For a long time now, I have pondered the relationship between visual art and music.
I happen to love both art forms greatly, and contemplate the ties between them when working on one or the other.
I laughed the other day when painting because I attempted to ‘EQ’ the warm colours out of a piece (I also tried to locate Ctrl-Z to ‘undo’ something on a drawing, so maybe I am going mad). It’s interesting when I am mixing songs, I get the sensation of frequencies as certain colours, that need to be mixed in a particular way, edited, moved around, removed, made more prominent or brought further back, as they would in a painting (especially more recently, in learning so much about, and manipulating and being creative with, sound, through this audio course).
It made me so happy, then, when today in class Tim used a work of art - ‘The Tower of Babel’, by Pieter Bruegel (1563) - to describe how a good music mix should be composed – with consideration of "Place, Space and Bass".
Image Source: The Google Art Project - https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/bAGKOdJfvfAhYQ
I gained greater satisfaction mixing a track just after this, having these thoughts in mind; visualising the mix, how the composition was working, and where all the elements were within the space. It helped me to better conceptualise music composition!
I can understand each art form far greater when I perceive their cross-over with others I practice - when I can visualise a song, or ‘hear’ a work of art. It allows more meaningful schemata to form in my mind, and this network of connections between information is exactly how humans learn.
A deep, enduring understanding, changes us from thereon, rather than having detached ideas, isolated pieces of knowledge, that we may recall but that have no great influence or effect.
One of my favourite artists of all time is Wassily Kandinsky, he was both a musician and visual artist, and was very attune to the connection between these art forms. A book of his I absolutely adore is ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’, where he addresses the association in our psyche, in our spirits, of visual and aural art.
Image Source: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2010/01/12/cultura/a05n1cul
“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul. Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul”. - Kandinsky (1977, p. 25).
And that is exactly what art does - it causes vibrations in the soul. Both music and visual art touch those same ‘strings’ in us.
Pertinent excerpts from Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
I attended the Van Gogh exhibition yesterday and, maybe it was my greater exposure to music recently, found I was struck by certain sounds, instruments, balances of music that different pieces permeated. It was a very affecting and impressionable experience of art.
His works have a life force, an impressive living quality. Because while they were created over a hundred years ago, the force that created them is the same now, and exists in those viewing them - the same reason any of us feel the need to paint, make music, make art, dance, act... Express something.
I like looking at people looking at art.
It’s just so wonderful that there is this inexplicable, unwritten correlation that we feel, that exists and that our minds manoeuvre without having to consciously employ it. It’s very natural, and feels beautiful, absorbing the intricacies of art - music and art - and allowing the experience of each to inform our own creativity.
Kandinsky, W. (1977). Concerning the Spiritual in Art. New York: Dover Publications.
Top Image Source: http-//www.healing-power-of-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/brain-right
As time approaches my group's live gig night, it’s been interesting to look back at the gigs my peers have put on so far that I've attended.
It’s been so cool to experience my friends and classmates presenting such enjoyable and top-quality live gigs - I’ve been a proud audience member each time! I’ve been genuinely impressed with the effort and outcomes. It has been striking how complete the live sets have been for each of them - the lights, the projections, the stage set-up, the extras (some with food, even Snapchat filters) - and the quality of sound has been unreal - professional standard!
Liam Wilkerson opening for Hounds to Houses. (Live group: Lewis Murphy, Daniel Clark, Daniel McArthur, Louis Welch, Zac Dal Santo & Caleb Chayna). One of my favourite light shows here!
Hounds to Houses [feat. Liam Wilkerson]. (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/houndstohouses/)
Hannah Glass opening for Hey Mammoth. (Live group: Jeremy Tang, Nic Spiteri, Henry Mo, Maj Brahman, David Sawang, Pete Srimuang).
Hey Mammoth... Some of the most magnificent vocal harmonies I've ever heard.
Venetian Blinds. I absolutely LOVED the lighting and projection in this one - it set such a cool, coherent vibe, with their gothic-style, dark music... brilliantly done. (Live group: Nick Elliott, Wayde Suchodolskiy, Ben Robertson, Jordan Duggan & Mohammed Mohammed).
My group's second live session (Friday of this week) was focused on monitor set-up. I found what Tim was explaining about the importance of monitor positioning extremely interesting - there is so much involved in the arrangement of monitors that many people would not ordinarily think of or consider. The height, for example, is extremely important - to have the speakers actually projecting to the ears of the players (rather than hovering at their feet or something)... You have to at all times consider the direction of the sound coming from the cones and decide whether they are doing their job or possibly being detrimental to the overall sound!
The way monitors interact with each other is also vital to take into account. Where the high frequencies and low frequencies are directed (and their relation and cross-overs), the distances between artist and monitor/s, and the space between monitors. Something I found cool and thought-provoking was the need to add delay to certain monitors, in order that the sound from the different sources is reaching the artist at the same time. We worked out that the front monitor, for example, was around 3 metres closer to the lead singer than the side-stage monitors, so it had to have its signal delayed in order to have the sound in sync. The clarity increased straight away when a delay of 8 milliseconds was added - it suddenly brought the sounds perfectly together. It has made me extra aware now of the acoustic considerations required in setting up any sort of monitor sends and mixes, and is all very intriguing to learn about.
I really dig the console work with monitor set-ups - more so than the stage work. I made a few wrong and ‘not-great’ decisions with that - I think I get confused and sometimes even overwhelmed, for no particular reason. There are so many points to remember, and I may be focusing too hard on not making mistakes that I make mistakes anywhere I've neglected to focus on (?). It’s also a side of things I don’t do too often (or at least at that scale) - I am more so in-the-box mixing, and working consoles - so I’m less confident with the technicalities involved with on-stage equipment.
When I don't practice something often, it may as well not be considered a skill. So the more I am a part of this set-up, the more I hope I will get the hang of things and feel natural with this work, probably even enjoy it! It is a cool thing to be doing, I like the structure of it - the routines, the processes that one follows each time, the physicality and the organised-nature. As well as, and especially with, the final result.
It was challenging for me to work in and around 5 other people setting up the stage too - I feel strange constantly checking what other people are doing - what’s been done already, what needs doing next, and sometimes by the time you start something someone else goes to do it. That’s why I’m glad we’ll be each having our own roles on gig night - it’s much better to be able to focus on a particular task, and work through your own responsibilities! Always collaborating as a group, but not stepping on each others' toes.
I think overall we’re still needing to work better as a team - this is continuously improving though so I have faith it will extend for our gig. I started a Trello board too for this intensive, so I am hoping the admin side of proceedings will be taken more care of. Especially for events, it’s so vital to have WRITTEN plans of attack, and points to reference and delegate tasks.
If we can pull this off I’ll be absolutely stoked – it’ll be my first ever live experience as CREW, so I’m sure I’ll be elated!
I'm looking forward to turning this space into a live event!
Somewhat randomly here is a song I have been listening to non-stop recently - a new track from Future Islands, Aladdin. Thinking about live gigs too, and recordings of live gigs, this is a nice-sounding live recording I think - it seems like it would have been an amazing gig, and the audience are well into it which shows that the quality of the sound was up there (enough that the technicalities are inconspicuous). Thanks too to Samuel Herring’s impassioned performance - I love the way he feels the music and sings REAL. (He IS one of my favourite voices). Plus, the bass line of this song is killer. Yes.
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/9lma5p09Pwk?t=40s
Recently I've had the pleasure of working with Spec8 in the studio - a duo from Melbourne who play a variety of covers in acoustic-style.
Reinette and Leeroy have been playing together for about a year now, and are extremely well-rehearsed, so my job as an engineer was simplified thanks to their musicianship and professionalism. This studio time has also been their first in-studio experience, so I feel so glad to be able to provide this to them. I absolutely love Reinette's voice, and with Leeroy’s skilled playing they create some really beautiful sounds, that should be recorded in pristine studio quality and distributed for many people to enjoy (as much as I do).
I am currently in the process of continuing to mix and edit the tracks. There were ten all up, and they will be split into lots of mini EPs - the first will be completed over the next few weeks. As I am working on them, I have thought how I really do not want to over-produce them - the style of the music wouldn’t suit that, and I think the performances are quite wonderful even as they are. I am really only applying light work that will correct where necessary and emphasise the great aspects, whilst keeping the performance raw and genuine.
Being in the studio by myself has always been a little daunting for me, but I am becoming more and more comfortable with it. Of course, the more time I spend in studios by myself, having opportunities to practice, think things through and troubleshoot, the more confident I'll feel. It is still a very new and exciting thing for me to be working in audio, so I am sure that the longer I do it, the more everything will become natural, hopefully even second-nature (as quite a bit already has).
Reinette & Leeroy in the Neve recording space
The duo performing their covers
The past week also marked the beginning of my group’s Live Sound intensive. I didn’t expect to enjoy live sound as much as I did and am. I haven't yet considered live as a future profession for me, as I haven’t really perceived myself potentially working in the area, so never attempted to learn heaps about it. Nor was live sound the motivation behind me actually enrolling in this audio course (that was more the ideal of working in a studio). After my first session though, I hold a completely new outlook towards live sound, as a sector of the music industry I would potentially work in.
As my tutor, Tim, was explaining all about what it's like to be a part of the audio of a gig, and the amazing performances he had been a part of, I thought how absolutely amazing it would be to have this as a job - giving sound to audiences, people right in front of you, to experience live music (one of the most wonderful experiences there is).
Thinking about it, live actually was, and continually is, a significant contributor to my desire to work with musicians and music. The environment of gigs and concerts, and the thrill of experiencing music played in real-time, has been a huge influence in me desiring to professionally work within music. So in that way, live sound is extremely important to me, and the more I learn about the ins and outs of it all, the more I am enthralled.
Tim showed an interesting time-lapse video of the setting up of a Muse concert - the amount of work involved was actually hilariously extreme, I couldn’t fathom it. All the small figures bustling around, focused on their own tasks and jobs, the amount of practitioners from separate fields all working in and around each other... It was so aesthetically pleasing to watch! The efficacy and organised-nature of it all.
My favourite part was, when all the constructive and preparatory work was done, and the stage was at the point it always looked when I attend concerts, the audience rolled in - completely unaware of the intensity of the set up, and what it takes to put on a concert of that magnitude. But that is what's so special about it - they shouldn’t know. The very essence of music, the way it communicates and connects to us, is a stand-alone feature - it’s all a bit magical. That’s what is nice about it.
But learning the behind-the-scenes perspective I'm sure wouldn't necessarily take that away - it would rather allow you to focus on deeper aspects, and the formative pieces that present the music as a whole. Plus, the satisfaction of a successfully produced gig would surely be as rewarding.
The software and hardware we use in this class was also intriguing... Actually just reading through the instructions for the Venue software and the S3 was enjoyable somehow! Venue is extremely enjoyable to work - its layout is seriously simple to follow, with everything clearly marked and outlined. The S3 is also a very cool console to use in relation. I’m looking forward to the times I get to spend working them, especially in putting on our live gig (featuring Spec8 as our opening act)!
Maybe I am liking consoles and software more as we go because I am getting better familiarised and learned with the processes involved, and slowly gaining the underlying audio knowledge and understanding to work these sorts of surfaces.
It does tend to be that the better you are at something the more you enjoy it (and the more you enjoy it, the better you end up being). I’m starting to think my mind isn’t necessarily non-disposed to technology, and maybe instead, that I just needed the sufficient time to understand it.
Over the past four weeks, myself and five others from my course have formed a creative music-making, producing and engineering team. We've taken half a page of lyrics and turned them into a three-and-a-half minute song.