Distorted Percussion

In this category I am planning to post a new sound everyday. I may not have created the sound the very same day of the post, but it will be something recent at the very least and more than likely created on the day I submit it. The idea is something like my colleague Tim Armato’s p{365} blog where he is posting a Processing sketch every day for a year.

My goal is to learn more about some of the audio processing that is available to me. It’s not always convenient when working on a project to explore new plugins or new ways to use old ones, especially in the studio or while collaborating. With this exercise I can do that and archive the results here. I’ll briefly describe the process of creating each sound and something about the software and hardware involved.

Today’s sound is a loop of audio that has been heavily processed in Ableton Live with filter taps (Pluggo), distortion, eq, dub delay (MDA), reverb, and more. The loop is an excerpt from a remix of “Some Kind of Adhesive” (One Day to Save All Life) that I produced with Nils Westdal. Believe it or not it started out as a simple shaker pattern. To me it sounds similar to the over driven thumb pianos of Konono N°1, although this was an accident since I was basically tuning the pitches to work in the remix. After I added distortion and a little virtual knob turning on the dub delay, this is what I got.

Distorted Percussion

Internet Radio

Nova PlanetNovaplanet.com is a broadcast radio station out of Paris that also streams their programming over the internet. This radio station was made for me. Their broad programming is eclectic, funky, never repetitive and even on occasion delves into the avant-garde. One minute they’ll be playing Boards of Canada, and then the next their onto some Pharoah Sanders.

One reason why Novaplanet.com is so good is because of the time difference between Minneapolis and Paris. I’m rarely listening during peak hours. On the few occasions that this has happened I have noticed more advertising, news, interviews and French top 40. If that’s not your thing just check the time in Paris. The good shit starts happening after midnight.




Backyard Bacon Rain Ambience

I’ve always tried to keep my ears open as wide as possible and to record something at the drop of a hat when I witness a spectacular sound or just have a melody trying to pry it’s way out of my head. Sometimes these ideas come at the darnedest times. Making a BLT Sandwich is usually a pretty greasy situation. Last month I was frying up some bacon for the family in hopes of making the ultimate BLT when I was suddenly hearing a rainy day. I had a notion that if I recorded the sound of my sweet bacon sizzling and slowed or pitched it down that it would sound just like rain. I had to do it. My first recording was made with an AKG c4000b. I used a lesser quality mic, a Shure BG 1.1, for the second. I assure you that both mics got as close to the action as possible without becoming caked with grease. The outcome was not as my ears were hearing it. I dropped each wav file into Ableton Live and panned them about 33L and 33R. I added just a touch of reverb to blend the two. Sounded like rain to me! To top it off I made a field recording in my backyard that included mostly birds chirping and added it to the mix. This made it a bit more convincing.

So, the BLT’s were the bomb and the recording turned out to be worthy of using. By the way, I only use Berkshire Bacon!

Bacon Rain

Video Game Music Remixes

One of the projects that I assign in my audio production class is an exercise on how to import MIDI files into Reason and assign specific instruments to each track. I usually demonstrate this with a random classical MIDI file from classicalarchives.com and end up with a Tomita-esque rendition of Mussorgsky.

The Lost WoodsHowever, I do not limit the assignment to classical works. Sometimes, students make clever remixes of popular music, and frequently they choose music from classic video games like this remix of the Lost Woods theme from the Legend of Zelda – The Ocarina of Time by Brandon Sullivan. Brandon creatively chose some unique patches for this piece and then added a drum-n-bass beat to the end of the sequence that elevates the energy and takes the Lost Woods on a wayward yet intriguing new path.

Later I’ll add some more examples to this post. Also, if you have any interesting examples of video game music remixes and would like to share, please post a link in a comment below.

Lost Woods

From Your Kitchen to ABC

I have to admit it, I like comfort. I’ve always loved working on a track while sipping some good Port, enjoying all the nuances of a perpetual loop. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury that a composer/producer can always enjoy. This one time I was desperately trying to deliver a track on time for a submission, yet-another ‘maybe it will go through’ situation. I had to catch a flight to LA a few hours later and was really looking forward to this trip, since I had never been to California! I really almost refused to work on this submission this time, I still had to pack and get ready for some gigs I had there with Kirsten Price. But it happens often: you get the call, they need a track, but NOW! You end up working impossible hours to make the deadline and…’Sorry, they loved it but it didn’t make the cut’.

I really had no time to run back to the studio to work on this track, so sitting in my girlfriend’s kitchen, I decided to give it a shot using all I had there: MacBook, MOTU Ultralite audio interface, Korg K USB controller and a pair of cheap ear-buds. Talk about basic! For the sounds, I used a couple of Virtual Instruments: Spectrasonics Trilogy, Stylus RMX and the Korg synth bundle that came with the K controller. In the end the track was done, mixed and uploaded via FTP to the production company within an hour total, all the time I had. I made it to the airport in time.

One whole year later, to our surprise, this one made the movie, that turned out to be ‘A Raisin In The Sun‘, a pretty major TV event that aired on ABC. The lesson I’ve learned: never get too comfortable, always be ready to deliver in a professional manner -even when working from your kitchen- and your music will take care of the rest.

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