Sketchbook 1

I’ve always been a visual thinker and like having things physically in front of me, whether it’s a paper book and not a kindle, or a sketchbook full of ideas rather than just an online blog. This is why I have started creating a sketchbook of all my ideas. I’ll still be gathering all my ideas and work on my blog, but I’ll also be uploading pages of my sketchbook to show the thought processes I go through naturally, random jottings, drawings and how a lot of my ideas come from artwork or creative expression on paper or through photos.

These are a few very basic ideas I put together tonight. Some are small sketches, some are small poem like notes and some are paintings.

All these ideas came from events that have happened in my life over the past few months. In my head I titled each event ‘The ………’ and I listed them all in significance to me. For example, ‘The Illness That Speaks’ was high up on the list and ‘The Sellotape Sculpture’ was low. Each of the ideas I want to spend time on and work on so the list doesn’t really mean anything but I suppose I was thinking ‘what if I made an album with these songs?’, I liked to order them.

For the idea ‘The Flowers That Never Got Delivered’, I painted what was in my head. I use the colours that show the atmosphere that I feel in my head and the shapes trigger certain words when I look back at the painting. This helps my writing process as it always triggers new and different things whenever I look back at it, all of which I can work to putting into a song.

Sometimes, however, I’ll start writing a little poem and that may be the first draft lyric. ‘The Solid Sanctuary’ was something I wrote when I was writing in my journal. Just real, honest feelings at that time.

Seeing shapes, colours and feeling different textures helps me imagine different sounds I might want to use and takes the emphasis away from the actual sound. The sound is so important to me but so is the stuff behind the sound. The different feelings, triggers, emotions, atmospheres that are all in my head, I sometimes find tricky to put straight into a sound.

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Contextual Research Task – Production Statement

I wrote my final track ‘Shadow’, after being interested in depression and unsure of whether I suffered from it myself. I wanted the music to express the confusion and ‘dark’ side of what depression can be but also how it doesn’t actually identify a person i.e. the two different voices.

My influences for this track included Bon Iver, Oh Wonder and The xx. When I listen to any of these artists I feel a real connection to the music through the ambience and atmosphere they create and it was very important to me to get this into my track. I’d call the track ambient electro-pop as it follows Oh Wonder’s chilled, rhythmic style. Romy and Oliver, vocals for The xx inspired me to create a lower octave vocal using the pitch shifter as it adds to the depth of the song, creates this idea of a shadow and builds the ambience, Bon Iver also use the vocoder, hence why I wanted to edit the voice somehow in my track.

My aim for the composition of the track was to keep it short and unpredictable. I wanted the track to be a little sound bubble that would export you to the mind-set of the person in the song just for a couple of minutes and then finish. I wanted the track to merit the uncomfortable and to be quite abnormal in terms of composition: having large periods of instrumental leaving space for overlapping samples or sound shapes to layer, distort and create a sense almost of delirium.

One of the key production techniques I focused on using was sampling. Using loopback to play Spotify audio into Logic, I created a range of voice samples. I gave each sample a different channel strip and mapped each sample across the midi keyboard whilst tuning the sample to a C3 so I could then play the samples in the chord patterns or tune of the melody that I had been doing with my instruments. Rather than trying to create a really rigid pattern of samples, I had a bit of a play around with different techniques we’d learnt: chord triggers, note repeater, arpeggiator etc. and I then worked back into anything I liked the sound of, adjusting it slightly. At times I did just play by hand a one off note of a sample to fit into an exact point. I was pleased with the sound of all the samples as they all represent the state of confusion/different thoughts all going through someone’s head that I wanted them to.

 I feel like the track has been successful in creating a dark, quite mysterious and uncomfortable atmosphere. I’m happy with the variety of sounds, samples and layers that have been created, however, I know that I could mix the track to a better standard with more practise. One of the things I struggled with in regards to having a lot of different elements was the final levels and where everything sits sound-wise in the track. Compression comes under this also: I worked on the dynamics of the voice using compression and automation, however, there are a couple of parts to the song (particularly in bar 9 and 13) where the voice is quieter and then gradually becomes louder again, and with more time, I’d focus more on fixing this.

To improve further I’d also try out using the pitch shifter for a vocal an octave higher at certain points or a 7th higher for an eerie harmony.

Contextual Research Task – Track Analysis

The track I have chosen from my ‘reference tracks playlist’ to write about and which is indicative of the music I am working towards making, is Bon Iver’s

‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ’.

I like the structure/lack of, for the lyrics of this song. It doesn’t follow a universal ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge’ pattern and does what it wants.

Being an avid fan of Bon Iver and Vernon’s voice, I love the distortion and vocoder sound as well as the cracks in his voice and falsetto. He embraces the imperfections.

Atwood Magazine talk about the production of the track and Vernon’s influences:

‘Right away the sways of both rapper Kanye West and singer-songwriter James Blake, whom Vernon has performed and worked with in the past, can be tasted in the layered production work and fuzzy, yet colourful, details.’ (O, Seville. 2016).

I would love to mix the layers and expressive, ‘fuzzy, yet colourful, details’ of Bon Iver’s instrumentation with an electro/indie pop style in my track. The range of instrumentation Bon Iver use in this track, from brass to samples and cow bells, inspires me for my track to use a variety of different sounds.

Technically, the kinds of modulation and distortion Bon Iver use in this track is also something I want to try and apply to my track.

Throughout ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ’, there’s a constant drum rhythm which holds the expressive, ‘random’ elements together. However, for a small section (around 1:15), this rhythm subsides which emphasises the space left for the brief softer sounds. I’d like to create this sudden variety and shifts in my track as it makes it more interesting and less predictable and creates dynamic and contrast within the song in regards to other instrumentation and lyrics.

 

Bibliography:

Seville, O. (2016) TODAY’S SONG: LOVE AND FEAR WRESTLE ON BON IVER’S “10 D E A T H B R E A S T . Available at: http://atwoodmagazine.com/10-deathbreast-bon-iver/ (Accessed: 15 January 2017).