Music I've Made
One of my hobbies is music-making. I like to record sounds and make instruments out of them, or design new sounds with synthesizers. I used to have a room full of equipment, but now I just use a laptop and some external MIDI controllers. If you use Spotify, you can add my playlist, which I keep up to date with new music I release. I post new songs here, along with a short description of the origin and construction of the song.
I had been listening to a lot of Steve Reich around this time and was doing a lot of experiments with physically modeled xylophones, marimbas, and pianos, along with a new device I was inspired to make called Key Stepper. Steve Reich's music to me is like many braids of braids, interwoven at different intervals but sharing common patterns across dimensions. Key Stepper applies repition in the note-interval-sequence dimension and does not affect the rhythmic dimension.
The title track borrows heavily from a famous song by a famously litigious band. I think it's pretty cool though. The second track is a collab with niece Violet when she came to visit while I was working on Quartile. That one has a unique sound.
The album title and title song come from a handheld aviation and weather radio I got at Radio Shack a long long time ago. The Indian singing and metronomic clicking are both from binaural recordings of the Realistic Jetstream radio.
Not sure how it happened, but I made something pretty stylistically different than usual. It started happening and I was excited it sounded a tiny bit like Autechre, so I kept pressing forward. The core process was to record some expressive noodling with a bunch of tracks and the zs Knobbler 3, then take a recording of that minutes-long noodling and slice it into a Simpler instrument in Ableton live, then play the 64 slices as a new instrument. I'm very happy with this one.
It's a mood.
A few tracks made in a void of free time. The titles are all anagrams of the dull names I named the tracks with.
All Once Ancient
Inspired by a presentation on the indigenous people of this area given at my kids' school, I wanted to put something together that helps us remember that we all come from ancient peoples, and that is something that can connect us.
Noodling in my spare time. Samples a Veritasium video.
Go Around 1.1
This is a slight rework of my track from the It's All Fate EP. I've always liked the track, but there were a couple things that had been bothering me about it, so here's a newer version!
This song started out as a fun exercise with a new device that I made for Ableton Live. The device is an audio effects rack with two delay chains that can feed back into each other.
A Chill Human Being
I set out to make something more melodic/harmonic than I usually make, and this was the result.
This song started as an exercise in what I could make from sounds that books make. The title comes from the two very different books I sampled -- Race Car Vehicle Engineering (Milliken & Milliken) and The Art of Peace (Ueshiba).
Opening with a binaural sample from the NYC subway, basic-remake is an uptempo minimal dancey tune.
This is a collection of three tracks I was very lightly working on after I got a new job, and managed to finish once I started to get my sea legs in the new job. Largo is a dreamy tune with some fun percussion and bass guitar built atop the Andrew Chord, and also uses my TapPanVerb device. Montauk is also etherial, with many many vocal layers as well as several layers of a Prius in reverse that I sampled and made into an instrument. Hoya is a hard driving percussive tune with some sampled guitar/bass.
The title track started as an experiment in building a song that continually shifted around 3 and 4 time, then I decided to put one of my favorite monologues over it - Coloner Ripper's rant from Dr. Strangelove. The second track is just some random stuff I did during my (first) work break.
An Eagle Like Fly
Inspired by jhno's "Fly" I set out to make some deep remixes of Fly Like an Eagle from The Steve Miller Band.
Curie / Rababa
A couple of tracks I did in quick succession. Curie uses the zs-Faderboard device that I created. Rababa is an Arab instrument that is like a coconut with a stick and a string.
As Far As We Know
Lots of vocal tracks in this one, mostly percussive. Also uses zs-Faderboard for some atmospheres.
It's All Fate / L.B. Jeffries / Go Around
I'm happy with how these tracks came together. Go Around is, I think, one of the best tracks I've done. L.B. Jeffries uses samples from Hitchcock's classic Rear Window.
Go To Sleep / Watch the Sun Rise / Five Horses
I was really struggling with sleep issues when I was making these tracks. I found that certain types of music with certain patterns helped me to relax and sleep, so these songs are more of a sleeping tool for me. There is a reason for their order, and the apparent chaos of Five Horses serves a purpose. Watch the Sun Rise uses a lot of samples from Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain".
A quick dancey tune, inspired by a local park called the "Fall Creek Unit".
Dub techno monster featuring vocals from Naomi.
Another dancey tune. I like this one more than most of my other tracks.
An anagram of 'fractal', arcFlat uses my Fractal Note Delay device on several tracks.
FND / Two Trees
A couple of tracks that use my Fractal Note Delay device. Two Trees is a fun self-referential exercise that samples from a great talk that I can't find a link to any more.
Killdeers / Occupation
Two very different tracks. Killdeers samples from Bruce Lee's classic "Enter The Dragon". Occupation is an oddball track that to me is a little journey through a typical workday for me, but it's one of my favorites.
Two main things went into this track...
- I recorded a very talented coworker demonstrating his singing skills to the group over Zoom.
- The reverb in the track is a live send/return bus I set up to a combo amp and stereo mics I set up in the living room. It is so much nicer than a plugin, but far less convenient.
I feel like I've found a daily-life-rhythm that embraces music, and I've been more productive since letting this happen. It used to be that I would do marathon sessions in front of the machines until the wee hours, then be wrecked for a couple days after. Nowadays, I've been giving music an hour or so each morning, before work and before the girls wake up. I'll then give time to music in the evenings as I can (if the girls aren't here or if they are busy with other things), but I'm sure to be in bed by 11, which keeps me fresh for all things, including music. This song has one fun technique that I picked up from the great engineer and producer Sylvia Massy. In this video, she shows a creative technique for livening up a dull synth sound by mixing its original sound with the sound put through a guitar amp, mixed with some room mics. This beefs up the sound in ways the computer can't. I tried to replicate this by disconnecting my speakers from my audio interface, then running a long guitar cable from one output into the input of my bass amp, placed in the living room. I put a mic in front of the speaker cone of that, and also used the Rode iXY mic on my iPhone to capture the room sound. I played that synth track and recorded it all. It's a subtle but powerful technique to add energy and life to an otherwise very artificial sound. You can hear this sound at about the 1:40 mark.
Over the last couple of months, I had been working on 6 songs simultaneously, all springing from the same origin. This collection of songs was mostly about learning some new production techniques, mostly around mastering. I feel like this group of songs was a turning point in how I approach the science of finishing a song, and they finally sound good (to me) in the car when played after other "real" songs. So it's less about the music and more about the technique here. Lots of TAL BassLine 101 synth in these songs. It's such a fun instrument! Also, the whole mastering thing was enabled by investing in FabFilter's mastering bundle (EQ, compressor, multiband compressor, and limiter) -- amazing software!
Coming off the heels of the drama of the attack on the capitol, Amanda Gorman's inagural poem really captured the feeling of the prior weeks/centuries and was a message of hope for the future. Again, I had been working on some music, and then found the words to shape it and push it over the finish line. Cover by Naomi.
93 to 6
I had been working on some music over the last couple of months with many false starts. The juxtaposition of lawmakers in the capitol carrying on our democratic traditions while/after being attacked was a powerful one for me. It gave me a sense of culture and belonging that I hadn't felt before. That was the nudge and material this song needed to get finished. The song has a couple of layers of vocoders to reinforce the pads. One layer was just me doing things with my voice, and the other was some great stereo audio from last year's Formula 1 race in Australia. The cars going by pull the pad left and right.
These tracks came together, basically all at the same time, over a week. I had just gotten a bass guitar (!!!) and would noodle on it for hours to try to learn the instrument. Some of those noodles were worth making a meal of tracks out of. The cover art is a composite of two photos I took in the direction of Monument Peak from Mt Allison. It's been interesting for me to learn just the tiny bit that I've learned on the bass. The immediacy and expression potential of a physical instrument is in a different world than synthesized parts, and I have found I give myself more freedom with the bass, vs playing bass parts on a keyboard. Perhaps some of that is really not knowing the notes immediately at this point, so I'm just playing by how it's sounding, vs how it looks (e.g. choosing a key up front and just playing those notes). Here's a rundown of the songs... Sneak features me in my most clear vocal role to date, though I try (somewhat) to make it sound like other people. The phrase struck me while I was noodling with the bass, and I thought it was funny and deep and dark enough to build a whole thing around. Walker and Middling were small efforts that seemed cool enough, and I'm trying to be less dramatic with what I release, so a couple of 2+ minute bits are OK, right? Your Neighborhood is my favorite of this group of songs. Lots of bass parts in there, and I think musically a little more insteresting than what I have done so far. Check it out.
I had a track halfway done that was sounding pretty good (including some guitar parts) when I came across a video of Maya Angelou in an interview. She talks about as a human, nothing another human does should be alien to us. Terrible things or wonderful things, we are all capable of them. I think there is a lot to this, and something we can all stand to think about more. The words provided a little more structure to the song, and so here we are. Hopefully through this song, more people will hear and ponder Maya's wise words. Production-wise this was the first time I dropped reference tracks into the Live arrangement. This allowed me to see a little more of what "real" music does in terms of loudness and spectral (high/low tone) balance. This was super eye-opening, and I wish I had done this a lot sooner. It allowed me to get this song to sound as loud as more popular music. I did this by making the low end quieter, which gives more headroom to the other parts. Rather than setting my final limiter to -1.5db, I could set it to -6db or so. It's counter-intuitive, but the song sounds worlds better to me than anything I've done prior.
The song opens with me saying "sing" over and over (singing?) then is just some fun playtime with the music rig, including lots of recorded percussion and guitar parts. I'd been obsessing over the bass sound in New Order's album Substance, and tried to get a little of that in this one. The title and photo take me back to a whitewater rafting trip I took with my girls before I made this song.
More fun musical playtime with no real theme or point, just a vibe. The instrument that sounds like a muted trumpet is actually a pair of bandpass filters, overdriven, and whose frequency is determined by the note position. There are lots of resonators and other sound-responsive elements and modifiers in this song too.
This track came about with the simultaneous happenings of: <ol><li>Pulling a part from this amazing performance from Bobby McFerrin into Ableton and playing with it.</li><li>Discovering and binge-listening to Forest Drive West.</li><li>Wiring up three Euclidean Sequencers in front of some samples feeding into resonators tuned to different notes/chords.</li></ol> I had about an hour before work one day, and put together an energetic little phrase with the samples and inspiration from the above, and it came together into a song the next full night I had to work on it. The next morning, I spent several hours rendering, listening in the car and living room (the sound is very different there, and so helps to identify how to clean up the mix), tweaking, and repeating 17 times. The song exists just because I liked the mood and energy of the rhythm, sub, resonators, and samples. No real deep meaning here. :)
I was truly inspired by what I saw in the virtual super/collider concert "sound machines", where Lomond Campbell and Hainbach performed in their own unique ways, using machines of their invention.
So <img src="/images/bcr2000-follower.jpg" width="50%" style="float: right; padding-left: 10px;" /> I built my own Sound Machines in Ableton Live. The core of the machines are three similar contraptions, each of which is driven by a Euclidean Sequencer device set to a prime number of steps (17, 19, and 23 IIRC) with different numbers of trigger points and offsets. Each of those are triggering a trio -- a kick, a gated instance of Hainbach and Sonic Lab's plugin called Fundamental, and a tone. This, and other things in the Live set (e.g. a master delay or a Pointer Sisters sample) are controlled by my Behringer BCR-2000, which is a tabletop box with 32 endless knobs that transmit MIDI. Ableton Live makes it so easy to map a knob to some sound-shaping function, so this box was my interface to the Sound Machine. I recorded several different song sessions with this setup, ranging from 10-15 minutes each. The best one made it through to the second round, which then entailed quite a bit of trimming, editing, and adjusting the sounds. This workflow is really awesome because it captures the spontenaity of a live performance, but then any tiny move of a knob can be edited later. This is a new workflow for me, and it definitely produces a different result than my normal workflow.
Leaning on the awe of 3am Aug 16, with hours of lightning and thunder every 20 seconds, followed by the inevitable terror of a week of forest fires and smoke. The lead-in sounds are from a few metal thermos cups I have, one of which had a little water in it. I found some binaural recordings of thunderstorms and spread them like peanut butter in the track. The drop halfway through the song was a fun little vocal snip to play with.
Fun little song to make, getting back to using Resonators more. I was pretty happy with how it came together at about 1:20.
The Time Takes it All
This one came out of some fun sound designing I was doing, trying to make an effect rack that would make a sound seem like it was orbiting your head. There were controls for direction (clockwise, counter-clockwise), radius, and speed. The time does take it all.
The title refers to a galaxy that was once thought to revolve around a supermassive black hole. The software plugin Supermassive from Valhalla DSP was released today for free. It's amazing. I used some different techniques than normal for this track, namely chopping a resampled recording into 1-2 bar chunks and mapping them to sampler keys. The source sound was a simple Operator patch put through Supermassive then to OTT. I like how this song is less normal than what I normally do.
This song was just music before there were any words on top of it. I set out to make an ambient piece with no beats, but I just can't help myself. After making the initial pad sound (piano reverb tail -- the oldest trick in the ambient book), I sequenced a fun kick pattern with some filtered delay on it, and the rest just took shape from there. This song uses resonators some more, particularly in the 2nd half. To me, the squelchy resonator noises represent our internal fight against calm and ease. The vocal is from a guided meditation from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is also known as <i>Thay</i> or Teacher. I think we can all use some calm/ease these days. I think Thich's words are both simple and profound:<em><blockquote>Breathing in, I know I'm breathing in.<br/>Breathing out, I kknow I'm breathing out.<br/>In, out.<br/><br/>Breathing in, I notice that my in-breath has become deep.<br/>Breathing out, I notice that my out-breath has become slow.<br/>Deep, slow. Enjoy.<br/><br/>Breathing in, I calm my body and my mind.<br/>Breathing out, I ease everything.<br/>Calm, ease.<br/><br/>Breathing in, I smile.<br/>Nothing is as important as my peace; my joy.<br/>I smile through everything.<br/>Even my through my suffering; through my difficulties.<br/>Breathing out, I release; I let go.<br/>This is a practice of freedom.<br/>Smile, release.</blockquote></em>
In trying my best to make the most of all the time at home, I had an idea to use Ableton Live's "Resonators" effect to make noises. This song was mostly an exercise in sound-making but the sounds were too neat to just leave alone. The Resonators effect gives you a set of five oscillators that are excited by input audio at a certain frequency and make noise. By using the Max4Live device called bcResonCtrl, you can have MIDI notes control the pitches of the resonators. I also used some generative devices to get started with some odd chords, and laid down a single track of chords that feeds 4 tracks of resonators. With this setup, you can spend a LOT of time having fun making noises with objects, drums, and singing into a mic and having it come out music. This song has a sample from an interview with Miles Davis where he was asked about a big collaboration he had mentioned in an earlier interview, but it never happened because it was "too heavy". The rest of the tracks are sounds made by me -- vocals, percussion, synths, etc.
I don't have many heroes, but Herbie is one of them, and has been since I was a kid. His appearance on Sesame Street, showing off his Fairlight CMI surely made an impression on me. The first music I ever purchased was a cassette of his album "Future Shock", which contained the absolutely mind blowing song Rockit. At the time I had no idea of Herbie's importance in the world of music, just that it was the coolest, most future-facing stuff I had ever heard. As I got older, I started to hear and appreciate more of his music, especially his work in the early 70s and with Miles Davis in the 60s. My mind was even more blown when I learned that one of my other favorite musicians, Bill Laswell, played bass on Rockit. Mind blown again. I was lucky enough to see him live in Oakland in 2018. Have a look at someone else's video of one of the songs from that performance here. In 2017, Herbie gave a series of lectures on "The Ethics of Jazz" at Harvard University. Listening to him really exposed his depth of character to me. The lecture the vocals this song borrows from is Herbie talking about how people are oftentimes reduced to one or two characteristics, usually related to their career or main hobby. His point is that a person is much more than this veneer, and by understanding and exploring our own complexity and nuance, we can unlock so many more possibilities in life.
Made during the "shelter in place" period following the Covid-19 outbreak, this song is about the lockdown and finding the good in the situation. The intro and outro sounds are inspired by Hainbach's "Isolation Loops" project, but I made my own Isolation Loops by building little feedback machines in Ableton Live and spending a couple wonderful sessions just tweaking sounds and recording audio as I went. Harmonica by me. The main melody is from an instrument I made from sampling a single note from a recorder instrument here in the music room. The rhythm in the song is either triplet time (4/4 with triplet 8th notes) or 6/8 depending on your music theory religion. I noticed that most Persian music uses this rhythm, and so I thought it would be cool to use it in a different context. I really like the possibilities that it brings, especially if layered with a standard non-triplet 4/4 beat in places.
This song is just about inner resolve in the face of outside forces. The main vocal sample is from J Rick's Against the Clock video, in parallel with a vocoder. The other vocal parts are a one-note sample of Blixa Bargled from Einsturzende Neubauten's "Die Interimsliebenden", as well as a sample of the amazing singing of Hamlet Gonashvili. The initial sound is (believe it or not) a plucked rubber band wrapped around a plastic container through a filter whose cutoff is modulated by an envelope follower sidechained to a drum loop. The guitar part was just a sample of me strumming Marina's ukulele once, but played back at different pitches. This song is the biggest example for me of making my own loops ... I started another project and layered up some instruments and effects and just recorded several minutes of doing wacky things with the effects. I imported that audio into this project and chose several interesting sections from that. It was very liberating creatively, and I think leads to something more interesting that what I normally do. The clangy drums in the second half of the song are from a binaural recording I did of hitting a metal thing against my copper sink, then sliced up and sequenced.
In March, 2011 a huge tsunami struck the east coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people and causing an explosion at a nuclear power plant. There are a ton of videos on YouTube, taken by people living near the coast, of this event. I fell into a rabbit hole of these videos and was struck at the sheer power nature has. Houses and buildings getting swept away like they were nothing. The intro of this song is a composite of maybe 10 different recordings, layered up with some extra white noise to build the feeling of this terrible event. It cuts suddenly to pure quiet, aside from the sound of the local crows and running water. The song moves to a mourning period, which grows increasingly organized, then intense rebuilding, then life continues with a new perspective, not forgetting the memories of what and who was lost.
A Field Trip
I keep starting projects intended to be some kind of dark Dub-Techno. But they invariably evolve to something like this. I had lots of fun sequencing a 303 line for this one, inspired by Orbital's Diversions-era (1991) work. This one uses some samples from a German YouTube video, as well as the same field recording from Vasona's intro.
Purity of Essence
The title comes from the scribbles of the mad General Ripper from Dr. Strangelove. Samples from that movie as well as the Jonestown "Death Tape". Explores the idea of breaking free from mind control.
Time Always Moving
Vocal samples from a talk from Dalai Lama. Opening chord from the outro chord of Robert Glasper's take on Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Samples from an episode of the Twilight Zone of the same name. Very proud of the "shit" break. The intro drums and hihats are from Jacob Collier's awesome Tiny Desk Concert.
On The Scene
Most vocal samples from an a capella version of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, if you can believe it. It's amazing to me that I can remove his pitch variation, shift to another key, slow it down or speed it up, and there is still so much character in his voice.
Ariana Grande provides the belted note that moves from a fake male to female persona.
Pretty unremarkable song. Vocals by me.
Naomi wrote a poem for her 5th grade class that blew me away. I had her read it and used those samples as the basis of this song.
Opening samples of some kids hiking on a field trip in Sunol Regional Wilderness.
More samples from Sunol Regional Wilderness, made with Sennheiser binaural mics.
My attempt at making a minimal dub techno song. Submitted to DFRNT's Insight Podcast, and played in episode 171. :)
Inspired by Biggi from Gus Gus' video tutorial on how he makes one of their sound effects. Took it from there.
Some pounding on the wall of my shower, sheetmetal at a historic mercury mine site, the a capella vocals from Starlifter, and a whole lot of drums.
One prolific night, I sketched out about 25 minutes of music in three songs, all using the same set of sounds. Metalkit-A was the first song in that group, and the one that had lasting power for me. The song doesn't really have a story, other than Enrique sent me some recordings he made in his car of Alan Watts talking that he thought I should use in a song. Well, here ya go Hank!
Sea of Love
A while back I was running by the railroad tracks near my house and had the idea to use a sample from the Honeydrippers' version of Sea of Love, specifically the "I" in "I want to tell you...". The way Robert Plant sang that has so much character, I thought it could be the basis of something else. I took more samples than that from the song and made something very different from it. Bahar sent me a recording she made of the parrots that live in our neighborhood, and that became the intro. The main melody sound is a note sampled from the Stylophone that Derek gave me many years ago. Other sounds are egg shakers I keep at my music desk, the squeaky shelf that seems to get play in all my songs, and other synth sounds I made.
"Most of the drums, percussion, synths, etc were made from recordings I made. The vocals come from this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYGIbyBfspY Made over the course of almost a month, bits and pieces at a time. The name comes from a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane. The song is 141 BPM."
The song title is an anagram for Paul Alan Levi, the creator of the PBS logo theme sound from the 70s. www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCuqlLq1k7o That sound really intrigued me (or freaked me out) as a kid, so here it is wrapped into a song. There are samples from the movie The Iron Giant in there.
Carrer de Napols
This song title is the name of the street where Bahar and I stayed during our trip to Barcelona.
Continuing with the fun looping percussion recording workflow, Supermercado started out as a few distinct 8-bar phrases that I figured out how to weave into a song.
One of the main sounds is 5 tracks of Wytse speaking (he has a great YouTube channel where he reviews software and shows mixing/mastering techniques), all layered on one another and panned across the stereo field. I took that layered sound and made an instrument in Kontakt with it, where each note-on triggers the sample from a random starting point. A couple knobs on my BCR-2000 control the note length and sample speed. This song has the most tracks of anything I've done -- 55 tracks in all.
I like how this song moves through some different moods, so it was good enough to finish and put out there.
I made Gotham a week after Quiet Now. Things were flowing. I continued with the looping recording percussion workflow with this one. For example, there are 5 clap tracks, each recorded individually but panned differently. This makes for a natural feeling "people clapping" feeling I think, even though it was just me clapping. I'm really digging the piano (especially with some FX applied). The main sound in this track is Logic's Clavinet simulation put through some modeled amp/pedals. I also learned to use a compressor to beef up sounds by really overdriving it, but output in parallel so the clean signal is like 75% and the effected signal is at 25%. Thanks to producing legend Andrew Schepps informative videos on the subject to open my eyes to a simple but effective technique. This song alternates between a light bopping-down-the-sidewalk feel and something more serious. It sounds great on a big system.
This song opens with a recording of frogs from Lake Ranch Lake combined with Bahar's windchimes. At the lake there was a frog right next to us, but then it got quiet. This song was a shift in workflow for me, using many layers of recorded percussion. I would sequence a simple drum and bass pattern then record in cycle mode, with Logic configured to create a new take for each cycle. Press record, and go to down on lots of different instruments. Then choose "Unpack Folder to New Tracks" and everything is layered. I think this is a more "musical" track for me, with strong melody, chord presence and kind of a traditional structure. I used Logic's Rhodes simulation, ESX 24 grand piano, and Mellotron instruments. There is also a lot of recorded kalimba (normal and reversed) in there.
As an experiment, I cloned the project from Featherboa to start a new song. The initial version came together really quickly -- maybe 6 hours. I decided it needed a vocal element, so I headed over to the Sound Traveler YouTube Channel. This channel specializes in binaural recordings of different places. I saw a video on the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya, Japan and decided this would be the one. The music I had laid down had a Japanese feel to it, so it was a good match. Now there was a theme to the song, so with several iterations over a week or so (e.g. it started out about 7 minutes, but I trimmed it to 4.5) it was done. It's more chill than the other stuff I've done lately. There are some Naomi samples in there (again), along with an instrument I made by recording the hum of the fluorescent light in my kitchen turning on and stabilizing.
Most of my songs have a theme or story, but this one is just a song. The floppy spatula makes another appearance in this song, in a very prominent role. There are a few samples of Naomi singing, but pitched up or otherwise tweaked.
The US government has broadcast the current time from Fort Collins, CO using the station callsign WWV at shortwave frequencies 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz, continuously since 1920. When I was a kid, we had an antique radio that could pick up these frequencies, and I would spend quiet nights with a makeshift antenna attached to this radio listening to the hypnotic pattern of clicks, tones, and announcements. I can't remember what jogged my memory, but I spent some time looking for a high quality recording of the station to reminisce. I found this great blog post of a guy who went right to the source to learn more about this public service and make some recordings sans interference. Naturally this evolved for me into a piece of music. I had started a project a few weeks back where I experimented with a song transitioning from 4/4 time to 6/8 time, and in turn the perceived tempo increases 50% with that change. That project was a dud, but I kept the idea alive into this project. Starting with a basis of 120 BPM to match the 1 Hz WWV recording, it transitions into a wormhole of time and rhythm as you go inside the signal at 180 BPM. There were some fun sounds involved in making this song. The static sound at the beginning of the track is actually my sock feet rustling on the non-skid surface of my desk's footrest. The hat sound is something hitting an oven rack, but pitched up. The main "snare" sound is a big floppy stainless spatula struck against a piece of plastic played at normal and half speed simultaneously. The bamboo stick is used on a couple tracks, as is Naomi's lovely and haunting singing voice. This song took several weeks to come together, mostly due to my lack of focused time to work on it. I think it worked out well here though, since I had a lot of time to digest the progress of the song and make small tweaks without the pressure of 4am looming. There are about 30 tracks in this song.
I recorded Marina playing her Ukulele and singing the song "Riptide" and was moved the weepy daddy pride, so I knew I needed to do something more with the audio. The following week, The Drique visited and we spent an hour or two noodling with a guitar I'm borrowing here and recorded the whole thing. More raw materials! The song took a few weeks of slow/false starts to get going, though I knew the bass part behind Marina's singing was going to be a main part of the song. It really came together when I started playing with Logic's vocoder instrument. The texture that a simple vocoder instrument can bring is super cool, and so the song got "interesting" for me once I started layering in those sounds. A lot of the percussion in the song is various hits of drumsticks and bamboo sticks I have here at home. The metallic melody line that comes and goes was just a single sampled hit of drumstick against my 8 quart kitchen pot, tuned and spread across the piano keys. There are 41 instrument and audio tracks in this song.
I did a youtube search for Afrobeat music, and stumbled across "God is Love" from Complex Soundz Spotify Link) and thought it was a super cool song. I pulled the audio into Logic and did a lot of slicing and dicing to chop the first 1/3 of the song into 1 measure pieces. All those pieces went into a Kontakt instrument where I spent a lot of time setting loop lengths and tempos so everything could work together. The beginning and end of the song is audio from Tomáš Slavik's intense winning run at Red Bull Valparaíso Cerro Abajo 201. I was watching this video and closed my eyes and was taken aback by the crowd sounds whizzing by and decided to incorporate them into this composition. Most of the drum sounds and the subbass are mine, as well as the little organ ditty at the end. While this song shares a ton with the original (could it be a remix?), structurally it's very different. The name "Good Evils" is an anagram of "God is Love".
Jan Jelinek's Rock in the Video Age" came up randomly in my car and I really took to the song. I liked the texture and the minimal but interesting style. Of course, I thought I should try something like that. This also coincided with an equipment dream come true -- a 43" 4K monitor. If a 28" 1440p was an eye opener for working with music, surely more than double the pixels (8.3MP vs 3.7MP) would be an eye blaster! It took a bit of getting used to to look at so much screen, but it's awesome to have so much space for music and virtual instruments and effects. Anyhow, this song came together pretty quickly over the past week. I spent at least as much time tweaking it as I did laying it down to start. It was really really fun to make and I hope to come up with an "album" of similar songs to start the year. There are a few notable sounds in there. There's a brief sample of Stevie Wonder when he was on Sesame Street in 1973, a vocoder instrument with a 1/64 arp on it receiving textures from a speech synthesizer from Mindport in Bellingham, WA saying "NAOMI", the good old rotating cabinet in my kitchen making a beautiful deep bowed instrument sound, the sound of me tapping the body of Marina's ukulele, and the venerable "claps galore" sample set that I made by clapping from different parts of the house with the mic in a fixed place.
The opening sample on this song is my niece Ginger playing the ukulele. She was strumming along while I recorded with my laptop. I chopped up each strum and laid them out across a sampler instrument. The drums are from a YouTube video of Bernard Purdie (again!). The violin/cello sound is a rotating cabinet in my kitchen that I noticed made a lovely low squeak, recorded with my portable stereo mic, then loaded into Kontakt 5 (just got this software after Transpo -- good sound but a primitive UI, hopefully they fix it in 6). The chiff/flute sound is a recording of me blowing across a bottle of Reed's ginger beer, recorded with an SM57 and loaded into Kontakt. The "waah" sound at the end is a kazoo mangled like crazy in Kontakt and using a lot of FX.
There were two main sources of inspiration for this song -- this 1965 film on the Mellotron and this picture of a bus I took in downtown San Jose. I grabbed a bunch of samples from the Mellotron film and made a sampler instrument from them (so easy in Logic Pro -- Ctrl-E). I was thinking to mix the retro string vibe with a modern artificial environment. The samples dictated the tempo of 113 BPM, which ends up being a slow-but-danceable tempo. The samples were also in 3/4 time, so I set up the project that way. The funny thing is that I built the song around those samples, then ended up removing them about halfway through because it sounded better without them. Thanks for the launchpad though! This was a fun song to put together because the grid was in 3/4 but I really was making a 4/4 song. This added some mental complexity with dealing with the grid, and how the phrases weren't necessarily on the measure lines, but I think it had the interesting effect of bringing in elements at more interesting/surprising times, since it wasn't easy just to jump on 4-measure divisions. The train-like kicks at the end are a kickdrum alternating with a reversed version of that kick, passed through a tape delay simulation. There are some 909 hats with some cutoff automation and auto-filter, and some claps from one of the stock drum kits that comes with Logic. The other sounds are either synths I made in Alchemy or based on samples and stretched out and put thru lots of effects. One neat thing I worked on was automating the "pan-spread" parameter for the arp-y sound to really open the door on the song when it takes off a couple minutes in.
I set out to make a reggae song. I had a bunch of samples I took from an old instructional film starring drumming legend Bernard Purdie that I really wanted to use in a project. I also learned the bassline from The Orb's song "Valley" and wanted to see what I could do with it. The result is a dubby, dancy tune with a pretty big bottom end. "Nothing is ever precise..."
This song starts with some samples from a hike I took with a friend on a graveley trail -- our different cadences were making a cool rhythmic pattern. There were also crickets chattering, which I took to turned into a cricket rave party in the track. I set out to make a dancy number with this one that felt light. There's a running joke in dance music where typical dance beats mimic the phrase "boots and cats" repeatedly. If you listen carefully, you can hear me whispering that through the song in certain parts. The cutting-acid sound is a kazoo put through pitch correction and the Ringshifter effects. Bahar helped me to construct the extended mellow ending, which I think really makes the song, along with Naomi's crazy vocal samples that sound like a dog squeeze toy. I'm proud of how this song ends. "And then I don't know what happened next..."
Edwin White, You're My Hero
This project started with an audio recording Marina and her friend did of a song they made up. I put a some samples of a line her friend sang through some pitch and modulation effects, chopped it up, and laid it out on the keys across a couple octaves. The title refers to astronaut Ed White, who was America's first spacewalker in the Gemini 4 mission. He was supposed to be outside the capsule for 4 minutes but ended up staying outside for 12. There are samples from NASA's audio recordings of radio communications of that mission throughout the song. Marina's friend singing "I know, I know" ties back with Ed White's playful exchanges with Mission Control and how he knew he was supposed to "get back in!" but he knew he could stay outside longer and really soak in what he was doing and seeing.
This song started out with the idea that a looping water recording could be put through a tremolo and used as a rhythmic device. Even cooler if it could transition seamlessly from "babbling brook" to off-beat percussion. The girls and I like to explore the Sanborn Creek next to Sanborn Road. It's an ever-changing adventure, rock-hopping and climbing over downed trees. It's also a place where I like to bring my mountain and road bikes. I wanted this song to be about that stuff. I recorded a little stream on a hike near Lexington Reservoir ... that would be close enough to Sanborn to count, right? The next inspirational element came from a recording experiment I did with the sliding glass door in my kitchen. The huge bass sound had to find a home! And so it did. The other sounds in the song come from a 4-oscillator Alchemy synth I made that can be controlled in 8 ways by the knobs on my controller, a percussion set I made from slapping and banging on my kitchen floor, a click sound from something banging into the Rode i-XY mic when recording the stream turned into a kickdrum, the default ESX-24 sine wave processed through a simulated guitar amp, samples of Bahar playing the Daff, and a percussion set I recorded from my bike. This song changes more than other songs I've done, and I like that. I think I'll keep doing more of it.
By a Thread
I was noodling in sound-making mode with a set of sounds and instruments I had come up with over the last few weeks when I heard of a dear friend's father's sudden passing. There were a lot of similarities between her story and the experience we had when Santosh (Arti's dad) passed away in 2007, and so it stirred up a lot of memories of that time. We were with him when he died, and that moment lives with me very clearly to this day. I wanted to make something to express these feelings, and to illustrate what happens to the people in the situation when this happens. The song is made of a cast of characters. One of them dies. They all act on their own, and they all change in different ways after the moment of death. There are new patterns, rememberances, resurgences. They find a new order and life goes on. Sound-wise, this song features a 4-oscillator Alchemy arpeggiator patch I made that is very automatable, a dove call that I whistled, some long vocal notes wrung through tons of processing, an egg shaker, and 8 claps. The claps were one idea that I had to have the mic in one part of the house, and clap from different rooms and distances from the mic. The product is an impulse map of my house, and that impression may be given in headphones. This song was unique for me in that I performed each track end-to-end. Normally I will come up with some good phrases and loop them. By a Thread was actually performed.
This song is a story of two people. One is moody and unsure. The other is a calming and beautiful presence. Fruhling is the German word for Springtime. The lead sound is me singing through a plastic kazoo, then a ton of pitch correction and processing was applied in the computer. The other singing is me too, made possible by even more pitch correction and effects. This is the first time I have actually tried to sing in a song. Thanks to technology, no ears are bleeding. I also played the kalimba with drumsticks, recorded a ratchet, and tapped a stainless steel bowl with plastic sticks.
I had a bunch of samples that just kind of fell together in this song. There's kind of a dadaist element to it, since the main sample is my mom saying "just something, any old thing", responding to me putting a mic in front of her and asking her to say something. This song is proof that you can take anything and make it into music. Kalimba plays a lead role in the song, as does my box of noisemakers that I recorded indiviaul hits on and then sequenced as sampler instruments. Jingle bells, egg shakers, toy tambourine, and recorder flute.