Friday, February 09, 2007

"This Is A Journey Into Sound"

Ok. On to the good stuff.

The track you are listening to now (if you have Flash) is made by me. A first, preliminary release from my studio! Read on, there's a story here...

Music has long figured highly in my family. My Mother played the Piano, Guitar, Violin and Mandolin. I myself had Piano lessons and both my Brother and Sister learnt how to play the Guitar. My Father regularly goes to Classical concerts..well I think you get the idea.

It was in 1992 that I discovered what was then known as "Rave Culture", but that's a term that conjures up too many images of drug taking. Not everyone was taking drugs! In fact Dave Clarke, possibly the most well known Techno DJ in the World, was meant to have said that "If you need drugs then the music is not good enough!". You only need to listen to his show to prove what he's saying.

While me and my Brother and Sister were struggling to understand the absurdities of our modern world we developed a "second life" of going to clubs and especially all night parties out in nature.

The social atmosphere of gathering together with people who, on the most part, you could trust, was invigorating and restored our faith in our fellow human being. The DJ's seemed like sonic artists, painting with the finest creations the music scene could produce.

So it was not long before I had my own pair of record decks and a mixer. Eventually I would obtain the legendary "Technics 1210" record decks. So well built you can stand on the platter and have it spin you around...or so the story goes.

So it was over these years that many bands would become almost like Mystical Guru's to us. We saw The Orb play at Glastonbury. Relaxed later on to "Surfing on Sine Waves" by The Aphex Twin. Grokked in awed silence to the mastery of The Future Sound of London, and mixed and listened to a thousand electronic, Techno and Hip Hop acts between Heaven and Earth. Some famous in the mainstream, many just as famous in "The Underground" where small bands of independent party organisers mixed and recorded their own music. Actually it all reminds me of the "Open Source" ethos in the software world. A large group of very diverse people can get together and produce QUALITY works of art often far surpassing the "official" merchandise produced in the commercial world.

Of course this "Journey into Sound" has hardly been exclusively in the "electronic" domain. I have musical interests in Folk, Classical, "World Music", Reggae, and so on. These "genres" all influence each other to a certain extent.

So it hasn't been a surprise that eventually I laid my hands on Drum Machines, Sequencers, and Samplers....

A schematic of my "Frequency Facility" running on "DreamMachine".

A MIDI controller keyboard can be obtained for a reasonable amount. Of course it needs a computer to connect it to, which, these days, is also a very reasonable sum (you don't need the latest and fastest model just to do music). All the software you see here is completely free, with the exception of "MixVibes" (the MP3 mixer). I choose to do this on a computer, although you might be more comfortable with "seperates" (like a Hi-Fi system) if you don't want to fiddle with a computer.

The software synth (with all the knobs) runs on another free piece of software (not visible) called "Buzz". Buzz is capable of running Steinbergs "VST" technology which you can see here running the "analog style" synth "VS-1" by BKSynthLab. Of course you can get many more free synths and filters through the VST Wikipedia link.

The MIDI sequencer is "Jazz".

The 303 Synths and Drum Machines (808 and 909) are the "Propellerhead ReBirth RB338" program.

If you're interested the 300/808/909 have become almost reference sounds in the dance music world. These pieces of equipment, originally produced in Japan in the 1980's, and now running here through Digital Signal Processing technology, have become not unlike a Violin or a Picollo in the Classical Music world. I think I can say this now without anyone laughing! There used to some embarrassment, at one time, about the "authenticity" of the sound of these pieces of equipment and the diverse areas of music they have spawned. But I think I can say safely now, that, if it's your cup of tea (as we English say) then this genre of music is here to stay and can easily hold it's own against Classical Music (of course they are very different beasts in their own way).

So I find myself trying not to get completely over excited sitting in front of my keyboard, as I produce sounds uncannily similar to music I have been listening to for years, produced by "the legends". I keep hitting a key and thinking "hang on...that's like...". So it might be a while before I produce my Meister Work (checks pulse). :-D


Addenum: In light of the above I discovered the most extraordinary speech that I found through a link printed on the notes of a Dave Clarke CD "Remixes and Rarities"...

Audio Engineering Society 103rd Convention

"The Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremony was given by George Massenburg (pictured above) in which he raised some interesting and controversial issues. The text of his speech is reproduced below."

Reading that reminds me of a well known dance music sample (that I'm still trying to track down)... "An illegal frequency has entered this system, causing the DJ to have to do a full system test. Please continue to party and we will keep you informed of the situation...".

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