Feb 23, 2008 Jamendo
I was just checking to see if Fountains had gone live on Jamendo yet (it’s done all the preliminary steps and is just awaiting moderation by their administrators — I expect that will take a few days) and I noticed that one of the top tags for Peristalsis and for Ramp as a whole is “sinister”. Hee! *rrr* Look at me, all sinister and stuff!
Feb 23, 2008 Uncategorized
Now that I’m done, I wanted to talk about Fountains a little, and also Orchard Days, which is not something I’ve done in the past, but which I suppose is why you’re all here (other than to download the tracks, anyway).
Orchard Days came about a little bit by accident. When I was working on Peristalsis, the album, I would really want to avoid the mundane aspects of calling the project “done”, and so I’d keep composing new songs, more than I really needed. Some of these got scrapped entirely or are still on my “work on this someday” stack, of course, but I started to wind up with the occasional song that just didn’t seem to *fit* anywhere on Peristalsis. Some of these were because a project was suggested to me externally and so I felt free to work outside of the sound space that Peristalsis had put me in. Pixel Part 1 was inspired by Pixel Stained Peasant Day and A Measured Proposition was composed to go along with a reading. When I was finishing up Peristalsis, it also became apparent that the earliest tracks on it were transitions from Ideology, which was an album that I wrote toward the end of highschool and the beginning of University, never finished and which therefore none of you have heard (with a couple of possible exceptions). Those became Origin Stories. (A couple of people have asked me, so yes, for you trivia buffs, there is a companion track to Titania called Oberon, and it is on Ideology. It’s actually my favourite song on there and the one I’m most likely to want to resurrect at some point.)
Anyway, it became apparent that when I was done a large work, I needed bridge pieces to move me between works — pieces which would have elements of the work and yet not quite fit. Maybe it’s like exorcising demons and calling down new ones.
Orchard Days is the EP wherein I allowed myself to step free of Peristalsis, and I feel that Fountains must contain hints of where I want to go, although I haven’t figured out where that is yet, and I might take a break before beginning the next album (which I’ve already promised some friends I will call Disaster Onion for reasons which are apparently entertaining if you’re a bit of a polyglot, which I am not, although the title amuses me anyway).
Aside from these, the works generally do have things I was trying to play with of their own accord. I’m not sure that I could put into words a theme for Peristalsis, since it fell into place through a series of prunings and was largely what stayed clumped together and felt like a unit when I was done, although the individual tracks all have things I was trying to accomplish. Orchard Days was a jumping off point from Cluster, which felt raucous and exciting when I wrote it and feels restrained and a little quaint to me now. The goal of Orchard Days was to be less afraid, to allow myself to work with fat sounds and big spaces and have the confidence that I could handle them. It’s a bit mixed, at times a little more personal than I expected, but I like it.
The idea behind Fountains was to play with gently directing sound that had its own internal motion. This comes through most on Estelle and Paulina, which was the first track I wrote. (The order of composition of Fountains was: Estelle and Pauline, Caesura, Watersail, A Quiet Sunday, Little Eschaton. There were big gaps between E&P and Caesura and again between Caesura and Watersail in which I generated a whole bunch of ideas that haven’t yet gone anywhere and might not. The last three came fairly quickly one after another.) The opening section was really what I wanted to do, where I felt like with all the internal rhythm that ended up being at odds with the feedback and delay, I felt like it was out of my ability to do anything useful with until I thought about it as a rush of water, and remembered gating the water in the hose with my thumb as a kid to make patterns in the air. The whole track has a slightly forward-leaning feeling to it that I like.
The rest of the tracks are me looking at other kinds of motion, with somewhat mixed success from the perspective of having a shaping goal, but I liked how they sounded in the end. One thing I wanted to try that I think *feels* to me like water but may not be as readily apparent was more scattershot melodic parts, where I’d throw a bunch of notes in a general diffusion pattern around where I wanted the melody to go instead of just saying it outright. A little of that appears on all the tracks. And then A Quiet Sunday and Little Eschaton have some parts where I let the delay lines and modifiers get away from me on purpose to see where they’d go.
Overall, it’s not as intellectual an endeavour as I’m making it sound and I never forced myself to really explore the concept — it’s more that that’s what I was thinking about at the time and so that’s what I was most likely to latch onto when I threw ideas down. Still, I actually am pretty happy with Fountains now that it’s done (and was happy when it was in progress), and I hope you will be too.
All of that said, I do think that it feels like it’s moving toward something, and I haven’t seen what that is yet. I might take some time away to work on learning how to play the EWI and take the piano lessons some friends generously gifted me for my birthday, and see if those give me some tools to look into the dark. We shall see.
Feb 14, 2008 Gear
A long time ago, I made a switch entirely over to software for my music needs. Software is flexible, I can take software with me without adding weight or complications to my setup, the timing of software is tight, software is closely coupled with my composition tools, software has a nice interface, software is relatively inexpensive. Overall, I’ve been very happy with that decision. I’ve become especially fond of the software synthesizers and tools from Native Instruments, as I believe I’ve mentioned here before.
However, there’s still this appeal to hardware, and sometimes I find it hard to fight. I drooled over the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ’08 when it was released recently. It’s a lovely, dreamy machine.
However, there’s always been a secret love in my life, quietly burning away, refusing to fade away. That love is for the Access Virus TI P0lar. *dreamy sigh*
You see, the Virus line is a product line with distinct character, and it’s a character that’s always appealed to me. They have personality and a specific tonal signature that I really enjoy. However, I really did not want to deal with the whole issue of adding outboard gear to my software-based studio. Then the TI (Total Integration) line came along. The TI products are synthesizers in the usual sense and can be used that way all you like. You never have to involve a computer at all, and if you like, you can use it with a computer the way you’d use any synthesizer with a computer. However, they also come with software that resides on the computer. The software acts like a plugin of the sort that I use. When you use it that way, you get all the features of a plugin, and the same user experience of a plugin, except that unlike a plugin, it uses the TI unit’s hardware to do all the sound processing, so it doesn’t load down your CPU. You can even use them in tandem, setting a value with your mouse, then tweaking it with a knob on the unit. The P0lar added to this that it was absolutely beautiful and much more compact than previous similar units (and this type of integration is becoming more common these days). Drawbacks? It’s still big, when you’re used to just lugging around a laptop, and at $2850 USD, it’s not exactly chump change.
Today I went to their site to look up some mp3 samples for a test I was doing for my friend Serene. I never got the test finished (because work got in the way), but upon visiting their site, my jaw dropped. They have a new unit. The Access Virus TI Snow.
It’s beautiful. I’m head-over-heels for this thing. How appropriate that I saw it on Valentine’s Day.
Okay, it’s a lot less knobby than the P0lar, but it’s still got all I’d need. It’s compact and portable. Okay, it needs a power brick, which means that taking it to the cafe requires a little doing, but still. It’s only $1250. And it’s otherwise essentially got the same Virus architecture, sound and personality.
I’d best start saving.