Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Colour Blindness

Some of you may know already and to others this may be a shock but I am colour blind, red, green and brown and quite common in men, it might be the reason I create black sculptures and shy away from colour in my work and it is certainly why I shied away from painting.  So this piece reminds me of all those colour blind test I have failed at, no I can't see a 7 or a boat or a whatever else one was meant to see, I just saw dots, so this sculpture makes me smile, it's black and there are no images to be seen, just holes and light and lovely it is too, any colour is the colour of the real world coming through the holes rather like  John Cages's silent piano piece 4.33.
I have been busy in the workshop and over the next few weeks some more pieces will appear, plus I now have two looper pedals and my sound work is developing along nicely as well and hopefully the announcement of a gig at the beginning of february, keep the first free in your diaries.
Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

More Movies and Echoes and Waves

Echoes and Waves has just been and gone at the Red Brick Gallery in Glastonbury, a showing of the 6 films made by Richard Tomlinson of me playing in various places around Somerset, at the gig I played live to accompany those films and from the response of people it went very well, although of course I couldn't tell as I couldn't see the relationship of me playing next to the film, live and digital.  I look forward to seeing the film of that one day soon.

Here in the meantime are links to the last three remaining films from that series, which means all are now linked on my blog for you all to watch at sometime.

In a rural church:        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGMIJPRrnes
In a wood:            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PRSC7a-guY
In a wood again:        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgHAbRF5q8E
I have also completed a new collection of music called 'Absence' which can be listened to via my soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/michael-fairfax
This is a departure from recent recordings as this is back to just me playing and the incorporation of some field recordings in my wood, all very interesting and certainly food for thought for new work.

I have also just started work on a new instrument today which I hope to complete soon and I am very excited about especially as it entailed hollowing out a log!  I shall keep you in suspense for a few days yet.

Friday, 22 November 2013

More video links of me playing in spaces around Somerset

You have already seen the film of me in Banwell Bone Cave, here are links to two more films by Richard Tomlinson of me playing at venues around Somerset, the first one is set in the Old Morland factory in Glastonbury:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byIuwLVGr_I

and the second one is at a saxon round house near Shapwick.


Workshop Activites

 So the first cold blasts of winter come to the south west and I have been in my workshop keeping warm making a few things, firstly the 'Stringed Oak Limb' a limb gathered from the woods and a potential instrument revealed.  This one is strung with both metal{stainless steel} and nylon strings, a listening point is  revealed in the bark, and again I can only be surprised at the fantastic sound that can be heard placing ones ear to the oak.

After this a present for my good friends the Hartas's, they have wanted something for a while and a 50th seemed a good a time as any, so a bowl for their table to be laden with fruits seemed a good idea.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Branch Harp

Another wood another harp.
This one has two sets of strings and so can be played with two hands, it also has a piezo contact mic which can be sung into. I will put a link to the video Richard Tomlinson filmed of this performance once it is finished, we are preparing for the concert and film presentation on the 1st december in Glastonbury of
his Echoes and Waves event, I will also post the flyer when I have that too.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Video of the Trail of the Tree Harps

Photo Rainy Lehrman

As promised you can now hear the sounds of those tree harps:
Go to my vimeo site:

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Environmental Art Biennale I-Park 2013

I know you have been waiting with baited breath for my instalments from I-Park re the Biennale,but due to a few technical difficulties I just couldn't get the darn thing going so here is a potted history of the event.
For three weeks commencing the 4th of september 2013 I have enjoyed some of the best weeks of my life with some really talented and lovely people, the creative enegy from this collective group has been immense and I am so pleased to have been part of it.  I shall name those people in no particular order:  Rainy Lehrman, Roger Rigorth, Carmina Escobar, Chad Cunha, Tatiana Ferahian, Linda Molenaar, Margrit Neuendorf, Olivier Huet, Scott Cazan, Tim Norris. These 10 were for the last three day days joined by Jayoung Chung, Adam Frelin and Sarah Hirschman as they had come earlier to create their pieces.

I have recently been making hand held ear trumpets as can be seen from previous posts and I liked the idea of pursuing this theme, but with live trees, would this be possible? will the live tree sap content interfere with the transmission of sound?  I needed to find this out before embarking on the project, so off into the wood I go to try it out.

Success, it sounded fantastic and I was really pleased and knew I had a project,  the art for this project though had to be part of a trail for the public and this one most definately wasn't on the trail, Ralph Crispino (Mr I-Park) gave me some options and I walked around looking for the type of trees I could work with on the trail, soon I had discovered enough trees by the pond that had a good collection of different shapes to create an interesting trail of both sound and vision.  I set about my first piece in a trunk with a hollow section at its base, this I thought might act as a sound chamber and bring some of the sound out.

The ear trumpet is placed for personal listening, although the sound chamber works to a degree, the best sound is heard through the trumpet.

For this one and the rest I had to make a number of tuning pegs from some oak, this was two and half days whittlings worth.
I then moved back to what was to be the first tree harp on the trail, this is more subtle and very easy to miss as it hides in the darker shade of the woods.

From here I went to what was to be the last piece on the trail, a lovely shaped branch formation that cried out for stringing, this one I wanted to use two sizes of nylon string, next to each other, replicating the stringing of a twelve string guitar.

 In the light of a Full Moon

This one proved to have the most amazing sound, the longer bass strings produced a wonderful full sound, the ear piece resonated to the strings and the thicker and thinner strings produced a great range of sound.

From here back to the beginning and the second tree harp on the trail, this tree provided me with the greatest range of strings, this enable me to make a harp that could be played with two hands and therefore most resembled a true harp, the sound again was full and it had a terrific range of sound.
It also enjoyed the best shadow of the five.

Ah the final one, and in some way the one I was waiting to do.  Very early on I had decided that I wanted to use stainless steel strings for one or more of the pieces, I read whilst still in England of the use of stainless steel leader fishing wire as a string for aeolian harps, so I went to 'Rivers End' a fishing shop in Old Saybrook with Tom from I-Park and Linda, there was a plethora of goodies set before us and of course they had a great selection of stainless steel leaders, I bought four different sets of packs and knew I would use them, well this was the tree for them and a very different design.
These I spiralled around the trunk of the tree vertically, with sliding bridges for tuning and clearing obstructions.  Oh my what a sound this one had, those metal strings resonating with such glory in the tree, the sound was truly phenomenal and the joy on my face was there for all.  The tree too sang and the branches rubbed together at the top and the tree creaked and groaned, I could hear all this through the ear piece.  This was natures own sound tree.

So those where my 5 pieces for the trail, we had two open days, one for the Friends of I-Park and one for the public, people came and were enthralled by all the work which was of a tremendous quality, truly outstanding.

Our whole project has been filmed and a DVD is being produced, there is talk of a catalogue in the spring and two further public openings, the biennale has been a great success for the both the artists and for I-Park a truly amazing organisation and place I recommend anyone interested in the arts should apply for.  See their website here with details of applications for next years projects: http://www.i-park.org/

I also created a number of hand held ear harps, some for auction others for the joy of making and gifts.

Now of course those of you who looked at my blog last year will remember the creation of the Fibonacci Tree, an instrument I created.  I was asked to give another performance to welcome guests, there happened to be amongst us two truly talented sound artists, Scott Cazan and Carmina Escobar who created a wondrous sound installation here.  I drew on their abilities to help me for the performances and what a good move that was, they made the instrument sing, Carmina is also an opera singer and sang the most wonderful vocals to compliment the sound Scott and I created.  This was a tremendous bonus and I truly hope we can all work together in the future, there was a very good chemistry.

So that is nearly it, just to say a huge thank you to all the staff at I-Park, to all the artist for being brilliant and some great evenings around the fire, singing and drinking and talking and ........
I didn't get Lymes desease this time so even happier.
I will be putting up sounds on soundcloud and a video on you tube at a later date.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Harp in Tree Part Two

A few weeks back I promised I would make a little film with the sound of the tree harp and so today I post this.  The sound is magical and well worth a trip up to heydonhill wood, details from their blog here:  http://heydonhillwood.wordpress.com/10-parishes-festival-2013-a-thousand-feet-up/

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ear Harps

After all that bronze working , they have been safely delivered to Trowbridge and now back to the ear harps.
I finished the small one and made a larger one today.
Whittling in the sunshine preparing for my trip to America next week.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Trowbridge Bronze Beer Caps

Crazy stuff, from making ear trumpets to etching and patinering the bronzes for the Trowbridge Bronze Beer Cap Trail.
After a tricky period where the foundry told me they couldn't cast the finest of the letters in my patterns, to me having to learn how to do bronze etching, a journey which has been fantastic as I have learnt a new skill, and one I  would love to develop. My Silhouette Cameo came into its own, creating the very small and tricky lettering and cutting it in vinyl, hours of painstaking application of vinyl as a resist to the 80 bronzes, placing the bronzes in Ferric Chloride and the wonders of etching, cleaning, and then the use of nitic acid to produce a patination to the finished pieces, and finally wet and drying the surfaces to produce the worn effect I wanted.  I have to also say a huge thank you to Sara for all the hard work she put in and also Billie-Daisy for helping out too.

These are to be set into the paving around a new housing estate in Trowbridge, built by Newlands, and with a public art policy.  The site was the old Ushers Bottling factory hence the beer cap trail.

So to date we have installed, new fencing with a diamond design, individual ceramic numbers for each house, slate diamonds with images, the centenary seats with the text, and now the bronzes, next up tree grill and guards, a terrific project and huge thanks to Tom Sheppard at Newlands and Diana Hatton, the public art consultant for all their help and support.