cyber bard, composer, performer and author

The impossible may take a little longer …

Since putting out the call for support at the beginning of October, you lovely people have been amazing! One person offered to put up the money for a new soundcard, another funded a stock of CDs and cases and someone else has offered to pay for the covers. I have also been offered the loan of several bass guitars. Not to mention passing donations, general kindness and people actually buying CDs! Thank you all for your support.

I am by no means out of the woods yet, but I am able to survive and get on with making music for the time being. So I’ve created backing tracks for four songs over the last month Certain Things, Nothing Serious, Who But I? and The End of Words. Only ten more tracks to get started. If I carry on at this rate the album will be finished about Spring Equinox next year!

I have been struggling with the bass parts slightly because my old fretless is not really up to the job, several people have now offered the loan of fretted models, so I all I have to do is play the bass-lines right now. I have several wonderful musicians lined up to add instrumental and vocal parts, it’s all about finding / making time to do it.

Carols for Solstice CDI’m in process of redesigning my CD covers and generally tidying up the contents. I’m planning on doing another run of Carols for Solstice very soon, so get your orders in if you haven’t yet got a copy. I hope to have Charm, Born With Masks and The Isle of The Dead back in stock asap. Once that’s done I will set up some means on buying them on-line – I currently do it via email , but that’s not ideal for everyone. I apologise for the temporary inconvenience – this too shall be remedied asap.

I am also slowly trying to fix some of the website weirdness, thanks for all your feedback. I’ve started fixing the font issues, hopefully the site will look a bit better in your browser and started to tackle the CSS for mobiles and print, so you can print off pages cleanly without a whole load of extraneous guff.

Isle of the DeadI have started blogging about songwriting techniques. It’s something I frequently get asked about, so I thought I’d share my experiences and understanding with a view to possibly leading a course next year. The first article is on the subject of Clichés and how to avoid them. In future articles I intend to look into the rudiments of Melody and Harmony from a modal perspective to try and answer the question of How do you find the right notes?, setting words to music, rhythm and possibly a 101 on how to read music. What would you like to know more about on the songwriting front? Let me know.

tim
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Clichés – avoid them like the plague!

You’ve just sat up half the night fine-tuning and agonising over your latest lyrical piece de resistance, but reading it back in the cold light of day you discover that what your previous night’s magical inspiration reads roughly like this:

Your love is like a platitude …

I Love you and you love me,
Love is forever, can’t you see?
Call on me, I’m down on my knees,
Together babe we can be free.

Like the rain on a mountain top,
My love for you will never stop.
I know I’ll be rambling for years
With nothing but my fears and lonely tears.

I think of you each lonely night
My angel of the starlight.
How I cried with foolish pride
Without you there beside my side.

I saw you walking down the street
Hoping that one day we’d meet;
When you walked into the room
You picked me up out of the gloom.

You said you would be my wife
When you came into my life.
All that we have left is strife;
Cold as ice, cuts like a knife.

I want you, I need you, I love you;
Hold me close, my dream come true.
We used to make love all night long
And feel our hearts beating as one.

You looked at me with eyes of fire,
And told sweet lies of love’s desire,
You ripped apart my broken heart
And now I don’t know where to start.

I’ll be riding out of Georgia
With that railtrack on my mind,
Gambling with the queen of hearts
Coz you know love is blind.

Believe in love and feel the pain.
Baby take me back again.
We could be much more than friends;
Keep it real, don’t let it end.

You know I’m lost without you
After all that we’ve been through.
Let’s get together and be one;
We should be having fun in the sun.

Ooh babe, all my love is more than words can say …
Ooh babe, I believe in you …

If that sounds like one of your songs, you need help. If you think that sounds like a perfectly good lyric, you’re in serious trouble. You also need to get a life and move to a different state.

The world is full of drunk and depressing Country and Western ballads; songs about how great it is to rock’n’roll or whatever it is you like to put your hands in the air and shake your thing to; or how emotionally disturbed or rich and famous you pretend to be. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to edit your work.

When you’re writing new material, you don’t need your internal editor to get in the way. We all tend to go for rather obvious rhymes when we’re first downloading a lyric from the ethers. That’s fine. The trick is to go over it afterwards with a critical eye and do something about the bloopers.

What is a cliché?

Some well used clichesA cliché is anything that has been overused, recycled too many times or done to death. It is stereotypical or banal. The first time someone used the line it was genius, but that was in thirteen-canteen – now it just sounds lazy and insincere. Many proverbs, aphorisms and popular turns of phrase come into this category. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, occasionally they can be appropriate, but rarely are they a master stroke of song-fu.

Generally, it is wise to avoid writing about:

Combinations of weather, elements and geographical features: rain, storms, clouds, snow; mountains, rivers, valleys, streams, oceans, and so on. Crossing or climbing one or more of these to get to your love-object. Love being deeper than the ocean, higher than the sky or whatever. Comparing their body parts to beautiful things in nature. Any reference to angels or hearts. Travelling or rambling from town to town. Either in a train or car with your baby, or alone, searching for, or running away from your baby. Use of the word baby. Gambling. Rolling of the dice in any way, shape, or form. Ace of spades, queen of hearts, shooting crap. Weapons: usually guns or knives. Anything about how heart wrenching it is when they leave and perhaps take some part of you away when they go and so on and such forth.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: River Deep, Mountain High, Walk On By, Whole Lotta Love, War Pigs, Highway Star songs like that are classics!?! Sure, but they’ve been done. That lamp-post has been pissed on by every dog in town. Your task is to think of something better, different or funnier.

How to avoid clichés

The first great tip is: get clear what your song is actually about. Know what you’re trying to say. Rip out any lines that don’t make sense or add to the emotional build-up.

Authenticity

The best way to avoid clichés is to write from your own personal experience with as much specific detail as possible. Don’t just hold your lover’s hand, stroke their nervous fingers with your awkward shaking palms. Or something better than that. Authenticity cannot be bought or learned; it is more about what you don’t do than what you do. Sure, write from the heart, but write about what you know. Real life often juxtaposes ideas and events in a way that you would rarely imagine. Ruth is much stranger than Richard.

Reversal

Elvis Costello revitalised tired old aphorisms by turning them round on themselves: A death worse than fate, Your mouth is made up but your mind is undone. Diane Warren turned round a worn-out phrase and wrote Unbreak My Heart. Talking Heads turned round the entire concept of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi in (Nothing But) Flowers. The trick is to think of it first.

Find a new angle

The Author, trying to avoid a cliché and failing.

Say you want to write about an event that occurred at night. You just happened to be in Georgia and it was actually raining. And you really were headed for San Fran with a floral hair-do. You are going to have to approach this from a different angle if you don’t want to labelled as a lyrical lamer. Try writing it from someone else’s point of view. Relocate the action. Placing a well-worn concept into a new context or juxtaposing it with other familiar themes can often rehydrate those stale old chestnuts.

Learn to use a thesaurus

Songs written using a thesaurus or rhyming dictionary can often sound mechanical and contrived, but if your heart-felt sentiment has just come out sounding like Phil Collins or The Black Eyed Peas, get a thesaurus and find some different words that say the same thing. It’s good practice to avoid repeating words – the above example repeats the word lonely in close succession. As well as criminally over-using love and heart. Find an alternative.

It doesn’t have to rhyme

Or scan for that matter. Lyrics with monotonous rhythms and rhyming patterns tend to sound trite whatever you do. This is often exacerbated by using bad grammar or street slang in order to make the line fit. Let the melody do the work. Setting up the expectation of a rhyme and then failing to fulfil it can have great comic and dramatic effect. Try using an odd number of syllables, learn about assonance, alliteration and internal rhymes. Try cutting it into pieces and rearranging them. Alternatively, rewrite the whole thing as prose the way you would say it. Or the way someone witty and clever would say it.

Be genre-savvy

Listen to classic songs within the genre. Make a note of what is considered great and what is generally reckoned to be awful. Bear in mind there is such a thing as so-bad-it’s-good, the prime example of which is MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb. This is actually a classic, but you’re probably not going to get away with it. If Bob Dylan used the line, you must not. Not even as a quote – don’t do it, think of something else, try to think of another way to say the same thing.

Break the rules

Never listen to advice. It’s your song. If you write from the heart, put some effort into your choice of words and then sing it like you really mean it, you will probably get away with it. You may even end up composing a classic – great songs have been known to just download themselves from the ethers if you get yourself out of the way enough. That said, most people have to work at it to a greater or lesser extent.

Happy songwriting!

Summer festival report

July saw a major and rather sudden reshuffle of the Archetypes line-up – the usual interpersonal band relationship stuff, if I’m honest, probably mostly my fault and I accidentally ended up sacking half the band. Whoops. And we had festival dates lined up for the next two weekends. Double whoops.

Mercury went direct on the 20th and Jim Viz got in touch, enquiring about the possibility of playing at the Green Gathering. Synchronicitously, Nick Harrison had reappeared out of nowhere (well obviously he thought he was somewhere) and offered his services, so I messaged him back to say yeah we needed a drummer, despite the fact that I didn’t know whether I actually had a band at that point. I knew Will Greenwood was going to be at Kozfest – the first date, so I asked him if he would be prepared to sit in on guitar. Suddenly we had a band (in theory) comprised of ex-Invisible Opera members. Interesting. We had never quite all played in the same line-up together and that was at least ten years ago, oh, and there was no time to rehearse. Brilliant. So we picked half a dozen songs that we thought we could all remember and found ourselves on stage together again. Four and in then? said Nick from behind the drums … and so it began.

Kozfest was gorgeous, wall-to-wall space rock and psychedelia, I loved it. I haven’t danced so much at a festival for years. Jim and I made guest appearances with the actual Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, which was suitably wild. Ron Tree‘s Sunday morning set was an experience I’m glad I lived through, for completely different reasons! It’s fascinating to have real-life experiences with people you’ve got to know through online social networks and make new friends in the process, the Kozfest crowd are real gems with exquisite flaws! Shine on! And hopefully see you next year.

We repeated the trick on the Triban stage at the Green Gathering with Laura Iseley joining us on vocals. The Green Gathering is on one of the most beautiful festival sites I’ve seen, lots of mature trees, a slightly creepy ruined house, oh, and a racecourse next door. It is the one festival I put myself out for every year, because I love it and believe in it. We play for minimal expenses and actually made a loss this year but WTF it’s worth it just to get to play with wonderful musicians like Feliks Tabis as Jim and I did on Sunday evening on the Floating Lotus stage.

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Next I did a shamanic retreat for a week. I’m not going to go into details because much of what happened was deeply personal, but I did get to experiment with story-telling around the fire, in fact I told the whole of Math ap Mathonwy from memory, which I don’t think is bad going. I came out of the week with a very clear vision of the role of the bard in public ceremonies and the idea of creating a portable bardic lodge to take to festivals. So that was nice.

1236512_10151877493897755_1846060068_nIn the last week of August I travelled down to Wadebridge for Cornwall Folk, where I did a couple of solo shows in the acoustic tent. I also got to see Wizz Jones, who I’ve been raving about to anyone who will listen ever since. He really attacks the guitar, getting every ounce of musical juice out it and sings like a bird. And he played The King of Rome. Other highlights included Dalla, Mike O’Connor and Barabara GriggsReturn to Lyonesse and Pete Berryman. While I was there I learned some more Cornish dances, found a couple of people to exchange some words of Kernewek with and spent some quality time at Folk Towers. Hurrah!

Then when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any more fun Laura and I went to Rest Fest. It did for me what it said on the tin. Really nice intimate gathering. I love festivals that are small enough that you can actually meet people and have proper conversations. My highlight was another Sunday morning performance by a young band from St Albans called Know Your Hill, they are delightfully odd. I did a laughter yoga workshop and totally ‘got’ it. No really, laughter yoga showed me the way! So I’m adding that to my somewhat irregular workout routine.

The downside: sorry to go on about this, but basically the summer left me personally over 200 quid down, which has really messed up my finances. I understand fully that most of the events we want to support don’t have big budgets, but we are going to have to ask for realistic expenses next year. This is ultimately what has pushed me to start blogging. I really want to be able to do these small intimate gatherings and make my music freely available to all who wish to listen, so I need to work out the cash-flow equation so I can still afford to pay the rent when I get home. Answers on postcard

Wishlist

This is my current wishlist – I don’t want for much do I? It’s a bit sketchy at the moment but I’ll fill in details as we go on. Suggestions of specific models & makes welcome, please comment below. If you can loan or gift anything on this list please use the contact form and let me know how you would like to be credited on my list of Benefactors. You will be listed on this site and the album cover and receive at least one free copy when it comes out. Thank you for engaging in this process! In the meantime, please help yourself to some Free Music.

Prioritised in order of urgency (examples in brackets)

Live

Bass Amp – Ampeg Micro-VR Head + SVT210AV Cab
Decent guitar pickup – Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking pickup
Effects Unit
Vocal PA

We are also looking for a van driver / technician with a suitable vehicle to join the band.

Recording

Effects Units (Lexicon Reverb, Valve compressors)
Headphone splitter
Additional headphones
Additional microphones

You said I should be myself …

I think that neatly sums up both the problem and the potential solution. I’ve spent the last week ( / all my life ) being music obsessed. I can’t really do anything else; ok, I’m quite good with computers and designing websites and all that, but ultimately I love melody and everything that goes with it. The trouble is that the financial equation doesn’t work, in theory it should but in practice busking keeps me alive. I live hand to mouth and have absolutely no capital to invest in turning what I do into a sensible business. I so am not a businessperson.

People have different definitions of skintness, for some it means only one holiday this year, or we might have to think about selling the boat; for me it means not having enough money to buy an onion or packet of Rizlas. We all have our own levels and definitions.

So the Elephant In The Room is Where can I get hold of your album?. Tricky question to answer that. It is closely followed by well, have you got anything on youtube then?. It would almost be better if I just answered No, but even that isn’t true.

So this blog is the next stage in the process to rectify that. Answers to these questions and more will come if you continue reading. Yes, of course I’m teasing you, fun isn’t it?

I have blagged a multi-track recording device and a decent microphone (Don’t ask me for technical details, they are not my concern) and I have started work recording a second busking album, which will contain acoustic guitar and vocal versions of all the songs not included on Charm. So far I have put down versions of Certain Things, Maro eo ma Mestrez (beautifully sad trad Breton tune), Robb Johnson’s Overnight and Who But I? that I am happy with. So that leaves another 16 tracks to complete.

Beyond that I have a huge backlog of material, involving collaborations with various musical allies and several bands that all needs recording, releasing and getting out there. So here’s the crunch: I need your help and support. This could be anything from Marketing, Agenting, Publishing or business advice to pre-ordering albums, loaning / gifting equipment, shooting a video, cooking me dinner or passing on a spare packet of Rizlas. Or you could have a go on the Donate button on the right –>

Over the coming weeks I will be putting together a wishlist (because I expect you have more important things to focus your psychic powers on) and I will also be compiling a ‘Benefactors’ list, which some of you are already on – although I might call it something a bit more imaginative (suggestions please) – so please let me know how you would like to be credited or not.

That’s probably enough for one post. So here’s to transforming being a spaced-out penniless musician into a coherent business model. This approach is all Amanda Palmer‘s fault. She does stuff like this:

Carols for Solstice

Carols for Solstice CD
£10 incl. P&P
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Track listing

  1. Welcum Yule
  2. The Carol of the Unconquered Sun
  3. Zummerzet Wassail
  4. The Greensleeves Carol
  5. Merry Gentlemen
  6. Midwinters Day
  7. Green Growth the Holly
  8. The Holly and the Ivy
  9. The Best of Trees
  10. The Grail Carol
  11. Patapan

This is a selection of restored solstice carols recorded at the Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury, November 1997. These are not personal versions or parodies but restorations of the carols back to what might have been their original versions; Pagan Fertility Dance Songs. We’re still looking for the dances to go with them.

Our modern day carols probably evolved from a tradition of pre-Christian sung fertility dances, which is believed to have survived up to the 14th Century in this country. The dances are believed to have been similar in format to the branle (pronounced brawl) – Old French circle dances and Breton – style Andro or processional line dances.

There are lurid tales of debauched revelry and huge processions dancing from town to town, often lead by a naked woman. These would almost certainly be connected to the Germano – Celtic rite of Yule on winter solstice, celebrated as Saturnalia by the Romans. The Wassails come from a distinct Anglo-Saxon tradition, also connected with fertility. “Waes Heil” means good health.

Many of these versions are the work of Norman Iles, to whom I am indebted, for his lifetime’s work in searching out and restoring these songs and many others to their original meaning and form. My work has merely been to try to create performable versions of these tunes and add to the growing, living folk tradition of which we are all a very important part.

Listen here: http://soundcloud.com/timflatus/sets/carols-for-solstice/
Download here: http://timhawthorn.bandcamp.com/album/carols-for-solstice

Charm

Charm CD
£10 incl. P&P
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Track listing

  1. She Who Makes The World Go Round
  2. Certain Things
  3. Nothing Serious
  4. Stars
  5. Magpie
  6. Fatherless Sons
  7. Mrs Unobtainable
  8. Cry For Me
  9. All Or Nothing
  10. White Wing
  11. With A Smile
  12. White Horse
  13. The Ravens Of War
  14. Lowlands
  15. No Trouble
  16. Dirty Water
  17. Another Beginning

Original guitar and vocal studio album featuring many new songs and some acoustic re-workings of old favourites. All original compositions except Lowlands, which is a trad sea shanty AFAIK.

Listen here: Soundcloud

Born with Masks

… and bred to lie …
Born With Masks CD
£10 incl. P&P
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Tracklist

  1. Mayday
  2. Mad Mary
  3. Name
  4. Alison
  5. Sleepy Town
  6. Ten Past Eight 4:32
  7. When the Sky falls in
  8. Snaggeroo
  9. Jealousy
  10. Nervous
  11. White Horse
  12. Hollow Hills
  13. Closed (Part I)
  14. Fashion
  15. I Want More
  16. Avocado Girl 4:06
  17. Tibetan Love
  18. Blown me Away
  19. Call it a Day (bonus)

TRT (?:??)

Collection of early demos from the early 90s

Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead
£10 incl. P&P
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Tracklist

  1. She called this place Avalon (Closed part 2) 9:06
  2. Hermaphrodite 10:29
  3. Generate 2:59
  4. Victory (Like being on the shores of ecstasy) 7:46
  5. Beauty (The Big Walkers) 3:42
  6. Obedience (Law of Netjer) 3:33
  7. Severity (Vitriol) 2:00
  8. Amnesia (Xotzolotl / Snow Piece) 14:32
  9. GoldFish (A Shaman’s Death) 5:11
  10. Destiny’s Natural Amusement 20:23

TRT (79:41)

The Isle of the Dead is the soundtrack to the Avalonian Book of the Dead. Originally released in 1992 as part of a performance piece on the subject of death and dying, the material was remixed and remastered in 2000, including some previously unreleased material.

The pieces are based on Matthew (Dr Strange) Sleigh‘s word collages, which represented the pages of the Book of the Dead. The album follows the journey of the soul from the point of death to its dissolution into the limitless divine light.

The material was originally recorded on 4-track cassette tape at some point in 1991. The whole collection was remixed in September 2000 including radical reworkings of tracks 1,6 & 9 introducing some previously unreleased material. The whole piece was finally digitally remastered with JAMin on 23rd September 2004.

Although the greatest of efforts have been taken in the presentation of this material, there is a certain amount of noise, hiss and random clicks, the removal of which would have destroyed the integrity and ambience of the original music. It is a great pleasure to be able to present the piece in its entirity in its current form. Thanks to all who have helped along the way.

Musicians

  • Treppur Slim: 3 & 4 Lead Guitar
  • Greg “Willow” Seeger: 1 Drum kit 2 Percussion and Acoustic guitar
  • Stevie Potier: 1 Lead Guitar
  • Moses Kingsbury: 1 Trumpet
  • Adrian Hopper: 1 Sax
  • Matthew Sleigh: 7 drum programming
  • Claire Jones: additional vocals

Reading the ‘Avalonian Book of the Dead’: Sally PullingerDr. StrangeClaire JonesLissy FreewomanCharley Barley & tim hall.

Additional material

Lowlands – traditional
Jerusalem – Hubert Parry
excerpt from Nick Harrison‘s 1973 version
She moved through the Fair – trad.
Death March – Chopin
Dig my Grave – traditional

Original concept for The Avalonian Book of the Dead – Matthew Sleigh.
Theological corrections and spiritual guidance – Rev. Boris Gestetner.

Music & Arrangements except where otherwise stated – tim hall


Original introduction to:

The Avalonian Book of the Dead

The Avalonian Book of the Dead is a mystical text, which was found imprinted, as the result of psychoradioactive forces, on the inside of a brown paper wrapper. The paper had been used to parcel up the legendary Holy Grail. the strange glyphs and jumbled text, which appear to bear a direct relationship to 20th Century English, have fascinated scholars and antiquarians for centuries. The original is now preserved in a vacuum sealed hyper-frame at the Avalonian National Museum of Theological Artefacts, which recently celebrated its 529th anniversary with a special exhibition featuring large-scale facsimiles of the eleven imprinted sections or pages, of the book itself.

The Book is called the Book of the Dead because of its apparent similarity in theme and overall structure to the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead. Interpretations vary widely, however; some commentators believe it to be the rules for a highly complex board game, and at least one has suggested that it is a blueprint for Creation, which malfunctioned and had to be replaced by a better model.

There have also been arguments concerning the origins of the Book, some claiming it to be a 23rd century forgery, created to raise flagging interest in the New Age Jerusalem of Glastonbury, which relied for its income on pilgrims and tourists. The first stories of miracles connected with the Book date from a time of economic crisis when the 10th generation hippies, who then inhabited the town, were to have their hereditary unemployment benefit cut off.

This theory may contain some truth, but it does not reduce the interest of the book itself to the general reader. The authenticity of the Reverend Boris Gestetner, founder of the Museum in 1986 and according to legend the discoverer of the Avalonian Book of the Dead, can be verified. His name appears in the court rolls for Shepton Mallet in the year 1991, when he was arraigned before the Justices for not paying his Poll Tax. It is said that his journey to the East, and his subsequent life devoted entirely to contemplative prayer, were both motivated partly by his desire to avoid the infamous Community Charge.

The text that accompanies the book is the story of the Book’s discovery by the Reverend Boris Gestetner. The story was preserved by the immortalist Edgar Bone, who died in a tragic teleportation accident at the age of 602. His effects included the present manuscript, which has been specially edited for inclusion in this volume. It is presented simply as the Reverend Boris Gestetner’s own words.

William B. Gestetner, Glastonbury, Avalonia, 23rd September 2525

Tim Hawthorn and The Archetypes to record new album!

archetypes20110319_1Tim’s long awaited solo album, tentatively titled Origami of the Soul is planned to start recording this autumn. Rehearsals with The Archetypes are going well with drummer Lydia Lyte, Bassplayer Amber Moon and guitarist Phil Stretch firmly in the saddle, bringing a much rockier edge to the line-up. Vocally Oshia DruryLaura Iseley and Dreow Bennet provide rich harmonies to complement tim’s melodies.

Archetypes Green Gathering 2012The only thing holding us back now, is basically money. I’m working on a plan to fund the necessary equipment so I can record and produce it myself, more about this soon. If you’d be interested in helping to fund this next album or pre-ordering a copy, contact me via this website and I’ll send you the details once I’ve figured it all out. You can also make small donations immediately using the Donate button on the left.