My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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12/26/2005

December goings on

I've not written for ages. I'm really sorry about that - I had prepared an entry but I think I focus too much on quality and these things need to be just written offhand and published. I guess with writing I'm much more preparatory than with music.


Anyway the gig was about a month ago. I have another one planned for the 22nd at bar Oppo on Park St Avenue, Bristol - a no smoking venue to appease people like claudio or my friend Fleur for whom pubs are too smokey, and the millions of others like them, as well as yet more who just don't like to play or hear music where people are drunk and throw glasses at you (Which is incidentally what happened at the gig - I don't think she meant it - far too out of her face to even notice what she'd done I think). So we're moving to nicer venues, with Claudio on percussion and perhaps I wonder someone else on Base or something. I just saw the opening concert for Nathan Daniel PSI - where PSI means personal space invaders. Brilliantly produced. I wish I could take some old improvisation where everyone goes mad and the music gets really crazy and apply that level of production to it. So anyway this same producer is also the base player and I really need to find a tight base player to trade rhythms off with, and I've got my band.


Apart from that I've been at a very anarcho-activist-pagan friendly Wassail choir where I played guitar for my friend Melski who was leading a workshop teaching the carols - very nice songs, bits with time signature changes but in a very folky way, and lots of vocal parts making each an anthem in it's own right, and then went out to a mad St Pauls jazz/classical instrument players party where the improvising was so great although purely musical, and we went from balkan to arabic to indian to jazz, folk and romanian - 7 beat stuff. Beautiful.


I also wrote a score - not written one for a long time. This was for the wild bunch re-score on the 22nd, live at the cube. Very fun to play, loads of ideas based on the score I wrote, like directing myself during an impro with random data off the internet, like reading out the tube gossip feed or some large IRC chatroom about something very heavy and particular...


What I've been spending a long time with is playing around with some free web space on the Cube Cinema's server. I also want to host a bristol/south west improvisation website - somewhere to bring together all the talent we have in this area, and list gigs/show off people and discuss etc. But I want to build it in an improvisory style, so up to now it's like a labyrinthine wiki - so if you come in you can add whatever you want off the sides of the page. I want to name it Nin - the world of humanity in buddhism. But the Bristol and Southwest Experimental Improvisation Website or even Impro-Crime will be just as good.


I also want to host all my songs on free servers, make as much of it creative commons as possible, and try and have a web presence on opsound again - I had a nice page which had lots of people downloading lots of sadly older and worse quality recordings - now both it and it's gnomoradio counterparts have been moved to the Internet Archive - also starting to use ccMixter for example for a nice dark hours improvisation of which I'm currently recording more... festive themed experimental madness.


So the other use for the sparror web space will be to put together a personal website as a more permanent bringer together for this stuff. In my Xmas stocking a behringer mixer thing for recording, which I'm buying now... And a studio to use! My first very own arts studio... Soon to be a place for sessions of any kind...

11/06/2005

Gig Preparations Contd


There's the new flyer for the gig, which I posted around a bit. Since then Tim has pulled out, but I've found and confirmed Claudio Furet on percussions.

10/30/2005



Here are my preparations for the gig on the 11th. Lots of guests to keep track of, lots of time to play. Very little money. That's life. It's my birthday. It's an investment for more gigs. Wish I could do a whole gig with a story teller who had a great story though... Would be brilliant. Just did a duet at a Buddhist course. I'm a member of SGI-UK. Playing improvised guitar as a live score to a sketch. Felt really good to get to play experimental improvised guitar and have people actually enjoy it - loads of people said afterwards that the guitar playing fit so well with Aletta's movements and was "timed perfectly"! - Aletta did the animal effects for Dr Doolittle and it was loads of fun to play to her story about an evil nun, eating soap and pretending to be a tree...



Anyway, on this gig there's the talented writer and songwriter David Green - I really like his email address name more - should be a stage name - Daid. I want to play tabla to two of his songs, maybe get him to learn one of mine that fits with what he does. Also there's Mel who I play with in the mini impro collective Meleliale - so we'll be two halves of that doing a structured improvisation about getting emotional at Clifton Down train station. Maybe Eli will also make it...



I want to play some chilean stuff - so there's some covers from 3 Chilean musicians - Joe Vasconcellos, Victor Jara and Angel Parra. I really should contact Claudio from his little studio on Gloucester Rd to do the percussion for them... Can't find his number. He's a good percussionist, I'm not sure if relaxed enough to play live though. But I think he'd enjoy at least playing to the Chilean 6/8 beats here and there, that no-one else really gets.



Would be great to get the Refugee band Sanctuary together again to play our title song - which we played with great success at the refugee week gig this summer. They are the two Zimbabweans, mbira player Fidelis, Cecilia, who toured the world then left it all to come here as a refugee. Finally she's starting to get into music again though. And Juan Gabriel from Colombia who seems to be playing the most interesting gigs in Bristol. But that would be sooo many busy people to chase after....



Hugh and Tim I know mostly from the Cube Orchestra and various unrehearsed jams at the Greenbank where we grew to know each other's tunes. We're going to meet and try out some structured improvisations.


Then there's Marco Anderson - I hope - he's another buddhist and has a study exam the next day followed by a gig somewhere very far like Poole. If he does come, he might be a bit scared by the song listing below... But each song with a name next to it is optional. Even to me. I just know I'd rather start with a big list, and they will be fine if they want to either because we've played those songs/improvs together in the past or because it wouldn't take much to explain them in one rehearsal. Might even sneak in a completely new improv. Would be great to see team brick, marco and mel playing off each other - the most technically gifted people I know and all very capable of the maddest and most creative improvisations I've ever seen.



Actually this is me a couple of days later. Team Brick will be in France, so the madness will have to wait.


Last but most important is my partner Krishinda(who trained classically as an opera singer once upon a time) - who is singing on a couple of songs. One we wrote together - a bit of a bed time song from when my daughter Quimsa was small.


Todo List:
call tim/hugh for rehearsal arrangement (doesn't have to be today)
call david for rehearsal
Trace Claudio
flyers!


#Song list
#name (possibles) [rehearsals to go|not even touched yet]


Elegia (Marco?) 1
David 2 Songs 1
Andana 3 (chema?) 1
Birthchant (tim/hugh)
Shit! (Marco Cajon)
Cancion de Jaime
Beheading of the french aristocracy (marco or mel)
Head football
Marco 1 song (his),
1 tabla/cajon duet (please?)
Glasgow Gill (Marco Cajon)
Do Sunsets Cry? (Mel/Eli?)
Requiem (hugh, mel)
West end scavenger (mel/team brick/tim)
Edoardo Benitez (hugh, t brick, tim, marco)
Surrounded (marco, mel)
The Closet (t brick, hugh, tim, mel?)
Artecnio the Millipede (marco cajon)1
Dietro Via Zanon (marco) 1(end)
Interacción (marco cajon) 1
Sandrocchia
Baby's Day Out 2
Eskimo Cabaret/Paris 2
El Hijo Arrepentido (marco) 2
Angelita huenuman (marco) 1
Ciudad Traicionera (Chema?) 2
Let go (Marco? Krish? Martin?!) 1
Careful 1
That's the way 1


31 songs so far - 5 * 31 = 155 mins - 3 hrs music! Better to start with more...

9/27/2005

Ancient Cathedral Temple Centre

I am in a huge and expansive arts centre/cinema/cathedral, in ancient Monfalcone. It's Monfalcone so it must be the Valentinis disco, where all my school friends used to go when I was 16. and although we were in the same school it was unreachable, a world apart. But it's more than that. Other unreachable things are all around.


We have come as buddhists or students to do a course and are here for a while in accomodation on the centre's grounds. I can't remember if it's with Soka Gakkai or as students of the UWC that we are here, but the accomodation is simple and functional, but I can tell that we are in a cheaper more day to day part of what houses much more valuable people than us. We are all teenagers and young adults.


The course has now come to an end. I remember the rooms and the shared bathrooms, all very clean and well kept. I look out the window down the huge stone block walls worthy of an Inca city or Egyptian pyramid, and far down below I see some limousines taking some important guests away after their own stay here. Their design is fascinating, even after the dream is over, posh leather padded, 1940s style limousines - very original in their design. Like what would take a film star around in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. I vaguely remember a large cinema hall, and a departure ceremony once our course is ended and we have all passed and completed and feel very good about it all. Now we have free time, and tomorrow morning we leave.


My mum and dad are at the ceremony. Of course, as teachers there. We ate together at the dinner. Another student was here with her child, and is worrying about who will babysit, and I offer to get in touch with her later and go and switch and take care of her toddler son later after having been out for a bit. We exchange mobile phone numbers, or did she have it already?


Then I go out, and step out of the centre/temple to a huge flight of stairs leading down the pyramid to the ground far below. A storm brews further along, and a river cuts across a short way from the pyramid's side. Somewhere around here must be my "friends". Just like when I was a teenager, I can't actually find these "friends". They are in the next disco - "the Mantovani", which must lie across that river. I make my way down among small openings in the pyramid face with dramatic fires, the whole scene and valley below like from a Mummy epic. Other people from the course discernible in the distance, making their way down. A blonde northern or eastern european guy is one of these, and we get chatting about the course, and he is able to climb huge rocks, jumping down with great flexibility but I make my way around.


We run into a cross between an old friend from Glasgow or the UWC and that woman from the mummy returns. At times we are one person, and at times I am separate, looking on. I say - the rains are coming, from there - and point over the river, but she gets us going through a path she knows, and gets us through a tunnel to a fork in the river's path. We lie at the edge of the tunnel opening, side by side. She is telling me about a 1950s housing developer when the alarm goes.





I bumped into Jim Cowan by accident when I was in london last, and I told him I wanted to switch careers and do something in the field of creative arts. I want to devote myself to work as an artist, working as an arts director or be an arts coordinator for a vibrant arts centre. I also don't want to give up IT work and research. It's jungian to think that the centre/temple is a part of me - it's there inside, but I don't think I'm worthy to live in it and access all it's areas.


Jim answered "Don't limit yourself to what you think people will want and what you think will make money - go for exactly what you want to do". I have to keep that at the top of my list.

9/05/2005

As I write I'm compressing a file from a tabla practice. I am a student of a student of Pandit Shankar Ghosh. My guruji/master's name is Tapanji.


I once told him I was a buddhist, and he told me this story in great detail about the way he would walk past a beautiful buddhist temple in his youth. And now you can't even see the temple for all the other buildings that now fill the land. And his mother used to use flowers, like the ones he pointed out to me in his garden - big bright yellow flowers - when he would hurt himself as a child. Homeopathic remedies.


And the tabla classes. Always told with such feeling - his tabla master's strict classes where he wouldn't let you leave when your lesson finished, and you had to assist other student's lessons, or where he would say "put on that record" and they would listen to something - I think quite varied stuff, not just indian music. He told me of not being able to write it down, scolding me almost, for taking a minidisc recorder to tape a lesson one day. Of the journey home from the classes, trying to count the lesson out with a class mate going "Dha ti Dha dha te te - no how is it? Dha ti dha dha terekete" etc and trying to put together the class in their heads. And the bus would come by and they'd be like "Never mind the bus" and go on with trying to remember the lesson, pausing only for tea at a little kiosk.


Learning tabla in Bristol seems to me like a triumph of multicultural britain - a refugee from Chile in the inner city able to learn about what most people have to travel around asia to get. I feel a big pull to use this instrument with my own traditional music, although a lot of Chilean stuff is for parties and nowhere near as complex. I've figured out a cueca beat though - not because of the dance but because most chilean music has that beat in it or was born from variations on it. I walk to my lessons for just 10 minutes a time along the path from my house past the chocolate factory and around the back of greenbank's old bank - rose green - a large sloping green space un-noticed by the armies of dog walkers and property developers, until maybe one day the river Frome finally overruns it's borders and comes through Easton and Bristol again. I hope not, unless canal based transport was the reason. Under that green I'm told there were workhouses belonging to said chocolate factory (it even had it's own schools!) - and people are surely buried along that path, but mostly they are in the greenbank cemetery, a reminder of death that accompanies each lesson. It's also well dodgy round that path.


The counting stuff is also brilliant - it gives me a new way to quickly write down beats - a shorthand for rhythm that anyone can use alongside chord names and descriptions, without having to take it to the musical heights that a zakir hussein would sing to a tanmoy bose. It can be recited and repeated almost instantly by a trained performer - this makes it a treat to use in the kind of improvisation I do.


Incidentally, Tapanji says Tanmoy is also a student of Pandit Shankar Ghosh, but a baby compared to him, only ten years younger than their master. He was only referring to age though, not performing talent! This makes him my guruji uncle? Great that you can trace that lineage back with this kind of music. With guitar so much is so shit because we don't share things one to one - people think the wierdest things about what playing guitar is about and how to do it. Buddhism also has this link - it should be transmitted on a person to person basis, although what that basis is should be left to the judgement and culture of the people involved - and nowadays healthily includes the telephone and tentative recordings with lots of personal padding - in both cases. Tapanji is quite strict when it comes to putting music online or sharing any of what he teaches, for this precise reason. It's all in all a practice that teaches respect: normally I'd be all against any claim that music should be kept locked away. It's that it's totally not about any money or keeping the content profitable. I would argue that the creative commons and similar initiatives need to take this reason into account when drafting legal copyright documents or teaching people the merits of sharing.


I don't really know where the indian music connection will take me, but it seems an obvious step after doing stuff like the wildstrings, and it's really helpful in jam situations where everyone and their dog plays guitar and sings, to have an instrument not many people use but that fits in well with soloists. I'd love to be able to sing raga as well, but before that, it's the guitar I want to go back and repolish. All as finances and time allow for more classes. The slow but constant musical growth I also have picked up and love, from Bristol's musicians.


The problem with tabla is that around the time I started learning I also started to suffer from RSI - although I've long hoped it was more to do with work, or with the fact that most of what I do employs the tips of my fingers in hard hitting jabs, and sitting in the same place for a long time. Now I think it might be more like carpal tunnel syndrome which looks slightly less worrying for the moment. I really hope it's not related.


One day Tapanji went to bollywood and went in with his tabla to a studio. They showed a screen with a clip of a person coming down some huge stairs in a temple. He didn't know what to expect, but they just told him to play whatever came to mind to go with the scene. He did, and he was off. He's probably done the music for countless films like this. Kind of what we try and do and I try and do such a construed manner with the orchestra cube. I hope to learn some day something about improvising like that from him. He already
helped me when I had to play a gig with a kora player - teaching me a rhythm in 14 beats that he thought would go well with the traditional rhythms of Senegal. But that's another of the beauties of this multicultural oasis of Greenbank...

9/01/2005

A huge storm chased me down park row, past the violin shops and the hospital, into the Cube Cinema yesterday Wednesday 31st for our first Cube Orchestra rehearsal after the Here Shop Gig.


Present were Belinda, Tomoko, Gareth and myself. We took our time in setting up amplifiers, and finding some old drums for Tomoko to play, while we chatted. After some chat about what went wrong on Saturday, Belinda wrote down a list of points which I hope she'll send to the list - quite openly worded and focusing on the percieved problem rather than the percieved solution. I hope we can use all the problems constructively to refine our guidelines for new people and for participating and in preparation for concerts.


Then it was time to play. One of the comments from before was "lack of conductor" or "limited ways of communicating during performance". Belinda suggested a great exercise where you appoint an "invisible conductor", disguised as one of the musicians and then everyone follows what they do - so their music becomes the conducting for that time. The best bit was when Tomoko conducted by playing drums and egg shakers - with Guitar and Wind instruments maybe we're accustomed to what to do with certain types of sounds - like to a jazz chord we might tend to solo and vice versa... With Tomoko's abstract noises, disassociated from her musical ability. we were much more free to react in creative ways to her noises.


Then we got out the Brazil DVD that I'd brought, and we discussed how we can organise the rescoring for the end of this month, so that it's not a big boring 2 hours. We put on the first dream sequence, when Sam Lowrie flies through the air and gets attacked by astroturf skyscrapers.
We quickly found out a couple of issues:

  • With 4 people it was really easy to concentrate on the film and at the same time follow everyone else
  • Some dialogue sections were a bit hard to do (not much happens... People might want to concentrate on following the subtitles)
  • We got bored after about 10 minutes or less and lost inspiration.
  • For me and Gareth who knew the film better, it was easier to do incidental music.


So the result could be that for the rescoring we

  • Divide ourselves up into small groups of up to 8 people for each scene or DVD section.
  • Appoint someone who knows the scene to do the incidental music if needed. Maybe someone else can play the general feel of that scene.
  • Get someone to present each section. The cube are fine for us to do bits of different films, rather than just one film from beginning to end.


Also we'll need to have someone in the projection room and give them an exact list of sections we'll do from what film and in what order.

8/30/2005


Ok so trying to think straight so I can write something usefully. But I'm completely entrenched in lack of brain fibre by this orchestra cube rehearsal that captures my will to write or communicate, my need.


We've become kind of a jam band, kind of a crazy orchestra with a rebellious spirit. I don't like it when people feel that that spirit of a bunch of people together doing something is based only on their feel as musicians - that's always there, but it's not everything. What about what was happening in your life, that affected your confidence at different moments, and the memories you'll carry with yourself of those times and those days when you happened to record that music. It's because sometimes what's not said is so beautiful that it tears apart all meaning in a meaningless day. But that doesn't mean it's everything.


So I feel we should talk, fight it out, bond or whatever the fuck as long as the music we produce is beautiful and breathtaking and inspiring. If I was in it for the money I wouldn't be doing improv.


And then again that's what's going to make improv understood. Musicians love improvising, it's almost a cliche' by now, but the audience we have is different, and the boxes we carve ourselves are so frequently unintentional. And improvisation is always a swim through the line between unconventional and conventional.


My idea at my heart, although I wish for all these visual dreams like busking in the park, my idea is still the triumph of human organisation in creating chance music.


Oh and skill worthy of alice in wonderland, by Miller, with Ravi Shankar.


Just coming in and playing and making it work like magic, cos you just have that ease with music and moving images. But we don't have that yet, I don't have that yet, and I feel I still need a box of sorts, a convention to package strangeness so that someone can hang their own fears on it and buy into the inner reaches of our brain, even if it hurts to know that that's the way and we can't be true. One day I'll be free, but for now I have to make sure our levels are level. Because it's just fair to let the quieter people be heard. I always go for the underdog. Soundchecking also so that everyone can hear themselves and enjoy the experience. If we're there to experience artists in movement then we have to see them happy. And human interaction. We might have chosen to practice with the here group drawers - if deer_aaron hadn't been mugged and lost his phone and hadn't been leaving for canada the next day, we'd been able to get through to him and hence the group before Saturday, and practiced by running off into the fields and played flying pancake death. It always comes back to the pancakes.


And on the other hand it was so enjoyable, and made me so happy and honoured to be there with everyone watching the first showing of Francois' future DVD and the recited poem. As we slowly arrived and figured out it wasn't just going to be a trio - the new sound of cheezy jazz. The future sound of Smooth FM - Marcus, Hugh and Me. But people slowly rolled by or made themselves known by the winds of talk in their wake.


After a while we even managed to paste together a semblance of a set, and secured some amps to cater for our input hunger. We were going to start by playing one at a time, or really sparsely, and then all come in together, for effect. Then at some point there was Mr Hopkinson's Gulls, and then also we would get the Drawers to draw us and maybe their thoughts about us on our figurative T Shirts or thought bubbles, as imagined by Richie (although he said they would write "wanker" or "shut the fuck up" on the thought bubbles). I'd also been through some some shit and also quite interesting online texts.


By the time we played, there were loads of us, including new members Morgan and Ellie and her really beautiful sounding flute, and I had the added pleasure of Richie to the other side of me, also shaping the music in general. It was hard to beat the relief of continental emotions from Francois and the other animated music before it, but we
did look really cool when it started and I saw the video selecting all the stuff and editing it so that you never knew which bit would be shown next on the big screen, although you could peek it and guess.


By the end we'd had lots of great moments, inspired by the Skull, the sunset, the various cartoons and funny sentences, and finally by the vagina (which started up a great latin beat from Richie). My only frustration was that for example we tried for ages to try and tell the other half of the stage that we were stopping, or various ideas we shared with each other with a quick word on our side. Negative inspiration came from people leaving and people drawing picturs of themselves hiding their ears or saying they they were bored or couldn't figure out what to do next.


It was after the gig that the shortcomings of the show became apparent, as well as the brilliance of some of the pictures that had come from it. I got the idea then to


  • Always sound check a burst of orchestral wrath: everyone playing together, so we can get the levels.

  • If someone is going to turn up at the spur of the moment, it's up to them to figure out their levels. First come first served. The problem is implementing this rule and at the same time being welcoming.
  • Meet the people beforehand. Talk about what you think it's going to be, exchange ideas. If you have trouble you can then fall back on these ideas. Otherwise at least you've met these people. Some people can always do great improvisations with people they've never met, other people don't. If you overprepare you miss the creative peak and your ideas gel into something that could be fragile if something unexpected is added. So to the level in which you are happy with it, prepare.
  • Establish means of communication during the gig. Is there a conductor, or people to look at to tell if it's time to finish or change? Always look around at everything. Playing with your eyes closed means to me you're closed too.

All in all a constructive night. Lots of constructive comments from everyone, and good to have a shared opinion that doesn't agree with itself. We also figured out the basis for the first re-scoring - For now comprising at least the dream sequences from Brazil and it's false ending. I want to play through these bits at home. Anyone is invited. Especially the fight between Sam Lowrie and the Typewriter Warrior. And through that we could come up with special bits to write into a semi score.

ta ti ti ta ta dhin dhin dha
dha thin thin na tete ti ti ta

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