Creative Practice, Learning & Leadership, Research Studies, Community Projects….
DCI Phase 3 – Narrative-guided Practice
This series of memory blogs that follow this Introductory blog are part of David L Page’s creative process – reflecting on selected significant events in the early stages of his life, and associating sonic and musical textures that best represent his memory of those significant events. The collection of associative memories will then be formed into a composition – The Dark Years: A Boy Who Was Beaten – which David L Page will produce as a fifteen (15) minute soundtrack of the first stage of his life. This cultural artefact is to make up Phase 3 of my Doctorate of Creative Industries Research Study Holistic Model of Authentic Practice: Narrative-guided Practice
The aim of this Doctor of Creative Industries Research Project is to investigate both my DIY music and sound-making practice and my self as a practitioner during the process of creating and producing a cultural artefact (EP). My research study is designed to be a multi-method qualitative study: a practice-based, arts practice as research, auto-ethnographic study that is to include a first-person narrative of my personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of my music-making practice. As an auto-ethnographic study, I designed the project for me to be performing the dual primary roles of being both the practitioner as subject, and the researcher. Such a multi-tiered examination represents a significant departure from current discussion of music and sound practice, developing praxis of contemporary practice. In this Project 1 research study exegesis submission I narrate the process to date, highlighting observations around my practitioner self, my music and sound-making practice and the emergent distinctions integrated into my developing contemporary music and sound-making praxis.
Continuing on from my previous blogs (Page 2015b) in this series….
In the beginning……
My journey in music-making commenced a number of decades ago. I made music via physical instruments without much thought of the process. I strummed chords on a guitar or piano, hummed or played a melodic phrase, developed lyrics, and over time a song emerged. I felt connected to the process; I felt connected to the music. I recall getting positive feedback when I shared my acoustic instrument-based songs with an audience. I followed this process several hundred times over several decades, and because of the relative ease these songs came to me, I did not feel a need to consider my music and sound-making process.
As technologies developed, I transitioned into music and sound-making using digital virtual technologies. I invested in virtual technologies, trialling a number of virtual music and sound-making applications – digital audio workstations (DAWs). I experimented; I spoke to local pro audio retailers; I experimented some more; I bought instructional books and videos; I studied; I experimented a lot more. Over a number of years however, I found that irrespective of how much time and money I invested into my virtual music and sound-making production practice, I never managed to achieve a similar flow or a similar feeling – a creative high – as I had music-making using physical instruments. My frustration using virtual technologies to make music grew. I enrolled into a practical tertiary course. The course assisted me greatly to develop my theory and practical skills. However, using virtual technologies to make music that I felt connected to, (largely) continued to elude me. There was one instance, a remix project where I felt a connection. That experience gave me hope that my attempts to use virtual technologies to make music I felt connected to, was not going to be in vain. I continued to experiment; I continued to read; I continued to invest; I continue to immerse my self into my virtual music and sound-making production practice. However, I still found I wasn’t achieving a similar flow or a similar feeling – a creative high – using virtual technologies to make music as I had music-making using physical instruments. My frustration was at an all-time high. I had arrived at a juncture in my life where I felt there was now no alternative: my virtual music and sound-making production practice needed an intervention. I needed to put my creative practice using virtual technologies to make music and sound under scrutiny. In 2014 I applied to a formal academic research program – a professional doctorate program. I commenced the program in 2015. My formal research journey began.
My doctoral research study……
Research Study – 1st Observation:
I acknowledged that I approached my music and sound-making practice in terms of the outcome – the finished product. I was not considering the process in which I was music and sound-making, any more than with a cursory glance. My music and sound-making practice was product-driven.
I recognised that I approached my music-making with physical instruments in a different manner to my approach to music and sound-making using virtual technologies (using my laptop to make music and sound for example). In drilling down I determined that much of this was how I viewed both devices.
Physical instruments as I played were derived directly from nature. Pianos and guitars that I played were manufactured from woods from the forest. They are physical instruments that have natural resonant qualities. The woods expand and contract, depending upon temperature and humidity. They are large instruments that I can touch, embrace and/or feel the resonant qualities as they are played.
I viewed virtual technologies very differently. The actual device that housed the music-making application software (DAW) was a computer (a laptop for example). I saw a laptop as a device that houses many many application software that enabled me to record data and/or make transactions. I used computer technologies for administrative purposes (applications such as iNote, word, excel, etc); organisation purposes (applications such as iCal, reminders, etc); and everyday personal and business management (services such as the internet-based social media sites, banking sites, utility sites to pay bills, etc). I viewed the music and sound-making application software (DAW) as somewhat removed from me. It was housed in a aluminium and plastic case, that I could see, but not touch. The virtual keyboards were engaged by pressing a computer keyboard letter; or perhaps a key on a plastic physical keyboard controller. Neither devices are derived directly from nature. They are manufactured. A computer and a keyboard controller are physical devices which also have natural resonant qualities. They only minimally expand and contract in extreme conditions, with such occurrences perhaps likely to render these devices inoperable. There is also a slight delay between the time you touch the key and having the sound emitted out of the computer monitors. They are not what I consider to be large resonant devices that can be embraced and/or feel the resonant qualities as they are played, such as I experience with a piano or guitar.
Research Study – 2nd Observation:
As I attempted to scope out the parameters of my research study, I was led to look at the industry of my practice, the field of music production, and the particular discipline of virtual technologies to make music. This process revealed gaps in my knowledge, and enabled me to form linkages across several strands within the field of contemporary music production.
I then looked in greater detail at the history of my practice, understanding for perhaps the first time the implications of how I approached my music and sound-making practice – as product rather than process. I also started to consider me as a practitioner, as the music and sound-maker. Who was I? How did I arrive to be this person?
My eyes were starting to open.
Project 1 Pilot Study – 3rd Observation:
As I progressed my initial Project 1 Pilot Study, exploring the parameters of my music and sound-making practice, I started to highlight certain elements which I considered key to my practice. As a flow on from my music and sound-making practice, I acknowledged that the self was an element that had to be included. What motivated me to practice?
My music praxis (v4) had six (6) elements listed: self, motive, music style, location, technology and workflow.
My initial pilot study was to be an exploratory investigation to determine the parameters of my music practice; and to investigate what – if any – relationship existed between these elements. I engaged in conscious, deliberate and systematic reflective and reflexive practice of my creative practice, and as part of this process I felt obligated to consider everything that I observed.
As I progressively immersed myself into my quite isolated pilot study, I began to focus in on what I was doing at any point in time, as both the practitioner subject and the observer/researcher. To juggle both responsibilities was not beyond challenge and limitations. How was I to do both – be the creative practitioner, and simultaneously observe my practice?
Project 1 Pilot Study – 6th Observation:
One of the first elements I noted to be part of my developing music praxis (v5) – beyond the initial six (6) elements I had observed at the time of my Project Brief submission – was listening. I noticed listening was central to agency within my practice. Listening directed my choices and decision-making within my practice in terms of music style – in my ability to critically and analytically listen to reference tracks; in terms of my selecting appropriate notes and/or sonic event samples during the creative, pre-production or production stages; in terms of hearing needed or possible options of contra-melodies, rhythms, harmonies or instrumentation during the creative, pre-production or production stages; in terms of determining the degree of adjustment of sound sources or processing that needed to occur during the production or post-production stages.
I started to observe that a central aspect of this listening was also in terms of my practice overall, such as deciding when I needed to have a break. Yes, listening to an inner voice, reminding me I was in need a break from creative practice. I started to notice by paying more attention to my self – to listening to my self – there was a great deal of head chatter occurring while I was engaged in practice.
I had always known of my head chatter, but had accepted it by my mid-twenties as the outpouring of my inner fears as I approached a new experience. By my early-thirties I had learnt to manipulate this head-chatter, to work for me rather than against me. I used my head chatter to consciously motivate and focus my self. I have continued to develop this practice throughout my life, assisting me in preparing for any form of performance, be it: public speaking, education practice (as educator), learning practice (as learner in formal instrument or personal development), and my music and sound-making practice (on stage performing). However, I had never considered, nor explored my head chatter beyond this; particularly within the context of my creative practice.
As I listened more, I recognised that this head chatter – inner speech – did not just consist of just one voice, but were in fact multiple voices; multiple voices with multiple perspectives. As I focussed in on my listening – consciously, deliberately and systematically – I realised these voices were not necessarily independent. There was often a dialogue occurring between them. As I honed my focus and developed my inner listening, I noticed that the dialogue within my head was occurring across three perspectives of time – one of now; one of past; and one of future. In effect, three voices representative of each point in time. As Wiley (2010, P17) refers to it: the I of the present; the me of the past; and the you of the future. An epiphany. A light bulb moment, an ‘aha’ moment for me. The head chatter – as I had always referred to it – that had accompanied me in so many events and stage of my life, was indeed the inner speech of my dialogic self.
As my immersion in reflective and reflexive practice of my research study deepened, I honed in on the incessant daily dialogue of my dialogical self and began to distinguish between the inner speech – the three inner voices, the triadic voices of the I, the me, and the you – for each of my three selves operating at any point in time within the site of my practice: the self, the practitioner self and the observer/researcher self. I would take time to listen to the dialogue at any point in time during my creative practice, as they considered and debated: what I was seeing or observing, what I was hearing, what I was feeling, what I was imagining, what I was recalling, what I was smelling, or even what I was tasting; in order to better understand my music praxis. I devised ways to take notes during my practice of these daily triadic conversations, in order to return to them, reflect on them, and decode them. My music and sound-making praxis developed as a result of this process, to not only acknowledge significantly more stages and elements of my music-making process; but, perhaps most significantly, the non-linear form of my music praxis (v8i).
I realised my music praxis was in fact very circular, with reflective and reflexive practice occurring constantly at any point in time.
My practice has now developed to the point where I can engage in multiple forms of listening whilst immersed and engaged in any stage of practice. I can now distinguish between the triadic voices of my three selves: the self, the practitioner self and the observer/researcher self in the present, the past, and the future within a very short amount of time, or sometimes, almost instantaneously and/or simultaneously. Just as my critical and analytical listening has developed over many decades of practice, my ability to listen and decipher the dialogue occurring within my dialogical selves at any point in time has also developed.
I liken this developed complex skill to other forms of practice where multiple tasks are required in sequence over a very short amount of time, often times almost instantaneously and/or simultaneously. The practice of driving a car and the practice of performing are similar type complex skills that need to be learnt; and are often awkward or impossible when one first attempts them with no prior experience. The act of driving a car – accelerating, braking, looking to the side for another car, indicating, moving lanes, whilst watching cars to the side, in front and behind is an example of such a complex task. Another example of a complex task would be leading a band, singing into a microphone, engaging an audience, playing guitar, and selecting guitar floor pedals, over a very short amount of time, often times almost instantaneously and/or simultaneously. I recall when I was younger, that I would never be able to learn how to do both complex tasks. Now I reflect on how many times a year I engage in both practices without any preparation, and perform them to a very high level of practice: almost unconsciously.
Learning about, and getting to know my dialogical self has assisted my music practice exponentially. As part of the process, I have developed a greater understanding of my self which in turn informed my practitioner self. This in turn allowed me to develop my music and sound-making praxis to a greater depth and level of detail than I was able to previously. I now have far greater agency of my praxis (v9k), and its twenty-one (21) interdependent elements, at each of the various eight (8) stages of my creative practice.
As a result, I have far greater agency of my praxis (v9k) while practicing music and sound-making. I am now exponentially more focussed and more deliberate in my practice, most noticeably in my music and sound-making within virtual technologies. I have found my self now responding within my music and sound-making micro workflow in a similar vein to that of my performing – improvising – on my long-term physical instrument of choice, the electric guitar. I observe that I now engage – almost instantaneously and/or simultaneously – in the voices of the I, the me, and the you – at any point in time, within my site/s of practice. A split second in-practice, on-practice and for-practice dialogue – in performance, in assessment of what the practitioner self just heard or performed, in consideration of what options the practitioner self now has before them, their decision as to what they want to express, and the performing of the next music-making action. Yes, a fluid practice performance that demonstrates the harmonious integration of the elements of self, listening, reflective and reflexive practice. In essence: I listen, I practice, I reflect, I analyse, I consider, I choose, I prepare to act, I act – almost instantaneously and/or simultaneously.
This Project 1 Pilot Study has been a personal journey of creative and research practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of my music-making practice. I now engage in the process of music-making in pursuit of authentic expression of self, irrespective of the medium. My authentic music-making practice – in contrast to my practice prior to engaging in this doctoral research – now transgresses the mediums of: physical instruments and virtual technologies. I now have a sense of who I am, what I am attempting to create, why I am attempting to create it, and an affective connection in the creation of it, irrespective of the medium of my music-making practice – physical instruments or virtual technologies. Virtual technologies are now as much an extension of my music-making practitioner self’s body, as playing my physical instrument of choice, the electric guitar. Allow me now to share my finding of this Project 1 Pilot Study – holistic model of sustainable authentic practice – my journey and development through the four (4) phases of: identity-driven practice, value-driven practice, narrative-based practice, and embodied practice.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Research Practitioner Part 25 (Page 2017g). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2017a) for the previous blog.
Observations of my developing perspective
Based on my observations of practice over the course of this doctoral program, in pure quantitative terms: the number of elements of my Praxis has increased from six (6) to twenty-one (21) elements of practice; the stages of practice has expanded from five (5) to ten (10); and my motives for practice have increased from the original nine (9) in Praxis v4 (end 2015); to nineteen (19) in Praxis v7i (end-2016); and twenty (20) in Praxis v8j (20170401). Perhaps most importantly, my view of what music is, and how I define music and sound-making practice, has exponentially broadened over this time. My knowledge of the lineage, and of the functions and faculties required in each of the approaches to music-making practice has exponentially deepened.
As a music-making practitioner, I believe I had always defined music in what I thought were quite broad terms. I always considered my self blessed to have had such diverse musical lineage influences from a relative young age, such as: European high art-based music; roots-based music from any number of continents and cultures, including indigenous musics from many cultures including Australia, North America, Japan, Thailand, East Africa and India; and electroacoustic and sonic art-based experimental pieces. From the age of eight (8) my house was filled with the orchestrations of European symphonies and operas (see Page 2014). By the age of ten (10), I was immersing myself in all things mainstream popular. Firstly via the only device I had access to, the radio; then, after a piano was placed in my room, I dabbled with that instrument over the next few years. My father returned overseas with a semi-acoustic guitar for my brother, which further fuelled my musical desires for particular instruments. Through radio, my brother and his friends, and my friends, my development of a broad range of music and sound styles continued, to include an array of roots-based musical styles such as folk, country, blues, rhythm & blues, rock, rock opera, and psychedelic rock (see Page 1990). Next my father returned overseas with another guitar – an acoustic guitar –; this time for me. I increasingly was using my pocket money to purchase records (45 rpms and then 33 rpm LPs) to satisfy a growing thirst of listening to all things music. From a young age, I was musicking. Inadvertently, as technology was developing exponentially, I was introduced to various alternative forms of music what I know now to have been electroacoustic and sonic art-based experimental pieces; and roots-based experimental pieces. As a result of both my parents regularly receiving international guests; then their relocation overseas and my extensive travelling with them; followed by my independent travels and relationships, I have also experienced a wide range of indigenous music, other than the mainstream popularised westernised form of roots-based music.
I hear musical elements in many forms of daily life, such as a goods training crossing at a local road. I hear a rhythm as each wheel passes over a particular join in the tracks. If I close my eyes – whilst waiting at the intersection – I hear the metallic sound of metal on metal – the wheel on the rail. Not a screech, but a high frequency that sits in the background of the developing soundtrack that appears to be unfolding before me. I hear the local galahs sitting in the tall gums in the campus behind me, become restless at the noise of the passing train, and squawk as they take off to fly to another location. As the train approaches the station about five (500) hundred metres down the tracks to my left, I hear the driver sound its horn. Within the surrounds of the station, and the commuter car park opposite, the sound seems to spiral into the air, adding further dramatic elements to this soundtrack, being written before me, continuing to unfold as time continues on. Is this music? Is this a musical piece with the homogenous musical elements of duration, pitch, dynamics and timbre (rhythm, harmony, and melody)? Mmmmm… perhaps it would be argued not by High Art-based trained musicologists. But is it a piece of soundtrack that accompanies the experience I am having in my life at that moment in time? Does this piece possess the heterogeneous sonic elements of mass, spatialisation, and sequence an electroacoustic and sonic art-based composition may have? I would respond with a resounding yes. Perhaps more importantly, does this soundscape have meaning – and therefore relevance – to the surrounding environment, the culture, the society, the community, and the individual? If this sample of my soundscape had been recorded, and played to any members of of a community, would they be in a position to derive meaning from it? Some may be reminded of where they once grew up, and be stimulated to travel; some may have a memory triggered, that takes them back to their childhood visiting cane growing areas such as Gladstone, Queensland, as I did as a boy; some may be reminded of being held up by the inconvenience of this train crossing; others may recognise the soundtrack, and get lost in the effect of the sounds of the galahs, the sound of the locomotion for the moment they are required to patiently wait; others may be reminded of where they live, and have their wander to narratives including other sound objects and sound events.
For me, I now take an even broader view of what music is. Music to me is no longer restricted to roots-based song, or High Art-based compositions created by what we know in the west as musical instruments. Music and sound for me now encompasses all things that may be embedded in an electroacoustic and sonic art-based style soundtrack. These may or may not include musical instruments, but will also likely include other sound related textures that may derive from synthetic devices, or from everyday life itself – sonic events, or sound objects.
At this point in time, there is less clear distinction between music-making and musicking. For me, there is less clear distinction between what I see as the elements of Praxis in my music-making practice, and the elements of Praxis in my non-music-making practice. The line between my music-making practice, and my non-music-making practice is now very blurred – if not feint, and becoming more feint every day as more time passes. I would argue, within my head there is always a soundtrack unfolding before me, over time. The primary governor here is, whether I am in a state – a personal space – to listen to the surrounding environment, and allow my self to have a memory triggered, or to immerse myself in musical and sonic textures of the particular soundtrack that is unfolding, over time. When I am in this personal space and allow my self to do so, I often find my self breaking a smile at this point, enjoying the aesthetic of the moment, re-situating one self into a past event, or another location, whilst often simultaneously in full-flight in an unrelated form of practice. I may look around the current site of practice I am in at that moment, and if/as one of the participants asks for assistance, I re-immerse my self back into that moment in time, and interact with that person in full presence. At that moment, I am. I am experiencing every moment both as private self, and social self. I am music-making within the environment by allowing my self to focus on an unfolding soundtrack, over time. A soundtrack that is not created using traditional musical instruments; a sound track that unfolds over time within that environment, drawing on any material generated from within that environment. That soundtrack supports me, as I make-meaning of that soundtrack at that particular point in time, based on my individual experience, memories, emotions and creative choices within my imagination. Concurrently, I am self-making. I am developing my self-image and self-concept based on that experience of both music and sound-making and meaning-making, at that moment of time. I then return to the immediate context – the particular environment of my practice at that moment in time, and engage with someone in real time, assisting them as they require. I am. On this note, I return to my conclusion of Moore’s quote in Chapter 1:
“music can be a useful resource in the development of the self – a way we can develop our identities; it is likely to be an individual experience in terms of deriving meaning; and a way to support the communication of our identities in social and cultural settings” (Page 2018, reflecting on Moore 2012).
I can say confidently that I now have greater clarity regarding my music and sound-making practice. However, the process has been far being a simple one. I had been warned that auto-ethnographic research studies would likely be an affective experience, both revealing and confronting. The warning was appropriate. The journey to date has been both, and so much more. At this stage of the research study, in few ways do I consider my self to be the same practitioner as when I considered embarking on this post-doctoral journey in 2014. In few ways do I consider my self to be the same person. Whilst I still don’t feel academic, I do note my ability to draw on a wide range of knowledge, and offer more frequent insight to those around me from a place of greater conviction, than I had previously. This is perhaps not surprising given the volume of titles of books, articles, and artifacts I have either read or at least skimmed and pondered their relevance to my particular pilot study.
The phrase music and sound-making, meaning-making and self-making has very clear meaning for me today, that more than likely would have glanced off my ears some two years months ago. I now ponder what I may understand in another two year that may currently glance off my ears? This thought now excites me, despite knowing that in the next Project 2 I am again likely to experience overwhelm and varying levels of anxiousness. I now understand these states represent a disparity between self-image, (in-) experience and self-esteem, that which can only be re-aligned through continuing to practice and realising the learning required. I now accept in the pursuit of new knowledge, as someone on a deliberate path of adaptive learning for fully-functionality and self-actualisation, experiencing these extra-rational faculty affective states are somewhat necessary. Academics such as Csikszentmihalyi (2005), Ohman (2010), Fredrickson & Cohn (2010), Kensinger (2010) connect overwhelm and anxiousness as emotional extra-rational faculty affective states associated with, and having an effect on self-making, meaning-making and practice. As a result of this Project 1 pilot study, I now better understand multiple selves; the causal relationship of emotion, memory and values of self or selves in practice; and how they may influence my decision-making across the broad elements and stages of practice. I can see clearly now how one’s practice informs one’s self, and how one’s self informs one’s practice. I now accept my music and sound -making practice, my creative practice – in fact all of the forms of my practice – as “technology of the self” (Foucault 1988, 16).
 My grandfather’s piano our family inherited following his death. For some reason, this piano was put into my room. I do not recall why, but in hindsight, I suppose I am grateful that it occurred given the influence it had on my musical development.
 For example, I may be at the time delivering a management training session to a group of business persons
 1,896 titles currently inhabit my Endnote software application, along with another 4,000 PDFed articles, evidencing the breath and depth of textural artifacts and literature I have engaged in this relatively short time frame.
 The song “I can see clearly now” was a major influence as I was growing up. Nash, Johnny. 1972. I can see clearly now. Epic. Vinyl LP.
(Reality Shifts 2017)
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study – Part 16a (Page 2017b). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
DLP 2016 image courtesy of David L Page. Accessed 28th November, 2016
Foucault, Michel. 1988. “Technologies of the self.” In Technologies of the Self: a Seminar with Michel Foucault, edited by Luther H Martin, H Gutman and Patrick H Hutton, 16-49. London: Univ of Massachusetts Press.
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here for the previous blog.
(AE Project Studio 2015)
My current studio and live microphone stocks a modest range of dynamic microphones, dynamic ribbons, condensers, tubes and contact microphones. The range of microphones include: Shure 57s, 58s, Beta52As & SM7Bs; Electro Voice RE20s; Sennheiser e935s, e945s, e906s & MD441Us; MXL 550s & 551s; Rode NT-USBs, NT1s, NT3s, NT5s, NTRs, NT4s & NTKs; Audio Technica AT2020; AKG C414XLIIs, P420s & CGN523Es; Mojave MA101FETs, MA1000; Neumann TLM193, OPR87C, OPR87I & OPR84s; Royer 121s; RCA77s; DPA 4099s; IK reference mic; a Zoom H6 XY and MS mic; Sony lapel mics; and a range of contact mics. This stock allows for versatility in most recording scenarios that have been presented to me; of course coupled with great instruments, amplifiers,outboard processing hardware, interfaces, consoles, and of course artists. But sometimes, in certain scenarios, even these are not enough.
Current Research Study Project
In my current doctoral research study project, I have designed a composition requiring me to source sonic samples of significant aspects of my life. Water is one of the most significant and influential elements in my life and my life partner’s lifestyle [see blog or Media Use Part 1], I felt a need to be able to record water samples across a range of contexts which I have experienced. The ocean, rain, waterfalls, swimming pools, and domestic water use. However, this needed to occur without causing damage to my current range of microphones. Ready and portable – armed with my Zoom H6 -my research project would not be complete without the range of real water samples – out in the environment. However, I also felt a need to record sonic samples of water from a submersed perspective. Of my current stock of microphones, there were none that allowed me to record in a submersed scenario, without needing a further layer between the microphone and the element of water, such as by using plastic bags or tubs, duct tape and silicon. I therefore felt an alternative solution was needed.
I researched my options, exploring what other audio engineers have used to gather some water-based samples. I finally decided to purchase a fully submersible microphone, and I now received what will be the latest microphone to add to my stock of studio and live microphones: an Aquarian Audio Products Hydrophone H2a-XLR microphone.
A hydrophone microphone is designed to be immersed in water – natural or salt water – multiple times without degrading from excessive water damage or corrosion.
The Aquarian Audio hydrophone microphone is quite compact, measuring just 25mm wide, but 46 mm long. It weighs just 105 grams.
It is a condenser microphone, requiring 48v power in order to charge the electro-static transduction process. As such it is extremely sensitive, with minimal extraneous noise. “The hydrophone sensor is cable of picking up sounds from below 20Hz to above 100KHz” (Aquarian Audio Products 2016). Designed for deep water where maximum microphone bandwidth can be achieved, the Aquarian Audio Hydrophone apparently boasts an operating depth of up to 80 metres. However, the model I purchased came with a 9 metre cable, a length I thought was more than adequate for the sample events I am looking for.
Using a Hydrophone – Context
Having just received the microphone, I am still yet to venture out into a deep water environment where I can test the microphone to its full capacity. However, I was keen to immediately test the microphone to get an idea of how sensitive it was going to be, how accurate it was going to potentially be in capturing the original sound source, and how much noise it may or may not inherently have. Using my Zoom H6 with this hydrophone to gather a number of preliminary samples, I considered the options I had immediately around me. I chose the 60,000 litre salt water fibreglass swimming pool found in our front garden as my first test environment. A place where my partner and I have spent considerable hours over the past two decades, it is surely a significant part of our lives, and therefore somewhere I am going to need to gather sample events for my composition. In saying that, embarking on this test I acknowledged there would be some limitations of using this test environment to trial the functionality of this condenser microphone. Namely, the structure of the pool – the pool is 4 metres wide, 9.5 metres long and 1.9 metre deep (reducing to about 1.4 metres in the shallow end) and made of a fibreglass shell with the sides and bottom curved into one continuous surface. Due to this particular environment, the hydrophone microphone would likely display a narrower bandwidth than what it would optimally have in deeper waters; and the captured sound source was likely to include the original sound source and a number of reflections off the hard surfaces of this domestic swimming pool. Irrespective, as I was going to need samples of this environment eventually, I considered it a useful initial test environment.
Using a Hydrophone – Part 1
The first 5 sample events I believe demonstrate the sensitivity this condenser microphone has in underwater situations. I was surprised how sensitive the microphone was, despite the large amount of water residing between/separating the subject and the microphone capsule during these recordings. As indicated above regarding the reflections, the captured sample events demonstrates a cacophony of sonic textures resulting from a fusion of both the intended sound source and its’ multiple reflections.
Note also the frequency range of each sample event relative to the micopphones’ depth and proximity to either the surface, the bottom, or the sides of the swimming pool. I have been reminded that in a shallower water environment: there is likely to be less fully developed low frequencies due to the shorter distance between any surfaces. Additionally, in calm water conditions the sound waves under the surface are likely to rebound back off a flat water surface, phase cancelling the original signal below it. This phenomena of a varying frequency range is particularly noticeable in Using a Hydrophone – Part 2 sample events 7 and 8 when the condenser microphone capsule is being bounced up and down at variable depths under the surface, and then breaches the surface of the water. Listen and compare the frequency range and the sonic texture of each sample event as the condenser capsule moves through the water.
In the first sample, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set to 6 (of 10). My friend (the subject) was in the pool and approximately 2 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles under water in the direction of the microphone. The reverberations off the nearby pool surfaces are quite noticeable from about 1/3 third into the sample event, providing a minor delay of the original signal until the end of the sample event.
In the second sample, the hydrophone was maintained in the swimming pool at a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set to 7 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 3 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles. The overall levels are softer in this second sample event while she was mimicking what she had done previously – with the exception of when the hydrophone capsule got knocked by something (tall volume spike midway) – despite the gain level being increased marginally. See image i below. The reverberations off the nearby pool surfaces are quite noticeable from about one third into the sample event, providing a minor delay of the original signal until the end of the sample event for the second third, but then decays and releases back to mainly the original signal in the final third of the sample event. As a result of the decaying signal, the amplitude reduces. With the return to the original signal in the final third, there is greater clarity of the signal.
Image I – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 1 (top) and Sample Event 2 (bottom)
In the third sample event, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was maintained at 7 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 3 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and trying to talk underwater. I note that despite her being farther away from the hydrophone capsule than she was in the first sample event, as she was trying to talk loudly under water toward the microphone capsule, the audio is louder than both sample events 1 and 2. As you can see in image ii below, the overall mass of the wav file is exponentially greater in this third event than both the previous two sample events, with the subject’s speaking voice producing far greater mass and density than she did when blowing bubbles underwater. This mass and density represents increases in sound pressure levels, and reverberant signals, resulting in a cacophony of sonic textures. Had I included a longer sample, you would observe, as per the sample event 2, at a certain point the signal decays and releases back to mainly the original signal, with reduce amplitude, but greater clarity.
Image II – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 1 (top), Sample Event 2 (middle, Sample Event 3 (bottom)
In the fourth sample event, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was maintained at 5 (of 10). The subject is in the pool and approximately 0.5 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles. Sonically, this fourth sample event demonstrates a cacophony of sonic textures, resulting from excessive sound pressure levels due to the close proximity of the transducer relative to the sound source, and the accompanying reverberant signals from the multiple surfaces of the pool. The inherent distortion results from excessive sound pressure levels, with an over-gained signal. For non-audiophiles: note the clean flat line along the top of the wav form indicating a form of dynamic limiting. Given that no dynamic processing was used to achieve this limiting of the audio signal, the limiting effect indicates acceptable gain levels for the equipment were exceeded, resulting in what is referred to as digital (signal) clipping. See image iii below (top wav form).
Image III – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 4 (top) and Sample Event 5 (bottom)
In the fifth sample event, the hydrophone was maintained at a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level is reduced to 5 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 0.5 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and trying to talk underwater. As you can see in image iii above (bottom wav form), the overall mass of the wav file is exponentially greater in this fifth event than the previous sample events, with the subject’s speaking voice producing far greater sound pressure levels than she did when blowing bubbles underwater. Sonically, this fifth sample event is heavily distorted due to the excessive sound pressure levels due to the close proximity of the transducer relative to the sound source. The digital recording is therefore clipped given the amplitude far exceeded the specified gain levels of the equipment. For non-audiophiles: in this example the cleaner flatter line along the top of the wav form – relative to the previous example – indicating extreme limiting of the audio signal. Again, as no dynamic processing was used – it similarly indicates excessive sound pressure levels at unacceptable gain levels for the equipment, resulting in severe digital (signal) clipping across almost the entire length of the audio wav file. It is also worth noting the very thin sound of this sample event as a result of the absence of low frequencies in the shallow depths; and yet as per sample event 4, there is a cacophony of sonic textures given the multiple reverberant signals arriving from the numerous surfaces of the pool.
Using a Hydrophone Part 2
In the following examples, I gathered a number of sample events using the hydrophone closer to the surface of the water line. I hope the sample events further show how sensitive the hydrophone microphone is, effectively capturing sonic qualities of very subtle movements.
In the sixth sample event, the Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set at 6 (of 10). The hydrophone was being dragged along the surface of the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace. The sound of rushing of water is the wake of water that the small condenser capsule (25mm wide, but 46 mm long, weighing 105 grams.) is creating and capturing as it breaches the surface of the water. I think you will agree that this confirms both the sensitivity and low noise levels of this particular microphone. The deeper frequency you hear (boomy quality) in the audio file is when the transduction surface of the microphone capsule is re-submersed under the surface of the water.
Sample event 6wp indicates that it is the same sample as sample event 6, but with post-production audio processing added. In the studio – following recording the sample – I chose to add two (2) reverb processing devices – a Eventide and a Lexicon reverb – to the initial audio file. While doing this, and listening to the altered sonic textures of the audio, I am imagining the many applications that I could use such an effect in my sonic compositions and sound design.
The seventh sample event is a similar execution as sample event 6, with the hydrophone being dragged along the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace, but being bounced in and out of the water in an approximately 30 centimetre arc. The popping and gurgling sounds are occurring as the capsule breaches the surface of the water (popping), then followed by the re-submersion (gurgling). It is a similar but more exaggerated version of sample event 6, with the sample event’s frequency varying dependent on where the condenser microphone capsule is relative to the water: being just under the surface, at depth (only about 30 cms in this example), breaching the surface, or above the surface of the water.
The eighth sample event is a similar execution as sample event 7, with the Zoom H6 track 3 gain level remaining at 6 (of 10). The hydrophone was being dragged along the surface of the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace, but being bounced in and out of the water over a much larger arc – approximately 1.5 metres. This is a more exaggerated version of sample event 7, with the popping and gurgling sounds associated with the breaching and re-submersion are relatively deeper in tone due to the greater depth, speed and height the capsule was dropped from, back into and under the water. Sonically, you may hear what sounds like wind noise in this audio sample event. I noted at the time that this was due in combination to both the faster movement of the capsule above the surface of the water after breaching; but also partially due to the wind in our local area picking up nearing the end of the test. You will also note that near the end of the sample event you can hear a voice – talking, describing my actions. This voice was captured by the microphone capsule after it had breached the surface of the water, with the speaker’s mouth about 2 metres away.
The ninth and last sample event had the hydrophone submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres held stationary. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level remained at 6 (of 10). The subject was approximately 2 metres away from the hydrophone drop point, swimming up and down the pool in freestyle form. The low frequency plop occurred every time the subject kicked her feet, with training flippers on. The bass frequency was pronounced, reverberating off the surfaces of the pool, producing a sound somewhat similar to a deep tom sonic boom after the skin had been struck. And yet, the hydrophone microphone still clearly captured what sounds to be running water – the sound of the subject’s hand and arms entering and breaching the surface of the water with each and every stroke. Again, I am imagining the many applications that I could apply some processing to this sample event, and use such an effect in my sonic compositions and sound design.
The Aquarian Audio Products Hydrophone H2a-XLR microphone is an extremely sensitive fully submersible condenser microphone, with minimal extraneous noise. It is well designed and constructed to be impact resistant, using sturdy materials. Whilst it is designed to be submersed in a far greater depth than I have tested to date, I believe I have made a good purchase with this hydrophone, something that will complement my current stock of studio and live microphones. I believe this microphone will allow me even greater versatility in a range of recording scenarios that I can foresee me being presented. I daresay I will probably now go searching further afield, exploring less predictable outdoor terrain, and feeling the need to be less mindful than I usually would taking my more expensive studio microphones. I am looking forward to progressing my sonic compositions and sound designs using water samples across the range of contexts which I have experienced in my life – the ocean – including boating, body surfing, snorkelling and scuba diving – rivers, waterfalls, natural pools, and domestic water use – in order to capture specific sample events that represent significant events and memories. I look forward to this next chapter in my creative practice.
It is intended for this series of microphone-related blogs to continue.
AE Project Studio Microphone Case image courtesy of: DLP Pinterest site Accessed 28th August, 2015
The series of memory blogs that follow this Introductory blog are part of David L Page’s creative process – reflecting on selected significant events in the early stages of his life, and associating sonic and musical textures that best represent his memory of those significant events. The collection of associative memories will then be formed into a composition – The Dark Years: A Boy Who Was Beaten – which David L Page will produce as a fifteen (15) minute soundtrack of the first stage of his life. This cultural artefact is to make up one part of his Doctoral Project 1 submission.
Doctoral Research Study Abstract
The aim of this Doctor of Creative Industries Research Project is to investigate both my DIY music practice and my self as a practitioner during the process of creating and producing a cultural artefact (EP). My research study is designed to be a mixed-method qualitative study: a practice-based, ethnographic study that is to include a first-person narrative of my personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of my music practice. As an auto-ethnographic study, I designed the project for me to be performing the dual primary roles of being both the practitioner as subject, and the researcher. Such a multi-tiered examination represents a significant departure from current discussion of music practice, developing praxis of contemporary music practice. In this Project 1 research study exegesis submission I narrate the process to date, highlighting observation around my practitioner self, and my music practice and the emergent distinctions integrated into my developing music praxis.
Blog Posts as part of the Reflective Practice journaling process
Welcome to David L Page’s recollection of his story.
These blogs are David’s attempt to share his recollection of the most significant events of the early stages of his life, as best as he can – events that David believes have shaped the development of his self, or the development of his musical self.
The deep reflective practice process David engaged in as part of his creative practice, saw him over some time, situating himself back in time, delving deeper and deeper into the place and the event. Of course, as much as he could possibly do decades after an event, when so much distance has occurred in terms of time and place – David’s aim was to recall as much of the kinaesthetic, the auditory, the visual, the olfactory, or even the gustatory sensations of the particular time and place – of that particular significant event. This is not entirely a new experience for David, merely describing the process he has always intuitively put himself through in his creative practice endeavours, particularly in his music practice – creation, performance, or production. The difference in this research study is however, David had to learn how to more consciously focus in on the selected suite of significant events – at a scheduled time – to more deliberately situate him self back in time, whilst recording the data of each of his in-situation experiences.
You will notice that the various blog posts – more often than not – David has included associated visuals or images, to accompany the written text, along with the attached associative sonic and musical event. David’s intention was to be able to share his in-situation experience with his audience as much as he could. David trust’s these blogs will appeal to either the kinaesthetic, the auditory, or the visual senses of the audience. With more advanced technology, or perhaps an alternative medium, David would like to – in the not too distant future – also share his in-situation olfactory and gustatory sensation experience with his audience.
David L Page’s Reflective Practice process
David requested for it to be noted: the output of each reflection of a significant event arrived as a result of a range of catalysts. David found his deep reflective re-expereinces occurred as a result of a range of catalysts used stimulate memory recall. These included: a calendar date; a visual image in a photo album for example, a book – quote, passage, or once just the cover – , a magazine – with handwritten notes in the borders, the internet – pictures or articles, or his vast stock of past writings – streams, prose in working, lyrics in working. On a few occasions the catalyst was something David saw in life that reminded him of a time or place; at other times a blurred visual image or colour that reminded him of a past time, place, or event; at other times, a sonic texture he heard in his head situated him back in time; or by a sound he heard as he conducted himself in his every day life. At other times, an old song or piece of music, a musical phrase or motif that triggered a memory – something in someone else’s composition, on occasion something he played on an instrument ; at other times, it was a smell – weather, forest, water, toilet freshener, food cooking; at other times, it was a taste – some deliberate, others by accident; and at other times, it was a feeling he had, and recalled a past time, place or event. On many occasions, it was while he was working in another form of practice, something was said or happened that triggered a memory. David noted these down on a phone message or in iNotes, to return to explore them to a greater depth when he had the time to reflect, and more deeply drill down into the particular event.
However, what ever the catalyst, it was unusual for David not to have reverted to the written word at some point in this deep reflective process. At the base of all of David’s practice, lies writing in some style, form, or medium. More often than not in practice, David engaged in streaming his consciousness onto the page – physical or virtual. This streaming could have been just ramblings from his mind, not quite sure yet of what he wanted to say, but trusting he had to get it out, and down onto the page for some greater future benefit. All writings after all, were to make up the wide range of data to be collected in this research study Project 1. Therefore, David made a special effort not to judge the merit or worth of that data at the time – in the moment of performance of his practice, at any particular time. He gathered it all. Often, emotions accompanied these streamings, deepening the in-situation experience. Sometimes these emotions were easily tapped; but most often David had to draw his self in over many hours, days, weeks or months, in order to arrive at what he could finally accept was the essence of that particular significant event. More often, possibly than David would like to admit, tears flowed as his in-stuation experience intensified, reassuring his self of the value and merit of this significant event and the particular in-situation experience, at that time. Sometimes a narrative flowed out of this streaming in the form of a tale; at other times, as prose; at other times, as song-type lyrics; and at other times, distinctions regarding his self, or any one of the forms of his practice – be it creative, research – reflective and reflective, or education and learning. [for more information about a multi-faceted/multi-dimensional approach to practice, see Research Practitioner Part 16 blog].
In terms of this Research Study Project – and most particularly – this series of deep reflective memory blogs – he observed that there was no particular order of the stimulations. On some occasions David commenced in the digital audio workstation (DAW), composing from whatever memories he held of the significant event at the time – associating sonic or musical textures that he felt best represented those occasions, and assisted to return him to the in-stutation experience. At other times, David began in an excel chart, reflecting on the significant event, and allowing thoughts, feelings, images and aural events to return him to the in-stutation experience. On other occasions, David used the writing process to return him to the in-stutation experience.
However, irrespective of what practice or what medium David commenced the deep reflective process, David recycled through most of these processes and mediums – usually multiple times – in no particular order. With each cycle, David deepened the level and intensity of experience, in order to arrive at a deep reflective in-stutation experience, to gather the range of data for this research study Project 1. You will therefore observe in the following sixteen (16) blogs, a variety of layouts, formats, writing styles, graphics or images; along with accompanying links to an equally wide variety of associative sonic and musical textured events.
David’s hopes, as you join him in his journey back to the first stage of his life, you will start to hear his voice emerge through the multi-modal narratives of these sixteen (16) significant events. He trusts you will get a sense of how David gains clarity of his self, as he gains a better understanding of his identity, musical identity, and how his musical self developed over the first twenty years of his life. This research study was always to be an immersive study; a a first-person narrative of David L Page’s personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of his music practice.
We welcome you to his journey…..
[NB: Included in each memory blog is a link/s to the associative sonic and musical textures that David feels best represent his in-situation memory of each of the particular significant events].
Message from David L Page
In the early 1990’s I returned home to Australia following a very productive period in creative practice overseas “performing and writing, including recording and experimenting in production. It was a wonderful period for me – one that I hoped would never end” (Page 2014). I recall I arrived home with a new self-image in terms of my creative practice.
In an attempt to develop my practice for my next stage of life, I undertook a number of creative writing courses. The outcome of these programs were a number of pieces of prose, of key moments within my life while I was growing up [see for example, Boy]. A number of the instructors and peers at the time noted my ability to re-situate my self back into the moment of a past event, in some way re-experiencing that experience, in order to then write about it. It was a technique I had developed and practiced, already using this technique across some of the forms of creative writing I engaged in – streaming my consciousness and song lyrics. This technique applied to writing lyrics aligned with my desired confessional singer-songwriter role. A really positive outcome of these creative writing courses was not only the prose, but perhaps more so, my acceptance of this practice as a conscious, deliberate process that I could now apply to another form of my creative writing, prose.
In early 2014, as I was re-considering the focus of my Doctoral Research Study (I had already been accepted), I began brainstorming my journey as a music practitioner. I was very keen on reflecting on more eras, to recall:
how had I arrived at where I was at as a music practitioner?
what life experiences had influenced who I was, or wasn’t, as a music practitioner?
I wanted to articulate these key life experiences into a fluid narrative – my autobiography – of my journey to date. I did return to some of the prose written in the early 1990’s as well as other pieces of creative writing I had done at other times across my life. This reflective exploration took several months, resulting in the narrative overview, Music Practitioner Part 1 – Beginnings (MP Pt1 – Beginnings) blog. I would like it noted though: when I first started writing this autobiography, I had no thought or consideration about doing a soundtrack around my life’s significant events. I had considered at this stage that I would write in the style that I had always done – in an acoustic folk pop song musical style.
Fast forward to 2016 with me now engaged in my Project 1, some 25 months after I had written the MP Pt1 – Beginnings blog, In my search for a thematic idea for my compositions (songs), I started focussing in on more specific events across my life. This then led to another event, and then another, and then another. This process spanned approxiamtely four (4) to five (5) months, arriving as some thirty-five (35) significant events. I then considered how I was going to derive a musical project out of these significant events, arriving at the idea of focussing in on associative memories of each of the significant events. I would – through reflection – associate musical and sonic events for each of the significant event; and then craft the sum of these associative memory events into a soundtrack as the cultural production output for my research study. A musical and sonic collage of my life, if you like.
I knew a challenge for me was going to be to contain the length of the composition – short enough to maintain listener interest; and yet long enough to authentically represent the sum of these significant events. But with thirty-five (35) significant events, it was going to be too long a composition for one Project. I however noted that there was a natural division within the significant events of two time frames that I could possibly divide between my Research Study Project 1 and Project 2: up until twenty (20) years of age; and post-twenty (20) years of age. I decided that it would be logical to have Project 1 represent the associative memories of the first twenty (20) years of my life.
I started experimenting with some sonic events, directly inside the digital audio workstation (DAW). Whilst I gained confidence with my vision, I found that I easily lost focus within each event, and could create some musical or sonic events that were less authentic, less congruent to me of an associated memory. The blogs evolved as a way to more specifically focus in on a range of highlighted events, drawing my self into each of them to determine the actual particular significance of the event. I found by immersing my self into each event via a number of written forms (prose, lyrics, narrative), I could deepen the in-situation experience, and better recall a range of kinaesthetic, auditory, visual, olfactory, or even gustatory sensations of the particular significant event. After experimenting across a number of these significant events, I learnt to trust the physical and emotional responses of these in-situation re-experiences as they occurred. For me, the actual sixteen (16) significant events narrated are real. Whilst immersed in this creative practice, I noted experiences including an inability to breathe, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and body pain. I relived experiences that brought up emotional responses such as joy, sorrow, fear, sadness, nervousness, loneliness, loss, and feelings of abandonment and shame whilst in-stuating my self within these significant events, and writing these blogs. My planned research study was always to have been a first-person narrative of my personal journey: an emergent study, revealing aspects of my life I had not previously considered fully, or perhaps fully understood. I expected this journey was potentially going to be revealing, and at times, confronting, True to my expectations, it has been.
I trust that you as the reader can in some way experience my re-experiences of significant events within my personal journey, that I now choose to share.
I wonder sometimes how things could have been…. I wonder if I was born into a different family, what could have life been like? I did at different points find sanctuary in other families’ homes – particular neighbours, and a few relatives. I recall when ever I was in these situations, I was attentive in my observations of how they as a family interacted – how they spoke to each other, what they discussed, and what they found laughter in. I recall taking memory photographs of these instances, snapping such moments into my memory of what others did in their everyday life. I recall thinking to my self “one day”.
I wonder if my parents were from different backgrounds, what could have life been like? I wonder if they were of different motivation – perhaps even music practitioners – what could have life been like? I really had nothing to compare it to, as no one I knew at the time had parents who played a musical instrument. The only people I knew who were older and played musical instruments were the successful musicians who had commercial album releases. I recall wondering what it would have been like to have a Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix or a Cat Stevens as a parent. I recall thinking to my self “what if?” but then followed it up with “there is no point with this thinking, it is what it is “……..
I recall being was fairly compliant up until about the age eleven (11), trying to behave and provide my mother with what she needed. But them something happened. Gradually, over time I started listening to my self. I started engaging in my self interests. I allowed my self to pursue that which interested me, and even badgered my parents – be it quietly – until I got what I needed: a guitar.. and then a dog.
I started embracing my self – and all that that I needed. I found music as a comfort – something I could engage with. Another form of language that seemed to resonate, with me. I did not achieve being able to master the language, but could understand every word and nuance that was spoken. I could hear the vibrations, and the resonance. I could interact with her for a short while, but at this point in time I sit here, alone, in silence, in darkness and embrace the tones that I recall.
In-situate, I observed my self and how I was developing, within my self, at that particular time. I had a guitar, and then a dog. Each year – another lap around the sun – I seemed to gather momentum within my self, and developed my self-worth, my self-image, my self-confidence, in search of my opinion. But my voice seemed to evade me, the shore that never arrived, the jetty at which I never moored. And so with another lap around the sun, I arrived at my fourteenth (14) year – time was ticking, and I was gaining self-respect. With another lap around the sun, it was time to stand my ground. I had no option – it was them, or me……. This is another recollection of what I consider to have been a significant period in my life, when I was Age 14.
I recall the house had little to no natural light…..
I recall being alone, and feeling scared most of those days….
I recall there were few if anyone in the house with me…..
I have no recollection of hearing someone talking to me, or any conversation, humour, laughter or joy during these days……
The greatest recollection I have of those days, was the sound of my heartbeat beating above all else….
This audio event represents the earliest recollection of my life…..
I grew up in a middle class family, third child to a young couple. My parents had recently arrived from interstate to start a new life, with their one daughter – my sister. My dad was a salesman, and had secured a job for a leading sugar refinery company in this new city, enabling them to make the trip. They rented a house initially, with mum giving birth to my older brother shortly afterwards.
I learnt much later in life, another reason for the change of city was because of a failed business venture of my mother’s – a haberdashery shop she named Betsy. The shop was a start out venture, and as a result was apparently not insured. They had in the shop possession of a lot of client’s rolls of haberdashery materials in order for my mother to make them into clothing items, curtains and other household furnishings. They were burgled one night, and not only lost their uninsured possessions, but the material possessions of their clients. They were not in a position to repay anyone for the financial loss, and had to place themselves in what was effectively bankruptcy.
My mother was from a family in very good standing – the extended family were well-known nursery vendors, with my grandfather a Mayor of a Melbourne suburban region. Mum’s shop – even though fairly recently launched – had apparently become well-known due to their family’s standing. With the loss of the business, I understand my mother also lost the face of her family – most notably of her patriarchal father – within the community.
Shortly after the birth of my brother, my mother apparently had an accident. Falling down the back stairs of the rented property, she injured her back. I am unsure of details, but I believe my mother did not need to go to hospital at the time of the accident. However, she went to a GP to get some advice as to the damage she had done. Apparently, as the days and weeks passed over the next three months, my mother’s back started presenting more problems, deteriorating to considerable pain, and causing her loss of movement.
Settling into his new career job, Dad bought a humble house on the lower north shore of Sydney, moving in just prior to the birth of their third child. However my mother’s back issues were continuing; in fact degenerating to the point of her being regularly bed-ridden, and a number of times hospitalised. During this time, my mother suffered a miscarriage, suspected to be the direct result of her degenerating back and growing health issues.
My father was in a new city, with two (2) kids under the age of three (3), with a third planned. There was limited family support due to being in a new city away from their direct families, he had a new job in which he was trying to make an impression, and a mortgage for their recently purchased house. My mother’s health prevented her from contributing with either the care of the house, or the children. My father somehow had to manage to the best of his abilities, and budget.
With little improvement with my mother’s health, I arrived shortly after. I guess with a new arrival, and now three (3) kids under the age of four (4) years of age, my father’s ability to manage only decreased.
The following prose best represents my memory of my earliest beginnings, several years later.
I had graduated from primary school, and I was now going to high school. The new high school I went to, drew from all the local smaller primary schools from surrounding districts, making the high school population four (4) to five (5) to six (6) times larger than my year before, in primary school. The mixture of areas that were within this high school catchment area were diverse with a mixture of quite wealthy families, somewhat comfortable middle class families, families from working class backgrounds, and families from housing commission units – from the other side of the tracks.
As I reflect, I realise that Year 1 of high school was a vast melting pot of social and cultural differences, relative to my previous year at primary school.
There were so many people, far older and bigger than me. I recall feeling very overwhelmed. Some of the oldest kids were adults: driving cars, some working, some in relationships with girls; some I heard from my older brother and sister had babies; and some about to be married and move out of their parents homes, by themselves.
I was twelve years old, going on thirteen. My mum told me what to do, and I struggled to even know what I thought. My god, I was in way over my head by being in this big school.
Yes, I had moved from being quite a big fish in the little pond of my primary school, on the back of my water fight incident [see Memory – Age 12]; to now feeling at odds in this larger school. I was feeling that I was now very, very small. A very small fish in a very, very big pond, and I recall struggling to want to speak at all.
Drawn from the other primary schools we some of my friends from my Saturday morning rugby football club – guys I had played with for about five (5) years. I got on pretty good with them – I was a reliable player in that club, though I never stood out in terms of being selected for districts as most of them had. But we all hung out in Year 1, as I think we were all feeling a bit overwhelmed in this new big school.
Contained within this mix of students, was an equally diverse and eclectic range of tastes and influences in musical styles. Even though my musical tastes had broadened quite a lot of the previous three (3) to four (4) years, it seemed to me everyone here at school was very sure of their musical tastes – what they liked, what they didn’t, and what was cool. I recall thinking to my self in this period:
what do I like? and why?
am I as sure of what I like?
why aren’t I as sure as everyone else around me about what I like, and about who I am?
why aren’t I as confident in what I believe in, as everyone else seems to be?
and perhaps most importantly, why aren’t all of my musical tastes considered so cool?
I recall knowing I was about to have an exponential increase of influences from all of my new peers’ musical tastes, likely to massively expand what I listened to everyday. But, I still couldn’t hear my own voice…. This is another in-situated recollection of what I consider to have been a significant event in my life, when I was Age 13.
My Musical Development
By the time Age 13 rolled around, it had been about two (2) years since I started playing my first guitar [see Memory – 10]. I had experimented a fair bit trying to play others songs as I described in my blog [see Music Practitioner Part 1 – Beginnings].
The music I was listening to, and influenced by, had grown exponentially. I found I was more purposely listening to far broader range of music, possibly mainly due to the significant diversification of music styles found at that time on radio and TV channels, following the burgeoning music business across the continents of North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe that occurred from the mid to late 1960’s. Irrespective of when the music was released, our household filled with contemporary music from about the age of nine (9) onwards, across the airwaves of radio and TV, and then in the form of singles and albums, after my dad returned from overseas with our household’s first serious stereo record system – a Bang and Olufsen system.
By this stage in my life, I was obsessed with music, listening daily to either the radio, records, or myself on the guitar. Some of the music I recall from my in-situation reflection were:
1967 family influence on my musical development (ie: albums that our household had):
The Beatles: “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Cream: “Disraeli Gears”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Are you experienced?”
Various: European classical orchestral recordings
Various: European operatic recordings
1967 radio, TV and peers’ influence on my musical development:
Various: AM radio popular music programs, playing top forty (40) songs such as found on the charts
Various: TV programs such as Bandstand, playing top forty (40) songs such as found on the charts
Various: AM radio European classical orchestral and operatic radio channels
The music styles were diverse – eclectic. Each ones’ influence on me ranged from the type of song, the instrumentation, the lyric, the phrasing, the song’s message, the harmony, the melody, and/or the production. I recall all of this music captured my imagination in some way, and drew me in. With every song or album, I would spend hours and hours, listening, and gaining something – learning something – from that particular cultural production.
I did comment in a 2014 blog regarding my playing guitar “I don’t feel I ever arrived at being able to play any of Cat Steven’s songs to my satisfaction” (Page 2014). Interestingly – with the benefit of hindsight – this comment infers where I was headed as I was entering my next stage of playing guitar. After a couple of years playing music, I was starting to consider my voice as a music practitioner. I wondered what my voice was: I wasn’t sure i had ever heard my voice. For the first time I recall, I wanted to hear my voice.
Until that point, most the songs I had learnt through the influence of my initial guitar teachers were of a folk or country-based musical style. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I didn’t much like playing other’s songs, especially when they were produced to a commercial standard. I recall that as I played, I would listen to myself, on a guitar in a bedroom playing rhythm. In contrast, when I listened to the original recordings, I would stop and think to myself how they did that. There sounded likes lots of guitars on the recordings, and many voices, many instruments and many layers of other things that my ear could not yet make out what it was. I would slow the records down, by dropping a coin on the album, and listening again, and again, and again, and again….. The recordings sounded so good, as compared with just me in a room with a single guitar, playing the basic rhythm track. I recall getting so frustrated, and thinking poorly of my self.
“can I? could I? could I ever be able to learn to do what they do? could I dare to consider that I could learn to do what they do? ……… Could I possibly?” (Page 2014)
Me being me, thought I should just try to do it my way. Screw the discipline. I am sick of being told how to do it, how I should be doing it….. I wanted to rebel! I just wanted to have a bash, strum really hard, thrash it, rock it really hard… And so I did. And then I would just stop, and lightly… pluck a few string, listening to the notes that resonated out to the point of silence. Then enjoy that silence, enjoy experience the space between the notes, almost catching my breath, gathering my thoughts, before I would go again; before I would begin the thrashing, the rocking out again…
Mmmmmm…. Reflecting back in-situation now, I can now see parallels between my music practice – my playing – and life within my family. As each year went by, I found I was getting to know my self more, and I was gaining in my self-confidence and my self-opinion. I was beginning to want to stretch out…
I had a guitar [see Memory – Age 10] and I listened and played music, and it was constantly evolving. I found it a new way to speak – to have a voice – and share something to talk to others at school.
I had a dog [see Memory – Age 11]. We were good to each other; we were good for each other. We spoke to each other and watched each other’s backs everyday. I know she loved me for looking after her; as I did of her, for the same way that she always looked after me.
I recall I had previously tolerated my mother’s control that my mother had over my life. I had for several years prior, tried to accept it, and tried to be better. I had thought I must have been a horrible little boy due to my mother always wanting to control me – always yelling at me, and telling what I should be doing [blog Memory –Age 11].
(The Jury Expert 2015)
Experimentation in finding my voice…
Feeling at odds with my self in my new social circle – at my high school – I found I spent more time by my self. In contrast to my primary school, I no longer needed to commute to go to school. Because our house was directly behind the high school, I didn’t need to spend time commuting every day with my peers – I just jumped the back fence, and I was at school. In the afternoon, I just jumped the back fence again, and within two (2) minutes, I was home again.
So with the extra time, I spent submersing my self in music – listening, playing, considering different rhythms, progressions, tones and textures, and experimenting with my musical voice.
What did I hear when I listened to a song on a record?
What did I hear when I strummed my guitar?
How is this song different to that song?
what happens if I do this; play like this? play like that?
But so too were my neighbours. Influenced by their peace and love songs, they could apparently hear me experimenting, and let me know the next time we bumped into each, down the adjoining fence.
‘what that you attempting to play?
I wondered who it was?
what was that you were attempting to play?’
….. they enquired in their disapproving, almost smug tone. [Upon reflection, I was particularly surprised at tier response given their apparent influence by the peace and love movement]. I wasn’t a greatly confident person, someone with quite some self-doubt as to whether I could possibly achieve, what I was dreaming to be able to learn to do. My experiments were my way of trying to find my voice, to get to know who I was, and what I believe in. I recall the shame I felt at their questions – their mocking – of me, just trying to be me.
They then advised me,
you need to get some lessons…
mmmmmm………. To say I can recall the sickened feeling within me right now as I am in-situated in this time and place. I feel sadness for my self, who listened, and took on board those comments, from two people who were just that – two people.
I took those comments on board, and I can feel my self shrinking back into the ground. I recall my thoughts to my self:
how dare I think that I could have dreamt I could have learnt to play music?
how dare I think that I could have found my voice immersing my self in music, as I had aspired to after listening to a number of other troubadours..
How dare you Dave for thinking that!
HOW DARE you Dave to have dreamt that you could have learnt to do that!!!
I went back inside the house, into my room, and packed up my guitar. I can still hear my self muttering to my self – cursing my self for the day I dared to dream. I took the guitar in its case down to the garage and put it up on the top of the cupboard, at the back – out of sight, out of mind. I vowed I would never touch it again.
I return back to my room, and I sat in the dark for the longest time – an hour, a day, a week, a month – I don’t recall….. How foolish it was for me to try to play guitar, to dream to write music and create songs …..
I put down that instrument having listened and taken those comments on board, believing that I had had my attempt to learn to play an instrument, and had it confirmed that yes, I was foolish to dare.