I’ve Played In Every Toilet

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 09.43.29

John Harris visits some of Britain’s surviving small music venues and asks what will happen if they disappear altogether.

All over the UK, small music venues are threatened with closure, or have already gone out of business. Many of them have hosted gigs by truly legendary names and were once securely built into the so-called ‘toilet circuit’, which allowed promising musicians to take their first tentative steps on the national stage. Without them, we may not have heard from Coldplay, Oasis, Blur – or such contemporary talents as The Vaccines and Mumford and Sons. But crushed by powerful landlords and the rising expectation that music – whether live or recorded – should be free, these places are struggling as never before.

John’s journey takes in The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, once an actual public toilet, which has survived over the last twenty years because the volunteers that run it haven’t profited from the business. He also travels to Hull to visit the Adelphi Club, a semi-detached house on one of the city’s residential streets which has hosted bands such as Pulp, Green Day and Radiohead. Manager Paul Jackson says things have been tougher than ever for the venue, but he’s determined to carry on.

Finally John visits Newport, once home to the legendary TJ’s where Kurt Cobain famously proposed to Courtney Love. Speaking to the daughter of the former owner John Sicolo and Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers, he finds out what happens when a town loses its beloved venue.

He also speaks to DJ Steve Lamacq and journalist Kate Mossman to consider how – without these venues run on a mix of hope and blind faith – we will discover the next generation of musicians.

Producer: Simon Jacobs
A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Guest Lecture – Susan Pennington

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 14.51.33

 

This month’s Level 3 guest lecture was by Susan Pennington, Supervising Sound Editor at Spool.

As many of out students hope to work in audio post-production after they graduate this year, Susan’s lecture was both hugely enjoyable and very useful indeed. Drawing from her own wealth of experience, she shed light on working in the industry with particular focus on the most common means; that of freelance work.

She clarified the various team roles and workflows within audio post and stressed the importance of communication between them. She discussed many of the creative aspects of her job as well as some of the more technical requirements such as TV delivery specifications.

For me, it was most fascinating to hear about the relationship between her role (overseeing the full team) and the film director. As someone who has worked closely with Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine, this certainly revealed how demanding her job can be!

Who Killed Classical Music?

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 18.53.17

The Composer Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of Sergei Prokofiev) looks at the increasing disconnection between classical music and its audience. He investigates the argument that composers such as Schoenberg killed off 20th century classical music for all but a small elite audience.

Until the early 20th century, each composer of classical music developed his own style built on the traditions of previous composers. Then Arnold Schoenberg changed all this, by devising ‘Serialism’ where melodies were no longer allowed.

In the 1950s, composers such as Pierre Boulez created ‘Total Serialism’. Every aspect of a piece of music – rhythms and loudness as well as notes – was rigidly controlled by a fixed formula.

And the sense of composers being remote from their audience was exacerbated by the elevation of musical performance to a kind of ritual.

But even at a time when Serialism gripped major parts of the classical music establishment, music that was overtly emotional was still being written by composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev in Russia. Ironically, in these countries, the State continued to support classical music, whereas in more liberal regimes in Europe it retreated to the intellectual margins.

Now the Serialist experiment has been largely abandoned and a whole new generation of composers – including Gabriel himself – is embracing popular culture, just as composers used to in the past when folk music or dance music were a major source of inspiration.

So has the death of classical music been exaggerated? Will it find new homes and new means of expression to attract the audiences of the future?

With contributions from Arnold Whittall, Stephen Johnson, Alexander Goehr, David Matthews, Ivan Hewett and Tansy Davies

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here:

 

Beyond Bollywood

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 13.44.47
Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor visits India to meet a new generation of musicians and singers performing Indie, Reggae, Ska and Rap, and examines whether this western influenced scene can seriously rival the trademark sounds of Bollywood and Bangra.

Although Bollywood music is still the mass market choice on Indian stereos the alternative scene continues to grow and find its voice. Recently there’s been a notable rise in the number of rock music festivals, dance nights and music events attracting aspiring young Indians.

To discover the impact this alternative music scene is having on India, Sarfraz Manzoor journeys to the Hauz Khas Village in Delhi, often cited as the catalyst for introducing a wave of new bands and fresh musical genres into the market.

Hauz Khas is home to the offices of the Indian version of The New Musical Express and Manzoor speaks with its Editor Sam Lal and learns how the Village and the internet has been pivotal in the advancement and popularity of artists such as the Ska Vengers and Rapper Prozpekt who produce socially relevant music.

Exploring India’s first alternative radio station, Radio 79, Manzoor meets with Raghav Dang who broadcasts Pressure Drop and is a founder member of the band The Reggae Rajas. Meeting female artists Talia Bentson and Ritika Singh he also discovers why women are very happy to pursue a singing career in the East.

As India’s alternative music scene continues to develop Manzoor will explore the challenges ahead and learn whether these new songs provide a greater sense of identity for young people.

David Attenborough: My Life in Sound

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lnzxh

MONDAY 16th December 2013 at 11.00am on BBC Radio 4

In an exclusive interview for Radio 4 David Attenborough talks to Chris Watson about his life in sound.

One of Sir David’s first jobs in natural history film making was as a wildlife sound recordist. Recorded in Qatar, David Attenborough is with wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, there to make a film about a group of birds he is passionate about, The Bird of Paradise. It is in Qatar where the worlds largest captive breeding population is and it is in this setting Chris Watson takes Sir David back to the 1950’s and his early recording escapades, right through to today where David Attenborough narrates a series of Tweet of the Day’s on Radio 4 across the Christmas and New Year period

Trevor Dann Masterclasses

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 13.23.43

Blog post by Senior Lecturer Zara Healy.

Radio legend and Visiting Professor Trevor Dann spent two days with Radio and Audio Production students at the University in October, when he delivered masterclasses in ‘what makes a good broadcast voice’, ‘using the latest smart phone apps to source good radio’ and ‘the role of A&R’ amongst a host of other topics.

Dozens of students were in attendance as well as guests from a range of community radio stations across Lincolnshire including Gravity FM (Grantham) and Lincoln City Radio, who were invited to a two-hour masterclass on radio presentation skills. Guests posed many questions to Trevor including how best to liven up travel scripts to writing for radio.

Trevor’s advice was supportive and honest. He stressed the importance of really listening to different radio stations, podcasts etc. to encourage future producers and presenters to keep up to date with what their competitors and colleagues are doing. “The future of radio is speech” he told a packed audience, “do not be afraid to try new things and be creative, give the audience the unexpected”.

Feedback from the event has been incredibly positive and, as well as his regular guest lectures, Trevor is set to return for more workshops and masterclasses in the near future.

Grant Bridgeman is on location with The Falling

Our visiting lecturer Grant Bridgeman is currently shooting a feature film called The Falling, directed by Carol Morley.

BY5UwLKIIAAh3Ln

Set for release in 2014 in cinemas, THE FALLING tells the story of Lydia, the troubled girl at the centre of a mysterious fainting epidemic, who is determined to discover the cause of the malady spreading through her British all-girl school in 1969, a year when the whole world seems poised on the brink of change.  Following her films BAFTA-nominated The Alcohol Years, Edge, and the critically acclaimed Dreams of a Life, writer/director Carol Morley presents her skewed and dream-like coming of age story THE FALLING, with director of photography Agnès Godard (Sister, Beau Travail).

THE FALLING is a BBC Films, BFI production in association with Lipsync, a Cannon and Morley/Independent production in association with Boudica Red, a Carol Morley film.

the_falling_florence_pugh_maisie_williams_1

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 22.13.38

The film was developed with the BFI Film Fund. Written and directed by Carol Morley, Produced by Cairo Cannon and Luc Roeg, Line Producer Donall Mccusker, Executive Producers Lizzie Francke, Christine Langan, Philip Herd, Andrew Orr, Norman Merry, Peter Hampden, Rebecca Long and Ian Davies.

Find out more here

You can keep up with the film’s Twitter feed here @TheFalling_Film

Grant Bridgeman’s Blog is here – and he is also on twitter @Grantsound

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 22.09.30


WWI soundscape ‘about humanity’

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 06.55.07

History has left many images that illustrate the destructive legacy of WWI, but there is almost a total absence of recorded sound – particularly from the field of battle.

When musician Stuart Staples from the British band the Tindersticks was asked to compose a soundscape for the war museum at Ypres in Belgium, he said he wanted to create something reflective.

Ahead of next year’s centenary, the Today programme’s Tom Bateman went with him to the location of some of the deadliest battles.

Speaking from the German cemetery Mr Staples explained: “It’s just about the humanity… people in Germany will feel the same as the people in the UK”.

Tindersticks’ new album Across Six Leap Years is out now and In Flanders Field will be released next year.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday 22 October 2013.

LSM Research Seminar – Marie Thompson

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 18.55.47

Blog Post by Dr Dean Lockwood:

Staff and students from the Lincoln School of Media (including Audio Production) welcomed Marie Thompson for the LSM Research Seminar series which took place Wednesday, 30th October.

Marie is an artist and researcher based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She is currently a PhD candidate at Newcastle University, based in the International Centre for Music Studies. Her thesis uses a Spinozist notion of affect to critically rethink the correlation between noise, ‘unwantedness’ and ‘badness’, so to more fully allow for the use of noise as a musical resource. She is the co-editor of the collection, Sound, Music, Affect: Theorizing Sonic Experience (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013). Marie is also regularly audible as a noisemaker and improviser. She plays individually as Tragic Cabaret and in the band, Beauty Pageant. Here is Marie’s abstract for her talk for our research seminar:

‘Rethinking noise, rethinking noise music: Affect, relationality and the poetics of transgression’:

‘In this paper, I outline a relational, ethico-affective approach to noise that works to disrupt the definitive correlation between noise, ‘unwantedness’ and ‘badness’. Rather than defining noise as a type of sound, or a subjective judgement of sound, noise is posited as a productive, transformative force and a necessary component of material relations. This approach to noise, I argue, is advantageous: firstly, because it allows for the noise that occurs out of (human) earshot, insofar as it no longer relies upon a constitutive listening subject; and secondly, because it allows for noise’s capacity to be good as well as bad, generative as well as destructive. A greater space is thus made for noise’s positively productive capacity, which has been readily explored within the arts.

In the second half of this paper, I discuss how a relational, ethico-affective approach to noise provides a means of (re)conceptualising noise music that moves away from the language of failure, taboo and contradiction. Rather than approaching noise music in terms of transgression, which is underlined by a dualistic conceptualisation of the relationship between (wanted, ‘good’) music and (unwanted, ‘bad’) noise, I suggest that noise music can be understood as an act of exposure, in that it foregrounds the presence of noise that is always already within the technical-musical system.’

Guest Lecture – Mike Harding – Touch

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.11.31

Blog post by Senior Lecturer Dr Dean Lockwood.

On Friday 18th October, Mike Harding, founder and supremo of Touch, came to LSM to talk to Audio Production students taking the critical studies module, Auditory Culture. Given that some of the key concerns of the module are debates around the concepts of noise and the soundscape, it was a great opportunity to talk to someone intimately involved with a label which has specialized in promoting artists exploring precisely these areas. As quickly became clear, Touch has a philosophical orientation which propels it way beyond the narrow exigencies of the music industry. Touch has always been conceived as an art project rather than simply a label. Because of its obsessively experimental ethos, it has survived pretty much on its own terms and has never fit well with the complacent mainstream and its genre categories. As Mike explained, Touch was established in the early eighties in the wake of punk. Capitalizing on the energies generated by the so-called ‘New Wave’ independent scene, Touch was a key post-punk project, its first releases heavily involved in early cassette culture and the ‘mixtape’ phenomenon. With cassette magazines such as Feature Mist and Ritual: Magnetic North, Touch presented sophisticated cut-ups and powerful work by bands such as New Order, Einstürzende Neubauten and Cabaret Voltaire, as well as musics from around the world (before such a thing as ‘World Music’ existed). ‘No one ever said no’, which stands as a great testament to the label’s reputation and integrity. Mike took us, in the first part of his talk, through the early history of Touch, spicing things up with personal anecdotes, and in the second part addressed Touch’s present concerns. It is the home of artists such as Christian Fennesz, Bruce Gilbert, Ryoji Ikeda and Chris Watson. Mike played us a good selection of pieces which some of these artists have put out on Touch. These artists have in common, I would suggest, what we might term an ecological sensibility, a particular attention to the relations which comprise acoustic space, sometimes through glitch aesthetics, sometimes through field recordings or other means.

On Saturday 19th, Touch presented two world premieres at Lincoln Cathedral as part of the Frequency festival. The evening, after Mike’s introduction, commenced with Anna Von Hausswolff’s performance of an austere, resonant new score for the organ, titled Källan. Chris Watson and Hildur Guðnadóttir then presented a stunning new collaborative multi-channel sound work, titled Sönghellir (The Cave of Song), which I think captivated everyone present. Touch’s website describes the work as ‘a sound journey from under the waters of Faxafloi, Iceland, alongside some of the largest animals on the planet. Up, onto the lava beach, across the lava fields and reindeer moss to the foot of the snow mountain, Snaefellsnes. The journey continues up and then into the mountain, ending inside Sönghellir, the song cave…’ It was a perfect example of the art of acoustic space that Touch releases exemplify.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.52.38