above: my studio workspace, this is where I'm writing from.
So it's been over two months since the first session at DeCrypt and over a month since the 2nd session at St Michael's Tower. Why haven't I blogged?
If I'm honest I'm still puzzling over how what I create will find an audience and, together with making sure that I'm organised for each of the coming sessions with songs to write, logistics, putting together teams etc., blogging about what I'm up to gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do pile. I must do better. Audiences can be generated from consistent sharing.
I'm keen to involve more people and commissioned my 2nd cousin Georgia Moorey who recently moved to Stroud (she's an Art student at Stroud College) to do some pen and ink drawings of the 8 buildings. I'm talking to Jon Mackay who is a silk screen printer and illustrator about designing a poster for the project, I've put a call out for string players to form a string section for the 4th session and another call out for writers to write about February's 3 sessions.
I've written the song for the 3rd session at the Guildhall and the musicians are organised. Same goes for the 4th session at St Johns and the 5th session has been left with EMZI - the musical motif is done and we're now just finalising the vocals and lyrics. I've started planning the final 3 sessions too - with a writing session booked with Alice White for the 6th session at the Cathedral , a strong idea simmering away in my head and heart for the 7th and a couple of collaborators waiting in the wings for the final piece. In effect 5/8ths of the music required to complete the project is written and a lot of the legwork for the other pieces is done.
I keep saying to people the music is the easy bit and that I'm discovering that I'm good at putting together and leading teams of creative people. There's an organic symbiosis happening between several team members responsible for visuals, words and music which is amazing. The hard bit is taking place in my head and I'm dedicating quite a bit of time to exploring social media and marketing techniques working out how to make sure this project is heard and seen and working out where it belongs amongst all the other amazing content on the internet.
above: Seb, me & Vicki at DeCrypt in November
Inspiring, Freezing cold and Gratifying are some of the words I've used to describe the first session at DeCrypt.
Artistically it was auspicious. Being creative together in a 12th century church in the middle of our city was an amazing experience. There are so many good things about how it came together. There were some technical hitches and everyone survived the freezing cold conditions.
I remember making recordings on a cassette 4 track with microphones over 20 years ago when I was learning through trial and error about recording audio. I think back to those times and consider that the element of discovery made everything exciting. These days recording a drum kit doesn't have the same appeal because I know the approximate parameters for good technical practice. There's not too much discovery going on. Recording in the church was like going back to those days. From a technical point of view I couldn't predict the outcome because I'd never done anything like this before. I have enough experience to make an informed guess as to how to make things artistically successful, but the reward for me is a combination of how everyone pulled together and combined skills and gifts to make such a beautiful thing come into being. I had constant goose-pimples for about an hour while everyone was performing for the takes. Then when everything was packed up and we locked the doors and went home I had to be patient before being able to hear the takes on my studio monitors, but when I did I had a big big smile on my face. Then Shane sent me the photos and Chris sent me the trailer and I was metaphorically bouncing off the walls with joy.
The first session was a tough act to follow. By this time I'd been feeding the photos to the facebook page and getting some good response and love for what we'd done, but at the same time getting confused by the whole social media marketing thing. Paying to boost posts - I just don't understand how that's helpful. I want people to engage and I have a hunch that that means a lot lot more than paying out for sponsored posts. Saying that I committed to a £1 a day campaign for a month as an experiment. I've got all the stats and I'm not sure that paying for Facebook campaigns translates to any meaningful outcomes.
Anyway the 2nd session was very different. The space is a lot smaller than the previous session so there was not as much room to operate and the acoustic properties have a very different effect. The piece was also contrasting style to the 1st session. I had commissioned the poet JPDL (pictured above) to write verse about Aethelflaed and then combined it with a drum kit led groove. I also met Madeleine Harwood who is the current bard of Hawkwood College near Stroud and asked her to provide a female vocal. Along with bowed double bass, synthesiser pad textures, trumpet, djembe and some electric piano and acoustic guitar from me we've created a punchy folk hip-hop with an ethereal feel that attempts to paint a picture of Aethelflaed as a powerful woman in history.
There's quite a bit of stuff going on preparing for an Aethelflaed celebration in Gloucester this year. It's 1100 years since she died and was buried in St Oswald's Priory which is now ruins. Our project artist Eloise created a special iconic painting of the Anglo-Saxon warrior princess after reading the verse written by JPDL and we took some photos at the priory ruins.
It's a surreal thing to take on history in this way. Just imagine that over 1000 years ago the woman that inspired Eloise to make this painting once stood here and walked around in the same location. Her stonemasons built the building that was once these ruins. Her leadership established Anglo-Saxon rule across Mercia. The music we made together in the tower last month would be without a narrative were it not for her. The celebratory events and projects that are being planned in Gloucester for later this year are to mark the 1100th year since her death. Her bones are somewhere beneath Eloise's feet in this picture. History is powerful and moving when you engage with it in this way. I hope our music reflects the story and the history with integrity - I know some won't appreciate the style, but the intention is there and I've profoundly affected by interpreting history and responding to it through the music of this project.
I'm considering releasing the music from the 2nd session as a single to coincide with the Aetheflaed anniversary events later this year. Let's see how things go. At the moment I think this is a good idea.