The week’s guest lecture was by Bill Brewster AKA DJHistory.
Bill is a passionate music fan and in his entertaining and inspiring talk he described how he has managed to make a living from the thing he loves – music.
Describing himself primarily as a record collector, Bill has worked as a journalist (which took him to New York and Geneva for two years), a DJ, a record company owner, a music producer, an A&R person, a record compiler, a liner notes writer, a music consultant, a website owner and an author (Bill’s book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life is the bible of club and DJ culture).
The audience for Bill’s talk was level 3 Audio Production students who will be looking for ways in which to turn their passion (be it radio, music or film-sound) into a sustainable living in the not too-distant future.
For me, what Bill represents, is how versatility, hard work and a love of your subject can create opportunities and, if you’re ready to respond, how one opportunity can lead to another.
Next year Bill is working on a project with legendary record producer and Chic main-man Nile Rodgers. Not bad for a lad from Grimsby!
The closure of Bush House, home to the BBC World Service since December 1940, has provoked two wonderful soundscape projects.
Firstly, World Service studio manager Robin The Fog used recordings made in Bush House at night to create The Ghosts of Bush. “Here, atmospheric noises are slowed down and looped, with the help of some of the World Service’s ancient reel-to-reels, to form a piece of beautiful, warm spatial exploration. Chords swell and harmonic patterns emerge out of the building’s crepuscular creaking or Robin’s whistling, using the labyrinthine Portland stone corridors of the building, at one time the most expensive in the world, as a giant reverb tank.” (The Quietus, 2012).
I love Chilly Gonzales’s approach to playing and his compositions for the solo piano. In this clip from Rob Da Bank’s Dawn Chorus he explains his thinking behind the challenge of performing beat driven electronic music on a solo acoustic instrument. He also highlights the importance of an understanding of rhythm in music composition.
Recorded at Maida Vale for BBC Radio 1 (25/08/2012). Solo Piano II is out on August 27
Comedian Stewart Lee is passionate about electronic music and he take us on a remarkable musical journey. We discover how, after the Second World War, a small group of electronic pioneers began tinkering with their army surplus kit to create new sounds and music.
Tristram Cary started the first electronic music studio in Britain but, while France, Germany, Italy and the USA had lavishly funded research centres, British electronic music remained the preserve of boffins on a budget.
As the programme reveals, this make do and mend approach prevailed long after austerity Britain had given way to the swinging 60s, with Peter Zinovieff developing EMS synthesizers from a shed at the bottom of his garden in Putney. (Paul McCartney put on his wellies and took a look). Zinovieff is interviewed about his experiments in sound.
Unsurprisingly, the electronic community in Britain was a small, intimate group and joining Cary and Zinovieff was Daphne Oram, who devoted decades to developing a ‘drawn sound’ electronic composition system that never really quite worked.
Brian Hodgson tells us about 1960s experimental and electronic festivals, including The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave (1967) at which The Beatles’ electronic piece Carnival Of Light had its only public airing. We shall also hear how the radiophonic workshop broke new musical ground with Dr. Who.
Experts in the history of electronic music, including author and musician Mark Ayers and Goldsmith College lecturer in computer studies Dr. Michael Griegson give the boffins’ view and Portishead’s Adrian Utley explains why the early forays in electronics are still relevant today.
Produced by John Sugar
A Sugar Production for BBC Radio 4.
I’ve been listening to this excellent 8 part series recently. Variations covers the history of appropriative collage in music i.e. using other people’s music in your own compositions – something I’ve done many times in my musical career. The series begins with examples from 1908, examines Musique Concrete of the 40s, the Avant Garde and experimental music of the 50s and 60s to sampling and remixing of the 80s and beyond.
The series investigates the whole notion of authorship. Indeed, “The idea of a completely original piece of music is a fairly recent one. Music was passed on through sound, through generations, even for centuries after the invention of written music. Only gradually, and centuries after the implementation of written notation, did it become standard practice for a composer to sign his name to a piece of music and claim it entirely as his own, giving rise to the cult of the individual composer.” (Leidecker, 2008).
The series is available as a free podcast from RWM’s website (under the heading Curatorial). I highly recommend it to our Audio Production students or, indeed, anyone with an interest in society’s experience of music.
BBC Radio 4 drama: The remarkable story of pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop music composer Delia Derbyshire and her influence on artists such as Aphex Twin, Orbital, Add N to X and Sonic Boom (Peter Kember who features in this drama). Listen to the programme here
Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne talks to Radio 4’s Today programme about how test card music affected the 1970s TV watching audience. He describes how this quirky library music influenced him and artists such as Massive Attack and Portishead.
Chris Bowlby profiles Ralf Hutter, the only founding member left of the German electronic band Kraftwerk. Coming from an obscure industrial background, Kraftwerk first formed in 1970, and are now credited with being hugely influential on a host of musicians and on music of diverse types, including electronic, hip hop, house and drum and bass.
Notoriously uncommunicative with the outside world, Kraftwerk used to only have a fax machine as a point of contact at their studio though Ralf Hutter says even that has now gone.
Krafwerk have just completed a major series of concerts in New York and are promising that they will be releasing a new album “very soon” – the first in nearly a decade.