Meat the orchestra

Disquiet Junto 0395 Acoustic Expanse

This week the Disquiet Junto uses the samples I've recorded of the biggest guitar in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Big Guitar has so much character that it's a creative constraint, as there are challenges using some notes because of their imperfections.

My Junto track was my second attempt at composing with the sampled instrument, after first recording a couple of jams using my MIDI guitar.

That result was underwhelming, so I started building a track from a looped bass line and then added other sampled instruments.

For a while I thought it needed a toasted sandwich video, then I decided to add a video using takes from recording the Big Guitar.

Those notes don't add much to the composition but have let me create a video to share the song.

Firewire for vintage sound

Saw this post recently joking about "vintage sound" and kinda caught myself mid chuckle.

While the idea of using older USB for the quality of audio is ridiculous, it reminded me that I'm still rocking Firewire 400.

Firewire 400 was a feature of my MOTU soundcard, then my Mackie mixer.

I've been using 400 ports for about 15 years.

Recently my Mackie's "Hi-Z" inputs weren't working and it turns out the parts aren't easy to replace.

So I bought a brand new Mackie mixer, which had been sitting on the shelf for a while.

It's old enough to still have Firewire 400 inputs.

Gated baritone ukulele

Ran my ukulele through the re-patched gated effects rig.

Martin Prechtel on World House

Shamans say the Village Heart can grow a brand-new World House if it is well-dressed in the layered clothing of each indigenous soul's magic sound, ancestral songs, and indigenous ingenuity. 
The wrecked landscape of our World House could sprout a renewed world, but a new language has to be found. 
We can't make the old world come alive again, but from its old seeds, the next layer could sprout. 
This new language would have to grow from the indigenous hearts we all have hidden. 
It shouldn't be the tongue of oneness, not one language, not a computer tongue of homogenization, but a diverse, beautiful, badly made thing whose flimsiness and inefficiency force people to sing together to keep it well-spoken and sung into life over and over again, so that nobody forgets to remember. 
We need to find gorgeous, unsellable, ritual words to reanimate, remeasure, rebuild, and replaster the ruined, depressed flatness left by the hollow failure of this mechanized, orphaned culture. 
For this, we need all peoples: our poets, our shamans, our dreamers, our youth, our elders, our women, our men, our ancestors, and our real old memories from before we were people. 
We live in a kind of dark age, craftily lit with synthetic light, so that no one can tell how dark it has really gotten. But our exiled spirits can tell. 
Deep in our bones resides an ancient, singing couple who just won't give up making their beautiful, wild noise.  
The world won't end if we can find them. 

Disquiet Junto 0394 You & Me

The Junto this week asks for music to accompany another species.

I've used a recording of a frog that was outside my house earlier this year.

Disquiet Junto 0393 Mix Master

The Junto this weeks asks for a new piece combining elements from three previous tracks.

Some weeks ago I noticed my song 'Alright' was the same tempo as my Junto track 'Somewhat' and found they worked well together.

I'd already used the bass part in my track 'Bad Politics' so I set about recording a new part.

Now I've realised those three tracks, although some might say it kinda bends the Junto project a little.

Cursed chords

Space in music

Marc Weidenbaum's email newsletter, This Week in Sound, recently shared this information from Robert Fripp's diary:
The primary factor in choosing a setlist is the performance space. Only part of this is the acoustics. Each performance space / venue / auditorium has its particular spirit of place: churches, burlesque theatres, rock clubs, classical halls small and large; with performance and listening practices, determined mainly by the culture and history of the region.

It prompted me to reconsider another piece of information about a musician, Johann Sebastian Bach. Some while ago I'd read that he composed for Thomaskirche in Leipzig, the church where he became Kapellmeister nearly 300 years ago.

While looking for information about Bach composing with reverb in mind, I found this:
Acoustics has been an important influence on music. Many composers have had in mind, consciously or subconsciously, the acoustics of the space in which their music will be played.

That piece outlines the role of space in shaping music, like:
Greogorian chant was written for medieval cathedrals with long reverberation times; similarly organ music of any period requires a reverberant space. E. Power Biggs said: “An organist will take al the reverberation time he is given, and then ask for a bit more…. Many of Bach’s organ works are designed …. to explore reverberation. Consider the pause that follows the ornamented proclamation that opens the famous Toccata in D minor. Obviously this is for the enjoyment of the notes as they remain suspended in the air”. Church music sounds wrong when performed in a small non-reverberant space with a lot of acoustic absorbent such as curtains and carpets.

And I've spent a couple of days considering the provocative idea "that the most important single fact in the history of music" was "the insertion of galleries in Lutheran churches" as they reduced reverberation in those spaces where music was performed.

For a while I've been pondering the influence of technology on the development of music and reverb is a beaut example, particularly since different types have become associated with genres.

As I was a watching Craig Schuftan's panel conversation from Loop this morning, he mentioned that Bertolt Brecht described "the mirror and the dynamo" as the tension between tradition and innovation in the arts.

So, I'm jumping across topics here, it fascinates me how this plays out in the reverbs I use in my music.

The mirrors are emulations like the EMT140 plate and the models of Ocean Way's studios, while Valhalla Shimmer seems (to my naive ears) as something distinctly new when I use it for a big ambient pad-like effect -- although, now I looks at the website, I see it was based on older models.

I'd guess the dynamos in more recent years are developing in convolution reverbs which, while imitations of existing studios use that to mimic their spaces, can shape sounds in ways that are without precedent.

Thinking on how the acoustics of a space shaped composers like Bach led me to consider how UAD effects users are now able to use modelled spaces like the Ocean Way and Capitol Chambers plug-ins in their own productions.

Given how those reverbs impart a famed character and can be used to connote an atmosphere, it seems like we're getting back to writing music with specific ambiences in mind.

Part of me enjoys the reverb response that put my music in those spaces that mirror expensive studios, while another part hungers to push on and create something distinctly my own.

It seems like that tension underlies so much music, walking a line between helping audiences recognise something and forcing them to try and find their way in a new space.

It also reminds me of the epiphany I had a few years ago while listening to music that could be described as drone. The way those notes hung while I lay with my eyes closed led me to realise that I couldn't gauge the space I was in. It was simultaneously without space and all space, which led to a transcendent quality that I've only previously experience in an altered state.

How to get a killer vocal

Yes the planet got destroyed

Disquiet Junto 0392 Another Country

The Junto this week asks for an anthem for a fictional country.

It stirred a number of thoughts for me, rekindling my desire for Australia to have a better national and then remembering my curiosity about an inland state that might have been in that country.

A while ago I shared a passage from The Plains by Gerald Murnane, which I'd read because I've been fascinated by a proposal during the nineteenth century for a separate state covering the floodplains of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria.

In my mind I pondered whether it might be a separate country, one which addressed a fundamental issue in Australian history and had established a treaty with the First Nations.

It often seems incredible to me that Australia is the only English colony without a treaty, particularly given the projections for growing identification as Aboriginal.

The state of Victoria has been moving toward developing a treaty and it saddens me that the Uluru Statement met such a muted response.

It was with issues of inclusivity that I approached writing my anthem, as well as environmental sustainability.

You can see these themes in the lyrics:

Where the songbird has flown
from the start of time
in our hearts we know
we hold all humankind
through the night and through the day
love grows where we play

We’re the future of the earth
we live in freedom without fear
we cherish our pleasure
and hold each other dear
walking lightly on the ground
we improve how it was found

We learn all worth knowing
your voice can join our tune
we share and we receive
our land goes to the moon
with our words we give a lift
praise each other’s gift

Our future like sunrise
beating hearts like soaring wings
full of promise is our sky
in unity we sing
growing power with the sun
of the new millennium
hear our song in unison
we stand as one

After recording myself accompanied by my baritone ukulele today, I had an idea that a marching band could make a better backing track.

So I set about creating a MIDI track and ran those chords through Ableton Live's woodwind samples.

Unfortunately the baritone peeks through the vocal track in a couple of places.

Someone who lied

Cities and Memory

After getting involved in a couple of Cities and Memory projects, I started an email interview with founder Stuart Fowkes for Cyclic Defrost that was published this week.

Their latest project, Space is the Place, also launched this week and uses the sounds in this video produced by The Guardian.