So what to say? What a year, year zero! It feels a bit like a leap year, but instead of moving forward, we remain in a purgatory-esque state of struggle, suffering, restriction and repetition with pockets of joy. I think it was around January this year when I finally felt as though I had had enough. I miss seeing my friends and giving them a cuddle. I miss having the opportunity to do something even though I probably can’t be bothered to leave the house. It’s bit like someone I know who lives in the Smoke (LDN) but seldom leaves their living room, I don’t get it… but anyway.

Currently surviving the precarious nature of post-doctoral life. I naively thought it would provide more stability than being a freelance creative. Whoops… nah, it’s just as bad, if not worse as you have loads of intellectual types trying to assert their mental dexterity, when really, I just long for a spade to be called a spade so I can crack on with my work.

I’ve entered my second year of teaching at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s  Junior Conservatoire which has been a nice challenge. I really care about my students’ development and randomly spend time pondering about how best to teach them, how do I encourage them to do better without discouraging them when I highlight areas of development? How do I elicit from them their own ideas to move their pieces in a direction that serves the aims of their musical creations? How do I do this on Zoom? How do I make that connection? Oof! The first stage is to ensure my life condition is high enough to absorb any of their angst and transform it into something workable.

Really excited to be hatching some plans with photographer B+. His work has been part of my life well before we met. He’s a cool cat and very generous. I won’t say too much. We are collaborating with a legendary figure… A proper GOAT. I won’t announce this until the project becomes real, but when it does, I’ll still be pinching myself.

Currently reading up on the notion of black aesthetics… Is it a thing? Is it possible? Is it too reductionist to group black creativity/expression into one mode of philosophical thought when Africa and the African disapora is hugggeeeee? Time to launch into some research and find out, eh. Loving this beautiful book by Paul Taylor, Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics

some thoughts

So I’m blogging during these strange times of coronavirus. If you are reading this please don’t share this post on socials. I’ve written these thoughts here because I don’t want to engage over there. You could argue, why share these thoughts at all? Why not write it in a journal? You’re right. I just wanted to say something but as activity over here is quieter, I thought I’d surreptitiously share a few things…

It’s really odd because in our blind leading the blind lead up to Covid-19 I found that from October – once I had submitted my PhD – all I wanted to do was be around nature. Every weekend I put my walking boots on and stomped around the countryside. I did not want to be indoors at all!

As an introvert/extrovert, I’ve realised I’m actually built for this, strangely enough. The crisis has made me feel much calmer and I know I’m not alone with these sentiments. Anyway, I don’t know what to say, the UK government have handled the situation badly, black and brown people are dying in record numbers.

There’s a clear class divide in terms of those who are being affected – people have died on my road, it’s crazy. There have been several times where I have heard the clipperty clop sounds of horses transporting those whose lives have sadly been taken off to their resting place.

Then there’s the BLM movement that has been galvanised due to the tragic death of George Flloyd, cue loads of white folks rushing to demonstrate that they are not racist by sharing social media posts about how woke they are or how many times they have interacted with black people in their work. Some of it is well-meaning, some I find is really cringe-worthy. I have to limit my time on socials as everyone is shouting about it. Personally, I think it’s time white folks took the lead in addressing their part in all this. I’m cynical about all the social media stuff, what are you going to do outside of this virtual realm? How are you are going to avoid creating temporary tokenistic interventions rather than the labour intensive, challenging, durational work needed to create real change for equality and equity, what if that means you need to step down or receive less cash or commissions or whatever it is? Are you still down for the cause?

Anyway, during these three months, it’s all about the rituals. I really enjoy teaching my composition students and listening to a fair amount of music. High-intensity exercise, walks, Buddhist chanting and reading are getting me through.

Some tracks I’ve had on lock:

Still determined to make a real change in my work – which will take a while. I’m in the early stages of planning something exciting… I have to view the journey as a marathon. Reading an ace book which is a dialogue between my spiritual mentor Daisaku Ikeda with legendary jazz musicians Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. A passage that inspired me is where Shorter says he tries hard to create music that puts people in touch with their deepest hopes and dreams they have given up,  aiming to “inspire courage, so people can overcome their fear of the unknown and find a way to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected. He says the process of cultural awakening is one that must be pursued patiently and there are no shortcuts.

“Cultural exchange raises awareness. By coming into contact with other cultures, people learn that there are many perspectives and ways of life. Such an awareness can overcome long-held rigid and parochial views of culture, which no longer have a place in the world”.

Stay safe.

Decolonising the Music Curriculum #1

Sony have re-released the Black Composer Series led by conductor Paul Freeman and the LSO. Thanks to Dr. Chris Dingle for sharing. Have really enjoyed listening, wish I could buy all the vinyl copies.

I’m currently listening to some contemporary composers Roque Cordero and George Walker. They are both completely new to me.

Roque Cordero according to wikipedia was (August 16, 1917 – December 27, 2008) and a Panamanian composer. George Theophilus Walker (June 27, 1922 – August 23, 2018) was the first African American to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project: Task 2


Thanks everyone for your wonderful contributions to the first task!

Second task: what do you think are the components of the sound world for RnB/Pop/Soul60s/70s ? What instruments and musical stamps do we need to include so that a piece feels like it sends a nod to that world?

If you want to send in sketches or develop material I’ll send you a link to dropox where you can hear/read ideas and develop in anyway you wish.

Deadline: 26th October 2018.

Any questions drop me an email.

All best wishes,


Hyperlocal Media Music

Hi there!

Framework for hyperlocal media piece will be placed here. So not to use up too much of your time this is what I think we should do:

1. I’ll revise what we spoke about last time. Something about writing a piece for a one man band (Andy is up for being that person). I’ll listen back to conversation and summarise (here) later.

2. How many interactions/sessions would you like? 4-6? Online and offline?

3. We spoke about lyrics being written, anyone up for that? How many verses? Do we follow a verse/chorus framework?

4. We spoke about people being able to interact via social media # hashtag whatever we decided #hyperlocalmediamusic

5. We spoke about a performance happening around BCU

Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project

Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project

Hey there lovelies! Here’s the page for us to share findings.


Task 1: Please introduce yourself and what you’d be interested in contributing to the project to the gang.

Task 2: Please share your top 5 tracks which must include orchestral arrangers (soul/jazz/RnB/pop of 60/70s). What do you love about the sound? What do you think are the signature elements of the music you’ve selected that we should take note of for our collaborative piece?

Deadline: 28th September.

Best wishes,


Alfonso, I’m listening to music by Thom Bell on your recommendation, he has an interesting story too! I wonder what he does now? Would love to see these scores, how do I access them, record labels?

Lord ha mercy this as well:
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” – The Delfonics – starts with french horn and glockenspiel! That brass!!

Read this interview about his collaboration with Johnny Mathis on the track ‘Coming Home” and this stood out:

“Musically, Bell fashioned an arrangement that further amplified the visual cues in Creed’s narrative. “I intended to meet the obligations of the lyrics of what he’s saying,” he explains. “It’s got to match. If the arrangement does not fit, I’m not ashamed to throw it in the trash. Just because I wrote it doesn’t mean it has to be in there.” Each musical component on “I’m Coming Home” painted a vivid scene: the interplay between the bass and drums summoned a train’s chugging rhythm on the tracks while the strings evoked rolling landscapes glimpsed from a passenger’s window. The soft horns simulated a distant train whistle heralding Mathis’ arrival.”

ron transcribed

“I’m Ronnie. I run the record shop and I’ve run records shops since 1990 and I‘ve had my own shop since 1993. So I’ve been doing it some of my adult life.

How do I find this, this, the most amazing happen chance and for 2 weeks after finding it, I couldn’t speak, id meet friends and they’ say, I hear you’ve got a new shop and I’d be like…

There were so many amazing things happened to me in those 2 weeks, that I couldn’t begin to catalogue them but it was literally I wasn’t thinking of coming back into retail cos I’d been away for 12 years and I’d been selling records at festivals, and it was quite good for me but I didn’t thinkI’d get back into retail because of all of the pitfalls, the rates, it just goes on and on and on and looking after rotas, getting stock, and do on and do forth, selling at festival was much more easy going, you’ve got all winter to work on it and in the summer you’d obviously sell and have fun in the sunshine. But um it was just a happening, it was on the Net for only 3 hours and I just happened to be chatting with jenny my partner, my wife er that you know, she said, what do you wanna do?

And I said er, I dunno, she goes, ‘well what about another shop?’ I said, ‘well, I said the best place, the most best place with a nice vibe was around the new cross area’ which I used to drive through cos I live outside London my son lives in north london, so I drive through and I drive through new cross, Deptford and think that’s how london used to be and I though yeah, Deptford, you know, somewhere like that.

And literally within minutes of going on the net I came across this property and when the lady, my landlady Ayo, she’s a fantastic Nigerian woman, she showed me round the shop, I said ‘what’s down there?’ she goes ‘this is the basement’, I was like ‘oh the basement! that’s good for a record shop’ and I came downstairs and found this amazing space which has been host to um clubs and what have you through time and the Deptford society came in one time and said that this was formerly the socialist bookshop in Deptford in the 1930s, so I think this, its got its own vibe and I think it draws people, likeminded people to it.

It was formerly a delicatessen and formerly a café, I think both cafes, I think because its off the beaten track found it hard to keep, keep up the trade but we had the record space we were formerly, we are a record shop and this café came secondary it was only when I found it had been a café and there was, I thought, so many people came, have used it, formerly, it was a good move to keep it as a café as well, umm it hasn’t been good returning money but um, ive had my time at making money, these times its sort of, do ,er, more altruistic business you know er formerly it was in the west end and it was about the business and this is more about community, and it gives opportunities to up and coming bands which I think opportunities are few and we need to create more, more spaces an we need to create a vibe where people don’t do, aren’t doing business solely for profit you know, they’re doing it to turnover, and just to keep, keep communicating ideas, the great thing about cafes is ideas can be shared and people can be who they want to be away from their flat, their parents, their next door neighbours, that’s the thing that festivals show, when you go to a festival, no one knows who you are, you can be who you like and you can tell people about your idea and your interests without people going, ah that’s the dude that wears the baseball cap that listen to drum n bass, you know they just think of you like an individuals and cafes create that space.

Well, we searched some maps for a background for a graphic and there’s a map the other side of the road, and again from the Deptford historical society – this side wasn’t in existence but the other side was, that pre-fire, that whole side, that was Georgian shops or whatever they call that era of shops and the last 2 buildings have got some architectural pieces of interest about them, umm architects often, not often sometimes you see some students with their tutor pointing out some points of interest on that, I think it’s something to do with pre and post fire regulations. The buildings were joined and that’s why the fire took off because they were sharing certain architectural features, got 1640 on the other side of the street, on this side I don’t know, of course I know the history of Deptford it was formerly said to be the oxford circus of its days, the shops were really grand, yeah theres a musical hall halfway up the street, ‘darge??’ a former musical hall. The shops go back enormously, er they were big shops they were major, this was a major spot.

Yeah, I’ve always been drawn to music, ive always been drawn to collecting records and when I first came to London in the mid 70s, late, yeah mid 70s, 74, 75, ummm, I lived, we lived in some or different places, er and did art projects and I was in an arts band for a bit around the era of punk. I was living in west London in those days down in kings road way and er just picked up on that energy and it was really more arts based person, but I never got to ummm explore that that much because this a- that and whenever acid house music came along id been such a record collector and lover of music that I just fell into playing records and from that fell into working in a record shop n from that fell into having a record shop and having 2 record shops and then ummmm about 2000 I closed down the shops, downloading, just hit downloading hit, it made retail unstable, you don’t get a lot of help you know, businesses about, about climbing and getting more profit, which it actually isn’t er, retail’s a service a commodity you can’t increase the price of you know…

The decorations due to jenny, she did the colours she’s fung shui, consultant, and comes in and goes right, that’s got to move, that’s in the wrong placem she keeps us in line on that level.

Going back to the giving musicians a break, during the punk era and post punk era, the squats sort of enabled a lot of people to play for free, you just had to get yourself there, and that’s the ethos, should be promoted more, and I think it is. Recently the amount of small venues that have emerged and people playing to 12 people which I think is great, it could be your pals, or it could be strangers, it creates an instant atmosphere being intimate.

Fondest memories so far is, to come I hope, but I think finding it was, still have to pinch myself, those weeks when it happened and when all the things there the fact that we’re in a pedestrianised area, people can sit outside, it’s quiet.

When I came here, it was outside, cycle racks outside, the people who were here before had really put a lot of love in it, it was almost ready to go, you can feel it when you walked into the building, most of it was building, most of it was building the counter.

Yeah, Ted Middleton playing, Bert was great here some bands are blowing this space away, we had to put the breaks on having notorious band because it’s a residential street, you know, we wanna keep the numbers down, we’d come here a Saturday, turned round the corner and it was just PACKED with people, so we had to put the breaks on and slow it down, and then have only up and coming or established bands – who’ve been established for a long time and erm, I used to say only bands that area coming up or getting used to performing live or they have been together for many years and just their pals come, which is a group of 20 people, those formula work here. We’d still have raucous up and coming bands so on, the electronic music is always great…

Having a café you see that Deptford has got masses of layers, the 60s people who came here, the university in the 60s are musician who decamped here. Cos of the cheap housing, the you have the 70s and the punks they came here for similar reasons and then you have the 80s people and all these people coexist but they don’t know each other and often they don’t know each other and many of ‘em come in here and that’s good, it’s a bit like sea captain’s rest as well. There are many sorts of musicians or ex musicians or musicians or former musicians who’ve lapsed who come in and it’s a bit like they, they come, and just have a cup of tea, like I said the captain’s rest or something like that, because of the nautical, social as we got older.

All sorts of people come in, transgender, people with… all sorts of people.”

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Now to filter out the right sections for lyrical content.

Royal Marines ‘beat Retreat’ (1950)

So I’ve been thinking about my Deptford vinyl piece… last project for SaM composer residency too. Owner Ronnie Marrow said the river was a huge part of London’s developments, arguing that if the River wasn’t there Deptford wouldn’t be the place it is today, so ideas about docks, river, sea shanties, multi culturalism are spinning around my head, as well as how this connects with the notion of hyperlocality and its journalistic roots.

Journalist > observer > reporter > shares news> . Observer > Stories > Sharing back to an audience. Vocalist shares stories via lyrical content from owner of the record store. Who accompanies him?

How about a little military band? A micro one as the shop is tiny? A modern day, experimental military marine band? What does that consist of?

Perhaps the band could travel en route to the space? Who knows? Do the musicians have to be from the area for the music to qualify as hyperlocal?

vinyl deptford

I’m collaborating with Heart n Soul artist Robyn Steward to create a hyperlocal piece of music inspired by this little gem/oasis in the heart of Deptford.

The sea makes up a large part of Deptford’s history, informs owner of Vinyl, Ronnie Morrow.

So I’m currently listening and researching music associated with the Royal Navy docks… and what sort of instruments we can incorporate into a piece which connects to Deptford’s rich nautical past.

So far:


And this was useful….

The Bands of the Royal Marines are distinctive in always being led on parade by their immaculate Corps of Drums, as well as doubling in an orchestral role. Music has long played a part in daily life aboard ship, with the singing of sea shanties and the ship’s fiddler relieving the tedium of a long voyage. As long ago as the days of Drake and Hawkins, the drummer’s rhythm would advise the changing watches or be used to “beat to action”. Ships’ bands came to develop from this. 

International Military Music Society.


I’m going to use my website more to serve as a brain dump for my PhD musings on ‘composing in a hyperlocal environment’.

I’ve entered my second year of research and I’m currently thinking about the first year of fieldwork that has taken place. My project for-Wards is the main body of work, where 10 Brummie composers work in 10 Birmingham constituencies to co-create new music inspired by the locality. You can learn more here.

I will examine how a composer can create music that is ‘hyperlocal’ – a journalistic term relating to work that is specific to the matters concerning a small community or geographical area, through practice-led research.

I will examine the following sub-questions:

– How does a composer develop co-compositional methods via an examination and inclusion of socially engaged art methodologies to create hyperlocal art music?
– How does a composer of hyperlocal art music formulate suitable evaluation criteria to assess the efficacy of works of art created in this context?