Andrew Thomas on Scat Singing

In May 2015, in the first week of our trip across the US, we had a chance to meet one extraordinary man. His name is Andrew Thomas and he is a jazz trumpet player. We met him through his brother Matthew, who Michal went to college with. Matt told us that Andrew is an interesting character, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Andrew charmed us, lured us into his beautiful mind and let us have a glimpse of what he calls his beautiful frustration.

We previously posted an interview with Andrew, but recently we started looking through some files we gathered during our four months journey and came across this video.

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You and Me Together

Part Two of the Smithfield Sessions is here!

And, as always, there is a journey to the story behind the music, which I want to take you on.

Think about the most significant person in your life. It may be your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, a dear friend, a sibling or parent…

Imagine you had never met… and imagine if you met them again today, what would happen.

Strange idea, right? It’s an interesting scenario to think about, and it really makes you think what strikes you about your dearest. What was it that drew you to them? What were your first conversations about?

Would you do it differently?

Today, if you met them again, would your paths still cross in the ways that they did?

My relationship with my husband started in such a chance encounter; I from England, he from Poland, and yet we managed to bump into each other in Hong Kong airport, and pretty much fell in love on the spot. If it hadn’t have been there, and it hadn’t have been then, it would have been almost impossible for us ever to meet again.

So, the idea of us meeting somewhere else at some other time in our life is so unlikely that it is fun to to explore those ‘what if’ questions…

I’m not sure that I believe in the idea of there being one person in the entire world that each of us is destined for. But I do know that the things I prayed for as a young girl are exactly the traits that are found in my husband.

And I would like to think that, under whatever circumstances we met, there always would have been that spark, that chemistry that hit me right in the part of the stomach where the butterflies live, and that we would have ended up together. 

That spark grows. Yes, the butterflies have settled down. And yes, I don’t think and talk about the love of my life every waking moment… but the spark has grown into a steady flame. A flame that is fierce and will fight to protect the one I love. A flame that needs intentional fuel. But a flame that will be sustained as long as we both shall live.

So, thanks for reading this far. Here’s your reward… This is “You and Me Together.”

Enjoy!

Louise

Hold Him Again

This is a song that had been “cooking” for a very long time. It’s one that I wanted to get right.

How do you deal with the death of a loved one? My father-in-law died extremely suddenly almost two years ago. I loved him dearly, but it was clear to me that there were those who loved him so much more than I did.

It caused deep unrest within my spirit. How does a wife deal with the passing of a husband? How would I ever deal with my husband’s passing away, if that tragedy ever fell upon me? Would I ever be able to love again? Would there be guilt? Would there be peace?

This song by no means sums up these emotions. How could they ever?

But this is my look at grief, hope and how it muddies the waters of love.

Louise

Robot Rickshaw

The line between technology and art today is probably as close as it has ever been: photographers rely on digital imagery and manipulation; movies are often largely, sometimes entirely, built using CGI; musicians don’t just record their work digitally but publish, promote and sell over the internet, often using sounds that are entirely digitally created… Where does art stop and technology begin?

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_MG_5409Troy, with his Robot Rickshaw, blurs those lines even further. When he first told us that he makes robotic instruments, my first thought was of C3PO and R2D2 in an epic version of guitar hero…

But as amusing as that might have been, what Troy has invented is something that is pushing both robotics and music in a new direction.

His Robot Rickshaw is a collection of instruments that play themselves, and Troy is both engineer and composer for this electronic orchestra.

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IMG_0250A one-stringed guitar, a collection of percussion, a clarinet and two “voices”, the band are all hooked up to the brain – Troy’s laptop – where he can adjust the sound, choose the compositions, and all manner of functions which I don’t pretend to understand!

Building his own software to control the instruments, Troy’s laptop screen was a maze of matrices and code that would impress any programmer.

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But Troy insists that he is a musician first, and not a scientist.

Taking his robotic orchestra around the country, Troy draws plenty of attention to his act as he pushes his rickshaw around wearing a HazMat suit. Ironically, he wears it so that it will draw attention away from him, and onto the music. “Otherwise, it just becomes a science demonstration,” he says. He wants people to not think so much about how it works, but just to enjoy the music.

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I have to say, even though I didn’t find the music hugely enjoyable, witnessing Troy’s orchestra was one of the mot fascinating and engaging performances I have ever seen. Troy travels the country like us, giving concerts, demonstrations and interviews as part of his PhD.

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As we swapped stories from the road over a 2am Ramen Noodle Supper, Troy shared about his time in Belgium with his mentor Godfried-Willem Raes who has pioneered music and robotics, and really does have an entire robotic orchestra collection.

One of the best stories was when Pat Metheny came to visit Troy and his colleagues in Belgium to see the instruments they were working on. He ordered several, and was going to be working on building something new with Troy, but in the end it fizzled out.  Troy hopes to build him a robotic guitar one day and just send it to him!

IMG_0249In Troy’s highly complex robotic system, what amazes me is that all of the instruments are actually analogue – the sound produced is not digital. The guitar is really plucked, the clarinet is blown, the cymbal is hit. And the speed at which the robots are able to perform is exceedingly fast… Troy works the sound into a frenzy of speed, proving that the robots are probably able to play much more intricate patterns than any human would…

But, we are not yet at the point in the technology race where the robots are able to create like humans. For now, though we are not sure for how much longer, only the human race still retains that beautiful ability: to feel music, to interpret it, to have music connect our hearts, souls, memories and emotions.

http://troy82.com

https://www.facebook.com/RobotRickshaw

Fort Houston

The soldiers line the fort. 

Their chariots await, their armour on the on stands.

The smiths of wood and metal and glass

Fire forth the strong and straight.

Print the banner, raise the flag.

Within the forge

The artisans 

Belong.

Function finds its form.

Unexampled, never seen before.

They’ve no enemy to fight,

No blood to shed,

No tears to draw.

But to draw forth the tangible from light.

Ten thousand dreams to bring to life.

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Guys taking a break behind Fort Houston

Nashville is a city that is rooted in music. It seems that everyone here is, or used to be, a musician or their parents are musicians or promoters or agents or songwriters…

And just like in LA, where every waiter is an actor with their big break just around the corner, in Nashville every waiter is a songwriter… with their big break just around the corner! So I guess we fit right in…

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Erin Murphy, artist.

But, it is not all about music. There is a growing scene of makers and craftspeople and artists and artisans that give Nashville a beautiful home grown, home made, home designed and taken-home identity.

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Our first day at the Fort, with Nick.

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One of their homes is Fort Houston: a 10,000 square foot old hosiery factory that is a living, breathing, sparking space where things are made. Not made digitally, with pixels, binary or code, like so much of our 21st Century world.

But made with sweat, machines, oil, metal, glass, ink, wood, power tools, sound, light, fire.

Falling into this space, tucked behind the railway line, we willingly lost ourselves in the Fort Houston creative atmosphere. A maze of workshops, where you literally trip over tools and can find anything from fine art to a gear wrench, the fort is alive with the sound of makers.

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Ryan, co-founder of Fort Houston, giving us a brief history of everything

Spending a week around its talented craftsmen, we began to see the secret of Fort Houston’s success. It is not ‘perfect’, it was not meticulously set out with a ten year business plan set in stone. It is an evolving creation itself, with artists and mechanics and smiths coming and going, being given the tools that they need and the inspiration around them in the form of people and space, giving back from within themselves, leaving their thumbprint on the walls and floors, and being challenged to create better.

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Atlas Motorworks custom build

Atlas Motorworks and the motorcycle boys are the welcoming committee that spill out into the parking lot. A collection of their own bikes, along with the bikes of their clients, fills the stands.

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Tyson at Knuckle Up Speed Shop

And as you move through their shops with parts and spanners and spare petrol tanks streamed everywhere, you begin the journey towards the print shop. With their headphones on, keeping their movements flowing and rhythmic, these boys work hard and long and their endless print cycles are almost robotic.

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A Woodworker’s Dream

Then there is the woodshop, with its carpet of sawdust and the metalshop with flying sparks and hot, sunburned smiths.

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Sparks will fly

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Layer on layer at the print shop

And dotted here and there, a jewellery maker, a painter or two, a glass blower, and a puppy.

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The newest member of the team.

It’s not a tourist attraction or and exhibit, although they do show work, but if you are ever passing through Nashville, make sure you visit 500 Houston Street, and say hello from The Travellers Two.