that’s cool. First up our dual tubas rehearse with Niko. It’s in at the deep-end. Most of the scores came through when I was in Sweden and the last one came through at 2am on the day of this first rehearsal. As someone with limited sight-reading experience this made me rather on edge. Actually, I was really pleasantly surprised by how stuff went. OK, so I hid behind Stuart at times but mostly I went for it, at least making good honest loud mistakes rather than playing too warily. The most noticeable thing from the word go was that everyone just got on with it. It felt like a band pulling in the same direction very quickly. Oh and I bet we had more tattoos between us than any similarly sized orchestra in the world!

The rehearsal runs over. Just time to peg it home with the kit and head back in for some Dylan Carlson after a quick stop off in the artist area, where I chat with Mick Flower – top chap! A theme in the artist area his year it turns out. I head down to Boxxed and Mr Carlson is just taking to the stage. I haven’t been paying enough attention so wasn’t sure what to expect. It came as a surprise, one that left me unable to be objective about what I was listening to. At first, all I could think were top level thoughts like “a laptop?”, “odd singer” etc. BUT in the end I found the section with drummer and singer rather enchanting. I have since listened to the CD and I get it now.

Next up, I was seriously torn. I had long wanted to see Bohren & Der Club of Gore and I had seen Flower/Corsano lots of times. As Flower/Corsano were on first I thought I’d see whether it took off this time. It doesn’t always fully ignite in my experience. They are much like The Necks, when it works it’s astoundingly good and when it doesn’t it’s still fantastic. As it happens I got totally stuck. For me this was their best performance I have witnessed. As you have to be with their stuff, I was in the right mood and I can only describe what happened as transcendental. In particular the penultimate euphoric rise resulted in my arms going numb and me nearly shedding a tear. At the end there was lots of looking at each other in amazement and waxing lyrical about what we had just experienced. For me that was the best musical performance I have experienced in a while.

I caught a bit of Bohren. Sounded cool but I just couldn’t handle the downer after Flower/Corsano, so I retreated to the artist area for a short rest and beard-stroke.

Once recovered, it was time for some Merzbow. He is a noisy fucker. I tend to prefer such things live and I thought it worked really well. I am not sure how much Eugene and Niko from Oxbow really added but it was a welcome presence both visually and musically. They both went for it!

Because we had three performances the next day the last act I saw were Drunk in Hell. They sounded as you would expect from the name. Heavy, drunk. I enjoyed their loud-as-fuck, balls-out approach. Simple stuff but very effective. The only thing I was amazed by was quite how full-on the feedback was between tunes. MAD! I guess that’s part of the deal but a mic mute/gate of some kind would’ve been nice.

I was really frustrated to have to leave before Zeni Geva and The Bug but at my age that is how you have to play it with a packed schedule the next day, followed by a tour. The day was nicely topped off by the news that two of the three Austerity Synths had sold. The other was sold that night on Twitter, to the fantastic @MikeWinship. Parts of Sunday were spent demoing the remaining synth, which was destined for Stephen O’Malley in Paris to various people, including KK NULL – see below.

KK NULL, knob-twiddling on one of our Austerity Synths

Sunday, our big day! First up, sound check with Oxbow Orchestra. As with the day before, we arrive early. Everyone else is there on time, including a very tired Sarah Farmer, who has seemingly been even busier than me. We have a bit of time to get to know each other with some great insights from Eugene. We warm up a little too. Then suddenly, we are launched onto the stage and into action. Our soundman (Greg from Them Wolves) quickly puts us at ease, as he did throughout the tour. We sound check and try all we can to get in a bit more rehearsal but the sound check starts so late that in essence our performance at Supersonic will still be a rehearsal of sorts. More on that soon.

ORE rush off stage and straight to Zellig, to provide the doom fanfares for the Tea Party. The lass who meets us can’t work the lift for ages so we consider going up to the fifth floor via the stairs. Luckily I spot the issue and off we go! We play a 20 minute set. We are playing well and it was great fun. Then we visited the Tea Party, which was ace! Think odd bulbous-headed demons and ritual humiliation, and cake. Oh and a really touching tribute to Jenny, who is leaving Capsule soon. What a shocker :(

Time for a rest before our showdown with KK NULL. We went to the Market Place and milled around the artist area but didn’t see many bands. I had planned to go to SONICritual but just needed a bit of space.

So, the time was approaching. We piled all our stuff over from the Warehouse to the Old Library. We got to hear a bit of Ruins Alone from backstage, wicked and bonkers as ever. We got dressed and chatted a bit with Kazuyuki about the plan; 30 minutes of him alone, followed by 10 minutes of ORE with him joining us for our collaborative piece for the last 20 minutes. KK is predictably extremely loud. An impressive cacophony of sound and an engaging stage presence. Stuart’s fiancé manages an impressive seven minutes before leaving. My girlfriend stays but yet again considers herself long-suffering. KK completes his set and we take to the stage. Stuart starts a drone and I go to join him. NOTHING HAPPENS. Mild panic sets in as I look down at my pedals and leads and see that everything seems to be intact. Front row friends to the rescue! I hear a call (or three) from the crowd. “SAM!”, they point to the floor. It transpires that the rumbles from KK’s set have dislodged my main tuning slide. Embarrassing but easily remedied. I push the slide back in and join Stuart in a D drone. The sound is immense, by far the loudest we have played. We play Waltzing into the Doldrums from our Beyond Tree and Stone EP, ending where we started on a drone. Then out of nowhere, like a punch in the face, KK strikes up his army of electronics again. It actually becomes hard to play as the vibration caused through our tubas by KK’s sound drags our lips out of shape. It’s intense. We hang in there and complete the set to rapturous applause. We thoroughly enjoyed it, fucking hardcore! We have things to learn about collaborations at such volume but the only major down-side was missing Lichens ;)

We shift our kit hurriedly back to the Warehouse, hindered slightly (in a good way) by the intense assault on our senses provided by Lash Frenzy. As ever, off the scale!

A bit of Hecker, a bit of Ufomammut and the end of Goat’s set. After which we get ready back stage. The Goat lot pour in and undress. I remark to them that I’d rather be wearing their attire than our suits. Tempting!

We get our shit together, head up on stage and give what feels like a good performance. Yes there are a few glitches, including Stuart testing the strength of his DPA mic twice by tripping over the wire on the way to the piano, but it felt pretty good. The really lovely thing was to play to such an attentive packed house…the best audience of the tour. Even from on stage it felt like a really fitting end to Supersonic. A deep, subtle and at times moving set. Very pleased to have been asked and very proud of what we all achieved given the bonkers schedule.

The response to our Supersonic shows was fantastic. We made a number of festival highlight lists, twice, which is all we could ask for. This means a lot and doesn’t go unnoticed, even if we aren’t always able to respond. We had a wicked time, plus we sold lots of merch and took a number of orders for noise boxes. Cracking! I’d like to thank the Supersonic team who looked after the stall for us, you rock!

Lastly, I’d like to thank the Capsule massive for yet another sterling festival. Amazing stuff, as ever! Here’s to another 10! Oh and I can’t quite believe Jenny is leaving. This messed my head up a couple of times during the weekend. May everything turn out as you wish Jenny! Much love to you.

Oxbow Tour: London/Paris/Brussels

So starts the Oxbow Orchestra tour. I think at this stage it’s best if I switch to tour diary mode

Monday – Union Chapel, London
I get to Stuart’s early to help load up the tour Land Rover but to my astonishment he has already almost entirely done so himself. Good man! Only the roof bag to go. I get my ratchet straps out the van, climb up on the back and then promptly slip off, nearly taking the back door with me. So, I scale the wheels and sort the straps, getting absolutely covered in muck in the process. Onwards to pick up the others – Sam Wooster (Little Woo as he becomes known to distinguish him from me), Sarah and David. Pleasant bunch. Pleasant journey, although me and Stuart roll our eyes a couple of times when Coldplay are mentioned without the obligatory hate-filled rant attached. We are only just getting to know each other but there is no doubt this is going to be fun. For some reason we start to sing conversations with each other. This becomes one of many themes on our journey. The weather is ORE weather, pea-soup.

We make London unscathed, unlike the other van which is partly held together by electrical tape by the time we get down there. Me and Stuart have a short while to head to the hotel before sound check. We spot Ed Balls getting into a car. Luckily I am sober. I email Stephen O’Malley from the taxi to confirm meeting up in Paris so I can give him his Noise Box synth. We reach the hotel, make arrangements for later and then we head back to the Union Chapel.

To my suprise, as we chat in the chapel foyer a voice from above shouts “Hey Sam, what are you doing here?”. It’s my dear friend Claire Singer. We embrace. I’d like to hug her for longer but then I realise this is seemingly her place of work so best not overdo it. It transpires she has recently become the Musical Director there. This can only end well ;)

As we are supporting as well tonight ORE and the Oxbow Orchestra sound check. We consider playing acoustically but take the advice of those not sat directly next to our huge vibrating horns and add a bit of reinforcement through the PA. The contrast with our KK NULL rinse-out of yesterday causes us some amusement.

Sound check

Rehearsal

More rehearsal

A bit more rehearsal

The time comes, but we have a shock just before going on stage when Stuart goes to pay the Congestion Charge. It seems we are also liable for a Low Emissions Zone Charge of £100 per day for the two days we will be in London. Why did nobody tell us about this? ;) This was going to put paid to any idea of breaking even for the tour. Frustrated by this we take to the stage and plough straight into a deep, meditative drone. This lasts a long while and I can see a couple of punters getting a little restless. That’s cool, it’s the nature of our music, it requires patience. Such a delightful acoustic. We play well and receive warm applause. We pop to the merch stand as soon as we can and find that our stuff has been selling. This is the theme throughout the night and some people that speak with us are clearly both patient listeners and very into what we do. Nice!

The Oxbow set works well. Everyone rises to the venue and despite a couple of technical hitches we deliver a decent performance. We are working more and more as a band now. Well done everyone! The audience are attentive again. Oh and the Union Chapel is such a great venue, with lovely staff, facilities and food. I hope ORE will be back there soon.

Check out THAT ceiling!

Of course it wouldn’t be very rock and roll if everything went to plan. Marie, a French film-maker travelling with the group doesn’t have anywhere to stay. Apparently she had planned to go back on a flight in the morning but was asked to stay. It isn’t until very late in the day that we find out she has nowhere to sleep. Eugene and Kasia also seem to be homeless but he’s sorting that out. Nobody seems to be sorting a solution for Marie, so in the end me and Greg (who was going to try to sneak into our hotel room) decide to sleep in the van by the venue. This seems like the obvious, if slightly uncomfortable, solution. I am used to sleeping in my van, albeit with a sleeping bag and mattress, and Marie is putting us up in Paris the next day, so it seems only fair that she has somewhere to stay.

Me and Greg head to a nearby bar to bang a couple of layers of (Leffe) beer-blanket in us. We end up having a really cool chat. I think I talked too much but it was ace. TOP CHAP. After they wouldn’t serve us a third, despite still serving others, we headed back to the van. We lay down across the seats and chatted some more. Apparently I was snoring like a demon only a couple of minutes after we said goodnight. Greg got his own back though as his snoring woke me up at 5am and I retired to the back of the van, to spend the rest of the night on a keyboard hard case. Comfy!? NO, really not comfy.

Also, sadly, at this point we lost our second trumpet player, Simon Gray. Well, we didn’t lose him…he had to go home. BYE BYE SIMON!

Tuesday – Glaz’art, Paris
I get awoken around 7am by someone opening the back of the van. Luckily, it’s Alexis the cellist. A nice cheery face to see in the morning, even if she was bemused to see me in there, as they left to go to their accommodation before Marie got stranded.

Various fools went to McDonalds for plop with a side order of shit. Me and David walked a little further round the corner and found an Italian deli established in 1958. Top coffee and a breakfast cob. WE WIN!

Off we go to Folkestone. David leaves us for this leg in favour of the van. The mood in the Land Rover is upbeat, if tired. Like me, Little Woo is a cheeky bugger and the band banter starts to ferment. One uncharacteristic moment of seriousness is when I use my charm to get the Low Emission Zone charge waived. Actually, there seemed little I could do until I persisted and mentioned that Stuart had read somewhere that a warning letter might be sent for a first offence. A brief “I’ll check with my manager” and BINGO! We’ll know for next time.

When we get to Folkestone we discuss with Eugene how they will pay for our crossings. I get bollocked for waking across the barrier but this means the lady at least comes and sorts stuff out for us, as we are in a lane we shouldn’t be in. Various things go wrong and we end up rather late for our crossing. Then Stuart risks a finger up the bum by rolling his window down and saying “Hello, we haven’t got any!” to the lady standing by a sign reading “Please declare all firearms”. He then goes on to nearly run over a burley French policeman by which point we are all beside ourselves with laughter.

We miss our slot. When it’s time to go, the light is green and the barrier up for ages before any of us notice, Stuart races to the train. Some official tells us to stop and Stuart absentmindedly nearly totals the side of his car, which is across our path. By this point it is clear that this is the vehicle to be travelling in. The others report very little to get excited about in their van when we meet up later.

Some more mess ups on the crossing, including the now infamous setting off of the alarm and WE ARE IN FRANCE!

First stop in France is a service station for some fodder. This also represents my first chance to drive. YES, an huge and unfamiliar vehicle, on the wrong side of the road, to a venue in the middle of Parish. Let’s go! OH, um, I can’t start it. Stuart helps, setting off the alarm in the process. Twice round the carpark for luck, as I miss the exit and we are off. The Land Rover feels like nothing I have driven before. I have driven big vans and small lorries but this is a weird experience. Not helped by the fact that EVERY TIME I indicate I put the horn on. It has a spring missing and is on the same stem as the indicator. The French, presumably, think we are English fuckwits.

Time to pay our first motorway toll. I pull up at what I realise at the last minute is the wrong booth. There only seem to be lorries coming through this part. The sleeping beauties in the back wake up to hear Stuart exclaim “I really don’t know what to do”. He runs to a nearby Gendarmerie. Nobody home. So we both peg over a couple of barriers to another booth. The lady there says just go back and call for help where we are. We do so. Stuart calls the assistant and asks me to turn the engine off so he can hear. It rings but no-one answers. Stuart just shoves the ticket and his card in and it all just works. WE ARE OFF! Um, no we are not. I can’t start the Land Rover. Stuart does so and sets off the alarm in the process. The barrier is up and everyone is shouting “GO!”. I bang it into gear and off we go. I catch the horn in the process and yet again we are the English Fuckwits!

On to Paris, plenty more fuckwittedness on the way. It’s a free-for-all on the Paris roads but we are in a massive old Land Rover. WE WIN! After a bit of driving round shouting my catchphrase out the window “Sorry, we are English” we arrive at the venue. It’s a metal club with a seaside resort vibe outside. Cool but a country-mile from what we had experienced the night before. Posters on the walls for Obituary &c. Actually, this represents a change of venue as the previous venue was no go due to an incident there the night before. This also means that we are not on a bill with Six Organs of Admittance but Ufomammut and another band whose name I can’t recall. Much to our amusement, the bass player from the support band does the whole Spinal Tap “Has anyone seem my bass?” thing whilst running around like a nutter. This was only really funny once we found his bass!

A bit of rest, food and then we sound check. My lip is not feeling great by this point.

Ufomammut sound great. I head back stage to get ready as it sounds like they are winding down. They play for at least another hour! They really go for it. I wonder how our more delicate vibe will go down. Hard to be objective about it to be honest. The audience chatter more than at the previous two gigs. Eugene rises to the occasion. More confrontational than the previous sets. Great stuff. Personally, I was struggling at the start. My lip was shot. This was in part due to me having a week away from my tuba before the tour. BUT the band were really working well together. For example, Niko had an issue with his guitar and we all improvised a filler. In the end it felt great. Everyone was buoyant.

We sold next to no merchandise, as we weren’t supporting…but Eugene did blag a shirt and I got this photo of him.

Eugene showing ORE some love

Having seen a photograph of Chris Brumcast wearing an ORE t-shirt at Supersonic Festival we suddenly realised that this could become a meme; people we admire showing off our wares.

Back to Marie’s flat for a long night of drinks and conversation. Beautiful stuff but things got heavy a few times with stories of depression and other sicknesses. At times I longed for an oompah band to spark up. At least when bedtime came Little Woo, who had the most intense tales to tell, got to sleep in a bed full of cuddly toys, with a huge teddy bear as a cover. Rock and roll!

We slept about 3 hours for the third night running, before arising to rendezvous with Stephen O’Malley…

Wednesday – VK, Brussels
The beginning of the end. Our last two gigs of the tour this evening. So far we have played six gigs in three days. We are shattered, but we have to see a man about a synth.

First though, let’s have a barney with some Parisians over a parking space. They accuse us of moving their bollards to fit the Landy in. Bollards! we say BUT rather than remonstrate we move on and find another space.

We head over to our rendezvous venue, a lovely café the other side of the canal. We wait. The coffee is GREAT! We have lots of coffee. We wait. We spot a man dressed as the devil and ask him to pose for us.

It’s not even 10am

We wait. Then a call from Stephen. I assume he is around the corner but he is in fact just leaving his flat. Oh well, everyone else will have to wait for us for once. Nobody hurries the Godfather of Doom!

Stephen arrives and as expected is a gentleman. OK, we have brought him a synth and some ORE stuff as a gift but I knew he was going to be lovely based on our prior exchanges, and so he was. Having read my tweet the day before, mentioning how everything had gone Spinal Tap he said that everyone thinks it’s over the top fiction, when in fact it is basically a documentary. We were living the Spinal Tap dream, hooray! Oh and we got a photograph of Stephen holding his new synth and the ORE album, upside down!

Stephen O’Malley, holding our stuff…upside down

We say goodbye to Stephen who kindly gets the tab for the umpteen coffees we had.

We pop with everyone else to grab some food and we are off to Belgium, this time with Marie in the back. By this point travel in the Land Rover has become pretty surreal. At almost any opportunity Stuart shouts “Rock and Roll” out the window and I “Sorry, we are English”. I don’t know what the point is anymore but it amuses us. Marie seems utterly bemused.

Some singing and pointing at brutalist architecture on the way and we enter Brussels. We struggle to find the venue and I take to saying “Salut” to the children that look on astounded at what we are driving.

Eventually we arrive and unload. We sound check with Oxbow and then ORE have a short sound check too. We also arrange for Greg to record our show and for Niko Werner and Little Woo to join us on stage for the last tune, a cover of Charioteer by Earth. Food, then off we go again!

We are tired but we go for it, resolute as ever in our approach. A dense drone descends on Brussels. The audience filter in, the mood starts to set. Then, all of a sudden my phone starts to make an RFI noise through the PA. We use my phone as a timer and I had put it on our mixing desk but had forgotten to switch to Aeroplane mode. Oh well, that has borked the recording. Apparently Greg looked at the in-house lighting guys and shrugged ;) Such is my general state of mind on stage these days that I didn’t let it phase me. This represents great progress as once upon a time that would’ve messed me up for the whole rest of the gig. Some people there enjoyed it, including a couple of people who congratulate us afterwards. We find out later that one review is scathing, describing us as “blowing porridge in tubas”. Oh well…

Straight into the final Oxbow Orchestra set. We play pretty well considering how little sleep we have had and how far we have travelled. I guess this is the norm on a tour but it felt a little taxing by this point. To me the mood felt a little odd. Not sure why. Stuart plays a stormer, which is pretty amazing after how much playing we have done. I struggle, my lip is shot. It was a fun gig though!

Afterwards, we get drunk. Well, most of us do. Stuart and Alexis have to drive so they remain sober. In fact, Alexis has to drive back to England that night. HARDCORE! I have refused drinks so far that night, partly because as a rule I don’t drink before gigs and partly because I am not drinking Stella in a country with so many fantastic beers. In the end the best I can find is Leffe. That will do. We have a lot of fun in the venue. I find a food trolley to surf around the vast space on…before dragging other people around on it at great speed. Oh and at one point I fake a move on Eugene. He has been on very good behaviour throughout the tour but it’s made pretty clear that he will break me in two if I actually try it on, haha! ;)

Back to the last hotel, a cheapo joint in downtown Brussels. Poor Stuart has to put up with a now drunken navigator. We get both vehicles there and unload the Land Rover. As we wait to sort out the rooms there is a shriek from outside. We rush out. Someone has tried to blag Alexis’ handbag. She searches for her passport but can’t find it. I run down the road in the hope of retrieving it. After a bit I get called back, she found it. What a horrible end to our time together. I offer to travel back with Alexis the next day if she wants to book into the hotel rather than driving through the area tonight. She says the van has to be back so we hug and she sets off. This is one of a number of really rather deep and meaningful moments on our tour. We have become close in a remarkably short time. That feels good, even if the events and topics of discussion that made us so were not always very pleasant. Where _is_ that oompah band!?

Us lot

The crew!

Thursday – homeward bound
Two and a half hours sleep and we are off. Me and Stuart keep each other awake talking shite whilst the rest sleep in the back.

Sleep

It’s such fun aboard the tour Land Rover. We make it across with the usual level of incidents en route, such as Stuart going for a pee whilst the barrier for our lane raises at the Chunnel. People hoot, we laugh and shout “Sorry, we are English”.

The crossing allows Stuart some time for a comfortable nap…

Sleep

Finally, back in the UK and only another three hours driving left. I am driving. Everyone falls asleep, including me briefly. I just can’t shake it so I stop for caffeine and sugar. It works but I still insist people sing the rest of the way home. Everything from delightful English folk song renditions to Beyonce is belted out. Oh and Stuart has a propensity to break into Muslamic Rayguns from time to time. Finally, we sing the wheels on the bus, taking the opportunity to reflect, with hilarious results, on the personalities and contributions of everyone onboard. Laugh, we nearly shat!

We drop everyone off and say our farewells, having decided to stay in touch and work together again. In the meantime there are plans being discussed for some sort of musical collective. ACE!

We learnt a lot, grew close to each other and had a lot of laughs. It’s safe to say that any ORE tour would be better organised than this but we’ll never forget the time we had.

Personally, I am so chuffed with how far I have come. It was only six years ago that I found the stress surrounding live performance almost crippling. I have gone from that to playing eight gigs in four nights on and instrument I have barely scratched the surface of and with large parts of it notated, which is frankly very unnatural to me still. OK, if you listen back to my tuba on the recordings you might wonder what planet I was on at times but it’s all about pushing yourself to do new stuff, no matter how scary it is. I did that. OH, AND I met a cracking bunch of people in the process!

Bye bye sabbatical

Today is the final day of my sabbatical. It has been a remarkable experience and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who feels able to do so. I have learnt many new skills, made lots of new acquaintances and I’ve discovered much about myself, which has been central to defining what I plan to do for the next 10 years or so…at which point I plan to take my next sabbatical.

 
The ups and downs
Here’s a quick list of what I see as my most major achievements to come out of my sabbatical:

ORE
To go from just starting to play tuba as my sabbatical began to playing our debut gig at Supersonic 2011, and all which has followed thereafter, makes me extremely happy. I am also delighted that my collaboration with Stuart Estell, which can only result in good things!

MortonUnderwood
Likewise, to go from having started work on our first commission together in November 2011 to delivering a highly successful sound art piece at BEAM Festival recently is great progress. Again, I am delighted with my collaboration with David Morton.

PRSF New Music Incubator
To be selected as one of the ten UK artists to partake in the PRSF New Music Incubator programme 2011-12 was fantastic. A great experience, which boosted my confidence and has led us all to have a group of open-minded performers (and friends) I can rely on to deliver future projects.

Collaborations, in general
These three achievements (above) have led me to view collaboration as a great thing. I am no longer a solitary soul where my art is concerned.

Sonic Graffiti
My Sonic Graffiti project has developed greatly over the past months. In particular the work I did to deliver sound objects as part of a commission for VIVID and Capsule drove this on greatly. I will definitely be doing more!

Malvern Hills District Brass Band
I recently joined Malvern Hills District Brass Band. I did so in order to gain more focus in terms of my playing and sight-reading. I also rather like much brass band music and I see it in some way as a dedication to my granddad who loved brass bands. In many ways there could be no greater endorsement of the progress I have made on tuba than this. Yes, I have loads to learn still but the fact a band is happy to have me on board when they would naturally have a very matter-of-fact view of players is great. Chuffed.

There are a number of really exciting things bubbling under at present, which I am sadly not quite in a position to announce. These include potential projects with organisations and artists I admire greatly. Hugely exciting stuff…which I will be sure to let you know about as it is announced.

 
Here’s a list of the things that didn’t go as originally planned:

Studio build
What a nightmare. This was just like you see on the telly box. Too much time, money and effort expended by half. BUT at least it is nearly done there. This was the reason my sabbatical was extended by three months.

Still not enough time
Yes, despite taking a sabbatical some projects still never came to fruition. I think in some ways what you unnaturally want to concentrate on comes to the fore. In my case this meant some specific projects didn’t get done and in general I didn’t do as much recoding and production of music as I had hoped. Onwards!

 
What’s next?
Now my sabbatical is over, everything changes. Well, not quite. Much of what I have been developing will continue to be developed. The change is in the focus of what I am doing. Essentially, I will be spending less time on projects that fall at the fringes of my interest (such as helping to organise The End Festival) and more time focussing on developing my core areas of interest… and yes, making some money.

The main areas I plan to concentrate on in order to both get better at them and to make some money from them are:

  • Tuba playing with ORE, and in other contexts
  • Musical instrument design, build and sale
  • Electronic and (ultimately) acoustic instrument building workshops
  • Sound art installations – in particular my Sonic Graffiti and acoustic gallery installations based around my instrument building
  • Concerts – with an emphasis on bass and exploring cavernous acoustic spaces
  • Recordings – where possible physical beautiful physical releases
  • Short-runs of hand-finished merchandise
  • Lectures

More details on these as they develop but for now, if anyone wishes to commission me to build a musical instrument, play at your festival or deliver a workshop or lecture, please get in touch.

 
Finally, a note to (not from) my sponsors
To those of you who very kindly sponsored me at the start of my sabbatical, I have three things to say to you:

  1. The funds raised are still kept entirely separate from other monies and will go into funding some cool stuff very soon
  2. Your Sabbatical Credits are safe and you will be able to spend them on anything I produce
  3. I have not forgotten that I promised to run a draw amongst you for a piece that I worked on throughout my sabbatical. This hasn’t quite transpired as I intended. Rather than being a piece that was added to daily, I will now run a draw using something that has been one year in the development as the prize. More on this soon!

Oh, and a huge thank you for your support!! It helps not only in terms of providing some funds towards making cool stuff happen but also in terms of my knowing that people care about what I get up to. Thanks.

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Thanks for reading!

And…for anyone out there thinking of taking a sabbatical, here is part of what convinced me to do so. I can now highly recommend it myself but the master frames it rather well.

Sagmeister: The Power of Time Off

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