Scotland: You Can Always Come Back

The way the political parties in Westminster seem to be viewing Scotland’s imminent departure from the United Kingdom can be compared to a classic family situation.

They seem to treating Scotland like an unprepared teenager who is leaving home: highlighting all the bad things that could happen and implying that their child will not be able to survive on their own.

It is an unedifying approach and making the United Kingdom look a complete joke.

The fact that the three leaders are crossing the border on Wednesday, cancelling Prime Minister’s Questions at this late stage, shows they lack any cohesive policies or wise ideas.

The Solution to Scotland’s Separation

Rather than being parents, the UK Government should act like an adult and just say: “You can always come back.”

Independence has long been a dream of the Scottish National Party, they are on the edge of fulfilling it and like all good ideas it should be put into practice.

Hopefully it will be successful and Alec Salmond will see many fruitful years leading a prosperous Scotland.

He might not. We might see the SNP leader suffer the same fate as Churchill who, after winning the war, found his services were no longer required.

Churchill took us up to the top of the hill, but the nation found they wanted someone else to lead them down again. So it could be the same with the SNP.

After a few years of uncertainty the Scottish voters might see Labour as a more trusted bet and ask them to guide Scotland to an even brighter future.

But if it doesn’t work out the option should be there for Scotland to come back to the UK. It should be part and parcel of the ‘Better Together’ campaign. It is a much kinder approach, more thoughtful and progressive.

Rather than filling the air with scare stories, a little reassurance would allow Scotland to try the taste of Independence and report back.

You never know England, Wales and Northern Ireland might also like to try it and we could end up with the United Kingdom of Independent Nations. UKIN anybody?

Flag of Scotland” by none known – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Binaural Interview with Archive’s Dave Pen

As someone who enjoys recording binaural sounds I’m always looking for opportunities to experiment and recently recorded a binaural interview with a musician, while walking around a park.

The guest was Dave Pen, one of the best songwriters on the south coast, who has found success and recognition across Europe with Archive, a former UK trip-hop collective that has morphed into a progressive and intellectual feast of melodies and sounds.

Along with guitarist and co-founder Mike Bird, he is also in Birdpen, a dark and electronic rock group from Southampton that have been formed for over ten years, yet are only on their third album.

Climb Every Mountain

In August 2014 Dave is raising funds and awareness for children’s cancer by trekking to Mont Blanc with Trekstock.

They will walk 100km, creating music on the way, and then make an ascent of the mountain that has recently claimed the lives of some experienced climbers.

That accident happened after the interview otherwise I would have questioned some of the safety aspects, however we did get to talk about the trek, climbing mountains and of course the new album ‘In the Company of Imaginary Friends’.

BIRDPEN BACKSTAGEDave also discussed how they are using PledgeMusic to raise funds for the release of this album and if you are quick you can pick up some interesting Birdpen memorabilia, plus put your name down for a vinyl copy of the album.

The whole of the interview is available as part of the pledge process – if you have pledge you receive extra goodies as a thank you and incentive to join.

So if you are interested in hearing the interview and grabbing what is expected to be an excellent thrid album, visit Birdpen on PledgeMusic.

Mastering a Binaural Interview

The interview was recorded on Southampton Common and having the microphones on my ears, instead of my hand, was a real bonus. It was less intrusive, as I didn’t have to keep pointing the mic at the guest, and after a while I think both of us forgot it was an interview.

On listening back I noticed that my voice was louder than expected, so in the mastering I reduced it as much as possible, while boosting Dave’s. There is no other processing involved and I’m hoping it hasn’t interfered with the binaural experience.

For best results listen to it outside, while walking around, and for about 23 minutes, Dave Pen will be your imaginary friend.

There will be more binaural recordings released over the coming months, so please follow me on Twitter or Google+ for the next update.

What are Binaural Recordings?

Binaural recordings simulate the three dimensional sounds that you hear and reproduce the spatial location of noises. If the noise is made behind you then a binaural recording should reproduce that noise behind you.

You need to be wearing headphones for the effect to work and I have my own theory that recording made outside only work outside, just as recordings inside only work inside.

I think it has something to do with the echo or lack of echo, plus what your brain is expecting to hear.

These recordings are made using two microphones, placed on either side of your head, or a dummies head.

For a fuller explanation visit Binaural Recordings on Wikipedia.

Recommended Albums from Amazon

If you’d like to discover the sounds of Archive then their 2012 album ‘With Us Until You’re Dead’ is an excellent place to start.

And if it is Birdpen you’d rather start with, their second album ‘Global Lows’ is worth buying or downloading.

Richard Durrant – Beyond Classical Guitar

It is time for all of us to start sharing and shouting about the great musicians playing in the UK.

And one such star is Richard Durrant. He’s been taking his natural talent on the classical guitar and creatively stretching it around a variety of genres, styles and moods.

He first came to my attention through his collaboration with American beat poet Stephen John Kalinich.

Their composition Ocean (Galactic Symphonies 2007) has to be one of the best modern pieces about the sea. The words and music wake you up to how wonderful and yet how dangerously powerful the ocean can be.

Richard has just started a tour on bicycle. From May 1st to June 21 he will play thirty six gigs at venues travelling 1,000-miles are putting a little eco-friendliness into his touring schedule.

The inspiration for this tour was sparked by a variety of factors: “It came from a lifelong love of cycling, feeling guilty about my fossil fuelled touring average of 35,000 miles each year. Plus the desire to constantly try something new.” said Richard Durrant.

He plays barefoot and is not only brilliant on the classical guitar but is quite happy to add effects and other instruments into his show. As much as the media would love to pigeon-hole Richard as a classical guitarist he sees it otherwise:

“I refuse to use the word “Classical”,” Richard said, “as it implies a world of sterile amateurism and narrow minded beliefs. But – yes, I operate in the 21st century and this show couldn’t happen without the use of digital technology, modern cycling materials, LED lights etc. I have also written a lot of new music for the new album “Cycling Music” which is scored for guitar, sequencers and bicycle percussion.”

To capture the idea behind the show have a listen to the track below and while reading the show stage description below…

For amplification Richard will be carrying two powered speakers supplied by Peter Tyson of Carlisle. Audio mixing for guitar and sequencers will use Mainstage on a Macbook Pro with an Apogee Gio pedal/interface. Lights – LED colour mixing lights controlled by mini DMX mixer. The bikes will be the lighting stands; projections from i-Pad. Taken from Cycling Music

So how does Richard hope the audience will take to this work of art: “As with every show I do the presentation is of prime importance. Lights and projections feature alongside the guitar music to produce an experience which I hope the audience find beautiful, challenging, intriguing in equal measure. For this tour everything is carried on two bicycles (PA, lighting rig etc). Bikes become lighting stands, the guitar case is the projection screen. All very intriguing…..”

The tour reaches Southampton on Wednesday 7th May at the Chapel Sessions which are held in the majestic Chapel at Royal Victoria Country Park. For other date view his events page on Facebook

We’ve lost His Master’s Voice

With reports that HMV is going into administration these thoughts sprung to mind about the demise of the last music shop on the high street…

Everyone blames illegal downloads for the death of music sales but actually cheap online shops such as Amazon and super ‘not so’ markets just selling the Top 40 can shoulder a lot of the blame….

Along with the public for finding shopping a pain in the arse. And councils and landlords for charging too much in rates and rent. Town planners for not doing their job. And grumpy sales people who look down on your taste in music….

Record companies for not understanding the digital business. The British media for only following trends rather than finding new artists. And venues for not catering for basic human needs such as clean toilets, or food and money for the musicians.

And public transport that stops before people want to go out. And the Government who forgot the music is quite a decent export, that it needs to be played live by more than two people, and at a volume above chatter.

…and finally radio for being embarrassed about letting John Peel slip through the net and get on air. If his legacy is so large how come they haven’t followed his style? Its the one thing radio hasn’t copied from itself.

So goodbye His Master’s Voice. I wonder what it sounded like?

Now dry those eyes and check out these new acts from the South by Southampton Festive 50 for 2012