Monday, November 23, 2009

Listening and Watching - soundart films

Recently went to a performance of 'soundart films' - Carte Blanche - by Ros Bandt and Brigid Burke at Dante's Gallery in Fitzroy.  Cross-media / Intermedia / Hybrid work is probably the area I am most interested in as a composer so I was keen to go along to this performance and see some new work.  Ros Bandt and Brigid Burke are both well established and highly original artists in their own right so I was particularly keen to see what this collaboration had produced.  They presented six works ranging from live instrumental improvisations responding to visual images / video to sound and image works where the relationships and interconnections between media were much more complex and dialectical. 'From the Train' and 'Stargazer Remix' were perhaps the two works that I found most interesting.  These brought together sounds of images and images of sounds, resulting in works where meaning and association are layered and often ambiguous.  The relationship between sound and image seems to be most engaging when the connections are not obvious or one dimensional but rather blur the boundaries between the visual and sonic.  Nicholas Cook discusses this relationship in his fantastic book Analysing Musical Multimedia  where he talks about the possible 'emergent meaning' that is produced when sound and image are combined.  The soundart films by Bandt and Burke certainly explored these possibilities.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On reconnecting

Having a long 'break' between pieces (of music) can be a daunting thing.  Can I still write music?  Have my technical skills and creative spark deserted me?  How did I used to do it?  I remember one of my composition teachers in Edinburgh saying that having a baby would not make me a worse composer but quite the opposite (I’m sure he expressed it more eloquently).  I have held on to this idea over the last couple of years when I’ve felt like that part of me was slipping away out of reach.  In the past I think the longest I have gone without writing music has been about 12 months - either due to exhaustion or business in other areas (like teaching) or perhaps disillusionment.  My most recent 'break' has been in many ways quite liberating.  Having decided to focus on child-rearing, and found my own way around the guilt/frustration minefield of motherhood, I have given myself permission not to write for a while.  But now I am starting to re-engage with that side of my self, trying to get the cogs moving and the connections firing.  I have been carrying pieces around in my head for some time now and mulling over ideas and concepts and the challenge is to find an ordered way to articulate all these things.  Sitting down to work again has been an enlightening experience -  I feel like I am embarking on 'My Creative Life version 2'.  I find that I am approaching things in a different way, partly because of the imperative of time and partly because of a shift in the way I think about what I am doing and why I am doing it.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

to blog or not to blog

I've been thinking about setting up a blog for a while now but must admit to feeling a bit ambivalent about the whole idea.  Part of me thinks blog time would be better spent actually making work.  Part of me thinks that interaction should be conducted in person with real live people.  But another part of me sees this as an opportunity to find a way of exchanging ideas and thoughts on the subject of creating things (music, words, images) that recognises the fact that face to face interaction is not always an option when one has two small children at home.  Going out, seeing/hearing work, meeting new people and exchanging ideas is not always a realistic option (although it is becoming more achievable) and traveling is certainly off the agenda for some time.  The idea of a blog seemed like a solution to some of the dilemmas of creativity and motherhood - isolation, lack of interaction, and the lack of confidence that can come with this.  So the vision I have for this blog is a place where ideas about creating things can be exchanged and shared and reflected upon and expanded upon: not as an alternative to actually creating work but as part of the process of getting there.  The 'spaces between' my own musical works are quite lengthy at the moment and I hope this blog can be part of my return to a regular practice and also a forum for discussing ideas about creating work, finding material, inspiration, focus and maybe even potential collaboration.  We shall see.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

thinking about spaces between

ma
an unquantifiable metaphysical space (duration) of dynamically tensed absence of sound 
Toru Takemitsu

The Japanese concept of ma refers to the space between things, a concept approximated but much less poetically expressed in the English language as ‘negative space’. The idea of ma can relate to the physical space between objects or images or the temporal space (duration) between sounds or sonic events. The idea that the space in between things is just as significant as the things themselves offers a different way of thinking about ‘emptiness’ or ‘silence’. Space doesn’t need to imply an absence of something – it can be full or meaning and implication.

Hence the name for this blog…Spaces Between.

Spaces between things: spaces between events, spaces between actions, spaces between ideas. And these things, these events, actions, ideas, are shaped by the spaces between them. There is the space of contemplation or waiting or distraction or anticipation or boredom or irritation or frustration.

For me this idea of ma or ‘spaces between’ can apply equally to my creative practice (as a composer, sound artist, writer, occasional video maker) as well as to my life and how creativity and everything else fits into it.

In my current life situation (being a mother of two small children) there are large spaces in between anything resembling creative activity; long gaps between chances to sit and think; extensive intervals between doing things for me (like seeing a film or going to a performance); lengthy periods between catching up with friends. My life is full of ma.

In terms of music and sound, the concept of ma is particularly relevant. I believe silence is one of the most powerful elements of music – in the way it shapes the sonic space and the way it impacts on the listener. I am in the process of writing a paper (or at least a proposal for one) about Listening. It is a strange experience to be writing about listening when what I really want to be doing is writing something to be listened to. That will happen soon and in the mean time I am enjoying this particular space between.