Richard J. Birkin divides his time between making music as a recording artist, composing for TV & film, and being the lead creative technologist for Time Travel Opps where his artistic and technical acumen come together to produce digital projects for the arts as well as consultation in the commercial sector. The common thread in all these aspects of his work is a focus on creating emotionally compelling interactive experiences that people can connect to in a meaningful way. This makes him perhaps the ideal person to have collaborated with author Jon McGregor in the promotion of his award-winning novel Reservoir 13, which examines life in a village in England’s Peak District in the days, months, & years following the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl.
McGregor was looking for a way to promote the book on tour that would be more engaging than the de rigueur format of simply reading passages and answering questions for an audience. Enter Birkin, who keyed off the novel’s atmospheric nature and repetitive themes to create a soundtrack that would help bring it uniquely to life in live, interactive, and recorded performances. The music was based on a local Derbyshire folk song called “Tip O’Derwent” which, serendipitously echoing the novel itself, is also about someone who goes missing in the wilds in that part of the country.
Continue reading “Through a musical lens: Reservoir 13 (Music for the Novel by Jon McGregor) by Richard J. Birkin”
Madeleine Cocolas is no stranger to incorporating music with other art forms. She has composed numerous works music for film, dance, and art exhibitions from painting to textiles. It should be no surprise, then, the fondness she developed for The Metropolitan Museum of Art after recently relocating to New York and on her newest album she finds a unique way to express her love for both the city and the museum while creating a highly engaging intersection between modern art, generative music, and compositional forms. The approach is best described by Cocolas herself:
“When I moved to New York City, I knew I wanted to write an album somehow connected to the city, but I wasn’t sure how to anchor it. It was probably on my third or fourth trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art that I realized how much I loved The Met, and how much it meant to me to be there. I chose nine artworks…that really resonated with me, used custom software programmed by Gregory Long specifically for this project to analyze an image of each artwork to create sounds, and then incorporated those sounds into my compositions. Each track on the album represents an individual artwork, so the album is like a collection of individual works.” – Madeleine Cocolas
Continue reading “Through a musical lens: Metropolitan by Madeleine Cocolas [bigo & twigetti]”
Even with a thesaurus ever just a mouse-click away, one begins to run out of superlatives to describe the music of Aaron Martin. Perhaps it is the unpretentious, organic beauty. Perhaps it is sublime balance between the earthly and the empyrean. Perhaps it is simply that truth resonates in each handmade note, of which not one is ever wasted. If you have heard Aaron’s work, you know exactly what I mean. If you have not, then a wonderful starting point would be his contribution to Touch Dissolves, the album portion of sixth edition of IIKKI Books in which volume is presented as a dialog between two artists, one visual and one musical (the visuals in this edition are provided by Turkish photographer Yusuf Sevinçli).
Continue reading “Through a Musical Lens: Touch Dissolves by Aaron Martin [IIKKI]”
What is a memory? It is not such a silly question. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Try to put it into words. What IS a memory? How do they accrue such significance to our sense of self? Musician Tim Linghaus wrestles with this in a beautiful and touching way on his latest album called Memory Sketches. Tim’s experiences with making music began when he discovered his father’s Yamaha drum machine and guitars when he was a young boy in the GDR. During his university years he played guitar in a couple of bands ranging from metal to singer/songwriter, but of late his music is mainly based on piano, synthesizers and noise. If you have had the joy of listening to his debut Vhoir, then you know it is of an exceptionally thoughtful and delicate nature and the new album continues very much in the same vein but with a very particular purpose as Tim explains.
“What is a memory? Is it a residue of our past conjured into being by pictures in our minds? Is it our former self communicating with our present one or the other way around? Is it a recurring emotion or smell we notice in a déjà vu or a daydream? Is it an individual sum of those aspects? What I know is that memories help me to define who I am. They establish connection between me and everything that is not present or future – sometimes sharp and palpable, more often soft and frail. Unfortunately, some memories fade away irrevocably. Hence, I am quite afraid of losing them.” – Tim Linghaus
Continue reading “Through a musical lens: Memory Sketches by Tim Linghaus [Schole/1631 Recordings]”
Oddly enough, I don’t remember which painting it was, but I will never forget the way it felt to stand for the first time in front of an original Van Gogh at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In some ways it was a disorienting experience. I recall becoming light-headed as if the colors & textures on canvas were alive and in perpetual motion. This phenomenon proved to be no fluke as I found in subsequent opportunities to view his work in person again years later at the VMFA’s Art of the Flower exhibition and again during a first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I am sure I am far from being alone in being so viscerally affected by the vibrancy of Van Gogh’s work. In fact, there is now a stunning new film that goes so far as to literally bring many of the his paintings to life even as it purports to tell the story of the events leading to his tragic early death. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, their animated film Loving Vincent was meticulously hand-painted by a team of 115 artists.
“Loving Vincent is the upcoming biographical animated film from newcomer directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and the attempt by an acquaintance of his son (played by Douglas Booth) to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A film unlike any other, it is entirely hand painted – each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on a canvas created using the same techniques as Vincent van Gogh.”
Continue reading “Through a Musical Lens: Loving Vincent OST by Clint Mansell [Milan Records]”
Lowlands is the third edition of the recently launched IIKKI project, a unique concept in which each entry in the series is the outcome of a creative dialog between a visual artist and a music artist which results in parallel imprints – a fine art book and a vinyl record. This one began when Ester Vonplon traveled last year to Spitsbergen, an island in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, where she captured impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice of the Arctic Ocean aboard a three-masted sailing vessel. The musicians chosen for this edition are Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer, frequent collaborators and potent alchemists in the art of electroacoustic minimalism, who fashioned an audio narrative from recordings made over a 3-year period in locations as far-flung as Iceland, Oregon, Florida, and New York.
Continue reading “Through a Musical Lens: Lowlands – Ester Vonplon / Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer [IIKKI]”
Originally released on cassette in 2013, Italian label KrysaliSound has remastered and reissued a mesmerizing long form composition by Danish collage artist & musician Paw Grabowski under his artistic pseudonym of øjeRum. An undulating, hypnagogic organ-based drone, He remembers there were gardens was conceived as an alternate soundtrack to the 1962 “photo-roman” (photo-novel) La Jetée by Chris Marker which is still recognized as a unique and highly influential experimental cinematic work.
The film, presented in a series of stills, paints a dystopian vision of post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live underground below the galleries of the Palais de Chaillot. Its protagonist is a man who is held captive and forced to travel time in a quest to find a source of energy to regenerate a decimated society. The man is chosen because of the power of his obsession with the past, specifically the allure of a fragmented, pre-war memory of a woman on the observation platform (“the jetty”) at Orly Airport and a tragic incident that occurs there which becomes the focal point of the story’s haunting denouement.
“Those familiar with the film with have no difficulty in recalling the flashes of a destroyed world, the status of the museum, and the moment on the platform. Even if you haven’t seen the film, the breathing of Grabowski’s organ will conjure similar images and moments. It fluctuates between the drifts and falls and the throb and hum of a person lost in time and place.” – KrysaliSound
Continue reading “Through a musical lens: øjeRum – He remembers there were gardens [KrysaliSound]”
After giving us a taste last year of their new modern classical project with The Grunewald Church Session, brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke are about to release their full-length studio debut album entitled Concrete Fields as CEEYS. The moniker they chose is a neologism forged from references to their respective instruments – a combination of the French spelling for cello (‘violoncelle’) played by Sebastian and ‘keys’, of which Daniel uses a wide variety in constructing their distinctive narratives including a 1912 Steinway and some intriguing vintage gear. But sound is only part of the story the Selke’s have to tell. Concrete Fields is in fact the first installment of a triptych and incorporates images & videos to resonate their experience growing up in a prefab estate in East Germany and navigating dramatic personal, political,. and cultural change.
“It is our remembrance of a childhood growing up in Europe’s largest prefab estate Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Berlin, East Germany…After the ‘quiet’ revolution in 1989 and the fall of the wall, and throughout the 90s, the region always kept a blend of an edgy feeling of departure and a vague melancholy. We like that the politics tried lots of things to bring more colour and life into the post-revolutionary landscape, but the strange feeling never fully left us. To carefully handle all the different facets of this time period we decided to release our musical version of what the Germans call ‘Betonfelder’ in the form of a trilogy spread across the next few years.” – CEEYS
Continue reading “Through A Musical Lens: CEEYS – Concrete Fields [1631 Recordings]”
The old Sleaford Bass Maltings brewery complex in Lincolnshire stopped being used for its originally intended purpose in the 1950’s and has been derelict for nearly a quarter century, its imposing brick malthouses, water towers, and kilns now no more than a mute echo of the bustling hub of local industry it once was. Its Grade II listing status is evidence of the interest taken in its distinctive historical and architectural characteristics while it has also shown allure to enthusiasts of abandoned places as well as those with an eye towards future redevelopment (which has yet to come to fruition).
Harry Towell, aka Spheruleus, on the other hand, found musical inspiration here. Using a plethora of analog and electronic sound sources (acoustic instruments, samples, drone loops, an out of tune piano at a local pub, a de-tuned piano belonging to a friend, a violin, classical guitar, voice, harmonica, zither, a warped music box, a cello iPad app, and vinyl samples), he brings that inspiration to life in a unique sonic portrait called Obsolarium.
“Obsolarium tells a story starting with the commercial success of a powerful brewery, the rail links used to distribute the produce before descending into a melancholy reflection of what once was, accompanied all the while with a crumbling disintegration. Whilst everything unravels and fragments, the series of structures remain.”
Continue reading “Through a Musical Lens: Spheruleus – Obsolarium [Whitelabrecs]”