The Wire at 40

I have been a subscriber of The Wire for quite some time. Sometimes with breaks, but on the whole a fairly loyal subscriber. I can say that I have enjoyed The Wire on the whole for some twenty years now. I can’t say that I have always understood or made sense of it, and often the music they rate highly does nothing for me. However, that is not the point of The Wire for me, not at all.

I find it at times incredible to see the enormous variety of music produced across the world and The Wire is my window onto that world. Sure, sometimes it is music that does nothing for me, but that doesn’t matter at all. The fact that it is made is what is important.

Every year I read their top albums of the year, and I’m always pleased if I’ve heard three of them. Most years it is less than three though. Even so, each year I do my best to listen to as many of the albums in their chart as possible. It’s always an interesting time.

The Langham Research Centre at Cafe Oto

I first saw the Langham Research Centre at the Barbican last month. I was really impressed by them. So when I got an email from Cafe Oto sent an email about them playing I decided I should go. Cafe Oto is a lovely place to see music, and I even played there once myself.

The LRC were great, as expected, and I also managed to have a quick chat with Robert Worby about sound and the words we use to describe sounds, or rather the fact that we have very few words that actually do describe sounds. It’s an interesting subject and one that needs some thought.

Next I think I need to probably buy some of the recordings. There is plenty on Bandcamp, which is where I will start. I am especially drawn to their piece ‘Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park’.

Apple Watch music apps

I have been looking for Apple Watch Muisc apps since I first got this device. However, to date I have failed to find anything that really ticks the box for me.

There are some though. I can’t say that there aren’t. Here’s what I have been using so far.

Wotja

If you don’t know this app, Wotja is a generative music app for iOS, macOS and Android too. What’s more it works on Apple watch. Having said that, the Apple watch app is effectively a remote for the iOS app. Whilst that works fine, and what’s more is actually quite useful in many ways, I had really wanted something that actually made music on the Apple Watch.

Holonist

Another app that works effectively as a data connection for the iOS app. Again, this is fine, and in fact very useful as the Apple watch app collects a lot of data that is then translated into usable information for making music. But it doesn’t make music on its own. Which is a bit of a shame.

And there is a Holon as well, which is good in of itself. Sort of like Holonist’s little sibling and it does actually make sound, but it connects to the iPhone version.

Shazam …

Of course, there is Shazam and I have used it on my Apple Watch. Whilst it is a music app in many people’s eyes, it doesn’t really fit that category for me. But it is handy to have.

So what am I actually looking for?

Well that’s the real question right. What am I looking for in an apple watch music app? That’s the question really. I think that ideally I’d like an app that allowed me to actually make music on my apple watch independently of anything else.

I can imagine that if Allihoopa had continued that their Figure app might have been a good candidate for just such a thing. The Figure interface could have scaled down to a watch app I think. That would have worked and could have been a good way to start something on a watch then move to an iPhone or iPad and then beyond.

So where does that leave me? I doubt very much that anyone is going to make such a thing, not for just me anyway.

The Wire top 50 albums of 2021

Every year I listen to all of the Wire magazine top fifty albums of the year from their rewind issue. Some years I might have heard of a few of them. Some years I might have even bought one or two of them. But on the whole it is rarely more than one or two.

Usually I find very little that I would want to follow up on, occasionally an artist will stand out for me and I’ll find something new to follow. But more than anything I am pleased to find so much music that, whilst I may not enjoy it, is being created by people who are pushing the boundaries of sound. I find that quite a comforting thought.

I have been a subscriber of the wire for a long time. Probably well over a decade, possibly longer. I like the fact that there is so much going on on the fringes of the world of music. Even if it is music that I don’t like. That is not the point. I just like that it exists, that there are people creating this stuff, having these ideas.

Anyway, if I do find anything that I think is worth noting, then I might just post about it. Who knows.

Barbican: Britain on the move

I went to this on Sunday as I was invited by a friend. I probably would have overlooked this event if it wasn’t for that. But it was good. Quite unique in fact.

I have always had a love of trains, or perhaps, to be more accurate, a love of being on long train journeys. So this appealed to me simply for that fact.

The films shown were of mixed quality. All of them showed different aspects of train travel in different parts of the UK. From busy cities, to the countryside and seaside. The one I liked the best was the first commuter inter city train. The film of that was very focused on the comfort and luxury of the journey. It was very business centric, but, as a piece of social history, very interesting. As was the music, which was live and performed by an ensemble of musicians from the guild hall. They had composed the score themselves, and whilst some of it was electronic and appealed to me a bit more, a lot of it was more generally contemporary.

Overall it was a very good experience. Well put together. Enjoyable. I would certainly go to something like that again.

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.

Uncommon Deities

This is undoubtedly my favourite album of all time. It is a work of tremendous and rare beauty, and every time I listen to it I am stunned by just how complete and unique it is.

I listen to it only when I have the time to devote myself entirely to listening to it without distraction, as it just isn’t the kind of music that you can listen to in the background. At least that’s my opinion.

However, I’ve recently just sat down and read the poems that are an integral part of Uncommon Deities. On their own they are incredibly beautiful. As a part of the whole they’re even better. But even so, I really enjoyed reading them in isolation.

Mindset from Blancmange

I can’t exactly remember when I started liking Blancmange, but it was pretty early on. Probably when they first appeared on something like ‘Top of the Pops’. I’ve liked them ever since. When they made they’re somewhat unexpected comeback I was very happy indeed. Since then the output has been steady and I believe I’ve bough everything.

This latest release, ‘Mindset’, arrived this morning, although it was actually released yesterday. I listened to it yesterday, and it is a solid album. My initial impressions are it is very good and will probably grow on me.

I’m pleased that Blancmange is still going, and pleased to be able to support them wherever I can. In the current climate there are many artists who are suffering and those of us who love and appreciate music need to do whatever we can to support the people who help to give meaning to us. It’s important.

Blancmange’s latest album ‘Mindset’ in yellow vinyl

Some random music

Randomly generated music created using Processing Code

I actually made this quite a while ago, but decided to revisit it as I thought that I might do a little more in Processing this year. I know I’ve said that before. There’s no guarantee that I will in 2020, but I might.

I was always quite pleased with this sketch though. It was fun and interesting to play with. Above is just a video of the sketch in action as I can’t work out how to embed the sketch here so it can be played. I’d like to be able to do that too, but it might take me a little while for me to figure it out.

Anyway, if I managed to do anything else with Processing then I’ll share it too. That is, if it’s good enough.

A Wotja a day

I make a lot of music, very little of which I share anywhere these days. For the most part I make music for my own enjoyment, which is much more productive I feel. Anyway, I digress. The point of this is that at the start of the year I decided that I would try to make a small track each day with an app that I really like and enjoy. It’s called Wotja.

Wotja is a generative music system for iOS, although it’s been around a lot longer than that. I’ve actually been a fan of it since around 2007, which kind of puts things in perspective. Of course it’s changed a lot since I first started using it.

Anyway, once again I digress a little. The point of this is that I started on the 1st of January, and so far I’ve kept it up the whole time. So here’s the first. I’ll post the others, probably in small batches, periodically. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep it up all year too.