Two Releases Spring 2016

You might be thinking that I’m showing favoritism by once again announcing a release by UK artist Dave Migman. It’s certainly true that I like his work and would love to enlarge his audience. It’s also true that he’s relatively prolific. While most of us seem to be running our children around town or getting sucked into another season of some television show or other (now that we can stream whole seasons over a weekend, why bother with anything else?) he’s busy making stuff. Not that artists don’t deserve a little relaxation and a chance to fill themself with the mental equivalent of a Twinkie but, really, we’re usually happier making stuff.

Dave Migman - Learning How To Live And Die - Learning How To Live And Die 3

A drawing from Learning How to Live and Die. Copyright Dave Migman.

Migman’s most recent release on Bandcamp, Learning How to Live and Die, has many of his delightful drawings. His writing, as always, is visceral, blood and sinews, corporeal, tangible, and in-your-face outraged. That is, he’ll probably offend your finer sensibilities and get himself thrown out of any polite discussion of office politics. The sounds here, behind the words, are spartan, especially compared to his last release iPadded Cell, and, as always, help build a sense of immediacy and intensity.

Another drawing from Learning How to Live and Die. Copyright Dave Migman.

Another drawing from Learning How to Live and Die. Copyright Dave Migman.

According to the notes on Bandcamp’s page, these works were originally “dogcasts” written and performed in 2012 for Doghorn publishing. Then, “This version has been re-edited, scooped and hollowed and then pumped with reinforced concrete. Some readings are recent, others old. It recounts a journey through Greece back in 2007 and much was written under the influence of Grecian Village white wine, while staring at the gathering dusk.”

A third drawing from Learning to Live and Die. Copyright Dave Migman.

A third drawing from Learning to Live and Die. Copyright Dave Migman.

I hope you have the time and money to venture over to Bandcamp to buy all his recordings. (I think all his downloads are name-your-price.)

Also available at Bandcamp is my own collection, 20 Years Frozen for
All Time, with selections spanning 1996-2016. Compared to my previous retrospective collection, 15 Years of Prattle and Din, this one better represents my earlier, pre-computer years of recording.  It is a 2-disc collection (though it downloads as a single stream of twenty-one compositions) lasting over 2 1/2 hours. It’s hard to do anything else while listening to any kind of spoken word, so this could be quite a chore to listen to. The collection includes a 72-page booklet, both in standard PDF and in a printable version (set out in 12-page signatures that need to be collated, trimmed, and bound), and binding instructions. The content of several recordings and certainly that of the booklet are sexually explicit and not appropriate for all ages or philosophical states of mind. The booklet is thick with biographical detail, forays into my recording history (which you can find in even greater detail on my blog Prattle and Din), essays on the creative process, the texts for all included recordings, as well as some notes specific to each recording (again, you can find much more on the blog).

Drawing 105 from Laughing Water. 6"x 8" graphite and acrylic on Rieves BFK. Early to mid-1990s. One of the more socially acceptable (that is, less explicit and therefore less "offensive") drawings from the series. Copyright Michael Myshack.

Drawing 105 from Laughing Water. 6″x 8″ graphite and acrylic on Rieves BFK. Early to mid-1990s. One of the more socially acceptable (that is, less explicit and therefore less “offensive”) drawings from the series. Copyright Michael Myshack.

Drawing 107 from Laughing Water. 6"x8" graphite and acrylic on Rieves BFK. Circa early to mid-1990s. Another "tame" image from the booklet. Copyright Michael Myshack.

Drawing 107 from Laughing Water. 6″x8″ graphite and acrylic on Rieves BFK. Circa early to mid-1990s. Another “tame” image from the booklet. Copyright Michael Myshack.

 

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iPadded Cell

One of the exciting aspects of recording these days is the affordability of it. The most recent release from Dave Migman was created on an iPad, iPadded Cell. Almost all of us have some sort of electronic device, just to survive in the modern world, that probably comes with or can download recording software. When finished you can upload your recordings to Bandcamp for free (the fee comes out of your sales rather than up front).

For a while now iPads have included the whole Apple software bundle, including Garage Band. I work on a PC so I have no direct experience with Garage Band but I assume it’s pretty much like any other DAW. It comes with a fairly useful and robust sound library of both traditional instrument sounds and electronics. As with any other DAW, if you want the subtlety of performance a physical object would produce, the non-musical squeaks and wonks that are often incorporated into the sonic palette, especially since the elevation of jazz to serious art music, you’ll be very unhappy. You’re still going to need a real instrument and microphone and, most obviously, a real musician. But you can do some amazing things with these software instruments.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts about Migman’s recordings, he’s most at home with his guitar making some rather punkish squalls of rhythmic noise to accompany his blood and sinew, modern myth poems. Some of the slicker sounding, more classical accompaniment on this album seem incongruous and a bit misguided. The opening track in particular, “No Soothe Throat”, came across as an ominous forecast with its plucked strings. It turns out that much of the recordings here have synth and electric guitar sounds that, to me, work better. But even the other recordings with orchestral patches seem to fit better. I’m not really here to review his work though I seem to be sliding into a review. I just want to point out that you can do some interesting and acceptably good work with inexpensive tools.

Here is an extensive quote from Dave: “I have my own misgivings about the album… partly guilt. I know a lot of musicians and they spend their lives practicing their art… with the touch screen instruments that the iPad version of GB offers you create sound by rubbing the screen (sounds bizarrely Sci-Fi erotic… like something from an old Woody Allen flick) – but its true. Pressure alters the sound, resonance, the way you touch the screen alters note length. It’s actually very intuitive and well designed. However, as stated in the note that goes with the LP – I’m fairly certain a monkey could belt out a tune on the thing. The presets offer structured chords in rhythmic sequence, which you can alter should you wish. For me the boon is that after years of carving rocks I can’t play guitar so well, the old hand claws up. The guilt factor comes with the ease and comparative lack of skill needed to create a tune.
Another drawback with GB is that you can’t alter the levels to a great degree and to transport the tracks to a laptop or PC is complicated and time consuming… it’s also a bitch to recompose each track into the full song. I’m sure there are ways of doing it.”

The other thing I wanted to point out about Migman is that he is a hard working guy. I don’t know of many people recording poetry and music together and most of us who are seem to be too easily distracted by other things. Dave, too, is distracted. I know he’s written at least one novel while producing several albums of recorded poetry. I start to wonder if the guy sleeps.

If you want to do some good in the world, buy his work. Any of us who are recording poetry and music or other sounds are less than marginal. We need your support.

Sylvian/Wright, Migman, and myself

Some recent releases of recorded poetry and music…

2014 David Sylvian released a recording of a project he had begun in 2011 when he paid a visit to poet Franz Wright and recorded Wright reading poems from Kindertotenwald, There’s a Light That Enters Houses with No Other House in Sight.

I had not heard about it until this summer, about two months after Wright had died (May 14, 2015). I had no problem ordering the CD from Amazon but I’ve since heard that it’s already hard to come by. Start emailing Samadhi Sound to let them know it’s their obligation to keep this in print and available (at least through them, if they’ve got problems with the big distributors). I understand that it’s expensive to print LPs and CDs and to keep them on hand but there’s no reason to not have a download available.

Dave Migman has released another album available for purchase at Bandcamp, In the Fine Night We Marched…we’re testing my memory here, I think this is part 2 of The March. The storyline is a retelling based on his notes of a walk from the Pyrenees to Fisterra, along the Via Franca, in 2013. The musical aspect of the record is different from most of his solo albums, which tend to have a DIY punk edge of rough guitar backing his voice (try The March, part 1), while his collaborations with Spleen have a rich electronic backdrop. The music here is primarily synthesized but sparser than Spleen’s style. If I remember correctly he said this album was made in Garage Band.

To help tell the story on my recording memoir Prattle and Din about what I was doing in 2011, just before I began posting my recordings on SoundCloud for all to hear, I re-issued an anniversary collection from that year, 15 Years of Prattle and Din, and put it on Bandcamp. Originally I burned about ten CD copies to give to friends: so, to me, it’s something of a joke to say it’s been re-issued. Most of the compositions were recent (as of 2011) but a couple of them, such as “Music, the Beginning” and “Evil 1”, are recreations of things I’d first recorded in 1996. It’s not particularly representative of my oeuvre in that it lacks stylistic diversity. That is, I tried to put together a fairly cohesive album.

A Quick Mention

I want to treat this installment as a news flash. Mark Goodwin has an upcoming event and Dave Migman has two new releases of music and poetry.

First, I’ll pass on the basics of the exhibit Mark Goodwin is putting together in Leicester, quoting from an email announcement he sent me: “Poems, places & soundscapes  An international exhibition of digitally produced sound-&-poetry focusing on place, and soundscape. Poet Mark Goodwin and Brian Lewis (of Longbarrow Press) bring together and present a range of vivid, immersive sound-enhanced poetry made through various poet, musician and sound-designer collaborations, as well as by individual poet-sound-artists. The exhibition also includes a small selection of ‘place-entranced’ film-poems. This exhibition is part of Mark Goodwin’s Sound-Enhanced Poetry project, which was awarded an Arts Council of England Grant for the arts in 2013.  An open and informal panel discussion about sound-enhanced poetry and film-poem will launch the exhibition on April 10th 2014, 6.30 pm, The Cube Gallery, The Phoenix, Leicester.”

I hope you get to see and hear it in person.

I’m also hoping there will be more to post about the event and exhibition.

Something a little easier for most of us to experience are two more collections of recordings by Dave Migman, both released on March 5, 2014. We have a collection of his solo works, In the Kingdom of the Blind, released on Spleen’s label Splitting Sounds Records, which includes possibly my favorite recording of his, The Drift.

The other collection is another collaboration with Spleen, Where All Tracks Lead. As much as I liked their last album, Sheol, I think I find this one even more satisfying, perhaps because the music is more rhythmic (the old rocker in me is hard to put down).

In the future I’d like to do an article about Radio Wildfire, from the UK, who feature recordings of poetry and sound (I noticed both Dave Migman and Mark Goodwin on a current playlist), as well as hosting and presenting live events. I’m trying to get ahold of them. (A brief aside: the background on their site kills my eyes and leaves me with a fuchsia afterimage that prevents me from seeing much of anything for about 30 seconds. I hope your eyes are more adaptable than mine. It looks like an great site.)

I intend to get more information about recorded poetry from Longbarrow Press (notice that they have a tab for recordings), who publish Mark Goodwin and are involved in the exhibition. My ambition is to fill the world with multimedia publications, so if I ask enough people and write about it I will eventually get my wish? I think with or without me it’s happening.

I have also been digging into what Bandcamp allows you to upload into a release package. This includes PDF and video. So there’s no reason a poet and noisemaker couldn’t include a standard PDF with text and images as well as an interactive PDF with the recordings included, as well as video. Time and technology and skills permitting, of course. I’ve been thinking of releasing something of my own just to test the possibilities but more so I encourage others to try. I would like to hear and see what you can do.

A Small Treat from Dave Migman

I think I’ve made it clear in other posts that I’m very fond of Dave Migman’s work. His prose and poetry are filled with rich imagery that is both visceral and thought provoking. The readings/performances, in his wonderful voice, are always evocative.

So, when I see a new track posted on soundcloud with a link leading to a new album I get pretty damned excited.

I don’t mean this to be a review: just a news flash.

Here are a few links for listening to Dave and—do yourself a favor—buying a download of the album:

A recent posting by Dave Migman, Hall of Sighs, that brought me the good news that he’d put another album up for purchase on BandCamp.com.

This is the link to Migman’s new release, Dogcast Work, a collection of recordings he’s had on the Dog Cast Central podcasts over the course of 2012.

Post script: I’m on the verge of giving up on soundcould.com. The code they supply for WordPress has not been working in my most recent posts. I keep getting a message that the track is not currently available. Why am I paying them $100 a year? I think my money could be better spent…just about anywhere.

Recording Your Poetry Is Affordable

…if you have some surplus income and/or already own some electronic device such as a computer, tablet, or iPhone.

When I first began recording in 1996 I started as cheaply as I could: a 4-track cassette portable studio and a used microphone totaling less than $500. Oh, yeah, and some cables. Within two years I’d gotten myself about $10,000 in debt and still had no way to put this work in front of the world except through mechanical reproduction and physical distribution. Still, it was very cheap and egalitarian compared to what was available 10-20 years earlier (well, the field was becoming expensive again as digital recorders entered the market, and that’s what brought me down).

Now there are so many inexpensive options, both for creation and distribution, because of the ubiquity of computers, portable devices, and the internet.

(Before I forget, digital portable studios are now very cheap, starting at about $100 for a 4-track. I know very little about these, the quality of recording, what formats are supported, and how they interface with computers. And you still need a microphone (and I’d say a pre-amp). This is more what you’d want if you’re working with others, such as if you were resident poet in a band.)

I’m primarily going to discuss multitrack, computer-related production. (If you have an iPad or iPhone I encourage you to explore the apps and inputs available. Microphones that connect directly to Apple products are becoming very common and inexpensive.)

One of the cheapest ways to record your art and build structures that are more than just a documentation of your reading is to use the microphone available in your laptop and to download free software, such as Audacity (for PC, I think Apple comes with music software). If I remember correctly, these recordings by Dave Migman and Lee Foust were both done this way:

Another very cheap way of recording any sound, as well as your voice, is a handheld portable recorder (I use a Zoom H-1, which cost about $100). Almost all of these recorders can connect to a computer via USB and some sort of card, such as an SD card. They often come with free software, though you might want to stay with Audacity. I use mine for field recording, though I have also used it for recording readings and improvisations. Among other things, Mark Goodwin uses a portable recorder for his landscape projects:

For reasons of control and convenience I prefer to work in a “studio” (that is, my bedroom). Probably the next cheapest way of recording directly to computer is to use a USB microphone. There are many on the market, usually under $200, that come with free software.

When I began working on a computer about 10 years ago, it wasn’t so simple and direct, though it had already become affordable (that is, costing hundreds of dollars rather than thousands). You still had to use a traditional microphone and needed an audio interface that would transform an analog audio signal into ones and zeroes for the computer (ASIO, for output as well as input, to eliminate the lag so you could monitor and overdub in realtime) . I think all current audio interfaces will supply phantom power for a condenser mic and most have a built-in pre-amp to boost the signal.

I recommend a pre-amp. It’s not a glamorous tool but is the one thing I wish I’d gotten before I laid down my first signals to tape. For digital recording it’s nice to have a tube pre-amp to color your signal a little, to add tube distortion (one of the sources often referred to as “warmth”).

At the moment my usual signal chain is a Røde NT1 condenser microphone (roughly $200); a PreSonus Bluetube 2-channel pre-amp (about $250); an M-Audio Fast Track Pro, 2-channel USB audio interface with digital I/O and MIDI I/O (also around $200). None of which would satisfy a professional engineer but is perfectly adequate for most of us. Also, keep in mind that you could get comparably good gear for about half the price if, for instance, your pre-amp were single channel or your USB interface skipped the MIDI I/O. A Shure SM57 is still a staple in the recording industry and costs under $100.

You should also keep in mind that if you intend on recording with any kind of instrumentation or mangling your voice or household sounds, software has become ridiculously cheap. For the past couple years the buzz has been around PreSonus Studio One, starting at $100. I use Sony’s Sound Forge for editing (mostly for mangling sounds, creating my own loops, and for conversions to various formats) and ACIDPro for composing. (I’ve had Audacity on my computer but haven’t used it in years. I really don’t like the program but want to remind you that it’s free and easy to use.)

Finally, there’s distribution. If you think you’ve got something to sell there’s Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, and many others, each with their own quirks, perks, and idiocies. Something I’ve yet to explore: Netlabels. You can post your recordings on your own website. My choice for the past two years has been  SoundCloud, which can give you a more social experience than the other options. Or an old standard: MySpace.

 

Sheol, by Spleen and Migman

I’m sure it sounds like the end of the world when Dave Migman orders a cup of coffee. I don’t know him in the real world, only via the internet and soundcloud.com, so it’s possible that he sometimes sounds like a mild mannered human being. I have doubts, though. I think doom is always impending in Scotland, just an offshoot of the cuisine or climate.

Migman has been working in collaboration with Spleen Erebus to create a beautifully disturbing album called Sheol. Here we have a sampling of the album Dave and Spleen have put together:

Dave’s writing always has that blood and sinew quality of Dylan Thomas or, say, Ted Hughes’ Crow (Hugh MacDiarmid also comes to mind, though it’s been twenty years since I’ve read any of his work and my impression could be faulty)—deep and mythic, mysterious, lit as much by firelight as sunlight. There are forces of nature at work and humanity is as much victim as power within this world.

Spleen Erebus is from Vojvodina, Serbia. I’ve heard little of his work beyond his collaborations with Dave. His world is also lit by a different light source, casting richly moving shadows. In his own words, “Spleen is musick coming from the most secret and dark part of our soul that cannot be seen with the eyes – our primal nature!”

As much as I like Sheol for itself, and I find it deeply moving, I also appreciate it as an indication of the type of art I so desperately want to hear more of: poetry and sound combined as serious art. It isn’t dance music or pop. That is, it isn’t hip hop. This work is a descendent of European art music, such as the tone poem, and cinema and epic poetry.

It isn’t necessary to read along while listening but when you buy the album a PDF with the text is included. I hope to have the words in front of me during at least one of my many future playings of this magnificent recording.

You might find it odd that something this seemingly gloomy gives me so much pleasure. It does. I am ecstatic.