Sounds a bit looney, but that was the fun part. This short screencast was from some playful experiments with Chromaphone, a great hybrid percussive virtual instrument by AAS.
Captured with Screenflow.
Inspired by this silent video that coyote_fur posted on Instagram, I immediately heard a glimpse of what kind of musical climate might accompany such a strange and alien world.
This was a quick little composing sketch utilizing sounds from my hand made sample libraries rigged up in Kontakt, and some customized Chromophone patches. There’s a good amount of low end to this track, so kick on the good stereo or sub-woofers…
Thanks to Mr. Taylor for letting me use his Instagram video.
“There’s an upright piano of the corner of your street”
Was the text I received from a neighbor who knows that a) I’m a musician and b) I absolutely love sampling and recording strange and unusual sounds. So I walked down 3 houses to the corner and sure enough there was this old abandoned beauty:
I looked around and saw no one around. And at that moment, the abandoned piano became a found piano. Just then, another neighbor was waking his dog and asked “What are you doing Jon?”. I replied “I think I just found a piano!”. He asked if it worked (I hadn’t played it yet), so I lifted the cover which revealed all of the keys intact. I did a short run through of the verse of “Let It Be” and in all of its out-of-tune glory, the piano actually worked. It had a nice resonance to it, and for a brief moment I was a street musician.
He was kind enough to lend me a hand (and his appliance dolly) and we moved it to my property. As the French Knight in the Holy Grail said “It’s quite nice”.
Like most of the found instruments I’ve found or have been given, I’ll cart this found piano into my studio and sample it, in all of it’s out of tune, scary nightmarish greatness. I’ll do some John Cage treatments to it too and see what kind of percussion magic I can conjure up.
While I realize that Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange” may not be at the top of the list of ‘movies to show your children’, I was fortunate to see the film at a young age of 13. From the moment it started, underneath the strikingly bold title sequence, I heard this mysterious, indescribable music with a sound unlike anything I had ever heard before. That music was by composer Wendy Carlos.
I was captivated. And on the next trip to the record store, I found the Wendy Carlos section, and the glorious soundtrack, but I also discovered that this mysterious Carlos had lots of other albums. Flipping through the other releases I knew I was definitely curious to hear more, but what I didn’t know is that I would eventually buy her entire catalog, that she would become one of my favorite artists of all time.
The actual relic from my childhood:
and the glorious gatefold:
I am reminded of this because I came across a rare cd release of “Wendy Carlos’s CLOCKWORK ORANGE Complete Original Score” at my local library the other day. It contained two titles “Biblical Daydreams” and “Orange Minuet” that I did not recognize. It turns out that these were pieces recorded for the film but were not used, and were not featured on the soundtrack or the subsequent companion release “Wendy Carlos’s Clockwork Orange”. So I checked it out, and felt like I was 13 years old all over again.
Listening to Wendy Carlos’s score now, especially the title theme and the complete version of “Timesteps”, I am struck by how this music still sounds as original, mysterious, and timeless as when I first heard it. Carlos (and her collaborator Rachel Elkind) crafted some of the most incredible sounding synthesized music ever created. Back then in the late 1960s and early 1970s synthesis was done all in the analog domain with huge racks of gear and analog tape machines. It was a hand crafted skill, before the rise of those convenient things called presets, and even before synthesizers were capable of polyphony. In other words, one sound and one part at a time, layer upon layer.
My full praise of Wendy Carlos and her music cannot be expressed in a short blog post, but I would like to end by simply saying a warm “thank you”.
Visit Wendy Carlos at http://www.wendycarlos.com/
Most objects usually speak out rhythms and patterns to me as I’m doing these sound design sessions, and with two of the water heater panels in front of me, this rhythm emerged. It will inevitably end up on a future piece of music. Captured by my son on an iPhone:
One man’s trash is another man’s excuse for a sampling session. After dismantling our old water heater (we upgraded to a tankless system), the old enclosure panels were screaming to be heard.
I talked my son and his friend into helping me out, and I quickly put them to work. Grabbing my trusty ‘hazard mics’ (a pair of Tascam TM-78s), and some long Canare mic cables, I pushed record in Pro Tools and let the sampling begin….
The kids had fun banging on metal and making lots of noise.
I of course got to be a kid too, and smashed up some metal and also created some thunder:
Sometimes it’s best to be ‘hands on’ when creating custom sounds. I’m usually hands on with drums and percussion, but in this case I was working on the game over sound for the iPhone kids game app “Blackhole Joe“.
I have some great sounding virtual synths, but the ones I tried came up short for what I was hearing in my head. I needed something that sounded like an old school video game sound from the early 1980s.
So I rigged up my trusty old Micromoog, and quickly dialed and performed the sound. God bless Robert Moog!
(a crude little video recorded with a Blackberry)
Owning an analog synthesizer is often better than any virtual synth. I was in need of creating a custom rise within a specific time (16 bars) for a piece of music I was working on.
I actually tried a few virtual synths like Massive, FM8, etc… but I would have had to automate too many parameters to get this needed effect. Viola! Bring out a Moog, and boom, it’s done.