I completed an MBA in 2007. I loved the educational environment and the challenge that University gave me. I have always tried to push myself and am happiest when working on something new. It was tough though and I needed a break once it was complete. Fast forward to 2014 and time had blurred the memory of how tough it had been and I am itching to get back to some education. This time I wanted to do something for myself that was not work related and music was the obvious choice. Luckily I found a great course at the local University where I had done my MBA and enrolled on the MA in Music Practice. A slightly misleading title but it is all about sound performance (in whatever form you want it to take) and development as an artist.

I wanted to use the course as an excuse (read: justification) for spending some time exploring my practice and finding out what I am capable of (I hoped that this justification would get less complaints at home due to the hours spent tinkering in the studio). I would also like to uncover a method of doing music full-time rather than the current day job, as it does not fill me with enthusiasm every Monday morning! I am slightly trapped though in that it is a well-paid job and will be difficult to walk away from (but life is too short to be less than 100% fulfilled so if I can find a way……..).

My reason for doing the course is not just to obtain an MA, rather to develop myself as an artist and seek out new experiences in sound. I am into my final year (doing it part-time over 3 years) and I have gone in some directions that I would never have imagined. I have found the course enlightening and expanding and I have been allowed and encouraged to go in my own direction. Through analysing my approach I have discovered that I write very quickly. Pieces will materialise over about 1 hour with a final recording being done within 2 hours. They usually develop from a simple idea either a music process or subject matter, which I then spend a little time thinking about and then get stuck in. What I have discovered is that the act of ‘getting stuck in’ is where the magic happens. By that I mean, in most cases, during the act of ‘getting stuck in’ a serendipitous accident will occur that results in something unexpected and this ends up being the ‘thing’ that is developed into the final piece. Work often takes an unexpected tangent. I often don’t know where the idea came from or what made me do what I did. This may sound weird but it often feels spiritual in some way, by which I mean I don’t think it came from me consciously. My involvement (and why this is not just luck) is that I need to recognise and act on the happy accident rather than missing or discarding it.

This is similar to what happens when I write a song. I may have a theme or story in mind but often I pick up the guitar without really thinking about what I am going to do and just let things happen, to see what materialises. Often the key bit that develops into a piece will result from me misplacing a finger on a string or making up a chord.

I have found that my experimental pieces are often simple in structure yet are sonically complex. This requires engagement and deep listening in order to hear everything that is going on. I have also targeted my focus at some very challenging subjects, things that are often easier to ignore but that I feel can be given new focus by viewing them through an artistic lens.  As part of this journey I have explored the visual element to my arts practice that I have never explored before and am enjoying allowing my subconscious the space to work in new and exciting ways.


There is much more to discover and interesting times ahead.


Next time: Sound art and the stigma of suicide ideation