Today's the day when pubs and restaurants in the UK reopen for the first time since lockdown restrictions were imposed back in March as a result or the Covid-19 pandemic. It's too soon; there are still too many new cases appearing, and—sadly, most importantly—people here have no common sense. I'm expecting a second wave to start kicking in this month, and it's not going to be pleasant. But as we all know, this isn't about protecting the public, and it never has been; at every stage of the pandemic, the government's response has been to do the absolute bare minimum they can get away with before prompting national outrage. It's always been all about minimising the disruption to big business.
I haven't left the house since Friday last week. Going shopping, or in fact being present in any public space and having to take responsibility not just for my own actions in reducing the likelihood of transmitting the disease, but also having to shoulder the burden of compensating for the deeply inconsiderate behaviour of people who clearly don't think that contagion is anything they should be bothering their tiny little minds with, has become physically exhausting. I had no idea that it would be so utterly draining. So the idea of voluntarily putting myself through that ordeal more often, in even more situations, is—quite frankly—something that has about as much attraction as an attack of amoebic dysentery.
Right now I don't have the energy to face going out, even if I wanted to. While I'm feeling much more chipper mentally this week, physically I am a wreck. I am very run down, and after doing another batch of DIY yesterday which involved climbing up and down step ladders for a couple of hours, I hurt all over. I also discovered this morning that I now have a bunch of verrucas on both feet, which I often suffer from when I'm not taking enough care of my physical health. When I edited Thursday night's live stream—my eighth—before I uploaded it to YouTube, it was painfully obvious just how tired I looked, even when I was trying to present an energetic and peppy performance for the benefit of the cameras. And oh boy, I really started to fade out in the second half of the show; editing all the moments where I paused to gather my thoughts or just sat there saying "um" a lot shortened the recording by several minutes. At least there's a lava lamp to watch this week during the really boring moments. But I'll let you be the judge: here's the edited down version. I think I look like a bloke running on an empty tank. Do you?
Nevertheless, getting the work that I've done over the last month out of the way has given me a desperately needed and very important psychological boost. I've been feeling really guilty about not achieving much of anything this year even though I have an excellent excuse thanks to my current state of health, so I hope that will carry through to my energy levels. I guess we'll see if that's apparent in my next appearance on Twitch.
So I now have a venetian blind in my bedroom, and with less light in the room this morning, I didn't wake up until six am. If I can manage to sustain longer periods of sleep for a few days, I should start to bounce back. All the same, I think I need to take things easy for a while after all the heavy lifting I've been doing for the past couple of weeks. I've been in quite a lot of pain this week, which I hope has been caused by my recent physical exertions rather than anything more serious, and I am rather hoping the pain will wear off after a few days of taking things easy. So I shall be staying at home, and hiding away in my studio. Because...
It's the 4th of July, which means that Fifty/Ninety is under way once again, and for the eighth year in a row I will be attempting to write fifty new pieces of music in the ninety days between today and the 1st of October. I've had great fun taking part every time I've done so, and I fully intend doing so again this year.
So I've decided to run a second weekly livestream on my Twitch channel. This one will be on Sunday nights at 21:00 BST (22:00 CET, 16:00 EDT) and it will focus on helping people who want to record their own music for the first time, and on the show I'll try to provide tips and tricks and a bunch of general advice for getting it things sounding as good as they possibly can.
And hopefully I can do all of the above without keeling over. Tune in tomorrow night at nine to find out!
This is an interesting mystery that I discovered thanks to the Fortean Times group I'm in on Facebook: how did a humble Peugeot 206 with a number plate from a garage in Snetterton in Norfolk end up, abandoned, at a beauty spot in the mountains just outside Tromsø, in Norway, inside the Arctic Circle?
Yesterday I said here on the blog that I hadn't gone back to the track I'd worked on after finishing the upgrades to my home recording setup, so in the evening I fired everything up and had a listen. It still sounded pretty good. With Ableton running I decided to check the relative levels of everything, and after ten minutes of tweaking things I've got them pretty close. In doing so, I decided that I needed to tilt the JX-3P and the Juno 106 towards me more so that I could see what patch was loaded and reach controls without having to stand up. So out came the allen key again, although the adjustment process this time only took a couple of minutes. After tightening everything back up again, I sat down on the piano stool, loaded one of the Korg's combi programs, and started playing along to it to see if sitting and playing was practical...
...and forty-five minutes later I sat back with a big smile on my face. I think that means I'm good to go.
When I was a very small child (I must have been four or five years old) I was allowed to play the piano at my Grandmother's house in Lytham St. Anne's. I was fascinated by the discovery that music was something that I could make, rather than just being a thing that came out of the radio or my father's tape recorder. My fascination with reverb probably stems from the revelation—when I got a bit older, and my legs were long enough to reach the pedals—that the loud pedal did amazing things to the piano's sound, letting the strings ring out as the sound died away much more slowly. It was a better magic trick than anything I'd seen David Nixon do on the television. And I would spend hours sitting at that piano, lost in the sounds that I was making.
More than half a century later, I still get that feeling when I play keys. I hope I never lose it.
I have lost no time in adding samples from Spitfire Audio's BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover VST to the tracks I've been recording for my new album of dark ambient music called The Geometry of Sleep. The more I play with it, the more I tumble down the rabbit hole of orchestral arrangement, and I have been savouring every moment of that journey.
I never thought I'd be adding highly convincing horns, strings, or woodwinds to anything I recorded in the back bedroom, but with Spitfire's Discover template loaded in to Ableton, it has become ridiculously easy to do. After warming up with my 45-minute session on the keys last night, I decided I'd have a quick play for ten minutes or so with the track I mentioned in my last blog, which used the Juno 106 in a rather unconventional way. Two hours later, I noticed the clock for the first time. It was well past my bedtime.
This week I have spent more time in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the creative flow state than I have in the rest of the year so far. And in creating orchestral arrangements for tracks I'm recording, I'm working as a musician in territories that I never thought I would get to explore. The results sound pretty amazing to me and I hope that when you get to hear them, you'll think so too.