Community and Artist Development

As I travel I am shuffling and challenging my thoughts. I am considering more what I want to do when I return to the UK… and more specifically, Manchester.

Many of my ideas have directed me towards the importance of community and artist development, in each case, around music.

At SXSW there was a lot of talk around the lack of artist development from labels combined with a lack of time for artists and bands to be able to explore their sound and style before being written-off (literally in the accounts).

At the same time, as a *bedroom musician*, though I have time to work on my own sound, there is a lack of feedback until I get to a point where I’m ready to record or perform my music. At that point the stakes are higher because being in a studio costs money and being on stage in front of people is a big deal if you’re like me.

So… I believe that community is key.

I want to create a space where women making music and sounds have the chance to meet up, work on music, give and receive feedback on tracks and eventually play together and support each other.

This is currently named The Daphnies, inspired by Daphne Oram.

If you are making music in Manchester or beyond and would like to get in touch or be involved somehow I’d love it if you’d send me an email at embriarmusic@gmail.com.

I’ve made an Instagram account so please have a look for any updates.

Cheers

Em x

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Austin and SXSW 2018

I’ve gone a bit quiet again. I’ve been at SXSW this week.  It’s been a total dream.  There is such a collection of people who are really great at what they do.  These people are here to share and grow their ideas.  It’s how life should be all the time.

Austin is a great city and I had a few days of it before this festival began.  Many companies have taken over shops and bars for the festival period and the main roads are closed.  The city is behind the music.

 

The best things I’ve seen are:

  • The bands and artists (check out Billie Eilish, Saint Sister, Findlay and Boniface)
  • Linda Perry (may I refer you to my Instagram tribute)
  • Photographers scrambling around on various floors to get their photographs

Most of all it’s been very interesting to observe the panels and conversations that I’ve chosen to attend.  Lots of focus on community and artist development.  Ideas are definitely brewing.  I will see where the dust settles after being thrown up in the air this week.  Ideas for new chapters…

It’s been so inspiring to be around great music.  I feel full of words and beats, ready to make more music and bear with myself.

That’s all for now folks.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

Nashville

I came to Nashville because I wanted to go somewhere where everyone was a songwriter.  For much of my life I’ve felt like a bit of an oddball for my songwriting habits.  Here, one of the first questions that I have been asked by some is: “are you a songwriter?”

“Yes!” I say (…before confiding in the question asker “though I’m an electronic musician… don’t tell anybody”).

Here, however, there is a huge lack of snobbery and a huge amount of sincerity and people have been very accepting of this.

A bit about Nashville:

Broadway

Broadway is a road downtown where, from 11 am to the early hours of the following morning, people play music on stages. In the majority of places the stages are beside the entrance so the musical offerings can be heard from the street, landing on eager ears. So you have (mainly) men with their backs to you as you walk down the street.  I love this in the week rather than on the weekend.  My favourite thing is that people sing and dance to songs that I haven’t ever heard before and I feel like I’m in a parallel universe. They are mainly cover bands but will do originals if you ask nicely.

My favourite places are Nudies and Tootsies for live band vibes. For chill guys and girls on acoustic guitars, Famous on 2nd Ave is great.

I think everyone should go to Nashville’s Broadway at least once in their lives. Despite myself, I can’t help but smile like I have a shoehorn wedged into my cheeks every time I hit the road.

Music Row

Another quieter but fascinating area of Nashville is Music Row. There are several streets filled with studios, record labels and music.  Due to the local government requirements, most of these buildings need to maintain the outer facade of a residential property.

I visited RCA Studios which is where Elvis recorded a lot of his hits. It was wonderful to be in the studio and so close to the instruments and gear.

Bobby’s Idle House is the only bar on Music Row and they host a writer’s night on Thursdays.  Three writers go up on stage at a time and take it in turns to play songs.  Janet, one of the organisers, has said I should let her know next time I’m in town so I can play my songs.  I have a feeling I will be back.

I have just 3 more days here and, as I write from an East Nashville coffee shop (where I feel in a very familiar reality), I am so happy.

… I even wrote a country song with my new friend, Megan.

Em x

Fiji Paradise

The bloke in the travel agent said that I should pop to Fiji in between my Australasian and American adventures.  This would give me the chance to relax and lie on the beach for a few days.

Although I’ve never really been a hot-weather-beach person, Fiji sounded too wonderfully exotic to fly over.

I arrived here four days ago to experience wind, rain, thunder and lightning. It’s been so loud that I’ve wondered whether I am, in fact, afraid of thunder.

I have relaxed, but in my own way. I’ve been recording music.

The music has come out in a mixture of commercial songs I would like people with big voices to sing (a few are here via this private link for as long as I am brave enough to keep it here), and a daily practice that I started on Tuesday where I’m collecting sounds and trying to weave them into more coherent song-like arrangements.

This has told me what I know already, I love the rain. I should be disappointed that my time in this paradise has been interrupted. But this was perfect for me.

The photo is a glimpse of sunshine on this, my last day in Fiji. Maybe today will be less productive!

Em x

The advantages of making lots of different things

In my experience of being creative and making otuff, it’s been easy to get precious about an idea.  Setting the time aside to do that thing can become a big deal. When things are a big deal, getting around to doing them can require a special mood, occasion or… alignment of the stars.

I’ve found that, by having several projects on at once, THE THING is less intimidating and it is possible to trick the brain into being more productive.

I’ve been working on several different songs at the moment, and it’s been so good to be able to switch between them.

I’ve made a short listicle like I’m on “the BuzzFeed”.

(1) Rebellion / Productive procrastination 

When you have a to-do list and then work on something that is not on that list, it feels like procrastination.

It can give you a kick and have the same pay-off as a massive Youtube binge: rebellion.  That naughty inner voice says: “just one more thing… then I’ll definitely definitely get on with what I’m supposed to be doing”.

Suddenly, before you realise it, something else has been made. Magic.

(2) The more advanced work inspires the newly conceived work

Having different projects at different stages means that some parts will be more polished than others. The more polished work provide inspiration in moments of despair. That “there is a way through”/“I am a capable human being” feeling can be very helpful.

(3) Easy wins to get started

I like to make some quick progress when initially sitting down to work. This can help to build momentum and keep you there for longer.  Revisiting something that just needs fresh ears or a bit of tweaking is great to feel like progress is being made quickly.  A shortcut to getting in the Zone!

(4) Let the mood take you 

Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to work on a sombre song when you’re very hyper… or whatever. Having options of different projects, doodles etc, let’s you work on what you’re in the mood to work on.

(5) Fresh eyes/ears/tastebuds etc

Shutting down one project to work on another can mean that when revisiting the first project, you see or hear it in a whole new light with a new sense of subjectivity. Ideal.

Note to self: Now go, make stuff!

The images are from my collage phase.

 

Thanks for reading.

Emma x

Daphne Oram, electro pioneer

Daphne Oram was born on 31 December 1925, ahead of her time.

As a child she had envisaged creating sounds from drawings.  As an adult she created Oramics: the process of drawing lines onto film strips which were then read by photoelectric cells (involving light and the emission of electrons) from which the sound was generated.

The lines she drew would determine the parameters of sound (i.e. pitch, waveform, reverb etc.) allowing her to play with the sounds, as she explains:

You take a sound, any sound, record it and then change its nature by a multiplicity of operations. You record it at different speeds; you play it backwards; you add it to itself over and over again. You adjust filters, echoes, acoustic qualities…you produce a vast and subtle symphony. It’s a sort of modern magic. We think there’s something in it. Some musicians believe it may become an art form in its own right.” – Daphne Oram, 1957

All of this was 10 years before the synthesiser was invented.

Daphne Oram had trained as a musician and scientist and, as for many women, the Second World War presented new opportunities to her.

She worked at the BBC where there are tales of her staying after hours, determined to work on her vision.  She would move large audio recording devices (the size of fridges) so that they were beside or opposite each other.  This allowed her to mesh and mash sounds into the night, making and adapting recordings of recordings finding new sounds.  No simple clicking a button to adjust filters like the software allows in 2018.

She would then disassemble her innovative studio for the morning when everyone else arrived at work.   After co-founding BBC Radiophonic Workshop (which was around until 1998 and most famously contributed sounds to Doctor Who) she resigned within the year in order to carry on her work.

She just tried stuff to get closer to the sound that she had envisaged.

Not only is Daphne Oram an inspiration as “the first woman to design and build an entirely new sound recording medium” but she often worked alone using the meticulous process that she created from scratch.  She put her money into her work and endeavoured in a world that wasn’t quite ready for her.

The independent recording studio that Daphne Oram established (when very few people were doing it) allowed her to make her music.  She would create music and sounds for adverts to pay the bills so that she could continue to be “an artist in charge of the noise” in her own projects.

I endeavour to be an artist in charge of the noises that I’m making and I hope that I may emulate her tenacity. I wanted to share her story because it’s an important one.

Thanks for reading.

Emma

To delve further into Daphne Oram’s world:

  • There’s a mobile app that allows you to play with the process without the need for appliance-size equipment.   Just search “Oramics”
  • Daphne Oram’s music is available in all the usual place (including “mash ups” of her interviews).
  • Daphne Oram wrote a book in 1972 called “Individual note of music, sound and electronics”.
  • The website dedicated to Daphne Oram is here:  http://daphneoram.org
  • And the articles (I would recommend reading/listing to) which I reference here are: