22nd of May 2015

Why choose Koener?

Layard writes “One of the most enjoyable forms of aroused experience is when you are so engrossed in something that you lose yourself in it.”[i] When I am composing and in flow it is the closest thing to deep altered state of consciousness I have ever experienced (with the added bonus of no aggression or paranoia). What better reason then to use Koener's paintings as objects of inspiration and muse, as to me they express a deep feeling of spirituality and unreserved joy. I am very interested in the emotionally transformative effect that music can have on a person and if I am able to create music that can convey in a similar manner the joy that Koener has captured in her work, then this would be its own reward.

Today I experimented with the development and expansion of the day 2 and 3 motives by combining them and by and trying out different variations and possible entry points, as shown below in figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1: example development of day 2 and 3 motives 

 

[i] Richard Layard, “Happiness: lessons from a new science” (London: Penguin, 2005): 22.

 

 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

21st of May 2015

Changed the notation to use an E major key signature.

Considered the use of Marimba/Vibraphone/Piano/Violin as possible instruments to use. Still undecided. 

I composed a few more short musical motives as shown in the following examples.  

Figure 3.1: example of short musical motive written

Day 3 motif 1

Day 3 motif 1

 

Figure 3.2: example of another short musical motive written

Day 3 motif 2

Day 3 motif 2

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

20th May 2015

Work Specifications

Title: Cantatas for a Devine garden

5 movements

5 minutes in length each 

Total length = 25 - 30min

Today I thought about what each of the movements meant to me, and apart from their depiction as gardens, how each image could be depicted or represented as belonging to one another. I felt that the different dominating colour of each painting could represent different times in the day: morning, afternoon, sunset, twilight and a return to morning. This then provides a rough structure to work with as well as an order in which to place each image and its accompanying movement. Structurally my music often begins and ends with similar or identical content. I have always found this structure of returning to or repeating a segment of music to be deeply satisfying. Like framing a picture. Scientifically, repetition in music (if well crafted) has been shown to be emotionally satisfying because it activates the emotional memory part of the brain (the amygdala) [1] . I have therefore chosen at this stage to musically represent the two yellow paintings (which I have named Yellow Sunrise I and Yellow Sunrise II) by using stylistically similar or identical material for each. These two movements will then musically frame the movements in between.

 

Movements:

1 Yellow sunrise I (slow)

2 Green garden afternoon (with steady movement)

3 Pink sunset bouquet 

4 Blue twilight bouquet

5 Yellow sunrise II (slow)

 

Instrumentation ??

 

Movement 2: Green garden afternoon

My approach to beginning this work is to view the specific work of art I am working on, in this case "Green Garden" and to come up with small musical motifs that fit with what the work of art subjectively conveys to me. 

 

Figure 2.1: day 2 small motif

 

[1] Levitin, Daniel J. This is your brain on music: the science of a human obsession. New York: Dutton, 2006. 163

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

19th May 2015

Backstory

I first met Roseline Koener  and learned of her work in the "Asia Contemporary Art Show" in Hong Kong March 2015. I was struck by the beauty, unreserved joy and abstract nature of her work. When she talked about her artwork she spoke about the importance music plays in informing her work. She often works on her art while listening to music and lets the music guide its development. I found this concept intriguing as I told her "I often feel the same way when I write music, only the other way around, that I often find writing music can feel a little like painting." When considering and appreciating abstract visual art, there is a unique subjective meaning that can be found through creative thought and contemplation. There is no right or wrong story or concept that your mind applies to abstract art, it makes of it what meaning it can. The meaning and story in abstract visual art aren't immediately clear in the same way that the meaning of what music alone (without lyrics) represents or attempts to convey is subjective and unclear. This similarity regarding representation and meaning in our artistic endeavours and processes (conversely) provided what I felt was a unique opportunity for an artistic exchange or collaboration. I asked Roseline if I could write a piece of music based on the subjective meaning that her art conveyed to me and suggested that perhaps she may be interested in attempting to create a visual artwork based on what meaning my music conveyed to her. She was indeed interested in this idea, and so began what I have termed the Koener Collaboration. I am unfortunately not able to document Roseline's artistic process, however in the following blog posts, I will be attempting to convey the creative process I have gone through to create the music for the Roseline Koener's art series, which she has titled Cantatas for a divine garden.     

Day 1

Today in my email inbox I received five attachments from Roseline of photographs of her paintings from her painting series: Cantatas for a divine garden. 

I took these images to be developed as A4 photographs so I would have more freedom to take them with me and to contemplate what they meant to me both as stand alone images and as a collection or series of works.

I chose which painting I would like to write music for first (I have labeled this painting "Green") and then brainstormed on the different subjective words, concepts and meanings that my chosen painting evoked. Finally I used water colours for a kind of artistic play where I recaptured different elements from Koener's painting.

Brainstorm on Green

Life, water, waterfall, snow, sun, sunflower, rain, blood, green, blue, pink, purple, shine, red, light, dark, animal footprints in the snow, floating rose petals, ink, dots, bleeding colour, paper, rough texture, leaves, what is seen through branches, peace, divine presence, sunshine through leaves glimmer and dance on water, thick vegetation, glimpse striking beauty through leaves of trees, green window into the divine, heart, shapes unique imperfect beauty, born of the earth.  

Figure 1.1: water colour artistic play on Koener's painting Green.  

Colour play by Katherine based on different elements from Koener's Green "Cantatas for a divine garden". I did this drawing on the day of my Grandmothers funeral, so it was a somewhat cathartic exercise.  

Colour play by Katherine based on different elements from Koener's Green "Cantatas for a divine garden". I did this drawing on the day of my Grandmothers funeral, so it was a somewhat cathartic exercise.  


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AuthorKatherine Rawlings
 
Sample website homepage for  Tara Brach

Sample website homepage for Tara Brach

Tara Brach is one of the most influential people in my life right now. I've never met her, but I listen to the pod casts from her website almost daily. Meditation is something that I've always thought I should try to do more of and that I'm sure would be good for me, but I often struggle with just allowing myself time to sit down and be still for a while (unless of course it involves sitting down to work or thoughtfully do something). Listening to her talks (which can be found here) has helped to remind me mostly just to slow down and to enjoy the present moment, as it is all too easy for me to get wrapped up in my worries and what I should be doing. Her talks help me to sit still and pay attention to the beautiful details I am missing in my life. I can think of no one that would not benefit from listening to these pod casts. 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

I love to read. I’m reading about 5 books concurrently at the moment. Mostly non-fiction, although I did just finish a number of awesome fiction books I could recommend. I could literally talk to you for hours about the many wonderful books I’m currently reading or have read in the past.

But I didn’t always love reading. When I was a kid I loved it when my parents read to me but if I had to read books myself I really struggled with it and found it boring. I was really slow at learning to read and I felt like I was the kid who was always being taken aside for special treatment to help me keep up with the other kids. While this may have been good for my reading it wasn’t really good for my self-esteem and I ended up labeling myself very young as “bad at reading”.

I remember vividly in about grade 5 or 6 at school being surprised to find that while reading what I thought was an incredibly dull book about a kid who was mining underground that I was actually able to remember what I’d been reading about. I often found that I was concentrating so hard on what the words were as I read them that I couldn’t actually remember what I was reading about.  This was a real brake through moment where I guess persistence paid off, but was this the huge turning point in my life where everything changed and I suddenly loved books? No I still found reading boring, which may have been because of this label I’d given myself as slow and bad at reading. I hated having to sit still and concentrate when I could be otherwise playing or having fun.

My appreciation of reading was a fairly gradual process, so gradual that it was almost imperceptible to me. Through my high school years I still avoided having to read my assigned books for school and I’d on occasions write book reports having not actually read the book and based on what my friends told me the book was about. Reading was something I still associated myself as being bad at. Despite these struggles with motivation and with never really feeling like I excelled in this area, I decided to study Literature my final year at high school. This was the year when my marks mattered the most and I decided to choose a subject that I had never really excelled in and actually thought I was bad at. Does this sound like a reckless decision to you? I’m not entirely sure why I did this, perhaps because it was a subject that scared me and I wanted to improve in this area. Anyway I worked really really hard, I read all the books and tried really hard on all my assignments and exams and what do you think happened? Well when the results came out at the end of the year Literature was the subject I got the lowest score on compared with all my other subjects. So was this a significant experience or turning point in my life? Well surprisingly yes it was. I may not have scored that high in the subject but it was by far my favorite subject in year 12, and perhaps also the most influential subject because I went from really disinterested in books to really being able to appreciate and love reading, and this love has stayed with me and grown over the course of my life.    

Isn’t it so that often the things we struggle with the most end up being the most rewarding?

Since finishing high school I have gone through large periods of time where I have either forgotten about my love of books or not had time for them as well as times like now where I have a whole stack of books on the go at the same time. But despite the up and down nature of my book reading habits, I keep coming back to them and rediscovering this love.

But why read? What really is the point of reading? I’m not talking about what you have to read for work but what you choose to read for pleasure.

Author Anne Lamott puts it like this:

“We may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”

I would go even further to say that I can sometimes get so wrapped up in what I’m doing with work, going places, what I need to remember – that I don’t even notice any of these amazing details that Anne mentions.

For me, books can be a reminder of the beautiful details I am missing in my life, they help me to connect with something larger than myself and remind me other things exist outside my current concerns and worries. But perhaps more importantly they inspire and enrich my life in a way that is priceless.

Human beings are wired to connect with one another. It’s in our genetic makeup. And in a world where it feels like there is increasing disconnection between people – where I can be buying groceries and the shop assistant doesn’t make eye contact or even acknowledge my presence. These days you can feel more alone in a room full of people than you do at home on your own with a book. (I don’t ever have this experience at toast masters don’t worry). Books allow me to see intimately that I am not alone in this world, that I am real and human by being able to see the humanity of others in their writing. When you read a book it’s like being able to see into a persons’ sole, you are able to connect with them in a way that is so rare and precious, and this is worth making time for because in those moments of connection, our life is really being lived. Many of us often get caught up in looking forward into the future and doing everything we can now so that in the future we can enjoy our life, so much so that we often forget to enjoy the moments we have now.

We will always be able to find things to worry about. On those rare occasions when I manage to reach a moment in my life when I’m not worried about anything in particular, I worry about the fact that I tend to worry a lot. There is always something we can find to be worried about. Books are an escape from these worries. They often provide us with much needed down time.

Sometimes it’s difficult to be emotionally available to engage in books. We are just too exhausted to be able to take in what we are reading. This is when Candy crush, Bejewled and Angry Birds come in. If you see me on the train with my phone out, you may be thinking “ah another Candy Crush enthusiast”, but actually I will invariably be reading another one of my books and being forever blown away by what new thing I discover on each new page.

In your race to the finish line that is your future when you plan to retire and enjoy your life, don’t forget to live the moments you have now, to pause occasionally to take in the amazing details in your life, as this really is the greatest gift. And if you haven’t done so in a while, try reading a book, you may be surprised by what you discover. 

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

For all those authors feeling undervalued and unloved out there... 

we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.
— Anne Lamott, "Bird by bird" (1995, New York: Anchor Books) p. 15
Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

Been working on a slow build up to the main climatic section (in section B) by slowly introducing fragments that occur in this later section earlier on in the transition between the two sections. This is so that the climax doesn't feel too abrupt or like it appears from nowhere. 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

I have a question for you. What is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome when you are faced with the task of having to create something new? In my case this might be a new piece of music, for you perhaps it is a short story, a novel, a painting or a company report. What is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome when you are faced with the task of having to create something new? For me, the biggest obstacle is often as simple as a blank page. A blank page tells us nothing, the possibilities are endless how can anyone overcome the severity of a blank page. Some people refer to this phenomenon as “writers block”: the fear we face when we have to create something new and we don’t have a clue what we want to do or what direction we want to take.

So how DO we overcome this obstacle?

I want to share with you a few pages of a wonderful children’s book called "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds that I think illustrates perfectly a very important step towards overcoming this problem.

“The art class was over, but Vashti sat glued to her chair. Her paper was empty.

Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper. “Ah! A Polar bear in a snow storm” she said. “Very funny!” said Vashti. “I just CAN’T draw!”

Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

Vashti grabbed a felt-tipped pen and gave the paper a good, strong jab. “There!”

Her teacher picked up the paper and studied it carefully “Hmmmm.”

She pushed the paper towards Vashti and quietly said, “Now sign it.”

Vashti thought for a moment. “Well, maybe I can’t draw, but I CAN sign my name.”

The next week, when Vashti walked into her art class, she was surprised to see what was hanging above her teacher’s desk. It was the little dot she had drawn – HER DOT! All framed in swirly gold!

“Hmmph! I can make a better dot than THAT!”

She opened her never-before-used set of watercolours and set to work.”

 “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” What is so beautiful about this book is that the message so closely resembles what an artists’ process is really like, but I have also found from years of experience that this idea of just making a mark to see where it takes you, is fundamentally important when it comes to attempting to overcome writers block.

So this is my first piece of advice: Make a mark

My second piece of advice: commit to that mark and expand on that mark.

When I say commit to that mark this is also an important step to remember because our struggles with writers block aren’t just about the fear of not knowing what we are doing. “Kevin Surace: Inc. magazine’s 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year says that the most significant barrier to creativity and innovation is the fear of introducing an idea and being ridiculed, laughed at, and belittled. If you’re willing to subject yourself to that experience, and if you survive it, then it becomes the fear of failure and the fear of being wrong.” (quote taken from Brené Brown "Daring Greatly" 2012, London: Penguin Books, p.185-186) This is why commiting to your idea or mark is such an important step as it is all too easy to let fear start seeping in and interfering with your ability to create. An example of this would be if I were to write 2 notes of music and then cross them out thinking to myself, NO They’re not good enough. How could I possibly know if 2 notes aren’t good enough? It’s not what you start with that matters it’s what you do with what you start with. So make your mark, commit to your mark or ideas and see where they take you. There is always room for change later on, but first you need something to work with.

Another thing I have found to be fundamentally important when attempting to make more room to create is to set limitations. It sounds counter intuitive but let me demonstrate what I mean.

When I first began studying composition at university, we were assigned different tasks with very specific limitations. I remember vividly our fist assignment was to write a two-minute piece for two percussionists using only cymbals and tam tam (like a big gong). At the time I was astonished to be so greatly restricted for a first task and I do not remember approaching this assignment with particular fondness. How do I write a piece of music by just using cymbals? Cymbals don’t have any pitches, I can’t write a tune with no pitches. At the time I felt this task was really limiting my possibilities for creation. After I gained more experience composing however I came to appreciate how much these limitations actually gave me more room to create, not less. In this instance I was forced to narrow my focus. I was given cymbals and tam tam as instruments to use. I could only use two percussionists. I had to think small and “be creative” about how to write a piece of music that would be interesting. This task forced me to really think hard about these instruments and to think of them in different ways. I was able to explore the instruments to discover their own differing sounds and dynamics and by limiting myself to focusing on less I never thought about writing music in the same way again. Writing music was never again just about writing pretty tunes but it was about sound and rhythm and how they related to each other, I became more open to really thinking about the capabilities of each individual instrument and their differing sounds. The limitations put in place forced me to be more creative because I had to think in ways that were unfamiliar. I often wonder how I would have managed if for my first assigned composition I’d been given free reign to write whatever I wanted, but you can be pretty sure it wouldn’t have been as creative if for no other reason than I would have had the huge task of overcoming the fear of the blank page I’ve been talking about. So setting limitations are equally as important as making a mark.

Finally, it’s important to remember that in the creative world: perfection is unattainable and goes against the very nature of creativity. Creativity is about discovery, growth and evolution. If you want to find the freedom to be creative and innovative in your work: limit yourself, make a mark and see where it takes you, remember no mark is too small. Commit to your mark and expand on that mark. Do not aim for perfection. Aim for inspiration and to be the best you can be.

Just make a mark and see where it takes you....

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

I'm reading the book "Daring Greatly" by Brené Brown at the moment. I just wanted to share with you a quote that really resonated with me and how I felt for many years about my work as a composer. Perhaps you have felt the same about some work/achievement in your life. 

If you’re wondering what happens if you attach your self-worth to your art or your product and people love it, let me answer that from personal and professional experience. You’re in even deeper trouble. Everything shame needs to hijack and control your life is in place. You’ve handed over your self-worth to what people think...You’re officially a prisoner of “pleasing, performing, and perfecting.”
— Brené Brown "Daring Greatly", 2012 (London: Penguin) p.64
IMG_0849.jpg
Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

So after taking a significant break from composition in order to plunge kicking and screaming into the wonderful world of grant applications- ugh!, I feel I can finally breath a sigh of relief and return to writing music again. I often worry about having a break midway through finishing a composition. I think that I'll come back to the work and not be able to find the same frame of mind that I was in when I started writing it. In order combat this fear, I began revisiting the music using my new approach (to everything in life) of small steps. On day 18 (I was suffering from post grant application hangover and with little in the way of a functional brain) I just listened to what I'd written to re-familiarise myself with the music, and noticed that the transition from Section A to Section B didn't feel as smooth as I'd like it to be. I often find that referring back to music that occurs earlier and including it in later sections helps to smooth the transition from one section to the next. So I copied a segment of music from Section A and pasted it a little way into Section B then left the further alterations (making it fit in the music) for another day (like I said: small steps). 

Day 19 (today) I mostly worked on trying to make the aforementioned segment work in the context of the new section of music by tweaking the harmony slightly and making slight variations to the rhythm. I will no doubt make further alterations but this is how it looks today. 

Bars 46 - 49 is the segment that occurs in Section A that I've worked into Section B

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

We just finished recording the words for the Anthea's Garden children's audio music and picture book that we will be crowd funding for in Aug/September. Thanks Ailsa Wild (pictured) and Frank Pearce (sound & recording technician). The music for this work by Katherine Rawlings (myself) will be performed by Collision Theory. 

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

For those of you who have been following the "Watch it grow!" blog posts, this project has been put on hold for a short while as my time has been taken over by another exciting project that's currently in the making: the "Anthea's Garden" music and children's book. The music was completed and recorded by Collision Theory in July last year and the beautiful words by Ailsa Wild (author of "The squid the vibrio and the moon" and "Zobi and the Zoox") have also just been completed. We are very lucky that Joanne Yong (architect and fellow artist) has agreed to do the story board and graphic design for the book. Ailsa will be recording her words for the digital audiobook in the coming weeks and we are currently finalising dates for a live concert as part of the La Mama for kids program to be held in late October this year. So lots has been happening!! Keep your eyes and ears open for the Pozible campaign we will be running in late August - September to help us fund this exciting project.    

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

I keep expanding the middle section. I'm faced with a situation where it feels like a climax arrives too early and out of nowhere. It doesn't feel like it fits, so I've been working on expanding this section to build more naturally up to this climactic moment. I've also started adding a few details to Section A (beginning) like bowing markings and dynamics, as well as clearer notation.   

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

Pretty happy with Section A (The beginning). I just played around with some octave displacement (moving the pitch of the notes up 8 notes) for a few notes in the piano part. See example below. Now that I have the notes down for Section A I have a lot of details that I need to add like bowing markings for the strings and dynamics. These details require a lot less concentration but are also a lot less fun to write. I will also have to hone in on any notation that could be written more clearly or accurately to maximise readability for performers. Clear and accurate notation saves a lot of time when the performers come to rehearsing your music.  

Example of octave displacement in the piano part of Section A (8va---)

Example of octave displacement in the piano part of Section A (8va---)

Also continued working on the piano part for the first half of the middle section (main theme/Section B) as shown below. The piano part in bar 56 (same notes 2 octaves apart) reminds me of the second movement of one of my favourite piano concertos by Shostakovich: piano concert no. 2

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

Repeated small fragments from Section B with variations. This helps to extend the music further while creating familiarity with the main theme and provides a feeling of growth in the music as slowly more and more of the main theme is revealed. 

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

Keeping things simple. I've been limiting myself to working on only a small section of music until I'm happy with it, before moving on to other sections. The smaller the task, the easier creating becomes.   

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

Recently I could see myself trying to write too much music, looking at the bigger picture and forgetting to focus on the smaller details. The big picture is overwhelming and hard to envisage all at once. Today I took a step back and rather than focusing on the overall theme (Section B) and how to fill out the music in the other parts with an accompaniment, I made the task smaller. I focused on each individual note of the theme and explored what other notes sounded good along side these individual notes. I feel a lot happier with what I produced today. Even though it feels like I produced less music, I feel like I've favoured quality over quantity which is what's important.  

One thing that helped with reducing the task was to print out only a small section of the theme and commit to not looking at anything other than this small section. I also removed myself from the computer to write by hand at the piano until I felt confident I had something substantial enough to work with.

IMG_0571.JPG
Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings

I can see three clear sections of music emerging. In order to make it easier to talk about the music I will refer to these sections as Section A: the beginning, Section B: the middle/main theme, Section C: the end. 

I worked on extending Section A today. I'm pretty happy with the way it sits at the moment. I still need to add bowing markings for the violin and cello part as well as dynamics (loud and soft markings), but aside from that I don't think I will want to change it too much. Here it is: 

Section A: the beginning.

Section A: the beginning.

I'm also starting to try to think about how to fill out the music for Section B: the middle/main theme. I have a theme that I really like, but how do I compliment this theme without detracting from it and at the same time avoid making the music so sweet that it sounds clichéd. I want this section to sound beautiful and uplifting. I played around today with putting a soft piano accompaniment to the theme that sounds a bit "Philip Glass-y" with a regular fast rhythmic pattern that alternates between demisemi-quaver and semiquaver sextuplets. It sounds really cool but I'm worried that this accompaniment might overshadow the theme or make it sound too busy. I will do some more experimenting tomorrow but I also feel that it might be a good idea to take a step back and slow down a little. I feel like I've been trying to write too much and have forgotten to take small steps. I wonder if in taking smaller steps (and thinking about each individual note rather than the whole theme) I might be able to produce music that is closer to what I want. Here is and example of the "Glass-esque" Section B:  

Example of Section B with "Philip Glass-y" piano accompaniment

Example of Section B with "Philip Glass-y" piano accompaniment

I also tried putting the main theme from Section B with the Section C accompaniment. This worked really well so I may use this: 

Example of Section B theme with Section C piano accompaniment. 

Example of Section B theme with Section C piano accompaniment. 

Posted
AuthorKatherine Rawlings