Thursday, 25 June 2020

Myopia and All Things Will Be Well

The voice of the artist must tell its truth. For all light and darkness comes from within; and the conflicts of the external world mirror those wrestled with internally. All an artist does is grapple with life, love and death.

When the moment comes to make again, with skill and knowledge, the artist learns to forget. Practice and forget. Study and forget. Remember and forget. Repeat. Forget.

Myopia (2019) album cover art by Gerreth Oddie

This is the myopic flash; short-lived and evaporating. Through considered brushstrokes, an impression is made.

Now the artist observes and steps back. What does it all mean? Life, love and death. Who will hear my call? This was made from nothing. Will it mean something to someone else?

Romance (anonymously accredited guitar piece) and Lines Written in Early Spring (poem by William Wordsworth) - performed by Dan Sandman
Wordsworth sits relaxed. He has time to reflect on human nature. The brushstrokes are commited to his subject. He applies technique, employs style, draws on knowledge of past masters. Now he becomes the poem. His brushstrokes are made for all to see.

There are 7 billion ways of seeing; there are as many ways of making. Sometimes there are no words or images. The instrumental piece leaves a space for listeners to think and to feel.

All Things Will Be Well by Dan Sandman
All Things Will Be Well (2020) album cover art by Dan Sandman

Instrumentalists have an awareness of how sound can be harnessed to make a particular point. A guitarist may choose a particular plectrum, work with just the fingers or use a combination of the two methods.

But all the skill and knowledge in the world is nothing unless the art tells its truth. The final artwork must have something true to say about life, love and death: a mirror in a bottle sent to cross historical, social and cultural boundaries.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Three Ways to Get a Better Sound Online

There are three basic ways to set up your sound for an online open mic:

  1. Use the microphone that came with your device.
  2. Connect a USB microphone to your laptop.
  3. Install an Audio Interface.

Each method has it's pros and cons.

The first method is the cheapest and most straightforward to setup. It is also very good for picking up the human voice in a variety of positions. I have successfully used this method for teaching, where the emphasis is less on sound quality and more on ease of use. If you are using your device's mic, make sure you sing and play directly in front of your laptop, tablet or smartphone. This will make sure that we can hear you. Singing away from the microphone will result in a loss of sound.

The second option is a good compromise between sound quality, usability and affordability. There are a number of affordable microphones on the market that plug directly into your laptop. For an online open mic, search USB Microphone for Laptop and choose a condenser microphone. Check that it does not require an external 48V phantom power source. 

For the professional or semi-professional musician, I would recommend installing an audio interface. I use the TASCAM US – 1 x 2, a beautiful engineered box which converts an analogue input into a digital output. This enables me to sing through my SURE SM58 vocal microphone, and play guitar into my FISHMAN Rare Earth guitar pick-up, whilst simultaneously monitoring the signal.

Finally, a note of caution. Be careful to research any product before you buy it. Make sure to check what software drivers you will need, and whether the microphone or interface is compatible with your operating system. It's always worth reading the reviews, as potential problems are often flagged up by previous customers. If you are not tech savvy, then send me an email and I might be able to help.

Otherwise, have fun and see you at our next online open mic.

The Belsize Online Open Mic is running every Friday from 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm GMT on Zoom.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The Value of Open Mics

Pubs are important community hubs and have always been part of my life. Open mics in public houses are invaluable, both to the professional and to the amateur.

I was first asked to host an open mic in summer 2015, and have been connecting artists ever since. London in 2020 has a wealth of creative talent, in all artistic medians, ranging across its multicultural heritage. An open mic, in a busy London pub, might include a singer from Iran, a guitarist from Slovenia and a poet from Croydon. It may also give rise to the next Adele or Ed Sheeran.

Open mics are inclusive events, set within a simple rule system, where anything beautiful or entertaining is praised. They nurture new talent and give wissened old-timers a voice; are places of humour, learning and community. In London, they represent the city's diverse cultural identity.

As a teenager, I begun performing at open mics to reach an audience with my songs but also to be a part of something. In a healthy culture, one that reflects the hopes and fears of the human heart, mirroring all that is light and all that is dark, communal gatherings are a social necessity. Open mics teach us to listen, as we face the mirror peering into our vagrant souls.

Belsize Open Mic Live at The George has ceased until further notice.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Fundraising for Belsize Community Library

Local donations and fundraising events are central to keeping a community library open. Many libraries are struggling to pay for essential services and facilities, without support from the local council authority or central government.

It costs thousands to upkeep a library building. Cleaning, heating, internet service, new books, staff costs, replacement furniture: all cost money and every small donation helps.

So far, we have raised over two-thousand pounds for the library from donations taken from our fundraising events. This includes the Belsize Open Mic; which now runs weekly on Fridays. This is a landmark achievement, but more funds need to be raised if the library is to continue to pay for building costs and improve its facilities.

Many volunteers give their time to staff Belsize Community Library; these unsung heroes work to create an inspirational and safe environment for all members of the community to enjoy.

At their best, libraries provide an inclusive learning space where people of all ages, and from all social backgrounds, can read, study, discover local events, surf the internet for free, and much more besides.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Making Poetry Booklets from Home

In this article, I will show you how to make inexpensive poetry booklets to hand out at your next poetry reading or open mic.

There are three main advantages to making a poetry booklet from home:

Firstly, it requires only a computer and a laser printer; and - most essentially - a long stapler to reach the middle of an A4 page. This means the entire booklet can be reproduced from home at little cost, and made to order whenever a new reader is found.

Secondly, once the page order has been correctly laid out, and a successful method for printing each booklet has been established, it becomes very easy to make changes to the text - or indeed to repeat the process to produce a completely new booklet.

Finally, by deciding to by-step the publishing industry (which includes companies such as Lulu and Create Space), the producer (usually the poet themselves) forges a powerfully direct connection to the consumer  / reader.

This gives the work itself a homemade quality which appeals to those of us looking for something unique and rare.

At the beginning of a poet's career, when the main focus should be to carefully test the market, a home-printed 40 page booklet is a relatively simple and cost-effective method to employ. Until the poet can find a publisher, it makes good sense.

Here is a list of everything I used to create my first booklet 30 Love Poems:

  1. A laptop with Word installed.
  2. One black & white laser printer (non-duplex) + A4 paper + black ink.
  3. The essential long stapler + staples.

With some patience and logical thinking, I designed everything without purchasing complex software, using the basic features of my word processor and printer.

The first step was to type out the pages of the booklet from page 01 to page 40, making sure to include several blank pages where appropriate. This step gave each page a number (from 01 to 40) which I then applied a logical system to.

Then, through a process of trial and error, I realized that the pages would have to be printed from 20 separate files. Using my printer's 2 in 1 feature, I set Word to manually print two-sided and, in turns of two, placed the pages directly back into the paper-tray without turning them. This feature may work differently on your printer so make sure to run a test.

Crucially, the page order would have to be correct. This is very important. Below are the 20 separate files that I created, each containing 2 pages. Notice how p.20 and p.21 converge in the middle of the booklet.

When this final page is printed, your folding booklet will be ready to fold and staple. If you wish to mass-produce your booklet, simply print however many you need on each turn. I made 6 at first.

  1. p.40 (left side of print-out) | p.01 (right side of print-out)
  2. p.02 (left side) | p.39 (right side)
  3. p.38 | p.03
  4. p.04 | p.37
  5. p.36 | p.05
  6. p.06 | p.35
  7. p.34 | p.07
  8. p.08 | p.33
  9. p.32 | p.09
  10. p.10 | p.31
  11. p.30 | p.11
  12. p.12 | p.29
  13. p.28 | p.13
  14. p.14 | p.27
  15. p.26 | p.15
  16. p.16 | p.25
  17. p.24 | p.17
  18. p.18 | p.23
  19. p.22 | p.19
  20. p.20 | p.21

Using the above method, each booklet will consist of 10 pieces of A4 paper. This is because there are 4 pages on every sheet. Using point 14 text size and setting paragraph spacing to none, I was able to fit in all 30 poems - plus title page, contents page and a short bio.

The result is a product which I am happy to sell for £3 or the price of a drink.

Friday, 6 July 2018

9 Classical Pieces

Famous classical guitarist composers include Ferdinando Carulli, Fernando Sor and Francisco Terrega. All three guitar maestros published sheet music for amateur guitar students.

My Burguet Nogal being restrung.

Early music, usually translated to guitar from the lute, is also available to those with an interest in the music of the middle ages and the European Renaissance. Famous pieces from the British Isles include Greensleeves and Wilson’s Wilde.

Before Antonio Torres fathered the modern classical guitar, baroque guitar music was composed for the five-course guitar. Although guitar arrangements exist for the music of Antonio Vivaldi and J.S. Bach, the work of court guitarist Gasper Sanz retains its idiomatic appeal when played on the modern classical guitar.

In the twentieth century, Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia and his Australian-born student John Williams helped popularize the classical guitar. Several of their television performances are now available online.

The 9 classical guitar pieces I have recorded reflect this tradition. I hope you enjoy them.

01 Prelude in C
Bach was having fun when he wrote this piece for the well-tempered clavier. It
transposes well to the guitar because of its simplicity. I hope you like my imperfect version.

02 Prestissimo
'Prestissimo (2017) was one of the instrumental pieces from my Underpaintings album. As the title suggests, it is should be played fast and with gusto.'

03 Blue Blue Skies
'Another energetic piece, Blue Blue Skies (2015) evolved from a fifteen-minute sketch. Outside my studio, aeroplanes often fly pass through beautiful blue skies.'

04 Romance
'Romance remains the most popular classical guitar piece in the world. It has been
passed down from player to player over generations.'

05 12 Studies Medley
'12 Studies (2014) was a series of pieces I composed for guitar students. It explores
the entire fretboard in all twelve keys.'

06 The Enlightenment
'My latest piece The Enlightenment (2018) explores the conflicting relationship
between passion and reason. I hope you like it.'

07 Lady Macbeth
'Shakespeare has always been a key influence on my work. Lady Macbeth (2015)
was inspired by the BBC 1983 version.'

08 The Merchant of Venice
'The Merchant of Venice (2013) represents the two sides of Shakespeare's play:
the light comedy of the courtship scenes and the dark treatment of Shylock.'

09 Dad
'I wrote Dad (2009) for my father. He was an analogue circuit designer. He enjoyed
listening to Beethoven and Caruso.'

Friday, 8 June 2018

My First Book

The title of my first book 30 Love Poems is self-explanatory. I have committed myself to one universal theme, namely love.

I am aware that Pablo Neruda published a book called 20 Love Poems. The Camden Town branch of Waterstones reminded me of this just the other day. Why is Pablo Neruda more famous than I? Several possible reasons occur:

a) He was South American and presumably had Latin fire in his blood. I am English and therefore sexually repressed.

b) Neruda smoked a pipe. I have a penchant for Werther's Orginals boiled sweets.

c) Possibly. He was a better poet.

Yet, despite these self-damning comparisons, I remain buoyant. My reasoning: Neruda and myself have been in love at some point in history. Therefore, our material is essentially drawn from the same source.

Imagine a penniless Will Shakespeare. He took the journey down to London with only an ink quill to his name. I am already in London and I am blessed with smart phone technology.

I have another advantage over The Bard. That being, I have written well on Othello, Richard III and Coriolanus. Surely, this gives me an edge.

As for my love theme. I am certain that the best love poems are written by the hurt, pained and confused. Think of Yeats He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven or Keats' Bright Star. These poems talk of longing and unfulfilled passions. They make no mention of great sex-lives or marital bliss.

During the process of writing 30 Love Poems, I kept a journal running. That would be where the hidden detail resides: in prose. Sadly, however, it shall be thrown upon a bonfire moments before my death. Byron did much the same.

So, my first book is done and dusted. It is what it is. Now I am finding new themes and already writing my second book.

My father never was much of a poet. But occassionally he would slip a simile into the conversation.

'Daniel, woman are like busses.'

'Why is that Dad?'

'If you wait long enough, another one will come along.'

'Thanks. I only wish they'd stick to the timetable.'