Jul 20, 2010 Uncategorized
I already have tickets to three awesome concerts in October. Nothing between now and October, and nothing after October, mind you.
- Swans at Lee’s Palace on Saturday, Oct. 2nd
- Four Tet at The Mod Club on Wednesday, Oct. 20th
- Recoil at The Opera House on Wednesday, Oct. 27th
They’re all general admission and all were quite inexpensive, so if you’d like to come, feel free to pick up tickets and we’ll go together!
My only sadness is that there are still no North American dates announced for the Einstürzende Neubauten 30th Anniversary Tour.
It’s undoubtedly going to be an exciting month!
In my Synthesizers.com modular system, I use STG Soundlabs’ time modules for my sequencing. I’m pretty sure that I’m abusing them somewhat, and I can’t lay a finger on why precisely I like them, although I think it’s mostly the flexibility. I like that I can build up a sequencing tool with exactly the functionality I want when I want it.
However, many of the big integrated sequencers have an option for “third row timing” — that is to say, you have, say, three rows of eight knobs which you would typically use to send voltages, either as three separate sets of voltages (say to play a sequence of three-note chords, or to control a pitch, an amplitude and a filter cutoff for each of eight notes in a sequence) or as a series of 24 voltages, and you can take the third row, or the last eight, and in the former mode you can have that row control the timing with which the sequencer moves, moving it forward with more or less speed depending on where that knob is set.
I had a need to do this the other day, and discovered that it’s exceedingly simple to do. In fact, my example patch here has more to it than you really even need:
What’s happening here is very simple. You’re using the manual shift inputs on your two STG Soundlabs Voltage Mini-Stores to advance the sequence, both driven by a pulse wave coming from an oscillator. I’m using a Q106 in the diagram here, so I’d have it set to the LOW range, but you could use any voltage-controlled LFO that outputs a pulse.
The VMS shown on the left is the one that controls the timing, so you set its knobs to the speed you want that step to progress at. The higher the value of the knob, the faster the speed of the step, the shorter the sequencer waits on that step. That might be counter-intuitive for some, so you could use (a) signal processor(s) to flip that over if you wanted to. Its output gets patched into the Q106′s exponential frequency input. You could use the linear frequency — that might be more intuitive for tracking a knob, it it also alters the available range. The frequency knob on the oscillator is used to set the base tempo that you’re working with, in a sense.
The really optional thing I have going on here is that between the VMS and the Q106 I put a quantizer. I’m using the Synthesizers.com Q171 Quantizer Bank in this diagram. The reason for this is that by and large you want to choose from a set of timings rather than having the timing of each step be completely fluid. If you set two knobs to about the same value you generally want the sequencer to pause for exactly the same time on that step. I use a quantizer to do that, even though I suppose you’d need to use the aid module and restrict the available choices to get exactly musically useful fractions. It works well enough for me just putting it through raw as shown.
The pulse output of the Q106 needs to go to the shift input of both VMS modules, of course, because you want to move them both from step to step in lockstep. You could use a multiple for this (which is actually what I do) or just a Y-splitter as shown. If you have them hooked up to a shift manager, it wouldn’t hurt to also plug the step 1 trigger of one to the reset of the other to keep them in sync.
The output of the VMS shown on the right goes to control whatever you want to control — the pitch of a sequence, for example. You could send the Q106′s pulse to more than two shift managers to control several parameters at once. After the first VMS, all others would be “output” ones — used to control parameters. If you use a Q962 to string together 2-3 VMS modules into a 16-24 step sequence, you can do that, although you’d need an equal number of steps of timing control as steps of parameter control (although again you could control multiple parameters with no additional timing modules needed). And you’d need a Q962 for each set. So for 24 steps of custom-timed sequencing of three parameters, you’d wind up needing one Q172, one Q106, 2 Multiples, 12 Voltage Mini-Stores and four Q962s, which, unless you already have them, strikes me as a lot more costly than just doing it all over MIDI -> CV in some fashion. But perhaps more fun, too.
Jul 5, 2010 Uncategorized
As all of you know, I release my music for free download here using a Creative Commons license. This is something important to me. I have a lot of bones to pick with capitalism and the way we value things in large part due to price, to some degree or other. (Try selling milk half-off. Or see how seriously people take freeware video games vs. commercial video games.) I don’t think that there should be no market or that nobody should charge, but I think that a vibrant gift economy is also important. In particular, I think that people making things with no commercial expectations are freer to explore and innovate, and that these kinds of explorations and innovations are a crucial part of the creative ecosystem.
So I try to do my part by creating, and giving my creations away for free. I do it here with music, and, usually in smaller ways, it’s a common theme across all my creative projects, whatever medium they may exist in.
I was talking to my good friend BC Holmes not too long ago about this, but also about the idea of submitting to a record label or going through sites like The Sixty One which, while it’s not a label, has a strong aspect of ranking. I also talked about popularity, getting comments on the site, knowing if people are listening.
She asked me some really good questions, poking at why I was doing what I do and why I begun to care about measures of approval so much.
There is a certain amount of ego tied up in that. I can’t deny that. But one thing that I said there that I still think is key to me is that to be said to be contributing to the gift economy, which is an important aspect of this work, I need to feel like what I do make available has value. There’s no real contribution if I take a piece of paper, draw a scribble of no value to anybody who sees it on it and leave it out front of the house with a sign saying, “Free.” I mean, I suppose to some degree just doing it contributes to the idea, but it also might devalue the idea in the sense of reinforcing the idea that only things of no value are ever free — “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
I ran into this headlong when the first Pixel-Stained TechnoPeasant Day came about. Pixel-Stained TechnoPeasant Day is a day in which people celebrate the vibrant online gift economy and the important role it plays by giving away works for free online. It’s important and dear to my heart, so I put together a track specifically for it — you know it as Pixel Pt. 1. I had thought that I might write elaborations on the theme in future years as Pt. 2, etc. But what happened was that the submission of the track was ignored. Not just ignored in the passive sense of putting something out and having nobody notice, but actively ignored in the sense that people collecting Pixel-Stained TechnoPeasant Day submissions in my community and putting together link roundups of them omitted my contribution from those lists time and time again, despite my submitting it to be added. Initially I had assumed that this was in part because I wasn’t in the primary demographic of participants and I wasn’t working in media or styles that were popular with the people most actively engaging with the celebration. However, when I re-read the posts about the origins of it, I saw that indeed, although it had been often left out of the way the meme got repeated around the blogosphere, the original had specified that only free works released by those who ordinarily (successfully) charged money for their work were relevant. While this didn’t seem to be the case for many other people participating in the link roundups, it did seem to be part of the initial description, so that may have been another way in which I didn’t qualify.
And that really was the core of the perceived value argument, to me. In order to show that we have a vibrant gift economy, we need to show that there is a good deal of free content being made available by artists or artisans whose work has been in some way or other marked as being worth paying money for, if it weren’t being given away for free. A great example would be the works of Cory Doctorow, whose books are available simultaneously for money and for free and do well in both incarnations.
Well, what’s the equivalent for a studio musician? You can put out tip jars and donation buttons or have PWYC online stores in addition to downloads. Tip or donation buttons have been on the site in the past — I think there’s still one on it now — but haven’t seen any activity. PWYC online stores to me eat away at the feeling of sharing something for free. But moreover, if I really dug in my heels and asked people to please donate or pay if they like the music, then that mitigates the degree to which it can be said that it’s free. At some point it becomes “guiltware” rather than “freeware”.
Probably the best alternative would be to offer free downloads but have professionally-pressed CDs for sale, and I may look in to that at some point.
However, and I realize this has been a long tale, there was also the opportunity of Magnatune. Magnatune is like a record label, but as opposed to most record labels, they accept Creative Commons licensed music, they distribute using the exact same Creative Commons license that I do, and they charge their users under a subscription model that makes micropayments into the accounts of artists who those users download. Most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, though, they act as gatekeepers. They want to offer their users a unique service, and given that a lot of the music is likely to be available for free elsewhere, they need to make a value proposition for their users. The value they bring is in having people who review submissions and accept or reject artists, so that they can be said to be only offering their users music of suitable quality — music that they deem has value.
So it was mostly for that gatekeeper service that I decided to submit to Magnatune. Their licensing is non-exclusive, so I could still offer tracks for free here, but people who use Magnatune could download my music there as well.
I submitted a sort of Magnatune-only album which consisted of Orchard Days and Fountains minus certain tracks that have somewhat … complicated licensing issues. (I have to think about how those tracks work on my own site as well.) And I heard back today.
The response: “Unfortunately, while your music is very good, it isn’t the kind of thing we’re looking for. Sorry!”
My friend Chris seems to feel that there’s a lot of music on Magnatune that’s in a similar style or genre, so I imagine that that’s a form letter rather than a heartfelt evaluation, but who knows?
I should note that I’m not angry that they rejected the music and I don’t think people need to tell me that they were wrong or misguided in doing so. (I am kind of bummed out.) They’re business people who presumably know what they’re looking for, and in fact, it’s that ability to say no that gives their ability to say yes any value or meaning.
So I’m not sure where the portion of what I do here that was aimed in that direction goes now. Do I just try to translate that into a drive for achieving excellence on here and in the other non-discriminating venues (Jamendo primarily at this time) that I currently use? Do I try to see if there are other “record labels” that can dovetail with Creative Commons online releasing? Do I try to get a professional run of CDs pressed and sell them through the site here? (Do I take this as a sign that the stuff I’ve got at present isn’t ready for that, and try to improve?)
There are of course other options that are less positive, but would be more melodramatic than practical.
I’m really not sure.
Jul 2, 2010 Uncategorized
Wow, I didn’t post anything in June at all?
Well, this started out as a quick test of the WordPress app for the iPad, but maybe I should talk about that a little.
I got an iPad around the beginning of June. It really is a neat device, and there are a surprising number of music apps for it. I have been especially impressed with the Korg iElectrine-R, which mimics the drum machine it’s named after perfectly and sound great. The interface is a joy on the touch screen. It’s basically like getting a several-hundred-dollar rhythm box for ten bucks. Now that Line 6 has an iPad MIDI interface out, I’m hoping it will get tempo sync (master and slave) in a future release, which is all that’s really missing. Are you listening, Korg?
All of that being said, the iPad is really a consumption device. Yes, you can create things on it, but that’s not what it’s really good at, nor what it was designed for. Watching videos, playing games, reading comics, surfing the non-flash prtions of the web, all fantastic. There are even great educational apps galore. But creating content, you always feel like you’re fighting a bit of an up-hill battle.
And yet, the device is so handy, so convenient, so fun to use that you find yourself altering what you do with your time to fit its talents, and therein the danger lies. It’s very easy to wind up letting it become a tremendous time sink. In the first three weeks that I owned it, I didn’t turn on my laptop once, didn’t launch Logic or Nodal once, didn’t touch the modular once. And so, other than popping out a couple of rhythms on the iElectribe (which, for all its niftiness, is not really an ideal app for my creative process any more than an actual Electribe would be), I didn’t do anything creative at all. And that happened across the board really, not just with music.
So I think I will need to limit how much time I spend on the iPad, and try to view it as mostly a commuting and travel machine.
I finally got some time lately with the laptop and the modular again, and it felt really good. I’m hoping to do more of that. I even plan to bring it down to Sarah’s for the weekend. (The laptop, not the modular.) So hopefully I’ll have more to share soon. And maybe if the WordPress app for the iPad works out, I can use more of my downtime to write here.