Tight turnarounds

I was required to turn around some music today. It was four minutes worth to work as an underscore.

All of a sudden, an hour or two becomes precious and adrenaline kicks in and you find it within yourself to work to the wire to provide something.

It can be tense but it can also make you realise how focused you can be when the moment requires you to be so.

The other aspect of this was the challenge of finding ways to reach the required duration of the piece. I find the trick in effective choices with repetition, holding out notes and providing just enough contrast to make the music serves it’s purpose.

In many ways, I highly value the times where turnarounds are tight. It makes you realise what you are capable of when you are asked to provide in a limited amount of time. What would you be able to create and ship, if you had just 24 hours to do it?

Consistency and intent

The algorithms of social media reward you for feeding the machine, constantly.

It’s why I found it of no surprise for YouTube stars finding themselves starting to burn out, trying desperately to keep their viewership up by constantly creating new content.

It becomes a saturated rat race where no one wins because you end up being forced to find stuff to post that’s sub par standard and then views end up tanking.

Quality is what should be rewarded instead. If you should be consistent in anything it’s, making sure that what you do is consistently good and consistent in terms of it’s intent.

By intent, I mean, knowing what it is your posting and who it is for.

One of my favourite YouTube channels is Red Letter Media. They are unique in their approach to reviewing and appraising films and they are hilarious. Their ‘Best of the worst’ series where they watch B movies is a genius idea. They post quality videos consistently and they ship regularly enough but they only do it when it’s ready.

Having an acknowledgment of both consistency and intent is a good starting part when it comes to figuring out how and when you want share your own work with the wider world.

Traffic light systems

This last month, I’ve been juggling several different projects.

It’s good to be busy, but having this many different things on the go is sometimes a little tricky because it’s hard to focus in on a specific project or thing.

One way I decided to tackle this at the start of the week was writing a mind map with each project and the specific tasks required.

Following on from that I then highlighted the ones that required deadlines first, as red, meaning this was what I needed to do in the immediate short term.

Things that had a week or fortnights timeframe was highlighted amber whilst other projects that had much more flexibility were marked as green.

When there’s a lot going on, it’s good to differentiate what needs doing in the short, medium and long term.

Pandemic Burnout

Bute Park was full of people today. It’s of no surprise as well because as warmer temperatures, longer days and the optimism of Spring comes, we are eagerly waving goodbye to what has been a difficult winter period.

From a work point of view, it’s been tougher to find the motivation to create, especially with endless Zoom meetings that drain you mentally.

I forced myself out of the house and with a good reason of attending a rehearsal. To interact with other creators in person, even if it was just for a moment was a welcome change.

Even if we can’t interact, dance or enjoy life in the way we should normally do, these little moments are key for the sake of our sanity.

If Pandemic burn down is getting to you, I encourage you to turn off the screens, step outside and take a new direction, and try and find a way to interact with someone else in person, even if only brief and at a distance.

We will be past all of this soon.

Conventions of notation

As software has developed, new trends appear in the culture, some of which are intentional and others which comes an unexpected byproduct.

Music notation is something that fascinates me. There is a beauty to reading a score and I love that in this day and age, you can follow scores to a wide range of works on YouTube.

When it comes to scoring your own work, there are few options, some paid and others free that allow you to get your music down. It’s more efficient and easy than writing by hand.

However, it’s easy to overlook many aspects of score writing and fall into traps. Stages sizes, margins, font, where certain symbols go, there whole books dedicated to getting it right. ‘Behind Bars’ by Elaine Gould is a go to for Sibelius users. There are endless discussions to be had about presenting your work to a standard that is publishable.

As skill is developed in music theory and composition, you want to get to a point where you’re directing the software to do what you want it to do.

The language between a composer and director

Very often in the world of cinema, TV or theatre, a composer has to work with a director where communication can get quite abstract.

Music has very specific terminology and it can’t be expected for ever director to know exactly everything that a composer does.

But in order to achieve the collective goal of the sound that works as a theme, cue or underscore, the process of exploration, pitching and pinning down ideas takes place.

Sometimes, the director will offer a word or two that describes what they are after, it could be a type of sound or a mood. He could also give you a reference point of what he thinks can work to help you find what they have in mind.

Through empathy, an open mind and a willingness to engage in the journey of the process, you eventually land on the sound that can work for the project. It’s a fascinating type of collaboration.

The type of language and communication that forces a willingness to listen and explore possibility naturally happens in this instance, but I think it has every potential to work in other disciplines and professions as well.

Genre

I’ve been rewatching the Bourne trilogy this weekend.

The original three films got it so spot on in terms of creating a spy thriller. A great premise, great level of intrigue and well executed set pieces.

The films are focused and none of them surpass the two hour mark.

This is a great example of a film that executes something within it’s genre to the point that it defines what the genre is. You think of spy films, you think 007, MI and Bourne.

As creators, we can get lost in the sea of what our genre is. I do all the time and my love for a lot of eclecticism means that I’ve delivered work that is far reaching to many corners. It’s hard to send a clear message about what your work is when that happens.

Working within the axis of genre and creative liberty lies innovation, and it also allows to focus on on who our work is for.

I’m very good at creating for myself, I’ve done it for over a decade. Now I’m learning to create for others, with genre in mind, with intent for who else it could be for and with empathy.

Let’s where it takes us.

Preparation for an exam.

Revision is the obvious answer. Different types of a revision approaches are also highly recommended.

Behind revision and the retention of knowledge also is technique, the ability to understand what a question is specifically asking for and what you can do to make the answer crystal clear and meet the criteria of even the most jaded and grumpiest of examiners.

If you’ve put the hours in, you’ll reap the rewards, but finally it’s worth remembering that exercise, eating well and sleeping well all go a long way as well.

The little drips of progress along with choices that ensure your physically and mentally at your best is key to getting the best out of yourself during an exam or an exam season.

It all comes down to discipline and the choices you make.

The Almighty Faff Score

Below is a video of the full score for a track I wrote with my band Kinky Wizzards.

It took me absolutely ages to put this together and figuring what the brothers were doing let alone myself in written notation was a head spinner! There are probably some discrepancies here and there, and the drums especially are more of a guide as there’s an improvisatory nature to them. I also provided a brass arrangement for a trio of horns that feature as well. It was however very rewarding to see the music in written form and I though I’d share it with you.

There is something very aesthetically pleasing about it and I may put together a book with all of the tracks notated one day.

Normalisation

I feel privileged to be able to go for a run a walk or cycle pretty much any time of day without being too conscious of the fact I may not be safe.

This is not the case for women in the U.K. and for far too long this has become normalised.

The acceptance now is that women should be protected whilst men needn’t concern themselves with the matter.

A lot of the answer lies in education. And government and schools have been pathetically incompetent when approaching this subject matter.

When the situation is this dark, the culture needs to shift and fast because women deserve to be able to live without fear.

We can all contribute and we can all learn. The issue is there for all of us to see and we can choose what to do about it next and ensuring that we do all we can to make each other feel safe at night is a start.