Category Archives: music

music

The Setup

This is the live rig for 2019 broadcasts. This is going to be fun.

This weekend, I worked to finalize the live setup.  I’m pretty happy with how it’s come together. With this rig pictured above, I’ve got hands on control of just about everything.

The primary piece and principle instrument that I will be using is the MPC Live. It sits at the top of the MIDI chain, and will act as the clock and sequence master. Midi out A is going to the devices this a simple thru box. From there, I can run sequences on the Fantom XR or manually play the Blofeld or PolyEvolver.  The TR8s can run the beats.  The TR may seem a little redundant next to the MPC, but it’s usefull to have an independent control surface for the drums, since the MPC is doing so much already.

All devices will be in single and not multi mode and have unique channels assigned. The second output will go to the PC for keeping the clocks on the FX rig in time.

Audio is being mixed in two places. The first is the Mackie mixer pictured in the photo. The second is using the Axe FX III. The Mackie will handle most of the synthesizers, while the AXE will handle the modular and creating the master mix that gets broadcast and captured.

Over time, I’d like to move all of the show mixing to the Axe, but that will take some reconfiguration of the patch bay I don’t want to deal with now.

So…what am I going to do?

Picture of modular synthesizer.
They say you should always post a picture with your blog posts. This is it. Like it?

Getting back to the core function of this blog, lets talk about what’s going into planning the set I have planned for mid April.

The First thing that I need when I plan a performance is a concept. This is, without a doubt, the most pretentious part of the process. You can call it the idea phase, the inspiration phase…whatever. This is where I get an idea of what it is I want to attempt to express in my performance.

I don’t know how it is for other musicians, but for me, having a concept, message or image that I am trying trying to translate into musical form helps me to write. It gives me a sort of mental/emotional base to measure what I am doing against so that I’m not just off in the woods making noise (which, yes, actually does happen with purpose…this IS fucking ambient music, after all).

For April, I already have one track I’ve been working on that I will do another live performance of. Yes, this has already been posted and put out there (see my track Choice Paralysis on Sound Cloud). Fortunately, the concept I found fits in with that well.

A friend of mine posted a meme to his timeline about his depression. The meme described anhedonia, which according to Wikipedia means ‘the inability to feel pleasure’. Given other things going on, it seemed apt. So there, my concept and title is going to be 3 tracks (hopefully) that seem to fit with that. The first one is set. But what about the second and third?

The second track, I am still working on. I don’t have a title, but I know as much as that it’s going to be a sort of homage to my lost friend – a sort of requiem to a fallen space emperor. It needs to be warm and biological and…that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

The third track? No idea yet. I’ll have to wait for that one to hit me. One thing at a time though, as the second track still needs flesh.

In my next post, Ill discuss the net part of creating a set and tracks: Collecting audio assets. This is probably the most fun part.

Change

The Death of my friend last week was a wake up call to start getting my own shit done. There might not be a tomorrow, after all. To be perfectly realistic, my health is already at the point where if I don’t start taking care of it, I could be in the last third of my life instead of the last half. I’m not ready for that yet.

So I’m making changes. Real changes.

First off, I’m going to work on my health. That needs to change. My diet is not terrible, but it’s also not great. It just needs a little tweaking, really. Past that, I need to exercise more. *That* is really my problem. My job is sitting around, my hobbies are sitting around and that needs to change.

Second, my art. I know what I want to do going forward, and I’m just going to start doing it. I’m planning a return to internet live stream broadcasting (live casting?) and I have the hope of eventually performing on a stage at some point.

Also in that vein, I want to explore other avenues of my creativity. Something I can do when the musical inspiration isn’t hitting me. I’d really like to try my hand at writing.

Finally, and this is the tough one, my career needs to change. I don’t want my legacy on this earth to be a well run IT department that created the most efficient workflow management system. Making profit for others is no legacy. I don’t know how or what I can change, but it’s time to decide how I want to define the last half of my life, and I don’t think it’s going to be writing insurance software.

Ive had this feeling of imminent dread lately regarding changes I felt were coming. I need to get ahead of the changes this time and direct them rather than let myself be a twig floating downstream (possibly to a sewage plant). And I’m going to start now.

Goodbye

Death is a strange thing.   You always know it’s coming, but you never know when or from where.   You just know it’s out there.  Because of this, you always think there is going to be more time.  You think of that trip you want to take and say “not now” or that thing you want to do and say “I’ll get to it”…or a memory of a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while goes through your head and you think “I should write them, see how their doing, when I have some time”.

Then you get the message.   They’re gone.  Without you even knowing about it, they took ill months ago and finally found peace a world away and half a day ago.  They’re gone, and there is no tomorrow, no getting to it, and that ‘now’ wil never come.

I met Gert through an oldschool online mailing lists called “The Music Bar” in about 1993 or 1994.  Maybe it was earlier or later than that..the mind goes fuzzy.  I found the Music Bar through the TechLab mailing lists, one of which was for the Yamaha SY85 Synthesizer, my first professional instrument.

What I found in the Music Bar profoundly affected my development both as a artist and as a person.  Here was a group of musicians who were literally from around the world, all engaged in some form of electronic music.  Many of them were older and had been producing music already for decades.  Some were as new as I was to this world.  Some newer.

One of those was Gert Van Santen (or as we called him, the Galactic Space Emperor).
Gert (pronounced ‘Hert’, I was told) was a gentle giant of a man, who’s simple purpose was to bring delight into the world.  And he was uniquely gifted at this purpose, his very presence radiating a positivity and, yes, delight that was simply infectius.   My only regret is that I only got to meet him in person once.

And now he’s gone, and the chance to bathe in that delightful presence gone with it.

I have no words to express this loss.

Don’t wait.  Get to it now.   Go on that trip.  Write that letter.   You don’t know when ‘too late’ will come.

 

What is a ‘NoiseTheorem’?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my artistic identity and the way I express that in my music.

Essentially, I have two modes of working, and the results are very different.

In one, I collect a bunch of sounds in a sampler or other device, figure out the range of parameters I want to play with in performance, and then press play and record and take it all in one pass.  I records direct to stereo, so it’s got to be right in that one pass.  This workflow tends to lead to very long pieces, some as long as 30 or 40 minutes which I then dutifully post to soundcloud with minimal editing work.

The second mode of working is inside a DAW (usually Live or Reason).  In that, I similarly work with my synths and software, creating assets that I then structure into a song.   This is done much more like traditinal composition, and the songs tend to be shorter with more defined verse/chorus types of structures.   I tend to write these here and there over long stretches of time with the hope of eventually collecting them into an album.  I spend a *lot* of time futzing with the structure and the mix.

For some reason, despite the fact my audience seems to be very happy with what I produce with the first, I feel compelled to torture myself through the second. I don’t know why…perhaps I think composition has to be a more *deliberate* act. Or maybe I’m just convinced something you work at like that is inherently worth more.

I am going to be all in honest here…I don’t like what I compose when I work the second way. I used to, but the tracks never come out sounding *right*. Somehow, even with all of their imperfections, the improvised tracks come out sounding more, well, me. They sound more NoiseTheorm.

So I am going to try going with method one for a while and see what happens. I’m also going to break down a few of the tracks for the new album that I’m not 100% pleased with into parts I can play with in the MPC and modular. Perhaps those tracks can be saved?

It’s weird…I never thought of myself as a ‘live’ musician. Maybe I was wrong about that? Maybe I just had to find my version of ‘live’.

Something to think about.

 

Epiphany / Choice Paralysis

I spend a lot of time focusing on what I’m missing in my studio and in my tracks.  I think that’s part of being an artist, actually.  As you’re working on a piece, it’s your job to figure out what should be there and what shouldn’t.

I also have a serious issue with choice paralysis, getting hung up on simple binary choices that come up with production of music.  Maybe one of the reasons I’m hung up on finding a collaborator is so I can offload some of that choice and responsibility to someone else?  If that’s not revealing of a self esteem issue, I don’t know what is..

Maybe, at some point though, this prevents me from calling anything finished?  Maybe I’m the only one who hears the missing pieces?   Maybe I’m caught up on the weaknesses and not hearing the strengths?

Perhaps I just need to put more out there and hope for the best.

These are all things I need to think about a lot more.  Or maybe I need to stop thinking and start doing.

What does it take to be in a band?

  1. A skill you bring to the group which the group does not already posses
  2. An opinion or ‘vision’ you want to see realized
  3. The patience to realize that vision collectively
  4. A van helps, particularly if you’re a drummer

Someone asked me this question, and that’s all I can come up with.  Add more in the comments.