Click here to check it out.
The performance, to be held on 9 May, will be hosted by the Government of Western Australia, alongside a reception of West Australian fine wines.
Click here for ticket & RSVP info
If you're interested in that sort of thing, CLICK HERE to see the lyric sheets in full, as sung on the album "Machines", with the original spam messages alongside.
Exciting times! Meanwhile, you must forgive me for laying low for the moment; usually I would be plugging an album launch event and promoting the hell out of things but it appears that I'm chained to my computer writing up my PhD for the next two months. The plan is, once I have handed everything in, to throw a belated album launch party/event and schedule some live performances of Machines in late spring/early summer. Watch this space for updates. x
Machines will be released by Bigo & Twigetti on the 25th of February, 2013, and features guest vocals from Australian soprano Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz and the lovely Catherine Saumarez on Cello.
I'm so happy to announce that I have been commissioned for a major new work by Kelly Lovelady's all-Australian London-based chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru. Aiming for a premiere performance in London in March 2013, it will be a 15 minute piece for strings that abstractly explores themes of modern sensuality and sound. Here's a little snippet from my proposal that explains what I hope to achieve:
Focussing on a language characterised by texture, timbre and harmony, I would like to compose a continuous 15 minute work for string orchestra (Ruthless Jabiru) that abstractly explores ideas of modern sensuality, in particular aggressive feminine sexuality, and notions of power and control. Nothing timid or pastel here, nor will it be overly dark and morose, but a picture painted in vivid beautiful colours. I would like to tease out some ideas about the language that is implied by the contentious term "woman composer" and twist them around, subverting expectations.
The string orchestra is the perfect ensemble to orchestrate with a view to pinching ideas from the realm of the studio composer/producer, where the sonic and timbral possibilities are so diverse and flexible, and yet from a sound world so well worn and timbral language so familiar. I want to play with compositional and sonic concepts that I commonly hear being exploited in studio based music production, but rarely in orchestral writing; ideas that relate to perception, psychoacoustics and the communicative power of timbre. Observing the internal listening process, which is coloured by context, and then trying to recreate that sensation externally in a concert hall. I want to try and emulate the throbbing compression effect of "ducking" to play with sound priorities in a live performance space - perhaps turning tiny sounds into giants and the well known big sounds of a string orchestra into something very distant and small. Real and 'fake' reverberence to achieve illusions of distance and size.
These are just some of the ideas I wish to play with, to add new colours to the tonal pallette in order to furnish and illustrate a (what will probably be quite dirty) story.
My next record for Bigo & Twigetti, which is still yet untitled but currently being referred to as "Machines", is a song cycle based on themes of technology, loneliness and the human condition. All of the texts have been taken from various spam emails that I have been collecting over the past few years, using the cut-up technique to find new combinations, meanings and narratives - an idea nicked from Burroughs via Bowie. I'm not wanting to give the world the impression that I spend all of my spare time pouring over every unsolicited email (bear with me), but over time a few messages that I've seen have caught my eye, seemed poignant; the random texts generated in a few created nice images and juxtapositions in my mind. Overall I was arrested by the notion of humans trying/wanting/needing to reach each other for whatever reason, and the kinds of things they will say in order to seduce, ensnare, or foster feelings of trust. What lengths we go to to be noticed.
These kinds of things:
From here, and the resulting cut-ups, the cycle began to take shape; songs about intimacy and insecurity, greed, automation and screaming into the void. I could yap on about it all, but I think I'll leave that stuff for another time. For now, there's a little snippet from "Incantation" (still a work in progress, featuring the gorgeous voice of Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz) on the Bigo & Twigetti soundcloud:
More to come very soon, I promise. x
I didn't manage to get any photos of Laura in action because I was too busy squealing with excitement at how amazing everything was sounding. She did such an incredible job, it almost pains me to make you wait to hear the results. I did, however, manage to get some photos of the delicious vintage keyboards I borrowed for the weekend. Total keyboard porn.
I got the Rhodes stage 88 and the Wurly EP200 from Matt Snowball backline hire, whose service I can highly recommend. Totally helpful and reliable, and the high quality vintage kit seems to be lovingly maintained. Needless to say, I now need a Wurly in my life; if only to soothe myself to sleep each night with some gentle buttery chords.
A few days prior to these sessions, I was at Kool World studios in Luton with George Hinchcliffe (of 'Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain' fame), recording material for his new album (which I am producing). He brought along what I can only describe as an abundance of ukuleles:
This little one, in particular, summons up strange maternal instincts within me when I hold it...
If you can understand Portugese, check out a short interview from the man himself over on deepbleep.com.br
00:00 | DIGIGARDEN (with Panais Bouki) – Chronos 01 | 2008
03:12 | PABX (with Estevan Sinkovitz) – Chuva [remix] | 2009
06:25 | CUBO – K7 Demagnetizer: It’s A Fine Day In The Hidden Place [mashup] | 2011
09:30 | NEUTRA (with Fernando de França) – Under Empty Places | 1998
13:15 | THE LAPTOP BOYS (with Panais Bouki) – “Wonder”, to Claudia Wonder [demo] | 2006
14:18 | CUBO – Cry feat. Dot Allison [remix] | 2008
17:40 | CUBO – Copal: Sétimo Sonho (with Astrid Hage and Gabriel Levy) [demo] | 2009
19:35 | CUBO – K7 Demagnetizer: Intro + Rolling In The Time [mashup] | 2011
23:06 | VISAVIS (with Panais Bouki) – Despedida | 2004
25:37 | PABX (with Estevan Sinkovitz) – Rádio [remix] | 2010
29:05 | VISAVIS (with Panais Bouki) – Degradê | 2005
32:11 | CUBO – Copal: Dia (with Leah Kardos and Ana Eliza Colomar) [demo] | 2009
And while you're listening to the mix, you really should feast your eyes on this wonderful art book that accompanies the project:
I am so very happy to be included on their latest release SEQUENCE3. It features a never-been-heard-before alternate version of DFACE (Practice This Video) from Feather Hammer.
Click here, or the gorgeous cover art to the right, to stream or download the whole 39 track release, it's beautiful. Or click below to hear my contribution.
Earlier today I was delighted to learn, via the magic that is twitter, that my music has been played on Fbi 94.5FM (Sydney, Australia) over the weekend. Chuffed! Firstly, on the New Weird Australia show on 13/10/2011, and then another 3 tracks on the Utility Fog show presented by Peter Hollo on 16/10/2011. Made my day to learn I was given airtime in a playlist sandwiched between Hauschka and Bjork (.... *sigh*).
A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being interviewed by Chris McGovern for The Glass blog, and was asked some interesting and probing questions about my creative practice, how I approached certain specific pieces in the Feather Hammer project. If you're interested in that sort of thing, check it out here. On the same day this interview came out, I was also (bizarrely) featured alongside my best friend Liz in an Observer piece about Morrissey/Smiths fans, an article which has nothing to do with my music but features an embarrassing photo of myself kissing my Smiths lyric tattoo, which is under my arm. So yes, virtually kissing my own armpit. Classy girl.
A few more reviews & mentions have come out in the past few weeks, all of which have been lovely. Here's some of my favourite quotes, with links to the original articles/postings:
- Chris McGovern / Chamber Musician Today
"The album is very much like a classical suite (sometimes sounding as if it could have been collaboratively recorded by Massive Attack and Arvo Part) on her first love, the piano, and its mini-movements read like pages of a diary that go from a good day filled with visions of hope to days less inspired and more stressful as a student" ... "the varied sounds of the piano (straight piano vs. the flatter prepared-piano) give sort of an artistic timeline between a classical and an experimental sensibility, as if to say that the constructed has now been deconstructed."
"Feather Hammer is a quality release by Kardos, exploring a wide range of emotions through her instrument of choice, and complementing it very well with the addition of acoustics, percussion and sampling. But most of all, Kardos makes a wonderful job of bringing displaced thoughts back to life through her music - whether delicate or challenging, she does not shy away, but confronts, thus ensuring her music communicates with the listener on an emotive level. 81%"
- Kat Arney / You Do Too Much (blog)
"A new album of gorgeous manipulated piano tracks – by turns minimalist, ambient and crunchy"
- Acid Ted
"This is ambient coming at it not from the dub and dance sources of The Orb but the more austere, aescetic end of classical chinstrokers John Cage and John Tavener. There’s also something about the scale of this music. Like some of Tavener’s Orthodox chant pieces and especially The Protecting Veil they either need to be heard very small and personal or at an enormous and public scale like the Albert Hall. But there’s less the sense of being small in the face of a Deity, rather small in a pained and personal suffering way."
"This blissful yet daunting at times piece of art will take you on a journey"
"Feather Hammer is truly DIY at its finest - full of warm tones and beautiful piano. It's one of those EPs that makes you want to put your headphones on and stand in the middle of a four way intersection at 3 am, watching the brief solitude of a once busy street, observing the traffic lights change for nobody but you."
- Chip Michael, Interchanging Idioms
"Classical music is so much more than dead white composers. Leah Kardos is living proof of what it not only can be, it moves toward what it may be in the years ahead... The music is a mixture of styles and influences from Debussy to Tavener, Shostakovich to Bryars with pop elements from Bowie, Brian Eno and The Flaming Lips. From this rich tapestry we are given a sonic-scape that transports us into a distant world of colors, shapes and sounds like nothing I've heard before. At times the music is opaque and difficult to see clearly all that's happening, while at other times there is a clear lyric glide to the musical lines that float over the listener with utter beauty."
So it is out there, and it seems that people are enjoying listening to it. As a composer, I cannot imagine a better feeling. A big thank you has to go out to the people who tweeted, responded on facebook or emailed me their beautiful comments and reactions - my heart is full. Now I'm getting prepared to present the version of it at the premiere event on Nov 25th (tickets here!). Expect some divergences, I want to make room for lots of improv. There'll be none of this 'press play' business you see so often with the performance of electronic works! Slackers.
Resonance 104.4fm Clearspot 16/09/2011 - Leah Kardos presents Feather Hammer
If you're on Facebook, you can RSVP to the event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=276449095715751
It's going to be kickarse, I promise!
Here's a write up about the event, stolen from the Chaos Theory website:
Time: Friday 25th November 7.30pm
Venue: The Wilmington Arms, 69 Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4RL
Chaos Theory are proud to present three fiercely inventive talents premièring their contemporary works during this one-off event. All of the musicians tonight combine various disciplines, technology and defy tradition. In the true spirit of what Chaos Theory wishes to promote, we invite all of you who wish to experience challenging new music and art.
LEAH KARDOS: FEATHER HAMMER
Leah is a multi-talented composer, producer and pianist whose latest work will be showcased tonight. Her breathtaking new album Feather Hammer (released on 19th September) combines tonal and ambient soundscapes which fuse contemporary classical and electronica styles.
The recorded version of Feather Hammer uses the sounds of acoustic pianos, making use of the hammer, strings and wood percussion of the piano as well as playing them conventionally.
Tonight, we will witness a special presentation of the album featuring digital piano, electronics and video art by Matthew Greasley.
A brilliantly innovative quartet who we’ve had the pleasure of hosting at our monthly night Candied Nonsense. Continually looking to promote the music of established and emerging 20th and 21st Century composers, these graduates from the Royal Academy Of Music, Royal College Of Music and Oxford University never shy away from the new and the experimental. Over the past few months they have premièred ten new works.
Featuring Mandhira De Saram and Patrick Dawkins on violin, Valerie Welbanks on cello and Richard Jones on viola, tonight they will present short pieces by contrasting composers including John Cage, Anton Webern and Harry Partch.
Opening the evening will be this gifted soloist, who will be creating extraordinary music using his original music concept.
Gathering field-recordings within one mile of the Wilmington Arms over the course of one hour, Sam will be manipulating the sounds to forge a one-off soundscape purely for this evening, adding no new sounds whatsoever. He will accompany these recordings with his improvised slide guitar.
A unique start to a unique evening.
This is a rare opportunity to see such vast talent together in one evening and we invite you to come and see how limitless music can be.
£8 on the door
If you're interested to hear how it might have been, knock yourself out!
[Feather Hammer] demo 1 Apology (with subway) by leahkardos
Where: in London tune in to 104.4fm, or online via iTunes radio or one of the links on this page: http://resonancefm.com/listen
In this radio show I will be previewing tracks from my new album "Feather Hammer" which will be available to buy from the 19th of September.
I will be talking about what inspires me, my creative processes and sharing the stories behind the pieces. I will be on my own, live on air for an HOUR. Please tune in and make all the stress and anguish I'm going through be worth my while!
I've taken down the demos from my soundcloud account - big thank you to everyone who listened and commented and helped me. The finished album will be available from Monday the 19th of September from my bandcamp page, which you can access instantly by clicking the 'music' link on the site menu above. I'll be back soon to post details about the album launch/premier performance event happening on the 25th of November at The Wilmington in London. Exciting times!
Approaching this piece the primary aim is creating interesting textures and playing with the proximity of those sounds. A secondary aim is to recall the feeling of early piano lessons and repetitive practice routines, pattern based technical exercises, the warmth of harmonies built from 3rds. After recording the various patterns using a variety of mic types and positions, I used Logic's space designer, delay designer, some FabFilters, in addition to scissors, stretch and flex-time to manipulate the material. Each "part" to the arrangement is a unique pattern that repeats, so my starting point was this thick texture of all of the looped up cycles working at the same time. The arrangement you hear in the demo below is the result of "carving" into that cyclic material, editing, erasing and eliminating certain bits to create some sense of form. This way of working reminds me of a method my artist friend Kristian Purcell often describes to me, of applying thick layers of media and then carefully stripping it away to reveal the piece.
Here's where I got the sample from:
Big thanks to PianoforteMaestro for letting me use it.
I might be doing some gigs later on this year* to promote the Feather Hammer album, which is where this track comes from (or will come from, once the album is completed). I'm very excited about it all, and will definitely post news about it on this site as soon as I can. For now I just have to concentrate on finishing off the production, and adapting everything for live using Albleton and my lovely new APC40.
*this projection could get blown out by a few months, since film soundtrack work takes priority (i.e., we need to pay our bills, right?) and I just got news of some urgent film work that needs doing in July. Time will tell if I manage to get everything done. Now that I think about it, it's actually a good idea to take every projected date I publicise and add 2 months - I seem to have no concept of the limitations of time, space, distance and real life.
The Picnoleptic Muse by Ed Baxter by NetaudioLondon
Netaudio London 2011 festival broadcast, 15 May 2011
produced and presented by Ed Baxter ( 120’ )
Max Neuhaus - Public Supply
Christoph McGown - Grid Public Lock
Lance Dann - The Flickerman
Daniela de Paulis/CAMRAS - OPTICKS
mEtamina Free Net Radio - Don’t die wandering, the sound of impatient wandering
Monty Adkins - Remnant / Suspended Edges
Sol Rezza - Verdades Minúsculas (Tiny Truths)
Spider & I - Feather Hammer - The Waiting
Theme for capcicans - Bite the capcicans
Andrew Jacques - Fedbakontin
Ed Osborn - Stone North
Preslav Literary School - This Good Lesson Keep
Cheapmachines - Ellipse
Filipe Cruz - New Impulses to Old Elements
StSanders - Metallica Shred
Yan Tan Tethera - Full of Noises
RAF - Cage
RAF - KUA
Piet Stoaling - Pudding
We met (in the virtual sense) on the Steve Reich remix contest in Indaba, and he invited me to take part. It started with a facebook group, initially with people posting videos and pictures of dream-like subject matter. I responded to the stimuli with some improvisations, and from there the music passed through many hands - singers, guitarists, composers, arrangers, sound designers - so many talented people have their fingerprints on this thing. I'm glad I got to be one of them.
The next piece uses/recycles parts of the Feather Hammer sessions, working with infinite loops and sampling/retriggering. The warped piano sound is a beatmapped filter effect I just discovered by accident, which made the whole thing sound about 80% more evil than I originally intended! The strange video just adds to the "eraserhead" vibe.
This video is a demo for a live audio visual project I have developed with Matthew Greasley - something about creating experimental textures and surreal imagery that we can manipulate and improvise through live performance. At the moment we're collecting a new live set - the stuff is mostly being drawn from the Feather Hammer project, but a few older pieces might also get a look-in (like the ill-fated Black Mouth of August project, for example).
This piece, Core, is an unusual one for me as it started life as a poem. I'm a terrible poet so there's no chance of me posting the thing here, I only mention it because it's a strange way for me to work - from words; taking a picture in my mind and abstracting it with imagery and language, then further abstracting it into music and sound. The best bit is passing the music over to Matt Greasley to see what he sees in it. The final beautiful abstraction that gives the whole thing a new context.
I am loving the imagery Matt is coming up with - the perfect soft/heavy subject matter to match the style of the music.
Then I took out the core element, the improvised piano solo, and just left the "around" sounds. It's an interesting result, the empty space left by the missing piano part is almost like a silhouette.
[edit: I've since taken these demos down, since they became The Waiting, both versions appear finished on the Feather Hammer album]
I'm reminded that I've done this kind thing before - back when Helzuki were writing in the studio, many of the arrangements started with piano parts that I had written. As band members added their layers to the arrangement, we all found the song worked better if we took the original part out, leaving all the stuff that had been constructed around it to hold the thing up.
Imma try out this method some more. It suits me, since my improvs sometimes come out sounding a bit basic and obvious. This could be a cool way to use that material in a backwards kinda way.
In other news, the My Lithium & Me project is being noticed and listened by the best people: sweetoblivion blogged about it, Boy George downloaded and listened to it, and it was featured on David Bowie's very own site as a news item. Fair to say I'm absolutely chuffed at the reaction it's getting. In little over a week since releasing it I've had over 5700 plays and nearly 2300 downloads via soundcloud, which is just awesome! Thanks everyone!
Update - here's a video demo by Matthew Greasley to go with the non-piano version of the track:
The first of the three Bowie cover gigs I’ve performed was for Trevor's 49th birthday party. Trev is a lovely man and Bowie fan of legend who I had gotten to know through BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com). He had asked my band to come and play the gig - I was fronting for Helzuki at the time. The band couldn't make it but I decided to offer to play some covers instead. Lugging my red furry piano, I pitched up and played a set of slightly more obscure/unobvious numbers. I met a few quizzical looks, but on the whole it went down pretty well. He invited me back the following year for his 50th birthday party - again with my piano, again with a new set of slightly off-kilter interpretations. Standout surreal moment of that party: singing Under Pressure with a Bowie impersonator.
The third, and last, time I did this was for Phil's 40th birthday party in February 2010. For Phil (another lovely man and Bowie fan of legend whom I had gotten to know via BowieNet), I wanted to do something a little bit different. With the party being held in a venue in SE London, it was impossible to lug my heavy piano across the city on the Tube. I decided to perform with my keytar, doing a set of songs in an electro style. I thought it might be funny and give the fans a bit of a laugh (while solving my
Once the summer hols had started, and I had a bit of spare time, I decided to get Liz to come up to Bedford and help me get the vocals down. I'd chosen six tracks, some new and some from Phil's electro birthday set. We got drunk on Jack Daniel’s and I bellowed out the lyrics while she pressed record in the control room. It was FUNNY. The productions were crude, bashed out quickly in a DIY-bedroom style. We joked about getting gothed up and posing for a cover photo in the woods sitting in a tree, and about how horrified the fans would be when they heard what we had done.
But, as time passed, it started getting serious, with the suggestion of a possible news feature about it on BowieNet. Liz arranged for the artwork to be done by the infamous Rex Ray, whom she is friends with. I started to panic - I enlisted my friend Paul Ross to help me with the productions. I started all the arrangements again; for the first time I had to really think about what I wanted to do with these songs - how could I put a modern spin on this, without taking the piss?
Inspiration came from everywhere - starting with Bowie's own back catalogue, which I scoured for usable samples to embed in my arrangements. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I'm really into this idea of using recordings as resources to construct new things, so I figured why not try it out here? At best, it might suggest new shades of meaning through association and memory; at worst it would be a type of treasure hunt/guessing game for the fans. Other inspiration came from a general desire to make a modern sounding trip-hop record - something that I have wanted to do for ages now; mixing the deep downtempo sounds of 90's-style trip-hop with more modern timbres you might associate with current pop or dubstep.
I've worked hard on this, and I'm proud of the result. I'm honoured and humbled by the volunteered involvement of so many talented and creative people: Kristian Purcell painting my face to look like Screaming Lord Byron and taking the cover photo, Rex Ray volunteering to design the cover and make a fangirl's dream come true, Matt Greasley and Izzy Foster for making those beautiful videos, Paul Ross, who helped me raise the bar on this project and spent many long evenings after work making my voice sound good, my boyfriend Matt for putting up with my absenteeism and helping with the mastering... and not forgetting Liz Tray who was there, drunk and giggling with me in the beginning, who really championed this project and pushed it from being nothing more than a joke to something we can both be proud of.
Here it is:
Copal 2 (improv) by leahkardos
Copal 3 is a sentimental little piano piece that I played shortly after learning that a childhood pet had finally died. Claudia was my little Burmese cat, such a delicate soft little thing. She would sit on top of my piano while I practiced as a youngster... so a little bit of simple child-like piano music seems appropriate in the moment. Aww rest in peace sweet kitty cat.
Copal 3 (improv/Claudia's Song) by leahkardos
Right. That's enough improv for now, I think. There's a lot of proper writing I need to be getting on with.
This is an improvisation I came up with earlier this evening, based on a simple 5 note right hand oscillating figure in G minor, stretching out and making use of the warm ambient tones of the piano.
Copal 1 (improv) by leahkardos
The Feather Hammer is an ambient piano record I have just finished writing and am about to commence production on. The artwork to the left will be the cover, a wonderful piece by Kristian Purcell called "Unelma 1".
The record will comprise of piano sounds - played music and ambient sounds recorded "around" the music (a longer more detailed blog on this aspect will probably come soon) - and location recordings taken from around Bedford, mostly the college campus where I work.
Strongly inspired by Bjork's Vespertine, with its percussion tracks utilising soft intimate non-musical sounds (shuffling cards, clinking cutlery, footsteps through snow), and Amon Tobin's Foley Room where textures of found sounds are built up to create heavy, thick ambiences. Other influences come from the Harold Budd/Eno collaborations and Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. The focus will be on combining and manipulating recorded audio, avoiding synthesis and most digital effects.
At the centre of the production is a collection of 9 solo piano compositions that have been traditionally scored and performed by me. I am quite excited about this project as it is the first where I really get to try out all my fancy PhD process ideas and experiment with production concepts gleaned from psychoacoustic research. It's an extra treat that I get to perform on my favourite instrument. Due to me not being able to say no to anyone or anything, it's been on the back burner for a while... but this is where my heart is at the moment, it's all I want to work on. I don't want to say I'll have it done in early 2011, since I have a pile of commitments bearing down on me over the holiday season. As progress is made I will update the blog with news, ideas and demos but for now... isn't the cover just lovely?
"My first recycling experiment" or "how I hacked up Rob Davidson's String Quartet beyond recognition"
(What I'm talking about is the subject of that last blog of mine - this whole idea of a composition evolving, the recorded artefact becoming the starting point for a new creation.)
So I decided to experiment, to find out how easy it is to chop and manipulate an existing recording in order to create something completely different. My string quartet is not finished, so I stole Rob Davidson's String Quartet - a live recording that had some really interesting room ambience in the mix, and some fun audience sounds (coughing, sneezing, etc).
Here's an excerpt from Rob's recording (the opening):
String Quartet - Rob Davdison (Opening/Example) by LeahExperiments
The following experiments/hack jobs were made purely by recycling bits of the above recording, with bits mostly taken from the first movement. In Logic, I used EQ, scissor, time-stretch, reverse, reverb & flex tools to completely mess it up.
Experiment 1 (recycling String Quartet by Rob Davidson) by LeahExperiments
Experiment 2 (recycling String Quartet by Rob Davidson) by LeahExperiments
I'm not sure if the results are good enough to play at the seminar, but I think they are interesting all the same. There are some peculiar dissonances that I wasn't expecting, which resulted from combining notes and chords taken from different places where tunings had slightly shifted in the performance. In some places this is pleasing, in others it definitely grates! When I took a short sample and stretched it a long way it produced a rustling guitar-like effect, which I thought was a happy accident. The limitations in my examples are clear with regard to melody/harmony/tonality - this was partly due to the fact that I chose to focus on a short section of the recording to plunder for samples, but mostly due to me being lazy and opting for drone-based harmony layers and glitchy rhythms.
Over the easter break I've been working on some theme ideas for the soundtrack to Lee Hutcheon's new fllm 'My Brother's Keeper'. Suffice to say, this John character is a bit of a messed up dude.
"My Brother's Keeper" - Home theme 1 by leahkardos
'My Brother's Keeper' - John Action cue by leahkardos
'My Brother's Keeper' - John's Theme cue 2 by leahkardos
"My Brother's Keeper" - short orchestra cue by leahkardos
"My Brother's Keeper" - Home [piano version] by leahkardos
These demos were made from the remnants/thoughts/ideas/leftovers from an ill-fated project with pianist Olga Jegunova back in December 09. I remember vividly being extremely ill with a flu, days without sleep, deeply distracted by the Dragon Age: Origins game at the time. I was supposed to be writing a piano solo, but at the time I got carried away with the production and everything fell apart.
In hindsight I really don't care much for the slow movement at all, but the so called "dance" movement was so much fun throwing together it's making me think of putting together a little suite of such things. I think I would like to push it out further, be more obscure and less 'dancy', with more rhythmic complexity. And maybe get my friend, video artist Matt Greasley to edit some footage to go with it. I think it could become a really fun little performance project.
Black Mouth of August III - Slow Movement (demo) by leahkardos
"Black Mouth of August" - II Dance Movement [demo] by leahkardos
The songs took a while to record, and even longer to mix. The recording process was veerrrry casual - maybe one or two wine-fuelled evenings a month at best we would get together to spend on it. And we wanted so many layers, despite being only a three-piece band - the attraction of the newly built studio in our house made us want to experiment and see how much we could get away with. Then came the mixing...
At first we struggled with the mix, partly because of the number of layers we had put down, but mostly because we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Then we stopped mixing because I got a new bit of kit in the studio and I was convinced that we had to start again - I think it was when the Liquid Mix arrived. Then, when Matt had mixed the first three tracks, I decided that I was ‘sick and tired’ of the songs and left it in his hands (his slow, methodical but admittedly consistent hands)... I was all “I don’t wanna know about it, don’t wanna hear those songs again!”. I think I was just frustrated with the slow pace of things.
Then, I started my PhD studies and suddenly all my spare time was gone. Matt was sort of mixing this project on and off, just to get it done and out of the way... and around this time we somehow decided that our old studio monitors were too coloured (which they were...) and we replaced them. Hence the need to start mixing again. Then, shortly after that I bought some sweet mastering plugins, and at this point I was just like “oh hell, give me those mixes, I’ll bang them out in an hour”. Which, after all the previous drama, is exactly what I did in the end!
All said and done, I think I am proud of these songs. They represent a fun time of experimentation and sharing of ideas, and a super steep learning curve in many respects - I learned so much about multitrack recording, and even more about my own creativity and how I can work with others.
The E.P. is available for free from www.helzuki.co.uk, and will be on iTunes and Amazon and everywhere else in a few days. Hoorah!
This is what its like to work in a vacuum. When there’s no client or boss to tell you the job is done, when the only goal is to effectively express yourself, when there are no limitations to guide you. I need to get better at this.
Anyway, enough of that. I have finished the short little LCO piece, and have just now sent this demo off. It is in the hands of fate whether it gets picked for performance in March - they may not like it for many reasons, but I feel satisfied that I have responded to the brief in my *own* way, aside from the desire to spend the rest of eternity polishing it up and fixing little details, I think it’s more or less there. The only thing I’m not happy about is the instrumentation (chamber orchestra) and the fact that technology is forbidden (I mean, really?). It was inspired by “the Frame House” - a home design and built by architect Marcus Lee (it was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs program, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about). The brief was to compose a short piece for chamber ensemble that is inspired by architecture - either the Frame House or another building, the “Hot House” (designed by Cany Ash). Here’s the programme notes I sent along with the scores:
My piece starts with the raw materials, working with them and perhaps even bending them slightly to construct frames around spaces, floors and rooms. The spaces have different functions and house varying levels of activity, yet they are all made of the same stuff and share the same very simplistic design.”
UPDATE - it wasn’t selected, but I’m cool with it because I think this piece would have a better life with a smaller, plugged in ensemble, like I originally intended.
I just posted a clip from Peter Sant's latest video art piece, "Cadence" on the media page of this site (for the full length version - check out http://www.petersant.com ). Despite my computer-related woes of late, I really enjoyed working on this project - camped out on the dining table with my MIDI keyboards and controllers strewn around the kitchen.
I originally got the job by responding to a post on Composition Today (truly one of the ugliest arts-related sites ever to exist on the interwebs) - the artist was looking for a keyboardist/composer, and I took the bait. He responded in kind with a list of musical limitations and rules by which I needed to adhere. Also, I was to only receive the foley track, and not the footage, to score to. Here were some of the rules:
- begin at precisely 2min 30 secs
- contain a 'light' and discretely 'anticipatory' motif
- never be 'dark' or 'suspenseful'
- contain the following, in order of their relative quantity:
- plus an optional extra (but not percussive)
- not occupy more than 70% of the allocated time
- operate at a tempo slower than a clock
There was a lot of back and forth - a few changes, a few edits. It was refreshing to work in this way, separate and remote from the visual element yet very close to it at the same time. Here's an example from the final score - the first occurrence of the main theme, beginning at precisely 2min 30secs...
Cadence [excerpt] by leahkardos
Just for the hell of it, here's a small suite of pieces written for easy piano + delay/verb effects. Click on the titles to see the scores.
i. Butterfly Kites [SCORE]
Butterfly Kites - digital piano & delay by leahkardos
ii. Glitter Vein [SCORE]
Glitter Vein - for digital piano & delay by leahkardos
iii. Alone In The Empty House [SCORE]
iii. Alone in the empty house (from Glitter Vein Suite) by leahkardos
iv. Goodnight [SCORE]
iv. Goodnight (from Glitter Vein suite) by leahkardos
This was written as a valentine to DSCH (Dmitri Shostakovich), and his name spells out that familiar theme once again. I'm ashamed at the crappiness of the score - I am clearly at odds with Logic's score editor. Never again, Sibelius all the way.
Dmitri On The Step (Piano solo) - [SCORE]
Dmitri On The Step - Piano Solo by leahkardos
... I’ve decided to take myself through a series of lessons in the larger forms in music. I have this fantastic old book by Percy Goetschius (written 1915) that full of lovely composition exercises and I figured while I’m at it I might sharpen up my orchestration (and finally learn how to drive that VSL library properly). I’ve even busted out my old score-pads, something I haven’t used since I was at uni... and found some disturbingly rubbish music scrawled on a few of the pages (I recognized the desperation in the pencil markings, I must have had a portfolio due).
What brings this on? I’ve been writing a lot of miniatures of late - and by that I mean small instrumental works of about 3 - 5 mins in length (think little atmospheric pseudo-classical pop songs in binary form). I think I’ve been slightly frightened to write anything on a larger scale, some formal structures are a bit intimidating when you’re rusty on the rules... but by avoiding them I have been creating music that generally runs out of steam after themes A and B have run their course. In many ways it’s easier when you write for a film or other context, the music there supports a larger narrative or purpose and the composer is almost let off the hook. You just write some themes, agree on the instrumentation and then the rest kinda drives itself.
In the introduction there’s this fab quote from the book:
“The classic designs are not lightly to be overthrown, for they are the cumulative product of a gradually dawning recognition of nature’s musical laws, steadily progressing and crystallizing through the gathering and eliminating experiences of master-minds during many past centuries. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that true structural progress cannot be achieved by abandoning these, but rather by building upon them”.
Right on, Percy.
Otherwise I’ve been keeping busy lately working on an arrangement of “forty six & two” (by Tool) for piano solo and string quartet, and working on the soundtrack for a new horror short for David Keith. I’ve also been composing a new batch of examples for my showreel and others that I hope to sell on to music libraries (remember those miniatures I was talking about earlier?). I love Summer holidays, you can get so much done when you don’t have to drag your arse to pesky ‘work’ all the time!
A while back I promised to post some demos of the Ariella Strings sessions as soon as I had any... so here’s an instrumental demo of track called “Stars”. Not my composition, I just did the arrangement for string quartet. From what I understand, the track is going to undergo a major overhaul in terms of production - so the finished version may well sound completely different to this.
I’m particularly fond of the last section, after the timpani. :) The best thing about this project was that Monty and Paul gave me freedom to do whatever I pleased with the strings. Loads of fun from beginning to end, this one.
(click the link to hear it)
We spent a few too many months laying these eggs! I think the next batch will happen a lot quicker and with more focus and enthusiasm. Still, we learned a lot through the process of making these. We’re thinking of adding another 3 songs to these and releasing an EP in a month or so.
Aside from being stricken with Matt’s pharyngitis not once but TWICE in the space of two weeks (WTF?), and playing my way through Mass Effect, I spent the rest of my holiday time mixing a few projects and marking student work. Term 3 commences tomorrow and I turn 30 the day after that. I discovered the Flaming Lips’ cover of Borderline, Ute Lemper’s Little Water Song, and the original Grey Gardens which have all enriched my life wonderfully. Another find: Kutiman’s Thru-You project which just blew me away. Finally, I now exist on IMDB as a composer. Another brick in the wall!
My first game oriented demo, and my first project using the new VSL samples I got for my birthday. I know it still needs mixing and tweaking - but I’ve uploaded it to the GANG website for a thorough criticism. I decided to go with a spy-genre theme but twist it in with some breakbeats and live bass (courtesy of Matt).
Spy Game Soundtrack [demo] by leahkardos