‘In Pareidolia’ Part 1 – Album art and what it’s about

In this short blog, Im going to explain a little about the album ahead of its release, give you a look at the artwork and an insight into the tracks…

This album, I guess like most albums, has been a long time coming. Over the past few years I’ve been playing, and I mean that in the most fun sense, with sound.I have been exploring the guitar in every way possible like always, and matching it with some unexpected instruments too.

The guitar has always been the focal point of course… and this album ‘In Pareidolia’ is not an exception. Each track has been an exploration of the guitar in a different way. Whilst you’ll hear a substantial helping of drums and double bass… the majority of what makes up this body of work is the humble guitar.

Sometimes twenty of them, sometimes an electric one, sometimes a really expensive one, sometimes a broken one from a charity shop…

On my journey of the past few years of sonic experimentation I have found myself in a world of tones, textures, shapes and edges… not a world of notes and numbers. Its not always a nice place, its sometimes uncomfortable, unnerving, its always emotional. Importantly the sounds and songs Ive been creating have not sat into a simple or explainable context. Whilst there is a story attached to many, the experience is abstract, personal to the listener. This is what I wanted to portray in an album; an impressive exploration of colour, tone, texture and emotion….but also something that each listener can find something new in – something that is a personal perspective for you.

It’s not fully released just yet but will be in a matter of days….

to hear about it first, join the mailing list…

Scroll down further to view the artwork, track listings and more…


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ARTWORK:

Carrying on with the theme of things being about an original experience, from YOUR perspective, I wanted to try my hand at creating original artwork for each CD… crazy I know. In reality I will be releasing about 10 to 20 hand made CD’s. Whilst the main image below will be for the main CD.

I’ll get more stuck into how this is done later, but for now… here’s a couple of the images that came out and will be appearing on the digital release.

TRACK LISTINGS:

1: Rhythm Museum. (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
Those of you who have caught a recent show would have heard this one. Its a piece for a guitar orchestra, with treated guitars (aka paper between the strings). The concept is a rhythmic and cultural museum coming to life at night.

2:Mirror and Wish. (MUSIC FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND DRUM KIT)
This blends a classical guitar technique with some seriously odd, yet subtle, electric sounds, strange time signatures and drumming from my friend Matt Pittori. The idea was to create something orchestral sounding with just the two instruments.

3: The Hunted (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
Mainly nylon strung guitar here… but a mix of steel strung too. In my head this track built up out of images of some intensely edgy nature. Who knows what you’ll see…maybe puppies and chocolate.

4:Banneret (For Mum) (MUSIC FOR GUITAR AND DOUBLE BASS)
No prizes for what this one is about. I wrote it originaly for solo guitar and then begun to develop a double bass part later. It is is of course written for my mum. Its emotive and strong. Bass frequency friend Ben Taylor on Double bass on the recording.

5:Ukulele Septet (MUSIC FOR 7 UKULELES AND DRUM KIT)
I had been toying with a riff on the Uke for a while, and after jamming it out with drummer hero Matt Pittori it became a bit of an obsession. It’s supposed to be an explosion of energy, just like the Uke itself. When we recorded the drums I kept describing the drum part to Matt as a frustrated out burst….

6:Saol (MUSIC FOR GUITAR AND DOUBLE BASS)
This has been gigged for a year or two. Originaly as a solo guitar piece. Its about as traditional as the album gets. Ultimately a jazz guitar piece that represents the ups and downs of day to day life. Ben on bass again.

7:Hold For Now (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA AND DRUM KIT)
A guitar orchestra with a drop C is always a good idea 🙂 and theres a splashing of slide guitar here. The drums courtesy of Matt are as lazy as we could make them. Its a break from time, one of those starring out the window moments.

8: Some Idle Tuesday (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA AND DRUM KIT)
The title is taken from the Baz Lurman song Sunscreen….
‘Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
Bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
Never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday’

Its fine advice. And I sadly found it to be true… one tuesday, around 4 pm.

9: In Conversation (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
If you’ve been to my recent one man show you would have experienced this track. Its a conversation between two people. Sat indoors on a rainy day. Two guitars take on the conversation and the guitar orchestra emulates the surroundings and reacts dynamically to the conversation.

9:OPTIC (MUSIC FOR GUITAR, DOUBLE BASS, DRUM KIT and TONGUE DRUM)
This piece is the first time on the album I have bought in something other than guitars, drum kit or double bass. We have the subtle skills of David Youngs on tongue drum. The piece has no intentions whatsoever… its just a look at sound, a look at life. The triplets at the end of the piece nearly killed me.

Orchestral Evolution Part 3 – ‘Modular Music’

In my last blog I delved into some of the compositional ideas going into Orchestral Evolution. Looking at how we can bring the best out of players of all abilities, by working in a minimalistic way.

This week I wanted to talk about how that minimalism is also rooted in being modular! Hopefully it will give you an insight into how I’m writing for a pop-up orchestra and maybe even get you thinking about your own compositions…

When we create music, the tendency is to create manageable ‘blocks’ of music. A ‘block’ of melody, a ‘block’ of rhythm.

A verse, is a block of music, so is a chorus. A ‘bar’ like this thing…

Is a ‘block’ of music.

Us human folk have this amazing tendency to break things down into manageable chunks. Our day is broken into seconds, hours, am or pm, days or weeks, seasons, breakfast, lunch… you get the idea. The reason you and I do that is, of course, probably because we have been culturally conditioned to do this, and that’s because it’s worked very well for …well…like ages…

It helps us, and others, to be able to comprehend what is happening. It helps us to summarise when explaining and even subatize when understanding. (Thats one for the teachers out there!). Ultimately it not only helps us, it helps those we are explaining ideas or concepts too.

As Ive already mentioned we do this in music all the time. And interestingly I think we are doing it increasingly so…

As more and more people use computers (DAWs of all shapes and sizes) to create music the idea of working in ‘blocks’ is becoming a really tangible physical reality, rather than a concept…

Just look at how Logic ( a common DAW) looks… just look at those ‘Blocks’ of music.

And the thing is, for the composer it works really really well as it gives them the feel of perspective, and a sense that the task is manageable. The end result is also something that is extra tangible for the listener.

Now this isn’t to say its a new idea in music. But, undoubtedly the introduction of such visual ‘blocks’ or such a focus on modules of music in DAWs, (thats digital audio workstation if ya didn’t know…the programmes we use to record music) means its becoming something that ingrained in composers heads and listeners ears…

‘Modular music’ is simply there all the time, its incidental, because its almost always part of how a human works. In fact its so common place that as a composer your focus often is to remove the sense of ‘modularness’ by desperately trying to blend sections together. Battling with the inevitable.

Now… My piece Orchestral Evolution has some unique challenges, firstly the fact that I don’t know what type of instruments I will have and secondly how many of them (thats the joy of a pop-up orchestra). So short of writing the composition in its entirety when I first meet the musicians I basically have to create a composition which I can work around the situation.

So…how? what is the solution? The solution is to be modular, really modular. Instead of letting modular thinking be the incidental and inevitable approach it will become the focus and strength of the piece. To create blocks of music that can be placed together in an infinite number of ways, according to the sound I want to create and the situation with which I am presented.

Doing this means I can really work with the players that I have. In other words; ‘the piece works for the players rather than the players working for the piece’. It also has another major affect… that the performance will be original to that orchestral line up. Cool huh?.

It also means that as the ‘conductor’ I can act as a DJ/Producer, bringing loops in and out, change different parameters within the piece as I go…perhaps I will make ‘loop A’ or ‘block A’ louder, or maybe I want to to make ‘Block B’ to have more of an aggressive feel to it. I can communicate all that as a conductor. My roll as a composer and conductor becomes one that is truly live and truly musical, working with the players in a symbiotic way…responding to the sounds the players make and the facial expressions the audience pulls. 🙂 🙁 😉 🙂 🙁

So if you like… we are somehow dragging the orchestral composer and conductor into a new modular, more musical and modern age.

Check out the previous blog to see some of the modular examples used already and how Im using these ‘blocks’ to give players the chance to get into ‘flow’ and really ‘get into’ playing the piece.

and in the meantime…

Want to have some fun with making modular music… give this a go.
https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Melody-Maker

Orchestral Evolution Part 1

What is Orchestral Evolution?

A brand new commissioned score for a revolutionary ‘pop up orchestra’….

A piece of music for an infinitely sized orchestra of all instruments and abilities. The piece has been written by The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra in conjunction with Soundstorm, the Music Education Hub for Bournemouth and Poole. The project is for young people of a huge range of ages from schools in and around Bournemouth – Funded through support from Arts Council England.

Students from every type of school ensemble traditional or unusual, from orchestras to jazz bands, an after school ukulele club to the in house rock band are all invited to learn the piece with me and a visiting member of the Chris Woods Groove Orchestra, in a morning or afternoon workshop. (27th Feb: AM or PM 28th Feb: AM or PM 1st March: AM or PM 2nd March: AM or PM)

Further content will be made available for free online, to help students practice and further develop their playing.

All of the groups will then be invited to join a mass pop up orchestra hosted by one of the participating schools ; to perform alongside some of this country’s finest players as part of ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ at a one off inspirational concert. Interested?..get in touch by email contact@chriswoodsgroove.co.uk or direct to Soundstorm Rachel.Sene@Bournemouth.gov.uk

The Project was born out of an idea to inspire students, irrespective of their interest in classical or contemporary ensembles, to help all students engage within a modern orchestral setting culminating in a shared finale. A focus on making the orchestra, and orchestral thinking inclusive and exciting. Soundstorm approached the CWGO to bring these aims to life.

Over the coming weeks as I compose the piece I will be writing about my processes, successes, failures and more in this blog. So sign up now to watch it grow.


Why?

As many of you may know who are reading this, in septmember of 2016 I launched a project entitled ‘guitar revolution’. A piece of music for an infinite number of guitars, all ages and abilities. You can find out more here.

After an oversubscribed launch at the london olympia we went on to tour the pop guitar orchestra project across the uk. Bringing together hundreds of guitarists of all ages to perform together. It was an inspirational process. From two angles it has to be one of the most satisfying and exciting things I have done as a musician and composer…and has inspired this next project.

Firstly because of the social element; the idea of bringing together people of all ages and abilities was idyllic in concept and idyllic in practice. To work with people who may not spend every moment of their life playing an instrument is seriously refreshing. There is a genuine passion that hasn’t succumbed to the gigging fatigue that many of us ‘professional’s’ have. There is an almost more pure love for the music, and this pure passion comes out in the playing regardless of physical skill.

Secondly the process was a compositional conundrum. And a compositional challenge is one that feeds creative thinking. In short, composing for a mix of abilities is a challenge. Having boundaries to keep within, though, is often really constructive. I had to compose to be prepared for huge unknowns (how many would turn up to the pop up orchestra) and crucially I had to compose something that was simple enough to be played by the most beginner player and crucially simple enough and intuitive enough to have room to be an expressive performance.

So here I am again in a new compositional scenario, with similar challenges but also very exciting new ones…here’s what Im facing with Orchestral Evolution

1.Composing for all abilities.

In this project whilst it is only open to school children, it is not for one specific age or ability. So within the the parts there must be room for all abilities. And crucially we want it to be an enriching experience for all, so there also needs to be value in it for even the most accomplished player.

2.Composing for an unknown orchestra (unknown instrumentation)

This time, its not just guitars. We are making a truly modern orchestra welcoming all instruments. But it is a pop-up orchestra  so until the day of the workshops I wont know what Im dealing with. Do we have ten violins? three bassoons and a hundred ukuleles? or… well, ultimately it could be anything. So I need to categorise the instruments in a non-traditional orchestral way.

Over the coming weeks, as I compose the piece I will be blogging about the processes and experiences. Ill be sharing audio clips and maybe even a video or two too.

Drop your email in the sign up form to stay up to date.



‘Unfolding’ – Coming Soon – The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra

This is an EP of four compositions. All recorded Live. To be released EARLY DECEMBER

Stolen Lines and Amygdala were recorded live at Real World Studios for Audio-Technica. Splicer and The Chine were recorded and filmed live at Absolute Music in Dorset.

The pieces all feature me (yup!) on guitar with; Ben Taylor (Double Bass), Arthur (Electronics), David Youngs (Hand Pan and Woodpack drum) Harkiret Singh-Bahra (Tabla) and Andy Chapman (Drums).

Its been a long time coming. I’ve been working away with some of these guys for a good two years. I’ve been Particularly spurred on from the Guitar Revolution project and from working with everyone in the orchestra (people are good) its been a creative time. I’ve had an opportunity to leave some of the less creative parts of being a musician behind recently, and I guess I’ve never felt so focused on making music that’s orchestral at heart.

The tracks are undoubtedly dark, the choice of playing them live is very deliberate. I hope these recordings capture us all at our best and most expressive.

On release of the EP and all the full videos I’ll be delving into the tracks in an in-depth way, and how they were recorded sine this was not just about chords, rhythms and harmonies; it was one hell of sonic journey too working with one of the most innovative microphone companies (Audio-Technica) on earth and working in a truly out if this world studio (Real World Studios).

For now, I wanted to leave you with our first video release of Stolen Lines performed Live in the Wood Room at Real World. As well as of course an album taster. (If the video hasn’t loaded CLICK HERE)


Thanks for listening. Before ya go I wanted to extend a massive thank you to lots of wonderful people including, everyone one of the Orchestra members you gentlemen are all true gents, stunning musical beings and an inspiration to me. Tim at Audio-Technica for being one of the most amazing communicators I’ve worked with and of course his team of fantastic people and fantastic mics. Ollie at Real World Studios for being such a great engineer. Dan Henry and Mark Harris for making sound and look great at Absolute Music. Jordan at Red Pepper PR for being so generous and a general legend. Jess for the stunning artwork. Christian and David for amazing mixing and putting up with OCD ears. And David Holder for the epic mastering. Thank you to you for reading this far….

Thank you one and all

more soon
C

Guitar Revolution: Politics Is Not The Only Way

Politics is not the only vehicle of change…

Just after the brexit vote announcement I launched Guitar Revolution…a project thats aim was simply to form pop-up guitar orchestras around the country to play one of my compositions.

Now, the timing was coincidental really; I’ve always been fascinated by the role of community in music, those of you who know me personally will know that actually the majority of my adult life has been focused around those two things – I also like donuts, walks in the park and John Grisham novels ;). So Brexit wasn’t the driving force, this project did not have any allegiance to leave or remain (and don’t worry this is not a blog about Brexit). But nevertheless, guitar revolution was riding on a wave of Brexitness. 

Since then, as Guitar Revolution jetted (in a white diesel van) around the country forming pop-up guitar orchestras, all manner of political bizarreness has occurred. Of course most recently we are witnessing a whole new level of political insanity….

Now as I said this blog isn’t about Brexit and nor really is it about my political standing, although you can probably take a guess at what I voted for. This blog is instead about how important it is to remember the ‘real’ stuff. How your role in community is even more important than that one vote you have… Crazy, I know! 

This Guitar Revolution project showed me that your real actions really are so much louder than words or Facebook posts.  We engaged with thousand of people across the country and built a collective orchestra of hundreds. These actions are so much louder than Facebook rants and drunken arguments in the pub that result in a hangover of lost friends and upset egos. Continued below….

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plym promo image

Here are three points from that experience, that I believe are worth a read:

Number one, ‘Actions – this is not going to be easy’…

 Ive got plenty of experience of trying to bring people together in a musical context and it never gets any easier, I’m not sure it gets harder, but definitely not easier. The human race are a funny bunch.The general public are majoritively quite resistant to getting together for anything less  in size than a political rally, football match or an adele concert. Something that is mainstream and massively controlled, the idea of venturing out for a socio-musical experiment to play a minimalist piece of music, organised and composed by a scruffy guitarist from the west country is apparently not on the average brits list of priorities. Its seemingly niche, which is a shame because I was hoping the revolution would be relatively mainstream. Disappointing, I know!?!?!…..but hey, it just meant we had to work harder.

Number two ‘ Louder! – there is a reason we are scared of getting together’…

It takes a lot of energy and ultimately bravery to come and join a group of strangers to play music. It takes a lot of energy and bravery to join a group of strangers to do anything. Aside from the usual ego risks that playing music comes with it, it comes as a disruption to a busy schedule, it comes with all manner of social anxieties or pre-conceptions. Ultimately the idea of getting together with strangers to play music is powerful in a positive way but comes with powerful challenges too. As life increases in complexity and difficulty the idea of breaking out of that gets harder…Just like the idea of breaking from your normal comfort zone and views. I gotta be honest, if I was invited to join a pop-up guitar orchestra, I may well be the first to bottle it.

Number three…. ‘Words – The results of actions like this are far more positive than angry Facebook posts’…

There’s a simplicity to all of this, something I touched upon in my first blog. The simplicity of gathering people together to play. In this case it was gathering people together to do something different. Now in these crazy political times, of constant bombardment of ‘facts’ and strong view points the abstract simplicity of playing guitar together might seem like a token act of togetherness, but Im quite convinced that it is actually far more than that. (I would like to point out, I fully support your Facebook rants too)

Im not claiming that after each performance of guitar revolution, people spent hours discussing with others, rationally debating their political views. Im pretty sure no-one mentioned politics once or, in fact, the future of humanity. But! It did this…. and this is something I think we all need to focus on more than ever. 

….It got people out of their comfort zone, it got people out of Rupert Murdochs comfort zone and made people feel welcome and part of something positive, peaceful and original….something that was about being together not attacking others. Something vibrant and inquisitive…its a foundation of confidence to question the world around you.

For everyone on this messed up little island, being open minded, peaceful, and social is key to helping us progress. Whatever your political views, being social, community minded and open is the key to getting along, moving forward and generally not descending into being a country of absolute morons. Getting behind something musical is massively uniting. There are no ‘facts’ or view points, there is only the music. Because really, everyone wants the same thing. Don’t they?…

So, go and create something…  bring people together. Show the world that together is better. Do something! Organise a gig, get some people together to do something creative and pointless…something that is for nothing more than breaking the monotony of modern life and reminding us that we are human and we are here to laugh, dance, sing and share our smiles.