Sunday, July 14, 2013

23 in '13 #12: Gnomewalk

Song #12: Gnomewalk

And I bet you thought that this blog was just going to start collecting tumbleweeds and cobwebs. Ha, I say. Ha! Let's just say that it's a bit challenging when one has an assortment of tasks to complete, coupled with chicken pox. June/July has been a bit of a wash, but I managed to get this one done before things flew off the rails for a bit.

(For those paying attention, you may be wondering about the whole "number 12" thing: first, I'm counting Lessons Learned as 23 in '13 #10, because I put about as much work into it. Second, I also wrote a pop song for a friend's birthday which I'm counting as #11. However, owing to the fact that the song has somewhat personal/puzzling lyrics, and was written and recorded in a crazy short time period - I think it was maybe four hours from idea to emailing it off to where it needed to go - I'm not going to post it here. Thus, #12!)

This piece was actually written for the same birthday, but it's a bit more general purpose. At least, as general purpose as orchestral birthday music can be. The track came about from thinking about words to describe said friend ("whimsical intensity" came to mind), as well as a previous Halloween costume of a garden gome. Thus, Gnomewalk was born. Like the song I'm not posting, this one was also written in a very short time period, about two hours. It's a good thing I got it done as quickly as I did...the next day I got that case of chicken pox.....

EDIT: I'm not positive my Flash player is working on any of my posts. No better reason to dump Flash and go with an HTML5 player, I guess. I'll take me a while to update all the older posts. Until then, the song title in each posts is a direct link to the MP3.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Revisiting an older composition with some new hardware

Lessons Learned

A bit of a break from 23 in '13 for a chance to revisit something I wrote a few years ago. When I initially composed it, it's safe to say that it pushed my computer to its limits: the only way I was able to convince Logic to play it was by bouncing two thirds of the software instruments to disk and purging the samples. Then, editing became annoying because in order to edit, I'd need to reload the samples, and hope the whole system didn't choke. Suffice it to say, it wasn't entirely fun. and I ended up leaving the piece less finished than I would have liked.

Fast forward to now. I just upgraded my system*, and immediately thought about finally tweaking Lessons Learned...and also to see how easily my new system could handle it (which it does without even breathing hard. Six times the RAM and four times the cores helps immensely.). I didn't want to change the overall composition, mainly just the kind of cleaning that is difficult to do when most of the composition is pre-rendered: adjusting notes, fixing rhythms, changing some chord voicings, that sort of thing. Also, I was finally able to add more instrument voicings, the sort of thing that was a pain to do with limited RAM.

As far as the piece itself, it's a bit of a story told in several parts. For fun, here's what I call each section:

1. Home
2. Run!
3. Captured
4. It Just Got Worse
5. The Rescue

*for anyone interested: Mac Mini, 2.3 GHz i7, 16 gigs of RAM, dual 20" monitors, scads of external storage. Life is good.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

23 in '13 #9: Overture

Song #9: Overture
It's a good thing that I was running ahead of schedule on 23 in '13, as the past month has made things a bit more difficult to work on projects like that. But, we're back to it!
Part of this last month was spent catching up on some of the Big Movies of the past year or so, notably some of the Marvel action movies (Iron man, Avengers, et al). And anytime I I watch a movie like that, i find it very hard to not thinking in terms of BIG MOVIE SCORES. They're just so much fun. So, we're veering away from Orchestralectro for the time being, and working back in pure orchestral again.

The genesis for this project was when I was driving on an errand. I had a basic string rhythm in my head, and started to hum a melody over it. I liked it...quite a bit. I actually parked the car for a bit so I could plunk the melody into an app so I could be sure to remember it for later. Good thing I did, because I definitely forgot in until I listened to it later.

I'm calling this one "Overture" because it veers around from different feelings and emotions in a relatively small space. The different sections in it could be developed into pieces in their own right (which I just might do). Time to get back on schedule for #10!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

23 in '13 Song #8: A Case for Homicide

Song #8: A Case for Homicide

All samples are Public Domain.

I decided that I should finally get caught up with posting my 23 in '13, song #9 isn't done yet.

Something that I've been really enjoying in the last few songs is digging into for my sample material, particularly in their film noir collection. I've always been a fan of the style, but the past few weeks has definitely been re-sparking my interest. As such, that's where the inspiration for this entry came from...the kinds of imagery from a gritty Noir film, combined with the orchestral/synth styles I've been using. Fun fact: the muted trumpet theme isn't a sample, having come trumpet.

Monday, April 8, 2013

23 in '13 Song #7: Pulse

Song #7: Pulse

And the Orchestralectro train keeps rolling. Seriously, I'm having a lot of fun with this genre. Today's offering  is a lot "clubbier" than anything I've done before (read: OONCE OONCE OONCE). As such, I took it as a good opportunity to try out sidechain compression on the synth pads using the kick to give it a bit of punch (as well as make the synth lines pump a bit.)

I'm beginning to think that I'm going to be behind one song in posting all year. Not that that's a bad thing. (Yes, song #8 is pretty much done...I'm a few weeks ahead of schedule. Woo-hoo!)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

23 in '13 #6: The Spider's Parlor

Song #6: The Spider's Parlor

What was I saying about posting song #6 before #7 was done? Hah. I've still been immersed in writing and recording: all else is distraction. I'll try and get #7 posted up shortly.

This week's song is a continuation in style of last weeks, something Soundcloud helpfully showed me as being called "Orchestralectro". I approve. I really enjoyed finding samples for this project. (Peter Lorre in PD? Score!) And, once again, all samples are public domain.

Fun sidenote which isn't at all impressive in a digital age: The "Will you walk into my parlor" sample didn't need to be modified in any way to fit the key or rhythm of the song, and is in fact how the song came to find its title. I grabbed the clip, and noticed that it was already 120 BPM, key of C. Serendipity, baby!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

23 in '13 Song #5: Mental Incisions

Song #5: Mental Incisions

Apparently, I've been a little too immersed in the writing cave for the past few weeks, as I've gotten rather far behind in posting up my 23 in '13 songs. Really, not a bad problem to have, but I like to give the appearance of still being alive and stuff. In other words, song #6 is done, and I'm just getting around to posting song #5.

This entry is continuing along in the same vein that The Witch started in, heavily electronic. The E-Mu sampler came with an absolute wealth of sounds that are proving to be incredibly inspiring. The twist this week is that I've coupled the normal industrial/electronic sounds with an orchestral backing. My discovery in writing noisy music is that I need to approach is from an orchestral standpoint and make it gritty, rather than the other way around.

The voice samples are being taken care of by my other new piece of hardware, an Akai S3000XL. It's the other reason I've mostly vanished from Twitter and blogging, and I've had some rather thick manuals to plow through! Fortunately, both the E-Mu and the Akai are rather straightforward once you get used to them, so they're quite an integrated part of my workflow by this point.

I've long bemoaned the fact that the sample-laden songs of the 80s really aren't feasible to be made anymore, due to the licensing considerations (and song #4 is no exception to this...I doubt I'd be able to get a commercial release of it, due to the multiple samples in it). But this week was a sudden realization: the samples that I like aren't about where they're from, it's how they sound. As such, I headed over to, and started plowing through old Public Domain video. Clips in this track are all PD, and use audio from Detour, The Gorilla, and The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Oh, and I also used a cordless drill. For the sound, not on my rack.

More to come. Maybe I'll get around to posting song #6 before song #7 is done.