Monthly Archives: September 2013

Tenori-On Song “Ballade” by AlyZen Moonshadow

This was my first Tenori-On piece ever. When I first got my Tenori-On I had no idea how to go about composing music on it. So I looked to YouTube for inspiration. There were numerous examples of Tenori-On music, including “official” videos from the inventor himself, Toshio Iwai. But most of the examples I watched demonstrated the Tenori-On being played live and ad-hoc. I wanted an example of a “proper” musical piece that had been programmed beforehand and then played out.

And I found it in a Tenori-On piece by Gattobus. Gattobus has several Tenori-On pieces on YouTube; he also uses the instrument in conjunction with other synthesizers. But, of all the YouTube videos I saw, one in particular stood out. It was “Dreaming” by Gattobus. (I am unable to share his link here as it seems to always revert to an “video unavailable” message, but if you search YouTube for “Gattobus Dreaming” you can watch it directly from there).

And so, armed with this inspiration, I set out to create my own Tenori-On musical style.

I wanted to be able to create pieces that had discernible patterns or themes, and to be able to play variations of those patterns. I also wanted my compositions to have distinct beginnings, developing middle sections and satisfying resolutions at the end. And all this within the constraints of 16 “blocks” with which I had at my disposal. And the piece had to be playable in one sitting, without relying on recording one composition and then layering another over it to fill up the musical layers.

That proved hard to do. So I had to think outside the box. Somehow, I had to be able to create a sense of many layers of sound, like many instruments playing their own part, but I also had to make those parts stand out on their own and not become a muddy jumble. I also devised a way of “expanding” the music by programming some layers to move at a slower or faster pace than others. This meant that even though the same block was being played twice or even four times over, to the listener it wasn’t apparent, as at each turn the different layers would all be playing a different point of their cycle, so it sounded like a variation of a theme instead. And that is why in some of my pieces you can hear some themes developing at a slower pace than others.

To further separate the many layers of sound, I used different volumes for each voice. There are also several Tenori-On voices that I like to utilise for their prolonged flanging tones, that aren’t just a flat sound, but which evolve over a period of time and thus add further interest to a piece.

Here is my “Ballade”, you can play it directly from my Soundcloud page or via Internet Explorer or whatever browser you use. I hope you enjoy listening to it!

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Tutorial: The Magic Watering Can

Early September is the best time to visit Araluen Botanical Park near Roleystone, Western Australia. That’s when the Tulips come out in force, creating beautiful, vivid, natural fields of colour that attract photo-happy visitors in their thousands every day. I was lucky enough to visit Araluen recently, and came away with 500 or more images in my Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera roll.

Here is the link to Araluen, so you can read for yourself about the fascinating history of the park, and enjoy images of the flowers within. Not just Tulips, of course – I also saw Magnolias, Camellias, Californian Poppies, Bottlebrush, Zinnias, Daisies, and many more flowering plants that I’m not familiar with.

I’m still sifting through my images of Araluen, but decided I’d share with you all how I created this one of a humble metal watering can. This was by a patch of wonderful Californian poppies, in a vegetable patch next to the Araluen Gift Shop. I only managed to get 2 shots of the watering can, as a little girl nearby took a fancy to it and toddled off with it a few seconds later.

Here is the original, unedited image:


I ran this through the app Repix, which recently became available on the Android Playstore. The effects I used were Drips and Daubs. I used Drips to obscure the background around the watering can, then Daubs for the finer parts that Drips proved too big for. I also used Repix’s other controls to tweak the vibrance, brightness, contrast, temperature etc.


Next, I used PSTouch, another universal App to blend both the original image and the Repix image. I used the Screen blend mode. I wanted a painterly look for the background, but I also wanted to further delineate the outline of the watering can.


After this, I used the App Smoothie to further enhance the image. I recently downloaded Smoothie and am currently experimenting with it and am pleased with it so far. Here is the image post-Smoothie, the effects I chose are very subtle.


After this, I decided to run the image through Repix a second time. This time, I added some glittering sparkles around the watering can’s spout, to look as if stars were coming out of it instead of water. Then, just for fun, I added some dandelions, to look like they were twirling around the magic watering can. I hope it’s as magical for you as it obviously was for that little girl who ran off with it!


Finally, I used the Android App “Add Watermark” to sign off the image.


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Tenori-On Song “3468” by AlyZen Moonshadow

3468 is a play on the time signatures 3/4 and 6/8. I’ve always liked how 3+3=6 but also 2+2+2=6 as well. And when juxtaposed against each other, these create unique sound patterns. Just when you think you have it pegged though, this piece comes round and bites you in the arse! I call this my “Time Expansion” piece. About halfway through you can hear a melodic fragment seemingly floating over the rest of the other voices. If you listen carefully, you will also realise that underneath it all, the piece is actually in 4/4 time. Go figure!

I loved the music of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” as a teenager, and remember how immensely pleased I was to crack the “code” that formed the basis of my favourite song “America” from the musical.

The chorus lyrics go like this:

I like to be in America
Okay by me in America
Everything free in America
For a small fee in America

Here’s the breakdown:

“I-like-to-be-in-A” is in 1 e & 2 e & or 6/8 meter, while
“me-ri-ca” is in 1 & 2 & 3 & or 3/4 meter.

See, the strange thing is that my teachers in school thought I was hopeless at Maths, and yet I am well able to divide and conquer LOL!

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Tenori-On song “Rose” by AlyZen Moonshadow

This is quite an old song I composed back in 2010, which I played at an ElectroCelt gig in Dublin in June 2010.  It was recorded live, however alas we’ve never received a copy of the recording from the friend who captured everything on tape.  So I’ve decided to record it myself on Garageband and load it to my Soundcloud account instead.

I was inspired by the character Rose, from Doctor Who.  Rose is played by Billie Piper alongside David Tennant’s 10th Doctor.  In my eyes, David Tennant is and will always be MY Doctor Who.  Rose was the perfect foil for the Doctor, and theirs is the most heart-wrenching love story ever.  I’m so glad Doctor Donna (Catherine Tate), another favourite character, created the Human Doctor who in the end was reunited with Rose in the alternate world.  A beautiful twist indeed.

All sounds were programmed solely on the Yamaha Tenori-On, no post-editing on DAWs or EQ-ing or computer manipulation.  This might sound constrained to seasoned electronic musicians who have a large arsenal of synths or DAWs at their disposal, but I actually relish the restrictions.  I hope you enjoy listening to this track and will follow me on Soundcloud, as there will be more tracks loaded soon!

Unknown Artistic Insect Builds a White Picket Fence to Protect its Nest of Eggs | Colossal

I am reblogging this, in case anyone can shed some light as to what the architect of this strange construction could be. If I were Troy, I’d go back to the source, set up camp, take lots of photos and notes, and wait to see what emerges from the cocoon. If indeed that is what it is.

Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?

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On Harmonic Overtone Singing, Self-Flagellation, Wombats, F-Holes and Strange Coincidences

It is January 1990, the place is Mittagong, about 109 km (68 miles) outside Sydney, NSW, Australia. I am in a large classroom, standing in a corner facing the wall with my eyes closed, practising contorting my lips, tongue and cheek. Seriously. Outside, dusk is gathering and cicadas are starting to chirp. Strange eerie sounds fill the air.

Actually, I’m participating in a workshop on Harmonic Overtone Singing, by Sarah Hopkins, at the Australian National Music Camp (now known as the Australian Youth Orchestra). I won a scholarship to play the viola at the Camp, but also signed up for other activities such as this workshop. You can check Sarah out here

Sarah’s other workshops that year included teaching Harmonics to cellists, and in one concert during the 2-week camp, there were 12 cellos sawing away with fingers only lightly touching the strings, and the most beautiful, haunting sounds emerged. One could imagine whales singing, birds tweeting or the evocative drone of a didgeridoo. Another group was given Whirlies, which are essentially vacuum-cleaner hoses of different lengths and circumferences, which the user twirls in the air, over their heads and shoulders to produce a series of ascending and descending harmonic overtone notes. This particular performance was unintentionally funny, as we were reminded of religious monks in the act of self-flagellation!

For the duration of the 1990 Australian Music Camp, we were based in a boarding school in Mittagong. To get to the school, we were met at the airport by a member of staff from the Camp, brought to a YMCA where sandwiches and drinks were served. And then we were put on the train to Mittagong, along with a couple hundred other youth musicians and their various instruments and baggage. From Mittagong, we had to walk to the school, about 10 minutes by foot.

It was a boarding school, but unfortunately it was a Boy’s boarding school. The showers were COMMUNAL. Ooo err… Things were, shall we say, awkward the first 3 days…and then miraculously shower curtains and rope were procured, and a makeshift system of shower cubicles was created. The toilet paper was real paper…and I mean it was stuff you could write on, and just as absorbent. Unfortunately, no magical, soft, triple-ply toilet paper appeared in the 2 weeks of the camp, so one simply made do.

Every day, a different musical group representing a different instrument would be chosen for Reveille. Which essentially means you were going to get woken up at 6:30 the next morning by the sound of instruments playing, either really well, or really badly. The queues at mealtimes were out the door and round the corner, literally.  But the food was worth the wait; it was plentiful, and delicious. Weatherwise, it was perfect, warm and balmy, and many of us took to going about barefoot. There were gumtrees on the grounds of the school, and in one particular tree along the food queue route there lived the school’s resident wombat. Now, I’d never seen a Wombat before, and when this one was pointed out to me, I couldn’t believe how large the creature was.

About a week into the Camp, the soundpost in my Viola got dislodged. Now, this soundpost is just a wooden dowel wedged between the top and bottom plates of a viola. It may not seem important, but it really is. There’s even a Wiki entry about sound posts, here:

“In a string instrument, the sound post or soundpost is a small dowel inside the instrument under the treble end of the bridge, spanning the space between the top and back plates and held in place by friction. It serves as a structural support for an archtop instrument, transfers sound from the top plate to the back plate and alters the tone of the instrument by changing the vibrational modes of the plates.

The position of the sound post inside a violin is critical, and moving it by very small amounts (as little as 0.5mm or 0.25mm, or less) can make a big difference in the sound quality and loudness of an instrument. Specialized tools for standing up or moving a sound post are commercially available. Often the pointed end of an S-shaped setter is sharpened with a file and left rough, to grip the post a bit better.

Soundpost adjustment is as much art as science, depending on the ears, experience, structural sense, and sensitive touch of the luthier. The rough guidelines in the following section outline the effects of various moves, but the interaction of all the factors involved keeps it from being a simple process. Moving the sound post has very complex consequences on the sound. In the end, it is the ear of the person doing the adjusting that determines the desired location of the post”.

So, what’s a girl to do when her soundpost falls out? Sharman Pretty, the co-ordinator of the Music Camp, put me on the train to Sydney that Sunday, with clear directions on how to find the violin maker and repairer, Robert Roberts (seriously!). So, I’m on the train on my own, with my Viola next to me, then I’m on a strange bus to this suburb I’d never heard of. There is a man in his 50s sitting on the seat next to me, and he has a rolled up mattress with him, of all things. It is tied up with string, trussed like a turkey. A surreal conversation follows, and when he finds out I am from the Music Camp, he asks if I know his daughter. I ask who his daughter is, and he says “Sharman Pretty”. No kidding!  A huge big city with over 3 million people, and I end up sitting on the bus next to the father of the Music Camp’s co-ordinator? How’s that for a strange coincidence?!

Anyway, Robert Roberts isn’t in. There is a sign on his door saying “back in 10 minutes”. So I hang about the neighbourhood like some Chicago mobster with a machinegun in a viola case. Minutes later, Robert Roberts arrives back home, he’s been alerted to the purpose of my visit by Sharman Pretty back at the Camp. He uses an S-shaped metal instrument with a forked end, places the soundpost between the tines and then inserts it through one of the F-holes (there, I just had to put that in somewhere in this post), and then he wiggles the dowel this way and that, plucks at the strings, listens to the sound, runs the bow over a few notes, listens some more, tweaks a bit more. And then it’s over.

I have a couple hours before the train back to Mittagong, so I head to the Sydney Opera House. It’s a walk out to that iconic landmark, from the bus stop, but I take my time and enjoy the sights and sounds around me. Apart from the viola, I could be just about any tourist there. There’s not enough time to explore the inside of the Opera House, so I take a few photos, buy a few postcards from a kiosk, and then it’s back to Camp I go.

In 1991 I went back to the Australian Music Camp, but this time as a partcipant in the Music Journalism Course. And this time it was in Geelong, near Melbourne.  But that’s another story, for next time.

My Profile/Bio updated

Just updated my Profile/Bio on 500pix and thought I might as well post it here, for those of you who are wondering who I am and what makes me tick :’).

I’m an iPhoneographer/iPhone Artist/mobile photography artist based in Perth, Western Australia. I love taking images of the mundane, trivial and pedestrian, and turning them into something extraordinary and special. My website is I am also on Flickr at I have my work up on several online sites such as: Redbubble at Zazzle at FineArtAmerica at deviantArt at  Society6 at and ArtOfWhere at When not engaged in making mobile photography art and design, I also like to set my images to accompany original music, by creating YouTube videos using iMovie on the iPhone 4/iPad/Macbook Pro. To date, I have created several YouTube videos for the electronic musician ElectroCelt (who also happens to be my husband), you can find them under my publishing name or channel “electroceltess10″ on YouTube. My first outside collaboration with another musician, Brian Vassallo, set my images to his electronic music track entitled “I Am Always In Your Heart”. I am also a Classically trained musician currently working on composing music on my Yamaha Tenori-On. You can follow my work and my words on my blog

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Mobile Photography Tips: Printing on Tissue Paper


What I’d like to talk about today is my personal exploration into the field of printing A3 size images onto tissue paper.  I have tried various methods of digital transfer printing with abysmal results.  I have Bonny Lhotka’s book “Digital Alchemy” which is a beautiful book packed with with glorious examples of inspiring images; I borrowed from my library Bonny’s second book “The Last Layer”, which explains even more printing and transfer methods.  However, I must confess I found it difficult to follow Bonny as she talks about using a Super Sauce and DASS products which are impossible to get over here in Australia (without spending hundreds of dollars, that is).  Acting on Bonny’s advice, I got some Purell hand sanitizer (one of the cheaper options suggested by her) and tried digital transfer printing using that, but all I got was a muddy, jellified mess (and very clean hands!). Bonny talks about inkjet vs laser printers, and inks vs dyes, and after a few pages of that my eyes glazed over.  I’m sure if you follow her advice and instructions carefully, and if you are lucky enough to have the type of printers she has, and access to all the “ingredients” required, following Bonny’s methods will give you the same great results she consistently gets, and may catapult your art into the same high realm as her.  For more info about Bonny Lhotka’s prioneering work on printing and digital transfer techniques, click on this link:

For me, however, it proved to be too complicated, so I moved on to developing my own low-tech printing methods.

I wanted to print bigger than the standard A4 household printer size.  After some online research, I settled for the Epson Artisan 1430 printer, which prints up to A3. Please note, this is just a printer, with no fax, scan or copying functions.  The inks used are Light Cyan, Cyan, Light Magenta, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  My first foray into printing was onto canvas paper, which I wasn’t particularly enamoured of, as it tended to suck the inks in and the images looked too flat and matte.  Ditto printing onto canvas fabric.  I had some fabric samples lying around (hoarder that I am), so I decided to gesso over some and print directly onto that.  The problem with that was, the prints tended to smudge, and getting the fabric to feed through the printer smoothly was a nightmare.

My local K-Mart was selling A3 canvasses at 2 for $5, which was a great bargain, so I snagged myself 10 of those.  My problem then was how to get my images onto the canvasses.  after trying different methods I was just about to give up when I decided to give printing onto tissue paper one last try.  I had a bundle of paper left over from our last move, the sort used for wrapping glasses and fragile items.  So I cut one to A3 and taped it to a carrier sheet, which was simply an A3 piece of canvas paper. The print came out beautifully, but then I hit another snag…because the tissue had been taped to the carrier sheet, I had to then cut out the parts where the tape had been, hence the end result was smaller than A3, and left a border to be filled in somehow.

Repositionable glue sticks to the rescue.  I found that if I drew some horizontal and vertical lines of glue onto the carrier sheet, then placed the tissue paper over that, I could not only print easily onto the tissue, I was also able to remove it from the carrier sheet afterwards.  Needless to say, I was pleased with the results, as the tissue paper not only took the inks beautifully, I could then Mod Podge it to my A3 canvas really easily afterwards.  And, the little creases and folds that resulted from sticking the tissue paper to the A3 canvas only added to the illusion that it was a piece of painted art and not a photographic image.

And then I ran out of tissue paper.  And printer ink.  The Epson Artisan 1430 inks were easily obtainable, however proved to be expensive – to replace all 6 cartridges cost me AUD$140 :-(.  The tissue paper however, proved to be yet another nightmare.  I never knew there were so many different grades or types of tissue paper available – archival, craft, museum, etc!  I got some samples from a removals company, but they tore upon peeling off the carrier sheet.  I got a packet of craft tissue paper from K-Mart, but not only did it also tear, it jammed up the printer.  A packet that I got from eBay was equally bad, no, worse, as the paper itself was grey and had holes in it and was therefore useless. Yes, there were tears (in the paper),  tears (down my face) and temper tantrums.

And then I found the Holy Grail of tissue papers. Quite simply, I had run out of baking parchment while baking a cake, so I nipped out to the supermarket and bought a roll of baking paper.  Which turned out to be the exact width for A3, and all I had to do was gluestick the carrier sheet, roll out the baking paper onto it, and cut off the end. Et voila! Beautifully printed images, which peeled off with no tearing whatsoever, and a joy to use.

Oh, and a postscript: after 2 expensive ink refills of the Epson Artisan 1430, I decided to try out the CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System). I got mine from good old eBay, for AUD$140 plus $10 postage. It was simple enough to install (hubby did it hehe), and there’s about 10 times as much ink in the bottles as in a normal cartridge, plus it’s refillable, which makes it an attractive option indeed.  So I should be okay for ink now, til next year at least!  Anyone looking for a cheaper alternative to ink cartridges should look into CISS. These are the guys I got mine from

I was working on my Madhatter’s Teaparty Series then, and to date have completed over 20 A3 canvas pieces, with a view towards getting 50 in total. Here are some of the canvasses, so you can see what the end results look like (after sealing, varnishing).






2 Awesome Modern Choirs of today

Today I’m going to share with you my love for Classical Music, but with a modern-day twist. Two choirs spring to mind for Choral Music – Robert Prizeman’s all-boy choir “Libera”. The other is “Scala & Kolacny Brothers”, a female choir flanked by 2 Classically-trained brothers.

I have been a fan of Libera since 2000. When I first heard them I thought they were girls’ voices. Turns out they are a choir of young boys, most of whom have not broken their voices. My favourite albums by this group are their first 2 – “Libera” and “Luminosa”.

Have a listen here, on this link you can hear all the songs listed on the album “Luminosa”:

The other night I watched the 2011 German film “We Are The Night”, The subject was vampires, a genre I like, however the thing that impressed me most was the music right at the start of the film. It was a beautifully haunting choral piece sung by female voices, over a repeating groundbass of the sung words “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”. It set the tone for the rest of the film, I thought.

The studio version of the song “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”:

And here is the live version filmed in the USA in 2011, with the Kolacny brothers conducting and on piano:

In Secondary school, Junior College and Music College I sang in the choir. Choral music, especially SATB, is something that strikes a chord in me, especially in the Classical part of me. Any decent piece of music, to me, has to have an introduction, a development section, and a resolution. This has been ingrained in me from a young age. That, and a predominance of the use of the Piano as accompaniment. Which may account for why my current Tenori-On compositions have a strong harmonic structure, with development sections and resolutions, and more often than not, an A-B-A structure. I know of no other Tenori-On exponent who uses the instrument Classically as I do.

Which reminds me, I really have to get going with recording my pieces and setting them to videos for YouTube.

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