I have the coolest day job [part 2]

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I have the coolest day job [part 1]

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How YouTube Changed My Music World: Talking Heads from the Industry

I was recently asked my opinion on Youtube, and its positive impact on music cultures…

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Tony Visconti Interview

Here's Tony in conversation with M-Audio, on location at our very own Visconti Studios at Kingston University.
*Proud face*


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An Evening With Tony Visconti - 6th Dec, 2016 [Update: photos]

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Kingston University, London is proud to host An Evening With Tony Visconti - legendary record producer in-conversation, discussing highlights of his career. The evening will take place in the newly opened Visconti Studio and draw particular focus on Tony's work in arranging for strings.

There'll be time for Q&A, and a drinks reception afterwards. Tickets are available to book via this link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-evening-with-tony-visconti-tickets-29219026896

******** UPDATE ********

What a great night! Definitely one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. Photos by Alex Evans:

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Visconti Studio featured in Audio Media International

This month, our studio is a cover girl. Click on the image below to access the online reader and check out the feature article on pg 22.

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A month in photos (Aug-Sept)

… in which I holiday in Australia, attend the first recording project and grand opening of the Visconti Studio at Kingston University, and then made a quick trip to Lisbon to present a paper at a Bowie-themed academic conference. You may have also heard me chatting about the studio on BBC 6 Music news last week (listen again here and here) - that wasn't nerve wracking AT ALL…

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Visconti Studio at Kingston University

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Helping to make this happen at Kingston University has already been a highlight of my career! The Visconti Studio is part of a research and teaching project centred around the heritage of technology, associated practices and the sound of analogue recording. The project will allow students trained in recording techniques, as well as the use and maintenance of equipment.

Our partners on this project include the British Library and the Science Museum, and Tony Visconti will be a key contributor to the project's research and enterprise outputs. One of record production's great innovators, he is synonymous with ground-breaking music and has worked with some of the most dynamic and influential names in pop, from Marc Bolan / T-Rex and Thin Lizzy, to David Bowie, Morrissey and U2. The project will see him working with students and staff of Kingston University, as well as invited artists, to produce records. The studio will also be available for commercial hire.

Based around an extraordinary 300m2 octagonal live room and stocked with vintage and rare recording equipment (Studer, Neve, Neumann, Universal Audio), the tape-based studio also features a unique collection of instruments including a Mellotron, a Hammond organ and Steinway concert grand piano.

The Visconti Studio will officially be opened on the 19th September 2016.

Full site launch will happen soon (with info about courses, events, research opportunities and studio hire)... for now we have a holding page with some information about our launch event in September:
http://visconti-studio.com/

You can also like our FB page if you're interested in following our progress:
https://www.facebook.com/ViscontiStudio/

Visconti Visits KU

Last Thursday legendary producer Tony Visconti came to my department at Kingston University to visit with students and faculty. Plans are afoot - watch this space :-)

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Notes On Blindness

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I was thrilled to be able to contribute some original music and instrumental arrangements to this wonderful film, working in collaboration with my partner Ben Dawson, under the guidance of my good friend James Ewers who wrote and produced most of the original soundtrack.

Based on the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, Notes on Blindness is the debut feature from Writer-Directors Peter Middleton & James Spinney, whose work explores new approaches in the documentary form. The project is based on the audio diaries of writer and theologian John Hull, who – after decades of steady deterioration – became totally blind in 1983.

To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began keeping a diary on audio-cassette.

Over three years he recorded in excess of sixteen hours of material – a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, which excavates the interior world of blindness. Neurologist Oliver Sacks described John’s account as ‘the most extraordinary, precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read. It is to my mind a masterpiece.’

Embedding original documentary elements within cinematic interpretations and textured sound design (from acclaimed Supervising Sound Editor Joakim Sundström), the filmmakers take the viewer on an illuminating and deeply personal journey deep into what John calls “a world beyond sight”.

The film will be released in the UK on July 1st with Curzon Artificial Eye.

 ”Elegant, evocative and deeply affecting”   Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“One of Sundance’s most visually arresting documentaries”  Patricia Thomson, American Cinematographer




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Attack of the Herbals OST

Check it out, I updated the music page with some new soundcloud sets of my recent work. Including this set of tracks from my soundtrack to Attack Of The Herbals.



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Using Ableton Live 8 Looper To Make My Own 'Alleged Dances'

Just now ordered a copy of Ableton Live 8 and I can't wait to get my mits on it!! From seeing what DJ Kutiman did using it to make the awe inspiring Thru-You youtube project, the capabilities of the Launchpad in live performance, to the completely awesome Ableton Looper application, I am very juiced up to write some music integrating this technology (and the temporal/improvisatory aspects that come with it) with more traditional instrumental score writing.

Kinda like what John Adams tried to do with his "Book of Alleged Dances" in the mid nineties with the triggering of prerecorded loops during string quartet performance, with Ableton you could create such loops on the fly while a performance is in progress... you could even bank these loops as they are made and re-trigger them in various combinations to create interesting textures and harmonic colours. Such exciting possibilities... and I imagine much more exciting and gratifying than watching a performance played along to pre-recorded material on CD (which, unfortunately, is what happened in the end to Adams' project).

I really love this idea of recording being temporal rather than definitive - to capture something quickly and manipulate it instantly. If only I could find a cellist who would be happy being my guinea pig for a day or two...



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Peter Sant's Cadence


I just posted a clip from Peter Sant's latest video art piece, "Cadence" on the media page of this site (for the full length version - check out
http://www.petersant.com ). Despite my computer-related woes of late, I really enjoyed working on this project - camped out on the dining table with my MIDI keyboards and controllers strewn around the kitchen.

I originally got the job by responding to a post on
Composition Today (truly one of the ugliest arts-related sites ever to exist on the interwebs) - the artist was looking for a keyboardist/composer, and I took the bait. He responded in kind with a list of musical limitations and rules by which I needed to adhere. Also, I was to only receive the foley track, and not the footage, to score to. Here were some of the rules:

  • begin at precisely 2min 30 secs
  • contain a 'light' and discretely 'anticipatory' motif
  • never be 'dark' or 'suspenseful'
  • contain the following, in order of their relative quantity:
    • organ
    • synthesiser
    • piano
    • plus an optional extra (but not percussive)
  • not occupy more than 70% of the allocated time
  • operate at a tempo slower than a clock

There was a lot of back and forth - a few changes, a few edits. It was refreshing to work in this way, separate and remote from the visual element yet very close to it at the same time. Here's an example from the final score - the first occurrence of the main theme, beginning at precisely 2min 30secs...


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Trailer for Psychosomatic'


Some of my music that was used in a scene has also been used for the trailer (embedded below). This film is now out available to purchase from
Amazon.com and in addition to doing well on the festival circuit, is getting some positive reviews. Well done, Andrew!





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The key to living...


My man Shostakovich allegedly once said

In the long run, all things in life can be separated into the important and the unimportant. You must be principled when it comes to the important things, and not when it comes to the unimportant. That may be the key to living.”

I say ‘allegedly’ because his famous ‘Testimony” memoirs, which were published after his death have had their authenticity disputed for a long time. Regardless of who actually said it, I think they were right. There is a right time to stick to your principles and there are definitely times when it’s more appropriate to be flexible.

When I first starting working as a teacher I was very principled in my approach. Every student should receive the best learning experience from me, the best of what I can offer. To this day I still think this way -- though lately I have learned the virtue of being flexible in the classroom environment.

Whereas once I would believe in and insist on absolute mastery of techniques, now I can package that knowledge for a specific individual so that they can easily add a simple string arrangement to their grime tune -- and not feel dirty afterwards like I’ve just personally offended the muses, but actually feel happy in the knowledge that this student wouldn’t have otherwise bothered with the concept of harmony if I hadn’t been able to flex.

The key to living. I remember a time when I tried to be principled in every aspect of my life - I wanted to be the living breathing embodiment of everything I believed in. How boring. How exhausting! No, I can’t write music that is too commercial. No, I can’t be part of THAT project, since it’s not what I’m about as an artist ... No, I can’t like that composer’s music because it is too derivative. No, I can’t go to that gig because that band went big and ‘sold out’. No, I can’t be friends with that person because they don’t like the same art and music that I do. What a load of hogwash. Life is more fun when you say ‘Yes” to things, when you are prepared to bend your strict principles a little, when the situation calls for it.

Things that are important: my creative output, my friends, my financial well being, my health, being charitable. Things that are unimportant: haircuts, websites, xbox games, what music my friends like, what people think of me and my work, being right all the time.






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The posters for Demonic (updated)





And Dave just sent me the DVD cover art. Nice. I sure hope it wins in a few festivals - I think it deserves to. Seeing my name credited on DVD covers always makes me feel like Steve Martin’s character “the Jerk” when he sees his name printed in the phone book. .. “This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people! I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now!” heh. Yeah I WISH... anyways, I find myself wishing he went for this design...




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DEMONIC by David Keith



I did this score over three nights during a work week ... and I think it turned out alright considering that David saw fit to use the first draft I sent him of the score. I get a bit of a kick out of working quickly like this, efficiency is an underrated virtue these days - especially in music - so often having too many ingredients spoils the dish. I limited myself to 1 melodic motif and a sound palette of piano, celeste, strings and backwards reverbs. I created the creepy animal-like sounds by putting piano reverbs through Logic’s vocal transformer and messing with the formants. Fun!

You can check out some more of David’s short film work
HERE.

In other news, I got my Michael Jackson tickets! 30th of July, me and Liz will be there ready to either be blown away by the best and biggest pop comeback of all time, or slightly disappointed but yet fascinated by a train-wreck of gigantic proportions. It’ll be music history either way. And I’ll be there! Whoop!

Eyelashes of Gina swept into my little studio for three days last weekend and left behind two shiny new song nuggets. We uploaded them to the band’s website (which is linked just to the right of this blog). If you actually go and listen to the music I want you to keep two things in mind: 1, remember that it’s only supposed to be a laff.... and 2, that all tracks were conceived, brainstormed, performed and recorded in a few hours. Keeping in mind those two points, I think things turned out ok!

I thank the gods for creating Melodyne! Man I love technology...

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