I have always been a very creative person who has wanted to entertain. I like to wear wild shirts, come up with bizarre birthday gifts, and enjoy listening to theatrical and comedic music (P.D.Q. Bach’s 1712 Overture is a particular favourite!).
It is very rewarding to now be acting on these creative instincts through a bigger project. Recently I have been working on a multitrack music video recording project. That’s a lot of words and it takes some time to piece together. So, as all great projects do, this one started with a friend and a beer.
Late last year I was talking with my friend Ethan McAlister about what we were going to work on over summer after our Bachelor of Music degrees were complete. Ethan talked about composition projects he was working on and how he was going to study at ANU and wanted to expand his recording portfolio. He suggested that I record the Trombone Quartet he had written for me at the start of 2016.
This interested me. I remember asking him to write the piece after hearing the performance of his String Quartet at a Melbourne Conservatorium Composers Concert. From this point onwards, we spent a couple of months workshopping the piece and listening to other pieces of music for inspiration and writing guidelines.
This was such an invaluable process allowing myself and Ethan to discuss and make the piece the best it could be, whilst still being physically possible for trombones. After all, a trombone is quite different to a violin.
After producing the piece, I brought it along to the trombone quartet I was in, The 5th Position Quartet. It interested the other players and so we began working on it. While the music was written in a minimalistic style and the parts were fairly straight forward, the piece built to a huge peak which made playing it a very intense experience.
We floated the idea as a group to record the piece and have it as a recording for both our own and Ethan’s portfolios. However, the piece got put to the side as we all became busier. Then I decided to undertake recording all four parts of the trombone quartet myself.
This would be quite an undertaking on its own. I would need to be competent in playing alto, tenor and bass trombone across the four parts. In addition to this, I would need to make sure I was perfectly in time and in tune with myself to produce the full effect of the piece.
Deciding that producing an audio recording of the work alone would not be enough work, Ethan and I talked about making a music video. We had both previously shared a lot of animated or live music videos for music such as Steven Wilson’s Routine. We both had met Mary, a filmmaker, at a friend’s party in the past and thought she would be interested in the project.
So I began the process of discussing the project with Mary who was keen to be a part of it. I also contacted Tom D’Ath, a friend I knew through the Conservatorium who had started doing a lot of recording work as an audio engineer. I asked him if he would be interested and he was happy to be involved.
From this stage, Tom, Mary and I discussed details of how we would shoot the film and the audio, how the piece would be broken up, when and where we should record, what we should bring as recording session snacks, and what I should wear.
As we took notes and started planning the events to come, I began the process of learning the piece. I then started to record the parts and put them together myself on Garage Band. It was so satisfying to see all the parts start slotting into place.
We have now completed three recording sessions, each about 3 hours long. I have recorded dozens of takes amounting to hours of music and I am very excited to see it coming together, even if we did have to start a recording session at 7 in the morning.
I hope to have Ethan’s piece ‘Admittance of Failure’ edited and mixed together by the start of April and look forward to working with him, Tom and Mary again on future projects.
I have had big ideas like this before and not acted on them, but having started this one I am looking forward to producing more and more. Planning projects you want to do and getting them done is a superb feeling. If you have creative ideas just start working on them, take some notes, talk to other creative people, research things and just do it, because the whole idea of art is to create.
Kit Millais is a trombonist currently studying a Bachelor of Music (Honours) at the University of Melbourne.
Mary McGillivray is a filmmaker currently studying at the University of Melbourne.
Tom D’Ath is a clarinet player and audio recording engineer currently studying a Bachelor of Music at the University of Melbourne.
Ethan Connor McAlister is a composer currently studying a Bachelor of Music (Hons) at the Australian National University.