LEAH KARDOS

Bird Rib is here

So the EP is out now, and the human world has disassembled in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. I'm working from home, being socially distant and self-isolated. As such it feels unreal and slightly inappropriate to aggressively promote my music project at this time.

I did make a music video to accompany the final track on the EP 'Open Again Eventually' - the music speaks of the slow process of trust, the piano begins filtered and buried and slowly throughout the track emerges into itself. The backwards piece in the background is 'The Closeness of Distance' from Machines (2013). In the context of this week's upheaval it could also be about being temporarily closed off and distanced, that's certainly how I'm feeling lately.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten in touch with nice messages about the release, and to anyone who has taken the time to listen. I love you. Now wash your hands. x


Listen and stream Bird Rib here: https://smarturl.it/LK-BirdRib



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Into Sporks

'Into Sporks', the second track to be released in advance of Bird Rib coming out later this month, features kitchen sounds sampled and combined with a manic, sugar-fuelled energy. My singing is also in there, too, towards the end. Definite nods to late 90s-era IDM/Richard D. James (one of my heroes).



I made the track in Logic, firstly sampling loads of kitchen things - glassware, cutlery, chopping boards, plastic containers, egg shells, the gas hob clicking on, etc. I used some shortcuts to avoid being bogged down with programming - the arpeggiator MIDI FX was useful for generating rhythmical patterns at different durations, and I slowed the whole project down so I could jam in the fast melodics live. Then I nested the elements within layers of bus effects - all percussion stems through Stutter Edit, all melodic elements through iZotope Vinyl to detune and filter groups of instruments together, then everything once again through Stutter Edit. Aside from sampled things, I sang bit, and used Sound Iron's Glitch Hero and Spitfire Audio LABS keyboard/piano instruments.

As I did with 'Deedee' last month, I decided to make my own music video for 'Into Sporks' - this time in collaboration with my lovely friend Charlotte White, a.k.a. Restoration Cake. As I was composing and producing the track I was envisioning someone cooking up a storm, stirring, mixing, clattering around the kitchen… so the idea of a top-down cooking tutorial seemed like a fun thing to try and choreograph to fit with the music. I booked out some 4k Blackmagic cameras from the uni's media department and travelled up to Bedford to Charly's place to film her creating a key lime pie from start to finish. Not knowing at all what I was doing, I mistakenly had RAW 4k format selected on the camera, which meant that I filled up my 250GB SSD cards within minutes and had to switch to my phone part way through the process - this will explain the change in colour and stabilisation in the final video. For the edit I downloaded the free version of Da Vinci Resolve and taught myself how to create crude paint-style animations. It was a fun process, but by the end I was feeling SO grateful that I work in audio media and not video… those render times were not fun.

[again, for some reason embedded youtube video won't play - you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/hZS0xXQMUcc]



I'm really pleased with how the first two Bird Rib tracks are being received. I've had some exciting radio play here in the UK, as well as in the USA and Australia; also some playlisting here and there on Spotify and Tidal. It's so rewarding to have people engage with and enjoy the stuff you've made - thank you to everyone who's listening. x

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New single: Deedee

‘Deedee' is the obvious name I came up with for a piece built around a two-note theme (D & E)… The vibraphone, piano and mellotron recordings were leftovers from the Rococochet sessions, a piece originally called ‘Verges’ that just didn’t come together in time. Here I’ve added lots of found sounds from my back garden where I installed some bird feeders over the summer. There’s also a lot of messing around on synths, attempting to mimic bird sounds electronically... I guess I was trying to blend the two worlds together in a way?



I made a music video all by myself using a nifty app on my phone called 'nception' and some stock footage of starlings doing their thing. You can check it out here (for some reason I can't embed it): https://youtu.be/wzg6XiudcJU



Deedee is the first single from my new EP, Bird Rib, which will be released on March 19. Each of the tracks on the album has a starting point from something I had made in the past, old recordings from past projects either repurposed, resampled or reversed. You can preorder it on Bandcamp here, and stream/download Deedee from all the usual places.

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Book contract

Earlier this month I signed a contract with Bloomsbury to write my first monograph, all about Bowie's 'late work' - The Next Day (2013), Lazarus (2015) and (2016). Very excited and quite terrified, which I have been assured by my editors are appropriate feelings to have right now.

Meanwhile I'm busily co-authoring a book with Prof Pamela Burnard (Cambridge Uni) called Doing Music, Gender and Diverse Creativities: Enacting Socially Just Education for Brill | Sense. On top of this I have my new EP Bird Rib coming out in early Feb, 2020 with Bigo & Twigetti. Check out the amazing artwork that will become the cover image kindly licensed with permission from the super talented Maurizio Bongiovanni.

Busy times! If things go a bit quiet and you wonder where I am, look for me down the bottom of the garden in the writing shed. x
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Space Oddity (cover) by KUSO

My Stylophone orchestra got to record a cover of Space Oddity with Tony Visconti to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song, and our music video was premiered by David Bowie Official!

We filmed some of the video on the day we recorded in the studio, and the 'tin can'/green screen bits we quickly shot on our last rehearsal of the year, using a 4-pack of those 'foil emergency blankets' and the cheapest space suit costume I could find on Amazon. The wonderful Mari Dangerfield edited it together for us - you can check it out below!



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New Single: Bird Rib



It started when I accidentally loaded an old master tape of Feather Hammer into the machine backwards at work (forgot it was stored 'tails out'), and I kinda loved the sound of it. I ripped it to pro tools and took it away with me. Stretched and reflected and now strange but still completely familiar - I was so drawn to it. I set up a mic on a piano and improvised along - from this game I found the starting points for a few new pieces which will hopefully form a new EP (out in early 2020, fingers crossed).

Following this process, 'Bird Rib' is in response to a backwards half speed (7ips) version of 'DFACE (Practice this Video)'.



The piano is the one in my office - freshly tuned and miced closely with a single condenser (Bluebird SL) bang in the middle, chained through two compressors to get that blown-out tone - once I put it through a tremolo effect it took on this sticky gooey cloying effect which I really loved. It’s mostly multi-tracked and treated piano parts, with additional Volca Keys and some soft Mellotron choirs in the back. Bird Rib is a palindrome, and the music has reflective elements built into its structure; left/right, up/down, front and back.

The title Bird Rib also reminds me of a small bird’s rib cage - an impossibly intricate structure of fine bones, or the idea that my heart could be a caged bird that lives in my chest, fluttering and singing from time to time.

Take a listen to "Bird Rib" above, or find your preferred streaming source here: https://smarturl.it/BirdRib. It's the 4th single released from Bigo & Twigetti's wonderful Scale compilation. Worth listening to in full from start to finish, I promise you. -----

Save the date [23rd Nov]: The Work and Legacy of Scott Walker with Peter Walsh

This event has been a dream to organise - it's going to be so amazing! Tickets are limited, so book quickly to avoid missing out!

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Kingston University's Visconti Studio and The Journal for Cultural Research present, a day exploring the art, innovative practice, cultural impact, creative musical and sonic legacy of Scott Walker, with Peter Walsh, Scott's long-term producer and collaborator.

The day focusses on Scott's late-period output from 1985's
Climate of Hunter up to his final solo LPs 2012's Bish Bosch, work with other artists such as Sunn0))) (Soused, 2014) and with filmmaker Brady Corbet. There will be a screening of Stephen Kijak's 2006 documentary 30th Century Man, and a book launch of Scott Wilson’s Scott Walker and the Song of the One-All-Alone (Bloomsbury, 2019). Listening space will be set up with sound equipment provided by Bowers & Wilkins, Chord Co. and Chord Electronics.

The evening event is an interview conversation between music critic Pete Paphides and Peter Walsh, followed by an exclusive surround mix playback by Peter Walsh of 'Duet for One Voice' from
Cocteau Voices (commissioned by the Royal Opera House, premiered in 2011).

10.30 Registration
11 am Intro (organisers’ welcome)
11.15 Rob Young
12 noon Charlie Blake and Adam Potts
1pm
2pm Matt Selway, Malte Kobel, Sabeen Chaudhry
3.30 Eimear McBride and Scott Wilson
4.30
5pm 30th Century Man – screening
7pm
7.30 Pete Paphides interview with Peter Walsh + Q&A
9pm
Duet for One Voice (multi-speaker performance of an extract from Scott Walker’s Cocteau Voices)
10pm-close.


Get tickets here: https://www.kingston.ac.uk/events/item/3481/23-nov-2019-the-work-and-legacy-of-scott-walker-with-peter-walsh
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The New Woman - Kate Bush from 1977 to 1980

I wrote this essay for a book that was meant to get published, but didn't, about Kate Bush's early career and featuring wonderful photos by Gered Mankowitz. Since it's not going to see the light of day, I thought I might as well publish it here for anyone who is interested.

Part of the payment I was promised for the piece was a signed Mankowitz print (!) which did arrive, so I'm not too upset about the way things turned out!

Download the PDF

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Hill of Beans

Last Summer Tony worked with Ralph McTell on his latest album in Visconti Studio, and now the wonderful end product as arrived! And what a nice thing it is to have a physical product in your hands - the smell of the ink, the new plastic. The feel of the glossy paper booklet. CD nostalgia!

I was very surprised and excited to see my name in the acknowledgements - surprised because I didn't do much at all except hang around and make tea, occasionally going to the shops to restock milk and biscuits. It was a special privilege to watch Tony and Ralph working together, some 50 years after their first collaborations on Eight Frames a Second (1968) and Not Til Tomorrow (1972). Mary Hopkin is singing backing vocals again, joined now by daughter Jess. Music history touching music present, circling around the decades.

It's an utterly beautiful record, too. Everyone who appreciates song-craft needs to treat their ears and hearts to this gem! Ralph's on tour at the moment - check out the dates here: http://www.ralphmctell.co.uk (I'll be at the RFH show on the 13th, come and say hi if you see me).

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KUSO

It was a chance event that led to the formation of the Kingston University Stylophone Orchestra - Dubreq, the company that makes the Stylophone, had gotten in touch with me with an offer to donate some vintage instruments to the Visconti Studio archive. This was around the same time that they were running a competition for their 50th anniversary, for which Tony was the judge so it seemed like a good idea for all of us to meet up at Visconti Studio.

They came with the vintage instruments (among the items a lovely old 350S, and the wonderful(ly bizarre) Piano-Mate), and a few boxes of standard stylophones. Tony was relaying stories of how he used to record the instrument, and fun ways to process the sound through amps and effects. At some point during the meeting I blurted out that I should 'start an orchestra' and before I really knew what it was that I had said, it was happening.

Then they sent me LOADS of stylophones. Different kinds. And batteries.


Thinking about how to arrange for these sounds, I decided to extend the ensemble to also include a theremin, omnichord, a vocal synth and some Korg Volca units. I bought a 16 channel preamp, a parametric EQ rack unit, and reverb/FX to chain the stylophones through, along with many many mini jack to 1/4" TRS cables. The idea was to massage the sound into something that could work as a pad texture, so that the band of stylos could function as a synthetic 'string section'.

I held tryouts in late 2018 and by January we had a group of brave and curious KUSO members regularly attending rehearsal, working on arrangements of Brian Eno, Robyn, Radiohead, Kraftwerk and Vangelis. Just 4 months later we had our first gig at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston. In July we performed at the International Youth Arts Festival, first on an outdoor stage and then at the gala event (where we met with royalty, HRH Prince Edward).

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How awesome do we look in our sparkly capes? (New Look £7!)

In September the Stylophone Orchestra had an opportunity to record an arrangement of 'Space Oddity' in Visconti Studio, with Tony Visconti producing. Anyone who knows me knows what Bowie means to me so let me tell you I was PRETTY EXCITED. Also QUITE NERVOUS. I thought it was a good choice (other songs I was considering: T-Rex's 'Cosmic Dancer' and Bowie's 'Warszawa'). 'Space Oddity' won out in the end because it's obviously such a legendary stylophone track, and this year (2019) is its 50th anniversary. Of course Tony Visconti himself produced the original Space Oddity album in 1969… so y'know, no pressure.

Marcella and John from Dubreq came down for the day, and they made some custom T-shirts for us. They also brought a prototype of their new synth, the Gen R-8, which we used for one of the solo parts in the arrangement. Later that same day Tony asked us to perform a special arrangement for a track on his new solo album called 'Politics'. After this day I told the group that not only were we the best (only) Stylophone Orchestra on the planet, we were also the world's best (only) 'professional session Stylo ensemble', and that everyone should immediately update their LinkedIn profiles to reflect this.

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Now a new academic year has started, we've welcomed 5 new members to our ranks, and I'm busy sketching out some new arrangements. I think we're going to tackle some classical music now, and more original songs written by our talented members. I can't wait to see where this weird little project takes us next.

Follow us on Instagram. Also, we're looking for cool gigs - get in touch if you'd like us to play your event!-----

The Model Citizen - RMIT Galllery, Melbourne 8/2 - 23/3



Are you a model citizen?
Meet the micro lenses of surveillance and audit culture; the algorithm of benign search engines; the political poetry of embodied dance; the veneer of the celebrity citizen; the performative monotony of routine; the bio-power of the viral robot; the ghostly noise of a thousand newsreaders speaking all at once, and the hopeful threads and fibres of participatory culture.
 
For this exhibition I have collaborated with Sean Redmond on an installation titled "The Unknown Celebrity". This will be a mock up on a fan's bedroom. The room, the shrine, will worship this unknown celebrity: this model citizen. Of course, the person whose room it is, is the one and same unknown celebrity who is being worshipped– a haunting mirror on their own invisibility and hungriness to be noticed. Their self-adoring room guarantees them the ubiquity of model citizenship...

The four separate components of my soundscape are designed to be experienced in various locations within the constructed environment. The sonic scenes are haunted by timbres of embedded musical memory, experience and emotion. All compositions are set to a tempo of 60BPM.

Mirror (9’20") plays with repetition, feedback, texture, mimicry and multiplicity of a single voice. Memory (8’17”) uses the aesthetics of vapourware, ambient trip hop and broken tape effects. Shrine (21’08”) is a collage of original vocal recordings, reversed, resampled and stretched. Sleep (10'32”) is an extended version of a piece originally released on the album Machines (2012), and includes cello parts performed by Catherine Saumarez.



My definition of a model citizen: My model citizen is a person who represents the shared human experience in contemporary media cultures. A person whose development is influenced and shaped by outside stimulus - preferences, ideologies and philosophies growing in the hothouse of contemporary fandom. They say there’s a spot in the human brain that has evolved to specifically process timbre, and as a result most of us can differentiate between hundreds of voices, understanding the communicative intent or emotion behind them. Our personalities, histories and collective cultural becoming is soaked through with sounds and music; it transmits feeling and intent, and allows us travel the backroads of our deepest memories. What we experience and love becomes part of who we are.

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Glowing Pains: Music From The Gardens Between

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I was chuffed to be asked lovely musical friend and compatriot
Tim Shiel to contribute some sonic and instrumental textures to his soundtrack for indie game 'The Gardens Between'. Now Tim has created an album's worth of music that incorporates elements of the soundtrack. You can listen to a preview and pre-order it in bandcamp.

Inspired by his work on the highly anticipated indie game The Gardens Between, Tim Shiel presents an album of rich ambient music that resonates with the game's core themes of time, memory and childhood. 

Glowing Pains seamlessly weaves together elements from the game's otherworldly score with improvised contributions from many of Tim's closest musical friends from around the world, to create an album that is as gorgeous and as moving as the game that inspired it. 

All music made by Tim Shiel with friends, in order of appearance: 

Luke Howard: piano and drones on 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12 
Wally de Backer: ondioline on 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 
Biddy Connor: voice on 2, reverse viola on 9 
Matt Ridgway: a bit of noise on 2, moog bass on 3 
Eric J Dubowsky: voice on 1, 2 
Andrew Phillips: synth on 3 
Jacob Diamond: voice on 3 
KAIAR: voice on 3 
Eli Crews: Steiner EVI on 4, 5, 7 
Liam McGorry: trumpet on 5 
researcher: voice and production on 6 
Leah Kardos: piano and synth on 7 
mara: sounds and voice on 7 
Rohan Long: upright bass and field recording on 9 
Mid Hike: production on 10 
Becki Whitton: reverse voice on 10 
Lonelyspeck: voice and guitar on 12 
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Women in Music - Leeds Music Hub, 14/10/18

This is going to be a great event, come if you can!
I'll be chairing the Engineering and Production Panel in the early afternoon featuring Lauren Deakin Davies, Jeanne Albin and Aubrey Whitfield. There'll also be industry-specific talks, live performances, workshops, stalls, drinks and a screening of the film "So, which band is your boyfriend in?"

For more info, check out the
Facebook event page.

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Making Room for 21st Century Musicianship in Higher Education

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I was invited to respond to the Mayday Group's Action Ideal VIII ("We commit to understanding the wide range of possibilities and the limitations that technology and media offer music and music learning…"), now published in the latest issue of the Action, Theory, & Criticism for Music Education journal.

Click here to read my paper on
Making Room for 21st Century Musicianship in Higher Education, which shares my experiences and perspectives relating to contemporary Post-digital aesthetics in music creation, performance and production, and the development of new, practice-focussed music technology curriculum at Kingston University.

Abstract: Having been asked to respond to Action Ideal VIII by the Mayday Group, concerning technology and its impacts on music education, what follows are some observations and reflections from my experiences teaching undergraduate music and music technology degrees in the UK. I put forward the idea that Post-Digital music aesthetics reflect an emergent sensibility in contemporary music cultures, and this represents an opportunity for music educators to reconfigure and strengthen their pedagogical approaches. By recognizing the legitimacy of new and varied forms of musicianship, and acknowledging the ways in which our subject area continues to grow in its range of practices and necessary literacies, strategies can be developed to support a music student experience that is cohesive, inclusive, hybridized, meaningful and useful.
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I have the coolest day job [part 2]

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I have the coolest day job [part 1]

A post shared by Leah Kardos (@leah.kardos) on



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Brits 2018: Why Everyone Loves Ed Sheeran's The Shape Of You

I wrote a thing for The Conversation ahead of this week's Brit Awards about the musical reasons why Ed Sheeran's hit is so catchy…

Admittedly, not the kind of thing I'd usually spend time on. I'm glad I did it, though. A good reminder that simple things can have a kind of elegance in their efficiency.

Click here to read the article.

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An Evening With Tony Visconti & Woody Woodmansey

Update - this event has now sold out!

***Tickets are now available for this, and they are limited! Come along - in addition to the talk, there will be a pop-up record shop, book signing and a cash bar. Could you imagine a better Friday night than this?

I've had a blast researching for this event, reading Tony and Woody's biographies as well as listening to The Man Who Sold The World A LOT (such hardship!).

Was pleased to see my face made it into Woody's book! That grey smudge is definitely Liz, Charly and I getting our Bowie jush...

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https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-evening-with-tony-viscont…

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Radio show: David Bowie's Sonic Sorcery

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This was fun, I was invited by my lovely friend Leon Clowes to join him on his radio show to play Bowie-related music and chat about my favourite artist. How could I resist? You can listen again to the program below.


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Stationary Travels: 2017 in review

Another great 2017 roundup review, and once again I notice what legendary company I'm keeping on these lists. I'm so pleased! Thank you Stationary Travels!

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