This past couple of weeks has seen the entry of my newest bit of kit into my arsenal of music-making tools and it should be all I need for quite a while! Last week I received my Roland GR-55 guitar synth as well as my East-West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra sample library. The EWQL stuff is actually being sold as ‘by-one-get-one-free until the end of May (2011) so I took advantage of this and ordered the Ra library too, which is a rather cool library of ethnic instruments from around the world (get in touch if you want the link). On their website, you can have a listen to music made with these libraries if y0u follow the links and I aim to post my own couple of exploratory pieces on here next week. If you have a listen to the music, I’m sure you will agree that the results are truly amazing; a computer is playing the music!
The guitar synth also allows me to play samples such as the EWQL stuff and synth contained in my computer like you would with any midi keyboard. If you are unfamiliar with midi think of the cheap Casio keyboard you may have had when younger and it’s ability to change sounds at the touch of a button. Then imagine this replicating instruments in a way that is actually realistic (amongst other technical extras) and you have a good idea what I can now do with my guitar; as you can imagine, the world of synth and sampling is very limited to somebody that cant play a keyboard so I had to save up for the guitar equivalent. Like in those role-playing computer games, I feel like I have opened up a a huge oaken door with a giant gold key after traversing many puzzles and hazards. The room behind the door is so huge that I can’t see the walls and much of it is dimly lit so I can only just make some things out, whilst small spotlights highlight some other wonderful things in all their glory. Pretty cool.
The first task I gave myself with these new toys was to finish off some music I offered to make a friend for their home video. It was mainly images of architecture old and new with other scenic highlights from a trip abroad which allowed me to really inject all the drama I love so much when creating music (well, maybe I over-did the drama a tad, but I’m allowed to get excited eh! …and who can resist the chance of using ‘Wagnerian tubas’ when presented with pictures of the Reichstag!)
This previous piece was mostly written before I had the sample libraries so it turned out to be a mixture of synth from Logic Studio and orchestral sounds. Next, it was time to have a go at something solely using the orchestra but I decided to keep it simple. So, after work on Tuesday I spent a couple of hours making a short piece (and learning to use the software!). It was based on an idea of confused action and movement which manages to resolve itself in strength before making a swift exit. The next piece I will try this week will be something a little more melancholic and I will post whatever I come up with next week.
As well as now being able to play at orchestration on my guitar, my interests in synth and abstract sounds are also blossoming. For a while now I have talked a little about the project I am working on with photographer Lesley Flower and now I have an instrument I can use more intuitively I started work on a second piece. For those that don’t know, the idea here is an experiment in atmosphere which will create a series of audio/visual pieces using Lesley’s photographs as a starting point for sound. The sound will be designed in such a way as to enhance the overall experience although both elements will work together. I spoke a bit more about it in my post ‘Audio/Visual Work and the Importance of Calm Thought’ back in September. Anyway, my first incursion into this with my more intuitive instrument was Sunday evening…
The picture in question is an angled shot of raindrops on glass, some in focus, other parts out of focus; all very characteristic of Lesley’s work. The main backdrop of the shot contains various shades of a soft grey and I took this as my main starting point, creating a backdrop which I felt echoed the the soft and calm effect the colours had on me. For the next layer, I decided to widen the atmosphere and throw in a few obvious references to the subject matter by spreading different types of ‘droplet’ and ‘pitter-patter’ noises across the soundscape. Some close, some far away; some more ethereal in nature, some more blunt. I then sat back with my headphones on and had a listen to what I had created whilst looking at the print. It was an OK backdrop but as my eyes wondered around the print there were aspects that I had missed. Firstly, some water droplets were in really sharp focus and their bulging appearance also had a light sheen on them. Also, parts of the print were fuzzy in terms of focus which left a feeling of wonder even though I was well aware what the haze covered. To bring a sense of focus to these points which a wondering eye my touch, I found that a very deep bass with a slow attack time gave a ‘gloopy’ enough sound and I combined this with a slight high-pitched sheen; I then combined them by giving them the same compression treatment and a nice and muddy (ie not clear) reverberation (echo to give a sense of space – muddy to try to blur the differences between the two sounds a little). I then spread these ‘rain droplets’ around various positions throughout the stereo field and made them intermittent enough so that their occurrence might seem like a discovery every now and then. To blur passages, I used parts of the same sequence of the ‘droplets’ with a series of distortions heavy on low mid sound frequencies. These sounds were mixed into the original ‘raindrops’ to make it seem like those particular parts ware blurred.
In other news, the future of my band Lunar Rising is in doubt after one of us asked the rest about their commitment level. We were then left two members down and that particular member being unsure if they could continue also. It’s safe to say though that I’ll make sure Lunar Rising lives on in some way. I had started to develop bringing in my new guitar synth into stage performance to heighten the whole experience, and I cant let that idea go to waste!
This month’s Henry Spencer Project post was the first prose-only post for this project. My original idea was for the blog to be based around a fictional character who likes to hang around with a band but I ended up toning this idea down as it felt like I would be taking on too much work! Henry Spencer makes brief appearances during music posts but as I would still like to embellish the project with other bits of information I felt I would like to explore his character a little bit to help create an all-round experience….
Well, that’s this week. Until next time!