Circus Pathetique

This piece has been sitting around unfinished for some timeCircus. Why? I don’t know. It’s pretty short and straight forward. Probably because it’s on the slow and introspective side – some would say the whiny crybaby side, but it is a little bit of a downer until the end, when it moves into hopelessness – some would say melodrama.

To me it sounds like sad circus music, or a sad person watching a circus, or a sad person no longer watching the circus, or a sad person drinking at home next to a telephone they didn’t have the courage to use while a circus plays on the TV in the other room.

It’s 3 live guitar tracks recorded into Sonar and two synthed organ tracks – one of which is just an organ patch from the soundcard in my PC. The hard right organ sound is from Reason.

This time the photo is not mine but comes from another flickr user (Bazule). I tried flickr’s facility for searching for creative commons photos. I searched for “circus” and this was the first photo to come up. I thought it was perfect.

I’ll shoot for something more upbeat next month, promise.

Happy Listening: Circus Pathetique


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Hipster Hound Dog on Lee Rd.

Hipster Houndog Hangs Out on Lee Rd.

It looks like I’m establishing a common practice when it comes to naming my songs when they’re done. I browse my flickr collection for photos I like and let them suggest a title. This time I found this one which is of my dog Leo. It’s one of the rare photos that I had liked enough to title already, so I just re-purposed the title for this song.

What a pain in the ass this thing tuned out to be. I had some bits floating around from when I was first playing with Cakewalk’s Dimension Pro soft synth. I liked the sax patch and I was able to get some pretty cool riffs that sounded more like a sax and less like a synth. February is a short month so I thought it would be a good idea to start with a solid base. I laid out the parts I had with some rough sketches of connecting material and then let like 3 weeks go by.

When I got back to it this week expecting to just polish it up, I started to feel the pieces didn’t really work together and I had to go heavily into re-compose/re-arrange mode. I almost put it aside for another month for something that I didn’t like as much but felt closer to done.

And then I ran into technical problems. Last night my keyboard stopped working as I was editing. After about 20 minutes of fiddling I realized the keyboard was fine it was my KVM switch. After about another 20 minutes rebooting both computers and generally trying to avoid reconfiguring my system not to need a KVM switch I found the the KVM switch just needed to be rebooted. Who knew you could do that? Anyway, better part of an hour gone from my evening.

By 12:30 I was tired but happy with what I had so I went to bed. I’m glad I didn’t take the time to post it though because the next morning I heard a bunch of stuff I wanted to change. Lesson: always listen with fresh ears.

Thank God For Leap Years. I had an extra day to make the changes.

Oh, and btw, can I say that Project5 is a pig? I kind of liked Project5. I mainly use Sonar but it’s fun to go into into Project5 now and then to force myself to work a little differently. This is not the first project I’ve done in Project5 but it’s the largest and it was slow. Stuttering and with high latency, especially when I added some mastering plugins from Sonar7. Luckily it rendered clean.

That’s the last time I try to do a complete project in P5. It’s strictly a rewire synth for me now.

This song was my first attempt to sequence a sax part but I like the result and I might use it again. To me it sounds pretty good but god knows what an actual sax player might think.

But now it’s done and I can go on to think about what I want to do for March, but not until I get back from this leap-day party, whatever that is:

Happy Listening: Hipster Hound Dog on Lee Rd.


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Into the Heights

Probably in reaction to last month’s song, where the tempo was kind of slow and I had trouble creating interesting drums as a result, with this song I cranked the tempo up before I clicked down a single note.

Which reminds me, this piece is unique among all the pieces on this site so far in that it was entirely created within this month. All of the songs posted so far (and probably most of the songs to come) were built from parts created previously. This one was is all new. All new notes for an all new year.

The song was created entirely in Reason 4 because I wanted to play with Thor and some of the other new tools but I quickly got into the music and forgot about the learning so in the end there was only one instance of Thor used for some of the percussion. It’s all synthesized and sequenced with no real instruments.

It’s done by machines ’cause they don’t make mistakes – KMFDM

Also it’s one of the shorter pieces I’ve done. It moves along at a brisk 150 bpm which gets it to its end in under 2:30.

So that’s it. A short fast piece named for the part of town I live in.

Happy Listening: Into the Heights


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The Friendliest Girl in all of Canada

Canadian Girls

Where do the titles come from? This title popped into my head on my way back from Canada although it doesn’t refer to any particular person. I then searched my hard drive for the friendliest musical fragments I could find.

I have no idea if the girls in this picture are friendly but, they are Canadian – or, at least that’s where they were when I took this picture as they sold lemonade from inside a lemon shaped lemonade stand – and that’s a pretty friendly thing to do.

In addition to being the friendliest song I’ve done for this site, it might also be the longest, easily cracking the 4 minute mark and tempting boredom in the listener although I tried to avoid that.

One of the biggest problems I had with this project was the drums. I set this song up with a ridiculously slow BPM: 95. It sounded OK for the live tracks, but the drums – forget it. Not being a drummer I like to use loops and at 95 bpm, all my loops sounded lethargic. So I had to edit drums a lot.

This song was done entirely within Sonar 7 (Producer Edition). I was tempted to bring in Project5 or Reason but I resisted, as I do, and I don’t know why. Like it’s more pure if I stay in one tool – or I think things will get too messy. And then I spend more time doing things these other tools are good at. Maybe I’ll start each of the next few projects with all the tools up and running to get over that.

So here it is, a friendly song for a friendly new year.

Happy Listening: The Friendliest Girl in all of Canada


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On Our Street Everything is Fine

street.jpg I kept fighting and fighting this piece. It wouldn’t go where I wanted it to go. I like where it ended up but I still wonder what it would sound like if I were able to get what I wanted from it. I guess I gotta be happy with what I got.

There are 3 real guitar tracks recorded through my PODxt Live into Sonar. I tried to do all the work in Sonar, but I put together a drum track I liked. Sonar tools for creating drum tracks are just way behind. Rendering drums in Sonar is great but constructing drum tracks is not so good.

I tried Drumcore as well. I bought it earlier this year but this was my first serious attempt at using it. Their emphasis on actual recorded drum loops makes it difficult to match loops. They may have been recorded by different drummer on different kits.

I ended up sequencing the drums in Project 5. It’s got a good sized library of midi drum loops and good midi editing tools. I rendered them in an odd way. I rendered the drum tracks through two separate synths (Session Drummer and Dimension Pro) and panned them hard left and right. So it’s the same track in both ears but different drum sounds. I also rounded off the highs to give the drums a bit of the lo-fi sound.

I tend to name instrumentals toward the end when I start to see how the piece is turning out. The working title was “strangled trumpet” due to this great synth sound I used for a melody towards the end. I love it.

Happy Listening: On Our Street Everything is Fine


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The Dating Game

Dating Game ImageYou know how, when you see a gorgeous girl across a room and you actually (and uncharacteristically) think of something to say to her that she finds funny? So you talk for a few minutes, just long enough to build the nerve to ask for her number and she gives it to you enthusiastically? Then you try to leave since all you can do at this point is screw things up by saying something stupid but she asks you to stay and she spills a drink on her boob but since she’s wearing a black sweater it doesn’t stain and you realize that you now have a one dumb move buffer to protect you so you talk a bit longer?

When you try to leave again she suggests going to this gay bar nearby where her friend bartends and so you agree intrigued by the prospect that a girl that looks like that could be so into you so you agree? She suggests you follow her in your car, so you do and a few moments later you’re following her down this dark side street lined with dark warehouses and not a bar in sight and you start to remember those stories about gorgeous girls who pick up a guy and lure him into a secluded spot where a bunch of guys are waiting to beat the shit out of him, take his wallet, his car and possibly his kidney leaving him in a bathtub full of ice? Then her car comes to a stop at the dead end and she gets out carrying a gun, you are sure, but it turns out she’s empty handed and she just giggles that she turned down the wrong street? In relief you follow her down the next street which is also dark and lined with dark warehouses but at the end of this one there actually is a small bar?

So you go in and sit at the bar and she introduces you to her bartender friend and you continue talking and somehow you seem to be leaving the impression that you’re endlessly fascinating and funny so you start to wonder if she’s just been release from jail, or a nunnery or some other cloistered situation? Then you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom but just a few seconds after you lock the door she knocks on it! And you’re like WTF!? Where is this going? Maybe she’s some kind of kinky freak? You don’t want to have sex in a public bathroom in a gay bar but you have to find out if that’s what’s going on and you open the door to find out it’s not her at all but some other random bar guy and you have to excuse yourself explaining that you’re not done and leaving him wondering why you’d stop in the middle to answer the door? Meanwhile, instead of trying to have sex with you in the bathroom, she’s getting the “gay man’s opinion” on her new catch because, as she explains later, gay men are the most critical of other men but that you passed with flying colors?

Finally it’s getting late and you really have to go so she offers to walk you out to the car and when you go in for a goodnight kiss she attacks you, practically crawling into your clothes with you, and you make out in the parking lot against the brick wall of the bar while everyone inside of the bar watches your shadows, lit by the streetlights, against the frosted glass windows until, finally, the gay bartender friend comes out to tell you that the bar is closing and could someone come in and pay the bill?

You know, those kinds of dates? Well, I think such a date could have sound track like this.

It’s a two minute hard rock version of the dating game theme into which I crammed as many notes and as my little fingers would allow. I wonder though, what does it say that I did the theme song to dating show as a short guitar wank-fest?

Oh yeah, I added lyrics to it as well. Here they are:


This was recorded entirely in Sonar. There are three guitar tracks all recorded through a PODxt Live. I’m particularly proud of the drums though. Not being a drummer I can’t be sure the drum part is even playable. It started mostly from loops that I extensively tweaked, sliced and diced. It’s kind of crazy but I think it works well. There’s also a midi bass part that I played on my m-audio radium 49 at a much reduced speed and then sped up to the 180bpm of this tune.

I hope you like it but I doubt you’ll like it as much as I did. That’s the thing about a wank-fest!

Happy Listening: The Dating Game


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An Aesthetic Twilight

Toy truck hard at work while we sleep

I almost missed September! But here I am with hours to spare.

This piece was built around a vocal sample that I’ve had for so long I forgot where it came from but I really like it. Unfortunately it’s in a foreign language and I don’t know what it says. I don’t even know what the language is, but it sounds like something from the middle east.

As a consequence, I had to come up with a title that could possibly be completely inappropriate given what the singer is actually saying. To me the piece sounds like it could be the soundtrack to something that pops into your head while you’re not quite awake but not quite conscious either. Hence the title.

But for all I know the lyric could be the punchline of a dirty joke sung in Farsi. If anyone knows the language and can fill me in… awesome!

This started off in cakewalk’s Project5 but when I decided to add guitars, I added Sonar. You can record audio in Project5 but it’s more difficult to work with because it can only use one audio device at a time. So I can’t use a firewire device to get audio into my computer while using the computer’s soundcard to hear the song as it plays, which is what I like to do.

So this song contains the vocal sample of forgotten origin, a couple of real guitar tracks through a digitech GXN3 and midi programmed drums, percussion, string bass and violins.

Happy Listening! An Aesthetic Twilight


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Immigrant Song

viking shipThis is an instrumental cover of the Led Zeppelin Hit. I tried to modernize it a with a bit of an industrial accent.

It was recorded and mixed in Sonar, with Reason handling the synths and percussion. The only real instruments are the guitars of which there are 3 tracks worth. Although the guitars are real, they were recorded through amp and cabinet simulation.

The song was a lot of fun to do. I’m a huge Zeppelin fan and I like doing covers so they can be re-spun and possibly viewed from different angles.

I’m particularly happy with this one.

Happy Listening: immigrant song.mp3


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Newage Sewage

Monk Is this piece too weird? It came out of some free form experimenting with a free VST plugin called Delay Lama. It’s one of the most unusual synths I’ve seen. It simulates the sound of a human voice reminiscent of Tuvan throat or overtone singing. You have control over the pitch, the size of the vocal tract and the vowel being sung.

Of course I had to automate it in completely inhuman ways to make it clearly still a machine (am I threatened?)

What makes the plugin so unusual is that it also visually represents the singer. As you manipulate the synth’s output an animated monk’s face follows right along. It’s fun to play with and watch during playback.

It works on both windows and mac and should work in any VST host although I hosted it in Sonar. I used propellerhead’s Reason, in rewire mode, to do the percussion. I think the percussion options in Reason exceed that of Sonar by a good deal.

So I ended up with with a short, world-music inspired bit of electronic music.

Happy Listening: newage-sewage.mp3


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Just Out of Reach

A sensitive piano solo about picking one’s nose perhaps?

I can’t play the piano so this piece came about from just noodling around with a midi controller (M-Audio Radium 49, no longer available). I recorded the midi results of my halting, uneven playing into Cakewalk Sonar and through the magic of midi editing, I was able to fix it up and make it sound like it was played somewhat competently.

It was then rendered through a piano patch in Sonar’s DS864 software sampler.

Happy listening: Just Out Of Reach


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