I’m posting this entry from a hotel room in Seattle after spending the day hunting for an apartment.
I’m pretty sure I’m two entries short of completing Holidailies, but given the extraordinary circumstances of the past month, I think I did well.
Of course, most of these entries were filler — when in doubt, post some audio!
I think the topic whiplash of this past month is revealing — first I talk at length about the death of my dad, then the instant I start working on music, he doesn’t come up again. (I guess I’m not going to write that entry about how he ends up in my dreams for Holidailies. Maybe later.)
The story I’ll stick to is that I spent a month back home in a pretty sub-optimal emotional environment, and I was all too eager to jump back into life as I’d known it.
Mostly, it’s because I treated myself to some toys that really unleashed the creativity, something that wasn’t much of an option during the lean times of the Fucking Recession. (Great, my ass.) I needed that.
Who knows if I’ll do Holidailies again? Maybe next year, I’ll post to my neglected tech blog.
Just when I thought I was all proud of myself for making my demos sound less demo-y, I decide to hear what my tracks sound like on my iPod. That’s when I discovered — there’s no third dimension.
Yes, I was a good beginning mixer and made sure my instruments were panned in different parts of the stereo spectrum — vocals and bass in the middle, guitars on the edges, keyboards off to either side. The drum samples, thankfully, already had their own panning. But everything was just up in front. There was no sense of depth, of front to back.
Which, of course, needs to be faked.
The stereo spectrum only determines the sideways orientation of sound, it doesn’t do anything about depth. There is no close-far dial on the mixer.
And that’s where long tutorials on the nature of sound come in. In short, I had to add reverb on everything to approximate the sense of a room, and I had to adjust that reverb to make one instrument seem more forward and backward than another. It can get tedious.
I did, however, finally learn what convolution reverb was and immediately put to use a SONAR plug-in that did just what I needed.
Not so fast.
Holidailies ends this week, and for this final stretch I’m going to be lazy and just post audio files.
Because really — that’s pretty much the big thing happening in my life right now. The life of a mad genius doesn’t make for interesting reading. (Unless you’re more “mad” than “genius”.)
This time, I’m not going to post music written by me. Instead, I’ll rely on Beethoven for that.
Back in the summer, I dropped $200 on an orchestral sample library called Miroslav Philharmonik. It covered a lot of ground for that price point, which is to say, it didn’t catch everything. I’m not sure whether I could use this library to reproduce contemporary works.
Not being completely satisfied, I dropped another $300 on the Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold. That was half off the usual price. I haven’t managed to finish inputting the score of a major work with this library. Maybe that’s what I should do when I get sick of remixing.
Here, then, is the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C-minor:
And the fourth, which is a lot more substantial:
The two movements segue, so I’m including them both.
And no, that’s not a live orchestra.
I’ve reached a point in the Restraint remix project where I’m actually rather sick of hearing these songs. So I’ve moved onto some other tracks.
I have an EP, titled 「風の歌を聴け」, that doesn’t have nearly the same instrumentation as Restraint (except for the title track — that remix is going to take time), but I find I’m taking as much time on those songs as the more complex ones.
What really bogged things down was listening to my tracks on my iPod. I realized I didn’t really account for depth in any of my remixes. So how do you create the perception of depth in the stereo field? You can put instruments on the left or on the right, but there’s no knob for front to back.
Pretty much, it’s sleight of hand — making the effects processors create the illusion of depth. (I won’t bore you with the details.) It’s quite a pain, especially since it’s the first time I’ve tried it, and I don’t get the sense what I’m doing is working.
I like to think I’m improving with all this studio stuff, though. In the past, I would just use whatever preset sounded good. Today, I actually bypassed the preset on a plug-in that improves the sound quality of vocal tracks. I used my own EQ, and I figured out an esoteric feature not common in other such processors.
Cover your mouth when you yawn, thank you.
All that to say I’m still learning. My stuff still doesn’t really sound professional, but it sounds far better than five years ago, when I made first steps into this consuming realm. I do hope I get to the point where I can make something amazing.
I gotta say … this past decade sucked.
I’m not talking about the world at large. I mean, come on — we’re talking about two terms of George W. Bush here.
I mean, personally for me.
I started the decade without a job. I went into deep credit card debt, mostly because my car decided to break down before I could get back on my feet.
Then I spent seven years at a job that underpaid me and under-utilized me. I would have left sooner if it hadn’t been for the Bush Recession.
I’m still in debt, and because I’m actually trying to live within my means, I’m realizing my means are pretty narrow for what I want to do in life.
I didn’t date. Heck, I didn’t even prowl.
And I hate living in Austin with the intensity of a gamma ray burst. Cedar season is here. Then oak. Then summer. Just shoot me now. I didn’t leave Honolulu just to be stuck in fucking Texas for 13 years.
If I got anything out of this decade, it’s a ton of music and two novels. Not that I’ve done much either, but it’s more creativity I accomplished than college.
This next decade, things will need to change. I’ll fucking punch the ’10s in the dick if they don’t.
This song is not part of the Restraint remix project, but it will be included in a future remix project. Some artists brag about having X number of albums’ worth of material to release, but that just means they haven’t yet edited the junk to get the one album out of it.
That may be the case for me as well because I actually do have about four albums of material in my repertoire, two of which have already seen an early draft release (Imprint and Restraint.) That doesn’t include the smaller EPs and various other flotsam and jetsam.
“Untold Demons” is actually a rewrite of the very first song I ever wrote. The original was embarrassingly bad, but there was a kernel of an idea that I adapted to how I would write to day.
I enjoyed indulging in some mid-80’s Heart on this song, and it was the first to alert me to the potential of Battery and Guitar Rig.
Here’s the remixed track:
Sometimes reality and satire blur in the pages of The Onion, none more so than this article about a life-long love affair with music ending at age 35.
Thing is, the numbers back up this phenomenon. The recorded music industry traditionally targets young audiences because older audiences tend not to spend as much on new music. If they do, it’s on catalog.
I think this year really marks the time I’ve become that demographic.
Right now, I’ve got Lisa Stansfield’s Affection album playing, and it’s been on regular rotation on my media player. I downloaded it from eMusic, and I wanted to buy a CD yesterday. But Waterloo had a ratty used copy that was just slightly scratched up. I looked online to see if a Best Buy or Barnes and Noble in my area had it. They did not. So it’s probably off to Amazon again …
Affection was released in 1990 — 20 years ago. It’s one of many albums I’ve bought or downloaded that was not released in the year it was purchased.
The list is extensive, but the ones that really stood out were:
As years go by, the difficulty of shopping for me during the holidays gets compounded. In other words, I didn’t have many gifts to open this season. To wit:
- A bottle of pinot grigio
- A gift card to Azul Tequila
Both gifts encourage the consumption of alcohol. These are things my friends wish for me to prioritize.
The real toy I "got" for Christmas were two pieces of Native Instruments software — the previously mentioned Guitar Rig 4 Pro and Kontakt 4.
Kontakt 4 comes with samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library, perhaps the most thorough orchestral sample library out there. I haven’t used Kontakt much on this remix project, but I did use a string ensemble on one song. Oh, my. It sounded good, but the articulations were limited. I guess it’s time to start saving my pennies for something either slightly or extremely more extensive.
Guitar Rig 4 Pro and Battery 3, which I bought back in September, have been my workhorses on this remix project. As much as I love how Reason allowed me to fake guitar parts, Guitar Rig allows me to have the real deal (or as much as a real deal with my limitations.)
For my patronage, Native Instruments offered me some vouchers to take a few bucks off of other instruments in their catalog. One of them was set to expire at the end of December, so I also got a gamelan sample library. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it yet, but I’ve got visions of the Akira soundtrack dancing in my head.
Wow. All this talk of these new toys makes me want to play with them.
If I had to sum up 2010 in a word, it would be "new". Or possibly "change". It certainly felt like a transitional year.
Back at around tax season, I went LCD and bought myself a new computer monitor and television. The monitor gave me enough desk space to move my mixer front and center, while the television made me realize just how behind the times I was in terms of entertainment options. The fact I can hook my old computer up to the television with a VGA cable blew my mind — and VGA is so 2005.
I’m not quite ready to jump on the Bluray bandwagon just yet, especially since I have a collection that includes DVDs from multiple regions. I don’t want to end up with something that can’t play my Cocco music videos. But it’s nearly a year, and I still need to upgrade my TiVo.
In July, I got myself a new job, and with it, a few new skills. No longer am I dependent on phpMyAdmin — the MySQL command line is no longer daunting to me. I also get the XKCD joke about "sudo make me a sandwich".
The job also put me in a position where I had to work within a codebase not designed by myself. I still don’t have a mental picture of all the moving parts in this application, but I do get a sense the design complexity. The code itself is a mess, but the application runs pretty well in spite of it.
The new job allowed me to get a new computer, which in turn let me upgrade a whole bunch of software and to invest in others. As a result, my demos sound closer to final drafts than they ever have, despite the fact I suck at playing guitar. Perhaps in the future I’ll be able to record a concept album akin to 「加爾基 精液 栗ノ花」 by 椎名林檎 or In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. Or maybe a symphonic work. I’ve got the sample library to do it.
All these "new" things makes me think 2010 was the start of some sort of transformation. Into what? I’m not sure.
I guess that’s what 2011 is for.