Thoughts on musical experiences, my own works, and who knows what else.
In Semester 1 of 2021, I was honoured to be asked to coordinate a second undergraduate unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Digital Composition 2. I was initially very nervous about re-designing the course content, assessments and running a 3-hour seminar every week (and more than one sleepless night was had as a result!). It was, of course, completely worth it; not least because I got to bear witness to some amazing music being made. The result of my students’ hard work can now be heard as a double compilation album on Bandcamp. Entitled Asunder/Aligned, this collection features raw, raucous and exploratory music of all genres and charts the artistic growth of each student over the course of Semester. Please enjoy!
Despite Sydney's latest lockdown, June 27th wasn't too gloomy. SHARING SPACES, a beautiful virtual concert conceptualised by Naarm-based composer Kezia Yap, was premiered to a live audience on YouTube. Opening the concert was Tessellata, a semi-improvised work performed and composed by flautist Jessica Scott and myself. This piece has been in development for over a year and several lockdowns; so nice to have it out in the world! Jessica and I decided to record a pared-back version of this soundscape for the concert, and filmed the video in my room along with all of our favourite houseplants. It only seemed fitting, as the piece is based on the life cycle of the Caladenia Tessellata Spider Orchid! You can re-watch Tessellata on my YouTube channel, where I am hoping to pop a lot of my works in future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahh_5wotcW0
Today the Australian news podcast Old Boys Club has reached the No. 1 slot for Australian News podcasts on iTunes. While all the credit goes to the fantastic team of editors, and brilliant presenters Justine and Matilda...I'm going to piggyback on this success all the way. Very proud and grateful to have been involved in this project!
Just a few days ago I had the immense pleasure of putting together a sound story/talk/performance for Sydney-based theatre company, Living Room Theatre. My piece centred around the violence of sound design, and was titled "I Make What I Don't Want to Hear." The piece focused on my own anxieties and how this comes through in the sound materials and manipulations I use.
I plan to create a recorded version of the performance, coming soon to Soundcloud!
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of composing the theme tune for new Australian podcast Old Boys Club, a much-needed breath of fresh air in the realm of political commentary. Written by young women for young women, Old Boys Club is fun, energetic and downright hilarious to listen to.
The brief was "fun, electronic pop." A lot of the elements were recorded in the back of my wardrobe with a hand-held mic, and putting this together felt fairly effortless as the vision of Justine, Matilda and Alex was so clear. The first two episodes of the podcast are out now and you can listen to them here, and the one-minute theme tune is also available for listening on my Soundcloud!
After quite a long break from this work, my 2020 Radiophrenia Festival commission, Mineral Disobedience, is finally on my Bandcamp! I spent a long time agonising over tiny details of this piece. It took a period of 4 months or so to see the bigger picture, and make sure that the piece was at its best. Newly mixed, with some sounds replaced, revised or erased, I hope you will enjoy this slightly more polished version. Listen here.
I've just released my first show for CAMP Radio, a prolific and amazingly cool initiative from CAMP, an artist residence located high in the French Pyrenees. This first show is a bit myopic, showcasing new and old works from myself only. Next time, I plan to expand the net much wider to showcase diverse sound works from young Australian artists. Keep your ears peeled for April! If you're interested in listening to a tangle of new, rhythmic works and old acousmatic ones from me, listen here.
Mark and Barry from Radiophrenia have been perennial presences in my composing life. I have never met these two, but every year I submit my latest works to their Radiophrenia Festival call-out, by humble email. I have come to really value these small interactions, the hints of friendly humour that I’ve caught from their replies, as well as the offerings of the Festival itself. Naturally, I was overjoyed when the pair asked me whether I would write an original work for the 2020 Festival in March (and again in August, when their delayed funding had been received)! This commission was a sign of hope that 2020 would not be a creative waste for me. Teaching others to compose and enjoy electroacoustic music was a joy, but I wasn’t doing much of my own writing. The Radiophrenia deadline was a few months away, floating like a lighthouse beam across the hazy future of August, September, and most of October. Plenty of time to think up a groundbreaking work!
After carefully mapping out the work, selecting my field recordings to work with and composing an excellent, light-hearted story to shape the music around…I began the work once, twice, and then a third time. Each time, up to ten minutes of music was scrapped as I loaded up the same field recordings anew, and tried to take them in a different direction. Another day of work, and only 20 seconds of new music to show for it. Why was this so hard?
It wasn’t a motivational problem. I’d spent the better half of a year teaching my students methods to deal with creative block, exercises they can do with any field recording to get their minds flowing. I think rather than a lack of inspiration, what I felt was pressure - a need to get this right for the people who had been generous enough to believe in me. This was for money, after all.
Another source of frustration came from the fact that my normal approach to composition wasn’t enough for me this time around. I had just finished teaching a course which taught students multiple ways to approach composing with sound - including techniques which I wouldn’t normally adopt in my practice. But when you get to know a concept or practice well enough to teach it, it stands to reason that you begin to appreciate it. Things I never thought I would be interested in within my own music, like organised tonality, chord progressions and melodies (if you’ve heard my work before, you’d understand how a musician can somehow avoid these things).
But now I knew too much; could see how things like sampling, pitch, harmony could apply to my work and enhance it. I couldn’t adopt the same approaches without feeling like I was missing out on my full potential; but as the deadline rushed forward, I didn’t have the time I needed to adequately experiment with my newfound voice. I was stuck in limbo! Not content to remain the same, but too green to pull something totally rhythmic and tonal. Finally, I found my footing by sampling an old recording of a tubular bell, using this to construct a melody which reflected the resonance of my ambient field recordings. A foot hold! I clawed my way through the work, becoming surer of my steps as I was able to form a structure, walk away, come back later and fill it out.
I turned in that piece last Friday - 10 minutes shorter than anticipated, but complete. I was at least proud of what I’d done, but I knew it was a first step toward a new, evolved voice. Now, I’m excited for what it signifies: growth! But I need time to figure out what that looks like, and sounds like. I think I need a few months to experiment with my new sensibilities, and hopefully I will know when it’s time to start something in earnest; when I can confidently embrace the new.
If you’d like to hear the product of these struggles, and tune in to the ALWAYS amazing Radiophrenia Festival, you can find out more here!
I’m happy to say that my beloved duo of The Shimmering Haze and Scrapes and Sighs have gained THREE more outings via various online avenues.
Following on from Jesse Austin-Stewart’s Multiple Monophonies installation (Massey University, Feb 2020), composer and contributor David Currie has housed binaural recordings of all the included works on this funky new website called Multi Mono. Check it out: https://multimono.space
PAIRING WITH PEZALOOM
LaTrobe Regional Art Gallery in Victoria, Aus, have created an awesome online project which pairs musical works with select visual artworks from the Gallery collection. I was lucky enough to have Scrapes and Sighs paired with the still, melancholy photography project of artist Pezaloom. It is an interesting visual accompaniment to my work which truly gives it a new interpretation. You can check it out here: https://latroberegionalgallery.com/project/alexis-weaver-pezaloom/
ACMC 2020 LISTENING ROOMS
Both The Shimmering Haze and Scrapes and Sighs have been selected to feature in the ACMC2020 Conference via their online “Listening Rooms,” taking place online at 8am July 6th and 9th. This is a wonderful breakfast hour of new music from composers around the world and I can’t wait to start every morning next week by listening to exciting new electronic works. More info here: www.acmc2020.com
ARS ELECTRONICA FORUM WALLIS FESTIVAL 2020
Finally, both works have been given Highly Commended mentions in the Art Electronica Forum Wallis 2020 Music Festival Acousmatic call-out (try saying that three times fast). While neither work will be programmed in the live festival, you can still catch them as part of the official YouTube video compilation, with more information released soon.
…And with that, I am officially sick of these pieces! It’s really time for me to create some new music.
As for everyone else, it has been a bloody weird year so far. I am lucky not to rely on my music to make my money (though it’s depressing as well, in a way) - and my normal workload has increased, if anything. As a result this has been a quiet time, featuring little composition work. I feel a bit lost, without the certainty of deadlines and haven’t yet figured out how to motivate myself to create music without it. While there has been no new creation, there has been much up-cycling of older works:
Paranoia in the Bush now appears on the New Weird Australia compilation. The first release from the NW team in 5 years, this is a double release of 26 tracks from a diverse and intriguing range of home-grown artists. It’s available on Bandcamp for whatever price you wish to pay! https://newweirdaustralia.bandcamp.com/album/new-weird-australia-solitary-wave-in
Scrapes and Sighs is now featured as part of LRG Online, LaTrobe Regional Gallery’s new digital gallery, as a companion soundtrack to photography series Long after love left by Pezaloom. LRG have provided a wonderful explanation of why these works are paired. It was so interesting to hear someone else’s take on the work and how it speaks to them. https://latroberegionalgallery.com/project/alexis-weaver-pezaloom/
I also performed an improvised soundscape as part of the Hibernation Lo-Fi festival. Hibernation is perhaps the most creative and valuable event to come out of this quarantine, and celebrates musical experimentation and failure in real-time! I very much enjoyed this foray into a live soundscape ambience. You can watch the result on the Hibernation web page, alongside many other amazing live streams. https://www.hibernationfestival.com/live-stream-experiments?fbclid=IwAR29mgnUwBzQVnn4me2Q-LDQby0yeKgw41X2-batGoP7Sj9-ypB-EYsoTjk