Archive for April, 2009

Millions of things to build!

Posted in Millions Long on 29 April 2009 by jschermoly

Work on the movie “Millions long” is far in the works and I’ve yet to post so here’s a slightly abbreviated of our progress.

Kirsten Fletcher, Bryan Crotaz, Eugenio Triana, Ash, Ed and myself have been doing the physical planning for the filmshoot.  The result of meetings is that we’re going to make this in as large scale as we can handle in our limited time and with our equipment.  To start with, our equipment being our bodies, there is only so far over a table that we can stretch to play with the landscape and so the table is 6ft wide.  And at six feet wide the camera can be as far as 8ft from the table and still capture the width and nothing but the width of the table.  So 8ft up means an 8ft radius, which is a 16ft  diameter, and so to give us some room to get the camera past the edge of the table on each end, the table is going to be 15ft long.  A 15ft long, 6ft wide table with a 8ft radius arc spanning the length of it!

The most difficult part is making the camera move in 4mm increments to give us 1200  shots around the circumference of the arch.  So Bryan is procuring a stepper motor which can be set to move in very precise increments and the motor will be axled out to cogs on either side and the cogs will fit into roller chain (bike chain) fitted over plastic pipe fixed into a constant arch of 8ft radius.  And the cart has a wheel system that rolls on the plastic pipe and keeps it moving steadily. Whew!  A lot and technical and a lot less room for error than it would be good to have when working on these tight time frames.  But the materials are on their way and the arch is in the process of construction.  I’ve also built the spidery looking cart to run over the pipes.

I won’t go on with too many other details tonight.  But I’ll write more later and as more of the construction gets completed.

Rehearsals, rehearsals…

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet on 29 April 2009 by patrickgleeson

Following on from my last post about how the music for The Clockwork Quartet gets made, it’s time to talk about the next step: how it gets played.

If you look at the about page of our website you’ll see that the show’s band comprises musicians with a bunch of different backgrounds. Some cut their teeth playing in all manner of other bands, some are classically trained freelance professionals, and some have come from a history in musical theatre. But differences apart, they are all pretty damn good at what they do, and bringing all their influences and experiences together in rehearsals has been leading to some powerful results.

The Three Banjoliers

The Three Banjoliers

I typically distribute the parts to each new song a couple of weeks before we plan to rehearse it, in one of our regular intensive 6-hour sessions at Ed’s place in east London. Everyone does what they need to to prep their part, so that we can put the song together and get it on its feet quickly, and then spend time making it more than just the sum of the notes on the pages.

My job during rehearsals is simple: I stand at the front with a big stick that I waggle (the “Fearsome Baton of Authority” was made by Will Segerman out of solid brass, and wielding that thing is doing wonders for my left bicep), and I say to each member of the band variations on: “Great! Now again, but better!” Generally I’m only happy with a song once it’s ready not only to play live (meaning all the parts have to flow together) but also to record (meaning each part has to be completely tight by itself). Once we’ve nailed a song we put it on the list of things to take to the studio and I hand out another set of parts.

We’ve not released anything online in a while, because the venerable Ash is taking the time to get mastering perfect, but today we just finished recording songs 5 and 6 (called “Closer” and “Withering Eyes”, which introduce The Scientist as a character), and there are several more that are ready for the studio. By the end of June we’ll have got all 13 songs in the show/album rehearsed and ready to play, record, and unleash on the world. But of course, the songs are just the beginning…

Clockwork Quartet vs Your Brain (via your ears) Part 2

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet @ The House Of Strange on 27 April 2009 by houseofstrange

and the rain it drips … here is the next edition, its a bit tough to pick straight up but the gist of the last post was goals. During the two recording sessions since The Doctor’s Wife/Watch Maker’s Apprentice we have begun to answer alot questions that have been nagging me since this project began. but those are going to be the topic of other discussions. 

Part 2:

But its not as simple as it sounds. Representing any type of music over speakers is a whole world of mystical voodoo. Variables that can not be planned for that will lead to major difference between what I hear coming through my speakers to what you will hear when the sound reaches your speakers, your ears, and finally your brain and accounting for those before hand is an immense job. Lot of these variables that are technical, the quality of mp3, and type of speaker you use will each impact how you end up experiencing the music. As these are all technical they can be attacked in such a way. But there are other variables that are more difficult to account for. For instance mood, time of day, fuck even season and lighting will unconsiously influence your ultimate decision of ‘I like this vs I dont like this, “this is interesting” and not “hmmm … next’. So with all this uncertainly around I guess my job title should be something more like SHAMAN, as Im wielding powers I dont quite fully understand.



some photos from the weekends recording session


in other news : the music for the millions long … stop start animation project that Ed is sculpting has begun phase one. the music will mainly be repetitive percussive sounds at the tempo 76 that will change instruments as time progresses from earths creation through to a not too distant future. melodically the piece will start in f# and move only once during the sunset sequence. to give an idea of the instrumentation the ending theme which will play during the sunset squence has been composed on the Tenori-On and the opening when the earth is forming will be played with hands in Macaroni and Cheese (slowed down to suitably squelchier rumblings). there will be tuned bamboo percussion and vibraphones some where in the middle, single pipe horns might appear during medieval times aswell.

also the hydrophone which I found on ebay from this guy ( ) arrived last week was used on all cellos, organs, violins and also on the floor tom for Closer and Withering Eyes

Moving ahead

Posted in In The Workshop on 27 April 2009 by jschermoly

So it’s been a while since beginning news about the workshop and going’s on but unfortunately I was rather busy doing non-Quartet work, but I’m back to it now and I thought I’d give a little update.

The Steamdrone that forms the central set piece of the band’s stage show is a little bigger now and is reaching it’s capacity for pipes and horns and things.  The next phase will be to wire it up which will involve installing pipes to run smoke from a smoke-machine out of the horns and installing lights in the main horns and in the main box of the drone so that we can light it up through the smoke in different patterns. I haven’t figured out what lights will be best to use because I need strong directional lights that are small enough to fit in the the trombone horns (so small than GU10 birdie bulbs).  Suggestions welcome.

The next Quartet project is building the drum kit.  Ed and I went out with a friend, Peter, and scoured a couple of junk lots and metal scrap yards for some appropriately bangin’ junk which will make up about half of the percussion kit.  The other half is made up more conventional percussion instruments like triangles, clapsticks, a floor tom and such.  The bass of the kit will be provided by an old copper boiler which has a really nice boom to it.

So the challenge is to figure out how to organize about 30 different percussion objects so that two people can play at once and then have the ability to move it fairly easily.  I have a feeling that I’m going to need to build a rolling case for most of the instrument parts themselves, but the stand that they are on will be kind of like a clothes-drying rack idea with lots of hooks for hanging things, sitting on top of a table for storing flat objects with the boiler underneath.  The table is now built and looks kind of like a nice coffee table (or will once I paint it).  We found four Victorian carved mahogany coffee table legs at  a junk yard and used them for the base of the table to give it some weight and character.  I think it looks good.  Now I just need to build the rack and make it light enough and strong enough for transport and play, without access to a metal shop.  Welding the rack would be best but without a welder I’m trying to use harder/better quality wood stocks and good joinery techniques to make a lasting piece.

What the devil is it???

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet Storybook on 24 April 2009 by larajensen

So, Ed pointed out to me that after all of my waffling I had neglected to actually outline what the devil this little song/storybook project is actually all about. I agreed that it might be a good idea to fill in that rather large gap.

Ed approached me with the concept at one of his parties and, as I felt like being rather drunkenly enthusiastic at the time, I agreed to be a part of the project.

The Concept

In this day and age there is no longer the need to physically purchase a CD to get hold of the musical content, photographs or lyrics of the bands we love (the internet rules w00t!), but I for one still miss having that undiscovered precious something to open up and flick through when I visit iTunes or Spotify to get my musical thrills.

With the release of their first batch of songs, the Clockwork Quartet will also be publishing a limited edition, carefully illustrated pocketbook of lyrics, with the wish to fill this void left by those horrible cardboard limited addition box sets, all whilst fulfilling the curious obsession of Steampunk fanatics with beautifully made, tactile and aesthetically pleasing objects.

There’s a lot of storytelling that goes on within the songs of the Clockwork Quartet and so, in my book, releasing such an object seemed a fairly apt and genial idea from Master Saperia in my book (See what I did there?).

The Content

So, what will be in it exactly?

If you don’t know already the Clockwork Quartet (in character) are a band of travelling musicians who entertain the passengers aboard a train that travels back and forth between London and Dover. It is the individual stories of passengers they meet that the Quartet bring to life in song form.

Each of these songs will feature in the book, much like chapters, with their own title pages, lyrics and illustrations, showing the characters in situ on the train and scenes from the story. The lyrics will be annotated by the conductor with chords and music, so a reader can recreate the songs their self.

Why a pocket book?

What else would people carry with them on a short journey from London to Dover?

The Aesthetic

In line with Steampunk tradition we aim to create a high quality object, bound, embossed, litho printed and of a good weight. Pocket books of the late Victorian period and their methods of manufacture are being studied…

The Characters Part 0: Introduction

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet on 22 April 2009 by Ed Saperia

Music that tells stories. Writing narrative songs has always been an intimate part of the project. The Decemberist’s “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” is a classic in the genre, and has been a strong influence. In fact, we plan to release a cover of this song as part of the second album…

I am blessed with being surrounded by many multi-talented musicians, and since most of them are also vocalists it seemed natural to have multiple vocalists in the band, each playing different characters with their own stories. A band with characters is not so unusual either, showing up in all sorts of genres – think Ziggy Stardust, the Gorillaz or GWAR

Are there any other examples of bands with musicians as characters that you can think of?

Interview on Steampunk

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet on 8 April 2009 by Ed Saperia

> In your words, what is steampunk?

Steampunk is first and foremost an aesthetic, which hopefully I need not describe for you; mechanical machines, wood and brass, victoriana, etc. However, this name has also come to be applied to a subculture/counterculture. The primary tenets of this subculture are:

1) Fetishisation of the object – For example, acknowledging that a computer is a physical box, not just something that is used for computing. Clothing isn’t just something to keep you warm. This leads to an interest in design and design principles applied to all areas of life (in a functional as well as an aesthetic sense).

2) Self sufficiency – You can and should understand and alter your environment to suit yourself, and encourage others to do so as well. This ties in with “geek” and “maker” culture, and also the open source movement, and commonly a liberal, anti-authoritarian political stance. This is often mistaken for a generic anti-establishment stance (as in traditional punk), but I think it is more nuanced than that; “thank you very much for your assistance, but we work best when left to our own devices”.

3) A predilection for technology and technologically based solutions. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the past twenty years have seen the fastest rate of technological change in the history of humanity. Problems which were originally intractable have become tractable, formerly ideological problems have become operational problems, and not just in our lifetimes, but very quickly on a human timeframe. Steampunks have faith that any given problem can be solved – will be solved! – has already been solved!! – perhaps as yet the solution remains undeployed due to political/social/corporate inertia, but it is only a matter of time.

The majority of steampunk media is set in a stylised victorian, industrial-revolution era. The parallels are obvious – an unprecendented rate of technological and economic upheaval, coupled with the archetypical example of a conservative society. The subtext is also that clearly their technological revolution didn’t solve all their problems! Steampunks are not without self-awareness. Having said that, a lot of it is genuinely about the hope that this technology brings.

> What are the roots of steampunk, besides those old books by H.G. Wells and others? How did it grow from those books to be what it is today?

I’m an artist, not a historian! I suppose you can begin to research your answer here:

> What can steampunk music be defined as?

Tricky territory. The unhelpful response is “music made by steampunks”. Things commonly found in the genre are: (western) orchestral instruments, atmospheric/cinematic arrangements, narrative lyrics, and influences from the themes described above. Of course, I find The Clockwork Quartet as a strong example of the steampunk genre, but it must be said that many other major artists who use the term break a lot of these guidelines; many use a lot of electronic instruments and sounds, for example. As a fan of ours once succinctly said “a lot of steampunk music is just rock about airship pirates”. Abney Park is notable for a recurring middle eastern influence.

> What is steampunk architecture?

Arts et Metiers, Paris Metro

> How popular is steampunk?

Hopefully popular enough to support at 13 piece band…! Certainly it’s true that it’s become a lot more popular over the last handful of years, especially since the word “steampunk” has become well known and agreed upon by the collective consciousness. There is a lot in a name. Without a name, it’s very difficult for something to exist coherently, especially on the internet, where everything is found, sorted and categorised by text strings (as opposed to e.g. physical locations, physical appearances).

> Why do people like steampunk? What’s the purpose?

I suppose this is could be one of two questions; why do steampunks like steampunk? and why does the internet equivalent of joe public seem to like steampunk?

As for the first question, I think a lot of this is already answered above.

Second question: Most peoples’ interaction with steampunk is limited to seeing images of steampunk objects. I believe that these – and internet memes about modded objects in general – are so popular because, for many years now, we mostly buy objects because of what they can do, rather than for what they look like, and also objects which are largely mass produced and uniform. Something that’s surprised me most is that we haven’t seen many examples of steampunk cars, because that’s traditionally one area with a very large modding community, and also one where people spend huge amounts of money purely on aesthetics.

Purpose? Well… the purpose of any culture is to be shared. People who identify with a particular (sub)culture use it as a way to find like minded people.