Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mystery and The Muse

Not a second-rate made-for-TV movie.... oh no. 

It's very difficult to explain why sometimes creative urges, or rather the ingredients for creativity, ebb and flow the way they do.  I'll be absolutely honest, I barely did anything musically creative throughout the entirety of 2006.  I even sold my Korg Prophecy and my Roland SH-32, and only noticed their absence because there was less dusting to do and more of my desktop was visible (which may not have been such a good thing in hindsight).   I don't think I even had any musical ideas which despite my efforts I was unable to convert into tangible notes on a piano roll or recorded audio.  Not a thing.

So it's somewhat reassuring that the first two weeks of 2007 have at least prompted some notions of creating again.  I bought myself a Novation Remote25 (smaller, more knobs, slightly less dusting).  I have fired up eXT and some instruments, and actually produced something.  I will say it again.... produced something.  Two reasonably complete tracks.  I am not concerned about the quality, I am not concerned about the genre I'm in, not in the least bit worried that they are not perfect.  Frankly, to have drawn some notes, hit some notes, got tired ears from some late night sessions with the sequencer... that's enough.  More than enough.

Sometimes it's not about creating something.  It's about creating anything.  Turning thoughts - however vague - into something tangible.
Working on that tangible - however delivered - and getting back on track in terms of the process of creativity, rather than being suffocated and worried about the product.

Posted by Jon at 11:20:57 PM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sound Design Project - Part 2

 Slow progress on the sound design so far.  The sound design "team" has  received four new versions of the synthesizer in question, two to deal with bug fixes, another to deal with fixes of bugs that were caused by the bug fixes and another with some refinements to the features.  I say "team" because we are all working independently and have no knowledge of each other's work  This does present the inevitable questions about duplication of efforts and the desire to ensure that we stamp our individual mark without making sounds which are not usable in practical applications  No doubt the answers to these questions will become apparent!

After spending some time learning the synthesizer (ie. reading the manual), I got to know the character and features by playing around with it. I decided to approach the sound design by reproducing some standard sounds to gain more familiarity before actually sittting down and seriously  programming.  This included creating the kinds of "bread and butter" sounds one would expect from a synth like this (additive)

The programming has gone slowly so far, but I am sure it will pick up as the week progresses (and the deadline approaches).  So far I have a couple of interesting pad sounds, some lead sounds for sequencing and some bass sounds.  Perhaps I'm a bit too much of a perfectionist, which is why it is going slowly.  But, if a job is worth doing etc. etc.

Still, this is a good challenge for me and I hope to meet it.  In due course, I will post some MP3s of some of the better presets in use.  I bet you cannot wait ;)

Posted by Jon at 12:17:37 AM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sound Design Project - Part 1

I have two weeks to come up with a couple of banks of preset sounds (which is 128 in all)  for a brand new virtual synth (VSTi).  This will be quite a challenge, I think.  Challenging not only in the sense of the quantity and quality of sounds required but also because of the type of synthesizer that it is.

I cannot give too much away about it since the synth is not yet released, but it's a combination of additive and "traditional" subtractive synthesis, with some intriguing and interesting morphing and re-synthesis capabilities.  It should be quite an educational process and a good exercise in programming techniques.

I won't bore the non-musical with the ins and outs, but I thought I would track progress here on the development of those sounds.  For the non-musical or non-technical musician, a patch is like a snapshot of the settings of a synth (be it a real one or a virtual one) - the positions of switches, the placement of controls, and other options which all go into making a sound make the sound it does.  Patches can be recalled and saved  in banks and either used as they were intended or changed into new sounds.   So, my remit is for the next 12 days or so to come up with 128 usable patches (i.e. sounds)  for this particular synth and hope that they meet the needs of the synth developers..

Sounds easy?  We'll see...

Posted by Jon at 12:35:32 AM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (1)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thank you Doru!

 It's very difficult to write about someone that you don't really know at all but who you know to be a very good and generous spirit because their demeanour and contributions inform you of it.  Even more difficult to write about them not being with us very much longer and wondering what to do.

I write about Doru Malaia, who has consistently given a great deal to the music community, with his free sample sets and incredibly good sample CDs/DVDs, but most of all with his generous and humane nature

So, please go to Doru's web site - look around, download some of the many freebies he has on offer, purchase his fine refills or sample sets, and/or leave a message on his guestbook.

And on a personal note, thank you Doru. 
You'll live on in our music and in our hearts. 

Posted by Jon at 8:56:24 PM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

eXT as a live tool

l have not used eXT as a live tool either in theory or in practice, so my little sojourn tonight into its capabilities was quite an eye-opener and rather fun. 

Here's the set up

Start out with a MIDI patcher component so you can set up some keyboard splits.  This allows you to use part of the keyboard for triggering live and part for playing in realtime (detail at bottom right of the screenshot below)

In the example below I've got three splits set up - one for triggering midi components connected to a DeltaIII, Albino and Zero Vector, one to Microtonic to trigger its internal drum patterns and fnally the rest of the keyboard is connected to Absynth for playing freeform synth lines.

Each of my MIDI components is set to trigger when a note in the lowest split in the MIDI patcher is played - note toggle is selected for each midi component and I set each component to a different note (C1 to D1).  I've turned off MIDI THRU on each of these because I don't intend to send anything other than the initial trigger notes to them and I don't want to hear that note coming back to me through the respective synths/drums.

The Microtonic has three patterns set up on keys C2 to D2, a basic rhythm, and two fill variations.

Lastly, I have an audio in set up for guitar which is playing through the Trash distortion unit after equalization..

Here's the screenshot of the set up

So, basically in space of about 20 mins set up I have at my disposal for live use:

1.  a bass line I can trigger on/off on one note
2.  a synth line I can trigger on/off on one note
3.  a second synth line I can trigger on/off on one note
4.  a drum synth with three pattern variations on three notes
5.  another synth on the remaining higher notes
6.  an audio input for guitar ( I might also have set up a trigger for the distortion unit on/off)

I could alternatively have used MIDI CC messages for all the triggering.  In addition I could use the same techniques to trigger sample components in real-time.

All I need now is an audience... oh, and an extra hand for the guitar bits ;)

Posted by Jon at 1:19:29 AM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

From Glitch to Glitswitch via eXT

In a recent post (see "Glitch") I mentioned how useful it would be to be able program a sequence which would send output to different effects on a note-by-note basis.  E.g.  note 1 send audio to this FX plugin, note 2 bypass, note 3 send audio to this other FX plugin.  Glitch does this with its own internal effects.

Well, steffensen over at KVR has come with a solution using eXt and Soma's Audio Switcher.   Here's the link to the discussion.
It looks complicated but the basic principle behind it is quite simple (use Steffensen's light version first as it's a bit clearer). You have a midi part with each note corresponding to a toggle of Soma's Audio Switcher, which then sends output to your designated FX plugins. So, just insert the effects you wish to use and then sequence away. Great solution! Kudos to all concerned! Not got eXT? Get it here...

Posted by Jon at 11:52:50 AM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Review: Fractured - Only Human Remains (CD)

 I have been eagerly anticipating this release by Fractured on Dependent - the label's only debut release in 2005 -  ever since hearing and being very impressed by the title track on the Endzeit Bunkertracks compilation.  The CD does not disappoint.  First things first, the title track is indeed different from the version on that compilation, and the differences are a microcosm of what to expect from the album as a whole (download it here).  More punctuated drum and synth lines, glitchier percussion and shredded vocal effects mark the title track out from its earlier release version.  The CD opens up with a spoken word track ("What Is The Moment of Truth") which develops into a tirade complemented by heavy beats and shuddering guitar. A fine opener is also matched with the excellent album closer, "Cold Eyes", which ties together several tracks including "Only Human Remans".   In between, there's a varied mix of the melodic, the powerful, and more atmospheric tracks, including several slower songs notably "Haunted Memories".  There's a little of everything here and clearly manifold influences - but it's intellligently done, never clumsy nods to anything or anyone.  Vocals are treated differently on an almost song-by-song basis, which is at times a little disconcerting but it works at the global level.  There's a high degree of glitch programming and rhythmic complexity which is impressive, but it never detracts from the accessibility of the song structures.  It does not feel like it is done for the sake of it.   Overall, a fine album which will no doubt reinforce their rapidly-growing reputation for complex but accessible dark electro music.

Posted by Jon at 5:19:38 PM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Monday, November 07, 2005


 No, not a problem with the site.  Rather, Glitch from dBlue is a very impressive VST effect which will do unspeakable things to your audio signal, and is particularly effective on percussion parts.

What's novel about it is the ability to apply particular effects within a siequence of up to 64 steps (you can change the length of the sequence to suit as well).  The nine effect "slots"  include modulation, bit crushing, shifting and flanging, and all of these have their own filter to refine the effect output.

Randomize functions abound (for effects and the sequencer) and you'll lose a few hours just messing about with those.  It's a lot of fun, and runs from subtle to extreme (put a hard limiter in your signal chain after it, but you do that anyway of course!).  It makes me wonder if someone should come up with something similar which allows you to host your own effects into those slots in a modular fashion all controlled by that sequencer.  As it is, Glitch is perfect for glitchy drum loops and chopped up percussion.  Put a pad sound through Glitch with a low wet setting to add some interest and movement to it.   It's surprisingly controllable once you get the hang of it..

Download the beta here

Posted by Jon at 2:02:24 PM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Couple of Recent Efforts

A couple of recent tracks - the first for a while:

Corruption_of_Spirit (mp3)

Proliferation (mp3)

Posted by Jon at 12:30:17 PM in Muso-ing (9) | Comments (3)