After Rain by Charlotte Ansell

I have been meaning to buy this book since last year and I finally got around to it. I loved her book ‘Deluge‘, which I have read twice now.

After Rain is a slimmer volume, but no less beautiful for that. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every poem in this collection and I am sure that it is a book that I will return to many times.

A portable paradise

This collection of poetry from Roger Robinson won the TS Elliot prize in 2019. I got it from the Poetry Book Society, which I would recommend. I had never read his work before this collection, but I am now very glad that I have.

The collection was at once challenging and moving, and also, at times, somewhat impenetrable, although that probably says more about me than about this collection of poetry. But it is powerful, really powerful.

I recommended this to a friend recently, and, after finding just an excerpt of it, she was sold and wanted to read more. I think that it can have that kind of an impact.

2020 was horrible

I’m sure that I won’t be the only person who writes a summation of 2020 that begins like this. I had hoped for good things in 2020 but there were so many bad things all over the world that it is hard to see the good in any of it.

However, there was good. There was light in the almost constant shadow that has been the defining characteristic of this year. I still find it difficult to see it, to remember those few positives that were tiny specs of hope in an otherwise sea of darkness. But they were there, and in some ways it is more important to think of those.

At the start of the year I had high hopes for 2020, but it was not to be at all. This year I will just take one day at a time and leave it at that. No plans, no aspirations, just getting through one day after another. Just surviving, for now.

Goodbye IFTTT

I have been a user of IFTTT since very early on. From when I first became a user of the service it has always been free. However, now they have introduced what they call a ‘pro’ subscription tier. Apparently you can pay what you want for this tier, and for your money you get to keep all your existing automations running. If you don’t you get 3 automations and everything else is disconnected.

It doesn’t seem that you get a lot more from this ‘pro’ tier either. They have said that there are new triggers and other stuff, but I expect that for a lot of users that won’t be very helpful.

In recent times though I had all but stopped using IFTTT. Automation no longer seemed to be of that much use to me somehow. As a result I have stopped using IFTTT. So it’s goodbye IFTTT, it was fun for quite a while.

The quantified self, the sonified self

The idea of the quantified self is not a new one at all. Capturing data on steps, heart rate, weight etc is something that a lot of people do on a regular basis. I’ve been slowly taking this on board for over a year. It started with just step counting but now extends to all manner of data. However, in the last few months I’ve began to extend this into a new concept which I call ‘the sonified self’, that might be something that already exists, but if it does I’m not aware of it. This involved the capture of data, again like steps, motion, heart rate etc and turning that data into sound, or in fact music when that’s possible

I’ve been experimenting with this idea for a few months now, and more recently I think some of my experiments have got to the point where I might even share them. Not in this post, but perhaps in the coming weeks.

Before I do share some of the experimental output I plan to go into more detail about how the process works for me, or at least the component parts of the process and the technologies involved in it. As you might imagine the process involves a number of different devices and apps. However, in the centre of all of this is an app called Holonist. Holonist is in many ways the operating system for my ‘sonified self’ concept. Without it the whole process would not hang together at all.

Holonist really deserves a post all on its own. It’s a complex piece of software and I have barely scratched the surface of it. There’s a lot more to learn and experiment with, and I’m very aware that I am at the start of what could be a long journey.

The next post on this topic will probably focus entirely on the Holonist app itself, after that I’ll cover the process, and, hopefully by then I’ll be able to share some output.

Standing Stones and Electromagnetic Waves

This has been something I’ve been meaning to experiment with for some time now. Last year I bought an ‘Ether’ device to experiment with electromagnetic waves. I was really taken with the sounds that were in the videos of the ‘Ether’ device, and it was impressive.

So far I haven’t used the Ether as much as I’d hoped. But one of the things that I wanted to try out was the electromagnetic waves that might be given off by stone circles. A bit strange you might think. Or maybe not.

My first, and probably most nonsensical thought was to try at Stone Henge. I’ve been there before and you can’t get anywhere near the stones. So I emailed English Heritage. No response. Not a massive surprise though. I had thought that they’d at least do me the courtesy of replying, but no. Nothing at all.

The next possibility was to try a stone circle where you can get right up to the stones. Hence Avebury. The Avebury circle is in fact older than Stone Henge. So I thought I’d give this a go. I took my gear and got up close.

The device I use for this is an ‘ether‘. I’ve had this for over a year now. It’s an interesting device, and, when I have used it, I’ve found the output very interesting. However, I haven’t found a real place for it in my creative workflow. Hopefully I will at some point, but I think that I probably need to do some more research.

Avebury

Anyway, back to the stones at Avebury. I hadn’t researched the composition of the stones at Avebury. If I had, I would have expected the outcome I got. Which was basically nothing. The best I could get was that the stones effectively acted as big radio receiver. I suppose that in itself was interesting, but not really what I’d wanted.

So that’s that really. I need to think about another use for the device. When I do I expect I’ll write about it.

Whilst you’re here, I thought I’d let you know about my field recordings podcast. You can find this on Apple’s podcast platform, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Stitcher, and also Spotify.

See (AppleTV+)

This was one of the reasons I decided to get Apple TV+. The concept intrigued me and it looked like someone had spent money on making it. I have to say that the first season wasn’t bad. Not amazing, but certainly not bad, and some of the fight sequences were really amazing. The story was fairly predictable, although that isn’t a bad thing really. There were one or two twists in the season that I didn’t see coming and that’s always nice.

As I understand it there is another season coming, but, like so many productions right now, it will be delayed. I can wait. I’m in now hurry right now. In fact I’ve put my subscription on hold until this, and some other shows come back for another season.

How Music Can Make You Better

An interesting book about how both listening and playing music can help you

I read this recently. It’s quite an interesting little read on the whole. Quite short and to the point, which is handy. But it makes some interesting points about how music changes our brains. Not just listening to music, but also making music, playing music.

For me it isn’t a big surprise, but it’s nice to have it validated. I’ve enjoyed reading it.

Deluge by Charlotte Ansell

Deluge by Charlotte Ansell
Deluge by Charlotte Ansell

This year I’ve been really enjoying reading poetry again this year. Both revisiting poetry that I’ve always enjoyed, and also finding new poets and collections. One such is Deluge by Charlotte Ansell. It’s a great collection.

I’ve never read her work before, but I may well go back and read some of her other work based on this. From the first poem onward it has been brilliant. Insightful and penetrating, funny at times, gentle and revealing.

I think that this is a collection of poems that I’ll read again, and again.

And the plants are singing to me

If this doesn’t mean anything to you then don’t worry. I have to admit it’s a very obscure niche. Sonifying the bio data from plants might seem odd, esoteric even, but to me it’s something really interesting.

I remember seeing MIDI Sprout on Kickstarter, but felt that the price point was prohibitive. However, I always felt that it was something that I wanted to try out. So I watched for one on eBay, and finally one came up at a reasonable price. So I bought it and it worked beautifully.

The little video is with a coffee plant. My plan is to try the MIDI Sprout with a range of different plants to see if there are noticeable differences in each plant’s musical output. As and when I do I’ll post the results. Probably with video too.

However, this isn’t the only kind of sonification project I have on the go, but more of that another time.