Tuesday, 31 May 2011

big scary thoughts

This is where I assume that nobody is really reading this, but would like to get this thinking into the record I am making here of the process of making B:M:S.

If there is anyone reading and you have comments, I'd love to hear them.

I've been thinking recently about marketing and promotion. I feel like when the album is ready I should have another round of spreading the word. I've also been made to think by recently making 10 copies each of 11 bells and binary tree and finding it takes flipping ages! And I've been thinking about how to do a "press pack" for the release. For me, bunging pictures and music and text sounds like a job for a USB flash drive (or "data stick" as I normally call it).

And so my first diversion was into branding the outside of flash drives - there's a lot of it done for corporate promotion, and if I wanted enough I could get almost anything printed, lots of choice of shapes and colours, special materials, all sorts of bespoke shapes even. But it costs money.

And so my second diversion is thinking about what could be on the stick. What if, when you stuck the stick in, the album played automatically? What if it launched a special application which plays the music and does other things as well? Like display images? Like run animations? Like scrolling a real-time commentary in text? Like a supa-dupa multimedia application. This could have a press pack built in, and lots of other information and resources, including this blog, and including the printable covers if anyone wanted to burn to a CD.

Which led to some fear of a large undertaking. Strangely enough writing the application doesn't scare me much (I am a programmer and I can see how to do most of what I want), but it's creating the additional artwork that this might imply. because it might be nice to have an image for each sub-section, or even more than one for some.

And then also I started thinking about "Freemium". This is a word taken from the games world, where you can get a game for free, but pay for premium content. What if the music continued to be free as the previous albums have been, but the data stick was for sale as the "premium" version. This is scary because it requires an outlay of money to buy the sticks, and ways of duplicating the information, and of getting them to people, and of handling the money, and all sorts of businessy things. On the other hand I have been wondering if there was a way to apply the principles of Freemium to music, and this might be a way.

And I have also been having thoughts about crowdfunding - which is where you get people to pay before they get the thing, in order to collect the initial outlay from presales. Crowdfunding often offers different tiers of payment - for example you could have a reduced price for the artefact if you pay before a certain date, for a bit more you could have a credit, for more you could have a super-deluxe version with a special message, your own chosen colour scheme, signed, etc. For seriously large money I could write and record some music especially for you. Even more, maybe a share of profits.

So on the one hand this is scary-world time, do I want to take it this seriously, it was always meant to be a fun hobby, something to do in my spare (cough) time.

On the other hand, it's a plan, and I find plans hard to resist, especially those that are almost within reach. This would take a little bit of a stretch in the programming, a bit in the art, and a major stretch in the marketing and business and legal stuff. A challenge. An undertaking. A creative thing beyond where I have gone before. In other words, a lot of the elements of how I like my creative fun.

And on the third hand (maybe a result of mutation), this is a blatent gimmick, a way to attract attention, innovative, different, definitely marketing... from my mixture of positive and negative phrases here you can see I'm not sure how I feel about this aspect.

So, if you have an opinion I'd love to hear it.

In the meantime, there's no harm in looking at what technology would be needed, maybe even in doing a proof of concept demo... would there?

Singing bowl and drum anxiety

So after quite a break I'm back in the music now. Over the break period I started to feel uneasy about a few things in recent sub-sections. This is the result of listening to it (and in a sense I'm getting ahead of myself in the production cycle, editing should come later). Anyway, I felt that the pseudo-heavy-metal part in Chemistry (2.2.3) needed tightening up. So I played with the guitar and some noise gates (these things are designed to cut off when the sound gets below a certain level) to give it a crisper edge. I eventually came to the conclusion I didn't like the drums. i found a drum patch I liked (as it happened a heavy rock one) and migrated. Unfortunately the new patch was arranged differently across the keyboard from the old one, so migration took some time. I also did some work on the latter part of Chemistry, to bring out the rhythm guitars a bit more. I also felt like I needed to eliminate the drumming gap between Chemistry and the next section, so a snare riff was added.

And then onto the Rhythm sub-section (2.3.1) - I was unhappy with the toms which had a rattle on them like a slight snare. This had been driving me nuts so I spent a while working through tom sounds and choosing new ones. This now turns out to be the third edit to this drumkit patch I have made and I'm in danger of getting too attached to the one patch. Good that I like it though because I intend to use if for the next two sub-sections also.

Speaking of which, I have started on the Harmony sub-section (2.3.2). I have gone through many different thoughts before settling on what I am actually going to do, there are a number of slightly experimental things I want to try. First up is simple harmonic relationships: octave, 5th, 4th, major 3rd, minor 3rd and tone. It just so happened that my in-laws have recently visited China and my kind Mother-In-Law brought me back a "singing bowl" from Shangri-La. This is a bowl that you gently tap with the wooden stick, and then rub the outside gently with the same stick to make it "sing", a bit like a wine glass. It's a really nice, pure tone and ideal for demonstrating harmony. At least it would be if there was more than one note.

Oh wait on, I have a whole world of technical shennanigans at my disposal: resampling, pitch shifting and time stretching. So I have the bowl singing along to itself in harmony, using "pure tones" - relations with exact mathematical correlation of frequencies (eg a fifth is 2:3). This is something that sounds really nice, but also a little odd to western ears because we are so used to the equal temperament scale, where the relations are cheated slightly to make it all fit neatly.

And the hardest bit was when I wanted to slide the note. this is not an easy process with direct manipulation, but when you load a recording into a sampler and use a keyboard to play it, you can use the pitch-shift wheel to bend the note. Nice.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

So where the blazes have I been all this time?

Nearly 2 months have passed since the last post. Nearly 2 months since I said something about a desire to do a complete review of what VST and VSTI software I have.

It turns out I have quite a lot of it. I mean don't take me wrong I haven't been doing that all the time, I still have a job, a family, several lives and a gaming habit, but what used to be music time was trawling time. Sometimes I can get quite stubborn and this was a case of "I've started so...." and yes I finished. I really must never need another synth again, and I'm unlikely to ever be totally aware of what I have, and as for processing... I have even kept things that I don't know the function of in the assumtpion one day maybe I'll find out what "convolution reverb" is. Or whatever.

I probably would have given up if not for the fact that for every 20 or so mediocre home-grown free VST I had I would find something beautiful, quirky or downright brilliant. For example I cannot wait to use my electronic Tibetan monk, and I have found a truly bizarre delay unit.

Although I still haven't found a good replacement for my darling delay that I was so fond of. I will just have to re-imagine what I need.

Also I might have got distracted if I had actually worked out what I want to do for the next sub-section. At occasional idle times I have pondered on how to deal with the subject of harmony. I spent quite a while trying to work out how many triads there are (19 or 55 or maybe 220 depending on how you count them). I have finally rejected something that slavishly goes through them, and am currently conceiving something that starts with cardinal relationships (octave, 5th, 4th, 3rd etc), progresses to scales, and then explores chord sequences. I have several instruments and ideas I want to use (possibly too many) and am still finalising a plan.

I also want to use the Tibetan Monk.