In 2010 I developed a condition that took away my ability to speak, not being able to make sound and communicate with the outside world was the most isolating and devastating experience, which lead my obsession of researching other forms of communication, other than spoken word.
I have been a professional singer/ songwriter for 20 years, I have also developed and delivered music programs within the community with a focus on using music and creative arts as therapy. Through my research into sound, I have discovered papers and research programs showing scientific evidence of the effects that sound has on our brains, emotions, body and even our cellular structure.
When I began my educational journey into the world of art I thought I had left music behind. I remember my first month on my foundation course and telling my tutor that I wanted nothing more to do with the music industry and just to concentrate on visual work, he laughed out loud and just said, we will see. I recently looked back into my development journal from art foundation and it was so clear that there was music and sound swimming around everything that I was creating. I brought out a painting that I created 8 years ago called colours in motion, I didn’t realise at the time I was painting sound. I am really excited that I now have a better understanding of my work. I have a clearer vision of my art practice.
I am no longer fighting myself or what my past represents, I am listening and moving in the natural direction. I no longer have to write commercial music or perform commercial songs for fear of paying my bills and I feel totally liberated that I am no longer in a stagnant place.
At my lecture on Sonic art , I left feeling rather old. The lecturer was explaining about how music and sound have developed, the journey it has taken. I can remember buying my first sampler, I can remember setting up my studio with an Atari and Tascam reel to reel, I can remember when records moved to cd, then to DAT then to mini-disk then finally to audio files, mp3. I can also remember when a group of my friends starting building computers in the late 80s. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Starting to think I knew it all and I was past it, he then showed us a youtube video of John Cage talking about Silence: which stirred my interest but agitated my relationship with conceptual art, but there is something very clear about John Cage, his passion. The glint in his eye when he speaks of sound. Finally I realise actually I don,t love music I love sound, everything to do with sound, the formation sound makes, the organised chaos of sound, even the sound of silence.
Over the last few weeks I have dipped in and out of interest with Sonic Art. I have found some of the aspects that I have been introduced too frustratingly ridiculous, one being Music Concrete, but after doing more research I see this was the prototype and the beginning into sampling and EDM. Max Mathews who was part of Music Concrete Movement introduced taped music which transformed music from being ephemeral to being permanent. Pierre Schaeffer the founder of Music Concrete lead the way for the sampler to be invented with his digital signal processing compositions. It was in 1940s that his work began, but it was not until 1979 when the Quasar M8 sampler was introduced that the musicians embraced and flourished using music sampling.
Steve Reich is a composer, his compositions are very complex but I would class him as sonic artist and not a composer. I also did not think he was an artist or musician but again after further investigation I discovered his forward thinking was what brought the art of phasing into the western world, phasing being when two identical melodic patterns gradually fade out of sync. After discovering this I listened to Daniel Variations 2006, Pendulum Music 1968, and Drumming 1971 with a new understanding and a new found knowledge I could appreciate his skill but still the music pieces are far from beautiful although I now know that is not Steve Reichs requirement from his work.
Looking into the coding of music has been interesting, discovering all the variations of musical scales from other traditions and parts of the world. It does appear that it is very much a western approach that we have the need for order, even in music. Whilst researching into Steve Reich I came across Karl Hein Stockhausen and Luciano Berio they were working with just twelve notes, they would invert them, over lap them but kept only to the twelve notes. In a way they were trying to create their own code. The Twelve notes lead me into listening to Arvo Part- Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britton, this piece consists of minor chords descending and overlapping, creating the phasing that was introduced by Steve Reich.
I work on a regular basis with cubase and pro tools there is another code in regard to music technology which is more visual, its laid out more like a graph and is marked out as straight lines taken the notes across the time line. You can also view the sound wave and manipulate it and effect it as you like. All these codes that are developed are only an interface in which we are invited to interact with one another using the same language. I have in the past become very frustrated with classically trained musicians that I have worked with, when I have played a chord and they have told me that it doesn’t exist, when it clearly does as I have just played it. I have an understanding of why we need order and codes within music but it also creates barriers against creativity.
I was brought up in the vibrant city of Cardiff and never really envisaged myself living any where else other than a cool city full of art, music and culture, but after having children I felt that the countryside seemed like a great place to bring up my little people, so as a result I live in an area where my neighbours and children’s friends own farms, horses, sheep and alpacas.
I cannot express to you how excited I was when I went to pick up my son from a play date to be met by 4 freshly cut and inquisitive alpacas. My sons friends mother was telling me how annoyed she was that the fur she had bagged up from the alpacas, the kids had decided to pull it all out to play with it. How idillic to be playing in a barn with hay and fluff, when I was young I used to play with the traffic.
I went home that night and started researching on alpaca fur to see what I could do with it, so I could take some of her hands. I came across felting, the most old fashioned textile still being used today. The principle of felting is that you shock the hair with hot water and tiny barbs in the hair fibre open up, when you begin putting a friction motion to the hair the barbs connect and begin to lock together.
I arrived in uni with one big foam swimming floaty, 3 meters of bubble wrap, washing up liquid, a sushi matt, a bag of untreated alpaca fur and rubber gloves. When it came to getting the fur out it dawned on me that it might have all kinds of disgusting things in it, like fleas, mud, mites arghhhh. Thankfully the only thing it had in it was hay, which came out really easy when I began the felting motion.
Having never really done any felting before, to the outside viewer I must have looked like a pro. I began to lay out the fur in a pattern and also a desired shape, wet the fur with hot water, sprayed with washing up liquid, closed the bubble wrap up, rolled it onto the water float and began rolling it. I rolled it around 100 times and then left to dry.
After the piece had dried it had locked together but it will need another felting process.
When I had finished the final piece it reminded me of an Ayala Serfaty piece.
I have never really appreciated the world of ceramics, clay, pottery and throwing etc. my feelings were, its messy, unpredictable, old-fashioned and the artistic snob inside says “it’s just not high brow enough “, but after numerous lectures by successful ceramicists, and a few sessions playing and sculpting in clay a new passion is arising. I was finally tipped over the edge by, the wonderful world of alchemy (the recipes of all the glazes), you choose a glaze and you only know what its going to turn out like when you finally open the kiln. The unpredictability seems exciting now. I am learning to be open-minded and that even a more mature mind can be changed. I really enjoy crossing over mediums, such as using a clay imprint as a starting piece for a painting, or taking a photo of a miss shaped pot and manipulate it in Photoshop to create a silk screen print. In foundation I particularly enjoyed printing, because you could repeat the same process a number of times, this is something that can be done in ceramics, you can create a mould and re-create that shape over and over in various forms of materials, such as creating a cast from a stone and re-creating it in porcelain.
At some point over the next 3 years I will want to make a latex head with a movable mouth for life-size puppet, so making a slip cast is defiantly something I need to get familiar with. I have to say it is far more difficult than I expected. Into the slip cast workshop I took a very simple heart-shaped stone, which ended up having to have 4 sides of a cast created. It’s a very messy procedure with all the cast mixing, but also very rewarding in the end result. Defiantly worth the time and effort.
Having spent a year on an art and design foundation course I was not impressed to hear that my 3 year degree course consists of workshops in the 1st year, that are mandatory, according to the tutor. “What will I learn ?” I ask myself. I have dabbled and played with just about every medium possible. In came our new metals tutor. He introduced himself and states he has no formal education and is completely self taught, so this is what I am paying £9000 a year for huh! Just when I was about to have an invisible hissy fit, out came the spot welder. Its genius, sparks fly of it and it pieces together bits of steel. The tutor was great, everything I needed to know he could answer, he explained all the various different metals and how they interact with each other. Where to buy best metals etc.
In these workshops I have made a wire 2d tree, which I am going to use as a template for fabric. Airbrush some fabric dye onto a t shirt and create a cool design:
I also got a bit carried away with the spot welder and made a full size metal top hat. It has no purpose as yet but I am sure throughout my year it will be used for something.
The copper mesh is an idea that I need to blog for future progress on this piece.
I am sure there will be more to come with the metal work, think I am addicted to the sparks.
Being a mature student obviously has its benefits, such as having a home, a stable family life, having a financial understanding, and great organisational skills. Although I do have to state that I know people who are mature and maybe have none of these attributes. There are also down sides such as a wealth of knowledge on your points of interest, caution as to how you spend your time and energy, and having a very clear vision of outcome or final destination. Now the problem with having a very clear vision is you may miss some very important lessons, or alternative directions which could enhance your product, invention, journey, piece of work, or your self development.
I have almost always, for most of my working life been my own vehicle and had to create paths of opportunities myself. I am now on a very different journey, I am studying for a degree and I have to follow a syllabus and a timetable, which contains workshops, self study and lectures. I have the maturity and forward thinking to know that all the information and skills I am receiving will slot into place like a jigsaw puzzle, along my path to the destination, but I cannot put to sleep this sense of urgency.
Life is full of challenges. My new challenge is to find the balance between working towards my end result and not getting frustrated when the course takes a side turn, because the side turn could be one of the most important moments or lessons of your life!