Musical Influences 1. Reginald Smith Brindle

People always talk about the bands that influenced them. I could give you a list of bands I like, but maybe it’s more interesting to talk about the music educators that have had a big impact on me.
First up is a gentleman I never met, but who’s work was a big influence. Reginald Smith Brindle was a musician and composer from Lancashire. He created some really interesting works for classical guitar, particular this one written for Julian Bream.

A really interesting piece, but his main influence on me was his writing about music.
Musical Composition, his book from 1986, is pretty much a must read as far as I’m concerned.  In particular its chapters on melody writing, accompaniments and more interesting modern classical ideas. The stuff on melody writing, really looking at how to use and when to repeat ideas, was very useful.
This book had a big influence on my instrumental work at Uni, which resulted in various pieces of which I still rather proud including ‘Two’ from my first album.

The end of the Time Traveller’s Tale?

Andrew Fletcher who happens to like my music, has written his version of the ending of my Time Traveller suite. I think it’s ace, and he has kindly agreed that I might post it here. I suppose it might count as a piece of ‘fan fiction’. Fun!

Tom Slatter recently released a new album “Three Rows of Teeth”

Three of the songs on this album are all part of one unconcluded story, “The Time Traveller’s Suite”

In the first song, a man is awoken in the depth of night, a girl with a missing eye stands at the foot of his bed staring at him. Before he can act, she says; “Is this the way that my death began?” and with a cosmic shimmer, the girl vanishes from sight!

The man sits up in bed and asks “Is this how one loses a heart?” for in that brief encounter, he fell in love with the mysterious girl. “How do I find her? how do I trace the girl with the missing eye?!”

He sets about developing a machine that will enable him to travel through time in order to find her again. His friends, family and colleagues grow concerned as he searches scrapheaps for budget pieces, but eventually he becomes more desperate, and in the face of adversity, he sells his part of his family’s inheritence in order to fund the remainder of the project.

He eventually finishes, he throws the switch and the whirring machine sends him into the distant future. The years speed by, fashions change and buildings rise and fall until he arrives at a time with endless nights. Convinced that this hell at the end of the Earth is where he’ll find her, since he evidently can’t travel backwards to the night she appeared, he has concluded “If I can’t go backwards, neither can she!”

However, his search seems to have been in vain. He is unable to find the girl with the missing eye, and now trapped alone at the end of the Earth with apparently no way back, he despairs.

A recurring feature in this first song is “What we say three times is true”, I’ve personally concluded that it’s some sort of mental determination therapy technique, if he tells himself three times that he’ll do something, he’ll do it. He vows to find the girl with the missing eye and make her his.

This is where the first song finished. Left at the end of the Earth.

The second song begins with “Maybe I lost you when the roses died”, referring back to a point of time he shot past while searching for her. It goes on to sing about missed chances and reasons he could have missed her.

In this despair, he stumbles on a way to go backwards. “Rise another leaf, and fall another empire… I’ll bring the whole thing down to it’s knees! I’ll find the love that once found me!”

He channels what little energy is left on Earth, destroying it to propel him and the time machine backwards an undetermined amount, but this would give him another chance to find her!

The third song “Love Letters and Entropy” had me confused until I actually looked up the meaning of the word. Entropy meaning chaotic threw the song well into context. He manages to go back in time, and begins his search with a much stronger determination. Being told by ignorant bystanders that “Love is behind every fallen star” though he has been to where the stars finish, and she wasn’t there.

Now that he’s back in the past, the world is different, it’s chaotic from what he remembers. Perhaps his time travel or his unhealthy obsession has warped his vision.

Although it’s not clearly stated, I have my own interpretation of what happens next.

“Found love in the world where we met”, he has made his way back to where he started, to just after he left in the first place. His friends and family get him to a psychiatrist. While in their care he meets a nurse and falls in love with her. Their romance comprised of love letters written to each other amidst the chaos that is Earth.

This is where I feel the third song ends, but I think I know the next part of the story.

Things seem to be looking up when a future version of himself appears, he has a replaced eye and looks as though he has been wrecked and attempts to kill him, shouting incoherently that he’ll not let the girl with the missing eye die. He shoots! The traveller is shot through the face. The future version of himself vanishes much like the girl did at first.

The nurse gives one of her eyes to the traveller and then goes on a hunt to find this mystery assailant. When the traveller recovers, he realises what’s happened and attempts to chase her.

Unfortunately, he is unable to chase the nurse, who is now the girl with the missing eye, because she has taken the time machine. The traveller must now build a second machine, without money and the sheer complexity of the contraption, it’s safe to say at this point, the traveller is trapped.

The girl with the missing eye follows the assailant, the future traveller. By the time she finds him he’s an senile old man, killing him now wouldn’t be enough, he would die naturally soon enough, she wanted him to suffer. So she leaves the old man to die and travels back destroying this alternative future which won’t actually happen if she kills the assailant at an earlier point in time.

While tracing the assailant’s life back, she finds herself standing at the foot of the bed of a much younger version of the assailant, recognising him as her love from the hospital. It suddenly dawns on her that SHE is the one he’s been ranting about, the one he could never find. To prevent a paradox, she had to leave him and never be found.

She mutters aloud “Is the way that my death began?” knowing full well that for her love to live, she would have to disappear and die never seeing him again.

She then travels into the future and hides in the day after the last day of Earth. Somewhere she know he would never search for her. Poetically hiding behind the last fallen star as is pointed out in Slatter’s third chapter of The Time Traveller’s Suite.

Back with the traveller, many years pass… Busking for money and parts for him to invest in the second machine. One with appropriate modifications to go forward and backwards so that when he found her, he would have to destroy whenever they were to bring her back with him.

Out of desperation though, he runs a test of the incomplete time machine, he knows it shouldn’t work, but he’s got few choices. It “works” he is launched back to but a few hours before his future self would come in and try and kill his past self.

With haste, he acquired a small firearm and made his way to the hospital where the assailant would be. He got there, and there he was, with the nurse!

“I will not let the girl with the missing eye die!” realising all too late that HE was the assailant and he had just done what he set out to prevent. The time machine destabalises and he returns to when he tested the incomplete time machine.

He loses hope, he knows what’s to become of him. He can’t complete the time machine to chase her, and that past version of himself is destined to become the busker. He resigns to live in solitude, accepting his fate as a man ruined by love.

Many years pass, he still lives on the street as an old man. On a cold night, a familiar face appears.

“I finally found you… My love” He says to the girl with the missing eye.

She glares angrily at him, as though what he did so many years ago had just happened. Unsatisfied with the prospect of murdering him, she says “I will find your past, and make you suffer ’til the end of your days”

Did she appreciate how right she was? So ends the tale of the Time Traveller.

The Random Inspiration Blog

Lex Machina, a photographer, rans the Random Inspiration blog, a tumblr blog that has the simple little goal of sharing cool, inspiring artwork with the world.

The pictures on the site are from all over the place and by different people, and are often pretty good. They are also often of a steampunky variety.

The blog is labelled ‘Not Safe For Work’ mostly I suppose because of the occasional nude. Mostly, it’s pretty inspiring. As it aims to be.

Here is a link.

How I wrote Spinning the Compass

<a href="">Spinning the Compass by Tom Slatter</a>

Spinning the Compass is the title track from my first solo album. It’s another song that’s been very long in the making – the chorus has been hanging around in my head and on scraps of paper for years. The demo below, recorded for FAWM, was the first time I realised the thing and got some verses together.

The lyrics I won’t explain, except to mention that there is an oblique reference to the end of The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester in the verses. The structure of the song is mildly unusual, having two verse together near the beginning of the song and nowhere else. The basic structure of the song goes something like:

Intro Melody
Melody (But a longer version)
Guitar Solo
Melody (An even longer version)

Each time that instrumental melody comes back you get to hear some more of it – that was the idea anyway.

Musically, the time signatures are all over the place (well, there are three different ones anyway) and the harmony is mostly centred around the E Lydian scale. The title and one of the counter melodies near the end recall material earlier heard in Bad Dreams. The two songs are related in tone and I think are the centrepieces of the album, although other people have had their own ideas about that.

Here’s the demo:

Spinning the Compass Demo

And here are the lyrics:

Been spinning the compass again
Changing the rules while I was looking away
5 paths in the same dial

Like living in a world of your own
all the time shrinking till all the roads meet
white lines dashing past at speed
And up is left, east is west and no-one cares

Spinning the compass again
16 down isn’t making sense
cross purpose and silent days
Like living in a mind not your own
thinking thoughts you don’t understand
white lights shining in the dark

Do you get the feeling we’re running out time?
Have you heard the rumours of war planes in the skies?

With this spinning the end is surely nigh?
Do you get the feeling we’re running.

White lines dashing at speed the windows
They’ve been spinning this compass again.

Musings on the nature of Physicality as it applies to the Commercial Release of Recorded Musical Artforms

A Physical Thing, of a steampunky nature

How should a steampunk album be released? What would you like to get your hands on when buying a physical object? A boring old CD case or something a bit more interesting?

I’ve been reading a blog post on BLDGBLG about the fictional worlds of protocol architecture.

The idea of creating entire fictional worlds has long held a fascination for me (so much so that I have two manuscripts for awful fantasy novels sitting in cupboards, gathering dust) and the artefacts Protocol Architecture created – maps,photographs and notebooks -are a wonderful way of providing windows into those worlds.

This morning I wrote a song: The Miser’s Will II: What the Orderly saw. Here’s a rough demo:

What the Orderly Saw

It’s the second of what will be five narrative songs, and tells the story of the last moments of a hospital orderly who witnessed something he shouldn’t have seen and dies for it.

The first song is about a cartographer who meets a similar fate after following the bizarre instructions he recieves, scrawled onto one of his maps.

The Cartographer’s Tale

There’s a definite narrative here, and there’s the possibility of all sorts of artefacts existing to accompany the story – the map the cartographer recieved, the Miser’s Will itself, and objects the cartographer dug up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different ways I could represent my music – CD cases are a little boring after all, and more than a little old hat. There are wonderful steampunk USB cases out there, and more interesting things could be constructed to hold boring old CDs. At some point in the near future I’ll want to start making my music available in a physical format and given the narrative nature of so much of my music, it seems reasonable for it to explore some of these ideas.

After all, Steampunk people do seem to have a real affinity for beautiful things and well made physical objects and it seems appropriate to acknowledge that, even in music.

What do you reckon? Handmade copper CD cases, handmade leather bound CD booklets, maps and metal artefacts. Are those the things that should accompany a Steampunk CD?

I’m not sure yet, but I do know that boring old plastic CD cases are not on the cards.

How I Wrote ‘Home’

Home is a song I’ve had hanging around for rather a while. How long? Here’s a really rough ‘first time I’ve ever heard the thing’ run through with a college band. It was recorded in 2002. That’s how old it is.

Home (Demo)

There’s a violin on this that you can just about hear. Great violin player, but she was standing too far away from the little mini-disc recorder.

Oh, and isn’t it obvious how unprepared the drummer was? I think he was halfway through a residency with a Blues Brothers tribute and was completely dead to the world when attending college…

Anyway, the song itself is about missing the object of one’s affections because you’ve been away from home too long hunting big game from an airship.

Of course.

The lead parts  were improvised – I recorded plugged my guitar into my Sonuus G2M midi converter and recorded both original guitar sound and the midi signal through a synth patch. Lots of fun.

I was going for big pop chorus with quirky verses, and personally I think it achieved that. Still, although it gets listened to, Home appears to be the least popular song on Spinning the Compass.

At least I like it.

Leaving the earth was such a thrill
A ship of the sky, lighter that air
At hunting grounds we made our kills
Kings of the great game, on top of the sky

They say we’re took the long way
Say we’ll soon touch down
I don’t see that, I’ve only eyes for home.

Thrill of a lifetime but I’ve been away too long
What I would give, to touch the earth again

They say we took the long way
Say we’ll soon touch down
I don’t see that, I’ve only eyes for home

They say we’re coming home soon
They say the clouds are grey
I don’t see that, I’ve only eyes for home

And all the kills, all the trophies, all the game that we bought down
All the hides, all the skulls, all the savage beast we found
I would give them all, every one if it would bring you close to me
I’d chant your name like spell, reach for you just like a drowning man

They say we took the long way
They say the clouds are grey

They say we’re coming home soon
Say we’ll soon touch down
I don’t see that, I’ve only eyes for home

They say we took the long way
They say the clouds are grey
I don’t see that, I’ve only eyes for home

How I wrote ‘I Still Smile’

I Still Smile was written for FAWM 2008, a month in which I also finished the title track for Spinning the Compass.

In keeping with the themes from Mechanism, it’s about the difficulty of making genuine contact with others.

The lyrics are from the point of view of an inanimate metal and latex figure that the ‘You’ of the song has purchased as a companion.

Here’s the demo:-

I Still Smile (Demo)

I can’t deny the Radiohead influence on this one, particularly in the subject matter, but also in the composition – building up to a climax, in this case the pitch-shifted harmony vocals, is quite a Radioheadesque thing to do. The slow build-up of layers and the high pitched vocals are quite Radiohead as well I suppose.

Do I ever write anything original?

I have all the time you need
I have all you want
My arms are always here
To make you feel complete

Even when you’re crying, I still smile.

My face is fixed in a permanent grin
My latex skin never frowns
You bought me, to make you feel complete
And I’ll always be here

Even when you’re crying, I still smile.

And your last touch of real skin hurt too much.

But I have all the time you need
My love never dies

Image Copyright WebWizzard 2009

Structures of Glass

Structures of Glass

Structures of Glass is my contribution to The Big Calm (a collaborative piece written by members of Cafe Noodle).

It started life as a title borrowed from a post on BLDGBLOG that imagined:

vast turbulent structures of glass move through the global atmosphere, posing a dire threat to machinery and drifting across whole continents in a kind of low-intensity storm of aerosolized crystal… The speculative climatology of alien worlds.

I loved the notion, and tried to take inspiration by downloading a load of pretty glass pictures from flickr, renaming them WAV files, opening them up in an audio editor and seeing what weird noises I could get out of them.

Mostly I got static, but slowing it down enough and adding some effects produced some interesting sounds.

With that as a background I set to work with a few notes from D minor (Initially D E F A Bb). A brief sojourn into the relative major and the music was complete.

The lyrics of course are about something completely different. I’m not entirely sure what:

Had enough of floating crystals, want to smash them all to shards
Had enough of all your miracles, your shiny house cards
Couldn’t just for once a brighter light be shone into the sky
couldn’t just for once an ugly truth come along to wipe away your smile

Had enough of all this beauty, had enough of all this gold
had enough of all this freedom, the best parts already sold
Couldn’t just for once a brighter light be shone into the sky
couldn’t just for once an ugly truth come along to wipe away your smile

These structures of glass
Were dazzling me
A light from our past
A fixed geometry
But the slightest hammer blow
could take it all apart
The slightest hammer blow
Could take it all apart
These structures of glass

PS totally unrelated, by don’t forget to watch my Ustream gig Wednesday 2nd June 8pm BST (or later on the archive). Click Here!

Reginald Smith Brindle

One of the books that has inspired me in my composition is Reginald Smith Brindle’s stuffy, old fashioned, pompous tome ‘Musical Composition’.

I don’t mean that description as a criticism, merely a statement of fact – his written style is old fashioned, and his attitude to popular music, in the few brief passages where it is mentioned, is silly. But as a guide and inspiration to composition, it’s great. The opening chapters on melody in particular are really good, and I love his attitude to harmony.

He’s also a pretty mean classical guitar composer. Here’s a great rendition of his piece inspired by Lorca’s descriptions of the guitar: El Polifemo De Ora