Work in Progress – FMP

Monday 22nd April

This week further work on WiP#11 and WiP#12 has continued. A student – led catch up webinar on Friday confirmed my own thoughts about no.12: it really isn’t in keeping with any of my other work. Comments about this piece were sparse! So many hours were spent on this piece, from the initial photographs and scans, their printing, cutting, collaging, wire bending and painting – but the time spent on work goes little way in contributing to the overall meaning to the piece. And my images do have meaning – they may be abstract but music, music-makers, building, colour, shape and form are all integral to my work being defined for what it is – and somehow in amongst all its busyness, WiP#12 loses its identity.

However, this piece is not going to be lost – instead my current plan is to adapt it. As it stands it’s a physical collage – the photograph of it will now form the background for a digital montage. Work has started but it’s in its infancy.

Very much on my mind is the title of this body of work. I wish to have something that is stand-alone (ie not mentioning NMPAT). The reasoning here is to allow for the possibility of the work being shown elsewhere, afterwards – for an audience which is not associated with Northamptonshire’s music service. As it progresses the influence of the Bauhaus becomes more apparent and so it seems fitting to make some connection between its centenary and the 50th anniversary of NMPAT. It struck me that just as it was starting in 1969, the Bauhaus had its 50th anniversary. So some kind of interplay between the numbers 50 and 100 is a possibility. Half time, halved the time, time halved are initial ideas but probably not quite right yet. (Time, as a musical element seems apt too).

Sunday 14th April

Over the last fortnight I have been working on three pieces:

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WiP #10

I lost track of how many hours / days the above image took to make! the background is the ceiling of one of the large NMPAT halls (beige in reality). Presently I am happy with the way it’s turned out (after erasing ‘turn page’ which I had placed near the top right and looked out of place).

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WiP #11

WiP #11 is not finished, the centre has still to be worked on. The background is a blue blind from one of the rooms, towards the top it is lighter as the sun peeped through. This piece has both the inside and the outside visible, and again shows the ‘fabric’ of the building. The part that I’m not sure about is the three stars to the bottom right. Its purpose is to include and therefore represent the pre-school section of the building so it has a reason which is not necessarily aesthetic.

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WiP#12

In an effort to create a piece with movement, I spent the first week of the Easter school holiday creating the physical collage (as opposed to digital) WiP12. Instead of making C-type prints I printed the archive images on fine art archival paper, to give them greater authenticity. Starting with the scroll as the central piece I cut manuscript paper to the shape of the shadows, cut it out and slightly rolled the paper to give the impression of a scroll.

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For this piece I included a few photos from the archive. The oldest ones were undated. To the bottom left of the finished work is the image shown below, which I cut out and folded as the original would have been in its card folder. Sticking the back to the work, the sides folded forwards – I then stuck a small mirror to the left fold. Mirroring was a playful technique I used in Informing Contexts in order to create repetition or illusion. In this case it mirrored aspects of the work in situ. Just to the left of it can be seen part of Martin Chateris’  signature – as the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary in 1969 he wrote to the leader of the new Music School.

photo from the archives (left), and letter from Martin Chateris (right)

 

The third method of introducing movement was to use wire to create musical shapes and words. The words ‘Not just a building’ taken from a document scan of an early programme note seemed appropriate and poignant:

 

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Also included in the collage were two stencils I made from photos I had taken. In one case the stencil was painted, and in the other I used it to make a wire shape of the tubular bells pedal. Images below show the work in progress:

 

 

Once the piece was finished I hung it up outside so that I could photograph it in natural light.

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The final stage was to crop it to remove the brick.

Currently I am leaving the work alone for a while – I’ll return to it and assess its success at a later date.

Meetings

On the 1st April I had an after work meeting with the CE of NMPAT to show him my work so far. I took with me the art book (as per the video on the 31st March blog entry). He was enthusiastic about the work and was able to identify most abstract parts of images that even I had forgotten what their source was! At the end of the viewing we discussed how the work would be exhibited; and he confirmed an earlier suggestion that the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton during the Gala weekend of July 2nd-3rd would be ideal. For me this would be a huge opportunity (especially as it’s my first live exhibition); as the audience over the weekend is potentially huge with the large alumni orchestra performing on the Saturday night. We left it that he would consider who the best person at the Derngate would be to contact.

The following day we had a FMP group crit –  and with only two students present  we had more time to talk and get critical feedback from the tutor. It was the first time she had seen any of my FMP work and it had a positive reception. Mentioning the idea of diptychs, she thought this was a good idea and mentioned a few pieces that would work well together: an original photograph next to a collage, looking at the way colours and symmetry worked together. Although she wasn’t sure how many pieces we needed to submit for FMP, she felt that ten sets of two would be a good number. Reassuringly, she thought I had four or five sets already; and that it was looking like a really strong set of images. Another strength was to see the fabric of the building, and in particular the ‘door / glass panel on white’.

Her suggestion was to get a set of ten and then start to sequence, by printing out on plain paper, place on the floor (look downwards) and see what works with what. Then do the same thing on a wall, and look at them from different angles.  Time wise, she thought mid-May would be the time to stop creating new work and start the sequencing process, and that this would be a good time to contact her if I wanted her opinion on my work.

On the 8th April I returned to NMPAT to re-shoot some of the archives. (Previously I had scanned documents and now, following recent conversations with tutors, I wanted archival images as photographs rather than scans. On arrival, I carried some of the archives back down the Victorian staircase into a well-lit room, where I set up a mini-studio. Knowing that inside lighting is not one of my strengths I made sure to shoot in RAW so that I could adjust white balance later. Whilst there the CE  introduced me to a colleague whose role is fundraising – as the person who would liaise with the Derngate re me showing my work there during the Gala weekend. She asked me for details regarding output / size etc, although at this stage it really is too early for me to be precise. I anticipate there being around 20 images, of A3 size.

On the 9th April I had another 1:1 with my online tutor. She was less convinced by the idea of diptychs as each piece works as a stand – alone. Instead, she thought I could look at ways of displaying it, for example as a sculpture installation or hanging a mobile in front of it – to give the pieces movement. We discussed use of wire, tracing shapes, laser jet printing, paint and stencils. She recommended that I look at the earlier work of Sara VanDerBeek and Alexander Calder.

Points that I have taken from all of the above are:

  • Be receptive to new ideas, whilst maintaining my own focus and identity
  • Stand up for my work and be able to justify the choices I make

Sunday 31st March

This is a mock up (not a dummy book), of my work in progress to take to my meeting at NMPAT tomorrow. I’m happy with my larger pieces and most of the square pieces too. The archive scans aren’t working as they are, I need to revisit and rephotograph, perhaps use a camera intead of a scanner. For now I have placed them in the mock up, more to demonstrate how images might be exhibited alongside each other, thinking about colour schemes as well as shape and form. Before placing the images in the book I spent quite some time over the last few days placing them in different orders, working out the edit:

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Also this week the images themselves have been developed…

 

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WiP #9. New work, with an emphasis on palimpsest.

 

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WiP #5. Updated.

Not being happy with the print I sharpened up the bottom of the white hook, and added more percussion; as well as ‘acciaccaturas’ to the right of the image. It’s also been cropped a little.

 

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WiP #7. Updated.

Introducing the triplet in the centre, archival fragments and other photographs taken on site.

WiP #6 continues to spark debate, with it appealing to some people I’ve shown it to, and not others. I am able to give reasons for all of my choices in this image so for now it’s still one to include. However I may crop it more tightly.

On Wednesday I was fortunate to be able to have a 1:1 with our Module leader, as I have been unable to make any of her lunch time group critiques. Points made:

a) Continue to look at the work of Sophie Calle and Sara Davidmann, particularly their use of the archive

b)  Consider presenting work in diptychs or triptychs – eg, on of my images with an archival photograph

c)  Make sure I know what I am trying to say and how to say it

d)  Keep it simple – don’t over-design (don’t put everything into one image)

e)  How will all my images work together?

f)  There is a Victoria Forrest workshop coming up in June, I will have to apply (once it’s been announced).  Application via pdf

g)  Audio – could work on my website (test it out here)

h)  Look at typology

i)  HEART

Monday 25th March…Putting previous work into context

As I work through this FMP I see more and more just how much previous modules have influenced my practcice; starting with the old appropriated postcards in Positions and Practice, the way I destructed and collaged them, and looked at the work of Hannah Hoch, John Steizeger and the Dada movement. In Informing Contexts I used vintage found photographs –  cutting and placing them inside vintage cameras to re-photograph them in a different context. In Surfaces and Strategies I moved to the family album (again vintage). I considered surrealist art work as well as different methods of experimentation including a book dummy (something which I have found myself doing again this week). That module brought me to different strategies, filling in gaps in the family album with my own, including some self portraits. Finally, Sustainable Prospects was again based on a found vintage photo album, with collaborative geneology research informing my work as I again replaced missing photographs with my own. However this time macro work was also included as I looked closely at the tears and damage to the pages themselves.

To summise, all of my MA Work in Progress to date has included collage of some kind, with latter work also including myself within the image (eg the self portraits). Additionally archival material and research has been integral to my practice throughout the course. In this FMP module collage remains central to the work alongside archive research. Although there will be no self portraits this time, my intention to include audio with the images means that there will be an opportunity for me to use my own voice in amongst the voices of others. The audio in itself will be a collage of sorts as archival records will be read, dissected, layered and rearranged. The decision to have music as the foundation for this work comes from discussions with an online tutor in a previous module who always thought this would be a good way to go. Seeing the potential for a relevant and exciting project this summer, I was enthusiastic about beginning it. As if coming full circle I have found myself going back to the Dada artists as well as Bauhaus and just recently the work of Malevich.

Last Tuesday I had a 1:1 tutorial flowed by a group critique. Both were beneficial, enabling me to think along different lines, confirmation of what was going well and what wasn’t. As it happens, both tutors had different ideas (as would be expected), this time they were quite radically opposing. There are no complaints from me in this respect, it’s invaluable to get as many different professional opinions, insights and expertise as possible.

My online tutor and I discussed titles for the pieces, reflecting on the work I’ve been looking at of Kandinsky’s I noted that he tended to use letters and numbers as titles. Other thoughts included musical textures, musical expressions, Italian terms, ‘borrowing’ or appropriating a title, and language used on musical scores. Consequently I continue to give this much thought, looking at some of the scores I scanned at NMAPT and refreshing my memory on Italian (and German) terms.  As yet there are no answers but it’s an ongoing issue.

We also looked at my Work in Progress, there appeared to be quite a lot of positivity about how the work was looking, with the exception of WiP #6 which I thought to be stronger than it is.  With dark green as the background colour, I had read about Kandinsky’s thoughts on different shades of green and related it to a ‘pastoral’ (countryside) shade rather than his ‘sickly’ green. However my tutor was not convinced by the colour, explainingt hat it can sometimes be associated with evil, and this, coupled with some of the objects in the image (the fabric blind) gave it a sinister look. Clearly this needs rectifying and so since then I’ve been working on alternative ways to present the central structure – which in itself I wish to keep as I used a painting by Moholy-Nagy as inspiration for it.

We talked about the negative space in some of the images, but this is something that I am well aware of and have plans to fill – none of the images are yet complete. She also suggested that I consider using repetition.

In my evening critique discussion, the tutor was very enthusiastic about WiP #2 , particularly the subtle use of text in the background. The reference to Germany and the collage made him think of Hannah Hoch too. He suggested that I do more of this type of work and that I could implant political comments within the text (to do with the recent and ongoing demise of music education). Although I responded favourably to this idea and could imagine me doing this, I have decided that now is not the right time as it would be at direct odds with the celebratory aspect of the work. Having two versions – one for the exhibition and another one was one suggestion but realistically time is going to be too much of a pressure for me. It is definitely something I could and may well consider in the future though in my collage work.

This week I have put a lot of hours into my practical work in preparation for my meeting with the Chief Executive of NMPAT next week. Each collage image takes a good deal of time and I’m consious that I need to have enough to show. As I intend to also show some unedited photographs in my e-photobook I chose and printed number of them, and am in the process of editing the order that they could be placed within the photobook. This has led my thought process in a different direction which is to consider having three slim books within a folder. The three books would comprise of a) the original photographs b) the resultant images I make, and c) scans of original archival documents. If not three separate books, then three chapters. Today I was listening to a documentary about Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and was reminded that ‘A Day in the Life’ is a fusion of two separate songs, one by Lennon and the other by McCartney.  The middle McCartney section is hugely different in style to the outer Lennon sections and has given me the idea of having the middle book or chapter being the one which is more dissonant to the other two, as per the abc above.

Meanwhile I’ve been working on WiP #5. Featuring percussion instruments there is an emphasis on pedal notes (the duality of pedal of an instrument as well as pedal meaning repeated note). The two smaller lilac shapes to the right are also supposed to represent notation. Still more is needed in this image.

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WiP #5

I contine to work on WiP #1, not quite enough to show it again here yet. Over the weekend the collage below was put together, printing, cutting and sticking pieces of scanned documents – although I haven’t decided on a plan for this yet:

 

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WiP #8

Sunday 17th March

This week I have spent a ot more time than usual working on one piece; adding to my #WiP 2. The works is coming together as I read more about the Bauhaus, and especially examine the structure of the piece below by Kandinsky.  This image of mine is very much work in progress – there’s still more to add. Interestingly, as I add Kandinsky’s painting below, I notice the title – Violet.  Although the colour in the centre of the wheel it is almost missed due to the abundant detailed form especially to its right. He talks about this colour, describing it as the ‘passive element of the blue in red‘ (p36). Conversely I would describe violet as the passive element of the red in blue. He talks about blue as ‘concentric’ moving in on itself, ‘draws away from the spectator’, while yellow spreads out in an excentric motion towards the spectator.. Red is a motion within itself, inbetween yellow and blue (p36). Looking at my image here, there is a strong emphasis on red / orange / yellow; Kandinsky might describe it as an excentric movement towards the spectator. What, then, of the green on the right? He describes green as ‘motionless…restful…passive’ (p38). Is this problematic for the image? I don’t think so, as the eye, when drawn to that section can be still – most movement is to its left, as if being repelled from it. However this does need more careful consideration.

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WiP #2

Kandinsky

Fig. 4: Kandinsky, 1923. Violet, colour lithograph

Tuesday 12th March

As I still try to find my way with the types of final images I want to create, I find myself having more new ideas. Naturally, but frustratingly these ideas evolve slowly as my work develops.

As the organisation’s first concert was held in 1969 at the school that I work in, I thought it would be a clever idea to check the school’s own archives to see if there was any record of it. Knowing that there was a room of archives (I had used them for the school’s 60th anniversary celebrations); my discovery today that the archives have since been disposed of was considerably shocking.

Another route I will follow is whether I can soiurce any artefacts from the stage itself, which having been intitu since the 1950s is going to be ripped out later this year to make room for a largher dining hall. The irony of this happening in 2019 coinciding with 50 years since the 1st NMAPT concert was held there is stark. So as there are no archives perhaps there is a possibility of me obtaining a small part of the stage (it has wooden flooring, stage curtains etc)  to use as a prop or installation with my work. Of course this will depend on timing, as yet the date for the removal of the stage hasn’t been announced. Either way I will take photos of the stage, to potentially include in my exhibition. I’m also planning to print some of my archival scans from NMPAT and include these as exhibits.

Audio is an almost definite for me now, and I’m making plans on how this would work. Peripatetic teachers that visit my school could be recorded reading quotes from NMPAT’s archives on the stage; and also I would record sounds from within the NMPAT building itself. Fragments of these recordings would be mixed with fragments from CDS of summer tours. In this way, the audio would be a type of collage in the same way that my images are.

This past week I’ve carried on experimenting with image – making. As before, they are all in their early stages.

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WiP #7

This one is unsuccesful, colour-wise. I liken it to Kandinsky’s description of ‘sickly green’.

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WiP #5

WiP #5  has potential, a new colour needs introducing on the right; and whilst the original intention was to keep the shapes ‘soft’, I now think that including an object with a harder edge should be considered.

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WiP #6

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Fig 3: Moholy-Nagy, 1923. Z IV , oil on canvas

WiP #6 was made after seeing the Moholy-Nagy painting in a book about the Bauhaus. This time the green background works well, more in keeping with the  ‘restful’ green Kandinsky describes. The shapes are a direct reference to Figure 3. The red square was added last, red being opposite green in Kandinsky’s colour wheel. It serves to break the ‘pastoral’ colours and provide a link / theme / leitmotif to my other images, in which warm reds definitely feature. As with the others, it’s not yet complete and I’m thinking of a sofer shape, with a warm colour towards the bottom right of the image.

Finally, after printing WiP #1 to be able to see it on a larger scale, I made some alterations as parts on the right lacked clarity.

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WiP #1

Tuesday 5th March

This is a piece in its infancy. I can’t decide whether I like it or not. As yet it has no musicality to it, the intention is to add something from the brass family.  Really I should be reading more about Kandinsky’s work and his writings before I go much further as I would like the colours I choose to be representative of something, something which I’ve not yet discovered,

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WiP #4

Saturday 2nd March 2019

I have been reading and watching guest lectures this week, and looking for inspiration – although enjoying my work it feels as if it could soon become monotonous unless I look for new ways of developing it. Currently I have the idea of including audio and am considering how / what / why / when to do this. There seems to be no guidance on the number of images we need to produce, and right now it seems the best way for me is to have fewer images at the exhibition than previously thought, but present it with audio; and to have a larger body of work for the e-photobook. So far I have two other works in progress, neither of which are complete:

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WiP #Red (#3)

Red will have some edits – I’m unsure about the text (taken from archival records) in the bracket shape – this may go – and also some of the geometry isn’t quite working. The salmon pink rectangle within and outside the white window is at odds with the other lines. Initially the intention had been to create a triangle just to the left of the window, but its positioning looks clumsy and ill placed.  I’ll rework this.

Archive percussion

WiP #2

Still in its infancy, WiP #2 is a collage words and phrases from archival material, a room at NMPAT, and part of a percussion instrument. I printed scans of the archives, cut them up, glued them onto paper, rescanned then added the other images. Seeing this in itself as a base layer I have yet to decide what the next edit will look like; but I will need to straighten it a little.

Thursday 21st February 2019

Since the last entry I have visited NMPAT four more times, and now hopefully have enough photographs and scans for me to work with.

In the 1:1 with my tutor (12/2/19), we discussed the use of window views in my work; as I had changed my mind again and incorporated the photo (window#1) into an image:

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WiP#1

Instead of finding it irrelevant or unnecessary, my tutor thought than outward perspective might not be a bad thing, and as the architecture is there, visible in the rooms, to let it play its role. This is reassuring as for me, the added perspective brings depth and dimension to the image as well as grounding it in a particular space.

In the 1:1 we spoke about trying out different options to see which worked best. My aim is to create images that speak musically –  ideally the audience should be able to imagine what my pictures sound like; and notice variants in texture and timbre. All of the elements in #WiP1 were taken at NMAPT, the background colours taken from walls or soft furnishings.

Stella said that she saw potential in my image, that it could be interesting, and to look at the Modernism, and more specifically the Bauhaus movement and the work of Kandinsky – as their use of form and colour could be relevant to my work. Following this discussion I managed to order two books on just this, for under £10.

Other practitioners whose work I intend to look at are Emmiline de Mooij, Shirana Shabazi, and Jessica Eaton.

Another book concerning synesthesia is on my reading list as I am keen to explore how one sense may be heightened after the experience of another.

Back to my NMPAT visits… Having now been on five shoots there, I am happy that I have enough material to work with. I’ve been thorough with my work flow, categorising the jpeg and RAW files and the archive scans. With so much work being involved and working to a strict time scale, everything is backed up three times.

Probably the most fascinating was the visit to the archives; with lots of documents from the 70s and 80s of interest. As the typewritten letters became replaced by word-processed ones, they somehow became less interesting. The early ones were more personal in style and much less perfect. I attribute this to both the new technology allowing for mistakes to be easily corrected; and the growth of the organisation from a fairly small low-key one to the size it is today.

I was most interested in any archival material from 1969 (the year the Music Service started); but none of the staff I spoke to were aware of anything. So when the letter from Balmoral Castle dated 1969 caught my eye, I was delighted. It read:

Dear Mr Tyler

Thank you for your letter of 1st October.

The Queen is interested to learn of the formation, in the County of Northamptonshire, of the County Youth Brass Band and wishes it all possible good luck.

Yours sincerely

Martin Charteris

After a Google search I’ve discovered that Martin Charteris (Lieutenant-Colonel the Right Honourable Lord Charteris of Amisfield) was Princess Elizabeth’s Private Secretary from 1950; then after her ascension to the throne he became her Assistant Private Secretary under sir Michael Adeane. Mr Tyler was the founder of the County Youth Brass Band, the initial group which then grew in to the Music Service in the 1970s. Tyler was the first Head of Service.

There was also a small hand written note with details of their first concert (which was very coincidentally held in the hall of my current school). On the reverse was written the price of various take – away options (fish & chips, pie & chips etc) in shillings and pence. A fantastic find for my work!

More generally, I see the archives as providing me with history, humour (Unfortunately, it has been necessary to change the programme for this evening, due to the fact that only one trombone player (named) made an application to attend this course…it is, of course, quite impossible to perform the Tchaikovsky Symphony no.6 with only one trombone…), text to use in my images as well as colour (old letters were printed on varying shades of lemon, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink and lilac). One difficulty that I foresee is how to introduce the humour without ruining or altering the ambiance of the work.

As an experiment I’ll print some of these scanned letters and start cutting them up.

Tuesday 5th February 2019

Last Thursday was my first photo shoot at Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT). Arriving with two cameras, three lenses, enough batteries and cards to last me all day, and a map of the building, I was more than prepared for the day, and had planned to photograph instruments and teaching rooms. It was a euphorically cold, frosty and sunny day which unfortunately was enough to distract me from the task in hand.

The extent of this distraction wasn’t evident until at later at home when the files were uploaded onto my computer; and I realised that I had taken just as many unnecessary photos of views and reflections from the windows,  than I had instruments and rooms.

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window#1

Losing focus resulted in time being wasted, both at the shoot and afterwards, as it took far longer to sort, categorise and delete unnecessary images. Naturally, this also led to me having fewer images of what I needed.

A couple of days before this visit, I’d had my first tutor 1:1, in which she gave me feedback on my PK presentation. Wanting to experiment further with the types of images she thought were the most interesting I tried some manipulation processes on the middle photo (above), taken on this first shoot:

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WiP#1

This is an experiment still in progress. I’m not sure whether the inclusion of the wooden wall behind is a hindrance to the double bass. The area to the right and above have been deliberately been left empty, for something to be added – potentially a block of colour.

In the break between the last module and the start of FMP, my work had taken an experimental turn, taking photos of musical instruments at school and experimenting by adding geometric shapes and bold colours. Bluntly, I had become a little jaded with the direction of some of my recent work, and was feeling restricted by its potential. At the same time, it was important to me to keep hold of the parts that I had enjoyed working with and didn’t want to lose – namely archival records, found photography, memorabilia, and memory. This, I plan to keep integral to my FMP, albeit with a new subject. There will be no more discarded vintage family albums, geneology research or self-portraiture in this project. Below is an outline of the beginnings of my new ideas.

NMPAT is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This service (formerly called ‘Northamptonshire Music Service’ is well known to me, both professionally and personally. As youngsters, my own children had instrumental lessons at school through visiting peripatetic teachers from the service. Since working as a music teacher myself for the past 15 or so years, I’ve had weekly contact with many of the service’s teaching staff. These teachers are remarkable – each visiting up to 15 schools per week throughout the county, followed by lessons at NMPAT in the centre of Northampton. Sometimes the rooms in schools that they are given to teach in are the smallest imaginable – often with little light, graffitied walls and a beaten-up piano. Yet, somehow, the music that emanates from within those four walls is often beautiful, a sound that can only be achieved by hard work, practice and determination (on the part of both teacher and student). I am awe-struck by what is achieved in these spaces. (It must be mentioned here, that within NMPAT’s headquarters, the rooms and spaces are a different story – beautifully decorated and furnished, lovingly kept, with acoustics well considered.)

At the beginning of January I approached the Chief Executive of NMPAT to ask if it would be possible for me to photograph the rooms, instruments and archives at NMPAT, to coincide with its 50th anniversary, with the potential of being able to show my work during a celebratory performance. To my delight, he offered to meet me, and gave me a tour of the magnificent building, including teaching spaces, instrument stores, and archives. This was more than I could have hoped for. He also gave me permission to photograph any of the above (apart from anything relating to finance). I had already stated that people were not going to feature in my work, and as I’ll be visiting during the working day there will not be any children present.

And so my project begins, I have lots of ideas but still more experimenting to do first.