But boy. It turned out basically how I expected it too. Can't say I'm disappointed.
So lets back up.
OUR SINGER IS 2HRs LATE
A MuTECH performance is never without a whole range of technical difficulties. First it was the USB hub crashing due to overload. Our course techie saved us by retrieving a powered USB hub for us. Then we had the crazy delay running through our system for no apparent reason. Simone managed to fix this too, and we continued on. And while these challenges were tedious, they didn't make us stop and go 'we may have a serious problem-- we can't perform'.
Our singer being two hours late made us do that though. Jake was in Brisbane all day for his internship, but when it struck 2.30PM when he was supposed to arrive at 1PM we started to get concerned. This singer, according to Simone, was always punctual and this was out of character.
Luckily we managed to get contact from him at the two hour mark and he arrived. While this wasted potential practice time (act two was set up first for tests, and we were in act one) it did mean he didn't have to wait around so much. And we did manage a brief practice, which illuminated some more deep rooted problems in our approach to the singer, but again, more on that later.
Our official sound check and rehearsal then went fairly well with the only thing being majorly detrimental being the soft foldback, which sadly wasn't really fixed for the performance despite us notifying it. But ah well. It happens.
ATTACK OF ZOMBIE MODE
Performing is a funny thing. From my last post, you know I had my concerns and was quite anxious about how we would go. But when I was on the bus heading into uni earlier that morning, I managed to put things in perspective and calm down, helped greatly by the fantastic overcast weather. This was it, after all. This was the end of my course. After this, we came into the home stretch. So I shouldn't have been scared. Couldn't. No, no matter how it went. Because this was the last chance I had to play with friends in this kind of environment. And I loved performing. I do love it. So I had to give it everything I had. And when the performance came, something strange happened.
I go into something called zombie mode when I'm put under stress. It's like the ultimate get shit done activation in my mind, where I can block everything out and focus on the task at hand. And I felt it come upon me while I waited in the audience for the first group to end, knowing I was up next even though that fact hadn't exactly clicked yet. And it was like my mind split in two.
There was part containing my thoughts like:
Then there was the part controlling my body.
That was the part that had me standing once my friends finished their performance, and had me walking down to the piano. I remember thinking, while I sat on the bench waiting for Simone to look back at me for confirmation to start, "what the hell am I doing?" I had no idea. But my body did. All my practice of this piece, and performing in general, was engrained in my muscle memory. All I had to do was hit play-- or for Simone to look back at me and start-- and I would begin. And I did, and no one knows how proud I am at that opening and my ability to match Simone's suspended chords that she brought in fairly irregularly as she mixed at the same time. We weren't supposed to match (never practiced to, really), but I made it work. Hey! It's the small things.
AH, THE SINGER!
Remember how I was talking about my sins yesterday? Well, this was another one. Jake, the fantastic man, needs direction. He needs someone to say 'this is how it goes' and drill it into him. Sadly this fact wasn't taken on board when practising. Instead my group wanted to let him 'do his thing' (which he was not sure of), saying 'just do what you want, we will follow you!" Dangerous words.
Jake may be a great singer, constantly performing, and in the last year of his Popular Music bachelor, but that doesn't mean we could just rely on him 'getting it'. No, we needed to have sat down at the piano with him and drilled in his notes, instead of relying on his ability to just follow along and pick it up. He needed those notes locked in.
I guess we were too busy worrying about ourselves, that we didn't fully put ourselves in his shoes.
It wasn't until that last practice before our sound check that it fully clicked in my mind what we had to do, and didn't do. Unfortunately. By then it was too late.
Also, because of this approach, I was never given explicit time-- and realised too late that it was something I really needed-- to teach everyone my 'tells'.
When I compose/play, I embed heaps of little tidbits alerting other performers, and the audience, that we are leading into something new. For an example, in the opening, before I switch from one broken chord to a more complex one, I don't play the last eighth note. It's small, but noticeable. You feel it. There are other things little motifs, and rhythms, and of course general crescendoing, or decrescendoing. It's a way of conducting without visual signals, and something I've been attuned too due to years of band work for all kind of positions and instruments. Maybe, like everyone expecting Jake to 'pick it up', I expected people just to notice these things-- or atleast feel it. But I'm getting side tracked.
OOOH - I MEAN FIRST VERSE
We were going so well, until our 8 bars of ooohs became 4 and we suddenly launched into the first verse. Luckily the high hit (which I use in the oohs) led well into the first verse. But when I looked back on the recording, you can see Jake look at Simone and I for direction and us heads down focussed. My bad.
What happened after that was an interesting improvised version of our piece as choruses were suddenly added, and sections suddenly changed. And I was having the time of my life! Where's the fun in just hitting play and going through the usual motions? Yes, it was a bitch to be suddenly thrown in the deep end. But it wasn't that bad, and seeming I'm not that bad either, it really wasn't anything to blink at. You just went with it, and had fun bullshitting your way through. Which I really did. It was great to make this a challenge, and actually have to perform.
I do have to own up for nearly bringing my solo that Simone created in too early, then rushing it a little when I got to it (poor Simone). Jake then brought the chorus in when the instrumental was supposed to happen, but it kind of worked so that wasn't a matter. After that, I improvised the heck out of the ending, and it was over, and I was walking back to my seat not sure that had actually happened, or having any idea about how it went. But it was over, and my mind was yet to catch up.
ABOUT THE VISUALS
From watching that video, I'm sure you've noticed the lack of visuals which we seemed to have spent so much time on earlier-- another sin. Turns out, another group took our idea and actually did something with it. Turned out pretty awesome, too, to be honest.
But by the end, we had to cut visuals. It had to be something set from day one that grew with the project, except we just didn't get to that point. We never did. And we couldn't have something detracting from the performance. So bye bye to that. Ah, well. C'est lavie.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT
We've come to the end. This is it. We're done. And boy it's been fun. Do I have regrets? Naturally. Have I learnt things? Of course. But that's all part of the experience. And out of all of it, I guess the fact I miss performing is the most notable. I don't compose near enough, let alone perform. I guess that is why we did this in the first place. A final time to perform with the MuTECH gang. I'm sad to see it end.
The final week has passed. Tomorrow is the performance, and boy it's been a ride. But lets jump back to where I left you last Thursday.
Last Group Practice minus Nathan
Due to Jake's busy schedule we were unable to meet up with him until Tuesday. So off to the coast we went again, only to find out an hour later that Nathan couldn't come due to a family emergency regarding their cat and fair bit of money. This was unfortunate, as we had hoped to implement the effects he had been working on over the weekend for his horn. Instead we spent the time cleaning up the composition and running through it as many times as we could to make sure Jake was comfortable with it, and we had it as bulletproof as possible.
Turns out no Horn Effects. Or Wii.
As you know, through my blog posts my main experimental idea was using the Wii for effects. I had managed to get this working on my computer and those at school, but for some reason Simone's computer fritz'd when I try to sync the Wii remote to OSC (a program Nathan and I bought for this performance). We have tried numerous times to get it working, and only succeeded in crashing her computer. The internet provided no answers, and time was of essence-- so it was scrapped.
Nathan's effects also turned out redundant though I can't remember the exact reason. Instead we hooked up some parameter controls for his sustained chords on his midi keyboard, similar to Simone's set up for the introduction which is replacing the Wii. She also managed to get her launchpad working, which helped a lot with her drums.
In truth I am quite disappointed with this turn out, though it's only one of many regrets I have.
Performance and more Practice
Come Thursday we performed for the class, without a singer. We were not the best, and while I wouldn't call us the worst due the fact worst implies we didn't do well, our level of achievement fell quite below of others. This came from the fact they had a lot more experience and tools at their disposal to achieve quite avant garde stuff in some cases; or maybe just more willing team members to go in that direction. There are a million excuses to why we weren't and aren't that level. But excuses do nothing, so all I can do is practice more and do the best with what we have.
These experiences are all about learning, and if I'm to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, I have to take on board the sins I did in this project and one of them was noticing warning signs, and dismissing them. If some one says 'don't worry, I have this'-- they don't always do. If an element of your piece-- no matter how big or how beloved by a member-- is tied to your feet like a cement block, then you have to cut it loose. If members are scared to try something new, sometimes you have to push them by presenting work in a manageable way, even if it means taking on more of the load yourself.
If you're in a situation that's dragging you down, you need to be stronger and better. You have to find a way to make it all work. And though I tried, I put that much needed extra effort in far too late when the noose was already dropping over our heads.
Next time, I have to act faster and learn to push the members of the team in an efficient way (a far more practical thing then taking it all upon myself) that may antagonise my self in their mind, but bring out the best in them in our work.
It's tomorrow night, and I am scared. I know my part front and back, but that is only one variable out of hundreds that implicate the success of our performance. I worry for our singer, who I know can be great, but is yet to demonstrate in practice something concrete and moving. I worry for my health, as this night falls on the worst night in the month for me-- if you catch my drift. If you don't. Just know, I am in a fair bit of pain. And if the panadol wears off moments before I walk on stage...
But there's other things too that are so unpredictable that all you can do is hope for the best, and prepare for the worst just like with anything else.
While this piece may not be at the standard I hoped for, it is something I created with friends, and I do want to do justice to what we have made. This may be our final performance for our university, but it is a far cry from the closing night of our lives. And if everything is to go wrong, at least one good comes out of it -- I get to play on an awesome grand piano!
We're hurtling towards the end, and the wheels are careening out of control.
But hey, I have videos for you!
(Remember how I said I did not want to be spongebob?)
What do you mean, you're in Sydney?
Everything seemed to be working out. We were together, practicing, and smoothing out our composition. We had all the midi keyboards, we had the looper pedal, we had the singer! We were finding what parts were strong, and which needed work, and jamming it all out; music is a language after all, and while writing it down does wonders-- performance is all speaking. But.
(It's better not to ask what we're attempting to do with my midi box and Simone's cardigan)
It was half way through this jam session that we learned there had been some kind of miscommunication; our singer, Andy, couldn't make the performance. He would be in Sydney, turns out, for a paid gig that night. We're not sure why he thought this wouldn't collide with our performance (as he returns the day after), but hitting the panic button suddenly looked real tempting.
We didn't. And I have to give Simone kudos. When this tidbit of information hit us, I was expecting shit to hit the fan. I looked at her, and I could see the temptation rising-- I knew it was rising in me. But what good comes from freaking out? Instead, Simone took a deep breath and clarified with her friend. "You sure?" Hopefully someone had the dates wrong-- no such luck. Okay.
We immediately started thinking of other singers who we could call in to replace him. We had spotted the ice-berg, and were going to veer left, dammit. We weren't Spongebob-- yet. And this is the part where I say a miracle hit us. Simone found replacement the next day.
Meet our Angel
A few days later, I found myself travelling to the coast for a two hour session to meet Mr Jake at the nice university studios down there. This was a great opportunity to see what kind of set-up we needed, and start really nailing our song in a 'performance' scenario-- which we discovered is still not there sadly. The more we ran through it, the more we realised the ending was just too weak. We decided this had to be reworked before our next rehearsal.
And I Launch into Action
A few days after this session, it became clear our composition just wasn't hitting it yet. We had other assessment breathing down the back of neck, and while we were putting the time into this subject, we weren't achieving much to show it. We had hit a brick wall. Again.
So far, Simone had been in charge mostly of the composition as I was looking after another project we had together. But as we gained a third active member to that subject, I jumped into Sonic Art to see if I could come up with anything.
I ended up sitting at my piano for hours, staring at pen-filled pages of mush; I was clawing at the brick wall, shredding my fingertips, and not having much to show for it. Or so I thought.
Turned out I had a lot more than I realised in our next session. Simone sat down with me at the piano, and we bashed it out with Nathan improvising on the horn behind us. We implemented my new opening and motifs that I had created the previous day while Simone introduced her new chorus.
However there was something funny, timing wise, with the melody of her new section. I couldn't put my finger on it, until it clicked. I grabbed my phone, and pulled up one of my old experimentation videos. It turned out an old idea of mine had stuck in her head, and she had tried to recreate it with different chords and tempos. Quite amusing. We quickly fixed it up, and continued with the flow.
(Remember that photo? Here's the video.)
By jamming together, we fixed one of the main issues eating at me the last few weeks-- the lack of musical 'quirks'. While Simone's composition was good, it was relying too heavily on drums and synth pads. She was stuck in a 8-bar loop mentality, which was partly her DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)'s fault and partly the expectations of her genre.
I have to admit I'm not a fan of composing in Ableton due to the default work flow; it can become a very dangerous trap if you're not consciously making sure your composition flows as naturally as possible, and that Ableton-- as an instrument-- is being used as organically as possible.
However, by sitting at the piano, all those musical elements came back to Simone that have been hardwired into us since birth, and drilled into us by every song we listen to, and every piece we learn. She was accenting the tension and release my new material brought, and bringing in her own rhythmic ideas and as such.
We finally figured it all out and it was a lot of fun.
Sadly our singer couldn't make it for our test performance which didn't go ahead anyway.
As you can see in the video, our composition has morphed quite a fair bit from our time at the coast. It's still rocky as it hasn't been rehearsed with our singer yet, and we're missing key elements such as the Wii Remote (which wouldn't work), Nathan's Horn manipulation (we didn't have a mic), and you know, the singer (which means the no looping).
Simone's keyboard also stopped working half way through the piece.
I want to work on expanding on these elements now. Introducing all the manipulation, and maybe adding some of my harmonies into another keyboard (such as a bell sound).
I have also organised a grand piano for my use. It is my instrument of choice, and I feel most comfortable sitting at a traditional piano, than a midi keyboard-- which I most likely will still be using.
NEXT WEEK IS IT
The performance. It is here, and oh boy this is going to get interesting. By Wednesday I need to have the composition bulletproof for our practice with our singer which has to go off without a hitch and preparation for Friday. We have one rehearsal with Jake before bump-in and it must be seemless; he must be able to slip into the piece like slipping on a glove made perfectly for him.
This week we saw our composition take hurtling leaps towards it's completion as we fleshed out our ideas, and started bringing in our singer for practice. We are still behind our expected position at this point, but in a far better spot than I left you last week. And a lot of that is due to our new workspace.
Change of Scenery
Never underestimate the magical powers of a good workspace. I often suggest when authors come to me with writers block, to change their environment; however, when it comes to music, that's easier said than done.
When you're working with computers and midi, it takes a fair bit of effort to set up an array of hardware in a different spot, but Simone and I found ourselves in this position after finding our booked teaching room occupied by superiors.
We had a few options, though none overly desirable as we were expecting our singer for the first time in moments.
This ruled out the computer labs, as we couldn't impose on the concentration of others, nor did we want to parade our incomplete work in front of them. We possibly had Studio A's live room, in which we could hire a PA system to hook up to Simone's laptop, but we lacked a keyboard. . .
Luckily, we soon discovered Studio B to be free, as it's booked personal hadn't shown up for their booking. Funny how things work out.
It was in this small studio that we discovered something that had been missing from everywhere else. One-- great full sized keyboards. And two-- a friendly environment that encouraged easy creation, and collaboration.
It wasn't long after we pulled up our session and prepared a mic, that our singer Andy arrived at the train station.
No Longer a Sample
(A Gig of Audsox's at a local tavern)
A little on him: Andy is from the bandAudsox that Simone manages down at the Gold Coast, and as this was the first time he and I met, greetings were exchanged first before showing him our work. We then wrote down his lyrics and allowed him time to practice with the audio samples we were basing his part off.
Unfortunately the video we had filmed on Simone's laptop did not capture the audio.
(I should note, Nathan had previous commitments for Sonic Tectonics in IMERSD studio at this time, thus his absence.)
Upon contemplating this meet-up and our last presentation, I decided I wasn't happy with our visuals and regretted showing them to Simone early in the week. They weren't what we wanted, I believed, and was adamant we returned to something more basic that complemented our music, instead of presenting a story-- ironically, this was Simone's original idea; so we back tracked to square one.
Now we are looking at using this or something akin, which simply serves as a mood and context creator to enhance the music, rather than distract from it. This goes back Simone's original Ta-ku idea.
Simone and I met up again early the next day to work further on the composition using Studio B. With her at the computer directing, and me at the piano, we quickly gained headway in a strong direction. This included cleaning up the introduction, expanding the next section based on our experiments yesterday with Andy, and starting to fix the next section; we decided the solos (reminiscent of jazz structure) weren't working, therefore needed another strategy.
Nathan arrived towards the end of our studio booking (he had previous commitments at the conservatorium) with just enough time to show him our progress. Once packed up, we decided it would be best for him to go home and get his horn so it could be involved in the next section. And with that, we parted ways, Simone and I going for a quick lunch which ended up a bad idea as we ended up with upset stomachs (of course).
Studio B now in use by another party, and a class still occupying my booked teaching room, we found ourselves unsuccessfully trying to work in the computer labs which our sour-- though hyperactive-- moods didn't help. It just wasn't the right environment.
Once the class left the teaching room, we quickly set up camp there where we had a bit more success. I jumped on the piano, and started throwing out some new motives for us to incorporate in our struggling upcoming section while delegating Nathan his assigned complementary harmony.
The below photo is of a quick video I took so I would remember a melody for future reference; my notebook, where we had been writing down structure, and part assignments is also shown.
Once we established this, we were fortunate a friend finished early in Studio B, allowing us access. We quickly shuffled in, and transmitted our new work into our session. Unfortunately the quality of audio Simone's laptop captured wasn't worth publishing, and recording the practices in the Ableton session completely slipped my mind.
(I'm left with the keyboard, Nathan back with his horn, and Simone right with the desk)
Not soon after this rehearsal, we called it quits, having spent a good ten hours at uni (an average day of late). And I went home to draft this article, and our presentation for upcoming assessment.
And Things (Naturally) Go South
The following day didn't start well-- Simone had forgotten her hard-drive, and as she's from the Gold Coast, it's no easy matter to return and get it. This meant our early start was wasted on updating an old draft I had on my USB (note for future self: keep constant backups everywhere, and not just at home) so we were prepared for when Nathan arrived at ten. From then, trouble continued to grow.
The main thing we needed to get going was a 'jamming' environment. This meant moving away from the computer and getting everyone on keyboards-- something that turned out unachievable in Studio B as-- due to a glitch, naturally-- the computer was running only one midi USB entry point instead of multiple. And being a fault in the wiring, not an easy fix that we or the techie could fix right then.
Andy also had uni commitments meaning he couldn't make it into uni.
This left us in an awkward limbo as we moved to the teaching room I had booked and tried to transfer our session to Simone's laptop, which we hadn't been using due to the need of a midi keyboard (and I can't cart mine in every day on the bus). It was here that it became clear the stage we were at.
We can no longer work without Andy. Our composition is at a brick wall 'in the box' and needs to be developed in a live-environment, just like the performance.
Electronic music has this weird mentality of 'behind the desk'. One of the things that my course explores, and MuTECHs in general, is trying to bring back that sense of passion through movement and, well, performing, that is lost from this 'clip launch' mentality.
Using my wii remote will of course, break this idea, but I hadn't set it up for these sessions as we were focussed on completing our composition, and trying to get it going-- performance wise, which meant I was tied to a keyboard for the moment.
No Videos for You! (sorry)
I know. I know. I promised heaps of videos for you, but I underestimated how many excuses would present themselves since then that would have me saying-- no.
It's not that we didn't take videos-- we did. But none I'm happy with enough, quality wise, to put up here. Next fortnight, though, pray we have heaps of videos; because if we don't, we're in trouble.
Hello, and welcome back for part 3 of my Sonic Art journey! As promised, I have videos for you this week, and progression of our composition. So lets get started!
Simone Launches into Action
Over the weekend after our last presentation, Simone took her experimentation Chill, and developed it to incorporate vocals, and a stronger verse and chorus:
I then took this piece as my starting point, and bounced the stems from Logic to import them into our project Ableton session. To create the 'ambient' opening we had decided on, I also drew upon my experiment from last fortnight (MusicBox+Wii) to expand on her idea, and yes, I figured out how to automate the mapping.
[In saying that, I still believe something was going wrong, cause while the problem is fixed, looking back on screenshots from my attempts, the button I needed enabled was actually activated; this meant live midi should have been recorded. Chances are I'm missing something but enough time wasted on that, it works, so I'm not going to look it in the mouth (It's easy to see I mainly work in Logic!).]
With the issue resolved, I bounced a test for the others so I could get their opinion on the direction:
When you Learn You're actually quite Ill...
Unfortunately I didn't get to take it further that week, as a doctor's appointment disrupted my plans. It turned out I couldn't wait until Christmas holidays, after my graduation, to take antibiotics I needed to clear bacteria from my stomach (apparently my family and I ate at a funky restaurant... yeah.). This meant I had to start taking pills sooner rather than later. Deciding to get it out of the way before things became even more hectic, I started Sunday with the prescription which is intended to last for a week's duration, with multiple pills taken at breakfast and dinner.
Luckily my symptoms have eased faster than my sisters, meaning I could get back to work earlier than I hoped (though that meant I no longer had an excuse to focus on SOUL editing, sadly!). So after being practically bedridden Sunday, I started Monday incorporating more of Simone's piece into mine.
(Also, sorry for the funny focussing. I didn't realise until later.)
I extended from my second experiment, and added Wii mapping to it. Though to my frustration, I soon discovered I had forgotten how exactly I 'played' the original experiment, and couldn't find any documentation or recordings to what exactly I did as it had been improvisation. My bad.
Midi Mapping A - ch1 Up - ch2 Right - ch3 Down - ch4 Left - ch5 B - Stop Erosion Amount - Pitch Erosion Freq - Roll Auto Filter Freq - Yaw Erosion on/off - plus Filter on/off- minus
While I was working on this, Nathan started on his 'horror' section that was planned to be the final section of the piece. In this experiment, he again played with vocoder while adding a darker tonality.
We met Wednesday (yesterday) to really push our composition out, and we came to the realisation our project needed a fair bit of extension (mostly time wise), and that creating a spaceship crash, and heavy apocalypse section, may be a bit much. Thus we decided to change the order of things.
(because why not)
Lets Change the Story. Again.
Our whacky premise, inspired by the theme and Simone's vocal samples, now started with Nathan's ending, mixed with my opening. His vocoded voice then enters, becoming that of Commander P, or the Spaceship's AI system, while I play with effects using my remote.
It was here, that our big ideas returned with Simone's insistence of visuals; and I do agree we need something to make this project 'pop', and with such an outlandish premise as ours, a cartoon would help convey the story. Problem is, none of us are familiar withAfter Effects or the like, and while it's something I would definitely be interested in exploring, right now is not the time to get into learning another program.
Thus we will be exploring the 'Draw My Life' Youtube model.
I actually own a large whiteboard in my dungeon which I use for storyboarding my novels and scripts, so we will be doing some experiments with that. I say we will most likely be 'stealing' design concepts from somewhere else, so we have a drawing reference, and instead of drawing everything from scratch, using either pre-drawn 'settings' in the video-- or even have everything pre-drawn so it's just a constant stream. That would be how I'd approach it anyway.
Of course, practicality is a big issue. We are already struggling to keep up with everything due to commitments, sickness, and throwing ourselves (at least, myself), outside our genre comfort zones. So, I guess we'll see.
No, I don't Always go to Uni @ 7AM
We decided to meet up today, before our presentation to practice and hopefully get some things going. I arrived at 7AM thanks to a lift (I had brought in my M-Audio Axiom 49 key midi keyboard) and got to work on our Sonic Art session, only to learn there was little I could do. I wasn't feeling 100% and the creative flow was evading me. So I ended up focussing onSonic Tectonics which requires me to record and play-live a 30min piece.Very time consuming, especially when you make mistakes.
Simone and Nathan arrived at 10-11AM respectively, and all together now, we began working. Simone extended her section, and Nathan incorporated his adapted intro into the session. I then remapped my Wii remote to the session before practicing my piano part Simone had assigned me. Something I'll admit, I'm not entirely comfortable with.
(Sorry for crappy quality-- my camera died before we really got into it)
A big issue we found with this was our set up across three computers wasn't working, speakers wise. My computer only had one speaker working, and the levels between us all was funky. But we managed to get through what we had, though it proved to be fairly rocky.
(work work work)
Not Our Finest Moment
Due to our focus on composition, poor Simone was left to throw together a quick presentation. It didn't help, neither of us were feeling well; she had caught the flu between last night and this morning, and my lack of food and sleep was seriously playing with my meds.
In hindsight it may have been smarter to link this blog to her which I had finished an early draft prior yesterday; our presentations always seem to lack structure and set development progression that I hope I am achieving better in these posts.
It was also painfully obvious we were far from there yet with our composition when we showed our videos and played a little bit of our work. Kind of awkward.
In hopes of getting ahead, I will be spending part of tomorrow working on it, after studio in the morning (Yes, at 7AM. Again), but I will have to spend the rest of the weekend focussing on Screenwriting which has had to take the backseat as I tried to get on top of this and Sonic Tectonics.
(I want to avoid being Sponge Bob in this scenario, to be honest)
Technology. As much as I love it, it can-- and will-- be the bane of my existence.
But lets back up a little.
What did we do this week?
This week we really focussed on breaking the creative wall. What's that? Glad you asked: it's the period of composing when you are most likely to get writer's block; aka. the beginning, when you're just starting to gauge the direction of your piece, and everything is still hazy. Because of this, it's hard to tack into the creative flow; you can't create momentum without a direction!
Short Experimentation Samples
To start overcoming this we started creating short experiments:
Simona created hers first as she had the clearest idea of what she wanted with the chill step genre. It followed our idea of terraform: starting with minimal synthesised chords (which we planned for me to create live using the Wii Remote-- see UPDATE 1 about our plan with addictive synthesis), then moving into a 'bigger' section, though she didn't include the idea of starting with a single motive and building upon that.
With my composition, I started on the piano (like I always do), and started playing around with a few motives. Of course, taking the complexity of what I play there and trying to emulate it in Logic is always a fun challenge. Seeming Simone wanted the chill step, I played around with Massive to create plucked leads.
I ended up with a very quick sample of an opening, based around Em and D which then developed into something reminiscent of Hans Zimmer (like it always seems to) towards the end.
Nathan then took the idea of my arpeggiated runs, and used them as a basis for his vocoder experiment, in which he found and read out loud a poem about Terraforming(relevant).
From these experiments, we decided we liked the minimal opening of mine-- though Simone preferred the ambient tail of the note, rather then the pluck attack-- and the drum sounds of Nathan's.
The opening, I soon discovered, was actually quite similar to Carry me Home by Sohn which has an ambient, rhythmic start. Naturally, Simone loved the subsequent yummy vocals, which reinforced her personal idea of what direction this composition should take.
Of course, the composition is only a part of our job. I also needed to start learning my electronic instrument-- the Wii Remote.
Playing with my Wii
As we hadn't decided yet on a set direction, I decided to hit two birds with one stone, and use my Sonic Tectonics piece to help me start exploring the parameters of the Wii Remote and expand on what I did last week.
Using a slow down recording of a music box I had created a few days prior, I hooked my Wii Remote up to the following parameters on the first audio channel ("dry reverb" sample, the second being "wet"):
Button A: Launch Clips
Button B: End Clips
Pitch: Crossover Phaser -- Rate
Roll: Channel 1 Panning
Yaw (side to side): CP-- Feedback // Loop Off (On) Beat -- Dry/Wet // SO -- Filter Frequency
One challenge of the Wii Remote, was you had to hold down the buttons to keep their effect active. This can be tricky when operating multiple effects, but at the same time, it really pushes that 'instrument' aspect by adding such restrictions which I enjoyed playing with.
Appreciate My Pain
Though my experimental "composition" wasn't anything overly amazing, it was pretty cool to me. So you can imagine my frustration when I discovered I couldn't record it.
Ordinary Bounces: I must be missing a trick, because Ableton refused to acknowledge the automation I had recorded live with the Wii Remote. I could see it in the arrange view, but Ableton only would automate the turning on and off of effects, and nothing else (besides a constant set parameter). So, no luck.
11PM. PJs and all. Still bueno.
Soundflower: I have had issues with soundflower in the past, but from memory I did manage getting it to work last semester for Game Audio. After that, however, I uninstalled it because something about it seemed funny to me; since downloading it, my audio system hadn't been the same.
However, I was getting flustered so I downloaded it (again) and tried to get it working. Nothing.
So I uninstalled it, and went to uni to try it there (sound flower is on every computer), but still no such luck.
Practicing at Uni just for funnsies apparently.
Iris (Sound Siphon): Apparently it's supposed to be better than Soundflower-- still didn't work. So there you go. Even Google couldn't save me this time. So I moved on.
No dinner for the stubborn #hungry
So sorry. No awesome video for you guys.
But here's one recording of my experimentation. Everything is live, including the beats (I was focussed on manipulating the sound without adding extra VSTs and such). But due to the parameter control not working, the smoothing I had done live to transfer different sections has been nulled. Therefore, it's quite choppy in places (I also think there is some funny phasing going on, but anyway). I apologise for that. Best plan, due to the nature of the piece and it's length, I would suggest you to skip through it. There are some nice atheistic going on though in places (I like from 2:35 for an example).
The New Plan
Our original plan was a more literal sense of terraform, both composition wise and with our narrative. However, it is a common notion for this composition, and when the student before our presentation displayed a far more developed version, we concluded that we needed to take another direction. So I've suggested we take the idea from a composition I did in first year for DMC (Digital Music Composition), and expand on that; aka. Mars is already terraformed.
This way, we can still start with ambience (space ship), then move into a heavier theme, most likely in the chill step genre (ship docking/ mars). Then we could go all urban step, as our stowaways discover there is something wrong with Mars. #everyonedies #serenity #doom
Promise we will have a draft for our composition. And videos! Hopefully. Cross fingers.
Welcome to my blog, in which I will be posting in fortnightly instalments on the progress of my group assignment for Sonic Art. Please feel free to join me in what I hope won’t be a completely boring waste of your time. As this is a blog, I will be taking advantage of informal voice which is always more enjoyable, at least for me to write.
The theme for this performance is Terraform, centred on interactive technology. Terraform basically means making a barren land inhabitable for a dominent species.
Humans transforming Mars into a liveable planet (which may or may not mean genocide of the local indigenous) is one example. Or if another foreign alien race decided to answer our ‘buddy wanted’ pleas, and visit us— that could another example; because (for those unfamiliar with the Fermi Paradox) chances are those new friends are giant predators ready to eat us, take over our world, and plunder it for natural resources. Not sure about that last bit; think it was in a movie or something, but you get the idea. Not good.
How is my Group Incorporating the Theme?
Well, it’s simple— which is why many groups have used this idea as a starting point.
We will be taking a simple artefact— most likely a pure sine wave, or sustained note— and using addictive synthesis to build up on it and start bringing ‘life’ to the composition (see where I’m going with this?).
In my mind, at least for a basis for experimentation, I’m looking at something such as Chris Alvarez’s soundscape piece you can listen to below (vvv). Thinking of something like that, mixed in with a little of Mode's Leader (and their other song Breathe, if you're familiar with their works). You can listen to Leader here https://vimeo.com/110140870 (can't be embedded as it's not youtube).
That’s all fairly standard, however, and to 'spice it up', I am making my team mates endure what really is my self amusement. Wii remotes. I have been obsessed with using them in a composition since first year when a group first introduced me to the idea; and it’d also be good to actually do something productive with the remotes which are literally developing coats of dust. (Here I would like to jump in and note, I did once consider myself a gamer, until my XBOX 360 and PS2 were stolen by no-good neighbours a few years back. Still a raw wound).
On Sunday I sat down with my cute, black Wii remote and started messing around with it. It took a little fiddling just to get my head around which program I wanted to use as middleware; I attempted Wii 2 Midi, but Learning Mode was disabled, defaulting with 'on', so it made the product redundant. So I ended up back in a demo version of OSCulator which I have had previous encounters with.
(Note: OSCulator automatically picks up on Wii remotes, but to sync, you need to hit the red button by the batteries. Heads up, so you don't end up like me yelling at a remote there's no red button! for a good five minutes until GOOGLE saves you-- like always.)
I then took a recording I did of a music box (for Sonic Tectonics— another subject this semester), and threw on a standard filter and reverb to play with.
The Midi Mapping Pitch (move remote up/down): filter Roll (side to side): reverb A Button: launch clip
It worked out well, and it was a little like playing with a magic wand which is always extra brownie points (because, deep down, we all want to be necromancers)! Unfortunately I didn’t get a video of the final product of my experimentation, but I did get a snapchat of my 'pitch' play (however you can not watch this either as embedding videos (minus youtube) is a pay-only feature. Sorry. Here's a picture!)
My End Game (with the Opening at least)
I want to have this opening fully on Wii remotes— and if I can convince the others— with each one of us manipulating at least one (OSCulator can hold up to 7 Wii signals, apparently.) Compositional wise, I would like to create a pulse within the ‘full’ addictive synth we create that will be turned into an arpeggiation, looped, and become a base for our composition. At least, that is my idea in theory. Experimentation will ensure, along with my attempt to sell it to the group (if it works)
Okay, what About the Rest of the Piece?
Looping will be a central focus of composition (noticed how I mentioned it above?), as the whole nature of the technique is building upon a single idea. Simone will using this technique mostly, I suspect, as she is using a launch pad— majoring in drums— for her ‘instrument’.
Nathan will be using brass, and his vocoded voice, along with keys (which I will be most likely be delving into as well— I own an M-Audio Midi 49 keyboard that I can bring in).
What You Can Expect Next Blog Post
More videos / samples. By the fortnight, I really want a solid draft in the motions, or at least strong ideas beginning to blend together. I have Wednesday and Sundays booked for practice and experimentation with Simone and Nathan, so we should hopefully be making great leaps between now, and then.