Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Going beyond the boundary...

Ever since I started making my own music, one of my ambitions has been to make an album of space travel-themed music.

My first attempt at this in came in 2006, when I put together a set of demo tracks entitled Discovery. Despite being a rather amateur attempt, the ideas were there, but it wasn’t quite the album I had in mind. A second set of half-formed demos came in 2009, under the working title of Voyage, but at that time I had run out of steam, and decided to put music on the back burner for a few years, while I focused on my artwork.

Following my science fiction-inspired album Future Worlds, and appointment as first honorary musician for the Institute for Interstellar Studies™ (I4IS), the time felt right again to have a go at the space album. Beyond the Boundary would be a project specially composed for the I4IS and to help raise awareness of the institute and its forthcoming book of the same name, to which I also contributed. It’s worth noting, that I borrowed their title for this album, so the two would tie in!

I’ve written a lengthy chapter about the connection between popular music and culture with space travel. I’ve gone into detail about the association between space travel and the music of artists such as David Bowie and Jean Michel Jarre among others, and the influence their work has had on my own. This is a theme with infinite creative possibilities, and also one that instrumental music best lends itself to. One particular benchmark album for me is Mike Oldfield’s The Songs of Distant Earth, which is a work of pure majesty, partly charting the evolution of the world, and partly based on Arthur C. Clarke’s epic book of the same name. 

I’ve been working on two different albums over the last eight months or so. When I’ve been stuck for ideas on one, I’ve worked on the other. This could have been a disastrous approach, but it actually worked very well for me. Beyond the Boundary is the first of the two albums to be finished. In fact, my original idea was simply to produce an EP of six tracks, but this gradually evolved into a fully-fledged album. I realised it was getting into album territory once the running time went over twenty-five minutes (your maximum EP running time), so six songs became eight. One of the album’s strongest pieces – Beyond the Boundary (Part Two) – actually came together very late in the process. Sometimes it happens like that. The album does actually include two of my older demo tracks, which I have revamped and completed for this project – one of which was originally on Discovery, so it’s nice to see it finished and given a home!

So Beyond the Boundary is an album with multiple missions – to take the listener on a journey beyond the stars, to help raise the profile of I4IS and promote the upcoming book. And to further this, I’ve been working on a digital booklet to accompany the release. You’ll get this when you buy the full album download from my Bandcamp page. The PDF booklet features stunning artwork from space art legends Adrian Mann and David A. Hardy, whose work also adorns the front cover of the release.

Beyond the Boundary will be available from Bandcamp from the 2nd December, with a possible wider release to follow.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Afterthoughts on Novacon 43

A belated blog following this year’s Novacon...

The Park Inn hotel in Nottingham has been the home to this long-established convention for a number of years now. Despite being only my second Novacon, I’ve settled in and started to feel like one of the Novacon family. As the UK’s longest running SF convention, there are a lot of familiar faces. A "same time next year" sort of affair, but in a good way – who can complain at an annual get-together of likeminded folk? And despite attendance numbers being down on last year (possibly due to World Fantasy Con just a week or so earlier), we had some new, young – yes, young – faces in the crowd.

Speaking of demographic, it’s safe to say that most attendees fall into a certain age range. And I’m not really one of them. At some point in my brief absence from the art room, I was described as “the dark-haired person without a beard!”. But what I love at Novacon is the fact you can strike up a fascinating conversation with absolutely anyone. We all have one thing in common, and that is a genuine love for SF, particularly when it comes to literature. Whether you want to chat with authors, or browse the rare, new, classic and vintage titles in the dealer’s room, it’s all there.

Having tested the water last year and exhibiting a small number of artworks, this year, I quite a lot – 19 pieces in total. And the fact that I returned home with just four, clearly indicates I’m doing something right. The art auction on the last day came as a huge confidence boost to me, as I didn’t expect to sell quite as much. This does mean that for next year I need to do some new work! But it was very rewarding on a personal level, and even if I hadn’t sold anything, just being able to talk about my work with the visitors to the art room was great. All these pieces of work that I’d done over the last few years, finally printed, mounted and up there on the walls for all to see and assess. 

As the artwork at Novacon operates on a bidding system for the auction, it’s really interesting to see which pieces of your work get bids – and now many. It is sometimes fascinating to see that the pieces you think might be your most appealing don’t get any bids and a piece you were perhaps less confident in, does! There are many lessons to be learnt in exhibiting your work at an event like this. Novacon generally attracts between 200–300 people, so it’s a good size audience. Although more people are likely to see your work at a bigger event, there’s a high chance they’ll spend less time looking at it or return for a second visit.

I really enjoyed talking to everybody who came to my stand, and I’m truly grateful to everybody who placed bids on my work, and those who walked away with a piece or two.

Over the course of the next year, I plan to work on new artwork, for display LonCon3 (all being well) and of course, Novacon 44. See you there!