Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

On Your Horizon – Untitled #1


On Your Horizon – Untitled #1

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

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Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Doing something right


Watching the emails stream in marked WordPress, particularly those now following the blog, I am clearly doing something right.

When I had put up a substantial amount of digital work on Saatchi Art and I told my wife  that I was following the number of hits each work got within a set time, usually a week, she made a remark to the effect, a question, “You aren’t going to pander to popular taste are you?” knowing this to not be my taste.

But, I think it important to be in touch with your audience. Their preferences and dislikes. Having mounted slightly eve a 100 works on the site, with more to follow, I pulled some of the less popular works from the site; some I was glad to pul. I didn’t like them was relieved to have absent. Should they have stayed. Off the site and they surely will not sell.  Saatchi hate you doing this. But if the number of visits in the case of these works were a fraction of those further up the totem pole, then what purpose do they serve? 

There are works I simply can’t replicate even supposing I wished to. There is a work either way  which is by far and away the most visited of all the digital works. Why this is I cannot say. Could I make works similar to this. I would be foolish to try. There is a sort of red version created around the same time. It does not draw visitors in anything like the other. Why is inexplicable. Take the case of the work I have sold, upon time. This work was among those I pulled from the Saatchi site. On Art Finder this pulling or not pulling works does not arise. AF does not track visitors, or if they do, the figures are not available to those of us on the site. So I have no criteria.

And so it with writing. Now, it is true this writing and all others is not for profit. But that should not make a difference. My writing here and elsewhere should, needs to be, to a standard that is suitable for sale, for publication. I think, for one thing, that you as readers, deserve nothing less.

In thinking about the previous to last post, I puzzle over this business of the use of first person singular. Why is it so difficult to employ. Where one moment the voice seems authentic and in the next cloying and oversweet. Alongside the publication of these posts, I have been in correspondence with one of my business partners, see the Linked In profile for sense of what I am saying.

I send letters, emails, to him and others, in my business world and they are word and letter perfect. Naturally, I check them. I type fast and even if I did not I would still need to. All of us would.

But why? What’s the difference? Write like you talk is the injunction of one school of thought on fiction writing, and the kind of personal that I employ here. But how is that possible. When speaking in a non business environment, I use many registers. Depending on circumstance, topic and to whom I am talking. I cannot employ these with an I voice. One would have to write in fiction mode through a character or characters. The is no possibility of contracting a fiction piece at the speed with which I am writing these words. But maybe that is not true. When writing fiction, I have a clear sense of what I want to write. As with my digital art and, indeed, with the music spoken of elsewhere, the work is fully realised within me. All I have to do is put it out into the world.

Ah, now I begin to see where we are with this. There is no fully conceived work here. Of course I have a sense of what I wish to say to you as I write these words but the conception of this piece is not fully formed with the creative centre of me, wherever that lies. I don’t think it can.

Perhaps it is. I am speaking directly to an audience I don’t know. In the business world I know exactly whom I am talking to, whether it be a CEO, the partner that I just spoke of, or the insurance agent I wrote to earlier today to squabble with him over the start and end days of the auto insurance.

Maybe it is not this but having a clear thought process as one writes.

Possibly it is none of these things.

There is a case to be made for the fact that I am entering a new world, that of the arts; visual art, and, perhaps, the musical, where everything is unfamiliar. I do not have the suave, polished person so practiced in that field, the arts. Here, surely, I am the same person, but the landscape is different. I am in a foreign country and I am new among the natives.  It is a strange experience having been in another land, that of engineering, business and the commercial, for so long that was so familiar to me. My writing I notice is suffering. I simply cannot account for this. I could say to myself, this too will pass. 

But there is a deeper problem which I think is of interest to all writers and all humans, and, although I am running against schedule to go to Guitar Centre and Washington Heights, see previous posts, I think it is important to say. And that is the problem of introversion. This form of being I find unhealthy, It was at the root of my depressive state. The writing I have been doing over the past three, four days, for the most part has often turned to the introversion. An inner world and not an outer world. The latter a being in the world, as philosophers and psychologists might say. The pursuit of the visual and musical does not have this feature of their creativeness. These writings suffer from the fact that they do. I am thinking of this and of how it might be and why it is. I will resolve it and the attendant improvement of the written page will be visible to all, including me.

Now, I should stress that introversion is not the same as introspection which is an entirely different form of thinking.

It would be hazardous to say to you, watch this space.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Encouragement


I am greatly encouraged by the fact that there is a viewing of the pieces going up, however inept.

Thank you.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

What I think of what I just wrote: Let’s go back to the beginning


As a writer, I can do much better than the post just put up. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But it is written in one sitting and badly needs editing. It was written with a view to spontaneity. I suppose one should not wash one’s dirty clothes in public. But that is what all this is about. Learning by doing in with full frontal. Not pleasant at times to view. I can write a better than this. The colloquial is simply not my style. And the adoption of it unsuccessful. This not a sobbing but a self appraisal. For marks from teacher, not a fail but not a pass either. I know what’s wrong with it, though, it is far too clever for itself. 

Perhaps one should not put up a piece warts and all but fully polished pieces. 

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Let’s go back to the beginning


Let’s go back to the beginning, to some seven or eight days ago, when this whole composing thing started. Now. I have no illusions. And on a separate plain, I have no idea of the musical worth of what I am doing. Just as with my digital art  of which I had no idea had any king of merit – and look where I stand now, but that is separate matter and has no place in this post – so with my music. I have no idea whether it is worthy of human consumption. With a bit of fortune I will find one or more experts who will assess its merits and tell me to go home and come back when I have grown up. It may simply be dross, sawdust, with little appeal, and be too shallow, as with my poetry – nobody has said, “Oh you must publish this, Malcolm.” The one outlet I tried to have the work, the poetry, be accepted for publication said it did’t fit the style of poetry they publish. And I don’t doubt it. Look at Laughing Through Slaughter posted Wednesday 17 February, 2016, to see that.

Sticking to a temporal telling of the events occurring in the days that have followed, let’s begin with describing the piece as presently conceived.

The time structure, reflecting on what I said and need to correct in a previous post, In passing … my time signature in Piece de Musique Banale, the time signature is 20/4 at the beginning and closings chords of the work. The musical form is of a march, a slow aching one at that. This is why I refer to the work as a Post-Minimalist piece. It lacks the underlying pulse that is characteristic of all Minimalist compositions. Since the piece is a set of variations, the opening and closing chords are repeated at various stages in the work. I reckon the work to be of one hour to an hour and a half in its fully developed form. There are faster chords times, 3/4 or 6/4 where the march pace is faster, much faster, than the 20/4 sections.

There is a music motif, the piece has several of them, three or four, probably more, but one almost overwhelms the work. I refer to it for now as the Wandering motif. It falls down the scale in a series of semitones from different starting points, various keys, in both LH and RH. This motif breaks across the keys so that its basic form is broken in a variation like form.

The underlying accompaniment is of chords similar to those spoken of already. There is no need to go into greater detail. If you are able to follow what I am talking about then you get the idea. The chords themselves at any point in the piece are broken chords, that is to say they are not tonal, whether major or minor.

I doubt that I shall be putting up music in blog posts for copyright reasons. This is not a hobby. I am professional artist in whatever form that takes and do this for a living.

I have been writing out what I have given a synopsis of in long hand in my notebook. Music notation will follow as I recover my skills.

I needed to find somewhere where I could gather information on what I would need going forward. I have a disreputable Williams keyboard at home. It is heavier than a King’s Coffin. I bought it about a year and a half ago for $100. The seller wanted $150 but he was keen to get rid of it.

The animal, probably a dead one, does not have a USB connection, though I haven’t checked on the Web yet. Without such a connection it is worse that useless. I have a very sensitive touch on the piano. I can’t stand syntheses and the like. They have what I call sticky keys. These are plastic and have no response. How other musicians use them I have no idea. The piano is my favoured instrument. Guitars I have two of both Fender, acoustic and electric. I very much doubt I shall be playing them. The piano offer far more than any other instrument other than the organ and harpsichord.

From my experience and training in South Africa I know my preferred string keyboard is Kawai over Yamaha. The Steinway I cannot bear and Bluchers and their ilk; let’s not speak of them.

So … searching in mind my for what I might do next, I settled on going to Guitar Centre. We have at least two in Houston. One is on Wertheimer, a street I detest, and the other in the Heights. Given that Houston is a no zoning law town – I know, “how can you stand living there?” I can’t. It desperately offends my aesthetic sensibility. And it is flat. Boy, is it flat, the only hills here are the overpasses on the freeways (I get vertigo on two of them and grip highly as I drive the car over them, feeling that I am going to fall any moment, an utterly terrible experience. And since I don’t suffer seasickness or similar ailments, there has to be cause.).

The Heights then is a delight. It is a small community bounded by a railway line, Santa Fe, and a bayou I intend to photograph, White Oak Bayou, to the South, a freeway to its West and another to its North and Main Street to the East. Main Street. Don’t have me laugh. The main street of a town is usually something to be proud of. Houston’s a ramshackle affair which looks like a junkyard for most of its length. A disgrace to any self-respecting city. But not so Houston, ex-cow town. Houston, essentially a concrete raft sat atop an effluvial swamp abound in bayous. I don’t know why they are called bayous. They do not, assuredly rivers. Instead they are brown, sluggish things, usually course with naked, unsightly concrete slopes which are steep. These, the bayous turn treacherous during and after the frequent down-pourings which are a feature of the weather in this part of the world, sweeping away all in their path. They can rise to four or five times their normal height in really bad storms. Lives are lost, cars drowned and properties destroyed beyond repair. Storms frighten residents in this area due to their completely unpredictable nature. They sweep in from the Gulf of Mexico and may wreak havoc and devastation. One during my lifetime in the city took the city three weeks to repair in its aftermath. Bayous are also home of alligators which often make sport of small children, hidden as they are, their colour matching that of the brown of the bayous.

Washington Heights, where Guitar Centre is located is not strictly a part of the Heights proper, lying between the Santa Fe railroad and Washington – streets in America appear to only ever are referred to by their first name. It comes as a surprise to learn, for instance, that Richmond is actually Richmond Avenue, perhaps so named because it has a grass median for some of its length.

Every town and city in America is littered like trash after an open air rock concert with shopping strips and malls. The former come in two kinds, it doesn’t matter which, which are dreadful affairs and an offence to the human spirit never mind how they look. One kind are L shaped and the less said of these the better. The other has at its centre what is referred to as a flagship store. This acts as a magnet to draw shoppers to its midst. Shopping is America’s national sport. After 9/11, American were urged by President Bush, he who, when told of the event, was in a children’s nursery, caught live on television with his draw dropped and a sheep’s glaze in his eye. Talk about being prepared. Pearl Harbour all over again. Hence the US wanton destruction of countries held to be responsible. Not Saudi Arabia, of course, thought to those in the know to be the culprits. This spirit of blood thirsty revenge still runs its course to this day with the attendant misery and destitution to otherwise innocent populations. Ah, the humanity of spirit here!

The non L shaped strips have a flat concrete parking lot surrounding them which stretch as far as the eye can see and bake you like bargequed chick in the height of the summer when temperature reach 104degF or more – with a humidity you can walk on. The parking lots, which could swallow whole smaller countries, are quite unfilled even when on days when every man, woman and child in this great nation goes shopping on a National Holiday.

Malls on the other hand are large brontosauri. Let’s leave it that.

Washington Heights has two of the more, er-hem, human kind. Both keystoned by, in the larger that famous landmark of these United States of America, born of a certain Sam, not Uncle Sam, who to the best of my knowledge is mythical, who conceived on one dull night, Walmart as his reliquary and gift to the nation. Shopping experience has never been the same since.

At the heart of the other lies my destination, Guitar Centre. Here the staff is relaxed and knowledgable. This should come as no surprise as they are to a man, musicians – there are few women in this profession.

I have come to begin my profession as an erstwhile (dreadful word, excessively favoured by UK journalists) musician, if composers can be referred to as such.

The modern musical world required vast quantities of equipment which might match that of touring band where convoys of 18 wheelers are needed to carry equipment, the logistics of which would not shame the MATS part of the US Airforce.

This equipment is required of the digital age to match listeners’ demand for every complex mixing and layers of sound which are met through the production of DAW files. I know, I was quite unaware of the existence of the Gigabyte marvels until a few weeks ago when I started mugging up on all this stuff.

Having turned a disgusted eye at the Williams – they are popular apparently, some people just don’t have taste (or don’t know better, you pick which) in my jaundiced view. I looked longingly and fondled the keys of several Yamaha’s as I glanced at the prices knowing by them that they lie far out-with my present budget (we will leave aside the gory details as to why this is). The Yamaha’s are alright but somehow lacking what their stringed sisters and brothers have. They seem orphans, somehow. They are electric. which I suppose means they are driven by electric motors. No, actually this means electronics, this wonder of mankind developed in Britain, stolen by the Americans but mastered by the Japanese, the means by which they, the Japanese, won the Second World War (the Germans won it with quality, with a large Q).

I learn of interfaces and MIDI’s and software good enough to control NASA’s spaceships and the fly-by-wire needs of Airbus aircraft.

This is a dizzying Mount Everest to climb in my search to gain the knowledge required to join this august profession of which Beethoven and Bach are its leading members, tough competitors I can tell you. But I am in with a chance. I have the expertise of the guys at Guitar Centre who are knowledgable to a degree that astounds.

After several visits, my third, I discover an animal, with pseudo ivory white, teak black keys, lovingly branded branded as Privia – such curious names manufacturers choose to make their products differentiate from others which really are so similar that these improbable names are coined in order to fool you that X brand is DIFFERENT from Y’s product. Car makers are the past masters of this game. A fortune could be made of designing a board game employing them, the strangled versions of the English language. The names are probably coined by that knowledgeable breed of know it all marketers who pretend to know our tastes and we are foolish to swallow whole, though in the case of automobiles that might be difficult. The constipation as a result might be something to behold. The Privia is made by a company called Casio which I last knew to make calculators. Maybe they still do. In a visit to the back of the store I find one of these machines in a practice room during open day on Saturday – Guitar Centre sells music lessons and these have proven ti be hugely successful. This particular beast is much better to be better than the same model on the floor – it has a peculiar difference between LH which is loud and RH is soft – and better still than the Yamaha’s beside it. I have found my companion in composing. The Williams’ Coffin can be consigned to its grave when I have saved pennies enough in the penny jar to buy it.

I have several meaningful discussions with these musician cum store attendants – one tells me in deep confidential tones. as he shiftily looks around and over his shoulder as if guilty of some great crime, “We’re not supposed to tell you, we are on commission;” as if to confess, as if to a priest, himself of some great sin that these wonderful Guitar Centre people don’t have.

On Monday, day before last, I have a quiet conversation with the Store Customer Support Manager – all modern people facing businesses have. and would’t be seen dead without, who has people skills honed to perfection, but in his case sincere and heartfelt. He too has is a composer (don’t I have hubris?). We talk in a relaxed way despite the cacophony around us and at its conclusion I say to him, “is there a final remark you’d like to make.”

“Yes”, he says, “Malcolm, Let it loose.”

I leave the store and walk out to my white BMW, that High Priestess to German quality, with its black leather seats baking in the sun of this August in Houston, weeping, sobbing, “This is what I have wanted all my life. I love music so much.”

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

 

 

 

Filed under: Current Events

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – self titled album


A Winged Victory For The Sullen – self titled album

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Memoir, poetry, songs, stories

Why I love Rock, I mean I loooove Rock


Apart from its many other attractions, Rock is so wonderful because of its viscerality. The blood surges and life itself seem infinitely better. If Rock does not give you an enhanced sense of well being, well I wonder what you get …

Life, my life at least, would be greatly impoverished without it.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017
 

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Frank Zappa – Keep it Greasy live at The Pier NYC USA, 26th August, 1984


Frank Zappa – Keep it Greasy live at The Pier NYC USA, 26th August, 1984

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

In passing … my time signature in Piece de Musique Banale


In passing, I would add that, as far as I am able to tell, the underlying beat in the piece I am currently composing, Piece de Musique Banale, assuming it ever sees light of day. has a 20 time signature, with perhaps 3 and 6 beat sections but I will likely be corrected by experts I hope to consult with in the next few days, so I may have to correct this. I am speaking in ignorance so caveat emptor.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Frank Zappa – Keep it greasy from Joe’s Garage, 1979


Frank Zappa – Keep it greasy from Joe’s Garage, 1979

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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