A Night Out at the Symphony

This past Saturday Megan and I had the opportunity to go out and see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall downtown. I never had the opportunity to go see the CSO before. They performed Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1. Both were quite fantastic. There really is something special about seeing a performance like that live. And more, the Symphony Hall is such an intimate performance center. Our seats had us dead center on the main floor and we couldn't have been more than forty feet away from the Orchestra. 

It was also a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up, which many people don't do too often anymore. Megan received two compliments on her dress within minutes of sitting down for dinner. Speaking of dinner, we ate at Tesori which is located in the symphony building. A nice restaurant that isn't too fancy or expensive. Excellent drinks too. 

We had a fantastic time at the symphony and in short we need to make it a regular thing. It was way too fun. 

2015....Keeping it simple

People seem to keep asking me what my goals are for 2015. I guess I don't really have any specific goals laid out for this coming year, but after thinking about it for a while I think i do have a couple of objectives I want to achieve. 

  • Write more
  • Make more music

That's it. Two hobbies I enjoy that I didn't do enough of last year. 

Bringing back the Korg EA-1

This past year was not a super successful one with respect to writing music. I spent a good part of this past year trying to rebuild my hardware setup and thinking about what I wanted to do with my music. I swapped out my Yamaha AN200 for a Waldorf Blofeld and have been pretty happy with that decision. For most of the year I had been writing with only three pieces of kit. 

My Korg EA-1 has been in my line up for as long as I can remember but at the beginning of 2014 I couldn't quite find the sound I wanted out of it. I spent months doing research and trying out other synth boxes to see what could fill that void. I looked at the Dave Smith Evolver and Mopho. I looked at the new Korg Electribes and even the Waldorf Pulse II. In the end though I ended up putting the EA-1 back into my lineup. The EA-1 isn't exactly a powerhouse synth. The engine is simple and fairly sterile sounding and the box only has a lowpass filter on it, but it has always done a pretty good job at basslines and some arp'd leads. The easy and intuitive interface though is really what keeps it around. It is clean and simple with no menus to dive through. All of the parameters can be easily accessed on the front panel and I couldn't find another box that allowed for the timbrality so easily. 

So back it went into the lineup and I decided to pickup a Tech 21 Flyrig 5 guitar pedal to supplement its sound. The combo has worked out surprisingly well and the Flyrig 5 gives the EA-1 that little bit of grit and character that it sometimes needs. The Flyrig also has a buttery smooth sounding delay on it, which I think when partnered with the EA-1's own internal delay can result in some really facintating effects down the road. The EA-1 ended up having a nice place in my most recent song, Lowered Fog and I feel it is going to continue to sit in my line up for years to come.  

I have felt energized the past couple of months and in part that has been to a Facebook Group called the Groovebox Society. So here's hoping to a much more productive music year. 

Oasis - What's the Story Morning Glory (Deluxe Edition)

So this past week Megan got me a nice vinyl edition of Oasis' What's the Story Morning Glory. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, and is actually the first album I purchased with my own money back around 7th or 8th grade. 

The vinyl copy is nicely done. Now, this album has historically been well known to be highly compressed. Personally I think it is representative as a product of its time where high compression and zero level metering became popular. Anyways, the album included the download of the Deluxe edition of the new re-mastered version of What's the Story Morning Glory. Upon initial listening I noticed that the album was quite a bit louder than the original that I ripped from my CD. 

Out of curiosity I decided to load the audio files into Audacity for comparison and you can see how the new audio file is really normalized up to 0dB. Now I don't have the tools to truly analyze the audio, but it is interesting to take a quick look at the audio files and see how compressed both the audio files. At first glance  I initially thought that the files were basically the same, with just one that was boosted. But upon a little closer inspection you can see that the waveforms are a bit different and there has been some "mastering" or EQ'ing on there. I noticed this most prominently on Champagne Supernova near the beginning where you can definitely see a difference. 

Time for some new music gear

Autumn is upon us and I am getting back into the swing of things for music recording. I had a great session in the studio yesterday and I am sitting on nine songs that are in various states from "complete" to just sketches. I need to take some time over the next couple of weeks and just get these songs knocked out and recorded. 

I am also itching though to get some additional music gear. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for, but probably something a bit specialized. I have had my eye sitting on Craigslist and not much has been popping up. Right now the front runners are two of the Dave Smith tabletop boxes; the Mopho and the Evolver. 

Both boxes I think have a really good long lasting type of sound I could fit into my setup. However, I do have a slight worry that they aren't distinct enough for me. Even with VA synths, how many subtractive synths can I really add to the list? 

The other front runner candidates are from Waldorf. I really am enjoying the Blofeld right now and the Pulse 2 seems very appealing, but again suffers from the same concerns I have with the DS boxes. The Streichfett is also a nice candidate at the moment, but I fear it may be a bit of a one trick pony. So I am a bit stuck at the moment. 

If anyone has some boxes I should check out, let me know. 

I bought a record and I don't even own a record player.

I have dabbled here and there in a few kickstarter projects. Some of them have been very successful and others sort of missed the mark. One of my most recent investments was in a project call Moments Lost by Analog Sweden and it was actually a music album. This is actually the first project I backed (on indiegogo) that was actually what those sites were originally created for, namely artistic endeavors. 

The album is a concept album to recreate music that feels like the Blade Runner soundtrack. For those who don't know, Blade Runner is my favorite movie of all time and the soundtrack is right up there as one of my favorite albums of all time. I had to buy the vinyl edition of it then. I think I had to get the vinyl edition to really appreciate all of the artwork that was made to go with each of the pieces. I do get that in the digital version, but the impact isn't nearly as profound.

The digital version of the soundtrack came out about a week ago for backers and it sounds wonderful. It really captures the spirit and feeling of the original soundtrack so I would definitely say that this project was a success. If anyone out there is a fan of Blade Runner, I would highly recommend you consider picking this up. You can get it over at the Analog Sweden website

The only trick now is that I need to eventually purchase a record player and some speakers to listen to all of it. 

Korg's Gadget

Over the past couple of weeks since NAMM, there has been some positive buzz about the new iPad app from Korg called Gadget. I decided to pick it up this past week since it is on sale for ~$28. The price isn't cheap, but the software is really well designed. It is the first iPad app that for me has really found the perfect sweet spot of features and usability on the iPad. 

I have tried numerous iPad music creation apps before and the top contenders for me were either Sunvox or Retronyms' Tabletop. Sunvox was great in that it had the full synthesis capabilities that I was looking for, along with the ability to easily bring the music back to the desktop. From a pure synthesis point of view, it is probably the most powerful app on the iPad. The interface however is not optimized for touch, and while Nightradio has done an admirable job and making the interface friendly, there are still some elements that don't full fit well with a touch screen. 

On the flip side you have Tabletop, which is all instrument based, which works really well for me since I am very familiar with working in a groovebox sort of environment. The only thing that really held me up in Tabletop is that the song based sequencing is really poor. They have a pattern trigger box, which sort of triggers different patterns on the machines to create a song, but it is clunky and confusing. It is also sort of a pain to have to jump around to each instrument to then select and create the patterns. 

Korg's Gadget  has seemingly struck the best balance I have found so far. It has a very intuitive piano roll interface with a track for each instrument. Patterns are arranged in an Ableton Live sort of scene mode, where the next group of patterns triggers, sort of like how old school trackers work. The best part though is that there is a solid collection of synthesizers that have some real sound creation capabilities included. It is only v1.0 so far and there are a few UI quirks to be sure, such as the app always starting at the beginning of the song rather than the scene I am working in when editing, but I imagine those will all get worked out over time. It is a really strong showing so far and I am really enjoying my time with the app. 

Having a Really Tough Time Creating Music

Man, I have been having a really tough time creating music as of late. For the past 6-8 months I just cannot see to get a flow of anything going. I tried playing on some various instruments and even trying to compose some stuff in Sunvox, taking a step away from my hardware. Nothing seems to be clicking and it is pretty disappointing. 

It is always periods like this that make me think about getting some new gear to see if I could jump start my creative juices. I have been eyeing a Blofield for a while now and think may be the impetus that pushes me over that edge. 

Sometimes Something Magical Happens

Every once in a while while I am writing music I somehow manage to create something that complete engrosses me. Most often I have no idea how I wrote what I did, but I suddenly just stop and have to listen. 

I am currently trying to create some music for a yoga session. Something of a bit of a challange for me. This afternoon while working on some music I just happened to come across what I think is that magical moment. These little pieces of sound are so engaging I often times just sit and listen to them looping, sometimes for half and hour or so. 

Here is a quick little sample of what caught me this afternoon. This is raw so I haven't done any mixing on it. 


New Album Coming.........

Last week when I was off for vacation I had an opportunity to really sit down and record some music. I got four tracks recorded and an additional five mixed down. I am litterally one track away from completing my next net-album and I am hoping to get it completed within the next day or so. I originally had plans to record the last track this weekend, but I ran into a minor snag with my keyboard and mouse batteries dying for my iMac. I did take that opportunity to get teh final pieces of the track worked out though so the light is litterally at the end of the tunnel at this point. The last thing to do this week then is to simply create the artwork for the album cover.