Book of Sand prototype

Posted in The Book Of Sand on 17 May 2009 by patrickgleeson

So on Friday I spent a few hours making a prototype Book of Sand app in PHP with MySQL (if you don’t know what those are, you probably won’t get much out of the rest of this post).

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What we (don’t) sound like

Posted in The Clockwork Quartet on 16 May 2009 by patrickgleeson

I want to talk briefly about the overall sound of the Clockwork Quartet.

In my first meeting with Ed we discussed the sorts of instruments we wanted to use. We were both clear that we wanted plenty of percussion, but that it should be unusual stuff – i.e. no drums, cymbals or the like. Joe Schermoly has been hard at work putting together an “alternative” kit for us out of scrap metal. Then accordions were an obvious choice, and Ed convinced me that plenty of banjos were the way forward. I was initially keen on a trombone or equivalent, as brass and steampunk go together like, well, steampunk and brass. However, we realised that finding a trombonist might be tricky, and it’s not quite as versatile an instrument as we needed (unless it’s played really really well), so we compromised by including the Steam Drone.

But aside from the actual instruments the show is written for, it’s easier to talk about what we don’t sound like than what we do.

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Millions coming

Posted in Millions Long on 5 May 2009 by jschermoly

So the filmshoot is this weekend and we seem to be on track to have everything ready to get in and setup the shoot during the day friday so that we can start shooting either friday night or early saturday.  We have 1200 shots to get through before sunday night so there’s a a lot to do this weekend.

But ahead of that, the arch and track for the camera is now built.  We ordered some cstom lengths of roller chain and sprockets and stepper motors to control the movement of the camera cart and the lights.  The stepper motor moves on a cylindrical series of electromagnets and through the fine adjustment of the percentages of power on the four opposing magnets, you can get the axle to step around in tiny steps, down to I think something like 2400 steps per revolution (so just a fraction of a degree).  We don’t need that kind of minuteness of scale but we are looking for a steady accurate movement of the camera along the arch and so the stepper motor will be able to do that by moving exactly 1/1200th of the circumference of the arch for each shot.  Luckily Bryan is handling all the electronics and programming, because i can only sit here and explain it to you, I can’t actually do it.

I’m also ordering materials for the landscape of our film.  We are making a homemade playdough recipe with flour, salt, oil, water and cream of tartar.  But we need to make about a cubic metre of playdough so may shopping list includes 80kg of flour, 50kg of salt and 20L of oil, and lots of food colouring.  Pretty fantastic.

We’re nearly there though and this weekend should be a blast!

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.