17 Oct 2010

Ridge (Final, for now)

Intro added, going back to the original idea of rolling, interacting arpeggiators as the base for the piece.

  Ridge by pethu

The warm, bubbly, squishy bass is provided by the newly resurrected Arturia ARP 2600 V2. (A bug fix just made it useable on my system again, after a year in hiatus.)

The (hardware) ARP 2600 was one of the true analogue classic behemoths, a rival to the Moog modular synthesizers back in the day...

Lots may still happen to this song before the presses roll, but for now I'm out of ideas and will concentrate on the final parts of the album.

15 Oct 2010

Studio Corner, Version 2.0

This week, I have thoroughly re-organised my computer/studio corner for the first  time in over ten years. (You know it's time to do something when the cables and devices you pick up off the floor plug into computer ports that don't even exist on modern computers anymore!)

Thanks to two new drawer units from the local IKEA, my main piano keyboard (right) is at the proper playing height for the first time ever. I had it on top of a large desk before, which was way too high. Also, it's all on casters now so it's easy to move away from the window for cleaning and access to wall sockets.

The Tapco S-5 nearfield monitors have moved from the window to above the computer screens, so no more swivelling back and forth when mixing, I hope.

All computer-related stuff is now powered by a master/slave power strip, which means that when I turn the computer on, everything else automatically powers up as well.

The two keyboards beneath the monitors are not there all the time -- they're on a custom-built stand which kan easily be dismantled and put away when foin other computer stuff.

I hope to re-inaugurate it all by completing "Ridge" this weekend!

10 Oct 2010

Ridge (First Draft)

Here's some background music you can listen to while viewing the CD back cover. (A beginning and an end is yet to be created.)

  Ridge by pethu

"Ridge"started out as nothing more than a set of keywords: "Flowing", "airy" and also "slightly hypnotic". That it happened to end up as "Andreas Vollenweider meets Bob Marley" was not a part of any cunning plan!

The current harp track is a one-take live synth recordning, with four improvised parts in between the main theme repetitions. As usual, I was not fully pleased with the results at first but may end up using most of it any way. In that case, I'll only fix some missing notes and delete some "stray" ones. Experience has taught me this often creates just the extra breathing space space the listener needs, because my improvised solos tend to be too dense to begin with anyway.

On The Cover

I should possibly be doing other serious, housework-oriented stuff, but instead I'm sitting here fiddling with the CD back cover. Here is one possibility I rather like:

Let's see if I like it tomorrow...

9 Oct 2010

Taking the Mix for a Walk

With only two or three more songs to go, I took the first 75% of the album for a walk today — and I mean that literally. Mixing is an arduous task; not only do you want the music to sound good in your studio monitors, it preferrably has to cope with being carried around and played in various circumstances on less than stellar equipment.

On top of that, playing the tracks in the intended album order will cause them to interact with each other and your brain in ways you never realise while mixing them one by one. Psychoacoustics and music psychology are fascinating subjects, but not so much sciences as a dark arts...

This afternoon, The Music left the studio to be seriously listened to elsewhere for the first time: Low budget MP3 player, Koss Porta-Pro headphones, and out into the city noise we went — The Music, Harry the Dog and I. I've just returned to make some minor corrections.

"Field" ended too abruptly, so some more noises were added to the end of that one.

"Iron Artery" felt too slow when squeezed in between "Field" and "The Old Church", and is now 100 BPM instead of 98. (BPM = Beats Per Minute, for those who'd like to know and doesn't.)

The timpani on "The Old Church" were panned too far to the right in the stereo image when listened to in headphones, and have now been placed in the middle of the stereo field.

The lead guitar on "The Passing of Clouds" lacked authority when you listened to the piece in a noisy environment, coupled with headphones with a weak upper midrange. Now it's 2 dB louder. (And I sped this one up a couple of BPMs, too.)

Just some examples of what may easily become an endless tweaking process; the true art is knowing when to stop!

3 Oct 2010

That'll Do, Says the Gnome

Two more weeks gone by, just like that. (I spend my working weeks managing/servicing/fighting computers for the elderly and health care services in a small municipality, and I'm usually rather weary of them — the computers, that is — come Friday. Besides which, if I'm lucky I have just about enough creative spark left to open a milk carton...)

Anyhow, me and my gnome have decided that this small classical piece is more or less finished now. A mid section, a harpsichord and some judicious tempo changes throughout has been added since last we spoke:

Manor Park by pethu

Perhaps I should explain about the gnome. Yes? Right. He is a small, musical, supervisory entity that lives inside my head and looks at the bigger picture when I try to piece something together.

For example, while working on this piece I thought to myself that it could be a good starting point from which to experiment with longer classical-style pieces. All I have done in this line is short one-offs, and it would be really interesting to se for how long I could "milk" a simple theme in the classical fashion. 5 minutes? 10? Concerto? Symphony?

Luckily, the gnome was here to tell me that the current album project is SO not the place to do it. I can't even drag it out to a "normal" 2- or 3-minute piece if I want to keep any semblance of continuity to the album. It's only purpose in this context is to provide some contrast and prevent things from getting too samey. (For shock value, you'd be tempted to say, although "shock" is really the least appropriate word imaginable. If anything, it's more like a bit of "anti-shock" thrown in for good measure!)

Manor Park... is probably a park around a manor. Or, the way this album is going, it could just as well be a railway station with a rather nice Victorian entrance. You decide!