Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Fucking finally. Sometimes I want to scream and smash my violin across my knee because all the ideas I have in my head I can't actually express properly through Pro Tools or written down. Tonight I decided I wanted to write down an idea for a piano waltz I've had in my head for the last month. As usual it sounds great when I play it on our grand, it sounds shit in Sibelius, but then when I transfer it into Pro Tools there is something infuriatingly bad about the quality. It's all because I can't handle synth cellos and pianos. They're just fucking unacceptable. It's annoying that most of the instruments I write for are piano and strings and both are disgusting when computers try to re-create the sound.

So I got pissed off for a while then I decided to play around with some of the other options. I went back and cut down all the parts so it's mostly just semibreves for the main melody and I ended up with a soft synth pad setting called 'Shimmer' to play the bass, added two 'music boxes' to replace the left hand, and a celeste to replace the melody. Then I cut the entire piece in half because I couldn't handle the stress of redoing all the parts tonight.

And it may only be about 10 seconds long but it sounds like something that would be reasonably okay to have in a show. Like, if it was fleshed out, had better mixing, had the rest of the instrumentation and providing it was appropriate to the scene and the main melody had been introduced previously, and so on. If you'd like to listen to it, I uploaded it here just so I can keep track of what I'm writing and so on. It's sounds so unprofessional, but something that could probably pass in pro-am theatre. I wonder what Steve Toulmin uses? Maybe I should just swap over to sound designing instead?

Just give me a freaking microphone already!!!

Also this is my 100th post on Blogspot. Happy Birthday to me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pygmalion by QTC

Melanie Zanetti looks about 40 in this 'photo', but looks about 18 in real life.
If you loved the feel-good score of My Fair Lady, you'll already be familiar with the story of Pygmalion. Directed by Michael Gow, the piece is showing at QPAC's Playhouse after being delayed by the Queensland floods. Since I'd been putting off viewing the show for a few weeks, I finally got to see it last night and thought it was alright. It has a lot of weaknesses, but its cast is lead by two very good actors and experiencing the script was worthwhile.

The cast are pretty good with the stand-outs for me being the two leads. The prolific Melanie Zanetti plays Eliza Doolittle, a shrill street-rat who throughout the story is transformed into glamorous and 'proper' lady. I hated the character, but also feel that Zanetti's portrayal of the character is exactly as it should have been - really tedious to begin with before her transformation to a respectable (hilarious) woman. Robert Coleby's performance of Professor Higgins was thoroughly enjoyable, totally embodying and personifying misogyny through every minutiae of his body as a wonderfully frank and witty character. I disliked Gow's direction for the ensemble, which involved the overplaying of several minor roles. The ensemble seemed under-utilised, and when they did find a use for them it seemed inappropriate - the introduction to each scene by the chorus members were totally unnecessary and detracted from the immersion of the play. Unfortunately Shaw writes gargantuan chunks for Alfred Doolittle to speak every time he enters the stage, so anything involving Chris Betts on stage just made me want to die. I just couldn't maintain my interest in anything being said and couldn't contain my desire to eat the delicious Coles' brand coke bottle lollies in my bag. There were dozens of times where I couldn't hear lines properly because the accents were so atrocious, spoken too fast, or not enunciated properly.
Robert Coleby (Higgins) and Melanni Zanetti (Eliza).
It needs to be said that the first stage of Eliza's transformation and meeting with Mrs. Higgins was nothing short of incredible. Perfectly orchestrated, Zanetti parades around the stage awkwardly shouting "HOW DO YOU DOOO?" at the cast, and her long winded statements about the weather and how her aunt died of pneumonia had me howling with laughter - I didn't have a problem being the only one in the theatre laughing. I loved the follow up with a delightfully excited Kerith Atkinson as Clara tries to emulate her behaviour believing it to be stylish. Combined with the snide comments of Professor Higgins the scene is an absolute riot. 

What I LOVE about Pygmalion is its witty script. It's oozing with all these cracking situational comments, tongue-in-cheek remarks on society and misogynistic slander. I don't care what other people think, misogyny is funny because it's so absurd - and when people get offended by it, it's hilarious. I think the script, of Act One at least, was probably my favourite aspect of the play. It's a glorious mirror to what Victorian society was like, and to an extent Gow has directed the piece in areas to have relevant commentary on how our modern society works. My absolute favourite moment was during the fantastic scene at the end of Act One, when discussing the word 'fuck' ('bloody' in the original script) Clara remarks "Such nonsense, all this early Victorian prudery!". I think it's genius of Shaw (and Gow) to make a teasing observation of the social hierarchy - why all this stuffy behaviour over a word? "And it's so quaint, and gives such a smart emphasis to things that are not in themselves very witty." Too fucking right. Regrettably the script does seem to lag at moments in Act One, and then eventually curls up and dies at the end of Act Two. By the piece's conclusion, all around me people were yawning, sighing and examining their nails. I just wasn't invested at all, and I was just thinking about eating ice-cream (you know, those cheap, nasty ice-cream cones from Maccas for 50 cents) and imaging how hard it would be to play the keyboard part in Iris. The final scenes are exasperatingly long and it seemed like everything was just going around in circles.
Robert Coleby (Higgins) and Melanni Zanetti (Eliza).
The sound design was unbelievably boring. I'm not sure if it's the Playhouse, or QTC, or both, but the sound was just dead since it didn't go anywhere across the audience. The voices of the actors seemed to be hollow and didn't resonate (that's definitely due to acoustics), and due to the lack of the noise surrounding us in the voices and effect there was no immersion into the play. It was very obvious that the audience was watching a play rather than being drawn into another world. It's difficult to say why the choices of songs seemed inappropriate, particularly the ending song, but the over-romanticised soundtrack that was ripped from the 50s or something didn't fit into a 19th century setting. It would have been more suitable to have an instrumental soundtrack, there could have been some great musical commonality with The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba as it was mentioned in the script.

I enjoyed the set design, which was a use multiple scrim to reveal different areas and locations of the play. A clever use of the scrim was using a small follow-spot navigates around a gigantic detailed map of London to shift the action of the play without the need to move the set. While I mostly liked what was happening on the stage overall there is so much wasted space. There is a wonderful sense of Victorian lavishness in the set, but above the actor's shoulders there was nothing going on. Too much wasted space for such a witty and intimate show. I have no idea what they could have put up there, but anything would have been better than the nothing that was there.

So overall I liked Pygmalion due to the acting and the script, but there were some poor direction choices in terms of the cast, the sound is a disappointment and the set has a lot of wasted space. Since the script also lags in some areas overall there wasn't enough immersion from the production to keep an audience totally captured for the duration. Regardless, the show was enjoyable for what it was. Whatever that is. And it's worth seeing so you can live that glorious scene at the end of Act One.

Tickets for Queensland Theatre Company's Pygmalion range from $30 to $75, and is showing until November 27th. Book by visiting QPAC's website or by calling 136 246.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trial this for me?

I got inspired by imagery of Dead Puppet Society and the word 'exsanguinate' (ooo it just rolls of the tounge) and made a demo of something... I don't even know what.

If you'd like, you can download it here - leave me a comment or message me what you think, I'd be happy to discuss it. 

It's inspired by Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (the 1st movement, Allegro Moderato), and tries to keep in the vein of impressionist music by not being restricted to a time signature (I'm not even sure what time it's in). Recorded on my handy iPhone, you can hear the cars passing from the road outside (lol) and it's a little muddy and out of tune since I only did one take of all instruments and I had to follow my unpredictable violin solo. I make a couple of mistakes and have some flat notes, and the quality of the iPhone really drowns the volume the bass. But it's good to have a basic idea of something recorded and I reckon I could dig it up for something and re-work it when needed.

I wish I'd taken up my Dad's offer to invest in a microphone too at the same time. I'm still fiddling with Pro Tools but producing some good stuff, it's just I can't bear synth strings. Anyway, something to look forward to...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My new favourite word

My new favourite word is exsanguinate. It's a process which involves the release of blood from the body to a degree sufficient enough to cause death. It's just such a strange collection of letters and it carries this sense of authority, grandeur and enigma. Interestingly it's such a glum process, it's the opposite of the word sanguine, which means that a persons disposition is usual humorous, cheerful and optimistic - and of course passionate. My goal in life is to be described as being sanguine, but it probably won't happen because the word is so archaic. Whatever. Maybe I'll just describe myself as that. I wouldn't like to be described as sanguinary though, which means to be constantly bloodthirsty (although I suppose I am that too).

I had the pleasure of seeing everyone else's Production 1 shows. Two of them I didn't really appreciate, but Caroline Heim's Lysistrata and David Megarrity's Please Be Seated were perfect. Flawless. I adored both and saw them twice. I would have paid a lot of money to see them. Thoroughly enjoyed them. They were my favourite pieces of the year. That makes my three favourite (along with QUT 3rd year actors in Festen by Sean Mee) pieces of the year student theatre pieces. It's so... I dunno, uplifting? Inspiring? Wonderful? to see that you don't need thousands/millions of dollars to create wonderful theatre. Just actors who play their roles with such conviction, an inspiring artistic vision from the director, and a great text. I've already expressed my thanks to all involved, but once again - everyone involved in those productions, well done. I'm devastated that I'll never be able to live those incredible ephemeral moments again.

I don't really like Miss Saigon, but it has its moments. I remember seeing it and giving it a 6/10. Its gotten way too much praise while the score overall is very hit and miss, ambling over dozens of songs that lack direction and likeability. 'Now That I've Seen Her' is probably the worst composition I've ever heard when it comes to musical theatre - it's like they grabbed some notes and threw them on a score and said "that'll do, pig". The worst bit is definitely the libretto, with rhymes that are too obvious and lines that are crass and lack sophistication. Now that my daily bitch is out of the way, regardless, I do really love the song above - it's been in my head every now and then since I saw the show last September. And just because I haven't said anything about anything for a while, I thought I'd share that. 'You Will Not Touch Him' is badass too.

I need to get a new background for this site.

I need a fucking microphone so I can record this music I've written. Computer generated strings and pianos are unacceptable. Necessary to buff up and make your real instruments sound better (a la Sinfonia) but if you rely solely on them to make music it's going to sound regrettably tacky. Go nuts on other instruments though!

I have to write an article for WTF today but I'm not sure what to write about... hoping to interview some local artists to make sure they get some extra coverage for their shows.

Uh that's all for now. Looking forward to sitting down these holidays and writing a lot of stuff... where the fuck is that fucking microphone?!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

World Theatre Festival 2012 Blog

Heads up! I've been offered a place as a World Theatre Festival 2012 ambassador (man I hate that word - it sounds like I'm delegating large quantities of Turkish Delight to foreign countries), and I need to write blog posts at least once and week leading up to the festival. However, as part of the contract I've signed, I'm not allowed to review other theatre I've seen on the same blog, so instead I'll be having a completely different blog which is dedicated to WTF 2012, which you can read here if you're interested.

I'll still be writing my thoughts on everything else here though. Ta-daaaah!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Being Honest is Important

I'm getting tired of being known for this imaginary negative attitude I supposedly have towards art. A lot of people I talk to ask for my opinion on theatre, books, and music, and when they receive my honest opinion they wail about how I "always look for the negative things" in everything. Since I'll be reviewing a lot of theatre for fun in the next year, I just want to clarify that that isn't what I do.

It's true I criticise a lot of things, but that's not out of spite or because I purposely look for the negative aspects in something. When I criticise, I don't criticise because of antipathy to someone or anything uselessly childish like that - what kind of person would decide to dislike someone and just trash them and their work? I always attempt to find the great aspects of shows because let's face it - not enjoying aspects of art, including pieces of theatre, an actor's portrayal of a character, or a style of music is extremely tiring and unpleasant. Why would anyone on this earth bother picking on someone just for the sake of it?

I may have an obscure taste in music, but when it comes down to art (theatre in particular) I know exactly what to expect from a good performance. I enjoy seeing a well-rounded performance with the appropriate input from the actors to connect with the characters, a well crafted sound-scape complimented by a good lighting design, and compelling story to keep me engaged for the entire duration. Honestly, I wish that was the case with every show I see. But, sadly and unavoidably, not all the theatre I see in my life is going to be up to that standard. It's not just random dislike I've developed for certain shows, it's because I personally don't feel fulfilled or awed by the production. Don't forget that when you read my blog, you are reading my thoughts and opinions on something I've experienced. Throwing praise at art that doesn't deserve it is utterly counter-productive because it's just providing a huge ego-stroke to those who don't deserve it.

If you don't write candidly about the pieces, places, and companies that aren't doing a good job by creating horrendous art, when you write with praise about the places that are, you're not going to have any credibility. In my experience, and providing it has some reasoning, people are impressed and refreshed when they receive honest feedback as it gives them a chance to examine their work and create something that's even better. Everything within the creative industries gets defined in relation to each other. By being brutally honest when it's needed about places that aren't serving customers well, you're actually doing a favour to all those creatives that do serve their customers properly - because your praise of them will have some meaning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

* Means Free

From now on, if you read an article by me that has an asterisk in the title, it means I got to experience the product/music/album/event for free.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

'The Hunter' Soundtrack Review

Couldn't find the CD cover, but it looks like this.
Australian films scores are often brushed aside and forgotten about despite possessing impressive and beautiful works that rival scores of Hollywood blockbusters. Following my rekindled love of Australian music by Michael Yezerski, an acquaintance recommended I listen to the soundtrack of The Hunter, and I'm really glad I took her advice because the soundtrack is stunning.

The Hunter is nothing less than gorgeous, with the whole score emitting this serene candour which is stunningly evocative. Co-written by Matteo Zingales, Andrew Lancaster, and Michael Lira, the score of The Hunter is a subdued, but luscious and somewhat surreal through a hybridity of instruments with generated samples. If I had to compare to it any other score I would say it's in a similar sound to Desplat's score of The Painted Veil, Newman's piano work in American Beauty, and Jeremy Soule's score for Guild Wars: Factions. Note how incredible all those scores are, and then place this soundtrack right next to them.

The score is inspired, rendering an otherworldly and empyreal offering for the ears to enjoy. With the foundation of the score being created through beautiful chords produced with a string section, the sound is embellished by a lovely subtle piano in addition to some rhythmic percussion with superb and sensitive mixing which really draws out the emotion of the score. Various moods and elements are evoked through the arrangements, with the score overall flowing as a mellow and cohesive experience.

The whole score is lovely to listen to, but a few tracks are particularly noteworthy. The titular piece 'The Hunter' is wonderful, setting the tone for the rest of the album through its characterisation of a bitter-sweet chord progression that sounds both inspirational but devastatingly tragic (I also love the percussive interlude at the end). It's followed by 'David Martin' which plays in a similar vein with the entrancing strings painting the primary motif of the score. 'Lucy Armstrong' is utterly beautiful, with a lamenting tone evoked through an incredible swelling of the bass with the distant piano. The climax of the album can be heard with a flurry of strings on 'Where Are They Now?' which is simply breathtaking and inspiring. All the other tracks are great too, but I thought I should probably discuss some in detail.

The score for The Hunter is excellent, with some achingly beautiful music. It's not obnoxious and loud, but subtle, delicate and wonderfully colourful. I feel like I've gone around in circles describing the score because it's all so good I feel like I haven't described anything in detail. The team of composers in addition to their production company 'Sonar Music' have crafted an exquisite score that resonates and is inherently evocative. Australian composers on the move, I'm keen to hear their next offering.

The soundtrack for 'The Hunter' is written by Matteo Zingales, Andrew Lancaster, and Michael Lira, and is available on iTunes Australia for $16.99.