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Balsall Heath inspired piece

February 16, 2015

Category: community


I definitely connect with Kirsty’s blog post about the challenges of writing instrumental music with the inclusion of field recordings. This brief has not been an easy one! Then again, I did not want it to be, so no complaining now! Challenges allow for growth and granted the result whether deemed a success or not will leave an indelible mark on my approach to writing music.

I really wanted to open up the initial stages of writing the piece to the participant  who braved the rain to help map our sonic walk. The following day he also accompanied me to complete the field recording activity. I was gifted a great participant, someone who works in an environment supporting people of different cultures and for a hobby is a singer-songwriter.

Some of the sounds we sourced were great!  My faves are:

1. The trickling delights of the River Rea working its way through Calthorpe Park
2. A garage on the Moseley Road
3. A Sikh temple on Mary Street
4. Kids letting off firecrackers on Ladypool Road
5. The sound of a butcher slicing meat (again) on the Ladypool Road – it had a strange zingy/metallic quality.
6. Sounds spilling out of cars – barely audible but revealing hypnotic middle-eastern songs
7. Pub songs and chitter chatter in the Old Mo pub – warmly familiar.

You can listen to some here:

Hugh, a participant on the project, assisted in chosing the samples to include in the piece. He also gave my selections his blessing. He also chose the overall structure of the piece and allowed me to use a song he had written about Balsall Heath called ‘Coming Back.’

I have laid down the foundations of the piece using elements of Hugh’s song and melodic material via transcriptions from field recording. I have lots of elements and the main skeleton of a piece. Now, my job is it to refine and turn these quite disparate ideas into a wholesome piece of music. This means striving to sit patiently with the musical material, to ensure it serves as a cohesive collection of sounds; this has not been easy.

Most of the time I feel like this:

and occasionally like this:


More musings to come…