Wangaratta, 2021

Look at the image in the video and imagine the dog orchestra is playing. Best to use headphones or decent speakers as you listen to the music…

The print was brought at a car boot sale for $10 some years back, I remember it was in Benalla under the council building car park, which is now a library. I was taken by it straight away, what a great image and a bargain too.

Much more recently, I composed the music as a bit of a challenge and fun.

The artist, Boris O’Klein, was born in Moscow in 1893 to French parents. Returning to France at a young age he lived in the Alsace region. After serving in the French army during WWI he moved to Paris where he lived until his death in 1985.

O’Klein was prolific, producing watercolours and prints, colour lithographs and engravings. He is best known for his etchings of dogs getting up to mischief. Most of his work was sold to tourists visiting Paris. Producing prints enabled multiple copies of the one image to be sold over and over again.

I have been a musician much of my life and then, one day in 2018,  I could no longer play guitar. Or harmonica. I couldn’t even walk or talk, yet alone sing as before. My life in music was upended. I had had a stroke due to septic shock and it left me with several dexterity issues. Fine motor skills are really needed for playing guitars and such. What to do?

Well, I was happy to be still alive at least, when after several months I could use a computer well enough, I thought about jumping into to this Midi-composition-computer thing. You can manipulate the notes on the computer, even after they’re played. It was difficult but still possible with my mobility issues.

So with the help of the University of YouTube my new music adventure began.

The music for my Dog Day Afternoon composition is all produced via the computer using a DAW (digital audio workstation) and virtual instruments. These use a technology called Midi. It  enables you to make or play music on computers. Most use a piano style keyboard of some kind to play them.

The sounds have improved a lot over the years and you can get some impressive realistic instruments, many for free. These instruments are made from sampling (recording) the real thing to start with. My piece uses many free instruments, there is a large and generous community out in internet land, happy to share their knowledge and know-how, and their sampled instruments too. Be they some bloke in his shed, or a company that make this sort of thing their business.

Having to source or imagine some of the instruments in the Boris O’Klein painting was a bit of a challenge.

Many depicted are real, some not so.  A cello with six strings? And is that a tuba or a euphonium? A sousaphone would be much bigger than that. It’s a cartoon after all, so a bit of artistic licence was used to get by.

Getting into this kind of music production was never an option for me before. I was aware of Midi and virtual instruments but didn’t want to use that kind of stuff because let’s be honest, I was a bit of a music purist, a folkie-blues snob. I was only happy to make real music with real instruments. I didn’t know much about this type of music production. I’d seen duos that sounded like a whole band using Midi file back up and that was about my knowledge of it.

It’s been about two and a half years in, and I reckon I’m starting to get the hang of it. I now love the technology that enables me to still be creative in music.

This type of music production is now used the world over, commonplace in TV and film. Often with a mix of virtual instruments and real players, depending on a project’s budget.  Even on big epic productions using live orchestras a virtual mock-up is done before the real musicians are recorded. Or it is a hobby, just for fun and a creative life.

Stereo Story #622

Luke Davies at the Stereo Stories concert at the 2017 Write Around The Murray Festival, Albury, New South Wales.

 

More stories by Luke Davies

 

Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band won the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Folk Recording Award 2013 for their album Not A Note Wasted. A Wangaratta musician, Luke joined The Stereo Stories Band after seeing them at the Newport Folk Festival in Melbourne in 2014..