The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks.

Troika #4: Light Music

Troika #4: Light Music

So welcome to Troika Episode 4! This one is all about a genre called ‘Light Music’, a form of orchestral music that was at its height in the 1950s and 60s. These were shorter, lighter, more whimsical pieces of music, often used in the soundtracks of films and Pathe News reels. That opening music was ‘Puffin Billy’ by Edward White, and is probably the most widely known of the genre. Even if you don’t what it is, you’ve probably heard it. Pixar used it in one of their early ‘shorts’ Tin Toy. It says picnics and ginger beer to me.

It has a certain ‘British’ feel, but wasn’t a ‘British’ scene exclusively, as the second example shows. It’s from French composer Roger Roger (Rogeur Rogeur?) who created the BBC test card music that was used in the 70s! He was also an electronic music pioneer, and developed Moog synth music under the alias of Cecil Leuter. You can hear this crazy work on YouTube. It sounds like Squarepusher from the 1960s! Anyway here he is with ‘Place de Clichy’ which is kind of the soundtrack in my head when I’m walking around town.

The last piece is from Dennis Berry (who is featured on the cover of this episode, at the top of the group) called ‘Bright Lights’. His themes cover quite long period, and can be heard in places as diverse as Little Britain and Spongebob Squarepants, and also collaborated with Roger Roger.

Till next time, pip pip!

  1. ‘Puffin Billy’ – Edward White
  2. ‘Place de Clichy’ – Roger Roger
  3. ‘Bright Lights’ – Dennis Berry

Direct Download: Troika #4: Light Music (mp3)

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Troika #3: Music for Cycling

Troika #3: Music for Cycling

I’m not a fan of Kraftwerk at the best of times. I have friends who adore them, but they leave me cold. I was listening to one last week that was all about using a ‘Pocket Calculator’ – “adding… and subtracting”. Gripping stuff eh? In particular, when there is a Cycling related programme on telly, the likelihood is that they will end up using their ‘Tour De France’. Its feels about as far removed from the experience of cycling as I can think of. I love electronic music, but for me it doesn’t have the right feel.

I think Rapha have got it spot on. They’re a high-end cycling clothes brand, but to promote their range they regularly publish videos of their rides. If you were cynical, you’d say these are just big adverts, which they are in part, but they’re also very inspirational. It was watching these videos that made we want to get a proper road bike and head out into the countryside. Maybe they’ve twisted my view of what ‘music to cycle to’ should be, but these are the sounds in my head when I’m riding.

Here are the three tracks, with links to the videos they were used in:

  1. ’The Climb’ – Keegan DeWitt (Rapha Continental Tour of California)
  2. ‘Stokkseyri’ – Jonsi and Alex (Rapha Continental Movie)
  3. ‘Mighty Rio Grande’ – This Will Destroy You (Rapha Rides Little Switzerland)

Direct Download: Troika #3: Music for Cycling (mp3)

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Communication Arts on Icon Design

For the Communication Arts Interactive Annual #21, I was asked the question “What are the challenges or joys you face when creating an icon set?”. The answer had to be short, so the angle I took was…

We’re getting into very exciting territory with regards to what technology we have to play with! SVG is finally becoming widely adopted and with it the opportunity to provide scalable and responsive icon sets. Higher pixel density screens will also mean spending less time making artwork conform to a pixel grid. The days of fuzzy bitmapped icons are almost over! Until then, the challenges are in providing fallback options, and getting decent SVG export and optimisation in apps like Adobe Illustrator.

I didn’t get time to explain what responsive icons were (maximum 75 words), but it was nice to get asked to be in such a venerable tome. (The photo didn’t get the proper credit though, which was by Jeremy Keith)

Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures

Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures

I heard an interview with Jarvis Cocker (he of PULP fame) where he was asked about ‘guilty pleasures’. His response was ‘there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. If it’s music, and you like it, why feel guilty about it?”. Quite right – there’s too much music snobbery. Somehow there’s this rule that certain types of music are to be embarrassed about.

With that in mind, I want to present three songs on a similar ‘power ballad/rawk’ arena that all come from the 80s/ early 90s. They’re not the kind that get repeated ad-infinitum on commercial radio though.

  1. ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’ – Mr Big
    I still have the 12” picture vinyl of this single, and while I never really took to their other music, I absolutely loved this. Even though I was at the start of my ‘crusty folk phase’ having just seen the Levellers play in Nottingham. Great chorus, get ready to powergrab!
  2. ‘Rough Boy’ – ZZ Top
    ZZ Tops’ Afterburner was one of those summer-y records that helped me pretend I was American for a few minutes. Rough Boy had the added cool of a video with Hot Rod Space Shuttle.
  3. ‘Take my Hand’ – Toto
    When the David Lynch version of Dune hit the cinema, my friends and I took up a whole row at our local. I didn’t remember Return of the Jedi getting such a good turn out, but there we all were. I particularly loved the soundtrack by Toto, and with the closing credits was this plinky-plonky piano instrumental called “Take my Hand”…

Direct Download: Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures (mp3)

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