Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I listened to this month... January 2012

Please Note: these 'plays' are taken from the plays scrobbled to my last.fm account (MBP, iPad, iPhones & iPods) and don't include music played on my hifi or in the car.

What are you listening to?


Monday, January 30, 2012

Skye by Studiocanoe

Skye from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

Truly beautiful... and embarrassingly for me... a place I have never visited. I will need to rectify this soon.


(with thanks to @brainpicker)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quiet Camp Vibes by Poler Camping Stuff

Quiet Camp Vibes from Poler Camping Stuff on Vimeo.

I know this is... in essence... an advert for some really cool camping gear from Poler in Portland, Oregon by the film maker Amanda Marsalis... but its also a very powerful advert for the wilds of Big Sur and also for getting away from it all.

It impressed me... and, more importantly, inspired me... and I thought I'd share it.

Their products look really good... especially 'the Napsack'... which needs to be seen to be believed. They have a 'Howies' vibe about them... which is cool.

All in... something special worth checking out.



Books with great covers... part 1

I have fancied doing something like this for a wee while now... and when Olly was working on my Canon Pixma MP490 scanner last week, I kept it plugged in and looked for an opportunity to get some scanning done.

I hope to feature the covers of some of the books I have in my collection... books I've picked up (mostly in charityshops) because I have been drawn to the cover, to the story, to the author, or a combination of all three.

The idea behind this exercise is threefold:
1) Feature books with great covers... and
2) Take the opportunity to appreciate what I have... there is no point in having a collection if you don't appreciate it.
3) Provide examples of what I mean by "artefact"... these books are beautiful on the outside as well as having good stories inside. Whilst I love my Kindle3 (and Kindle apps on iPhone and iPad)... Amazon and publishers really need to work on their designs... eBook covers leave me cold.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

February's calendar / wallpaper

February 2012's Calendar :: 1028x768

I know I am a couple of days early... but I wanted to get this one out. This month's calendar / wallpaper is based on a wee "happy accident" (as Bob Ross would say) I kept when taking pics of some of my old cameras for a hint of bergamot.

Usual flavours are included below... and there is even a wee surprise on the Kindle3 wallpaper.

Enjoy and thanks for everyones willingness to have my photography on their devices... it is appreciated by me.


iPhone with calendar + iPhone without calendar
980x800 for Andrew Berry's mobile device

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seven questions with... Peter James

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to "Memento" by Peter James and was delighted to accepted his friendship request on Facebook. He is a lovely chap who really cares for the music he creates... and this love is evident in his music.

I felt it apt to interview him and when you hear from him... his passion for ambient music and for people shines through. I love the wee story of the baby, for example.

I really appreciated James taking the time to answer my questions... and appreciate his candor considering his private nature.

This is what he had to say...


(1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is peter james, and I write ambient and instrumental music. I try not to use synthesised sounds wherever possible, and I create about 90% of the sounds and drones I use from real instruments and voices, or field recordings. I can record maybe half an hour of, say, bass guitar work, or an hour or more outdoor stuff, and yet sometimes I may only end up with a minute or 3 worth of useful sounds – hence me having recorded so few album’s. I don’t like to repeat myself, music-wise, and sound-wise, if I can help it.

I’m also a sound engineer and occasional producer – but only if it’s a project that I believe in. I also still use outboard analogue equipment and samplers, using the Mac pretty much as a stand alone sequencer/recorder and audio editor.

Since 2009 I’ve been a full-time” member of the global musical collective 48Cameras – whose main base is in Belgium. I contribute both musically and technically.

(2) What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m working on 2 projects – but there is some other stuff on the back-burner which is earmarked for a project with a writer and video artist from France..

My main, and on-going, project at the moment is a collaborative album with a female vocalist and lyricist from London, which will also be multi-lingual. I’ve never written specifically for vocals and lyrics, so it’s been a great lesson for me, learning a new discipline. There’s no release or finish date for this yet, but we should start mixing it sometime soon.

My newest solo project is again working with field recordings, but I’m taking a very different approach this time, and it seems to be heading in a more “industrial ambient” direction. It’s early days, and it’ll take a lot of working out, so again, I’ve no idea when it will be finished. I’m not prolific at all, due to the way I create my sounds, but I’d rather take it slowly, try to get it “right” than to juggle loads of things at once. It can take anything from 3 months to a year for me to complete an album, depending on just how much sound design and creation is needed.

(3)Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

Werner Herzog. I’m not really inspired by music or other musician’s, to be honest, more by films/film-makers and their own particular ethos and approach to their art and the way they tell the story, and many of Herzogs’ films have affected me/inspired me on so many levels, more so than any other living artist.

(can I also add the late great Orson Welles here – for his pure drive and stubborn-ness, and his undaunting and unrelenting desire to create – at any cost! The 2 Arena films about him and his life should be required viewing, in my opinion, for anyone starting out in any of the creative arts). [of course you can, TM]

- Name place that has inspired you.

Cumbria/The Lake District. It would take a head, heart, and soul of stone not to be inspired by it.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

seeing a 3 week old baby, born addicted to Methadone, sleeping soundly to a piece of music of mine, that I’d been asked to write for her by her foster parents, wake up crying when it had finished, and then go straight back to sleep when it was played to her again.

(4) What drives you to do what you do?
see above. I don’t want to come across as pompous or in any way egotistical, because that’s simply not my schtick, but If, as an artist you can affect just one person, make a tiny difference to another person’s moment, give them some joy, raise a smile, bewilder, inspire, or simply just give a bit of mind or stop-time (and yes, send them to sleep, even) with what you do – that’s all that matters, not how many album’s you sell. I am constantly surprised, and humbled, by some of the stories I’ve been told about my work, and how it has affected someone in a positive way, and this is why I carry on with it. if I was in it for money, I’d have given up many years ago.
Of course I’d like more people to hear what I do, because then I’d feel I’ve been able to repay somehow the people who continue to support and have faith in me and my work, but I’m more than happy with how it’s all gone so far.

(5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
That it’s ok to be incredibly simple, and that it’s ok to be incredibly complex – I think this William Blake quote says it better than I ever could
“I must create a system – or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare – my business is to create”

(6) What role does community play in what you do?
I’m not really that much of a “connected” person – I’m incredibly private, by nature, but the more I think about it, it’s been vital. Without the support of a few people who I’ve “met” over the last few years, I don’t think I’d have done half the things I’ve been lucky enough to do, or been involved in. I couldn’t catch a cold in the U.K, so without the rM.ning community, for instance, I’d still be blowing in the wind. I even have to give a nod to (the now much-maligned, and rightly so) Myspace, as that is where a lot of opportunities first arose. Someone once said, because of Myspace, I was “one of the most well known, but un-successful, underground ambient musicians in the U.K” ;-) so yeah, it’s been very important to me, and allowed me to interact with and get to know, and work with, some truly inspirational people – and I’ll give a special name-check in this regard to John Koch-Northrup at Relaxed Machinery, who has been championing my cause for the last 3 years. I wouldn’t be here now, writing this, if it hadn’t been for him. I guess I must learn, somehow, to do “more”.

(7) What is next for what you do?
Difficult question. I try not to think about it, and I tend not to plan, as I never know what’s coming, or going to happen, next, on pretty much every level. But on a creative level? I really do not know. It depends what comes along to inspire me enough to want to do something new. I guess all I really want to do is to keep (trying) to push my own boundaries, keep it as honest and as human as possible. My general ethos is to not repeat myself, so it doesn’t get any easier, as time goes on. I never thought I could top my 2nd album – “is” – for sheer creativity (i.e just how many sounds could I wrench from just one instrument) and hard-nosed “almost drove me insane”, approach to it and my intentions for it, but I guess I was wrong. So yeah, who knows what the future may hold for me, and for what I do, but I’d love to work on some music for a “commercially” produced film. That’s my as-yet-unfulfilled ambition.


Thanks Peter... I thought the story of the baby was heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure.


A couple of songs from Jake Tatton's band... The Hermitage

My friend Jake Tatton is currently working on material for her upcoming album with her band, The Hermitage. She shared a couple of demos with me and I loved them so much that I wanted to share them with you... I will be watching the development of her album and her band's career with considerable interest.




Thursday, January 26, 2012

Congratulations to my mum and dad on their 40th wedding anniversary

Union Canal_ 49/01_ Dad, Dayna, Miriam & Mum

Today's my mum and dad's 40th wedding anniversary... and I just wanted to give them a shout-out. They were away at Troon for a couple of days... and we'll be sharing in a meal at a local Italian tomorrow night with other members of the wider family. Looking forward to it.

Congratulations to you both... here's to the next 40!

Love, Tx

Mum & Dad in Nando's #1

Jerry's Map

Jerry's Map from Jerry Gretzinger on Vimeo.

This video is fascinating... I love how immersed he gets into his creation. I find his passion inspiring.


(with thanks to @nofi)

Seven questions with... John Koch-Northrup

I have become a huge fan of the Relaxed Machinery netlabel and their output. This has come through meeting on Twitter and befriending the label-head, John Koch-Northrup. He is a wonderful character... a really inspirational chap and someone who deeply cares for the kind of music I love.

He has been very generous and opened up his server to me... letting me listen to some of their new and recent material. I have featured both "en seier" by åpne sinn and "memento" by Peter James on here... and have shared my thoughts on "Temporal Arc" by Koch-Northrup himself over on the Alternative Matter website.

In conjunction with the post over on Alternative Matter, I thought I would ask him my wee interview... the first of 2012. This is what he said:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
John Koch-Northrup. I started playing piano when I was 5, played in school band (trumpet), in live bands starting when I was 15 (synths/bass), and have recorded since I was 13. I currently own the Relaxed Machinery label (http://relaxedmachinery.com) and help other artists release their music.  We're more of a collective, "self releasing... together" than a proper label. But there's a lot of overlap.  I've been married to the most wonderful woman on earth for almost 20 years now. I do IT work - mainly data / EDI / programming type work these days - been at it for around 19 years.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
At this moment my studio is torn down as we may be moving to another state. That's not confirmed and it's a bit up in the air. We're in hurry up and wait mode. So I'm not actively writing new music right now. For Relaxed Machinery, we're getting ready to roll out a great album by åpne sinn called 'en seier' in February. Later this year will see releases from Steve Brand and Disturbed Earth and Shane Morris. Steve is also reissuing his double album collaboration with Ishq on his private Pioneer Light label which we also host through relaxedmachinery.com  -  I'm also working on a top secret project I can't discuss at the moment... :-)

3) Who inspires you?
So many people!  My grandma got the ball rolling when I'd see her playing organ - and then she was my first piano teacher when I was five. She played organ in the same church for 65 years... just about everyone in town had seen her play a wedding or funeral or Santa Claus breakfast at the firehouse - she filled in at a number of other churches as well.  If I could only pick one person - it would be her.

- Name an artist who as inspired you.

Herbie Hancock and many of the 60's Blue Note era crew. Herbie's ability to roll with the times. Similar to Miles Davis in the sense of rolling with the changes of the times or creating those changes.  David Sylvian. The Beatles. Claude Debussy. David Bowie. Cabaret Voltaire. Depeche Mode. Autechre. Orbital. Lately - Steve Brand, Ishq (Matt Hillier), Marcus Fischer, Loscil (Scott Morgan), Taylor Deupree, Saul Stokes, Max Corbacho, Bruno Sanfilippo... so, so many.

- Name a place that has inspired you.

Home with my wife.  Matthiessen State Park in Illinois. Sitting in a dark room playing piano.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

The feeling of walking on frost covered grass.  Trains in the distance. Books, many books. Art.  Photography. The Elder Scrolls video games... (Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim).

4) What drives you to do what you do?

It's in me. It always has been. I feel lost if I'm too far away from creating in some fashion or another - whether it's playing piano or guitar, or recording, or sound sculpting, or listening, or talking about music, or taking photographs, or ... well - anything.  I found that if I put music away for too long I'm missing something in my life... there's a hole.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
Values? Not sure I've been asked this question before. I love to write music. I like to infuse a feeling that I have about the music into it.  I can't guarantee anyone will hear what I was thinking - in fact they most likely won't.  I guess I'd like people to know I greatly care about the music I write and to pull from it what they will. I would say I write from a more positive standpoint the vast majority of the time.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
I often create alone, but the community is everything else. Where else but in the communities I frequent will I find people who want to share their creations and listen to mine? We have common ground, common things to discuss. We may have totally different world views, political views, backgrounds - but music, photography, painting, design, writing... creativity is the binding principle that pulls us together into communities. Community is very important to me... I helped created one after all... http://relaxedmachinery.ning.com

7) What is next for what you do?
Ah, what's next! Hopefully moving. After that probably some downtime from music for awhile as that's a major change.  Once settled in and studio back up - the secret project is my top priority followed by a new album from me.  As always - Relaxed Machinery will continue with it's 2012 lineup of releases - I have two other people that help run the label and I know they'll pick up my slack for a while... a sincere thank you to Steve Brand and Geoff Small who are my partners in the label.  After that, we'll see!  My wife and I want to invest in a macro lens for our Nikon one of these days - I love macro photography - kind of like I love getting up next to sounds on field recordings that can't be normally be heard.  There's always something next - I always have multiple projects going.


Thanks John... please check out Relaxed Machinery and "Temporal Arc". Oh and read my review of "Temporal Arc" over on Alternative Matter.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some quotes from the 'something beautiful podcast'

I co-host the something beautiful podcast with four friends... JD, Johnny, Stewart & Travis. Its a faith-based podcast where people talk about their journey... their experience... and tell stories worth listening to. It's a wonderfully open, liberal and moderate expression of the Christian faith... and something I am very proud of.

Anyway... my co-host JD created these fab flyers quoting some of our guests. I thought they were great and wanted to share them with you. Feel free to grab them and post them about the interwebs... and come visit us over at http://somethingbeautifulpodcast.com


Sunday, January 22, 2012


210112_ Olly

This photo was taken in low light and then darkened slightly in Lightroom. I like how it has turned out.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Uniform Motion posters framed and on my wall

210112_ Uniform Motion posters

One of my fave albums of 2011 was "life" by Uniform Motion. It didn't make my end-of-year list because it was released in 2010... but it was a distinct favourite.

Olly bought me the physical CD for my Christmas... and got me their limited edition poster pack too. As you can imagine I was over-the-moon... it's that good an album and I think the artwork is truly first class.

Today we took a wee trip to IKEA... where I picked up three frames for my most favourite of the posters. They are now on the wall in our wee office space in our house.

These posters demonstrate the power of artefact to me and show another way that musicians can creatively generate some additional cash.


Wolfgang Merx's latest single... with my artwork

My dear friend Wolfgang Merx has released a new single... entitled "on land"... and I was privileged to provide the artwork.


The photo... "foggy"... was taken on the night of the joint band festival featuring the Airdrie and Bellshill Salvation Army Bands. It was one of those "what if" photos that turned out just fine.

I was and am delighted Wolfgang thought it was good enough to adorn his latest release... which is, by the way, an interesting cut of ambient progressive rock goodness that is well worth having a listen to. Thanks mate!


Loving... "Precious and the Puggies" by Alexander McCall Smith with illustrations by Iain McIntosh

I am a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith and his wonderful creation Precious Ramotswe. I find the No.1 Ladies Dective Agency series to be an utter delight... a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air. So you may understand when I get all crazy over this copy of "Precious and the Puggies" that I found today in Glasgow.

According to the blurb on Amazon...
"...this is a brand new book for younger readers, telling the story of the girlhood adventures of Precious Ramotswe, founder of the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Written by one of the world's favourite authors, Alexander McCall Smith, and translated into Scots by award winning author, James Robertson, this story will not be available in any other language until 2011. The Scots is simple and accessible, and a glossary will be provided for those not familiar with Scots words."
I love the fact its a new story... designed for younger readers... but what makes it truly awesome is twofold:

1) Its written in Scots... which is a true delight to read. For example, here's the blurb:


2) The illustrations by Iain McIntosh... which are wonderfully simple and effortless elegant. Below are some examples of McIntosh's work:

I look forward to reading this book... enjoying the illustrations... and checking out more of Iain McIntosh's work.


Loving... Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut

As a Star Wars fan it is really hard to describe my joy at seeing "Star Wars Uncut". It is wonderful and terrible at the same time... it is so varied and yet it remains surprisingly consistent.

I guess that's why I love it... it has an overall consistency that holds all the different clips together... some that are very well done and some that are simply awful - regardless as to how it is presented... regardless as to how it is interpreted and lived out... the narrative remains the same.

Here's the story:
In 2009, Casey Pugh asked thousands of Internet users to remake "Star Wars: A New Hope" into a fan film, 15 seconds at a time. Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted. Within just a few months SWU grew into a wild success. The creativity that poured into the project was unimaginable.

SWU has been featured in documentaries, news features and conferences around the world for its unique appeal. In 2010 we won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media.
I love it and recommend you watch it before it's taken down:

For more... head to www.starwarsuncut.com. My thanks to @littlewarrior for the heads-up.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My thoughts on "en seier" by åpne sinn

One of the reasons I love ambient music so much is the real breadth of the expression and artistry on offer to the listener... from neo-classical melodies to electronic drones via guitar-orientated soundscapes... they all contribute their particular flavours to the genre. Ambient is richer as a result of this variety.

Relaxed Machinery's upcoming release... "en seier" by åpne sinn... is exemplary of this richness. On this release Geoff Small... the man behind åpne sinn... has created some of the most exquisite ambient soundscapes I have heard. He has created music worthy of a soundtrack.

On the opening track "Son of low birth", for example, he brings to the table some wonderful ethic percussion and processed vocals that just make me melt and reminds me how wonderful the ambient genre is.

Similarly his collaborations with Steve Brand are just heartbreakingly beautiful: haunting... emotive... and deeply immersive. "Unconquered", for example, has a gorgeous sense of movement and emotion that just draws me in. "The Long Plains" has a glacial elegance that you can actually hear sparkle and shimmer before gracious beats enter and complete the track.

Small's collaboration with Peter James on "what rough beast" is fantastic and further demonstrates both the power and reach of the ambient genre and the creativity of both parties to the collaboration. This track is so deep with a field recording providing the foundation for some gloriously melancholic electronic drones.

The title track... "en seier"... juxtaposes glitchy samples of bells and chimes with the deep rumblings of a powerful drone. Small does this to great effect... creating something sinister and yet playful... that threatens to overwhelm but never quite does... but in doing so, he creates something of extraordinary worth.

My favourite track is the third one... "his great heart"... which brings to the table some wondrously mysterious and melancholic neo-classical string drones that instantly reminded me of the great emmalee^crane. There is an almost nautical feel about this track - it could easily soundtrack an HP Lovecraft story such as "The Shadow over Innsmouth". It is truly atmospheric and a real standout track for me.

All in... with "en seier" by åpne sinn Small has created a truly exemplary recording... one that is worthy of real accolade and recognition. It will be on my iPhone/iPods for many months to come and will... I have no doubt... find itself remembered in the end-of-year lists of note.

First class!


"en seier" by åpne sinn is due to drop in February.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Received... in the post :: hejorama.com travel notebooks

Its always nice to receive something in the post. Today I received two A6 Travel Notebooks from Hejorama.

Hejorama is a fab travel-orientated website that I only recently discovered. Their manifesto for travel is inspiring and I look forward to consuming the wide range of content they have on their site... from Food and Drinks, Art, Culture to Maps and How-Tos.

Here's an excerpt from their manifesto...

"...but we travel smarter. Faster. We travel in our ideas and passions and we travel the physical world with every opportunity. We are a new generation of travelers aided by cheap flights and massive social networks and online connectivity. This is our lifestyle. We are in perpetual motion. Yet we are aware that our license to more easily roam and learn the world, we have a great responsibility to build better communities and shape a stronger world."
I like that... and I liked their Facebook page... in do so, I won two of their Travel Notebooks... I was their 500th 'like'. I had no expectation as to what these Notebooks were and was delightfully surprised when I received them in the post tonight.

They are A6 and styled like a cahier. On one side is blank paper for your "chronicles" on the other side (flipped over) is more space for chronicles with the centre designed for addresses.

Their attention to detail and design aesthetic is simply wonderful... with a sweet "get lost" graphic on one inside cover and...

...the other inside cover has a rather interesting 'to do' list.

The contact book is, in essence, the middle sheet of paper... which gives you four pages for the names and numbers of the folks you meet.

All in... the notebook is like an analogue app for your smart phone. Its a nifty wee artefact that I am grateful to have and look forward to use. I might even use one in Glasgow... I've always tried to view my city from the eyes of both a local and a traveller. We'll see.

If you have a passion for travel... please check out Hejorama and join the journey.


Monday, January 16, 2012

My thoughts on "Memento" by Peter James

When I try and explain ambient music to my less informed friends and colleagues we will usually end up at the "new age whale songs" category. These folks are not being malicious, it's just that their understanding of the vast genre of music that I deeply love is limited to their experience. For them Brian Eno is the chap from Roxy Music who has produced U2 and Coldplay, and not the creator of the wonder "music for airports".

Field recordings are used to a varying degree in my experience, mostly as a means of enhancing the soundscapes presented. I like it when they are used as an enhancement but don't when that's all there is. I have tried to listened to some netlabel releases that feature field recordings heavily and predominately... and they have tended to bore me with little to maintain my attention. I won't even touch the "new age whale songs".

It was, in this frame of reference, that I was presented with "Memento" by Peter James from the Relaxed Machinery netlabel.

"Memento" is an intriguing release that features field recordings of natural phenomenon like running water, rainstorms and birdsong up front with the most minimal ambient drones and subtle bells/cymbals. What on paper seems like more cheesy "new age whale songs" is in fact expertly captured, rendered and presented by James in a manner that is deeply immersive and wonderfully meditative. In fact, there is a definite Zen thing going on in this release... and I really like it.

James had this to say about it...
"I have tried to keep all the pieces as simple as the moments they depict, so as not to blur the memories they evoke. It was in fact while I was recording “sometimes we forget” that I finally understood what the phrase “the best temples have no doors” really means for me.  So, ultimately, yes, this is a personal journey; but I hope that some new memories are formed, some new places found, real or imagined, that will create a wider sense of travel, even when standing still."
I love the idea that “the best temples have no doors”... and this recording lives and breathes it. The music is there but it is minimal... not getting in the way at all. What's really on show is nature in all her wonder and majesty... and it is for this fact I commend this recording. Yes, it's a more unusual ambient recording and yes, the last track may be a bit too long... and may result in you need the loo after listening to it (waves crashing has that effect on me)... but the imagination and the creativity of James to bring this together... along with the awesome sounds of nature... just astounds me.

"Memento" is available to download from CDBaby.

My thanks to John Koch-Northrup for letting me hear this and other releases from his label.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

In search of Alfred Hitchcock :: Spotify, Netflix, libraries and supermarkets… some more thoughts on access and ownership

Four things happened recently that have me thinking about the whole access vs ownership debate…

1) I listened to Bernard Herrmann's score for "Vertigo" on Spotify.
2) Netflix arrived in the UK… and I took them up on their 1 month free trial.
4) I went to my local public library in Motherwell and borrowed a couple of cookery books.
4) I bought four Alfred Hitchcock DVDs from my local supermarket.

I have developed a thing for Alfred Hitchcock and his movies. I love the titles, the styling and, most importantly, the music. I was reminded of this when Kim Novack complained about the recontextualisation of the love song from "Vertigo" in the new film "the Artist". She made me think of the Bernard Herrmann score, which I do not have in my collection… so I went to Spotify and had a listen. It is a great score and it set me off on a bit of a Hitchcock tangent.

Netflix then arrived in the UK and I took them up on their 1 month free offer. The intention is to actually pilot the service and see if it has anything to offer me, my family, and my lifestyle. So far it does not have anything to offer except for the fact I can start TV shows like "Twin Peaks" or "Dexter", shows I have missed or haven't seen in ages, from the start. The content is older than that on offer via Sky… a service I already pay for… for the Kids TV, movies and the cookery shows. Yes, I know Sky is parasitic to the UK economy but its the best fit for my family unless we take the road of watching even less TV and having less choice.

One of the many shows I could not find on Netflix was "Vertigo". When I looked, the only Hitchcock film on there was "The 39 steps". If I am to pay £6 per month to watch anything I wanted… I would like the assurance that what I wanted was there. It wasn't.

Yesterday I went to my local public library. I went with Miriam to return some CDs and a graphic novel (Miriam had books she needed to return too). I didn't see "Vertigo" there either but I did pick up a couple of cookery books to drool over.

The library visit was really pleasant - the staff there are awesome, the selection of content is usually top notch and the ambience of the space is excellent after the refurbishment last year.

Afterwards, Miriam and I heading to our local supermarket (we don't have a farmers' market nearby in Motherwell) to buy some salad for lunch. Whilst in there I picked up a boxset of Alfred Hitcock films (Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and Rear Window) for £10 (it should have been £12 but someone stacked it wrong). This was the last of my Christmas money and I had fancied the boxset for a while.

This whole experience got me thinking about access and ownership… and I thought I'd try and get these thoughts coalesced into something tangible.

First off, my behaviour is changing but hasn't changed yet

I didn't automatically reach for iTunes, Amazon or, dare I say it, the Torrents to get a copy of Herrmann's "Vertigo" OST… I went to Spotify. In this regard, Access trumped Ownership. I didn't need to 'own' the OST… I just needed to hear it (it's playing now… as I type).
Similarly, before I bought "Vertigo" I looked for places to access it - I looked for it on Netflix and in the DVD section of my library. I didn't look for it on Sky's schedule and maybe I should have… but I wanted to see the film now and not have to wait. This again is Access trumping Ownership.
I did, however, revert back to old behaviour when I saw, by chance, the boxset containing "Vertigo" in my local supermarket. Price was important and I probably wouldn't have bought it if it was over £10, if truth be told, but it wasn't so I bought it.

I believe behaviour is changing towards access over ownership but it isn't there yet… better choice is needed. Sky provides access but not necessarily at the most convenient times. Its not instantaneous. Whereas Netflix provides instant access but doesn't have the range. We need range AND convenience before access will trump ownership... that is unless we take the road less travelled and downsize our TV consumption.

Secondly, libraries will continue to have a place in our lives

I was asked recently where I see libraries being in the coming age of Kindles and iPods… and this is my response… libraries will continue albeit they may need to change.

The digital age is having a toll on publishers of content, not consumers of content. The library is not a publisher of content - it does not tell you what to read, listen to or watch - but an aide to consumption - the library stocks that which is deemed to be popular along with that which is deemed to be important. Whilst I am not sure who makes these decisions or the factors they consider when considering at the content to stock, I know they do not stock only popular content.
Not only that but they stock content that only those with the willingness or disposable income to buy can own. Take, for example, cookery books.
I love cookery books or, to be more specific, I love looking AT cookery books - I aspire to the level of their level of quality in terms of design, especially type, and photography. I would love to photograph food for a cookery book. For all my love for cookery books, I am not a cook and the recipes are wasted on me. I do intend to rectify this but at the moment cookery books are all visual to me. To this end owning cookery books is a bit of a waste of money for me… which, to be honest, is something I know to my shame having about a dozen books on my shelf not doing anything other than looking pretty.

The ability for me to borrow cookery books from the library means I do not waste my money… at least initially. I can try before I buy or, more importantly, I can record those recipes that I actually try and work for me… and create my own collection. If there are sufficient recipes in the book then I will buy a copy but if there aren't then there is no point.
Libraries, in this regard, provide a form of analogue streaming. Streaming is all about access without the ownership and libriaries provide this in an analogue form… I have the artefact for a short time to consume but do not own it forever.

In addition, there is no need to own obscure content. I remember from my days at Napier University the frustration in having to buy a reference book for a single class… I much prefered to borrow but could never borrow for the term I needed. Libraries provide access that whilst available to own we do not need to own but only need to access for a limited time.
I hope there will always be a library for as long as we want analogue streaming.

Where libraries will need to change is the notion of 'inconvenient access'… I have to access them at times which may not be convenient for me. I usually go on a Saturday morning to bring back and load up… this is because I am not home and fed in time to get over to my local before it shuts at 7pm. I could do it when it shut at 7:30pm but times have changed.
Yes, I can renew online and I am grateful for this… but I can not browse in my underpants at 7am unlike Amazon. Could this be the future? An Amazon-like interface for the library? Browse online and then receive your order through the Post? Maybe we could save the libraries AND the postal service with this notion?

With a library the institution owns, on your behalf as the taxpayer or as a contributing member, the item you wish to have access to. They are the inbetween stage between Access and Ownership… and for this fact I forsee not only their continuing survival but their strengthening position through their positioning as a provider of the niche, the obscure and the expensive.
A club that shares expensive Vintage cars is a library of sorts… as is a garden tool cooperative. You could argue that Netflix and Spotify are libraries too albeit I am not sure if they 'own' the content they stream. It is in the common good for people to come together and share their resources so that access to an object or range of objects can be guaranteed. In this way those who could afford to access specific content are not the only ones who can.

Thirdly, technical all-in-one-ism is leading to greater specialisation and improvements in specific stand-alone devices… which means the artefact will continue

Frog Design point to this in a recent article
For the past decade we have been seeing a convergence of multiple pieces of hardware into fewer generalist devices. The smart phone is the almost perfect example of the convergent digital device as Swiss Army knife. It has absorbed much of the most common use cases for portable devices, like music and video consumption, digital photo and video capture, email and calendar, and simple things like time keeping. I read countless blog posts proclaiming that dedicated devices, like the camera and the watch, would rapidly shrivel and die. Instead, I think new technologies will provide opportunities for them to get better. When users do purchase a dedicated device, they are gravitating towards products with higher quality and better design to elevate their experience. It turns out that the convergent device is killing the commodity digital product while forcing everything else to improve.
The iPod and the Kindle will take the commodity content but the specialist content will remain and improve… consider the upturn in vinyl sales, for example. What we will see is better hardcopy books, such as the cookery books I borrowed, being produced. Kindles and iPods won't kill books or physical media but make them better… the pop and the pulp will go the way of digital… whereas the artefact will remain.

This is true for supermarkets too. They will continue to provide the pop and the pulp… but they do not and will not stock everything… leaving room for the specialists and their provision of the unique, the niche and the artefact.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Grabbing a coffee with Marc de Ridder

120112_ Marc de Ridder

Marc de Ridder is one of my all-time favourite photographers and someone who I consider a mentor in my photographic journey. I was proud to work with him and consider him instrumental in the continuation and progression of the photo-safaris we held (need to get them going again).

120112_ Marc de Ridder's TLR 1

We used to have great discussions on cameras as well as the craft and process... so you can understand my delight when I caught up with him on Thursday past (12th January) for a coffee and he pulled this wee beauty out of his bag...

120112_ Marc de Ridder's TLR 2

The Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex is an amazing camera... and this one has a build that has last 70 years (give or take). It is tricky to use initially... but it's output is stunning in a film kind of way. I need to get the Yashica I was loaned out and about again.

120112_ Marc's vintage light metre

Marc also showed me another of his recent eBay purchases... a wonderful 60's light meter. He paid a quarter of the price for this one compared with the current-day equivalents... and had to get a wee doohickey to alter the batteries that could be used as the batteries used in the 60's are no longer in production.

I really love the idea of reusing old kit... I mean the build on this light meter was top dollar (as was the TLR)... it work really well and was very accurate. It even had an add-on to do spot reading... which is so cool.

Marc needed The Small Battery Company to enable him to use the light meter. Without them and their adapter for the battery pack, he couldn't use it. The device would be obsolete and just a nice paperweight. I like that.

Anyway... here's to mentors and the inspiration they bring. I'm going back to my film cameras.



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