Interview: Leah Kardos speaks to James Black at St Pancras Old Church

photo by Naresh Kaushal

Click the photo above (or the link below) to read a conversation I had with James Black about music and sound and what it might all mean...

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Music and/as Process 2nd Annual Music and/as Process Conference

On the 1st of June, I will be presenting some of my work at the 2nd Annual Music and/as Process Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University.

The title of my talk is "Exploring The Temporalities of a Musical Idea", and it's all about a particular philosophy related to generating new ideas, sounds and variations linked to a single composition. If you can stomach it, the abstract is included below:

"Drawing from personally situated knowledge derived from creative practice research, I will illustrate some approaches to the generation of compositional materials bound to a creative philosophy centred around technology, economy and derivation. This philosophy broadens the view of authored materials to include not only the final performance of the music, but also draft and incomplete or unedited versions, inaccurate versions played by sight, adapted versions that are played in sections during rehearsal, unused recording takes and mistakes, incidental sounds from around performance, rehearsal and recording environments, even the sounds generated from travelling to and from the recording session - all of the music and sound resulting from situations, actions and incidents that occur as a direct result of the composition existing can be captured and potentially used to make more music. This approach maximises the amount of materials generated from a single musical composition, providing both an economical approach to theme and creation of a sound world, and a diverse, yet finite framework within which to explore possibilities and experiment. In terms of music production, it also functions as a device for the creation of original and authentic sound worlds for musical ideas to inhabit. This philosophy also acknowledges the collaborative nature of performance, and I will share examples from practice of experiments in human filtering, where intuitive responses from individuals form, inform and reform the creation of musical materials. The score is seen as the starting point of a creative process, the raw materials that are activated by people. In such cases the final recorded production offers a version of the work and a document of this process."

The whole conference schedule can be found
Registrations/tickets can be ordered


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Found this under a pile of old scores...


Just found this under a pile of old scores in my writing room. This mind map is from before the start of Machines, and it's interesting (for me, at least) to see this now after the thing is finished and out, comparing the intentions against the reality. Also shows my penchant for brightly coloured felt tip pens.

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Proud moment

Had a proud moment today when I received my copy of Pam Burnard's new book "Musical Creativities in Practice", and laid my eyes on the wonderful cover art by my good friend Kristian Purcell:


... and an extra proud moment to see myself featured inside!


Huge congrats to Pam, it's a fascinating and timely book - I am extremely honoured to have been involved. If you're interested, you can purchase a copy from Amazon, or directly from Oxford University Press.

Here's the lovely lady herself, talking about her research (she even talks a little bit about me at around 3 mins in. Also, notice the soundtrack used is "Core" from Feather Hammer thrown in for good measure! So chuffed!)

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Sage advice for every situation

My deck of the original Oblique Strategies arrived in the post today! :)

I’m so pleased to finally have them for real in my sticky little mitts and not just via an online applet, I’ve been thumbing through each card in turn, grinning to myself and imagining the crazy situations I could apply the directions to. Let’s draw one right now... it simply says “water”. Yes.

I attended the LCO New “Inspired by Architecture” study day on Monday in London. We assembled on the 9th floor of City Hall, listening to talks from the likes of Diana Burrel, Simon Bainbridge, Richard Scott, Cany Ash, David Gordon, framed by a spectacular view of Tower Bridge, Thames and the City beyond. Then we hopped on a bus and had a look at some modern functional architecture in the East End/Hackney. The idea is to compose a piece for orchestral ensemble inspired by the buildings we saw, the best few to be performed, recorded and published by the LCO early next year.

I love these sorts of things - the light a fire under you to get writing, but without the stress that comes with a real commission. And you get to meet other young composers, get a feel for what they’re trying to say. The issue I have with this work is one of ‘obviousness’... i.e., architecture and music share many concepts and vocabulary (line, form, structure, texture, repetition/pattern, juxtaposition, brightness/darkness/lightness, space/ambience, perspective/depth... the list goes on! The challenge will be to have the music refer to the buildings in an unobvious way, to avoid the whole “that line is this line, that colour is this colour” correlation that always turns out so trite and contrived. The music should maybe latch on to one detail and lose sight of the whole, or tap into the sense of movement and atmosphere, or the air that is divided and trapped within a structure. Or not... we’ll see how it turns out.

I have had some great responses to my wanted ad, and as a result some exciting commissions and collaborations in the pipeline! It’s been a while since I’ve written new music for individual players to perform, and feels strange after doing so much media stuff - the creative freedom is such a welcome change and takes a little getting used to. All this thinking of new work has given me the mojo to finish up my String Quartet for Ariella (finally). Progress!
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