Friday, March 5, 2010
This is an unusual entry for Uncomposed. As with other Uncomposed songs, this one is completely improvised, one take, no editing. This one had an audience of 80 people, most of which weren't paying any attention to the music at all!

I'm a member of the team that produce Impro Mafia's production Prognosis: Death!. We start each show with a good idea of the characters, their backstory and motivation, and from a musical perspective the characters start with their own leitmotifs. After that, though, the story is improvised, completely driven by audience suggestions. Night after night, the brilliant cast construct amazing stories, creating self-contained adventures while continuing to develop the characters. I provide an improvised soundtrack to the show.

The Uncomposed piece is a snippet from the soundtrack of St Love and the 1001 Books You Need To Read Before You Die. In the story, the intern Dr Melody Carmichael (Amy Currie) accidentally spills a magic solution on her childhood book collection, inadvertently opening a portal for fictional characters to come through to her world, including a bloodthirsty Captain Hook (Luke Allan). After spotting her love Dr Ludwig Lestrange (Dan Beeston) kissing her best friend Nurse Lotte Buble (Natalie Bochenski), Melody turns to Captain Hook for friendship - and revenge.

The snippet covers several scenes from the show - first, some of the doctors discover the portal; later, Melody schemes with Hook to take revenge on Buble, but switches sides when she discovers Hook's evil nature.

A few of the character leitmotifs sneak through, including a sad take on Nurse Buble's theme, the theme for the amazing Dr Burton Mangold (David Massingham), and a triumphant version of Melody's theme. Weaving their character themes in to an otherwise unrelated soundtrack is one of the really fun challenges of a show like this.

I get a kick out of listening to the soundtrack. There are individual movements in the soundtrack, and a few little pieces that I really like. It's a bit like hearing one side of a conversation - there are things happening on-stage (all improvised) that push and pull the music, so there's an impression that something else is interacting here, but you just can't hear it.

Listen to Revenge, or download it.


Monday, February 15, 2010
Morning was composed (uncomposed?) for my brother-in-law Aaron Harvey. Aaron is a wonderful photographer, and he was looking for a three-minute piece to accompany a newborn portrait showing.

I sat down at the piano with the intention of capturing soft, sweet bliss. I missed - and found something that seems to evoke morning, and maybe the feeling you get when you realise endless possibilities are stretching out in front of you.

As is my custom, there are a couple of mistakes. I really feel a few of the dropped notes when I listen to it; I didn't want any bittersweet or sad notes intruding. There are a few timing mistakes that became interesting features, and I don't mind those at all.

I caught a sneak peek of the video, and the music is a great fit for some happy parents holding their precious newborn baby.

Listen to Morning, or download it.


Sunday, November 22, 2009
Blink is the first piece I sat down to try out for Uncomposed. It ended up being a pretty long one (over six minutes).

The main point of interest for Blink was the sheer number of mistakes, er, opportunities that appeared. Right at 0:37, I missed the target with my left hand, which started off a whole different chord progression than what I was thinking I'd do. I'm not sure what I was trying to do at around 2:17, but I missed that too... and I like what the mistake became.

The biggest mistake came right at what was to be the end of the song, bang on 3:00. The note was just so wrong that it was unsalvageable without just kicking the side of the song right in. So that's what happened - and it led in to a whole new part that I really quite like.

There are a few ick moments too, like around 1:21 when the spirit of Richard Clayderman took over the piano for a brief instant.

This was also one of a few songs that I recorded on a noisy, annoying Minidisc recorder before getting my stuff straight, so it's a little noisier than most of what you'll hear here.

I think, if I was editing these down, I would have chopped out lots of this song, to make it a bit shorter and tighter. But that's against the rules. ;)

Listen to Blink, or download it.


Monday, October 12, 2009
This song was recorded in early September 2009. It started with a nice little phrase, which built nicely in to a theme that reminds me a little of Thistlewaite's music from the Prognosis: Death! music.

Around this time, we were busy planning for Jane Austen - By The Book, a fantastic improvised Impro Mafia production. This song became the underlying theme of the show, and versions of it appeared whenever the two main characters had a moment.

Listen to Esteem, or download it.


Sunday, October 11, 2009
Uncomposed is a spur of the moment thing.

Sometimes I’ll sit down at the piano and play something new. Well, new-ish; I’m sure everything that comes out of me is just a mashup of stuff I’ve heard before, diced up, reordered, and replayed. I find doing freestyle improv like that to be quite enjoyable and relaxing, a great way to de-stress after a busy day.

I’ve wondered if it might be nice to make this freestyle improvisation available to others to listen to. Never know, someone else might like it too.

On Uncomposed, you’ll find fully improvised pieces. I might sit down and play a riff, then build that in to a full song. Or perhaps I’ll imagine a narrative in my head, and play accompaniment to that story. None of it is planned, none of it is edited. You’ll hear mistakes. Actually, sometimes you won’t hear them, if I’ve covered for them or used them as inspiration to take the music somewhere else. I guess that means they’re not mistakes, just opportunities that weren’t denied.

But who am I doing this for? Well, primarily, my mother actually. She’s become quite the technophile, surfing the net on her mac until the wee hours of the morning. If she’s not surfing, she’ll put some music on while she creates some of the most wonderful stuff in her craft room. If only there was a way I could send her something to listen to, across the sea. Hmm, maybe a podcast.

I’m an improvising musician; I accompany improvised theatre, and I blog about it at Musical Hotspot. This means accompanying actors on stage performing in a scene; the inspiration for the music comes out of that story. So I’ve had a little practice at making stuff up.

A year or so ago I started thinking about finding a keyboard that was more piano-like. My working rig is not very piano-like; it stays boxed up ready for gigs, and doesn’t come in the house much. So for 20 years I’ve pretty much only played when performing. I had been thinking about replacing that keyboard with something new, something more piano-like, with 88 weighted keys instead of 56 dinky ones. Mum gave me some seed money as a gift to get started. Shortly afterwards, by the grace of eBay and a seller of impeccable reputation who had to sell his stuff quickly before moving interstate, I found a beautiful, second-hand, very reasonably priced Yamaha Clavinova piano. Now it’s mine; that’s it in the picture at the top of the page.

Having a piano in the house is amazing. It calls me from the other room, distracting me from doing the dishes or getting ready for work. Sometimes I’ll sit for an hour and improvise. Sometimes I’ll dash over to try something for ten seconds just to see if it would work or not. Having something I can play every day has really improved both my playing and my mental process. That’s led to more freestyle improvisation, which has led to me recording it, which in turn led to Uncomposed.

The music here is free to download, listen to, adapt and use, as per the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

Mum: You pretty much bought my piano for me, and I really appreciate it. This site is for you. I hope you enjoy the music.

Anyone else reading: I hope you enjoy listening. You can show your appreciation by subscribing – by email, by RSS, or via podcast clients like iTunes.