Articles in Category: Audiophiles

Audiophiles #249


with Dr Matt


Matt Hill is a musician and music teacher living in Dunoon. He teaches at a variety of places in the area including from home (private guitar/keyboard students), at Whian Whian Primary School, at Lismore Conservatorium and at SCU in the contemporary music course. He plays in a number of bands in the area including Red Belly Black and Warm Keep Warm. His album “Warm Keep Warm” won ‘album of the year’ at this year’s Dolphin Awards.

VJ 249-matt-hill

Matt is our new resident music doctor (and he really is a doctor – he has a doctorate in music), reviewing recordings or live performances of artists in the region. His articles will include music making tips based on aspects of the music he is reviewing. Some of this will be fairly technical but knowing the numbers of musicians we have in our communities, I’m sure it will be appreciated. For the rest of us who aren’t so up on musical technique, well, we might just learn something new! Matt aims to review local artists and to foster the spread of creative ideas for music making.

Welcome to Matt and here is his first review for the VJ.

Greg Sheehan: The Life of My Times

(Distributed by Vitamin Records)

In what must surely be one of the richest regions in Australia for musical prowess Greg Sheehan manages to loom large. His technical facility is immense but technique alone doesn’t make interesting music. More important is his idiosyncratic approach to music making which is captured with great clarity on this new album. Greg utilises a veritable smorgasbord of sound making devices including children’s toys, tambourines, Vietnamese jaws harp, electric guitars, jerry cans, body percussion, vocals and the Swiss instrument the Hang (pronounced ‘hung’). The latter is utilised on the haunting and hypnotic opening track “Laura”. (The pitched notes of this piece are C, D, Eb, G and Ab – for the musicians out there, go try improvising something with those notes and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed).

For many years Greg has explored an additive approach to rhythms whereby odd beat groupings are added together to form longer rhythmic cycles. For example in “Paw Paw” a 32 beat cycle is divided into beat grouping of 9, 9, 9 and 5. In the wonderful “Gring”, 32 beats are divided in groups of 11, 11 and 10 (helped along by a doofy kick drum at times). On the CD cover Greg provides rhythm notes for each track. It can be challenging to actually hear how some of these rhythms are realised, particularly with the multiple layers of sounds - I’m still struggling with the 7, 7, 1 combination that gives a 15/16 time signature in “Strange Fruits”. However, I find the playful and comfortable way Greg navigates these complex rhythms overcomes any sense that this is just an intellectual exercise.

This music has rich percussive textures that traverse worldly-folk-hip-hop-fusion genres. For those of you who have had the pleasure of hearing him play, imagine Greg Sheehan playing with a few other Greg Sheehans and you start to get the idea.


Audiophiles #250

Audiophiles with Dr Matt

Beautiful Kate – Original Score by Tex Perkins and Murray Paterson

I don’t intend for this column to regularly feature such high profile artists as Tex Perkins but this is a quality recording produced locally, highlighting the high level of music making this area has to offer. The music was recorded and mixed by the late Russell Dunlop at Nashua Rd Studios in Booyong. Using a dual past and present narrative, the film explores the rather dark events and intra-relationships of a family living in a remote outback setting. Death and incest are pretty heavy themes and there are a number of other directions the music could have taken, for example using a full orchestral score or electronic sounds to convey the complexity of emotions in the film. However, the film producers went for a far more stripped back and earthy feel with Tex and Murray.

Music is used sparsely in the film and helps to create the haunting mood of both the landscape and the story. Music cues are used mostly at the points of highest drama in the story. The important aspects of the music are the instrumentation and the quality of the recording. The main theme presents most the instruments heard throughout the film – guitar, cello and voice. All these sounds present earthy, human and somewhat rough qualities (the qualities of Tex Perkins too?). These timbres, together with the simple harmonies, slow tempos and very settled qualities of the music provide a sense of comfort and reconciliation that reflect the perspective of the main character, Kate’s twin brother Ned. I started to think that the instruments were also partly linked to particular characters, as is the case in many films. Ned – guitar, Ned’s Dad – cello, Kate – voice. This is a useful device when exploring interpersonal relationships. I also started to think there might be a link in the harmonic realm – Ned as D major and Kate as B minor (relative major and minor for you theory buffs) – the main theme features a 4 chord progression in the key of B minor (for Kate), while the closing titles feature a pretty static D/Dsus 2 progression (for Ned). When you start thinking in this programmatic way when making music you can find yourself with many useful starting points for extending a simple idea.

The lesson I take from this soundtrack is the power of a simple, stripped back approach and the importance of instrument choice and quality recording. Sounds have meaning, a D chord strummed on an acoustic guitar (as in the closing titles) is rich with cultural baggage that you can utilise to convey a particular mood. The iconic figure of Tex Perkins comes with more cultural baggage that the filmmakers can trade off to help fill out the emotional landscape for the audience. The soundtrack album features snippets of dialogue and foley and has that strange sense that many soundtrack albums have that something is missing (i.e., the story and the images!). However the guitars sound fantastic and the album is a fitting tribute to Russell Dunlop’s production skills.

PS – If you have a recent recording you’d like featured in this column please send a copy to me at PO Box 8136, Dunoon 2480.

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