The Music of Birds & Fractal Dancing

When Jarbas Agnelli was reading a newspaper one day, he saw a photo of birds perched on wires. He was immediately struck by how the arrangement of the birds resembled musical notes. So he cut out the photo and composed music. Or rather, the birds did. The result is enchanting.

Agnelli wrote:
The birds’ bodies were mostly above the wires. So I took them as notes filling the spaces between the lines. Those notes are F, A, C, E and G. If you make a melody or play chords with those 5 notes, there is no way to go wrong. Of course, as I said, I had to decide about some things and make some interpretations. No accidents. 4 by 4 tempo. And the duration of the notes. But I tried to keep it as pure as possible, on the matters of note pitch, note sequence and chords.

From the middle of the song on, I embellished the arrangement, playing variations of the theme, on various orchestral instruments, like the oboe, the bassoon and the clarinet. I think the success of the piece comes from all those elements. The idea of birds composing a song. The music itself. The illustrative video. source

I can only imagine what symphonies are being composed by the fractal dancing of starlings...

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Fly (Parts 1 and 2)

I've previously posted a music video by Rupert Sheldrake's son Cosmo. Cosmo Sheldrake uses found sounds, electronic effects and loops (and a whole bunch of musical talent) to create beautifully off-centre compositions, and his latest is no different: William Blake's poem The Fly put to music, and performed live on a crabbing boat (Part 1, above) and on the back of a horse-drawn cart in Bulgaria (Part 2, below). Love it.

You can listen to more of Cosmo's music at SoundCloud and learn more about him at his website (quick bio below).

Cosmo Sheldrake is a master looper, multi instrumentalist, who played jazz and classical piano from the age of 4, and regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, didgeridoo, penny whistle, sousaphone and more. An inspirational singer and improviser, he draws on numerous and disparate musical traditions from Mongolia to West Africa, blues to classical and folk to Balkan brass. Cosmo is a composer and a producer and has written music for film and theatre. Based in London and Brighton, he runs vocal improv and beatboxing workshops, youth empowerment and wilderness camps. He teaches workshops in schools and runs a regular community choir in brighton. He also sings and performs with his brother Merlin; both play with the Gentle Mystics, who released their debut album in 2011. In january 2013 he performed at TEDx Whitechapel.


Volto - Tocino

Danny Carey, epic genius drummer for the superb Tool, has a new album out via another of the bands he plays with, Volto, titled Incitare. Along with Lance Morrison on bass and John Ziegler on guitars, DC rocks the hell out of nine tracks of prog-rock/jazz-fusion/metal hybrid goodness. RollingStone have the entire album streaming, so go take a listen.

Both DC and his (and our) good friend, Darklore writer Blair Blake, make cameos in the music video for the single Tocino, embedded above, which is full of occult symbols and dark, dream-like imagery. Pretty sure they didn't dress Blair up with any costumes or props though...I'm guessing they probably just filmed him at home going about his usual business.

Purchasing links for Incitare (iTunes downloads as well as limited edition vinyl) can be found at the Volto website. Awesome stuff, go grab it!

Space Oddity on the Space Station

Your daily dose of awesome: with his tenure aboard the International Space Station coming to an end, Commander Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie's "Space Oddity".

Cosmo Sheldrake: Prefusify

Many Grail readers will be familiar with Dr Rupert Sheldrake, a "maverick" biochemist noted for his parapsychological experiments, and his proposal of 'morphic fields' to account for certain scientific anomalies. However, few probably know that Rupert's son Cosmo is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist, forging his own career in music. Like his father, Cosmo seems to have a wonderful mix of genius and eccentric, which is often a perfect recipe when it comes to the arts. Check out some of his tunes:

Cosmo sings and performs with his brother Merlin, with both a part of the band Gentle Mystics, as well as on his own via the technique of looping with improvisational vocals (as in the video above). Check out Cosmo's website for more examples of his music, or listen to some of the tracks below:

You might also like:

Happy 70th Birthday Jimi!

Hard to imagine that the man would have turned 70 years old today. In tribute, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"...after 40 or so years, still one of the heaviest songs of all time.

If I don't meet you no more in this world,
I'll meet you in the next one.
Don't be late...

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming...

Some people enjoy music that tells a story, some people want it to make them dance. I like every type, but the experience I'm always on the lookout for - in all genres - is that hairs-on-end, spine-arching moment of suddenly feeling possessed by some sort of cosmic energy. If you're like me, you'll really enjoy M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - it's absolutely filled with epic moments.

The album certainly shows its 80s synth influences - from Simple Minds-ish pop-rock ("Reunion", "Ok Pal") through to Vangelis-style atmospherics ("Splendor", "Hurry Up We're Dreaming"). The epic power chords and synth riff of "Steve McQueen" make it the best high-school prom song never to be played in the 80s, and it might only be pipped for best pop song on the album by "Midnight City" (if you can handle the latter's rather repetitive, grating riff).

In fact, as a double album the only criticism I really have of the Hurry Up We're Dreaming is that at 22 songs, some of the tracks in the middle fall by the wayside a little compared to the epic grandeur at the beginning and end of the album.

Anyhow, check the album out, it's well worth a listen. To whet your appetite, I've included the track "Echoes of Mine" at the top of the page (as the soundtrack to a very nice timelapse film by Colin Rich), and below you'll find my favourite song on the album, "Wait". It's a real slow-burn, building up until by the end you can't help but air-drum to the slightly lazy behind-the-beat drum fills (love the subtle use of the bass synth swelling in volume towards the end to really up the dynamics too).

But you may just find that you've heard more than a few of these songs already - I heard at least a half dozen during the Olympics coverage, and they've also made their way into recent movie soundtracks (for instance, "Outro" is in the recent trailer for the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas). Which speaks for how well the songs on this album can evoke those epic, transcendental feelings.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming on iTunes

Passionflower - Jon Gomm

This is the goods, one man creating some musical magic. Treat yourself (the jaw-dropping awesomeness begins around a minute in):

You can put some well-deserved money in the artist's pocket at his website, where you can download mp3 tracks at the price you think it deserves. Not sure I have *that* much money though...

Mastodon - The Hunter

Prog-metal band Mastodon's 2009 album Crack the Skye is a classic - created with a solid backbone of extended riff-a-thons, and decorated with lyrics laced with mysticism and mystery, it's one of my favourite albums of the past few years. Their new album, The Hunter, is due for release on September 27 - but to whet our appetites they've released the entire thing for free on YouTube a week early! So, for those that want some fresh music playing while they work today, here it is:

There are some sweet visualisations to some of those songs by the way, if you've got the time to watch while you listen. Don't forget to pick up the official album release when it becomes available next week, for the complete listening experience.

Keith Medley - Ancestors

A short musical interlude before diving into a new week of Grailing: Keith Medley, Ancestors, on a 27-string guitar that he designed and built himself...

More about Keith Medley here.