May 172013
Raman Bah Tuin

Raman Bah Tuin playing nose flute

While in Malaysia in 2012 I visited Raman Bah Tuin, a member of the Semai people, and I made several recordings of him playing a nose flute (pensol).  The few hours I spent with him were among the most interesting of my month-long trip.

Before I set off on my travels I had contacted Reita Rahim, the co-ordinator of a voluntary organisation called Gerai OA.  Gerai OA helps Malaysia’s indigenous people (Orang Asli) sell their handicrafts.  In Kuala Lumpur I met Reita and visited the Gerai OA storeroom.  Reita put me in touch with a craftsman by the name of Raman Bah Tuin, who she said lived in a Semai village not too far from Kuala Lumpur.  So I gave him a call and arranged to visit him.  In the short time I spent with Raman and his family he told me a number of things about life in the jungle, including which plants could be used for culinary or medicinal purposes.  The main purpose of my visit, however, was to learn how to play the nose flute, and to record him playing a few tunes himself.

There is an art to playing the pensol which I have to admit I struggled with, although I did manage it eventually.  Part of my problem is the shape of my nose.  As you might be able to tell from the photo of Raman here, Orang Asli nostrils are wider than those of an average Anglo Saxon.  This is actually a crucial feature in being an accomplished nose flute player.  Thus I had to expel quite a lot of air to make a sound, meaning I would probably pass out before getting even half way through any tune I attempted to play in full.

I made several recordings of Raman Bah Tuin playing his pensol, although I had an unfortunate problem with the Minidisc which resulted in a few drop-outs in the recordings, and some are incomplete.  For any future trips I intend to use a more modern method of recording.  Three of these recordings have ended up sounding pretty good though.  The first tune Raman Bah Tuin played was called Chenloi.  This tune is preceded by an introduction from Raman:

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Apr 302013

One of the (numerous) highlights of the 2013 Bradford International Film Festival was Adam Buxton’s Best of BUG show. In the Pictureville cinema he screened music videos from recent years that he thinks are of particular merit.   I was familiar with heard several of the tunes, but had never seen the videos.  This is not uncommon as I don’t always get to see music videos.  It was a real eye-opener to see what amazing pieces of art have been created, such as recent videos by  Yeah Yeah YeahsBonobo and this by Shogu Tokumaru:

Adam Buxton didn’t discuss the evolution of the music video during his show, although I thought he might. This is something I think about quite a lot, and I don’t necessarily mean the evolution of the videos themselves, but more our relationship with them.  When I was about 15 I would eagerly await every third edition of The Chart Show on ITV on Saturday morning to see if I might catch a video by one of my favourite bands in the show’s Indie Top 10.  TV programmes like that were the only way for people like myself to see music videos.  I never had MTV, and there was no Internet.  So, unless something was a hit, and could have its video shown on Top Of The Pops, there were few opportunities for people like myself to see them.

Videos on demand – 1990s style

In the mid 1990s things started to change, although rather slowly at first.  I remember seeing the video to Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly‘ on a CD-ROM in 1995 and being totally blown away.  Not by the song or the video, I must admit, but by the concept and what it heralded. “A video…?!  On a CD…?!  WOW!” thought I.  It was one step away from a hovering skateboard as far as I was concerned.

Music videos on demand 1996-style: My very own Radiohead compilation video, sent to me by Parlophone

In 1996, while at university in Salford, I did an assignment analysing music videos.  I wanted to base my project on 3 Radiohead videos: Fake Plastic Trees, Street Spirit and Just.  The trouble was, none of these videos were available in any way, unless you were able to tape them off the TV.  (It wasn’t until 1998, and the release of 7 Television Commercials that these Radiohead videos could be watched ‘on demand’).  So, I wrote to Parlophone in 1996 to entreat them for help. To my amazement, within a couple of weeks, they had posted me my very own Radiohead videotape.

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Mar 292013

This is a tune that pre-dates my 11xEleven album.  I’ve still not got round to revisiting, and finishing, this but I thought I’d put it out there for you to hear.  I’m quite pleased with the nucleus of the idea, even though there is still some way to go before it is finished.

This version of the tune was used in a feature on South Leeds Community Radio in 2011.  I did actually start work on a vocal version, using a vocoder, and I have yet to decide whether to keep it purely instrumental or put a vocal on it.

Any thoughts?

Nov 112011

To celebrate the micro-occasion of 11:11:11 11/11/11 on 11th November 2011 I have produced an album of eleven 11-second tunes. The total length of the album is just 2 minutes and 1 second, meaning the whole thing would probably take less time to listen to than it’s taking you to read about it. Is this the shortest album ever released? Hopefully.

11xEleven art

I’ve been planning this album for ages (some may say too long), and I’m really excited to have finally been able to release it. There are a variety of musical references to the number 11 in these tunes. Some are obvious, some are less so, but it would probably spoil it a bit if I spelt them all out. The album is available to download now from Included with the album download are 11 of my photos, and a short 11-chapter story by Sally Cooper.

Videos have also been made to accompany each of the 11 tunes. I’m grateful to the friends who gave their time to help put these together. I’m amazed by what has been created. All 11 videos can be seen in this Vimeo album (as shown below) or this Youtube playlist.

So, that’s it then. After all those months of waiting, the moment itself was over in, well… a second. I hope you enjoy listening to the music as much as I enjoyed making it.

Next up for me is the release of the new Wilful Missing album, Molehills out of Mountains. That’s been in the making even longer than 11xEleven, will take 20 times as long to listen to, and it will be out very…very soon.

Oct 222011
10-11 convenience store

10-11 convenience store in Reykjavik

It’s just a few weeks now until I unleash my next musical project, eleven 11-second tunes.  More on why I’m doing this soon, but for now, I’d like to know if you would like to contribute a photo to one of the videos for this project.

One of the videos (which will be 11 seconds long, of course) will comprise as many photos of 11 as I am sent.  So, if you can send me a photo with an eleven in it, I’ll include it in the video.  Simple as that really.

If you can send your photo of 11 to by 31st October 2011, I’ll include it in the video.  The one of mine here will be in it too.

Jul 092011

The first of my music I’m releasing here is a couplet of songs recorded over the past few years: The Honey Dance and No Subject.

Here’s a bit about each song:

The Honey Dance / No Subject artworkThe Honey Dance

This is a song that stems from a tune that came to me in a dream. I rolled over in my half-sleep and sang the melody into my mobile phone so I wouldn’t forget it. I’m glad I did so, because it turned into one of the songs I’m most proud to have written.

You could say that I started recording this song back in 2002, as that is when I recorded the insect noises, at a beautiful, peaceful temple, just outside Chiang Mai, in Thailand.

No Subject

This is the song that re-ignited my desire to write and record my own material again, after a bit of a break.

I wasn’t 100% sure where I was taking it musically when I started, although I had the lyrical theme pretty much sorted. However, it got to a point where I just thought “You know what, I reckon that’s finished, that is” and left it as it was. I’m pleased I did so, because it could have got over-egged if I’d spent more time on it.

The drawing that accompanies this song was done by Caroline Main, and the logo designed by Tilt Araiza.