Micro-Song

Big Black Eyes Remix Comp Winner Announced!

Sunday, May 24th, 2009 | Micro-Song, remix | 2 Comments

 

Magpie nest-building shortly before being driven away by crows

All the mixes have been in for a while and I’ve listened a few times to each of the 43 remix entries. With such a high standard and with the wide variety of mixes submitted and Its been very tough to pick one winner. For a while I was thinking about awarding points to each mix for; technical skill, imagination, feel etc.. but it quickly became unmanageable in the end I simply went for the mix which moved me the most. 

That mix is Keith Jafrate’s epic ‘Winter Garden Mix’.

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Keith’s 10 minute mix sounds to me like an unhurried wordless radio drama, It does it’s thing by stealth and too me it’s really magical. Extra bonus points for using the call of a Magpie (my bird of 09) – Congratulations Keith, It’s truly beautiful! 

Thank you to all who took the time to enter and a very big thanks to Highpoint Lowlife Records who have been hosting all the files. 

Leafcutter John.

More Remix Comp mixes now up…

Monday, March 30th, 2009 | Micro-Song, remix | No Comments

Yep the remixes are coming thick and fast, I’m impressed by the quality and the speed at which you managed to make them! 

I’ve not had chance to really listen to them yet as i’m still on tour and have been in the back of a van for 98% of the last week.

All the mixes are at the end of THIS post! 

If you’d like to make a mix you have until 30th April to submit it – details in download pack.

Take care,

Leafcutter John.

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Leafcutter John Remix Competition now open!

Monday, March 23rd, 2009 | Micro-Song, remix | 20 Comments

 

Post this on your website!

Post this on your website!

Just before I head out on tour with Polar Bear I want to let you know that the files are now up for the Remix Competition.

Included in the download you’ll find all the stems from the MicroSong ‘Big Black Eyes’
They are encoded as good quality MP3’s.

Your job is to make a fantastic remix using whatever tools are at your disposal.

There are a few simple rules:

1. You have until 30th April to complete your Remix and send it to me in MP3 form. There are no restrictions on style. The email address to send your entry is included with the download package. DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT SEND: AIFF, WAV, or an uncompressed files!

2. You may add your own sound sources but please retain some of the originals or it’s not really a re-mix is it? You may chop, mangle, distress, sew, dilute, boil down amongst other treatments. 

3. There will be one winner chosen by Leafcutter John and the winner will receive a very special prize, or a CD or something not too difficult to post. Winners will be announced as soon as possible after all the entries have been heard. 

Depending on how many entries we get, we’ll try and put all the remixes up at leafcutterjohn.com

Because I’d like to see a lot of cool entries please spread the word far and wide, if you’d like to add the flyer just paste the following code into your website. As Dan has correctly pointed out the following code will only work of you re-type all the inverted commas – sorry can’t sort this out right now.

<a href=”http://leafcutterjohn.com/?p=757? ><img src=”http://leafcutterjohn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/lrm.jpg” width=”450″ height=”258″ alt=”remix” /></a>

I did a project like this years ago and the response was amazing – get going you have just over a month! 

Best of luck,

Leafcutter John.

Click below to hear the original, also read why I made this song.

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DOWNLOAD FILES

kindly sponsored by: Highpoint Lowlife Records 

Bluermutt Mix

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Submitted Mixes:

First remix is in! 11 hours after posting the stems!

Kendal Mintcake mix…

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Rotted Karma Mix

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Vertical67 Mix

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Wolfseule Mix

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A Black Mountain Re-Installation Mix

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Seabuckthorn Mix

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Hecanjog loves cvj mix

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Pidgin Eye mix

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RickPlusPlus Mix

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The Tines Mix

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Becoming Animal Mix

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Nojoined Mix

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Pattern/Depattern Mix

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Sunken Foal Mix – Check out his beautiful new LP on Planet-Mu!!!

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Winter Garden Mix – Keith  Jafrate – (Orfeo 5)

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Scatter Tape Mix

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wild corporation HQ + Sandra Twitchett 

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Edivad Mix

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Paul Heslin Afraid of Water Mix

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W Sleep Mix

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Fabio Keiner Mix

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Lone Rodger 2D Mix

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The Hardy Tree Mix

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Kid Ataris Linear Edit

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Andrew Kaluzynski Mix

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Escalation746 Iris Mix

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FSK1138 Mix

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throuRoof –  see her eyes in a dream hypnagogic Mix.

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The Shanster – strained pu pills mix

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United Digital Analog Community –  UDAC sneaker mix

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Hurtdeer Mix

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Aka Ieva Mix

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Aaron Harbour Mix

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Cylocin Mix

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430030 Mix

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Ctalo Ytpo Mix

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A Pyxie Worm Mix (website myspace)

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Berk Offset Stormy Walzcutter Mix

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Libythth Mix

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Seelensack Mix

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ASCDI’s Diptych Mix

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The Machinist Mix

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Zorba Le Break Mix

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Micro-Sound Remix update I & new duo project NAILS

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 | Micro-Song, nails, Processing, remix | No Comments

Hello everyone, 

I’ve had several inquires about where people can find the remix files – well they don’t exist yet I’m afraid. I was planning on making the next micro-song available for remix but I have not had change to make a micro-song yet as I’ve been a bit busy on other projects lately (like the the never-ending rent payment project). Sorry about the delay, but it’s nice to know you are generally into the idea.

Nails artwork made with Processing

Nails artwork made with Processing

One of the things I did last week was to make a myspace site for my duo project with Seb Rochford. We are called NAILS and you can visit, listen & befriend us right HERE! There will be more music up when we have had chance to do more edits….

best wishes,

Leafcutter John.

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Open Remix. Do you have free space on your Server?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 | Micro-Song, remix | 7 Comments

***********

UPDATE – Server space has now been kindly donated by Thorsten at highpointlowlife.com Many thanks to him and all that offered assistance! 

 

I’ve been thinking about the suggestion that I should make the stems of the next Micro-Song available for download so you can all have a go at doing a re-mix. This would be great but I think that it will eat up all my bandwidth – SO….

Do you have any spare server space to host the stems and subsequent remixes?

If you do please contact me or leave a comment. If no body volunteers in the next week or so I’ll make the stems available via yousendit.com on a first come first served basis.

All the best, 

Leafcutter John.

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Big Black eyes micro-song remixed by Bluermutt

It’s amazing how fast things can move sometimes. Within hours of posting my first micro-song I received an email from Bluermutt in which he commented that he’d never seen a remix of one of my tunes, which is true. I sent Geo the stems and a week or so later he sent me this little beauty.

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I hope you enjoy his interpretation the original is below if you have not heard it.

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Bluermutt Myspace

Bluermutt Web

Thanks Gio!

Leafcutter John.

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Micro-Song #2

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 | Micro-Song, The Making of the 5th Leafcutter Album | 5 Comments

For this micro-song I’m turning what could be described as the national instrument of Greece, a country which for many reasons fills me with joy. The Bouzouki is capable of a wide variety of sounds and emotions and I have not used mine as much as I should so it’s perfect for making a micro-song with.

This micro song is truly experimental in nature. I started of by recording the instrument using my little sony d-50 and my binaural Soundman mics. I gave myself the rule that I could not use my fingers directly to play the instrument in the conventional sense. So I used soft beaters to hit and scrape the body and strings. I used a rubber balloon to create low pitched farts along the strings, and a jaw harp with it’s vibrating metal component against the strings (that’s not me in the video!).

With the sounds transfered to Logic I set about layering parts of the recording to create a composition. I used some compression to get the level up in places and a touch of reverb to tie the sounds together a little. One of the great things about using binaural microphones is that because you wear them in your ears any movement of the head results in panning in the recording. This technique is very evident in the micro-song. From the screen grab you’ll see a MIDI region, this is a sampler playing sections of the original recording.

To listen to the song I’d recommend using decent speakers or headphones as you’ll not hear any bass on most computer speakers.  

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Take care,

Leafcutter John. 

To find out more about the origins of the micro-song idea read I thought you used to be a musician once?

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Goodbye Curse of Greatness

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 | Micro-Song, The Making of the 5th Leafcutter Album | 1 Comment

This post follows on from: I thought you used to be a musician once?

Thank you all for your kind words of support and encouragement. Although I was nervous about posting what I did last Sunday the response through comments and private emails has been overwhelming and very positive for me in the last few days. Your comments and suggestions have truly helped me look at the situation afresh and for this I feel very lucky.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered writers block and I suspect it will not be the last. This time has probably been the longest sustained period where I have not been able to produce work with that certain special something I crave.
 

The good news is that I feel like I have identified a major cause of the block I was experiencing. The problem as I see it is one of approach and I have given it a funny name, which as we all know is the first step in beating anything. I’m calling the problem “THE CURSE OF GREATNESS” and it goes like this:

  1. I want to make a song, but I’ve been taking with this amazing label who really love my last album and want to release my new work so whatever I do it’s got to be GREAT.
  2. Write for a few hours, record a few ideas….
  3. Listen back, nothing GREAT, back to step 2.
  4. After a few days going between steps 2 -3. Listen to the other GREAT artists on the label and wonder how they made such GREAT music?
  5. Get desperate and try ‘borrowing’ some ideas from other peoples GREAT songs.
  6. The result is not as GREAT as the source, back to step 3.
  7. After a while you feel you have to send something to the label so you take the least crappy idea and work it into a song – not GREAT but the response is ok from the label so back to step 1. 
I guess that’s an over simplified version of my cycle of the last year or so. I think the problem is fairly clear. Of course, given the choice, I would want my work to be in some way great. But using this as a starting point can only set me up for immediate and un-ending disappointment. 
 
My dictionary and thesaurus suggest:
 
greatness
noun
the quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent Elgar’s greatness as a composer.
 
eminence, distinction, illustriousness, repute, high standing; importance, significance; celebrity,fame, prominence, renown. genius, prowess, talent, expertise, mastery, artistry, virtuosity, skill, proficiency; flair, finesse; caliber,distinction.

Quite a lot to think about while trying to write a song!  Interestingly many of the words listed relate to things arising from other peoples perceptions. Distinction, eminence, repute, importance, significance, etc, etc, cannot be objective as they arise from people’s very subjective view. Seen from this angle greatness can be separated from the work. For example: work can exhibit elements of greatness but the choice of being great or not is not embodied in the work itself, rather it comes from some where else.
 
Ok, these are my immediate thoughts on the subject and they are not fully formed yet. However I have a strong feeling that trying to make oneself appear great is misguided and possibly the least effective method of actually making great work.
 
So the alternative (for me at least) is to go back in time to a point where I did not think about greatness at all. A time when I had not released any music and no one had any opinion of my music. What did I do then? As far as I can remember, my method was based on exploration. I had a childish sense of play which lead me in unknowably wonderful directions (it’s like Tina knew all along, i’ll pass on the Valium though). Finished works were composed of elements, with were themselves results of experiments. Working like this was exciting, joyful, and surprising. If I compare then with now I realise that at times I’m missing all three elements. 
 
I think the idea of making sketches will lead me back in the right direction as it’s is very similar to the way I used to work. In the last few days I have made a couple more micro-songs and to my delight I have felt the joy of old come back into my working process and the pressure of judgment lift.
 
The great thing about the results of an experiment is that the results are what they are, you can interpret them but they are never wrong. With that in mind I present micro-song number 2 in my next post.
 
All the best,
 
Leafcutter John.

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I thought you used to be a musician once?

It’s been over a year and a half since my last album came out. Since then i’ve been busy with lots of different projects. Learning new skills, playing music with my band and with Polar Bear. In the whole it’s been a very happy time. Since January last year I have been trying to write new material for what I hope will be a new record. The strange thing is that when I listen back to what I have recorded a lot of it strikes me as not being quite right. This is not my self-conscious ego talking, well maybe partially but there is definitely something a bit broken in my creative process when it comes to songwriting. A particular problem has been the writing of lyrics. This can be really difficult at the best of times but for me over the last year it has often felt like I have absolutely nothing to say. This is of-course absolute rubbish as I’m sure something is in there but it’s been impossible thus far to get it to come out. I have managed to make a few pieces but my feeling is that they are not very good or trying to be something that I’m not. Trouble is I’m finding it hard to know what I ‘really’ am.

I have tried various methods to coax the timid little rabbit out of it’s burrow. I have tried the ‘write something every day’ method which produced material but it was, err really really bad. I then tried the ‘don’t do anything unless you feel like it’ approach which lead to me staying in bed a lot. I then went back to listen to the ‘something every day’ material which made me feel pretty depressed but I decided that I had not given it enough time to work so I started on it again which lead to yet more crap. Crap on Monday, crap on Tuesday, and on Wednesday more crap for a change… You get the idea. At one point I was ready to toss in a stick of dynamite down the hole and put an end to that stubborn furry little bastard.

There is lots of advice to ‘cure’ writers block available on the web – but let me warn you. If you happen to be suffering to the extent that you are desperate enough to take this ridiculous step you might also be sufficiently weakened to actually try some of the methods. Take it from me JUST DON’T OK! Take for example lovely Tina Morgan. She advises in her ’10 Ways to Beat Writers Block’:

3) Take Prozac – seriously – if you’ve been suffering from the symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. There may be something he/she can do to help, be it medication or therapy. (of course, always check with your doctor before taking any medication)

Are you fucking serious!? I can quite do without developing a drug dependency. Oh and by the way Tina not being able to work properly for a year is fairly depressing but something tells me the pharmacist is not the one I should turn too. From the insane to the ridiculous she goes on to suggest:

6) Play on the jungle gym, crawl on the floor after your toddler for 20 minutes – not just for the exercise but also for down time from life’s problems and to marvel in the joy of exploration. 

Well I have no idea what a jungle gym is and I have absolutly no desire to get a toddler in order to find out. Perhaps unfairly I chose her as an example but there are countless others peddling such well meaning crap. there must be some great resources out there for the blocked, it’s just that I didn’t find anything that didn’t either make me laugh, cry, or want to disable the author. I guess the problem is that each person gets blocked for different reasons and there really are no simple answers or any website, book, or guru that can be consulted for them. The answers annoyingly (but simply enough) lie within.

You might by this point (in what is turning into an essay), be thinking “Why the hell are you putting this shit out there for everyone to read, just deal with it man! You are not getting my sympathy”. Or “Are you going to tell me you discovered the secret of becoming un-blocked and then try and sell it to me?” Well I’m really quite nervous about posting this blog, I’m not sure how people will react. But when I made this new website I put in a category called “The Making of the 5th Leafcutter Album” in which I imagined would document the triumphant making of a masterpiece (that’s sarcasm btw) Anyway I have decided that it’s time to start writing about the album, come rain or shine. I love all the things I’m studying but my number one desire is to communicate with people through song. When it works it fills me with an indescribable joy when it’s broken I want desperately to find a way to fix it. That’s the first reason I’m writing this and it explains the lack of new music here. Secondly there are probably loads of people currently stuck or experiencing similar things to this and it can’t hurt to share one’s experiences. The third reason is that I would like to try and publicly un-block myself by producing a series of Micro-Songs on this blog. I think one of the problems I’m having is that I try and do too much in a single song and I get very uptight thinking about how well or badly I can play and sing. I tend to obsess over some tiny detail which can, in the end de-rail the whole song I’m working on. 

If you are a regular reader here you will no doubt be aware that I’m currently learning the programming language Processing. In Processing a program is refered to as a sketch. At first I thought the idea of sketching code was cute but slightly ridiculous. But the more I sketch, the more Inspired an idea it seems. Thinking of coding as sketching removes the implication that code has to be long, tedious and hard to understand. An idea can be expressed quickly and with a minimum of fuss. It can be scruffy, half finished, broken and still somehow beautiful. In short it’s exaclty what I need for my songwriting.

So what is a Micro-song?

  • Short and not overly complex
  • Self Confident
  • Not concerned with virtuosity or eliminating errors
  • Honest and true (It does not have to pretend to be anything other than what it is because it’s content)

I tried today to write my first Micro-Song and freed from the rubbish I had floating about in my head about what my music should sound like I managed, with relative ease to create something which I’m actually very fond of. As a song I’m not sure what it means other than that I managed to make something that I don’t despise.

I humbly give you “Big Black Eyes” (haha)

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“Don’t move over, don’t move over. Good night, night, night-night. Big black eyes. Never sleep.”

It’s late but I’m going to post this anyway, please forgive spelling and grammar.

All the best,

Leafcutter John.

P.S. this is for Maria & Seb, may you never tire x x x.

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