Tomorrow Came (2013 : The Year in Review)

Well, not really. But Disquiet Junto Project #0104 had us go through our past year’s work, and splice five seconds per month into a one minute year-in-review piece:

Details (and links to the source tracks) are at the SoundCloud Link.

In other news, last week’s Disquiet had us make a secular holiday track, using material from the previous week’s project:

I’ve also uploaded the third in the ‘The Chaldean Social Club” series (which I will explain at some point, I promise):

a shining tree [disquiet0102-sonictinsel]

For Disquiet Junto Project #0102, we were asked to make a one-minute loop that was “glistening, reflective and gentle” to make a secular holiday track:

Done in Ableton Live. Used a Collision patch to make the tolling sound, and ran a Korg WAVESTATION soft synth through the effects part of the emulated Korg MS-20 to make the ‘snow sprinkles’ sounds that make their entrance about a third of the way into it.

This was exported as an actual Live loop.

the beth-el construction company

Uploaded the second drone of the series of tracks I’ve been working on:

Like the previous track, this one was done in Ableton Live (still trying to wrap my brain around Suite 9).

Some of the core sounds were made in AudioMulch (the ‘collision’ sounds in the background are actually a guitar run through AM, with the original guitar signal completely removed).

Two more drones (and one pulse-y/beat piece) to go…

Released under a Creative Commons license [BY-NC-SA].

“abraxas, incorporated” (new drone)

I’ve still been playing with Ableton 9, as time has allowed.  Gone back to drone for a bit:

The main drone tones are two of Live’s “Resonator” presets, modified somewhat.  Also used four Audiomulch-treated guitar tracks I had created for another project and not yet used.

I’d like to do three more of these…

New Bandcamp Release: Ghosted

Finally had a chance for final mastering and upload of this, my second bandcamp release:

This is best described as a self-remix piece.

The core sound materials were produced in the period 2001-2004. Some of these were fully-formed pieces in their own right (e.g. a version of comes pale horse, from 2002; and an unused mix of Outside, from 2003). Others were sound snippets that had no home, or other unfinished pieces like enoch and march (many of these may still be on the SoundCloud site: I don’t link to any of them here, since I’m sure I’ll eventually have to clear out some space over there, I’m running out of minutes). All told, something like 12 existing pieces were used to generate the track given here.

Some background: In early 2006, I had started wondering what it would be like to potentially play a piece like this live. How on earth would one do such a thing? Would it even be possible to do such a thing? So I had loaded the materials into Ableton Live, treated the various sounds, and (after a few sessions of rehearsing) improvised an overall piece that ran a little less than 50 minutes total. At the time, I thought of this of an experiment in re-purposing available recorded materials into a live, improvised piece of music. Essentially just a remix, but that’s not a term I would have used in 2006. This session generated the core of what ended up being recorded.

I was reasonably happy with the result, but (again) at the time, I saw no practical outlet for a 50 minute long instrumental/collage piece (at least none that was available to me), and no local venues that would ever be interested in having someone perform something like this live.

So I shelved the project. And essentially went into musical retirement. What was the point, really? I had a profession to pursue, a day job. I owned a house now. An adopted family, too. And the musical landscape just didn’t seem friendly to the kind of sounds and music that I wanted to make. (And, in hindsight, buying that stupid Xbox 360 in 2007, as my go-to ‘stress reliever’, was probably a terrible mistake).

Fast forward to mid 2012. I had already started to re-assemble my home studio (or what was left of it– some of the hardware had failed and had to be replaced, and some of my software licenses had expired, or been lost altogether), and started to get back into playing guitar, if only for old times’ sake. An impulse buy of ACID Pro let me explore archived electronic music projects, some of the first I had ever done– and before too long I had gotten the distinct feeling that I was picking up right where I had left off a few years’ prior.

I had just re-committed to making music, gotten the studio/workspace up and running again, and promised myself to try and make at least one piece of music a week when I stumbled onto the Disquiet Junto. And I do mean stumbled. I had started to follow a few blogs, experimental/ambient music sites, online zines, netlabels, twitter feeds, etc. to find out what had been going on while I had been ‘retired’… and all roads, somehow, led to the Junto.

But back to this release, in particular. In keeping with the ‘pick up where you left off’ theme, I did not substantially alter the makeup of the original 2006 live remix. Some re-balancing of the sounds was done, and also some post-processing and envelope leveling to make the piece more listenable. So this is material from 2001-2004, remixed ‘live’ in 2006, revisited and remastered in 2013.

This release gets made as the aforementioned marriage comes to an end (amicably, but still…), the stepdaughter launches into adulthood with reasonable success, and the job and house and landlord duties are no longer overwhelming responsibilities, but rather just Things I Do. End of an Era, as the old cliche goes.

Nice time for a Final Remix for the era 2001-2013. (Which equals one orbit of Jupiter, oddly enough).

Time for the next orbit…

(Released under a Creative Commons license, Attribution, Share-alike, derivs ok).

Upload: Three Pure(ish) Tone Studies in Audiomulch

I’ve been playing around with Audiomulch for a couple of months now, to the point where it has managed to replace my aging copy of Ableton Live (v5.2.2… get off my lawn!!!) as my go-to environment for electronic noodling.

I like the ‘level’ Audiomulch inhabits– it’s not the ubiquitous high-level, strip-chart style DAW– it’s not really a DAW at all, and it doesn’t want to be. But on the other hand, it’s nowhere near as low-level, deep-down-in-the-details as Pure Data or cSound, so one can get productive quickly. AM has ‘just enough’ limitations to keep me focused (ie undistracted), so I can generally make a piece of music with it in just a few hours. It’s the closest thing to the good old days of guitars, tapes, pedals and patch chords that I’ve been able to find in the digital world (thus far).

A few weeks ago, Disquiet project #62 asked us to create a piece using pure sine tones. I had never worked with pure sine tones before, but this was easy enough to accomplish with Audiomulch. The result is here, and the full project for the group is here (looks like 44 of us participated in that one– go listen, right now… it’s good stuff).

After that project was done, I found myself still playing with sine waves, and then some. In particular, I wanted to find ways to mix these sine tones with other sounds, derived from those tones, using a controllerist approach to make “live” pieces that were interesting to me. Eventually, I came up with this patch:


The “10Harmonics” contraption generates harmonics for a given root tone (additive synthesis). Harmonics 2 through 9 are attached to the eight sliders on a Korg nanoKontroller, so the timbre of the core drone can be manipulated in real time. Ring Modulator #1 is programmed with 4 possible tones, also made selectable by a knob on the controller. RM #2 is set to a fixed (and, by compositional convention, dissonant) tone of its own.

The DLGranulator (a simple but flexible granular synth, in this case processing the output of the 10Harmonics contraption) has been programmed with 6 interesting Presets, selectable by a knob on the nanoKontroller. Each of these signals can be faded in and out of the overall scene in real-time, using additional knobs as volume controls. Two knobs were left over, so I assigned those to the min/max delay times in the DLGranulator, making the grain delays for any given preset alterable in real time.

So, even though this patch is pretty straightforward (perhaps even simplistic by AM standards), It has a total of 16 control points: 8 knobs, 8 sliders. Which is not only the physical limit of the nanoKontroller, but probably close to the upper bound for the number of control points a live musician can reasonably handle (at least this one). The delays are set to ping-pong with interesting delay times, so that a single action by the “performer” results in several seconds of movement in the piece.

Having arrived at this setup last weekend, I then spent some time learning how to use this “instrument” to create pieces of music “live”. (Note how I can’t resist using scare quotes around “live” and “performer”– there was no audience, but these pieces were indeed made in real time, each following an unofficial Score that I had scribbled down).

To define a particular piece, a root tone (ie the 10Harmonics primary frequency), was chosen, as well as several subordinate tones for the first Ring Modulator, and one oddball ‘dissonance’ tone for RM #2. The idea being that this ‘oddball tone’ could be brought into the mix from time to time, to serve as a kind of lietmotif.

I stuck with “standard” (Western) musical tones for now– not quite ready to start playing with microtones and/or exotic scales at this point (though I’ll confess to being fond of detuning a note or two, as I like the way that sounds when you push it through a delay).

And so, the result: Three Studies.

The first study/etude is based on {A, C, E} with a slightly-detuned D as the dissonance tone:

The second of this series is based on {E-flat, B-flat, G}, with E-natural as the dissonance tone:

The third and final of this series is loosely based on an Fminor chord, with some detuning (hence the title, “Fminor-ish”):

I’ll post this set-of-three on the bandcamp site for download later this weekend, as well.

In other music news, I somehow managed to close a car door on my own left hand. Through some miracle, no knuckles or fingertips got crushed– just some nasty bruises on the middle phalanges of the middle and ring fingers of that hand. I apparently hit it ‘just right’. Most of the function has already returned…

I’ll consider that Luck.

new uploads: industry, comes pale horse.

Uploaded two more drafts to the soundcloud site, minor remixes from the 2002 material: industry and comes pale horse.

This one is built on some AM radio samples. Mostly random news/talk radio late one night in the Christmas season, whatever sounds I happened to slew by as I moved the radio dial back and forth essentially at random. Distorted beyond recognition by the time it gets here. Live guitar as the bass thrum. Guitar synth used to simultaneously make the ‘shadow/shimmer’ you can hear on the top.

Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be ludicrous to call this a guitar piece, though I’ve never thought of it as such.

The next piece is longer:

This piece drove me mad all throughout the summer of 2002. Or vice versa. The core was improvised one night using Ableton Live. I then spent months putting layer upon layer over it. Most of the samples are from the guitar synth rig I had back then, sounds I had sampled during practice sessions and had lying around. The iBook I had then didn’t have much horsepower, so I had to use the old four-track trick of bouncing multiple tracks into one new track and starting over, rinse, lather, repeat. (At one point you have about 60 different sounds and tones, all hovering in the general vicinity of B-flat). Before uploading this, I did some minor remixing, and added the barely-audible voices down in the deeps that I had always imagined for this one.

Neither of these are mastered, or even finished. Just work-in-progress mixes, uploaded because I promised myself that I would.