Sound Experiment number 18.
On the Subject of Music
“Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!”
~ Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
A Chop off the Old Block
I finished the RPM challenge again. As mentioned previously, I set out to write and produce five songs for an Ep. I was aiming for five instrumental guitar based songs, and I have ideas for them. I have ideas for 10+ instrumental guitar based songs, in fact. But I’m lacking time to do them justice. I’m teaching two courses at two different universities, and so, I decided to follow a looser approach, and improvise.
I’ve enjoyed this one very much. The cover is a photo I took in Cape Cod at a flea market. I walked up to a vendor’s table, and this little display was set out exactly as I’m presenting it.
I also made covers for the individual tracks.
Constellation/XYZ – ABC
Beverly and I were walking along the inner harbor on a very cold February morning, looking for somewhere to get coffee. I recorded this on the walk, paused my recording while we got coffee, and resumed recording to capture XYZ – ABC.
I will never say I told you so
BGE has hired contractors to dig up all the roads in our neighborhood, and also move our gas meters outside of the house. I had to quickly dismantle the Theoretical Audio Laboratory to accommodate employees of Pipeline Solutions desire to track a great deal of mud through my home. It was a huge relief to have them out of the house, and when I set up some drums again, I recorded these parts.
One night, I played a Bass VI and improvised the string parts on this track. The next day, I set out to lay down drum tracks for a different song, and wondered what these two parts would sound like together.
I will never say I told you so is what these two parts sound like together.
A Pie for Grackles
I was “taking my exercise” one day and heard someone playing an out of tune, warbly piano. As I paused to capture this recording, a car drove past me and parked a block away. I was happy that I captured enough piano to make a loop, and then found the passing car to be interesting, too.
I got the photo one night while Beverly and I were out on a date. It struck me that the people across the room might be having grackle pie, and/or might be grackles themselves.
Where to be
I made about an hour of recordings one night – 7 tracks in all – two of which will end up in films, and then this one, which is the sweetest of them all. More straightforward, it reminds me of a part of Baltimore that I may have once visited.
The cover is a continuation of Found and Chosen. As much as I’d like to stop, I keep finding discarded treasures on sidewalks.
A favorite among faves, this drum loops sits squarely under a recording of BGE’s favorite road warriors, busily ruining the streets around here.
The image is from a 1950’s era advertisement, and while I’m a sucker for those sandals, it was the text that inspired this image become the cover for this track.
Cards of Marseilles
I had a sleepover with my lovely daughter this month, and we got some recording in. One this track, I got to play her cello, and she manipulated her Line6 DL4 MkII delay pedal.
A risible scene of lovemaking
This was the first track I made for RPM2023. I set my iPhone on the floor under my drums and it just happened. I’ve made some backing tracks from this for the aforementioned instrumental guitar album.
As always, I’m grateful to have participated in this cool challenge, and I’m always better for having done so. I recommend it to everyone who writes music.
I gave a lecture on inspiration and where to find ideas last week. I told my students the following:
Ideas are a form of creative currency that must be spent. They do not earn interest if hoarded.Mr. Jim, Introduction to Animation, ART341
I remember when I was in my 20’s and the drummer for several original bands, I’d come up with ideas for songs that I kept to myself. Maybe I envisioned myself playing guitar on them. For a few, I remember thinking they were like shiny treasure that I needed to keep safe. That these ideas were soooo good, I needed to do something with them myself.
That was wrong thinking, for several reasons.
- I was being selfish.
- The ideas might have been great, but most certainly would have been made better by the collaboration of my bandmates.
- Those ideas never saw the light of day, all because of this thinking!
I wish I had shared those ideas now. I would love to know where Guppy (of Bazooka Joe) or Christoph Green (of Honeypump) would have taken them. They were both fantastic song writers, and much better guitarists than I.
Ideas are not personal property. They cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. They are useless unless executed. Statistically speaking, if you don’t do it, someone else will!
So, I spent a few ideas this month, and you know what? By doing so, I doubled the amount of ideas I had, and have even more recording to do. I think that’s part of where ideas come from.
I’m stating my intention to complete an Ep (5 songs) during the month of February. I encourage any of my musician pals to join, too! https://www.rpmchallenge.com/
I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff from doing this, as I’ve probably mentioned a hundred dozen or so times previously.
I’m teaching a couple of classes this spring, which is going to keep me very busy.
I haven’t mentioned my other current new intention for the year, which is to animate every day. That tracks well for me, because I’m teaching animation. A few years ago, I decided to write some music every day, and it was one of the best things I could have ever done for my musical soul. For one thing, it turned into a good habit. I’m predicting the animation-a-day will do the same.
Anyway, as I’ll be pretty busy this spring, I think this will be a nice little creative supplement. A little Vitamin C, if you will?
Here’s a WIP idea. I’ve been thinking about making a record of guitar music, and this is going on it.
I have been awarded a creativity grant by the Maryland State Arts Council! This is truly an honor, and much needed.
I used the grant to create physical copies of my album entitled Found and Chosen, which I will be giving away at my upcoming show at the Hamilton Gallery in Baltimore.
I finished all the work for the grant, and awaiting the arrival of the recordings. I’ll talk more about them in a different post.
This ended up being A LOT of work – more than I had originally calculated. I loved every minute of it, and I’m full of gratitude and happiness.
Edward Gorey’s Oven (S.Ex 16)
Here’s a little number I call “Edward Gorey’s Oven.” Enjoy!
Sound Experiment no. 16.
Four on the Floor
Andy is a friend from work who also plays guitar. We were talking about a podcast where the host asks each guitarist guest a question: “What four pedals are on your board right now?” The idea, I think, is to find out what four effects pedals are most important to their sound.
Andy has sent me a few audio clips of him playing through four of his pedals. It’s super cool, and it gave me an idea.
I hooked up these four pedals and made some sound. While this combination works really well together, I’m not sure I’d have put this together without this program. I’m going to use it for a week or so, and see what happens. I predict I’ll discover a lot of useful combinations I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.
The program itself is very simple, and only checks to see that it hasn’t chosen the same pedal twice. I get decide the order of the pedals in the signal chain. One pitfall is that it may suggest truly unusable combinations – perhaps four distortion pedals (I have four distortion pedals). Maybe that would be cool for a second, too.
Next, it occurred to me that I might want split the signal at at the top of the chain with a signal blender. I like to record stuff as I go, and lately I’ve become interested in the idea of re-amping the signal. To do that, I need to record the dry signal directly from the instrument (an instrument might be a guitar, bass, tape deck, my iPhone, drums, some keyboard, thoughts transmitted directly to the pedal board, etc.). I also sometimes transcribe guitar parts so that I can recreate it in MIDI, and having a clean signal makes it easier.
So, the signal blender sends one channel to the pedal board, and the other channel straight to the direct box. The direct box sends the pair of signals to my computer, and both are recorded into Ableton Live on their own tracks.
I can also envision adding a looper after the pedal board, on rare occasions. I use loopers extensively, and they can record/save loops. Making loops in this step of the chain could be helpful. But, it’s not actually part of Four on the Floor.
Future iterations might include a switch that modifies the number of pedals: Two, Three, Four. I think more than four will lead to endless noodling, which is what I often do. For now, four seems like an ideal number. I could pre-sort the pedals into categories, to avoid having four distortion pedals show up, or four reverbs, etc. I think this might crimp some happy accidents from happening, so I probably won’t. Finally, I can see adding a way for other people to use this function. My pedal inventory is contained in a hard coded array, so I’ll have to make an easy way for others to add their own inventories.
I think this is an interesting little device. I like the constraints. I’m going to spend the next few months kicking this around.
S.Ex no. 15
Building on Sound Experiment no. 14, I put together this track, along with some wigglies inspired on our trip to Puerto Rico. I’ve been quite literally doodling this on the iPad for weeks.
As mentioned in S.Ex no. 14, I used the Excess V.2 by Old Blood Noise Endeavors. The audio also features a nocturnal frog, an ice cream truck I heard on a beach in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
This song is part of The Old San Juan album.
Last show with Coastguard… canceled
After a year+ of loyal service, I’m retiring from Coastguard.
When Jerome approached me about starting a band, I wanted to play bass. I picked up a Squier bassVI and parts to mod it. I put together a pretty boffo pedal board, which I like to call my “surf board.” We learned half a dozen songs, and I even had a few of my own originals ready. Things were great!
The difficulty we faced was finding a reliable, solid drummer. I played drums at one drummer-less practice so that the guitarists could play with a beat, and I ended up staying behind the tubs.
Playing in this band allowed me to dust off some skills I haven’t used in years. It’s also cemented my interest in instrumental music, and more specifically, guitar based instrumental music. Yet, I don’t love the routine of gigging as the drummer as much as I did in my twenties, and I don’t love how the very loud volume makes my ears feel. So, I decided to quit while I’m ahead.
Our last show was to be this Friday in DC, but someone got Covid and it’s not safe for us to play. As such, the bang with which I intended to go out has already happened.
“That’s #ShowBiz!” as my dad used to say!
Coastguard at the Crown
We played in Baltimore as a band for the first time tonight, and we had a good time. The sound was good, the audience was great, and our harbor coast has been guarded.
60 Seconds to Nothing
Bang Bang (My Baby Left Me)
The Mysterious Smell of Provolone
Man of Mystery
Here’s a clip from one of our songs. Video by Chloë.
The Old San Juan (album release)
All of the material on the first track of this release was recorded on an iPhone between 4/22/2022 and 4/30/2022 in Puerto Rico, with the exception of a guitar loop that was recorded in Baltimore on 4/22/2022. I brought the loop to work on with my iPad, and included it in this audio postcard as it felt like part of the trip to me.
The source material includes:
- various vendors selling beer and food
- a walk through Ponce
- a distressed stray dog
- street performers
- the Atlantic Ocean at Castillo San Cristóbal
- invisible frogs
- a fellow traveler who snored continuously during a trip to the rain forest
Also included on this release is sound experiment no. 15.
Not a very thick album, but it conveys memory and feelings of the trip.
Coastguard at Public Option, DC
We just played at the Public Option in DC with the Flying Faders.
We repeated the set from our last show, which was:
60 Seconds to Nothing
The Mysterious Smell of Provolone
Man of Mystery
Loops with Chloë
I got to hang out with my daughter Chloë in the Theoretical Audio Laboratory, and we made some loops. We really don’t do this often enough. Hope to change that! Love you, Chloë!
Coastguard at Slash Run
I co-started/joined an instrumental band (mostly surf) with my buddy Jerome McManus and our first gig was at Slash Run in DC (2/26/2022).
It was a good set, very fun, nice energy. It was nice to play out.