Posts Tagged ‘creative’

Found sounds

March 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve recently been looking in some detail at community radio, this being related to a speculative project I’m planning to do a little later in the year. I’ve become a regular visitor to the coffee bar at my own local community radio, Hermitage FM but thought I’d share this one I’ve just discovered: Resonance FM.  They’re based in London and the community they transmit to is essentially a creative one: their ‘About’ statement indicates it was established in 2002 by the London Musicians Collective, as a ‘radical alternative to the universal formulae of mainstream broadcasting. Resonance 104.4 fm features programmes made by musicians, artists and critics who represent the diversity of London’s arts scenes, with regular weekly contributions from nearly two hundred musicians, artists, thinkers, critics, activists and instigators.’

And it really is music you won’t hear on any commercial station; cutting edge, innovative, experimental, and hugely varied. It gives exposure to bands, individuals, loose collaborations, and plays the kind of stuff that’s only ever ‘published’ as pressings of a hundred or so white-label vinyl records. I’ve yet to hear anything on there I didn’t find stimulating, provocative or inspirational.

Your own milage, or course, will vary – just bear in mind I grew up listening to everything from punk, goth and rave to Stockhausen and Subotnik, and the first and only musical ‘instrument’ I learned how to play was a VCS3 analog synthesizer!

Community radio, by the terms of UK licensing rules, only transmits at 25 watts with a typical range of 5 kilometres from the transmitter, and they’re based in central London. The good thing about the internet, though, is you can get a live feed to your PC and a lot of their stuff is also available as podcasts.


The end is nigh!

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night, after something like four months of a group of us juggling diaries, we finally did the video shoot for a project I’ve had in mind since late last year. There’s more to do: some still photography, design work, and fitting the whole thing together. It’s been a steep learning curve because I’ve had to work out how to do video editing and various ancillary things, but the end is now in sight. Another couple of weeks and I should be able to show and tell…

Makes a change from working at home

Because I work from home, I rarely get into the city centre. However I had a few in-town jobs to do, went for a coffee at Darkside and then, by the clock tower, came across this guy busking there, who turns out to be someone called Oded Kafri.

Whatever you think of the various Youtube segments embedded on his site I can assure you he’s many times more impressive live. As best I can tell he has a regular kit, plus some eccentric items like a large water bottle upturned on a stand, and an electronic kit that allows him to trigger a selection of bass, flute and other riffs and some special effects.

Hearing ten minutes of really cool drumming just made my day. I may be easily pleased but I thought it was worth sharing.

Arts, (lack of) money and the need for inventiveness

March 30, 2011 5 comments

The unsurprising news emerged yesterday that many UK arts organisations will have their public funding reduced or cut entirely. The arts generally is always a bit of a soft target, open to a range of criticisms from less eligibility (‘how can you spend money on the arts when there are no many funding shortfalls in health/welfare/education?’) to profligacy to poor taste (‘you mean my taxes paid for that crap to be displayed in the gallery?’).

I have, I confess, very mixed views about this. On the one hand, my own ‘involvement in state funded art’ amounts to reading my stories at a couple of events that received Arts Council and local authority subsidies. That’s probably about as much as any writer does. On the whole we work in a sector of the arts that gets probably less public funding than any other. On the other hand, I’m aware I go to events, exhibitions and the like that cost vastly more to put on than can be paid for through ticket sales, so I’m benefiting from arts funding in that sense.

State funding isn’t always the best kind of funding to have, and a lot of the most innovative work often happens in obscure holes and corners of the art world (I mean ‘art’ in its broadest sense to include the whole spectrum of artistic endeavour), funded in ways that range from impromptu to implausible, and in some cases the artwork itself is carried out in secretive and illegal ways – yes, I’m thinking here mainly of graffiti. But that said, we also need to recognise that what’s obscure and innovative at one point in time is the orthodoxy twenty years later, and that the UK as a whole is a major global producer in the economy of signs and images. It relies heavily on the flow of artistic and cultural talent in all kinds of areas from music to art to scriptwriting, screenwriting, niche areas of film and even niche areas within film such as special effects. And, of course, development of computer games… it would wind up being a long list.

Anyway. Rant over. What intrigued me today was a BBC article, ‘Arts world gets creative in funding crisis‘. Ideas being tried out now are crowdfunding through multiple small donations via the Wedidthis, Sponsume and Wefund websites; sponsoring individual members of an orchestra, with side benefits including dinners with them; venues being opened up to events such as weddings and receptions; and increasing numbers of in-person and online courses in creative areas run by people who have public reputations in those areas.

The arts are being squeezed in all sorts of directions; not just public funding, but the role of the internet in providing free access to many arts products, whether because the artists have to put it out free for promotional reasons, or internet piracy (which in music and now increasingly in writing means that artists get paid nothing for their work and need to build other income streams – live performance or whatever).

It probably won’t all work out alright in the end. There will be casualties along the way, including, probably, the collapse of some well-known and well-respected organisations. The people who are most recession-proofed, however, will be those who’ve struggled without funding already, trying to get their artistic vision across in unconventional ways. I’d hope that those people, who are often the real cutting edge of new art talent, will be able to struggle for a bit longer, become even more inventive about how they operate, and not just survive but prosper. I’m hoping at least some people will find that what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. And I’m hoping that’s not a vain hope.

How writing a story is similar to building a garden summer house

March 16, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been away for a few days, visiting friends. This is something I don’t do often enough, really. Even though I took work and my laptop and internet dongle, I never got round to doing much more than checking email and reading a bit of a novel because other stuff was going on, so while I’m notionally behind on where I wanted to be with my writing, I feel recharged and I’ll catch up.

The ‘other stuff’ that was going on largely involved erecting a summer house in my friends’ garden. It went up without much trouble and with people more expert than me doing most of the detailed work.

I helped out, though I’m far better at making joints between ideas than I am at getting bits of wood to butt up together neatly. If the summer house had been made out of concepts laid over a philosophical framework I would have done a really neat job. But that thought stayed with me, and of course making anything – from a garden summer house to a story and indeed almost anything else – will have many similarities.

On this view, writing a story involves:

  • taking delivery of a bunch of pre-made bits and pieces. With a summer house, these are largely factory-made sections and should be all you need (though we added some refinements). With a story, these will be things you’ve gathered from the grab-bag of your own imagination and research. They will include plot elements, character qualities, odd facts (real or invented), situations and locations (real or imaginary), and so on.
  • checking the plans and diagrams to see what you’re supposed to be doing. You do have plans and diagrams for your story, don’t you? Actually I often don’t; or at least, my plans may not bear too much of a relationship to the pieces I have to play with, or describe them with the same level of incoherence that I used to find in the manuals for electronic appliances in the 1970s.
  • making sure you have all the right tools. Drills, bits and screwdrivers for stories. The right character ‘voices’ for dialogue when building a summer house. Or is it the other way round? A lot of the summer house building was carried out with character voices anyway. I often do drill down, conceptually anyway, into locations and plot details to focus on small details. A good supply of coffee and tobacco in either case (I know, they’re bad habits… treat these as optional).
  • actually erecting the structure. Colourful vocabulary, occasional use of swearwords essential for both stories and summer houses. Holding odd bits of wood at awkward angles while your fingers freeze is not mandatory for stories, unless that’s your particular thing.
  • making ‘improvements’ as you go along and then finding these cause more problems you need to solve. Done that. Fortunately in the case of the summer house, there were some extra blocks of wood to ensure the thing was packed correctly, and we could use those. That may not be the case with a story.
  • sitting back, enjoying the result and deciding on decoration and finishing. Stories may not need a coat of paint on them but there are always bits you want to tinker with at a later date. This process can go on until someone wants to publish, and then you have to let go. That won’t be the case with a summer house, which will always be a work in progress.

See? Similar processes. Next time: how writing a story is similar to drug dealing (or something).


Blogging and not blogging

March 11, 2011 6 comments

When I first got into the blogging thing, I found some places that gave advice on the whole business of ‘successful’ blogging. The tips included:

  • write several pillar articles – tutorials that offer useful advice or reference material.
  • write a blog post every day (and keyword/tag them well).
  • comment on other people’s posts.
  • link/trackback to other posts/websites when you refer to them.
  • encourage comments.

There was more, about getting onto blog carnivals, getting listed on blog listings, sending posts out to be used as ezine articles and such, but that was the top and bottom of it.

And, of course, I follow all this advice fitfully – there are probably four of five ‘pillar’ articles on here, mostly concerned with e-learning, written over a period of close to a year. And I certainly don’t post every day.

Mostly I post when: I have something to brag about; one of my friends has done something I want to publicise (which reminds me, Psy-tek has just composed and recorded two tracks if anyone wants to license their use); something interesting or humorous happened; or something has caught my eye, often an obscure or offbeat thing on a news report.

Mostly, though, I don’t post when nothing much has happened, or when I’m busy. I have a life. It may not be much of a life, but at any one point I probably have some distance learning material to write or update, some student work to assess, half a dozen stories in various states of completion that I may or may not want to submit anywhere straightaway because I have some longer-range plans, and ‘just normal everyday stuff’ that always seems to take a lot longer to accomplish than I think it’s going to. Plus, of course, there are occasional points when I’m actually away for a few days.

So basically, if there’s nothing new on my blog it probably means (a) I have a deadline to finish distance learning materials or mark student work, or (b) I’m on a roll with the writing and managing 1500+ words a day. That may not be a lot by some people’s lights – quite a few of the writers I know on here easily do double that, but it seems to be about my limit. All I can say is spending a couple of hours hung up on how to phrase a particular sentence does seem to mean I don’t need to spend ages rewriting and editing at a later stage!

For the last week or so the answer has been (b). In addition to the stuff I’ve been writing, late last night I came across a wonderfully surreal passage in a Thomas Pynchon novel that set me on a line of thought and by this morning it had become the solution to a plot problem in a piece I started writing in late 2009 but that hung fire for about a year because I didn’t have a way to develop the story. And now I do.

However, it will have to wait because right now the answer is (a): after a long lull, my email has suddenly filled up with student papers for assessment. So I’ll stop now…

Apparently you’re supposed to end with a question to encourage comments. Here’s two for the price of one. What, if anything, stops you from blogging? What do you see as a mark of ‘success’ in a blog?

Sweating the small stuff

March 4, 2011 4 comments

Sometimes it’s the small stuff that causes the most problems.

I’m doing 1000-1500 words/day on a big project and other stuff as well. What I’m hung up on, though, is an invitation to write a piece of flash fiction, 300-500 words. It’s taking me longer to get that together than I’d normally take to write a short story – in fact I’ve written one short story and part of another on the fly, 3000-plus words, in addition to other stuff, since I started to think about the flash piece.

Why am I having this difficulty? Well, part of it is that I’m writing on a theme suggested by someone else. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes not. This particular theme is a politically hot one at the moment which seems to be pushing my imagination in a direction I think isn’t all that helpful. And part of it is that I’m starting from a point at which I have half a dozen ideas, but incomplete ones – words, phrases, ideas or images that have come to me from various sources (TV, conversations, things I came across while looking up references, dreams). Often when that happens, such things suddenly link together because my unconscious works on them and integrates them. On this occasion, not.

So I’ve been falling back on Plan B, which is the one Douglas Adams once described as ‘looking at a blank screen until your eyes bleed’.

I have one trait that is sometimes a disadvantage, but in this case may be helpful – what my parents, when I was a kid, described as a ‘grasshopper mind’. I’m usually writing three or four things at once, often skipping between them as an idea in one context suddenly seems more applicable in another. So for the moment I’ll just let the ideas sit and sweat. If I keep pushing on the other projects something useful will spark off in the back of my brain, I suspect.

It may come too late for the thing I’ve been invited to submit for, which would be a shame – but what the hell, once it’s done, it’s done, and I can use it elsewhere.

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