research – hang on in there

Whilst at uni I remember hearing a wonderful string sample on Ugly duckling’s ‘I did it Like this’ track. I’ve been dusting off some vinyl and was transported down memory lane…

It’s taken from Mike James Kirland’s super funky, socially charged LP and track of the same name ‘Hang On In There’.

This track seems so relevant to the BS happening at the moment. Unharnessed greed, a lack of respect for the dignity of life, the environment is for some seen as separate and something that can be conquered, rather than looked after.

There is hope and I am confident things will get better. I believe we are going through natural life cycles, ebbs and flows of negative and positive forces, so all I can do is monitor my behaviour and work hard to look at the causes I am making in my life. I will strive to support as many people to be happy… (Get’s off soap box).

Anyway, I digress…
Over time, I began to realise that the reason for my love of Hip Hop was mostly due to the RnB samples, which led me to having a deeper appreciation for the classic soul and RnB of my parents’ record collection. And then began a love affair with collecting funk 45s and Djing.

Mama's B-Boy Jam


Anyway, I’m starting to think long and hard about my research as I’m 6 months into a research degree.

2 and a half years to go!

It’s a bit weird.
No modules, no schedule, no tutors,  rather lots of trust for me to get the job done.

I have my supervisors and peers but i’m left to my own devices. It’s a real treat to be granted this time to compose so intensively and regularly. The mind is a tricky, slippery thing and it’s taken me 6 months to be able to feel the confidence to compose again.

I realised I hadn’t written anything since October. Imposter syndrome; who am I to compose? What have I got to say? Who am I as a composer? Where do I belong?
Yeah, a compositional/existential crisis; a mini, short lived one.

Break, (no I don’t smoke), but love the piano chromatics, dizzying:

Anyway, my for-Wards commission deadline is fast approaching, I found myself awake in the middle of the night, and then an epiphany: this wasn’t a joke, I needed to start composing and not get so caught up in all the admin surrounding the citywide project I’m running. Time to come away from the social media, stop replying to emails that aren’t urgent, sit in front of a piano and buss out some manuscript paper.

Oh my Buddha it was tough to start with! The procrastination was strong but I’m now starting to find my stride with it all…. slowly.

I’ve decided that my social media consumption is to be reduced but I can blog if it’s about research, as all these words will come in useful for my end report, yup, all 12 thousand words of them!

So why start this post with Hip Hop? The connection between Hip Hop, RnB and research is that once my for-Wards commission is done I need a new project, one that really excites me (again). My research examines 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.

For my masters I explored elements of Afrofuturism in a piece called RPM. I workshopped some of it with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. I started with a quote from JDilla’s production, Reunion by Slum Village.

And had a live turntablist weaving in and out found sounds from my record collection. Like Erykah Badu, Sun Ra and The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, What certainly didn’t work was trying to get classical players trying to groove in this kind of way, in my view, my translation of hip hop programmed beats failed to translate well to a contemporary classical arena. However, I think for my next project I wish to focus in on Hip Hop/RnB in some way, find a hyperlocal environment and collaborators to co-create music that draws from my love of 60s RnB/Soul/Hip Hop. I’ll keep thinking and exploring how this can manifest…

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