Friday, 7 January 2011

feeling good about it now

Yes, you saw right, the title of this post. This section which has given me soooo much trouble, at last I feel good about it.

I was right about where it was wrong, I had added a left hand to a piano solo which really didn't work. In a stroke of inspiration I moved the left hand stuff to the mellotron, and hey presto! After that, lots of little tweaks, humanising programmed bits, balancing and so on, finding a few other bits which were weak and strengthening them. Finally I actually think it's not only acceptable, but something to get mildly excited about. So now I'm listening to it in the context of the previous sections.

Then came the problem of mastering it off onto an MP3 file. After 4 attempts of it crashing I realised there was something fundamentally awry with the cubase project, and so I went through the full process of creating a duplicate. I could copy the MIDI note information using cut and paste, but all the volume tweaks and settings, and instrument tweaks and so on had to be replicated. That took a while but finally I have succeeded.


Does a monster post like that last one, at a time when I was going to work on the music, smack of procrastination?

If so then a follow-up post posing that question surely also does.

Och no it won't do - revisited

I had to track back through my old posts to see if this had made it into the stream of consciousness. There was a post last 12th June which talked about setting standards and an old physics teacher of mine.

Yesterday I had a full afternoon of music. I started by listening to the section I'm working on (2.1.3: Memory) and trying to decide whether I was going to ditch the idea altogether. After the crisis of confidence two days ago that was a very good question.

I decided there was some merit in it and that I should continue.

Let me tell you in more detail what I am doing.

First of all, there has been a running theme through the "mental capacities" section (2.1...), which represents cognition, perception and memory, or in other words, future, present and past. The future entirely featured sounds which are not created until mastering time - in other words soft-synths controlled by MIDI instructions. The present was represented with sounds all made at recording time, (in the "now") and was all using microphones, and sounds made with my hands. The past: it's all about sampled sounds, in other words sounds that in reality were made in the past.

Then there was a strong temptation (to which I succumbed) to use a tune I used in "horns of a dilemma" on "The Binary Tree" - which was a tune I wrote for a song back in the early 90s. To give that context (and several of my other musical ideas too) I should give a little background to my "recording career" such as it is. I didn't just suddenly decide to record music one day in my 40s without some sort of background to it. Although there had been quite a gap, I have actually been recording music since I was about 14 or 15. At school I was in a band with a couple of mates (Andy Dalton and Tim Watson - you are not forgotten) which existed to record, not to play live. This band changed name and peripheral members quite a lot, but produced in the end about 3 cassettes of music. I started to take myself semi-seriously as a songwriter, and continued to write even when the equipment was no longer available. After University in the late 80s I had access to a studio for a while, and I recorded 3 "albums" - two under the name "Dan The Man" which featured songs I had written, and one called "Tidings Of Comfort And Joy" which was instrumental re-working of various Christmas Carols. My access to the studio went away after that, but I continued to write songs. Some of the songs were fully-formed and some were fragments which lodged in my brain as "to be worked on". The chance never came but some of the ideas stuck. In particular this one tune with words, in a jazzy style, which I can pin-point down to 1994/5. To be honest the words were kind of twee, but I liked the tune.

"Do you remember the night when we kissed in the moonlight

Do you remember the sign on the wall

We were singing, we were dancing, we were out and out romancing

But now you've gone and left me all alone".

So I used the tune, as I said in the last album. I also used it in a section that comes later in this album, but in a mangled form, section 3.2.1 in which I use a kazoo. Actually it's the chord sequence I used.

So there's part of me that thinks recycling ideas is a lack of originality. There's another part of me that likes being self-referential, and to have themes which recur in my music, usually in changed form, and there are certainly riffs and motifs that have been featured several times in one album, or have made it from one album to the next. That part usually wins.

And then the idea is to use this tune, but to play jazz at three different speeds and feels to explore the tune, the chords and solo ideas and so on.

When I left it two days ago I was feeling like it was stupid to try and do jazz with MIDI, jazz should be "live" with real musicians. I was feeling that the sampled upright bass felt artificial, the drums too, and the soloing was weak.

When I came back to it yesterday my confidence came back a bit, remembering that while this can be a jazz style, it is not a jazz band, and instead of being frustrated by the artificiality, I should work within the constraints to create something worthwhile in it's own right. I fixed one problem which was that the slow speed bit was too short, I recorded more middle speed, and some fast speed, in fact the whole time-slot's worth.

I have another, smaller crisis of confidence about it now, but really not so much a crisis I guess. I am questioning my soloing, particularly one piano section in the middle speed. One thing I did yesterday was add to it, because it didn't feel like what a good piano player might play. Now I feel like it sounds like two people playing the piano at the same time and not listening to each other. I'm writing this before I start on another session on this, and feel like I need to bring three principles to bear:

  1. Again I should remember this is not about authenticity of jazz, it is about something good to listen to - focus on the consumer not the producer
  2. Simple can be good. In this case especially light, simple & expressive
  3. I should NEVER say "och it will do" if I'm not sure. I learned this by looking back at Binary Tree. Be willing to change, mash-up, move around, mix up and reject things that have taken time. Even if I liked an idea in principle, I need to be ever-increasingly striving for that Pink Floyd quality

And I get this far and still feel like I haven't said what instrumentality I am using: brushed drums, upright bass, acoustic piano, organ and mellotron.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Crisis of confidence

And so I'm back. Yes I did do some music, do I didn't finish a section. I'm starting to feel unsure about this section now. For a start it's pretty like section 3.2.1, including using the same chord sequence for some of it. It may be I'm just not "feeling it" today. I mean I did some of it with some nice (I think) piano soloing, and now I'm not sure any more.

I guess I'd better come back to it another day, time to stop now anyway.

Welcome back

Log time no blog - which is because it's a long time since I indulged in some music recording.

I don't need excuses, I'm not doing this for anyone but me really. I do have reasons.

First there was Civilization V, then Eve online, then a whole load more games. Then there was a game-making project called "Goblins" (unfinished) and then Christmas.

Also I was starting to think a hiatus would be good, I was wary that I was losing enthusiasm slightly - feeling a little jaded. It's hard to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and self-belief continually. I'm back and I'm keen and I have an afternoon on my own. Hurrah.

I also have the Dire Rear and need to stay rather close to the bathroom. Too much information I know, sorry.

So job 1: have a listen through what's already been done. I'm doing that while I blog (who says men cannot multi-task?)

I have also noticed another problem: my website seems to be down, and is auto-redirecting to the domain registration website. This really needs to be fixed, just in case there are actually people who want to have a look. I admit I have been surprised that I have had exactly 0 visitors. The problem right now is, I cannot remember who was hosting it. Oh dear!

Anyway, back to the music, sounding good so far, listening through track 1. I need to remember I'm not in "critical mode" yet, there are a few things I think need changing, and I need to resist until I have finished everything on the first pass. The really good reason for this is not that I won't be able to criticise and change things properly, it's that once you get into critical mode it gets harder to be creative, and that's what I really need to be doing.

In the interregnum I have had a couple more ideas which have been burning in the pocket of my mind (so to speak) so yesterday I did quick prototypes of both of them. One is for the very last section (3.3.3) which I really want to be as strong as possible. The other is quite a heavy, rhythmic thing which hopefully will lend itself to one of the other sections. I'm aware it sounds quite familiar, there's a rock/rap song which has something like it, but I can never remember what the song is.

I also need to work out what I was up to - which was section 2.1.3 - cognition or the future. This is all about jazz, having the same tune at three different speeds. It's actually a tune I have used before, on the last album, and was originally a song I wrote back in the 1990s.