Welcome to IAAY number ten!

This week it's all about Australian guitarist Lincoln Brady, someone who not only performs other people's work (and pushes the boundaries of the classical repertoire off the edge of the planet), but also composes his own work. As a guitarist myself, I take my hat off to anyone who does both.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It’s All About Lincoln Brady
It’s All About Jan Freidlin

Hello, my name is Lincoln Brady and I am a classical guitarist living and working in Adelaide, South Australia. I’d like to talk about several artistic projects I’ve been involved with over the past four years.

During this time I’ve worked with the excellent Russian-born,Israeli composer - Jan Freidlin - premiering several of his new compositions for guitar:

Freidlin is a very prolific composer with a very poetic but accessible style. The above compositions are very different in terms of emotional content revealing a broad-ranging imagination and a great technical proficiency.

’Moon Triptych’ is kind of ‘serenade’ to the moon but with a deeply ‘existential’ feel. ‘TangO’ Clock’ is a musical description of ‘a day in the life of a tango dance teacher’, as revealed in the titles of the 5 movements: ‘Entrada at Sunrise’, ‘Morning Milonga’, ‘Tanghitta at Noon’, ‘Evening Tango-Vals’, and ‘Final at Night’.

“Five Venetian Glass Poems” is yet another contrasting piece – a meditation on the special poetry of the amazing glass-Art exhibits of Venice. The video clip of this suite is hosted on the website of the "Murano  Museo del Vetro” (a museum in Venice).

Each of my interpretations of these pieces appear on Youtube with exquisite picture sequences organised by the composer himself.

Last year, at my request, Freidlin generously composed and dedicated a piece for my guitar & flute duo (DUO ORFEO) called “Delphic Music Games in Three Events” for guitar & flute  & woodblocks - it was premiered at the Adelaide International Guitar Festival on 9th August, 2012.

It’s All About Me

This year I’ve also resumed writing a composition project of my own – “Six Preludios” for solo guitar. They are written in a mainly traditional and romantic style. Although they have fairly formal musical structures they have a ‘personal’  tone – written more for pleasure  rather than attempting to make a big statement. I gave them Italian titles which just seemed appropriate and which alluded to classical music tradition:

‘Preludio Misterioso’ is probably the best one and it is my favourite. This piece uses a rapid right hand arpeggio technique which is used in many classical guitar compositions.

It was inspired by a piece by the American progressive- Rock band ‘Spastic Ink’ which only uses two pitches and lasts for an amazing four minutes! This technique is also used in classical music composition.

It’s called ‘Limited Pitch Class Set’ - the composer restricts himself to a small selection of pitches forcing himself to rely on other musical parameters such as rhythm, harmony, tone colour to create interest. My piece, though, employs five pitches, two chords, and lasts only two minutes!

You can find links to more of Lincoln's performances of pieces by other composers on his website.

Welcome to IAAY number seven!

This week it's all about Australian writer, calligrapher, artist and, as if that wasn't enough, Olympic cycle trainer, Graham McArthur. Oh yes, did I mention he plays the guitar a bit too and released three music CDs ?

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Graham McArthur
It’s all about My Father
I grew up surrounded by letters. Lettering was everywhere inside and outside the house. My father was a sign writer and calligrapher although he never used the label. He worked from home and there were large signs in the driveway and in the ‘shed’ where he spent most of his time. Small stuff was made inside wherever there was room. Works on paper, wood panels, scrolls, plaques, heraldry, photo mounts etc were stacked against the walls and on chairs and any available flat surface including the floor. The dinning room became his inside studio for 360 days of year (it only functioned as a dining room at Christmas). As a small pre-school boy this is the room I spent most of each day in.

I can not remember a time I did not draw. For obvious reasons most of my drawings contained letters. My father thought that if I was drawing letters, I should draw them correctly. From the age of five and before I learnt to read, he had me drawing Roman Capitals in pencil on a daily basis (up to about age 11-12). My love of letters has never lessened.

It was many, many years later that learnt to appreciate just how much he taught me and how skilled he really was. I still have a few leaves of gold leaf from those early years of learning to brush letter and gild on glass, wood and leather all before I learnt to read.

Unfortunately nothing has survived except 2-3 leaves of gold. I can only imagine how bad those early letters were, but the memories are what is important and much more precious than any physical reminders.

It’s All About Me
I left art school early to pursue a career in fine art. After an inaugural sell out exhibition I spent a few years painting portraits and landscapes. This drove me insane and so I turned to commercial illustration eventually working as an illustrator and typographer for a printing and publishing house during the early 1970’s. By the mid 70’s I was freelancing and have been freelancing ever since. 

Three years ago I accepted a full time job offer and have pulled back from illustration somewhat. Today my interests and work is varied and broad. I still love letters and lettering, calligraphy and type design. These precious things will never leave me. I still love to draw and paint and have learnt late in life to appreciate abstract art and all its singular challenges. I now understand just how important my often tedious and repetitious classical training in drawing, painting and lettering is in creating a sound foundation from which one can have the freedom of choice in pursuit of experimentation and discovering the new. Without that training you have little to nothing from which to stand on or leave behind.

I made my first guitar in circa 1990 because I could afford to buy a good instrument. Its is a terrible instrument but it taught me much. Ten years after that my guitar workshop became my daughter’s bedroom and guitar making was transferred to the shed where it remains with an ever growing hunger to re-establish warmer and more pleasant surroundings befitting its stature and importance to my life. Of course I play terribly and one should always wear ear muffs when I am near an instrument.

Music is of course extremely important to me and is a big part in my daily life. A recently developed passion for electronic soundscapes and experimental music genres has almost become an obsession, well OK, I will admit it is an obsession. 

Sorry can’t help it. My third CD was thrown at the world a few days ago.

When not following the above distractions I find a strange comfort it reading and writing. My fantasy novel ‘Mironmure’, which began life some 15-20 years ago is as stagnant as always, but not forgotten. I am still working on it - honest. The other novel is going much better and I am hopeful it will be finish with in the next 12 months. This time I have taken to crime with the aid of a rather socially inept and reclusive artist who has become very pissed off and annoyed at a certain individual who steals artworks and kills people. Can’t say any more on that. 

I must not leave without mentioning the bike, its always about the bike. Cycling is in my blood and its a sport I love dearly. Three athletes I introduced to the sport and coached in their formative years are riding for Australia in the Olympics. I am very excited about that.

You can find out more about Graham at the following:
 * All art work (C) Graham McArthur

Welcome to IAAY number five!

This week it's all about Australian composer and guitarist Simon Imagin, whose skills at both have to be heard to be believed - fortunately you can do that by following the links below. And if you happen to find yourself in Melbourne, make sure you get to see him live - I know I will.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Simon Imagin
It’s all about JS Bach
JS Bach's music has been a huge inspiration for me as a composer, musician and person. 

I first discovered Bach as a teenager studying classical piano. I had no time for the pomp and circumstance of the classical world - I just needed to know how people like Bach accessed the music which seemed to flow through them in rivers of intertwining melodies. 

Music filled my head but seemed stuck there for the time.

I was learning Bach's 2 & 3-Part Inventions and was comparing various recordings to show me different approaches. Most were performed efficiently but said very little to me. Then I heard Glenn Gould's versions.

Not only did he have a total technique and understanding of the music, but this eccentric Canadian was allowing the music to take him over. Everything was coming out of the moment that both Bach and Gould had found themselves in.

Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is the one I visit the most. Amazingly a film was made of it.

It’s All About Me
Now, although I am not anywhere near either man in skill, as a composer I had a small Bach/Gould experience in 2009 when I experimented with writing music in one sitting - virtually slow-motion improvisation. Bach often gives me the feeling where he is just as interested where the piece will lead as any listener so I decided to follow my inner ear with an open mind and see what I could come up with.

I started by inventing a short and simple melodic fragment that lasted a bar or two - just a few notes that suggested a rhythm. I wrote out the logical extension of that line until I had a nice musical statement that went for 4, 6 or perhaps 8 bars. Next I added a supportive bass melody and maybe a third inner line. If anything didn't quite sound right I erased and rewrote but I was always moving forwards and working steadily one bar at a time and not letting my attention wander too far.

When I found that I had a cohesive chunk of music (or "A part") I continued with writing a complementary (or completely different) "B" and "C" part using the same procedure. I also came up with an intro and outro to bookend the piece. The process wasn't far from that 'kindergarten feeling' of making something with the objects at hand. At the end of the session I had a two page composition and left it on the table. The next day I played through it and was amazed at it's originality. 

How did I write that? 

Not allowing myself to feel too smug I wrote 'piece two' and each night or so I added another until I had completed 36 complex pieces in the space of 60 days. Some nights I felt more tired but that seemed to help the music to come out more easily as I wasn't questioning the process. With a few small revisions these were arranged into six suites of six pieces each and they now form the bulk of my setlist. It amazes me how many simple moments added together can lead to such richness.

The notes are out there for us all I believe and we can catch them in our butterfly nets if we keep an open ear and are patient. Here are simple run-throughs of pieces 2 and 20.

You can contact Simone via his email address: simonimagin at gmail dot com

The Light Turns On
Following on from my last blog about the horror of writing, you'll be relieved to know I've fought the demon and overcome it. I've realised and accepted that words do not necessarily flow out but sometimes have to be chiselled out of the page, or your brain depending on your POV.

But I like the flow, am addicted to it. The ability to pour out word upon word is a great pleasure to me. I like the idea of them all appearing out of nowhere, leaping from my imagination onto the page, turning the page from a wilderness into a world that people can discover and get lost in.

Yes, I accept that many of them may have to be eliminated and expunged, but no to controlling the flow – allowing everything to appear without judgment or editing is one of my favourite parts of writing. I also enjoy editing and bashing badly-worded idea into shape, so it's a win-win situation really. A situation made when better when you find a whole string of words that are already beautiful and need no changing.

Doing Something Else
My route around the pain of the slow writing is to write something else instead. It doesn't have to be much. A blog update, a postcard to a friend, a few more words on a totally unrelated story. This might sound like a distraction, and it is, but it clears the log-jam and allows me to come back to the main writing ten minutes later refreshed and able to carry on. And it's an alternative to staring out of the window.

Another distraction activity I have is the guitar, this not only totally changes everything that I'm thinking about; it also gives me some much-needed practise. You can judge for yourself how badly that is needed by watching this video of me playing with my old band about a year ago. I'm the gentleman with the orange beard.

Multi-choice Writing
I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I am usually have at least three writing projects on the go at the same time, plus my regular Specter column and everything that gets crammed into my poetry notebook. My main writing task is Novel 2, followed by an autobiographical outpouring about childhood (written to preserve memory), after that come random entries to various story ideas I have for Novel 3. Lastly there's any competition entries, for example the one being run by Peirene Press.

Does anyone else do this? If so, what and why?