Category Archives: archaeology

update (release notes, basically)

Haven’t had much time to write on here. I had to skip last week’s Junto, but managed this week’s (even with Arisia over the weekend).

This week’s exercise (disquiet0055-twoscrews) had us rework two pieces (Do and Re) from Nils Frahm’s Screws:

Done with Ableton Live (yes, still stuck back in 5.2.2) and Audacity. Project details over at disquiet, or via the above SoundCloud widget. No need to repeat them here.

In other news, decided that I want (need?) to take a break from working with the old 2002 material, and decided to just hurry up and finish the almost-done EP-thing from 2007 (enoch is the title, I’ve decided). The first track is called, appropriately enough, enoch:

The stem of this piece was made in Ableton Live in early 2007. Some of the sounds date back to 2003. Remixed, remastered a little with my current setup. This is actually the last serious drone piece I did… because every other drone piece I’ve tried to make since has sounded just like it. (I’ve started to refer to this as my Drone Wall, because I need to break beyond it eventually).

The second piece, march, is from the same session but completely different:

At least one of the sounds in this (the core guitar sample, my own) dates back to the late 1980s (though it doesn’t sound much like itself here). It’s probably a Peavey.

I still have the Live Sets for these two pieces, intact. I could even play them again (roughly), if I ever had to. There are two more for this collection/EP, and that batch will be done.

Medium-term, my goal is still to get the 2002 and 2007 stuff finalized and posted to SoundCloud and bandcamp (as ‘name your own price’ albums). With the already-posted outside, that will place anything made post-2000 online.

As it should have been, all along.

back to the future

Found this recently, for $2.

Scratched but listenable.

I don’t seem to hear or read much about twelve-tone music anymore. Or about the late-classical era at all. It just sort of melted into the underpinnings of pop culture, much as the old Roman Empire just sort of melted into the Catholic Church.

Yes, I am stretching the metaphors here. 


Stumbled upon a cool (if oldish, 2008) article on the now-defunct BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Which (in hindsight) turned out to be the Bletchley Park of electronica.

Influential, groundbreaking bleeps and bloops, at taxpayer expense. Thank you, taxpayer. We are forever grateful to you.

I do miss having knobs and pedals to play with.

Got another cartridge/stylus, the Shure M44-7, on sale. This will replace the original Stanton I think, it seems good with ‘crackly’ albums. It has a reputation as a bass-heavy DJ-oriented cartridge, but my particular turntable hasn’t got much response below 30Hz so excessive bass hasn’t been an issue. As for the Stanton, apparently I can replace its stylus with one designed for 78rpm records. I’ll probably just convert it and use it for that (rather than buying a dedicated cartridge). Cheaper.

Also changed the theme here, once again. I’ll get it right, eventually.

A Second Spin.

Pulled disc 2 of the Syd Barrett album, hardly any crackle. I must have only played it the one time, way back when.

Last week I pulled my copy of Hugo Largo’s Drum. Funny how an album that was so important to me 23 years ago barely exists in the public record now. Just a little footnote on wikipedia. And a long-outdated entry on the old trouserpress website. And some scattered, shattered artifacts of history on youtube.

Other than that, I’ve been working on remastering ‘2002’.

And listening to many, many new things.

Lessons and Carols.

Bought a well-used (and, sadly, well-crackled) LP copy of the King’s College Choir from Christmas 1958. Finally got around to googling it today, and found out that the recording’s fairly well known. Well known enough that the BBC actually remastered the recording into 4:0 “Surround” just this past Christmas. (Not clear from the article what the format means. Is it just 5:1 without the center and subwoofer? Or is “4:0” just what we’re supposed to call old-style quadrophonic sound these days)?

My own copy, bought for $3 at a local second-hand bookstore’s used records bin, is not in the best of shape. As a Christmas album, it was quite likely played once a year, and it shows from the wear and tear. No major scratches (except for one brief dig towards the very beginning), but it sounds as though the disc was never properly cleaned by the original owner (lots of burned-in dust, pops and crackles). It’s also doubtful they had high-end equipment.

But as I played it (pulling it onto the laptop as I did so), I realized that patterns within the wear and tear allowed me to do some forensics. Whoever owned this album is almost certainly dead (as are many of the voices on it, by now), but you can tell from the degree of noise which parts of the disc had been listened to quite often, and which had been largely ignored. I could tell you which three songs he or she adored, playing and replaying them over the years. I can imagine the time someone must have slipped while cueing up the first track to make that scratch I mentioned. It also sounds like they skipped most or all of the vicar’s sermons. And, for whatever reason, they were NOT fond of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, which sounds almost pristine (I intend to recover that one outright for my own Christmas music mix).

With respect to the recording itself, I can understand why this one seems so beloved by experts on the subject. It’s the BBC’s first stereo recording of the King’s College Christmas Mass (or ‘Service’?– do Anglicans call it ‘Mass’?), and it sold well into the 1970s on both vinyl and reel-to-reel. Presumably recorded at the tech limits of late 1958 (at the very beginning you can even hear a truck/lorry driving by outside before the singing starts).

The cleaning software does an admirable job on this material, though some of the noise can’t be totally removed without doing injury to the original recording beneath. Other than Faithful, I have no idea what I will do with these sounds. The vicar’s voice is well recorded, and might have some future use to me. And I’ve always wondered what could be done with a voiced choir’s sounds, after breaking it up into grains.

21st Century Fripp

Financial Times has a short but good interview with the inimitable Robert Fripp. The most recent music I had heard from him was A Blessing of Tears and 1999 (more soundscapes were made later on, in the early-00’s as well… need to find those). From the tone of the article, Fripp does appear to have semi-retired, however:

“My life as a professional musician […] is a joyless exercise in futility.”

With Fripp at 66, the FT article’s more interested in the looking-back of a grizzled old prog-rock icon than in talking about contemporary music, which is a shame. I know he did some work with the early Orb back in the day. I would have liked to have heard his opinion on current idm/e-music (if he had any). Instead, the usual Fripp interview about the absurdity of the music industry in its business aspects. (I have an old issue of Guitar Player from the mid-1980s around here somewhere, where he gives an interview saying much the same thing). That said, Universal has (allegedly) been unkind to him in its handling of distribution and download rights.

Whenever I look back on music I liked, or music I tried to ‘borrow from’, or music I didn’t necessarily like but at least understood What Was Being Attempted, it often ends up traced back to Fripp or Eno…. either their work, directly, or once or twice removed. Eno coined the old joke about the Velvet Underground: That hardly anyone bought any of their albums at the time, but those who did all seem to have started bands. Fripp and Eno, in much the same way, tend to fall into the Subset of Darlings for most bedroom-and-basement e-musicans, pro or otherwise. I’m even old enough to remember when those names were a kind of ‘litmus test’, to be used to identify the like-minded. Mention one name or the other, see the reaction. Maybe have a conversation.

Sweet youth… and long-gone days, of course. Long-gone enough that I can’t find much of the stuff online (I just spent much of the morning looking). And while Amazon has some of the CD’s of the Soundscape stuff, they appear to be out of print and somewhat expensive because of this. Guess I’ll be hanging on to what I have.

Fripp’s company/collective, Discipline Global Mobile has a good website with lots of assorted, relevant links & goodies: Here. There’s a King Crimson fan site/wiki, as well.

Back to the Future.

Surrounded by all the bits and pieces now. Now I just need to pick them all up and put them all back together again.

Got a good deal on ACID Pro 7 yesterday, surprisingly so.  I had used it from very early Jan 2002 until March of that year, when I switched over to the little white Apple iBook (I’ve stuck with the Mac for audio ever since).  But with my beloved, trusty old 2007-vintage iMac starting to fail, and my only laptop of the moment this Win7 machine, I decided to see how much ACID had changed since back then.

It can record audio tracks now, it couldn’t then– a big part of why I abandoned it I think.  The MIDI tracking was slow on the hardware of the day, too (WinXP audio/MIDI had always been a little flaky for me, another reason I switched over).  I haven’t tried recording any guitar tracks with this setup yet, or importing/playing with any vox samples.  Maybe next week.

I did manage to preserve some archives from that time, so I have this very odd feeling of picking up exactly where I left off a little over ten years ago.  Like unlocking a long-abandoned office, to find your old abandoned desk with your old abandoned pen still sitting, undisturbed, on your old, abandoned pad of paper, exactly as you had left them.  Patiently waiting for you to come back and finish.

To its credit, ACID can still open files from so many versions past.  And I found… Drums. Weird Processed Drums. Lots of Weird Processed Drums.  (And I had gotten a little farther with the program than I had remembered).  Also found the Masters for two pieces from that era that I might end up reworking.  (Or at least taking apart, so I can remember how I made them).

I can’t find anything recorded in ACID (or on the PC at all) after early February 2002, so I really did just abruptly stop working on the PC for some reason.  Got the iBook in March 2002, so I was using the then-new Ableton Live before too long, anyway (late June or early July).  I do know that by mid-summer, I had given up trying to work with Drums altogether, and had moved over to pulses, noises, effects and drones.

But that’s another story.