Collaborating on design

You might have see those lovely designs we had done by Burden&Franc for the Steinway Showcase this month (resounding success and beautiful performance by our fantastic students - Joshua Kelly and BEL Trio). The bespoke handprinted posters were featured on the DesignWeek blog.

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We’ve always had pretty special designs done for the Steinway Showcase - Kristyna Baczynski did our Classical Showcase and Simon Peplow did our Production Showcase poster. Both were then featured in a double-spread in the DesignWeek magazine, which was pretty exciting to see.  

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A lovely surprise to also stumble across an older issue of ModArt the other week with another spread by Simon Peplow - here’s to more and more links with the design and art community. 

We’re pretty excited to be down in Steinway Hall in London on Thursday - playing in the setting of those beautiful pianos.

We’ve had some limited edition prints and programmes made for the event also - a pretty cool story that you can check out here. We’ll be with our Classical students this time - here are a few snaps from our last visit which showcased jazz.  

If you want to join us - its a free drinks and canapes reception, and an hour long concert - from 6 - 8pm. Full details here. 

Reflections on IFAI 2014 - Tim Weed

As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Tim Weed reflects on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them.

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The two people that made me think the most were Gabriel Prokofiev and Robin Rimbaud (Scanner). The thing that stuck with me was their lack of fear for trying something new and how much they enjoy each project.

I have a nagging voice in my head that always seems to convince me I shouldn’t do something. Whether it be an idea for a new project or just finishing a new composition, the voice is there, putting ideas in my head that no one will like it, or it’s too much for me, or too beneath me. Maybe I’m the only one, but I doubt it.

Gabriel Prokofiev started his Nonclassical Clubnight so his friends could hear his music. He has taken contemporary classical music into a new venue and mixed it up with DJ sets so the average listener doesn’t get too overloaded with contemporary classical music. The idea is interesting and having the chance to see it happen at The Cockpit on Thursday night was even better. I have to admit I was skeptical walking in, but once all the acts performed I was having a great time.

Scanner also fascinated me with his list of commissions. Some of the commissions include music for a morgue, an alarm clock, and the American phone company Sprint. Alongside the commissions he also set up a bus tour of London where he created the sounds as they travelled the city. You can’t say he doesn’t choose interesting projects. This is where the lack of fear comes in. With such diverse choices of projects over the years, it seems like he has been able to tune out the voice that inhibits me.

If there is anything that we, as musicians studying our craft, could take from these two musicians it should be to tune out all the voices that stop us achieving what we want. As musicians we should be striving to push past the doubt and experiment with all the ideas that pop into our heads.

Newport Up! Liveness, Artifacts and the Seductive Menace of Jazz Recordings Revisited


As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Matt Rhea is giving us daily updates on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them. In this entry he reflects on Katherine William’s paper on live jazz. 

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University of Bristol lecturer and former LCoM lecturer Dr. Katherine Williams presented quite a question-raising topic (or question raising for me at least). She talked about how there is a contradiction in jazz. Jazz is presented and approached as a spontaneous art form, but it relies heavily on its recorded history. It has been through recordings that jazz has predominantly been taught and handed down through the years. Though jazz is meant to be spontaneous, these recordings create a “fixed” perception of how jazz is to be performed and taught. The question is then, if there is a “fixed” way of playing jazz, how can it be spontaneous?

In this way, the recordings of many jazz tunes and standards become the score for how a piece is to be played. For instance, if a band wants to play Miles Davis’ tune “Freddie Freeloader,” it has become common practice to use the recording off of the Davis’ Kind of Blue as the primary reference point for how the tune should be played, which then raises the argument that if you are not playing “Freddie Freeloader” like Davis’ recording, then you are not actually playing “Freddie Freeloader.” There is now a fixed way to play a jazz tune that is meant to be spontaneous.

Dr. Williams also brought up the point of how recordings are often manipulated, even when they are meant to be a live recording. Duke Ellington’s Live at Newport album was recorded live in concert, but there were so many issues with the recording that the set was then later recorded live in studio, and it has not been until recently that the live concert recording was released because the radio station that originally broadcast this concert archived the broadcast and had a better recording than the actual record label. When Ellington’s concert was recorded in the studio, the record label was hoping to recapture some of the magic and energy in the solos that were played in the concert. Is this possible to do after the fact? Can you recapture the same essence of a spontaneous moment?

There is a seductive quality to jazz recordings, then. They give the picture (or the sound, really) that you are hearing a special moment in time. And sometimes you might be, but that moment captured in a recording can be pieced together through numerous takes and rerecorded moments and that there is a precise fixed way of performing the music.

I am still wrapping my head around this presentation even days after. I often get caught up in thinking that I have to find the “right, proper, and correct” way of doing music, especially with jazz, and hearing this presentation helped release me a little bit from that way of thinking. It is motivating and inspiring to me think about how I can do my music my way and not have to necessarily follow the standards that the decades before have solidified.

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Gwilym Simcock Keynote - Leeds International Jazz Education Conference

As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Matt Rhea is giving us daily updates on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them. In this entry he reflects on Gwilym Simcock’s keynote speech.

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Composer and pianist Gwilym Simcock gave the keynote address on Tuesday as well as performed with a trio and quintet that evening. His keynote speech centered on his compositional style and process. As a classical pianist and composer who later got in jazz, Gwilym says he finds his “musical home” between composed and improvised music. His music is heavily influenced by classical composers, such as Samuel Barber, Henri Dutilleux, and many others, as well as jazz composers like Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny.

Many of his compositions quote the music of these great classical and jazz musicians, and while he is not necessarily the first to be influenced by these two idioms, the way he weaves them together is quite unique. His harmonies are dense and rich, and his pieces are filled with a wide pallet of textures and colours.

An interesting conversation arose when an audience member asked about what he thought about being pegged in a specific genre. I enjoyed his response as he stated that he simply tries to compose the music that he enjoys, and it is simply just that, music. He went on to say that he thinks genre labels are more helpful to the public than they are for the artist. I found this interesting, as I have heard many academic researchers talk about music being in a “post-genre” era, and honestly, I found it quite pretentious.

However, hearing a regular practitioner and composer talk about this helped the idea make a little more sense to me, and it was relieving to me to hear someone talk about navigating through different genres to create their music. That has been my primary quest here at LCoM, as I have tried to wrestle with loving popular music and playing the saxophone, an instrument steeped in jazz history and tradition.

Needless to say, Gwilym’s speech was inspiring and motivating. His performance that evening was also lights-out, and I immediately purchased two of his albums he had for sale at the concert and cannot stop listening. Gwilym is a truly remarkable person making remarkable music.

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The Music Circle Project - Day 2 @ IFAI

As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Matt Rhea is giving us daily updates on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them. In this entry he reflects on the Leeds International Jazz Education Conference. 

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On Tuesday, Matthew Yee-King and Andreu Grimalt-Reynes from Goldsmiths, University of London along with Ed Jones from LCoM gave a wonderful demonstration of a website they are developing called the Music Circle Project. It is designed to function as platform where music can be recorded, uploaded, and easily dissected and discussed amongst the members of the band or ensemble. It looks a little bit like Soundcloud - but has social media based tools similar to those found in Facebook and Youtube.

For instance, say a band has a rehearsal. They can record that rehearsal and upload it to Music Circle. The recording appears as a sound wave (similar to that of Soundcloud) and the members of the band can then discuss the rehearsal by highlighting specific areas in the sound wave and commenting on that section. The band can have a detailed discussion about their rehearsal without having to necessarily be in the same place at once.

Currently, you have to request to have an account as they are still developing the project. They are trying to gather as much feedback as they can as they are going to open the project to the public this summer. I think it is already a great tool for musicians and bands. Ed Jones, the presenter form LCoM is my 1-on-1 instructor and we have already made plans to use this in my lessons so that I can record myself during the week as I practice and we can have a discussion about what I am practicing and how I am practicing in between my weekly lessons. Ed has been using this tool with some of his ensembles but has yet to use in a private lesson setting, so it will be interesting to see how it works, and I am hoping we can come up with some ideas to present to the developers.

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If you’re enjoying our posts from IFAI so far…

You should know that there are a bunch of other ways to get into the thick of it - whether you’re on campus or not. 

On our IFAI blog, you can check out the delegate list, paper abstracts, programme notes and biographies for all the performers and presenters who are part of the Festival.

Our Storify is keeping real-time track of photographs, thoughts and comments on the Festival. 

You can follow the Postgraduate Studies and Research Centre on Twitter here, and you can keep in the conversational loop by using the hashtag #IFAI. 

If you need to visit the press centre for the event, please click here. 

For tickets for the Nonclassical Night book here; and for the final Concert of the week at the Belgrave Music Hall with Scanner go through to this page. 

Final reflection on Day 1 - IFAI

As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Matt Rhea is giving us daily updates on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them. In this first entry he reflects on the “Innovations in Popular Music” section of the Festival. 

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I greatly enjoyed this first day of the IFAI conference. I was quite impressed by the vast range of topics that were presented as well as the performances that took place. I like how this conference is set up with sessions in all types of genres and subgenres. There is so much to learn and the wide variety keeps me intrigued.

The interpretive covers that were performed by LCoM students of Iain Archer songs were really impressive. It was interesting how some bands would cover the same song but perform such a different interpretation. Typically I would find it redundant to hear the same songs played multiple times, but these performances were so different and had such a character of their own that they did not sound or feel redundant at all.

I want to keep researching creative restrictions. I was very struck by that presentation, and I want to research and find ways I can put restrictions on my improvising and composing/song writing and see if this can indeed help open the doors in the creative process where I many times feel stuck. I am not sure I will write the next hit song using this, but if it can help ease just some of my frustrations/creative blocks, then I am all for it.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions. I am interested in learning about the PRAISE project as well as hear Gwilym Simcock speak and perform with his quintet. I learned lots today and have lots more to learn through the week. Very excited!

Follow Matt on Twitter here, and find out more about the Festival here. You can also see all the paper abstracts and biographies here. 

"The one-man band resurgence" - Day 1 @ IFAI

As part of our coverage of the International Festival of Artistic Innovation, postgraduate student Matt Rhea is giving us daily updates on the sessions he’s been attending and what he’s found inspirational about them. In this entry he reflects on the “Innovations in Popular Music” section of the Festival. 

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Matt Brennan from the Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh gave a very humorous and engaging presentation in his session titled, “The one-man band resurgence: innovation, modernization, or continuum?” In this session, Matt asked the question if the modern “one person bands” who use computers and looping machines to make their music are in the same stream of musicians who used to make their own one-person band contraptions in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The history of one-person bands was fascinating as he showed us vintage photographs of the types of contraptions people would invent so they could play multiple instruments at one time.

Brennan is currently inconclusive as to whether or not the modern “one person band” artists are innovating or continuing what was started over a hundred years ago, but in his personal opinion, he sees the people with the contraptions as more of a one person band because there is more of a physicality required to make their music, and these musicians are creating all of their sounds at the same time, where as modern one-person bands typically create a sound one at a time and run it through a computer to create layers and loops. I thought this was quite and interesting notion as well as an interesting topic overall.

Find out more about this paper and presentation here.