Here are three sort of grinding, industrial droning noises. I do not currently have anything else interesting to say about them. Mainly because they were quick projects that I did and then apparently didn’t bother to save the project file, so I can’t refer back and see exactly what I did to make them.
I imagine that most people by now are familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month – the idea being that you sit down, write somewhere around 2000 or so words a day, and try to put together a complete novel in November. I have participated in NaNoWriMo before (in fact, you can find the story that I wrote for it elsewhere on my collection of sites), and have tried some of the various offshoots. I had no idea if this was actually a thing for music (I didn’t actually look it up until just now, but there are apparently some established challenges like this, including the RPM Challenge, February Album Writing Month, and National Solo Album Month).
I did not participate in any of these directly, but the challenge was roughly the same: work on and produce… some kind of sound just about every day, and create an album’s worth of stuff by the end of the month, while at the same time learning more techniques and doing further experimentation and familiarization with my collection of usual (and especially unusual) sound design tools and plugins. So, I worked on it through the month of November 2018, and now that the month is in the books, I am hereby releasing my NaAlProMo album.
If you want to just jump straight to the music, you can click on the link below to grab a ~100MB zip file containing the music files for the entire album.
The album itself is definitely in the experimental genre, and contains over 60 tracks of… sound, or music if you’re feeling generous with the term. It contains everything from quick clips and sequences to full(ish)-length tracks. The album is focused in part on algorithmic generation, and features pseudo-randomly generated sequences for the underlying melodies. It also features techniques such as granular and spectral synthesis, among others.
Some of the plugins and program used in the project include: Dune 2, Z3TA2+, Hourglass, Quanta, Granulizer 2, Grainspace, Reaktor 6, MUnison, Microtonic, Drum Pro, Battery, BYOME, and many more…
While you can grab the archive and check out all of the audio files that way, I wanted to put some of my favorite tracks from the album in this post to stream directly:
It probably comes as no surprise to my listeners that the pace of new music released here has slowed considerably the past several years. Part of this has to do with the fact that I am no longer a student, and am instead a professional building up skills, clients, and my own practice in the next phase of developing my career. That isn’t to say that I’m apart from music altogether; along with my paid work, one of my other major projects is being part of a team that’s trying to start up a new community radio station from scratch (you can check it out at https://ksqd.org, a website which I’m quite involved in, as I’m the station’s web coordinator). Put both of those together, and my time for working on other creative projects has been… fragmented, at best. I’m still making music, still picking up new and interesting experimental tools to play around with here and there, but mostly I’ve ended up working on small, quick experiments rather than the sorts of full-on tracks I’ve worked on in the past.
So, for your listening… “enjoyment,” the following is a selection of the (more interesting) sound clips I’ve whipped up in 2018:
First up, a potential ringtone of a sort:
Then, an experiment with creating a… different type of noise:
A crinking experimental… something that may or may not be a tribute to Xenakis:
Some experimentation with running patterns through radical effects:
And some slightly eerie tonal granularization:
As you may know, one of the things I like to do are field recordings and sampling of unusual potential instruments. While it’s true that the standard plastic fidget spinners don’t make a whole lot of interesting sounds (unless you like slightly clattering plastic), metal fidget spinners can spin fast enough to create some interesting wind/propeller effects, along with interesting metal ringing sounds as the spinning metal part tends to resonate at a certain frequency (this is especially true of stainless steel ones, which create an effect not entirely unlike a tuning fork or a singing bowl). Also the metal ones provide enough inertia that they can produce interesting audio with a loose or dirty bearing, allowing for some interesting mechanical grinding and wobbling timbres.
I’m considering doing another free sample pack using some metal spinners that I’ve come across here and there (recorded with my field recorder, so probably not studio quality, but useful to do things with in experimental music nonetheless). In the meantime, though, here’s a track that’s basically recordings of a few different metal spinners, processed through some glitch and granular effects to create an interesting little sonic noise-scape:
So, over the holidays, one of my gifts to myself was to take advantage of holiday sales to flesh out my library of instrument and effect plug-ins, on computer and on mobile (especially to take advantage of the AUv3 instrument integration into iOS mobile DAWs). On the computer side, though, I picked up a couple of interesting effects (Glitchmachines Quadrant and Illformed Glitch 2), and a couple of synths that were different from my standard repertoire, including Wiggle, which I’m not sure I can even quite describe yet, and the most recent synth designed by Dmitry Sches, Thorn.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m more experienced with different types of synthesis now, or the fact that the instrument really is quite intuitive to program, but I’ve actually been getting into some sound design with it. Aside from the now-defunct Vanguard, which had few enough parameters that I felt like I could tackle them all, for the most part I’ve mainly done tweaks to existing synth patches. Something about Thorn, though, makes me really want to just dive right in and see what I can create. I haven’t even tried any of the presets that it came with yet, just starting from a blank preset and going from there, and I’ve already created some interesting stuff, like the following clip, which is just one of my synth programs applied to a simple set of notes:
And just for fun, here’s a version of it accompanied by some effected drums:
A quick experimental sketch, sort of a techno-themed piece. I wanted to do something playing off of some atmospheric noise sounds generated by Noisetar, which is a fascinating synth based entirely around digitally-generated noise rather than traditional oscillators (it’s available for free, in case you’re interested in playing around with it yourself). I used it to create the sort of noise background that the other sounds rise up from. Ultimately, I like the way it sounds as is (I like sticking it in my music player and playing it on continuous loop while I’m working on stuff, with the noise intro/outro it loops quite well), but I’m still thinking about adding in a few things to it and making it into more of a feature-length track.
I’m not sure why, but I wanted to make something both painfully chaotic and relatively synchronized. Luckily, there happens to be an app for that, and it’s called BitWiz, a unusual program that essentially lets you program in a mathematical formula, and it will turn it into very intense digital-sounding noises. The underlying sound in the track was generated from a modification to one of the preset sequences, further disassembled with some Sonic Charge effects, accompanied by some of my favorite Reaktor ensembles until I got the level of sound I was looking for.
The result is… marginally listenable, but for some reason I really like it. Listening to it makes me feel… synchronized, somehow, especially when I put it on loop. Although I can’t listen to it for too long because then my ears start to hurt…
Also, the title was originally going to be Kabang for some arbitrary reason, but then I removed the G for an even more arbitrary reason. The removal, however, does not appear to objectively affect the sound quality.
This one is as much an experiment in sound design than anything else, tweaking a synth with a formant filter to create something… well, not really akin to it at all, but slightly evocative of overtone singing (which makes sense, considering that overtone singing is about formant manipulation above all else). It’s certainly an interesting thing to hear coming from what’s basically a subtractive synth, though. Not quite like someone singing, but eerily expressive nonetheless…
So, no surprise, I’m still busy with a dozen different things, which means that it’s been a good long while since I’ve actually sat down with my DAW and really worked extensively on a comprehensive new track. That’s not to say, though, that I haven’t still been involved with music. It’s just been a different process, more quickly playing around with stuff on my phone or tablet when I’m on the go, or pulling up a program and trying out a quick idea in a spare minute. Or, for example, singing random weirdness into the new Music Notes program and seeing how surreal the accompaniment can get:
What that means is that while I don’t have a ton of really cohesive songs to post, I do have a whole bunch of myriad random sound clips, that nonetheless have some very interesting sounds to them.
Such as this quick improvisation in iKaosscilator:
Or a couple of really quick clips of how the same underlying sound can be dramatically different just by tweaking a few effects:
Speaking of which, I’ve been playing around with a lot of new experimental effects, which can do quite a lot with even a very simple two-note sequence:
And then, um, there are these…
So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to music-wise recently. Admittedly, among some of these various tracks are some other clips that I think have some promise as the basis of a more extensive work, which will be heading for my DAW likely at some point in this next year (assuming the US isn’t swallowed up in a ravenous vortex of vicious politics). I’m still playing around with sound, still making music, even if it is a little bit more… bite-size at the moment. (Oh, actually, I did come up with a more complete track recently… trouble is, it’s another one for the NSFAE album, which means I can’t exactly release it here.)
In other news, while I haven’t really had a chance to utilize it a whole lot yet, I finally, after years of delay, made the jump to Logic Pro X. Which does, admittedly, have some nice features, although it killed off all of my 32-bit plugins, some of which I do miss dearly, although some of the replacements are even more promising (for example, CamelSpace, from the Apple-devoured Camel Audio, was a nice and extensive trancegate plugin, but Tantra takes it to a whole other level). And, in the interim, I have to admit that my musical style and technique have changed quite a bit, so while I miss some of the old sounds, a lot of the newer instruments that still work are more directly applicable to the things I’ve been wanting to work on, including some phenomenal granular synthesis instruments I’ve been having fun with. Between that and the rather impressive mini-studios I’ve managed to get going on my tablet, there are more opportunities than ever to explore the boundaries of sonic character, and I already have some fascinating ideas about what I want to try next…
As you may have noticed from glancing through my catalog, my family has been an inspiration for my music in various ways. Music has always been a large part of my family’s experience, and we’re all involved with it in one way or another: my father is an expert at manipulating song lyrics to create pitch-perfect parodies, my mother is an excellent vocalist who performs in multiple choirs, my brother is also a great vocalist and player of reed instruments (clarinet, saxophone, etc), and like me was also a radio DJ for a time. And as for me… well, I do all of this craziness that from time to time I like to call music.
My family has also been the driving force behind some of the music I actually create. I may have mentioned it before, but some of my earliest tracks created to add a little bit of original flair to the mix CDs I created for family members (at the time, my computer was the only one with a CD burner). Over time, that tradition continued, and for several Mother’s and Father’s Days, I used music to do something interesting.
For my mom, it was mainly about doing something unique and interesting, but for my dad, there was usually another layer involved. Another hobby that the two of us share is that of cryptology: of making and breaking codes. So, for Father’s Day, instead of just a card, I’d create something that had an encoded message in it for my father to decode. Over the years, I’ve done all sorts of things for it, from abstract color patterns to choose-your-own-adventure games, to painstakingly hand-drawing my own particular adaptation of the classic Dancing Men cipher from Sherlock Holmes. And, in several cases, it’s involved music and sound (in fact, there’s another coded musical message posted somewhere on this site, if you’re so inclined to track it down).
This particular one is the latest iteration, and thus far has remained uncracked, if for some reason you’re interested in trying your hand at it… (this particular one contains a more generic rather than personal message, so I’m okay with posting it publicly).