Month: October 2011

Important: So long, Blighty

I’m no patriot – I hate the way people insist that their country is great just because they happened to be born there – but I love this country anyway. It’s been a good twenty years. For nearly 7300 days (not counting holidays abroad), I have lived in this country. And I’ve enjoyed it. Once you get past the niggling little annoyances that characterize and very much define the stereotypes of the British, it’s not a bad place.

Unfortunately, the recession (or, as it’s more alliteratively known over here, the “credit crunch”) has bitten down hard, and the fact that the new coalition government has produced piss-all to get us out of it is not helping. The conniving serpents in charge of us don’t appear to be concerned with the well-being of the public at all. But then that can be said of any government.

Weather is also another major factor in why the UK is typically represented in a negative light. We’re not torn asunder by hurricanes or tidal waves every few months, but the weather’s inconsistency and incompatibility with outdoor activities is what annoys us most. You can never pre-plan a barbecue because you never know when it might rain. Outings can end in disaster if the event in question is “weather-permitting”. And the bad weather that dominates 90% of the year forces us to stay indoors, where we rot like moldy bread – then, when the extreme weather conditions come along, we are totally ill-prepared for them. “Freak snowstorm!” “Heatwave!” “Flash floods!” They’re an annual and natural process, and yet they always take us totally by surprise. It’s a bit shit. (On top of being ridiculous.)

It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to get into universities over here. Too many people are applying, so you’re not guaranteed a place even if you have flawless A-level results and have like a hundred UCAS points or whatever the fuck the system we have in place is now. Tuition fees have soared, too. When the government said they were definitely going to go down. Thanks, Nick.

There are several other smaller factors that come into how the UK’s and my family’s position has just become gloomier and gloomier, which I won’t bore you with (I’d be here all week). But all in all, this country’s rapidly going down the shitter. And we’ve had enough.

It was tossed around as an idea a few years ago, but I think by that point it had already been decided. Now it’s reality.

Emmigration.

Having completed my A-levels a few months ago, I’ve been out of school, and the time on my own has meant that I’m just about getting used to the idea of emmigrating to another continent and starting afresh.

Now, in that time, I’ve come to realize something. It’s a sordid reality, and it’s one that a bitter person could view as something deliberately done to spite them, but I know this isn’t the case. I know that my parents have done everything in their power to make my life the absolute best it can be, but I still can’t help but feel a certain degree of remorse whenever I look back on this. My parents handle nearly everything to do with my life (I’m less of an independent adult than ideally I should be, I realize) and I am eternally grateful for their undying support.

That said, here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that with every major move the family makes, we end up an exponentially-increasing distance away from our previous location. When I finished junior school, I went off to a different secondary school to everyone else, because it was closer and (I think) got better grades… though I didn’t have a great time there, I’ll be honest. We then moved as a family to a different county, due to our house being replaced with a retirement flat (which we have recently discovered is not seeing the revenue it had initially hoped to)… and now we are emmigrating a total of nine thousand miles to another country entirely. I draw some reassurance from this, however – at least the pattern has to end here, because at the exponential rate of our distance-travelling, I estimate that our next move would be to Neptune. The pattern has still left me feeling a bit sorrowful, because I have realized that, as I’ve had to leave circle after circle of friends behind, there is never a true permanency to your relationship with any number of people you meet, no matter how close you are to them. I have one very good friend, one I’ve had since I was 7 – Charlotte – and we still keep in touch over Facebook. To keep up regular contact with her has been struggling as we have moved further away, and now direct visits will soon be completely out of the question once we’ve moved rock. We’ll still talk, but there’ll be an unignorable 9000-mile chasm between us that wasn’t there before.

So with our remaining time in this country becoming ever thinner, I’ve made it my mission to make the most of my time here. It’s about eight weeks. I won’t do anything mental like drink myself into a coma (after all, I don’t drink), and I won’t be quite as extravagant as terminally ill people who spend their last few days on this Earth swimming with dolphins, driving jetplanes, and telling their boss to fuck himself.

I’ve started off by having a look to see what kind of upcoming events are happening across this country that are worth attending – Symphony X, with support by DGM, are performing at one of two academies (which unfortunately are an hour-or-two’s train journey from my current location) here in Britain near the end of this month, and Ed Byrne, one of my favorite stand-up comedians, is going to be at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on 14th November (which is thankfully about a twenty minute drive). I will continue looking for worthwhile outings, with a view to making the next few weeks as memorable as possible.

My thinking is: Let’s not leave this country with a sigh of relief. Let’s leave it in floods of remorse. Let’s enjoy the time we have here to the absolute maximum degree. Let’s not take on the plane with us dismal, unhappy memories of the last twenty years (over twice that for my parents) that we’ve spent living on this small, wet, vaguely-guitar-shaped bit of rock. Let’s remember the happier times where we really pushed the boat out as vividly as possible. Bollocks to the weather, the economy and our inherent introversion. Let’s make our time left here worthwhile.

That’s enough words, so I’ll leave you with this short sentiment, and small-ish request:

Here I come, Australia.

Hit me with your upside-down hemisphere, your female prime minister, your big houses, your freakish wildlife, your 33ºC Januaries, your lovable casually racist humor, and daily barbecues.

As hard as you possibly can.

YouTube update 06/10/11

Only one video again this time. But check it out anyway. 😉 Did it in about 2-3 hours.

This track uses three separate time signatures – 4/4, 5/8 and 3/4. Hopefully it also sounds a bit different to my usual stuff. It was pointed out to me recently that a lot of my music sounds awfully similar. I hope this new track breaks the mold somewhat.

“Geometry”

I know so little

I do think from time to time that I don’t know everything about music.

And if that sentence makes me sound like the rest of the time that I think I do know everything I could possibly know about this great medium, then you’re sorrily mistaken. The rest of the time I’m thinking nothing, because I’m one of those people who is perfectly capable of complete and total mental vacancy. A man, basically.

The fact is, I operate by what I know, and I make it my mission to know anything else that I feel would be useful. Every waking moment I spend with an inkling of a thought, however meagre or subconscious, that I must obtain knowledge. Because god knows there’s a lot I don’t know. He knows very well what I don’t know, but unfortunately I don’t know half what I don’t know, and half of what I know I don’t know where I know from, which I guess is okay because if I knew where I knew half of what I know from, I’d only be able to know half as much.

Sorry, went off on one there.

The problem I have is that I’d like to know how to, for example: sing well, properly play the piano/keyboard, write instant hits. The thing in common with each of those is that I’ve taught myself everything I currently know about them. I’ve had no formal tuition, or learned from books, or flung money at intensive courses to try and hone my skills quicker. I’ve essentially home-schooled myself in each of these regards – a process that, while it has certainly reaped its benefits, also has its limitations. I can think of three right off the bat: (1) it invariably takes longer, (2) it devours a lot more of my energy and focus, and (3) I only acquire the knowledge through one viewpoint – my own. That last point probably plays a vital part in why my brother yells at me for being a lousy teacher.

Certainly I’d like to take up piano lessons at some point, even if it’s starting from the basics again. I’d like to see how well my current knowledge in playing the piano, and the ways I’ve learnt it, tie in (or indeed conflict) with the ways I’ll get taught it. I’ll be able to see the piano, and maybe even the music, through the eyes of someone who is more adept at the subject than I.

It often pains me to realize how much I don’t know. Not being able to sing or play the piano to a satisfying degree are what get to me the most. I’ve been learning these things myself for a number of years now, and with both, I’ve hit stumbling blocks. Singing requires a degree of bodily discipline like throat exercise and a reasonable diet, which I’ve foolishly not been undertaking through my self-styled teachings of singing. Piano-playing requires a considerable amount of dexterity and self-control, and my current methods do seem to be inadequate when it comes to playing certain things. As in, I can’t play some of my own stuff.

As a perfectionist, it seems to me that if I’m going to be good at something, I need to be really good – enough for it to be officially recognised. And I really hope that, in the same way that I learned English Language/Literature, Music Technology, and Drama and Theatre Studies through an actual academic system and received decent passing grades and certificates for completing them, soon I will receive official confirmation that I am at least competent in piano-playing.

YouTube update 03/10/11

Yay!

Just one video this time, but it’s without doubt one of my best yet – at 6:21, it’s definitely my longest ever, beating Built to Kill by 21 seconds.

(Yes, the actual song is 6:21. The video is 6:23 but those are two extra seconds of silence, basically.)

Also, strictly speaking, this is the one hundredth song that I’ve uploaded to my YouTube channel! So that’s awesome. 😀

“Conductor”

This post makes me sound old but I’m actually young

I was born in the 90’s. As such, I sort of feel regret at not having heard all the great bands of the decades preceding that time period. I don’t listen to enough music from those days gone by. I’ve always liked Black Sabbath (formed in 1968) and Queen (1971), and lately I’ve really taken a shine to Metallica’s albums Ride the Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986), two of the greatest thrash metal albums to exist, even today – though I do wish from time to time that I’d been around while those bands were still in their infancy, and still climbing the stairway to super-stardom. Experienced the freshness of their ground-breaking sound. Attended their gigs. Watched them rise gradually to the top, like the Brazils in a bowl of nuts, in that way that science doesn’t quite understand.

The internet and its various websites have sure made music distribution and acquisition a whole lot easier (and more illegal, in some cases), so I’m perfectly able to look up any band from times gone by and, wherever possible, sample their work for myself (in the sense of “taste test”, not “rip bits from their songs and claim them as my own”). Yet, despite the fact that their music is undeniably brilliant and utterly timeless, I still get a somewhat jaded listening experience – it often fills me with a kind of “We’ve moved on from this” and “They don’t make it like this any more” gut feeling.

What I’m asking is: Have we peaked?

If I’d listened to these bands back when they were first releasing this material (please suspend your disbelief here, I wasn’t born then, and even if I was, the global music scene was a far cry from what it is now so I would’ve invariably listened to completely different bands now – but just imagine that my tastes insofar as rock and metal remained pretty much the same), my train of thought would most likely have been along the lines of “Wow, is this where music is headed? I like it! I want more!”. I mean, it was pretty clear at the time that acts like Black Sabbath, with their satanic lyrics, the unmistakeable haunting sound of Tony Iommi’s guitar tone, and stellar riffs, where going to explode in popularity over the coming years/decades, and I wish I’d been around back then to enjoy it while it lasted.

Fast forward several years… Now that experimentation and brand new innovations in the music production business have made music evolve into something so much more varied, the ability to create unique and endlessly-interesting soundscapes has become easier than falling off a log in zero-gravity. It means that music has so many different possible sounds now, that it’s getting harder and harder to find a formula that works as well as, say, Metallica did at the time.

Most new innovations in style and genre involve taking an existing genre of music, and slowing it down/speeding it up by a few bpm. It’s nowhere near the same.

To say that all music is unoriginal would be a blanket statement and an utterly retarded thing to say. It’s a constantly changing thing, so there will be evolutions and mutations. But while there are certainly many bands out there that do have a lovably unique sound all to their own, I do get the feeling that we won’t be seeing another Black Sabbath or Metallica – a band with a sound so unconventional and freakish that it literally dominates the world and changes the face of music development forever – any time soon.

Which is why I’m sticking with you, Muse.

Cake or pie?

Uh… okay. WordPress gave me a bunch of suggestions as to what my next post should be, and this was one of them. Yep.

Obviously nothing I say could be as funny or insightful as this response to this age-old question.

So I’ll keep it brief – for me, it’s pie.

But ice cream is also good.

Harmony MIDI Pack now on /idgames

The Harmony MIDI Pack which I updated a while ago has now been approved on the /idgames archive, meaning that its release has basically been finalized.

It took about three days after uploading for it to be approved, and to be honest I was wondering if it would be, since I went against a couple of the upload rules – e.g. the file names of the MIDIs aren’t restricted to eight characters (a DOS-era convention which /idgames still adheres to).

For those unaware, /idgames is a database of files and add-ons for all things Doom. The game Harmony is based off of Doom, and it’s a damn fine creation – make sure you give it a whirl. Run my MIDI pack by dragging the .wad file onto the exe.

Get the MIDI Pack via /idgames here.