Category: University

Year 4 Semester 1 Portfolio

This portfolio is a summary of the first semester of my final year at ECU/WAAPA.

This semester has been unusually tricky for me, not with regard to the tasks at hand particularly, but with regard to summoning the willpower and creativity needed for both assignments and miscellaneous work, and deadlines have been more or less the sole motivator during a time where for one reason or another, I have found it difficult to stay stimulated and energetic. Occasional onsets of back pain have not helped my mood, nor have technical issues that have prevented me from utilising the software most familiar to me (Cakewalk Express) that I have traditionally used for the last 10+ years to write my music.

All these frustrating mental and physical limitations accounted for, I believe I am still improving certain skills such as my ability to write sheet music, a skill that will prove useful later this year with the arrival of my recital. I have branched out into new harmonic territory, studied the work of numerous composers, and due to the technical issues have not been working in the constrictive paradigm of General MIDI so that I may create pieces entirely in a modern guise of composition. (Nonetheless I have included in this folio two General MIDI-centred projects that I worked on during the break between this semester and the last.)

[Google Drive folder]
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“Realisations EP” released!

I have released a new 4-track mini-EP for free streaming and download on SoundCloud. Check it out below:

Labelled under the genre of “Instrumental Rock”, this EP features three tracks that are upbeat and diverse, featuring pretty traditional rock instrumentation. Written mostly with assorted keyboard parts front and center, they are relatively simple compositions, and the whole thing shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes of your time to listen to, but the individual pieces very much have my heart and soul in them, each one encompassing a “realisation” of my potential as a music producer and creator – potential that may have yet to be fully unleashed, as my studies of music are still ongoing as of this writing, but all the same I feel are worthy of sharing with the world.

This EP was produced throughout the second semester of my third year at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, as part of my “Sound Production” unit. With the support of lecturer Lee Buddle, and that of family and friends, I was able to put this instrumental EP together in a relatively short span of time, as well as complete the mixing and mastering more or less on my own. I pulled most of this off in about 2 weeks, am relatively happy with the result, as I largely had to explore territory that I wasn’t familiar with, and planning for my recital also got in the way for the majority of the time I had to put this together. If I’d had more time to spend on the mastering phase, I would have done so.

These will be songs that no one has heard before, although they are a few years old now. They started life in the form of General MIDI songs which I then souped up with Propellerhead Reason and the help of my father Neil and his friend Steve – both play guitar on this album in tracks 1 and 3. This is, in other words, the first official release I’ve made to feature live recorded instruments, aside from the human voice.

Read below for details on the EP.

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Upcoming Music: My third-year recital!

It’s probably time I used this website to promote what I’m doing in the real world of music. Let’s give this a go:

I have a recital coming up! It’s the culmination of the last three years of studying Composition and Music Technology at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). I still have another year to go, but this 20-minute recital is essentially a warm-up for my full graduation recital.

Still this thing has taken a lot of planning and forethought and it’s happening in the next 2 weeks. Come along to the WAAPA Music Auditorium on Saturday 29th October at 8:20PM, where I’ll be performing live music, showcasing my compositional growth, and showing gameplay footage of The Adventures of Square for anyone who hasn’t seen that yet. Yes, I’ll be working my silly game project into a musical performance, with the help of a live percussion ensemble.

As the promo poster says, BE THERE AND BE SQUARE!


Year 3 Semester 1 Portfolio

My first semester of my third year – this being the fifth semester overall – is now over. It’s been oddly “easy-going”, but still highly challenging. There’s a sense that I have possibly not undertaken as much as I could have done this time around, that I’ve done a certain amount less composition in terms of my studies than previous semesters. I have still been constantly at work, it seems, although quite frankly it has all flown by. Though I have much to talk about, this portfolio still feels a little lacklustre in terms of specially prepared musical content. Many miscellaneous projects have been conducted in the meantime, however.

Nevertheless, here’s downloads to everything I’ve done over this last semester:

[Google Drive folder]

Hit the button below for the full folio.

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Twenty Sixteen

Hello all, I figured it’d be time to give you a bit of an update post, since I promised one roughly a year ago. 🙁

I do apologise for not actually uploading anything to YouTube like I said I would. I don’t know where this year went, honestly. Certainly it was a long, long ride, but at the same time, my god is it really over already?

I figure I’ll get down to basics: The last two years have certainly been eventful. I have been accepted into a prestigious university, made amazing friends, lived alone, travelled back to Britain, and for the first time in a long time I’ve had to discipline myself quite severely. I have also written a metric ton of music, which I’ll be writing about later.

For now I’ll talk about the educational side of things. For those not aware, I am currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Composition and Music Technology at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. Where to begin with it. I guess at the beginning? I can try that.

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Album review: Marconi Union’s “Weightless (Ambient Transmissions Vol. 2)”

I admit that I’m not as into electronic music as I let on, but occasionally something comes along that I just have to investigate. The main track on this record achieved mainstream headlines last year praising its incomparable tranquility. This whole album is, to me, not just listening to high-quality, meticulously-crafted music – it’s a mood and mind modifier, an entry into a different plane, a way of making myself and the world around me alterable at my leisure. I can sense my body loosening itself, as if physically affected by some foreign substance – morphing, visiting another state, being washed clean of the dirt of doubt and dredged-up memories. This record has got me through some remarkably stressful or uncertain situations.

All technically one piece, the album is divided into six movements which each offer a different flavour of personality and mood, but all of which indubitably assist in the erasure of unpleasant feelings and the bringing of lasting peace.

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Year 2 Semester 1 Portfolio!

This has been a hectic, often stressful, but nonetheless rewarding and exceptionally productive year for me so far. I’m continuously taking my music and other creations to new levels – elsewhere in the world, even – and have been putting my name and brand out as much as possible – certainly the Personal Management Skills lectures I attended have helped me become mindful of that.

Here’s downloads to everything I’ve done over this last semester:

Google Drive folder

Hit the button below for the full folio.

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My compositional process

Thought I’d write up a personal analysis of my composition process. It’s one that has changed and adapted over the years, but it’s in a fairly solid state now, to the point where I can break it up into simple steps.

  1. Mood. I need to feel creative first and foremost – otherwise nothing happens. I am at my most creative when I’m isolated or in a quiet area and have time to think for myself. I cannot be stressed, that slows the process down to a crawl or halts it entirely. Even when I don’t have much else to do, I seem to remain thoughtful and introspective, and it’s at these times of relative calm that my creativity begins flowing and I feel like writing something to get my thoughts out there in some shape or form.
  2. Stimulus. Once I’m in a creative mood, I will search for a germ of an idea. A set of feelings that I want to explore. An event that happened in my life or somebody else’s. All I often need is a word or two, which usually boils down to an adjective and noun (such as “crushed hope“). Or if there’s a particularly cool word I’ve heard recently (such as “Petrichor” or “Kugelblitz” – thanks vSauce :P), I will base the theme of the piece around just that word and what sort of things it conjures up in my mind.
  3. Ideas. This is usually done on paper before. Not a score sheet, though. I scribble down very basic and possibly indecipherable lines, symbols and words onto a spiral notepad, letting my ideas come out in the way that my brain feels most comfortable with. This is almost stream-of-consciousness, but I do need to consciously ensure to notate all the musical ideas in a format that I myself can understand.
  4. Key. I always work within a key, so I decide what that’s going to be almost immediately, within step 3, although sometimes I might only have a tonal structure of melody in mind, and then search for the ideal key to put in based on which sounds best for the feeling I want to evoke with the piece. 99% of the time, I pick a minor key, but my favorite minor keys to work in are E and F. Not really sure why. For me, A minor feels a little cheap by missing out all the black notes and making chromaticism feel jarring. B minor kind of feels a bit awkward to work in due to the actual pitch of the notes (it can be hard to pitch low guitars or basses in this key) and D minor is a key I just hear everywhere, although it’s fun to work with. The rest of the minor keys (including all the sharps) are usually fine.
  5. Realizing. This is when I actually start to put the music together. I open up my editor of choice, Cakewalk Express 3.02 (which is an old, old, old version of the Cakewalk software still around today – it was originally distributed on 3½ floppies!) and begin writing. I start out with what I consider to be the main melody of the piece, whether it makes up the opening verse, the chorus, or the middle section, and start building the full piece around it.
  6. Structuring. Regardless of whether it’s a vocal melody or not (and it usually isn’t), the main melody is usually the centre of what I will call the “chorus” of the piece, and I will usually repeat that section three to four times to flesh it out nicely and ensure there’s something that sticks in the listener’s head. I then break it up with some new melodies to create segments that build and develop between the choruses. There are nearly always three tracks being played at once. I add accompaniments and counterpoints as I see fit. Underlying chords are frequently done with synth strings or choir, or sometimes piano. I listen back to the track many times as I write, to get further ideas, or to see if any interesting harmonies (either on the lead instrument or the chord structure) leap out at me, which they often do. I almost always add a key change to the end of the song to bring a distinct sense of change before its completion.
  7. Finalising. The track is done! Or so I claim. Usually I have to give it a really good listen several times over before I decide I don’t wish to do any more to it. If I’ve been working solidly on the piece, I usually end up a little burnt out so I come back to the track the next day after a sleep, and it’s then that I start picking out errors I made which I didn’t spot before, like a bass that doesn’t match a melody or a snare drum which is a 32nd note out of place. This part of my compositional process also involves tweaking parts of the drumbeat to keep the track varied in terms of percussion, although in some cases I’ve been known to put all the key melodies down first, and leave the bass, or even drums, until very last (as I did with “Handle With Care”).

You can have a look on my YouTube channel, to which I’ve uploaded a few videos of me actually composing and working on various projects for friends of mine. They are all related to tracks I’m finishing, however, so there are sadly no videos that talk through the whole of the creative process yet, but I think I will do something like that in the near future.