Eight – de/reconstructing ‘The Willows’ by Algernon Blackwood (FMP)

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My main goal for this week has been to get the narrative of The Willows – and by ‘narrative’ I mean the physical events, distinct mental changes within the characters, and the rough pacing of the story – from a 15,000 word novella to a manageable list/set of incidents that I can use as a starting point for my piece. Then, from this set of incidents, I hope to extract sounds that can be used as motifs for those incidents; the goal is to simplify the events of the story, to avoid an incoherent mess of sounds – as my compositional abilities are not really of a standard to be able to coordinate too many complex sounds.

The first step in this process was to refine the narrative into bullet points. I’ve called this my ‘Key Event Breakdown‘, it’s a series of sentences summarising the situation and/or mental state of the characters at each ‘key event’ in the narrative. The sentences focus on one specific occurrence at a time – be that an important piece of dialogue, a change in scenery, or just a change of heart – with specific attention paid to the events that might merit the introduction of a new sound, or the resurgence of an establish motif. There is a total of 62 ‘events’ in my current version of this breakdown, however I believe this is probably a more detailed breakdown than I will be able to achieve during my piece – but I thought I’d share it for the sake of those studying The Willows in any capacity, the document is linked above but I’ll also be releasing a separate post containing the breakdown.

With this event breakdown I plan to start mapping the volume/intensity, pitch, location and the timbre of certain ever-present elements – like the river, the humming later in the story, or the wind. My first port of call was to draw a simple graph mapping the intensity of the river over time, based on how close the river is – drawing ever nearer as the island is washed away – and the frequency and way in which it’s mentioned. I will be elaborating on this graph with other qualities of the sound embodiment of the river – I say ‘sound embodiment’ simple because I don’t plan for it to be a single sound, rather a series of sound that merge with one another to symbolise the river’s ‘attitude’. To create this graph (pictured below) I took the first 15 events (part I) in my ‘Key Event Breakdown‘ and, having them numbered, placed them onto the original text. Then I broke the original text into paragraphs, numbering each one. From there I could draw my time axis and roughly label it using these paragraph markers, in a hope to retain some of the pacing of the original text in my finished piece. I plotted each of my ‘key events’ onto this graph with reference to their location in the text, and used the secondary axis for the intensity of the sound. Again, all this was to help me visualise the flow of my piece, giving me something to plot my other sound events against – much like having a visual scene and using those cues to place the effects, something I currently feel I need to do as my mind can’t really ‘visualise’ sonic events in time without some other structure.

Part one river sound graph (both)

(As you can see, there is one point at which the graph has two lines, this was just to remind me the overall intensity of the scene shouldn’t diminish, despite the river doing so, something I won’t need once I have my other graphs and notational material.)

I imagine there will be many more posts on the way I deconstruct and reconstruct the narrative of The Willows, but that’s it for this post. Thanks for reading.


Seven – Making a Start (FMP)

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This is the first blog post I’m writing since starting my Final Major Project (FMP). In this post I’ll be talking about my initial ideas and research.

For my FMP I am planning to create a sonic art piece, focus on what I like to call ‘Sublime Horror’, or a certain kind of supernatural fear that I believe is most brilliantly employed in The Willows – by Algernon Blackwood. The piece is going to be narratively similar to The Willows, though I would not like to take on the responsibility of calling it an adaptation. I’m not entirely sure what form this will take, but I would like to create something episodic and reflective of the key themes I’ve identified in The Willows – and other similar stories.

I’ve been researching the creation of electroacoustic music, which is absolutely fascinating. It’s like learning about the ground-works of cinematography all over again. The only issue is, I’ve had serious difficulty knowing where to start and so I’ve spent a lot of my time studying particular techniques I’m not really sure how to apply yet. Alongside this general enquiry into the music ‘genre’, I have been looking into creating two sounds I’d like to feature heavily in my finished piece. The first is the sounds of indistinguishable voices, which I hope to use as a motif for the willows themselves, and the sound of the river flowing, which I would like to morph in such a way I can use a simple constant tone to represent the river while other musical element take the foreground.

In addition to the technical research I have also been looking into the Sublime. I am currently working on an essay entitled ‘The Human Sublime’ an effort to express my feelings and thoughts on the role the Sublime plays in contemporary culture. I believe, quite strongly, that its traditional role is rapidly becoming less terrifying and awesome, and becoming a tool to comfort, while more human fears are placed in the spotlight. I’ll post that essay here when I’m happy with the finished piece.

Six – Design Your Future

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This week has all been about the future. Christmas holidays have given us a couple of weeks since sending off UCAS applications, and a little headspace to consider our options – both for university and the bigger picture. These are my thoughts on the choices I’ve made so far, and a few thoughts on where I plan to go from here.

Practice Interview:

My practice interview was with Kaya. He went first interviewing me. He asked why I was interested in his university: I told him they had a great track record and I was interested in being about to work with analogue film. He asked about the last film I watched: I said I watched Michael Radford’s1984‘ adaptation, I said I liked the way the colours were processed, and that it captured the mood of the novel incredibly well. He asked waht a I wanted to get from the course: I said I’d like to live in a place I’d have space to work, and not be reliant on Cornish public transport, and have someone to criticise my work; I wanted to have an environment in which I could work, not have to be supporting myself financially, and having someone make sure I am creating work. He asked my intention when I made my showreel: I said I wanted to be honest and show the kind of films I make, and I just wanted someone to watch something I made, I also wanted to show I could do a bit of everything, so I could then talk about university being a chance to specialise a little more, and figure out what I wanted to do within film.

He then gave me some feedback. HE liked the music and editing of the showreel, he liked the slow pacing and he thought it was a great representation of the kind of films I make. He said I aught to end the showreel more abruptly, and there was a change in imagery that felt as though it  would be a fitting end. He said I seemed bright, and enthusiastic – probably because we ended up watching about five new film trailers and talking about film for half an hour before we got to this feedback. He said he’d offer me a place because I had a passion for film, and I knew the l kinds of films I enjoyed, and that I thought about them critically – and regularly.


I’ve applied to five universities: Bournemouth Arts University, Plymouth College of Art, University of Kent, University of Edinburgh, and Met Film School London (roughly in order of preference).

So far I’ve been invited to interviews at BAU and PCA; Kent have asked for some additional information and are still considering my application, as I’ve applied for a joint honers, the second subject on in which I have no qualifications; Met Film School both requires me to complete their own application form, which is not formatted well to be completed online, and asks invasive questions and questions on payment methods (which for an application form, before being offered an interview I just found unreasonable); Edinburgh would like me to complete an online portfolio, which I am in the process of doing.

I have chosen BAU and PCA for two very different reasons, however they are almost equal in my eyes, here are the pros and cons as I see them:

PCA is a familiar space, the lecturers seem engaging, students seem satisfied, and access to equipment is easy. They also have darkroom facilities, which are open to all students. The city is located in an area with plenty of different points of interest – from a photography/filmmaking perspective – including Dartmoor and plenty of seascapes. I also would be close to both my parents, so I doubt I’ll go hungry too often.

BAU would be an exciting change of scenery, the city seems to have a lively film and TV scene, and the university has a good reputation. They also have links into the media, so I’ll likely end up with more industry contacts, and you’re given the option to complete the degree in a specialist area (including cinematography, sound, and directing).

I’m not sure between those two.

Post Graduation:

I would like to spend time working on documentary films. Working alone, or with a small group, I’d like to travel with performing artists – musicians, dancers, circus performers  – to create an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a performer. I would also like to record sound freelance for a while, to get experience on set, and to find new contacts. I’d like to write while I travel and shoot, keep a blog or a journal. I’d like to write poetry and music; I’d like to bring together my filmmaking and all the other mediums I’ve always loved. I’d love to do a photobook, or shoot for a magazine. I want to direct a feature film – that’s where I want to end up.

Realistically, I’d want to work freelance as a sound recordist as soon as I could – earn enough to stay alive and creating. Then I’d save until I can afford to spend a year shooting a documentary, then I really have no idea where I’d go from there.

Thanks for reading my musings.

Five – in Images

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11/11/16 – Man Bites Dogs. Our project was to take inspiration from one of ten films, and make a film in two afternoons at college – so, about eight hours. I looked a clip from Man Bites Dog, and animated some DVDs in roughly the waveform of the lead’s voice. Check that out here.


12/11/16 – In Spirit of Brotherhood. This is a still from my first short film, the first to start production that is. Rowan (my lifelong friend, and co-director) and I had an opportunity to work together on this film after over a year without one – and a total of three years since production began. Though there were parts of the film that weren’t shot, Rowan and I have created a short film that tells the original story through slightly different means. We have now managed to complete the film over two weeks of post-production.


13/11/16 – We Don’t Need Snow. This is a still from a music video I’m shooting for Simon Elvin’s council staff choir, ‘The Sound Council’. This shot was taken at Torr Retirement Home on our first shoot. The young girl was quite a spontaneous addition to the film: she was the daughter of an old friend Simon bumped into at Torr, she happened to be interested in acting and wanted to be in the film.


17/11/16 – Typewriter. Tasked to shoot extreme close-ups in the style of either David Fincher or Quentin Tarantino – again with a two afternoon turnaround – I decided I’d make an extremely shot video comparing the two styles of close up. I shot all the footage at my desk, at about ten at night, with a couple of desk lamps and a typewriter. To see the video click about here.


19/11/16 – Robin Maddock’s Camera. This Saturday Robin Maddock, an amazing photographer I met at Port Elliot Festival, travelled down to Cornwall to take my portrait for his book on ‘Small Towns of England‘. We talked about art, history, and he taught me a lot about being in front of the camera – and, inadvertently, about working with inexperienced models. We walked around my village in the grim Cornish weather, and ended up – quite quickly – seeking refuge in the local church, where he photographed me jamming at the piano.


20/11/16 – We don’t Need Snow, with Presents. This was the second shoot for Simon’s music video. We had to coordinate filming with about thirty kids and ten adults.We had from nine until eleven with the kids, and managed to shoot about a minute of footage (one verse, the outro, and a chorus) in two hours, with choreography performed by kids under fifteen, so I’m quite happy with how we did.


Blog The Week, College
A new summary of my project:

This project has come a long way from the original idea of recording people play music in their personal space – the place they regularly perform, practice, or play. Through meeting new people and bouncing ideas around I’ve gone from wanting to create a series of videos, exploring different audiovisual environments through the musicians that use them, to wanting to create a multimedia campaign demonstrating the positive impact buskers have on their environment.

On Sunday the second of October I attended a busking legislation meeting/discussion at The Woodside pub in Plymouth, at which I met several people interested in using my project to aid the buskers of Plymouth in their quest to stop the council impeding busking in Plymouth city centre. We talked about the possibility of creating an interactive website soundmapping the streets of Plymouth, with and without buskers; to achieve this I would record the buskers of Plymouth over several weeks, then work with a graphic designer to create an image we could embed Soundcloud links into.

What I’ve done this week:

So far I have created what amounts to a promotional video, demonstrating the energy and exuberance a live street performance can have when captured on video. I have also created a video that showcases Matt Partridge’s musical talents.

Along with completing this video I have two other videos starring Matt Partridge  almost finished, an evening of recordings with Max Revell and Ella Clarke, and three recordings of Phil – another busker from Plymouth. My recording session with Ria Moore didn’t pan out, as she was moving into her new house on the day of shooting and hadn’t been able to contact me to rearrange it.

After recording all the people I was able to meet with, I was faced with the task of editing and mastering the audio from each shoot. Unfortunately, when recording with Matt, I set the gain on the Canon XF100 too high and ended up with clipped recordings from the Rode M5s, so I spent a lot of my time trying to fix that audio.

I also went for an open day at Kent university and spent the weekend staying with my friend Billy (a student at The University of Kent) and looking around and photographing canterbury city with Jamie (a fellow creative, a friend, and a prospective student at Kent).