Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Apparently as the story goes, Pan was infatuated by a lovely nymph named Syrinx. Syrinx didn't dig on Pan & fled. Since this is a Greek stalker myth, Pan of course chases her. It was then that Syrinx asked her sisters to change her into a reed (or a bunch of reeds depending whose story you're reading--pardon the pun).
Pan, then having decided that something was better than nothing decided to cut the reeds to make his Pan flute. Nice. If you wanna read up on your mythology, check out this version of the story and this version of the story, or just go to wikipedia.
Anyway, Eric told me he was interested in painting a piece based on the love story. So, I did. Here's the clip.
...Through this music clip I tried to tell a story. If you listen, you can hear voices that I meant to correspond with the story of various people that were involved in the story of the girl from India. The chanting monks represent the spiritual forces that tried to manipulate her existence & convince her parents not to have the operation that in the end saved her life. I decided that they needed to have their voices changed--warped--to reflect the true nature of their selfishness.
Then, there's the male voice representing the voice of her dad--this voice carries the melody. You'll also hear a lower pitched woman's voice that represents her mom & a higher pitched voice that belongs to the girl. You'll notice it more so at the end, since the clip ends with her voice played in a different key--even more, I wanted the ending to convey a sense of freedom & indepedence as she is finally free of her parasitic twin.
Friday, August 01, 2008
So...to tell the story, I decided that the girl and those surrounding her could be represented through music.
So as not to give the creative process away just yet, take a listen to the clip first.
I have to thank both free-loops.com (which houses unlicensed, public domain & creative commons audio) as well as the
Freesound Project. Thanks to these sites, I was able to find some great samples. See the extended post for attributions.
But, in the meantime, I've been doing some experimental stuff & learning how to better make use of all the upgrades I've made to the studio. I've basically made the switch to using a bunch of products from Native Instruments in addition to Cubase. Well, their stuff is neat--but is taking some time to learn how to use efficiently. These folks make great products, but I wish there was more guidance from the company on how to use their products...
...So, I've been digging a little & in the process decided to jump back into a project that's a bit more artistic in nature. I first started with a few tentative attempts at using Kontakt to take some vocal samples (freely available) and map them to midi regions, and finally to morph the clips by pitch & by time.
It's funny how inspiration decides when and where to strike. From there, I decided to pitch an idea for an art project to a friend of mine--and a great artist. (I don't want to name him just yet in case he'd rather not be. But, suffice it to say that he paints & has a really distinctive style.)
Well, the idea was to combine the presentation of his artwork with music that corresponded to the art. I know people have used background music in art galleries, but I wanted to have a more personal experience, specific to the art, and for the viewer to choose when & if they wanted to listen.
I've been going through my own transition recently, and I'm happy to say I'm starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. I've still been playing & writing music--but my blogging muse has been a bit silent the last couple of months. As everyone around me knows, I'm going back to grad school. Hooray!
And, I'm quitting my job & starting a new one. Hooray! Actually, the new one will let me go part time in the Fall while I concentrate on school, and will let me play with educational technology, new media, social networking, etc. Hooray! I happened to start a scholarly / professional blog: http://www.edtechresources.info that I'll eventually start using to talk about what will be hopefully useful resources for faculty looking to integrate cutting-edge ed tech in their classrooms.
So, this is the reason for the silence. Literally.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This assignment wasn't nearly as descriptive as the first, but it did give me an opportunity to stretch my wings in a really cool direction. This time, I had to write 3 different tunes--one that was more in the vein of "metal" rock, another more Euro-pop'ish, and finally something that was House-oriented.
I'm actually looking forward to having my friend & music composition teacher, Hugh come over & record the guitar part (which I wrote up a week or so ago) to a short metal tune that I put together so I'll post that when we're done.
But, for now, take a listen to the...
...Trance / Euro-pop ('ish) clip
...and the House clip
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
So...unlike the Native Instruments purchase this wasn't as easy. At least Native Instrument products like Kontakt are easily an industry standard these days in the midi world, but choosing the right type of sample required trying to balance dollar vs quality vs perception of what was the "best".
Ok, hands-down the most "popular" product (in terms of advertising that I've seen to would-be composers) is put out by East West, and belongs to their Symphonic Orchestra line of products. Their demos are fantastic, they have great reviews & endorsements from some famous people (like David Newman)...but I gotta say that from what I've read and heard--that doesn't necessarily make them the "best". Yes, if you're going to score a rich Hollywood production & want a sound recorded in a multi-million dollar concert hall their sound is fantastic.
HOWever, you need to buy into the Platinum edition in which the orchestra was mic'd from 3 different positions; otherwise, if you but anything less you'll get only 1 mic'd position. On the surface that may seek Ok, but since that 1 mic'd position is pretty rich in reverb--that means you'll always get a sound laced with reverb--and if you're scoring something that requires strings lighter in 'verb these samples will not work nearly as well. AND, if you choose the high-end bundle, you'll need to be prepared to have a *very* powerful computer--I've actually read that people really setup 2 computers just to run 1 sample set.
I, on the other hand, decided to keep looking. So, East West was out. I decided to look at the Vienna Symphony Library. Now, these folks are *serious*. Their stuff is highly professional--and they have a top-notch reputation. Let's put it this way--their top-o-the-line product, the Symphonic Cube has nearly 750,000 samples and comes at a cost of nearly $12,000. I can't even begin to think of the horsepower & major professional setup needed to run that!
So...I kept looking & settled on what is arguably one of the most overlooked & under-advertised orchestral sample set--made to be played using the Kontakt player I might add. And that, y'all is the stuff produced by Kirk Hunter Studios. I was unsure at first when I listened to the demos--but then I realized that I was meant to hear *precisely* what I was getting--with very few frills. I didn't get a purely "wow, that sounds like it came off the big screen" kind of sound initially--but man o' man after tinkering with the samples recently, I can say without a doubt that this stuff is really remarkable--and is priced very competitively.
...and after speaking with Kirk over the phone, I can say this guy is really nice, sincere, professional, and is fully committed to his product. Thanks, Kirk!
Monday, May 12, 2008
- Reaktor for some really big synths--and for the ability to design custom instruments
- Battery for a kick-butt drum sampler
- Kontakt for a great general midi instrument collection AND great industry standard sampler
- Guitar Rig 3 for great guitar efx
- Pro 53 for some vintage synths based on Prophet 5
- Elektrik Piano (self explanatory)
- B4II - for that Hammond sound
- Akoustik Piano --let me just say that as a pianist, having a Bosendorfer, Bechstein, & other great pianos at my disposal is really keen
- Massive for wavetable synthesis
- FM8 for FM synthesis (think Yamaha DX 7--I used to Drool over this when I was in school)
- And Kore 2; Kore 2 is really neat--it's a touch responsive hardware controller that's been designed to connect with their Kore 2 instrument, which comes bundled with a great set of synths & sounds and allows for sound variations controllable at the touch of a fader.
...but, I still plan to use Reason (as I have been) through Cubase (via Rewire technology) for the stuff that it can handle really well.
...but it's just one tool in the proverbial toolbox now.
And, now Second drumroll, please, what else?
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The goal, you ask--beyond just spending tons of money on things that can make noise? Although one can never have *too* many choices of instruments or sounds--for me the big deal was trying to invest in a coherent system to make my music go; and to get the best damn samples that I could afford that would give the most 'bang for the buck'.
Up until now, I've had fun using:
- Propellerhead's Reason 4.0 for my beats & synths
- Motu's Symphonic Instruments for my orchestral stuff
- Motu's Ethno Instruments for snazzy ethnic goodness
- a selection of killer drum samples from EastWest
- and Cubase for my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Reason is pretty well written; they bundle a decent set of general midi instruments, grooves & loops to get someone going to make music--but the *real* magic is in the refills that you get (free or paid for) to plug-into Reason. So, Reason is great as a self-contained system--it has a built-in sequencer which means if you Stick with Reason primarily, there's no need for a DAW.
---but Reason is limited. It's sequencer is limited & I often need to combine Reason with other orchestral stuff. And, even though it's synth-capabilities just expanded with Thor (it's new Pulse Width Modulation synth)
there's a much wider array of sonic possibilities to explore beyond Reason's universe.
...This first clip is with Mike playing the live trumpet part
...This second clip was done with Kick Ass Brass!
There were other pieces to the assignment--but these are the most fun!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
What i actually wound up using is for was for background music while doing roleplay gaming for a Japanese-themed game that I developed using Jeff & Manda's Unigames Roleplaying system, Pocket Universe!
There are several "universes" that use this system, my RPG, "Rise of the Kami" is one of them...
...More on *that* project later, but one thing i've been doing is incorporating music into my live tabletop settings--"Firedrums" is one example of how this happens
Saturday, April 12, 2008
...I almost forgot, yes in all this process I had another Learning Experience (No, not one of those!) I have only a little experience arranging music for other players.
..There was this one time in college with a jazz combo where we had a gig that I needed to draft some parts for some players--but it was a long time ago & I had the benefit of a pre-written arrangement to work from.
In any case, I wound up learning about range (what a real trumpet player would expect versus what a no-brain VST can handle), transposition & frankly using Cubase to pound out an acceptable-looking trumpet part.
For the uninitiated, scoring in Cubase goes a little like this.
1. Composers plays part into Cubase.
2. Composer looks at Cubase's score view of the part.
3. Composer scratches his/her head & asks WTF?
Well, as my composition instructor points out, what you see may play back the notes accurately, but a DAW will write everything with precise, metrical correctness. That means if you're off the beat, it will write things that way in the score.
But wait, there's Quantization to the rescue! My comp teacher, Hugh is an expert at this, but basically you've gotta tell Cubase what beat division to use to display what you've played, then you need to
..The end result was a score that was usable. Please note that it took 4 tries in all to get something that worked. Here's what it finally looked like:
Friday, April 11, 2008
AMG's Kick Ass Brass (KAB for short)
After downloading a demo from Arturia, I decided on KAB, mainly because of ease-of-use + overall sound quality across all the brass instruments. That, and I could easily layer multiple brass instruments to form a section, unlike with Arturia...I know, I know (I can hear the die-hards now) I can instantiate multiple copies of Brass in my DAW (which is Cubase), but it still took a *lot* of work to try to get Arturia to sound like a real instrument. I think if I were more knowledgeable about either the instrument or about sound synthesis I could make it sound great, but the bottom line is that I didn't want to spend the time.
...selfish me, I wanted it to work--and work well and fast.
Besides, I was able to get a live trumpet player on for one of the parts, so all I needed was a really good scratch-track anyway. KAB was it and it's done a great job so far...
Well, I *knew* when I wrote the last arrangement that I needed a drum kick & snare on a straight-ahead beat with snares on 2/4 & kicks on 1/3. The problem was that I muddied the waters with a downtempo loop thinking I could *merge* the 2 together.
What I got was mud.
I took it out & wound up with this:
The beat is right, but the bed wasn't quite right.
Then I decided I needed, guess what - BRASS! and well, a Jazz Organ :
Ok...now we're in the ballpark!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
---the real reason was that I had developed an interest in trance music and *really* wanted to apply it to solve the problem.
---so then I *almost* Took it A-Way: It's not trance,
but what was it, exactly?
....I was really happy with it & let Mike listen (hooray for feedback!), and OK, That wasn't IT either!
It would've been great (says Mike) for the Weather Channel.
Weather Channel?, I asked.
Yeah, it's something that would be safe for Janet's parents to listen to, he responded.
Safe for Janet's parents? That's not what I wanted for a corporate video! I want punch! I wanted energy! I wanted...well, what I *Really* wanted was...
...Sigh...I wanted to create music I liked & wanted to experiment with. Trance. Downtempo Chill. Dance. Whatever. I think to my credit I was thinking about merging styles--but it didn't fit the assignment.
So, lesson takeaway #1: Mixing business & pleasure really Doesn't work when trying to write for the client.
Art is art, and business can be art--but since I wasn't used to writing in the style, it just didn't fit with what was needed for a
Well, so if not trance or chill then what--well I toned down the trance & moved to a different beat...