Untitled Error (Sans Vocals)

The basic tracks for this song includes three guitars and drums. I kept trying to find a good bass line to go with it, but opted instead for no bottom end, which kind of works. That lead line always sounds to me like some kind of cheap Pink Floyd imitation, but I like the noisy distorted effort in the middle.

Instrumental #5

This is a backwards guitar solo I originally made on a four-track demo for a song called 'Cool Hand'. It worked well by itself and I've used it a few times as a soundtrack for a few multimedia projects and the like. It has a nice wonky quality to it that would be impossible to recreate. Not so long ago, I completely re-recorded Cool Hand using much nicer digital kit, but I still dropped in this same wonky solo, painstakingly modifying it to fit the new key and tempo.

Hand Made Music

Music has always informed my writing and, for a while there, I wrote actual music as well as prose. I've always been fascinated with recording and multi tracking, probably ever since I first read Mark Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. I had a lot of fun mucking around with four-track tape recorders and later early digital recording software, writing songs with a mate of mine, Justin Allingham. We eventually performed as a duo, but really at heart we were always a writing partnership. But, aside from gigs, we never really shared much of what we did. Our songs and home recordings grew more ambitious while our stage presentation never wavered from two blokes and a single acoustic guitar.

All that activity has left me with a trove of half-finished recordings of a batch of half-decent songs. I listen to them occasionally. I like what's there, but I can also hear what's missing. Still, there are nice moments that I thought might be worth playing on a slightly bigger stage. So I have decided to leave them here for a while.

In series of posts over the coming months, I will single out a few of these recordings, highlighting small moments I like or posting some of the raw tracks from complete songs. Think of it a bit like watching someone at the mixing desk in an episode of Classic Albums except the songs are neither classic nor even from an album. I'll write some notes to go along with them to justify their existence and to reaffirm that, yes, this is still writing blog.

Who knows? Maybe you'll even like them.


Once more, with feeling

Late last year, a group of MIT students completed a prototype for a book as their assessment piece in a postgraduate subject called ‘Science Fiction to Science Fabrication’. Their prototype took the 1973 novella by James Triptee, Jr, The Girl Who Was Plugged In, and augmented the text with lights, sounds, heat, vibration designed to manipulation heart rate, and compression on the torso to simulate tightness in the chest.


With a nod to the book’s title, the reader must literally strap themselves in for the full effect. The result looks like a cross between a large format board book and a polygraph machine.

The Girl Who Was Plugged In changes its mood depending on where you’re up to in the story using its sensory extensions to make you feel the story’s warmth and chills, its love and its despair.

The project gained some traction and was passed around the networks by people who are into this sort of thing. And it is an interesting idea. It’s a book that makes you ‘feel’ things.

Hey, wait a second. A book that makes you feel things is just a book, isn’t it?

I know, I know. I’m the last person who should be criticising a highly elaborate and bespoke publishing project that makes some arcane point. And to be fair, this is a prototype built by students with no suggestion of commercial application.

Ever since we figured out we could write down text to transmit stories, we’ve been dreaming up new ways to augment it, first with images and atmospherics and later animation, sound, and video. In this way we might think of this project as a modern interpretation of an illuminated manuscript.

But I can’t help wonder if the act of throwing more stuff at a text demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of what reading is, or why it is. The magic of a book is that it’s all there in the text. You only have to read to make it work. And what you feel may be different from what the next person feels. One reader’s tragedy is another reader’s comedy.

What purpose do vibrations, sound, and lights serve that a good text is not already supplying? Vibrations and heat might suggest an emotion, but they are meaningless without context. Are they a supplement to how you already feel, courtesy of the words, or are they a hamfisted manipulation into some predetermined notion of how you should feel?

It’s hard to know without giving the book a whirl (which I would volunteer for any time).

But of course any suggestion of manipulation gets me thinking. What if we designed a text to lead you one way emotionally and set the sensors to push you another way?

For me, that’s when augmenting a text becomes really interesting.