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.