Monthly Archives: November 2020

The red telephone box that talks a bit like me

Instead of talking about important things like Trump losing, how difficult it is to get replacement bulbs for old style Christmas lights, how Anne with an E is too emotional to watch, how two hospitals in consort forgot to send me my blood test results, how the enormous choice of bike lights is daunting, I find myself obsessing about my stupid creative projects. Should I feel guilty? Probably – but my colleagues have had proper experiences of guilt that made me realise that it’s an emotion I don’t really ever feel – (Don’t bother to ask why we were discussing it) – That said I can’t rid myself of the feeling that what I actually end up producing creatively isn’t really very good and I think I feel guilty at spending time making shite that nobody is interested in. When I was in the depths of illness it didn’t matter and I didn’t care, but now that I have got used to wearing the same tired holey, illness vest every day it has become a bit of an issue.

That’s the problem with so many ways of seeing how creative other people are.

Pinterest and YouTube are bursting at the seams with people’s creative endeavours and I have to say too many people are pretty good at it. Youth seems to be a factor- the average Etsy entrepreneur appears to be about 30, your average soundcloud contributor about 20 and your average YouTuber about 15 which is a bit depressing. Despite a sense of hopeless unlikely-to-become-famous-now-or-even-noticedness, I seem to have an overwhelming urge to try to test my creative chops by putting on shows. I can only assume that since dropping out of theatre, well really it dropped me, I am left with residual ‘show-off withdrawal’ and that manifests itself in pathetic attempts to recapture the opportunity to ‘strut my stuff’ in public in anyway I can.

So I do feel guilty at putting all this nonsense out there. I genuinely don’t expect anyone to watch or listen – I wouldn’t watch or listen to yours – that is unless you were my children or partners in which case I would because I can bask in their glories, they being my progeny and therefore by extension their art being mine. Hah! – but I feel good once it’s out there – even if no audience ever witnesses it I can move on

So here goes.

This is a video of the broadcast I made on Halloween night from ‘the red telephone box that talks a bit like me.’ I am glad I did it because it should help me make something better the next time – but it’s not much cop.

Here are the things I got wrong and the things I have learnt from both the live broadcast and making the video

  1. Ultimately it’s quite boring and I don’t know how to fix that – I guess that’s the hard bit about art.
  2. Don’t set up an expectation for one thing (in this case something scary) and deliver something else – unless it’s better than expected (this wasn’t)
  3. Profit from silences and stillness. I am scared of silence and stillness so I rush to avoid them
  4. Out of sync only really works when framed by in sync. Ever since being a teenager unconsciously soaking up the post 1960’s ‘everything is art and nothing is art’ philosophy, I have been enamoured by serendipity. Serendipity results in several asynchronous sections in the video, but do I like them?
  5. Transitions and effects are only for the desperate – I don’t like what I did at the end but I had run out ideas and patience
  6. Earnestness is off putting and comes across as fake – hmm hard one cos in a way this project is full of earnest aspirations – it’s not ever going to be Instagram friendly – let’s celebrate that at least.
  7. Are you acting? If so learn to do so. Never could, never will be able act – but I enjoy trying
  8. Too many ideas too quickly – very tricky as in a way this piece is boring because of long sections where nowt happens but to dress it up will fall foul of item 3
  9. Randomness only works some of the time. See item 4
  10. I cannot rely on controlling the audio mix to maintain attention. Yep the mix is a law unto itself due to variables I can’t control in the phone box. Mainly how close to the ear the listener holds the handset.
  11. Rely most on what is said and when – this follows on from 10. The script is key and is for me is by far the hardest thing now that the tech issues are largely resolved
  12. Fragment the samples – not such long chunks. The music is a relief but I need to be more sparing and cleverer with my use of it.
  13. Use literal background effects sparingly. Let’s face it, the blitz sound track is embarrassing
  14. Video edits are millisecond specific so take the time to get it right. Can’t be bothered just now but appreciate it should be done in future.
  15. Videos need a bespoke sound design not just the live recorded performance duplicated.

The things I got right.

• Dispassionate security cameras suit the mood
• It is audio collage mainly. I think that’s the genre
• The occasional funny bits please me – I like the raspberries
• The mix of personal memories and cultural memories is a good starting point
• The three voices have potential – yep happy with that
• Making myself do the broadcasts by announcing them in advance is a good idea. I have learnt so much and feel ready for the next. So good


Video about my research

I was very pleased when I was approached by Steinar Kvia Kittilsen a masters student at Sound and Music Computing MSc at Aalborg University Copenhagen to give an interview about my favourite topic – and I was particularly pleased with the result. I think he did a great job and for once I did not come across as a complete wally (I have a back catalogue of those moments I intend to take to the grave – you know the occasions where you are determined to use big words and then discover halfway through using them that they are so big they don’t fit in your mouth). I particularly liked he’s solution to my appalling internet connection and the sync issues – “The video often freezes during the interview, but we can pretend this is on purpose to remind the audience of the artifice!”

Btw if the video preview frame from YouTube for you folk is the same as for me I really should have put my bottom set in (see below)

Dr Christopher Newell missing his bottom set

Current focus of my creative life – My Telephone Box Theatre

…so if you are interested in (possibly) one of the smallest theatres in the world, in computer generated voices, in old telephone technology or finding out more about some old guy trying to figure out who he is – then go here

and forget this site. If you are a member of my family, want to read about them or about yourself, my cancer, my politics or my cats – stick around on this site.

Thanks loyal listeners

Thanks so much to all my loyal listeners last night. Yes there was more than one! I was very pleased that the whole thing kinda worked but the mistakes and miss dials were mainly for real – cunningly covered by me. It went on a bit didn’t it! Pat reported that she lost the plot, to which I replied so did I, to which she replied what plot! – yes it was a bit of a pic’n’mix wasn’t it. My objective is to make my Christmas offering a little less Beckett and a bit more Mrs Browns Boys – We will see how that goes. Meanwhile I am taking a break from the box to prepare to examine someones utterly incomprehensible PhD – serves me right I suppose.