noisy girl

Thoughts, musings and happenings from a feminist composer.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

My purple cardigan is going slowly - had some problems with dropped stitches in my first decrease section, so I ended up undoing a night's work and starting the section again. It's looking much better now. Still haven't successfully learnt how to pick up a stitch, or to decrease in purl (left slant), but the decreases I've done are on the very edge anyway, and I figure they'll be invisible once the whole thing is stitched up.

Have knitted my brother a nice scarf in the last two days - black yarn and a multicoloured semi-slubby yarn with lots of browns, beiges, greys, etc. Am blocking it as I type this. Hoping it will stay in the blocked shape as the rib pattern made it rather skinny and curly.

Today I will tell you about my two cats. Marcie is about 13 years old. We're not sure about her age exactly, but she strayed into my family's house 11 years ago, gave birth to kittens, and has stayed with me ever since. So has one of her babies, Pia, who is now 11. Pia has earned the nickname "Wondercat" from a good friend of mine. She is gorgeously fluffy and round and friendly. She is indeed wonderful. Marcie is equally wonderful in a much more subtle and subdued kind of a way. She is very sweet and loving but hates cuddles. Nevertheless, she sits on my desk most of the day when I'm working, follows me to the loo and goes to sleep next to me on the bathmat when I have a bath. She likes to leapfrog over my head in the middle of the night when I'm asleep; very unnerving! Pia is queen of the cat food and will eat until all food is gone, whether it is hers or not. She is obsessed with the goldfish in the pond outside, and loves to watch them being fed in the morning. She even watches them at night when it's dark. Spooky!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Have had a good weekend - again because I ventured outside of home and routine. Had a very relaxing shift at the library yesterday (I work at one of my university libraries once a week) and saw "Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" last night with a friend.

I think I can also safely say that I've finished my recordings for Pope Joan. If, of course, I don't decide that I want some recordings of tambourine sounds from a tambourine that has a drum skin attached, which I probably will want. The recordings I have so far are from a 'bell only' tambourine. I'm using the tambourine in my piece because in medieval and renaissance times, the tambourine, and other round, drum type instruments, represented women's sexuality, particularly sexual licentiousness (in paintings). As so many of the (misogynistic) texts used in Pope Joan refer to Joan as a whore (because she dared to be sexual and fell pregnant), I'm using the tambourine as a sonic symbol of her 'reprehensible' status.

Today I ventured out to Chapel St to look in some shops and to go to Borders. I sat in the cafe there for a while looking through a huge mound of knitting books and drinking extremely sweet hyperactivity-inducing-not-even-remotely-authentic-but-bloody-addictive-anyway 'chai'.

When I got home I cooked an amazing Stephanie Alexander recipe, "Chickpeas & spinach" from "The Cook's Companion". I'd really recommend it - completely healthy, satisfying, and amazing. I added roasted pumpkin to it. Such simple ingredients and flavourings, but unbelievably good!

Now I'm up to the first exciting bit of my cardigan -- have reached 92 rows finally, and now must do the shaping for the armholes. Egad, I hope I don't mess it up. Thank goddess knitting can be ripped apart!

I've worked out the words I want stitched onto the shoes I won - "noisy girl" of course! Don't know why it took me so long to work that one out!

Friday, April 23, 2004

I'm always fascinated by the number of voices I can make - that are inside me, so to speak. Today I spent a few hours recording and re-recording four brief spoken passages for Pope Joan. I initially thought that I would recite them all in the same way, but each called for quite different expression, which will, of course, make the piece even more interesting. I think this piece overall will sound quite varied and constantly interesting. I hope so. I have such rich recordings to work with.

It was fun recording. The last time I did it I was recording extreme sounds - both sexual and sounds of pain - they cross over so easily in some cases. I found the experience quite cathartic - as if I'd actually experienced and released those emotions, rather than just acting them out.

Feeling a bit nauseous this morning - I've just started taking a few extra naturopathic medicines (flaxseed oil/ Bush flower essences) and there seems to be a hefty dose of ginger in my usual herbal mix this fortnight. All that on an empty stomach first thing spells disaster. I hope it settles down soon; I'm supposed to be leaving for uni in 25 minutes!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Well, last night I made a little more progress with the cardigan - another 10 rows or so - it's starting to look like part of a a piece of clothing now, which is a relief. I'm also knitting a scarf for my mother - a 'keyhole' scarf in coral and red. It's my first go at seed stitch, which I really like.

Had a relatively productive day with my work yesterday, reading more about nushu, and sorting through some of those dauntingly huge sound recordings. I am narrowing down the choices and putting them into categories so they'll be easier to deal with. Some of the recordings are very funny - I've put on a very nasal 'witchypoo' voice in some of them. They make me laugh, which is always a good thing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Now up to 53 rows on the cardigan and it's looking really good. The violet coloured wool is quite vibrant and rich. Bought myself 6 old pairs of needles from local op-shops today - much cheaper at 50c - $1 a pair as compared to around $5 new in the shops. I am building up quite a collection already! Now I just have to find some 12mm circulars somewhere to make a funky cape/poncho from Stitch n' Bitch.

Pope Joan is going slowly. I think I'm nearly completely burnt out from it. It's been such an enormous project and I want to finish it, but at the same time I am so, so tired of it. Arrrggghhh!!!

Have been reading more about nushu, the Chinese women's language, tonight, and found some excellent, comprehensive articles and books on the topic. I don't want to do a massive amount of research as I did for Pope Joan, and I'm quite keen to start the songs soon and work through them quickly. I need this after Pope Joan to (a) restore my sanity, and (b) to reassure me that I can indeed still write music in a reasonable amount of time.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I'm 38 rows into the cardigan, which feels like quite an accomplishment, even though it only measures about 5-6 inches so far. My stitches are even and neat, and only one slipped stitch so far, which I've decided to leave in as it's virtually invisible and doesn't affect the structure of the fabric.

Was emailed some info about making scarves to sell at the Melbourne Scarf Festival in June. I may give it a go.

The offertory is still noisy but I seem to have found some solutions to the problem today in the studio. Even though I have good headphones at home, my soundcard is basic, so it's not always possible to pick up on all mistakes/noise issues.

I'll get there - one day!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Had a really nice day by breaking with my usual routine and getting out of the house. I went to St Kilda with a friend and had felafel for lunch, then had a look at the shops in Acland Street. I've had a restful evening knitting and watching TV. I've started knitting a cardigan from "Stitch n' Bitch" and it is going to take forever - only 8 ply wool and size 3.25 mm needles. Such hell after all the big chunky scarves I've knitted! I'll have to get used to the fact that this will take weeks to complete instead of hours! And next time, I will choose a pattern that uses bigger needles and thicker wool!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Hoping to get straight into my work today after I've had breakfast. I'm going to see if I can finish of the Offertory and sort through some of those dauntingly huge recorded sound files. If I do a little bit each day it won't be so bad... I hope!

Pope Joan is at a frustrating point - I've got most of the main Mass movements done, and have just started working on 'filler' material that I want to put in between these movements. I want this to be an intuitive process, but because of this, am finding it hard to know where to start. There are so many possibilities and so many uncut, unedited recorded files to sort through. It's daunting. At times like this I try to remind myself to keep things simple - it's usually the best approach. If I take the simple route, I could conceivably complete the entire piece within 3 weeks or so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Today I've spent a few hours working on the Pope Joan piece. I put all the completed sections together in order and lay down on the floor and had a listen through the whole piece. Having not worked on it for 5 days, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality, the consistency of style and how good it sounded as a whole. This got my spirits up a bit after a weekend of the Easter blues, and I feel encouraged to keep on working on it. I've never worked for such a long period on one piece of music before, or made anything so big, so it's a new experience for me. It can be very frustrating sometimes, knowing how much work is still ahead of you, and that you have to edit new sound files to the same high standard as the rest of the piece (which is what takes up most of the time). Nevertheless, although there is still work to do, the really crucial, difficult stuff is mostly done now. The rest is somewhat flexible and I will be working on it in a more intuitive and playful way, which is always more enjoyable.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Cooking is another thing I love to do, and I've just made a batch of chilli jam with chillies from my garden. I put about 12-14 Thai red chillies in one batch - it's so bloody hot my mouth and nose are still hurting after putting a tiny bit on my tongue! I'm not quite sure why I grow chillies - I don't eat many - but they do grow so easily and prolifically. And they look beautiful in the garden. As winter moves in, I also have to use up my enormous hedge of basil. I'm going to make pesto and freeze it - this way I can have fresh basil pesto in the winter instead of using that horrible soggy schleppy basil that you buy in supermarkets. The tomatoes are coming to a slow end also, and I've already made two batches of pasta sauce with them. Oh I do love food, and I love to make things!

I have some brussels sprouts to plant, and have baby silverbeet and broccoli happily growing in the garden beds. The sunflowers and zucchini were pulled out over easter, now I have literally thousands of sunflower seeds from the old flowers to plant in the future. (Considering that I only used 6 this year, this batch of seeds should keep me supplied for, well, about a millenium.)

Have spent most of the day looking at knitting websites and message boards. Knitting is my new obsession. I only started 3 weeks ago and already I've made 5 scarves, 1 collar, 2 hats and a coin purse. My hands and arms are aching! Nevertheless, I'm not tired of it. I bought Debbie Stoller's "Stitch n' Bitch" the other day, which is getting me thinking about making even more things. When will it stop?!

Joined the Melbourne Stitch n' Bitch group today, and have also printed off a list of yarn stores in Melbourne. Haven't ventured beyond Lincraft yet, so I'm really looking forward to checking out these other stores.

I've been working on a piece about the (possibly) mythical (although possibly quite real) pope, Pope Joan, for about 14 months now. The piece is in the form of a 9th century Mass (the 9th century was the time when Joan supposedly ruled). I've used my voice almost exclusively in the construction of the piece - recording speech and singing, and processing the sounds with Cool Edit, AudioMulch, and various plugins.

As Pope Joan disguised herself as a man -- her female sex was only exposed when she gave birth in public procession -- the piece deals with gender-crossing, and I've used pitch-shifting and formant-shifting plugins to alter the gender and tone of my voice.

The piece is large (30-40 mins) and has taken at least 1,000 hours work so far. The process of composing, performing, recording, editing and assembling the piece has been very painstaking. I'm hoping that I will finish it in the next month.

Nevertheless, it's been great fun to work on, and I've managed to explore and express a wide range of emotions and vocal characters in my recording sessions.

link to a decent online text about Pope Joan (previously published in book form only):

(Sorry... you will have to cut & paste - damn HTML code for links not working)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Day one of my new blog. This will be a space for me to share my thoughts about all things, but especially the two things I care about most: writing music and feminism. Music has been a big part of my life for the last 20 years. I've had lessons on the recorder, piano, cello and voice, but my two main talents are playing the flute and writing music. Flute playing has been left behind in the last few years as I returned to uni to concentrate on writing music and hone my skills as a composer. I can happily say that as a result of this focused effort I am well on the way to creating a style that I feel suits me, and has meaning for me. Making music is now inextricably bound up with the feminist ideology I subcribe to, and most pieces aim to express feminist ideas or a feminist aesthetic.

I'll post in more detail about my music and ideas in the days to come...

As part of my introduction, I should mention a few more things about myself. I was born in Adelaide, Australia and lived there for most of my life. I spent one year in Canberra studying flute, and moved to Melbourne just over four years ago. I live happily with my two cats, and have recently developed an overwhelming obsession with knitting! No doubt this will also become a topic of discussion here...