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Flowing admiration and what you like about it.

I’m going to share with you an action, or a series of actions, that I did a few years ago that brought me some recognition, success, and friendships with regards to my music.

 

Back in 2007 there wasn’t much happening for me music-wise. I was getting over the death of my father and hadn’t really focused on much to do with my music. I was still writing of course, but a lot of it didn’t really seem to matter that much at the time. One evening, I was invited out by my friend Vince to go and see some DJs at a club in Glasgow. Vince was already recognized worldwide as a top DJ and “techno” producer. He had played all over the world and had released many records. But more importantly, he was my friend. He had been so since I was twelve years old. Despite his worldwide “superstardom” (that’s a joke by the way!) within the scene, he was still just Vince. 

 

Now before I go any further I feel that it’s important to point a few things out with regards to electronic music genres. 

Imagine that you’re a guitar player and that you play a little jazz, or some folk music, blues etc, but everyone assumes that because you “play guitar” it means that you only play death metal!

It would get a little frustrating having to keep explaining to people that you don’t play as loud as to burst eardrums, nor do you drink two bottles of Jack Daniels before going on stage, nor are you particularly fond of biting the heads off bats! I’m sure you get the idea. What I’m trying to communicate is that quite often when I mention terms like “techno” or “dance music” it is assumed that I’m referring to promiscuous people off their heads on drugs dancing to painfully loud, bass heavy music.

Techno is not that. It is not “EDM”, or is it “Trance” or “Hardcore”. It’s a style of electronic music which draws heavily from sci-fi ideologies, technology, futurism, and environmental soundscapes. It is often repetitive in nature but not always. The repetition makes it good to dance to and because of its subjectivity, techno tracks often find themselves in little parallel universes and being associated with some seemingly unrelated styles of music! (For example, I once got a fantastic review in “Blues and Soul” magazine for what was very much a techno track.)

It is not “drug music” either, although unfortunately, and like every other style of music, drugs often find their way into the scene. It’s important to point out though that many of the world’s most successful techno DJs and producers are very spiritual people and many don’t even drink alcohol never mind take drugs. I guess it’s the same for many “out of the box” thinking artists. I mean, to create other worlds and other universes with their art, they HAVE to be on drugs. Right?

 

Wrong.

 

It’s likely that their aversion to such substances keeps those “creative juices” flowing and keeps them from finding themselves IN the box.

 

Anyway, I thought that I’d clear that up. You don’t have to like the style but it helps to knock off some of the negative preconceptions, and to understand the art a little more.

 

Right, back to the story! So Vince and I were at some club in Glasgow listening to a few DJs from Italy, and from The Netherlands. After the show I was introduced to the two Dutch DJs. They were introduced to me as Stefan and Esther. Both were quite soft spoken and kind of reserved. They were friendly though and we chatted about music, Glasgow, The Netherlands, and the record label that they ran. We spoke for about 45 minutes and then, before going our separate ways, Esther handed me a cd of her music. 

 

I played the cd in the car the following day and enjoyed what I was listening to. Nothing overly dramatic or particularly “out there”. The tracks were quite simple in a way but they had just the right blend of rhythm, melody, and groove. The tracks had my hand gently tapping on the steering wheel – always a good indicator.

 

A few months passed when I received an invite from yet another “music buddy” to sign up to a new music platform online. The platform would allow producers, artists, and DJs to keep in touch, collaborate and listen to new music. “Soundcloud” was pretty new when I signed up and the first thing that I did was to look up all my music contacts and start following them. I included my two new contacts, Stefan and Esther. I then uploaded some of my music, you know, just to get a little feedback on what I was doing.

 

I would log on every other day and listen to a lot of different styles of electronic music. Some artists I noticed were more prolific in uploading music than others. I also saw that my own music was getting quite a few listens. The comments left were pretty positive. It’s always nice to get encouragement and although I had written a lot of new material over those past few months, I hadn’t really found a record label who would release the tracks. To be honest, I wasn’t looking that hard.

Then one day, Esther uploaded one of her tracks. This one I really liked, in particular I loved the percussion she had used. How did she create those sounds? What instruments, what software was she using? I thought I may as well ask her. I complimented her on her track and explained what I loved about it. I then asked her about her production techniques, inspiration etc. Her reply was not what I expected. She was so pleased that someone took the time to not only compliment her music, but to explain to her what it was that they liked about it. She was already quite an established DJ around the scene in Europe and like my friend Vince, she had played in many places and had released a lot of music but she pointed out something to me. Although she got a lot of people saying that they loved what she did, her music, her DJ sets, almost no one ever explained what it was that they liked about the music! And she was right. I looked at the comments on Soundcloud relating to her tracks. I then looked at the comments relating to my tracks. “Nice!”, “Great track”, “Love this”, “Love the vibe” etc etc.

I had honestly never noticed it before. I found it both kind of strange and amusing. Esther never did explain how she got those percussion sounds. I think that she was too caught up with the first part of my email. But she did ask if I wanted on the mailing list to her’s and Stefan’s record label. It meant that I would get these great tunes before the general public providing that I give “a little feedback” on the tracks. So I said “sure! Sign me up!”.

 

Every other week I’d receive a message in my inbox to click on a link to listen to the music. On doing so, I would be presented with the feedback form to fill out while I listened. Once I had submitted the form, another link opened for me to download the track. It was quite fun to do. As I had done before, instead of commenting with something like “great track” or “nice one!”, I chose to give a more in-depth insight to why I liked it. Even on the tracks that I wasn’t so keen on, I always focused on something that I did like about that particular piece of music and gave my feedback on that. I figured that these artists on the label rota put their heart and soul into their music as I did when writing mine, and I wanted to validate them for doing so.

 

A few days after submitting the form and downloading the track, I’d receive another email. This time it would be the promo for the release. I’d read through it and then look at the comments from the other reviewers’ forms that were copied and pasted onto the promo. My comments stood out like a book in a bowl of post-it notes!

 “Amazing track.”

“Definitely on my playlist.”

 “Nice!”

“The deep subterranean bassline throbs beneath one’s feet while reverb soaked percussion clatter in the background like distant locomotives pulling through rain.”.

“Love this track.”

“Gonna play in my next DJ set”

 

Can you guess which comment was mine?

 

It wasn’t long before Esther emailed me again, “Dear Colin. Myself and Stefan absolutely love reading your comments on our feedback forms. As you can see we always include them in our promo. We were wondering if you would like to work for us in writing the text for our future promo? We will pay you of course. Also, we listened to some of your tracks on Soundcloud and would very much like to release some of your music.” 

Now I was getting PAID to listen to music, and I had found my record label. This was amazing!

Amazing that by simply explaining what it was that I liked about a piece (and being a little creative in my explanations) I had created a little sideline job for myself, and that my music was now being played all over Europe. 

 

There seemed to be a kind of flow to it – admire, but not just “admire”. Take time to admire. Why are you admiring? Let the artists know what it is, then receive admiration and opportunity in return.

 

The next time you feel that you “like” something, ask yourself why. And if it’s a work of art, a story, a sculpture, a piece of music, and if you can, let the artist know what it is that you love about their work!

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Reviews – Michael Graves – Poet

Brilliantly life-affirming! I haven’t read anything like this since ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull!'” – Holley Stewart, Life Coach

 

Michael Graves is the real deal. He takes us into the poetic and philosophic life, good literature, and full relationships with gusto. He engages us thoroughly, often jauntily, with the full cooperation of his highly knowledgeable, metaphoric, rhythmic, and often comic, poetic mind. Very highly recommended!! – Carole Brooks Platt, PhD – author of “In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses”

 

 Michael Graves is one of the most truly gifted poets of our time. His insight, wisdom, reflection, optimism and positive thinking are a true pleasure to enjoy in every stack and stanza.” – Gunther Bedson, Poet/Composer

WEBSITE:  www.michaelgravespoet.com
Click on the “Projects” button in the upper right for  information on books.

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“Tonight” by Michael Graves

Tonight, the dead will remain dead.
And we, my love
aloft with life, shall reign
vibrant and shining, while
breath remains within us.
Glowing like two coals born of
incipient fire, bathed in recombinant light.
Memories of another time
sent to a place away, and told
to be still.
For tonight, the dead will remain dead.

–Graves 6/7/14

I am happy to announce that my book “Messages in a Bottle: Communications to My Future Self” took one of the top awards given by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association in 2018. Find out more about it, and about my book “Reflections on a Crystal Wind” at:

https://www.michaelgravespoet.com/

DOWNLOAD A FREE E-BOOK OF MY POETRY! (it’s easy):

1) Just click this link. https://hugohousepublishers.com/…/messages-bottle-paperback/

2) Then, click on the button that says: Free E-Book “A Glimpse Beyond”.

3) Download onto your phone, iPad or computer. “A Glimpse Beyond” downloads in Kindle, iBooks and other formats for your convenience.

Copyright © 2014 by Michael Graves, All Rights Reserved, except the right to forward and to share with friends – with credit — which is held to be a good idea and is thus encouraged.

Find more of Michael Graves’ poetry on MeWe at:
https://mewe.com/p/michaelgraves-poet

And on Instagram at: #mg_poet

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What’s a Giclee Art Print?

The Giclee (jhee-clay) print is the highest quality print available today. The word Giclee is a French word meaning `to squirt. The process is a type of digital printmaking that CANNOT BE DUPLICATED by other printing techniques. Because there is no visible dot screen pattern the resulting image has all of the subtle tonalities of the original art.

The image is created by a digital printer’s tiny ink jets, guided by a computer, that spray millions of droplets of water-based ink directly onto fine archival canvas, known as the “substrate.” Gicleés are produced one at a time, and, depending on the size and intricacy of the image, can take two hours or more for each print. The combination of special inks and substrates are carefully selected which assures maximum print longevity and exquisite visual quality. Thus producing exceptional museum quality prints.

This is a digital printmaking technology with great advantages in beauty and durability. The printer can achieve a true reproduction of an original in any size up to 5 feet, printed on archival canvas or portrait linen. The digital files are worked using sophisticated graphics software to fine-tune the images. New inks used in Giclee printing have the longevity of watercolor paints. The museum quality Giclee has the same appearance as the original and when framed cannot be distinguished from the original.

Although prints can be made on paper, Giclees can also be printed on canvas or fine-quality portrait linen so that they may be framed as oil paintings, without glass.

Dozens of museums have mounted exhibitions or purchased Giclées for their permanent collections. These include The Metropolitan Museum (New York), the Guggenheim (New York), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston), the Philadelphia Museum, the Butler Institute (Youngstown, OH), the Corcoran (DC), the National Gallery for Women in the Arts (DC), the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (DC), the Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, the New York Public Library Print Collection, the High Museum (Atlanta), the California Museum of Photography, the National Museum of Mexico and the San Jose Museum, among others.

The Giclee can be shipped unframed, both to hold down the shipping cost and to allow you to choose your own frame to fit your home or office decor.

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Notes on Copying

Of course, you do not want to copy other artists’ work. Besides violating copyrights, it’s just unethical.

But why not learn from copying? Many artists paint old masters paintings just to learn how to do it. And you do learn a lot. As long as you aren’t selling it, or passing it off as a real old master, you’re good.

But another way of learning from copying is to paint photographs. You take the photo, so it’s your copyright, and no problem. There are a number of ways to do this. You can paint or draw by just looking at the photo and putting it into paint and paper or canvas. You’ll learn a lot from doing that. But most new artists who try that just give up and say they don’t like their own painting.

In order to teach one of my grandsons some art lessons I got him a “light table.” The one I got cost about $10 and it is a very thin piece of plastic which plugs into a computer port and lights up. Then you put your photo or whatever you want to copy on that and a blank piece of paper on top and the light shines through and you can draw outlines and shading of your subject.

The grandson has been very enthusiastic with it – he’s done about 30 drawings of things he would never draw just off the top of his head. And the result is that now he knows how to draw them.

I just recently tried it out myself, and it’s so much fun, I can’t get enough. I’ve been drawing faces and buildings and although I paint these subjects without the “light table” I have learned a lot about the details that go into making a good drawing by using it.

Think it’s cheating? Well, old masters had their little shortcuts, too. Look up camera obscura (“Camera obscura, also referred to as pinhole image, is the natural optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen as a reversed and inverted image on a surface opposite to the opening.” –Wikipedia.) It was used to make drawings for paintings back before cameras. Tools of the trade.

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Music, Everywhere!

Do you ever listen to the sounds around you? I mean, really listen? For example, when someone speaks, “replay” their last few words back in your mind. Do you hear a melody?

Do you ever listen to the hum of a refrigerator and try to match the musical pitch? Have you then tried to harmonize with that hum? 

Drips of water, distant cars, birdsong, dropped cutlery, general background ambience even – there’s music everywhere, or at least, the basis of music.

 

In my last blog I explained that I found sound as important as the music itself. Perhaps even more important. I’ve been experimenting with sound for as long as I have been writing music and quite often when I’m out and about I carry means to record what hear. Once I get home, I import the recordings onto my computer where, if the recording is selected, I’ll use in one of my musical compositions. The usage can be simple or complex. It kind of depends on what “vibe” I’m in.

 

Simple uses include perhaps a recording of early morning birdsong placed gently under a chilled out piece. It sometimes gives a track a certain evocative “old National Geographic nature documentary” kind of feel. I’m sure you know what I mean. Public places like airport terminals, railway stations, libraries, shopping malls, are great to record in also. I love the general blur of lots of different voices, squeaky shoes on polished floors, distorted messages on the public address systems. Again, underneath my music, these give another kind of ambience like when you sit down in a busy place and watch the world go by. To me it’s like a frozen moment in time.

 

There is of course the more experimental side to using these recordings. Now this can be really fun, and interesting to me and a lot of cool “discoveries” have been made through experimenting with snippets of sound.

 

 Recently I used a recording of my cat meowing in a piece. Well, I didn’t just place it in a track, I first pitched it down so that he sounded deeper, I added a little reverb to give a more spacious sound, and then tweaked the recording here and there a little more until I realised I had what a prehistoric dinosaur might have sounded like! “Hey Batty!” (that’s my cat’s name), “You’re a diplodocus!”.

 

I was clearing out the kitchen last October when I dropped a few items of cutlery by accident onto the floor. Nice sound, so I got my “Zoom digital recorder” from upstairs in the studio, took it into the kitchen, and recreated that “accident” many times, with different amounts of knives, forks, spoons. I dropped them from near the ceiling and from barely above the floor, I put down different thicknesses of towels to dampen the sound. Anything to get out of actually cleaning the kitchen! Again I experimented with pitch, harmonics, ambience of the recordings and came up with some great industrial, but other worldly sounds – like huge steampunk trains clunking and clanking over points on the railway track. (Incidentally I once recorded a REAL train going over points, looped the recording, and sped it up considerably until it sounded like a kind of rhythmic rain!)

 

Currently I’m working on a piece of music in which I’m using a looped snippet of a recording from a table tennis match as the background rhythm. It gives a slight clumsiness to the track but in an oddly endearing way (read my previous blog about how imperfections can give an “honesty” to a piece of music.)

 

I love listening to the world around me. The sounds I hear IS music, and on a deeper, (kind of) spiritual level, it makes me feel connected to my environment. I feel more aware when I’m listening. It’s like my surroundings are playing a gig for me to enjoy and be inspired by, and if I really enjoy what I hear, I’ll record that “gig” and perhaps jam with it later. 

 

*While I’ve been writing this blog on my computer I’ve been made aware of the great sounds that my computer keyboard makes while I type. I guess that’s a track for the future!