Here I examine in detail the development and creation of three particular pieces of music over a two month period (in and around the other works) from May to June 2012. This followed my return to Australia from sabbatical travels in the UK and Europe and in particular, following a visit to Prague and its Conservatorium of Music (HAMU) and Film School (FAMU) where I first met young Czech animator, didjeridu (‘didj’) player and PhD student, Daniel Bartos. This subsequently developed into a rewarding Internet relationship with this music as one of its outcomes. The ways in which the didj will be shown to work as both artistic catalyst and technical research tool is something I could have never imagined earlier. Serendipity at work, together with the positive and energetic influence from Daniel’s excellent communication skills and musicianship. One caveat: it may be true (as some peers have suggested) that the didj brings all sorts of cultural baggage, and that the rowdy, electric nature of at least two of these works are non-indicative of my music overall (whatever that means). However, these aspects may also be useful in exploring just how or if artistic research (AR) could be understood to be ‘embodied in the artwork’ itself (Borgdorff, 2012), that is, for now, I can only imagine that music listeners will respond to the recordings themselves in very divergent ways vs. this investigation of their genesis.


When I first returned home to my Brisbane-based recording studio, I had plans to continue and leverage some of my earlier working methods with other musicians (eg: Draper, 2012), including in external live settings and other recording facilities. However it began to emerge that the recent travel abroad had strongly influenced the development of new approaches for me and that maintaining and leveraging distance relationships became a key consideration. Working with a composer /keyboard player in the UK, we began sharing audio files and other communications across the Internet, and even locally in Brisbane this became the way I worked with music colleagues. In amongst the many interesting asynchronous exchanges, multiple time-zones and impacting working commitments for others, it became clear that good record keeping was a must and so this was constantly evolved along the way. While conventional face-to-face performance and improvisation did not occur during this time, the working conditions in my own studio became more focussed and refined with attention to this particular ‘laboratory’, my musical instruments and a growing sense of noticing and incorporating the affects of such a delimited environment.


In amongst all of this, I began to receive and respond to regular email traffic from Daniel Bartos in Prague. This began with following up on a planned PhD exchange between Prague’s HAMU Film School and my own university’s Griffith Film School (GFS) for later in 2012, but quickly expanded into sharing of other interests as well as our own recordings. Therefore in parallel with other musical Internet collaborations regularly exchanged via email and yousendit, it seemed only natural to extend the same invitation to Daniel, and true to form he responded with great gusto and enthusiasm. Our starting point was in the use of his existing recordings, some of which were available on his website, others on a CD he had given me in Prague. In what follows I will firstly frame some of the overarching considerations and working arrangements, before turning to examine each of the three pieces in turn, and as they were created in sequence over time.

Approaching the work

Many of Daniel’s recordings incorporated other performers or post-production treatments, meaning that these fully mixed stereo recordings were quite ‘full’ already, not did we necessarily have access to the constituent parts given the recordings were made in various locations and over differing periods of time. However, on his CD (In Dust & Rhytms, 2012), each track presented a unique solo didj piece, each effected to varying degrees by live digital signal processing (DSP) and simply named as Pulse One through to Pulse Six. I was drawn to these recordings, firstly because of their solo simplicity and potential for later additions, their rhythmical power and variations (indeed, aptly named ‘pulses’), and often unusual but evocative timbral effects. Secondly though, there was an attractive connection to some of my earlier work (Ibid) where I had sought to map out and understand improvisational processes though the analyses and manipulation of recorded performances using various software tools in a computer-based digital audio workstation (DAW). In this, various aspects of musical performances were ‘mapped’ using the DAW’s on-board facilities to understand such musical elements as key signatures, shifting tonal centres, chordal structures, tempo changes, dynamics, instrumental interplay, etc. This not only drew out some of the fascinating aspects of improvised musical communication, it simultaneously highlighted many of the shortcomings of the contemporary recording software in that these tools can indeed have forceful “kinetic laws” (Adorno, 1973, p. 3).


To explain further: modern DAW designs1 ‘expect’ contemporary popular music-styled arrangements where performers often adhere to fixed tempi (and/or perform to metronome ‘click tracks’) and employ repetitive harmonic structures, ‘loops’ and form arrangements. Not that I intend disrespect for much inspirational music that has been created in such genres, but rather, that in these last decades many aspects of the software haven’t evolved as much as they might in terms of musical breadth. If then one is working with variously live, erratic, extended, improvised or experimental works – commercialised software tools tend to become much less functional in terms of further arrangement ‘smarts’ without the assumed frames of reference. In my earlier research then, I was not only examining ‘free’ music, I was also grappling with ways in which to try to bridge the gaps between improvisation, composition, arrangement and the production of final recordings by using the technology to learn and manipulate the work into more refined shapes.


To return to Daniel’s ‘pulse’ pieces then, given their solo nature together with shifting tempi, time signatures, and often illusive tonal /cultural /pitch references, they seemed well suited to further explore, develop and apply these earlier approaches. More email went back and forth with Daniel who confirmed that he’d like to be part of the process – I’d work on some of his material, send some versions, he’d respond with other recordings and so on. We also spent time in identifying just what resources we both had easy access to, some aspects of how we worked with these, along with very specific arrangements and agreement about the file formats, sizes, transportation methods etc.

Firstly, here I provide the final mixed recordings in their entirety and in the sequence of their creation. I can only imagine that this might allow readers to form personal opinions about the kinds of knowledge that are displayed in this way, and/or simply like or dislike pieces to varying degrees depending on their musical pareferences. However, I also hope that this might add to further explicate my interest and/or apprehension about the notion that AR might somehow be ‘embedded’ in the artwork itself (Borgdorff, 2010; 2012). Following this, I will track the development of each piece with audio extracts as required.

However, it should be explicitly noted that the three recordings under examination do not include further recorded musical responses from this didj artist, rather, they are a specific selection of works through which to explore my own AR development processes. Daniel’s role in these three pieces was i) as the originator of the source inspiration and solo didj recording(s), and ii) as a critical friend in terms of commenting on the evolving material and some of my thinking about it. Both of us informed by all of this, in other recordings (not included in this particular exposition) the musical roles were reversed, where he would provide a range of responses to my own solo, raw material. This also pragmatically responded to the fact that he had access to less technical resources and free (sabbatical) time than I, and so a number of variants were allowed to progress at their own pace. And so on, in a range of iterations, both with Daniel, but also by extension to two other musicians who also contributed at a distance to the three pieces to be now examined.

Track 1: Pulse Two (remix) [3:30]. Daniel Bartos, didjeridu; Frank Millward, synthesiser; Bob Peele, ‘echo’ electronic drum kit; Paul Draper, all other instruments.

Track 2: Go Fish [5:05]. Frank Millward, synthesiser; Bob Peele, ‘echo’ electronic drum kit; Paul Draper, all other instruments.

Track 3: Over the Reef (Transfuser remix) [4:49]. Daniel Bartos, didjeridu; Paul Draper, all other instruments.

1. For example, often expensive applications and associated hardware requirements for Mac or PC including Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase or Nuendo, Apple Logic Pro, Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer, the list goes on.