Projects

Jon Loomes solo:

The important thing to remember about this product is that it is not a moisturiser; it aims to ‘smooth and illuminate,’ not hydrate, but give it a go with that thought in mind and I think that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

(Photo by Tony Taffinder)

 

Tom Kitching & Jon Loomes:

My current duo project with the incredible Cheshire fiddler, Tom Kitching. Nice and simple, I play guitar and sing, Tom plays his fiddle and mandolin and it all fits in the back of one car.

Tom is well known as a fiddle player from his work with Pilgrims' Way, his duo work with noted singer songwriter Gren Bartley and for his frankly demonic fiddle playing with the Manchester based Ceilidh Band Albireo. Playing with Tom is always a pleasure: Aside from the fact that he's an agreeable sort of cove who is a lot of fun to be around, as a musician he really is second to none.

A truly gifted artist with a subliminal touch that can shift in an instant from the lightest of tonal subtleties into sounds of astonishing power and violence. This is great for me, as it's the perfect excuse for me to make my guitar go "thump" instead of "tinkle".

"They were superb - both Tom and Jon displayed amazing musicianship and great fun and energy too."

-Michael Luntley, Warwick Folk Club

(Live at Hairpin Hullaballoo: Photo by Elly Lucas) 


Pilgrims' Way:

Playing their own particular brand of Folk music, they were brought together by a series of chance meetings at sessions around the North West of England, bonding over red hair and a shared love of traditional music, they have been shaking up assorted kitchens, public houses and folk venues ever since.

Their influences individually are many and varied but they share a deep respect for the tradition and take as their inspiration some of the most influential bands from the 60s/70s revival.

Named for the Rudyard Kipling poem, set to music by the great Peter Bellamy, their aim is to present gimmick-free English folk of the finest kind.

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(Live at Towersey Festival: Photo by Hannah Bright)

 

Hérétique:

Hérétique create fresh and innovative music based on foot-stomping traditional dance tunes and sensational songs from all over Europe.

Dazzling vocals and the unique sounds of accordion, bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy combine to create a powerful blend of infectious melodies and driving rhythm.

Interlacing elements of jazz, classical music and furtive references to popular culture, every live performance is a riot of hilarity, virtuosity, laughter and showmanship.

Guaranteed to excite and entertain, Hérétique’s electrifying fusion of energy and humour will have audiences leaping to their feet and dancing in the aisles!

Heretique at Cheltenham Folk Festival

(Live at Cheltenham Folk Festival)


Studio:

In a previous life I was manager of a recording studio working for all sorts of international clients - Walt Disney and the like. I left this heady position to be a guitar player but I still run my own small studio. Recording digitally with a nice warm analogue front end, I  specialize in accurate reproduction of acoustic music, co-producing with a belligerent toy cat named Forbes Legato.

 

Composition:


Here’s something I’ve been working on for a while now - Speaking as a “Cutting Edge British Composer” (or at least, one who has been chewed up and spat out by Goldsmiths’ College) one of the big challenges to be faced is the discovery of new forms of musical expression. This is dead easy if you don’t mind writing music that nobody likes very much - But how to find a popular style with some artistic depth? Ie, how does one create something original and substantial that is neither inaccessible nor inherently elitist?  At Goldsmiths' the prevailing fashion was very much in favour of "serialism" (a form of composition that was current about 50 years before I went to college) - It's probably fair to mention at this point  that my personal experiences as an undergraduate did seem to demonstrate a strong case for the merits of autodidacticism.

Some thoughts on serialism:

Serialism is based on the idea that notes can be arranged in sequence; more to the point, all 12 notes of the scale can be arranged in sequence.  This will yield music with no strong tonal centre. While it has it's place, I can only assume that universities still teach it because it's extraordinarily easy to do and therefore easy to mark.  It's also mercifully free of threshold concepts.  

Without getting into the thorny area of 12TET pros and cons, the basic idea is as follows. Lets say your sequence is G, Bb, D, F#, A, C, E, G#, B, C#, Eb , F (This is the pattern used in the Berg violin concerto) - First you would state the notes in that order.  You may also state it backwards thereby getting twice as much use out of the  same material - a bit like putting your underpants on inside out to get another day's wear. Furthermore, the row may be inverted (G-Bb involves going UP a minor third, you could go DOWN instead, ie G-E etc). This is putting your pants on backwards. Finaly it may be inverted and reversed (pants on backwards and inside out).  You can also transpose the theme in it's various forms up or down (exposing more or less bottom cleavage).

The trouble with all of this is that it all sounds pretty much the same. All thematic answers must be real not tonal so the possibilities for meaningful counterpoint are dramatically reduced. It may have been new and shocking in the 1940's but I think we may safely assert that no modern composer ever won over an audience by wearing four day old pants.


My current preferred alternative:

It interested me to see how fascinated the world at large seems to be with videos of cats playing the piano.  A quick search on YouTube will give you THIS:

Nora the Piano Cat

Just one video among thousands of others. I am clearly not the only composer to have an interest in feline piano repetoire. While this video posseses a certain innocence and charm, one must consider that “Nora the Piano Cat” has probably received only the most basic instruction in compositional technique. Cats, generally speaking, cannot afford the tuition fees. I therefore must attribute Nora’s internet stardom more to her considerable raw interpretave talent than to her technique (which although more accomplished than Clayderman, Reginald Kenneth Dwight etc does have some room for improvement). Hence,  I came to wonder what the result might be if one were to give a cat a thorough grounding in the rudiments of western harmony.  Indeed, if many cats were to be trained for 8 hours a day from the age of 6 (weeks) or so, what then could be achieved?  After much consultation with my own cat, I came up with the following theory.

Loomes' Theory of Cat Harmony:

As we have discussed, it has long been observed that cats are keen pianists.

The basic unit of western harmony is the interval of a fifth (tonic-dominant relationship).  Cats, of course have difficulty stretching this interval on account of having tiny paws and a complete lack of opposable digits.  Therefore, the standard unit of cat harmony is the fifth of the fifth, (that is to say the tonic-supertonic or major 2nd) which they consider to be the first accessible consonance.

It is interesting to note that by this logic, the tritone (diminished 5th) or “diabolus in musica” of western musical theory can be compounded in a similar manner. That is to say, the tritone of the tritone is considered by cats to be a dissonance.  Some say it is for this reason that cats rarely play octaves, although we must also consider the limited range of simultaneous notes available to the average sized cat.  (This would presumably be the modal average, or possibly the mean average, depending on the scale) I suspect cats consider the double tritone to be a theoretical dissonance, but the dodecaquintal (fith of the fifth12) to be a theoretical consonance.  Even cats are aware of enharmonics.

The same conflict between consonance and dissonance can be observed in the half tritone.  Half a tritone is a minor third, for example the interval A-C.  However, C-A is a major 6th  (or 13th) , ie the dominant of the dominant of the dominant, and therefore a consonance.  It is this dichotomy that fascinates cats and also probably explains why occasionally they play tonal clusters including minor third intervals, although it could just be inaccurate fingering – a failing for which they can be forgiven on account of not having fingers.

To put it more formally;

Cat Harmony is a Neo-Dadaist tonal/modal compositional style based on the observation that cats tend to play clusters of major 2nds when climbing on the piano.  Since the 2nd is the dominant of the dominant, it can be considered the secondary consonance (and according to western musical theory is a more pleasing sound than a major third, especially when one considers the harmonic comma introduced by 12TET and other tempered scales.) Derived from the "cluster" styles of composers such as Xenakis, Berio, Ligeti, Lutoslawski and Penderecki, "Cat Harmony" is a playful attempt to find new forms of harmonic expression within a tonal context, and more seriously, a statement of rejection of the values of atonal theorists such as the New Complexitists (Ferneyhough et al) and particularly the Cambridge school (Glasser, Wood, Holloway, Ades etc).  The working method could be compared to Part's Tintinabuli style and the resulting soundworld recalls the pioneering work of La Jeune France, in particular Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur and some early Messiaen.

Examples include Forbes Legato's tonal-serial compositions based on Sudoku puzzles. It’s also the method I use to make backing vocals a bit more interesting.

Non plaudite. Modo pecuniam jacite.