I’m doing some PR work for Queens Park Railway Club – an artist-run space located in the station building at Queens Park here in Glasgow.
It’s exciting to be working with artists again, my degree was jointly in History of Art, and I often dealt with press releases from galleries when I worked as Listings Editor for The Press Association.
I’ve got to know the directors of the gallery and appreciate what they’re doing. I took their art-world focused copy and adapted it for a media audience, to draw attention to a unique event. A different perspective and a good contacts book can help get the word out.
My friend Sarah Barr makes art. Last year she started selling it at local craft markets and community events and got a great response from people who wanted to buy it and commission her to make more. Almost everyone she met at these events asked her if she had a website…
I set about making a simple website for her to showcase photos of her work, and serve as a point of contact with potential new customers. The site is basic but allows her to update it herself without any fuss. Now when she gives out business cards with the website address, customers can see a survey of her work, get news of any events she is attending and contact her to purchase pictures. In future we hope to build an online shop, but so far we have attracted the attention of some local decorative art shops and held a small exhibition in the window of the local off licence (a popular art outlet in the neighbourhood!)
Since Sarah’s work has been on display in Boxwood, a local art and gift shop, she’s sold several pictures and received enquiries about other pieces. I’ve followed this up with a Facebook page for Sarah’s work that we can both manage, as Sarah’s time is better used on her work (and her kids!).
Contact me to discuss your website and social media needs – even if you feel overwhelmed I can help!
The second part of my Steve Reich odyssey takes place five days later in Glasgow. He is here for one of the Royal Concert Hall’s UNESCO Inspiring Encounters, but first there is time for a late addition to the programme. My Name Is… (1967) several members of the audience say “My name is” and their first name into a microphone.
Ensemble member Joby Burgess demonstrates how far technology has come since the work was conceived by immediately converting the sampled speech into a version of a piece that used to have to be meticulously pieced together from spliced tape. The names dissolve into a wormhole of repetition, words become noises, losing then regaining their sense.
Steve Reich warms to this theme and talks about how technology has caught up with his ideas. Dead pan, he talks confidently and assuredly about his own process. Clearly from a “classical” background, it’s interesting to hear a contemporary take on the art of composing from someone so clearly aware of his place in the musical lineage. Reich is a good talker, a harsh self-critic and disarmingly human for someone who takes their work so seriously.
He offers the invitation to the listener to get lost in the web of counterpoint. His phased work is all about patterns of rhythm, small variations make the sound ambiguous and the ear reassembles the patterns in different ways. There is some relationship to meditation, but he refuses to simplify his ideas to suit preconceived notions.
To a rock listener’s ear, it is a leap to contextualise this music without it being the soundtrack to a film. The grammar of performance is so different. Drumming, an epic piece involving tuned bongos, marimbas, glockenspiels, a piccolo and two female voices, is performed by The Colin Currie Group.
The resonance of the rhythms is such that I find my ringing ears have started to fill in the sound of instruments that aren’t actually being played. I swear I can hear horns. The intensity of the piece is a truly transformative experience in a way that rock performances have the potential to be, but so rarely are.
If you get the chance to see it, the BBC series The Sound And The Fury is a great introduction to 20th Century composers. I’m currently working my way (slowly) through Alex Ross’s epic history of 20th Century music, The Rest Is Noise, which I’d also heartily recommend.
Last month I went down to London to hear the premiere of Steve Reich‘s Radiohead-inspired piece Radio Rewrite at The Royal Festival Hall.
My crash course in the music of Steve Reich begins in London. My visit is to attend the premier of his new piece inspired by the music of Radiohead, performed by musicians of the London Sinfonietta.
We live in an age of musical convergence, and it seems only fitting that the man described as “the single most influential composer of the late 20th century” should bridge the gap between contemporary and popular music in such a way.
This is not the London Sinfonietta’s first association with Radiohead. They collaborated with Jonny Greenwood (along with Thom Yorke and the Nazareth Orchestra) for 2005’s Ether Festival and have often performed Greenwood’s pieces for orchestra, Popcorn Superhet Receiver and Smear.
Kid A draws on electronic and minimalist musical influences and is regarded as a breakthrough for a band who transcend simple description as a “rock” act. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, after all this is the band that used Olivier Messiaen’s stark Quartet for the End of Time – written when the composer was held in a World War Two concentration camp – as intro music for their shows way back in 1995.
To my rock-trained ears Steve Reich’s precise, tightly notated works, performed in the rarefied atmosphere of the symphony hall, seem a little clinical. Clapping Music, using the technique of subtly shifting the phase of rhythm, is deceptively simple; Electric Counterpoint, here performed by Mats Bergstrom, is made up of shimmering guitar chords over a prepared backing; 2×5 plays with a rock band format while fitting into the Reich’s classical music lineage.
There are sounds that remind me of Tortoise and other “math rock” bands in 2×5 yet it is “chamber music for rock instruments” driven by bass and piano rather than drums. For Double Sextet, Reich mans the mixing desk in his distinctive baseball cap.
Radio Rewrite comes in the second half. I can catch the melodies more easily than the harmonic progressions, there are shadows of the Radiohead songs as it moves from slow to fast, from Everything In Its Right Place to Jigsaw and back. Threads of the songs remain but they’re hard to spot. These are not two songs I would have linked together, but certain chords ring out as similar to Reich’s other works, there are moments where you can identify Radiohead but as channelled through Steve Reich’s ears.
My experience of Everything In Its Right Place is as a visceral live concert closer. I’ve stood in a huge crowd numerous times and clapped the off-beats to Phil Selway’s drums and it’s astonishing how the same piece of music can inspire such utterly different reactions and interpretations.
Steve Reich talks briefly about the work at the end of the show, the structure of the song, the way it is dissonant while still having a tonic… I don’t have enough theoretical language to explain it but I understand what he means. It is EVERYTHING.
I’ve had a great response to this post, which I published on my old blog Little Raindrops, so I’m going to re-host it here.
I’ve been putting together information on the line up for a festival’s new website, collecting photos and what I’d call bios (i.e. short informative descriptions of each band) to go with an external web link for each artist on the bill. I thought this would be a straight forward task…
A lot of bands make this easy and have PRs to deal with requests for such things, or have great websites with all the material someone who is trying to spread the word about an event that the bands are involved in might need, but there are some who seem to need a bit of help…
Here’s some important things I’ve noted, if you want people to find out about your band:
Have a name that is Googleable!
If you use MySpace (really?), Bandcamp and Facebook they will likely show up top of a search, so make sure they’re up to date. If you don’t want me to listen to your old demos, take them down. If it’s the first time I’ve heard of you I won’t know which page you want me to use, so…
Have your own website – even if it’s just a place to cluster all your links. It would be better if it were more than that – you’ve got a great opportunity to control your image, please use it.
Unless you’re super well known and too cool, write something about yourselves. How do you want to be presented? Please God, not just “indie rock”. I don’t have time to listen to your entire back catalogue, watch all your videos, read all your press. Condense it.
Have an easy to find contact email. If you have a PR working for you, lucky you! Why not make it easy to find them so they can do their job!?
Even better, have a nice high res picture that is downloadable from your website.
While you’re at it, name that picture file with your band name and if the photographer wants a credit, stick their name in there too.
When replying to emails that are requests, please check that you’re sending what’s being asked for – a list of hot shot record company flunkies who might be interested in your band, a list of platforms where you’re releasing your single and some gigs you might have coming up ARE NOT THE SAME AS A BIO!
A bio is this: Who are you? Where are you from? What do you sound like? What’s your website?
That photo – is it a picture of three or four disinterested blokes standing against a wall (or worse, train tracks)? IT DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR BAND and you’re wasting an opportunity to make me interested.
When I Google you, do I find your best, most representative song? WHY NOT?
On Facebook, which shouldn’t be your only web presence, have you filled in the contact details in the ‘About’ section? This is a quick reference and should help people to describe you (yes even if you’re so wildly and fantastically original that your music defies categorisation sometimes it’s necessary to use, you know, WORDS). Failing that it should let me email the people you pay (or owe favours to) to do this for you. OR let me email you and ask you for what I need.
Nominate a band member to deal with this stuff, bass players often have a lot of time on their hands…
Finally, when you’re emailing someone who is obviously dealing with a lot of artists sending them stuff, remember to mention the name of your band in your message so they know who you’re talking about.