High Coo Unplugged

When I took to Twitter on Friday night after posting my track for the Disquiet Junto/Naviar Haiku Project, Lee Rosevere (Happy Puppy Records) replied that he was recording a song for the Album In A Day project and suggested I consider it too.

So I packed my guitar and camera and recorded this unplugged version of High Coo, the track I'd written and recorded for the Junto.

Disquiet Junto 117 Naviar Haiku Project

Not so long ago I signed up for a project similar to the Disquiet Junto called the Naviar Haiku Project. The idea is to respond to the haiku poem they provide and I like haiku and I like making music, so I was intrigued and joined.

This week the two projects overlapped, which was good as I wanted to respond to the haiku but have plans.
Step 1: This is the haiku for the 12th Naviar Haiku project entry:
“They encounter
A cathedral of ice
At the end of the world”
Step 2: Compose an original piece of music in response. 
Step 3: Upload the file to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud and describe your approach and process in the text field associated with the track. 
Step 4: Also consider uploading the file to the Naviar Laboratory group on SoundCloud. 
Step 5: Listen to other members’ tracks as they appear in the Disquiet Junto feed on SoundCloud, and comment on them when you have the time.

Once again I took the opportunity to record a chord progression I'd been jamming on. I thought with the right treatment it would sound appropriate, so I recorded MIDI with my guitar and ran that through a few VST synthesisers: Phosphor, Absynth and Massive.

The percussion part was a click-track that I decided to keep and I experimented with automating different reverbs to give a sense of movement, which was a technique I learned from the 3D Junto last year.

P.S. I recorded an unplugged version of the track High Coo too.

What Difference Does It Make

Seems a good question to ask after reading this piece which raises an existential question on the value of the arts. (Though the logical conclusion of that article is that any activity that isn't humanitarian is a waste.)

I think there are many benefits from making music, an activity Stephen O'Malley suggests has been part of human activity of a very long time in the doco above. I think it's disappointing more people don't make their own music, since most enjoy it but seem to have internalised a judgment that they're not a musician. I say music is too much fun not to have a go.

Steve Reich profile

I became interested in minimalist composer Steve Reich's music after reading Brian Eno rave about him and it was flattering to be compared to him on the Playgroundology blog.

This video profile discusses his influences, his lo-fi ‘funky home tape recorders’ and his inspiration for his classic piece Music for 18 Musicians.

There's a great bit of advice in it when Reich says:
“Don’t tell me you don’t have the right equipment…. IT DOESN’T MATTER! What matters is your musical imagination and your ideas.”

Disquiet Junto 116 Brushx4

Dental hygiene was the subject of the Disquiet Junto this week:
It is understood that one should brush one’s teeth for two minutes: half a minute each for front and back, top and bottom. Compose a piece of music made of four portions, each 30 seconds in length, each 30-second segment intended to direct a segment of the brushing The music should be placid enough to be listenable to at night and in the morning. The juncture between each 30-second segment should signal to the listener to rotate from one portion of the mouth to the next.

My track uses a chord progression that I'd been looking to use since around the time of the Sonar Vortex Junto. I think it might've been inspired by an alternative chord progression I'd developed but it's also got some ideas I took from a soul song. For this track I developed the eight chords I had into a 16-bar chord progression which is played four times. Some variation is provided by the bass.

My idea was to start at the top, although my dentist advises I focus my brushing on the bottom teeth as I'm missing molars and need to ensure the health of the teeth I have on my jaw. So the gap in the middle of the track is where the bottom starts and the bass licks are meant to symbolise my tongue, which always gets in the way; and when the section repeats for back section the bass drops to a low C.

The other idea with this track was to demonstrate my lack of fillings by not doing any work on the performances. It's a bit of a leap but, again, I was looking for an opportunity and the Juntos are an excuse to try out new ideas and challenge myself. The performances are all single takes and are unedited.

I recorded the guitar parts first using a click track at 130BPM and it was challenging. The strumming is kinda offbeat and the muted strum on the beat drifted out of tempo often. It was really humbling to listen back to and I recorded many, many takes. In the end I used two that were recorded around the same time, benefiting from the performance-enhancing benefits of that wonderful legal drug called coffee. These are panned in opposite directions for full stereo effect.

The drums were recorded next and I experimented with a couple of beats before settling on four-on-the-floor house. I incorporated some basic fills to keep it interesting and hopefully distract from my wonky guitar-playing. In hindsight I wish I'd done another take or two as there are a couple of hits that don't quite make the beat.

Both guitar parts and drums were recorded using my Nikon D5100 camera and Rode VideoMic. This approach doesn't give the best results but simplifies the process of editing a video. One concession I did make to getting good sound was positioning the microphone to point at the 12th fret of the guitar from about 30cm. Bass guitar was dubbed last and only required a couple of attempts, which was good as I've spent most of the day recording this track.

Or, as I told my Facebook friends, I've spent the day playing with myself. Now my hands hurt.

The Music of Sound

The MUSIC of SOUND from tim prebble on Vimeo.

Tim's blog The Music of Sound is a great read and this video he's made is sublime.

Beastie Boys circa 1987

Madonna and the Beastie Boys toured together in 1985 and then Australian Penthouse reunited them in print in 1987, with the former's nude photographs and the latter also at a point in their career they tend to gloss over.

I was a fan of the Boys in '87 and have written about their Beastie influence on my other blog.

Disquiet Junto Mediated Solo Duet

This week I returned to the Disquiet Junto, although I haven't finished editing the videos I'm meant to be working on. Anyway, I figured it wouldn't take me too long to follow these instructions:

As I've been procrastinating, I mean editing video, I haven't spent time working on new musical material. So for this Junto I listened over my previous Juntos and settled on my wind chime remix for 107, which I called Antipodes.

The track was at a tempo that felt a bit slow for my drumming, so I struggled a bit but recorded a few takes and settled on the final. I get a lot of pleasure from playing drums but my sense of timing isn't great. Given my father struggles to clap in time, I think I might be battling a genetic shortcoming.

The room the drums were recorded in has no acoustic treatment and the drums haven't been tuned since Burning Seed last year.

Audio was recorded using the Rode VideoMic that's on my Nikon SLR camera, which had a 50mm lens with a wide-angle adapter attached. I mastered the audio in Ableton Live, using tape emulation, compression and a few other effects.

John Cage on the music of objects

Look at this ashtray. It’s in a state of vibration. We’re sure of that, and the physicist can prove it to us. But we can’t hear those vibrations… It would be extremely interesting to place it in a little anechoic chamber and listen to it through a suitable sound system. Object would become process; we would discover… the meaning of nature through the music of objects.

This quote resonates for me as I said something similar last year to introduce a project, see:

Volca details

One thing -- and admittedly it's a very small thing -- I find curious about the Korg Volca series is the different placement for the branding details.
As you can see, the name Korg is on opposite sides and the Volca Beats title seems squashed in the lower right-hand section above the sequencer buttons.

It's like they had two separate design teams that didn't compare notes.

Ever wonder?

"Ever wonder how to become a producer or DJ?"

Sometimes I wonder why companies set themselves up to be attacked on Twitter.

The above sponsored post from AIM Music Institute is one example and the responses below show how wasted was their effort.

Thinking about online collaboration

This is a piece I wrote for the Western Riverina Arts' blog about my experiences with online collaboration:

Online collaborations have taught me a lot and provided many opportunities to develop and promote my music.

When I moved to Wagga Wagga it was a rather lonely time and I started evenings on the forum of the UK-based Ninja Tune record label's website. There I found like-minded music lovers and also remix competitions.

Remixing was a great education in electronic music, as I could hear how different producers approached the same source material.

In recent years I've been involved in a couple of 'remix chains' that originated on the Ninja Tune forum, where each track remixed the previous in a 'Chinese whispers'-style approach.

For a regional musician with limited interest in playing at a pub, online collaboration has been a satisfying outlet.

Another a group I've been involved with is the Disquiet Junto. The US-based blogger Marc Weidenbaum sets weekly projects, which vary greatly but provide interesting challenges. There's a lot learn from the activity but even more to be gained reading the reflections provided by other participants.

Whatever your medium, there are probably other artists online who are willing to share. Look around, introduce yourself to people whose work you like and see what you can learn.

There's a lot of inspiration to be found but even more to be gained through collaboration.

Mock pelican

This is a pelican impression recorded using a balloon. It's for an audible protest, see http://www.burragorang.org/bimbleboxbirds.php

Morton Subotnick

Spoke with Morton Subotnick yesterday about how pitch dominates music, Ableton Live and other interfaces. See Cyclic Defrost's website

This photo of Mort in his New York studio comes from Ethan Hein's blog, which has many excellent posts.