Archive for the ‘album notes’ Category

those smaller midi keyboards

I’m starting to see the advantage of those smaller, two-octave-ish mini-midi keyboards:

don’t lean on that

I’ve found some chimes that sound pretty good, now I just need to make everything talk to that keyboard. I’ve always cheated and gone over to Garage Band in the past, but this is very close to working natively in Ardour, and that would make a zillion things easier.

Adding and editing notes, that I can already do, but I’d really prefer to play the originals then edit them into place than do the whole thing via screen keyboard. It’s making this first time more difficult, of course, but it’ll be easier in the long run. Or so I keep telling myself. XD LEARN ALL THE THINGS!, I guess.

lets go to the big board

Well, that’s a lot more colour, isn’t it? Lots of colours! This soundtrack project has some goddamn momentum.

The Big Board, 27 February 2014

Colourful, and well more than half yellow (indicating we have our recordings and they’re in some stage of comp/edits) or blue (meaning it’s basically finished).


And if you’re new – welcome, Metafilter readers! – I’m talking about The Free Court of Seattle fantasy novel series soundtrack album, our current project in progress. It’s been delayed a few times thanks to things like emergency eye surgery, but we’ve put up a couple of work-in-progress instrumental tracks here (“Kitsune at War”) and here, recently, as we’ve built momentum.

We also have some free-download songs, the most recent being Kaiju Meat, the track we did for Jaegercon, the Pacific Rim fan convention this past summer. Have at!

back in the saddle sores

Four months of repeated eye surgery takes a toll on you, sometimes in unexpected ways. I haven’t been completely idle – in fact, I have a tendency to push beyond what I’m supposed to be doing – but I’ve been “taking it easy” at most for months.

But Tuesday was a Back-in-the-Saddle day in a new way: live acoustic instrument recording.

Take 1

“Something’s Coming (2014).” It’s the first studio version of this song – the version on Dick Tracy Must Die is a live recording. Five takes of aggressive, snarling, hard-driving zouk.

And I am wiped the fuck out. My arms feel like noodles.

I may be back in the saddle again – no, I am back in the saddle again – but I’m gonna have some sores for a while. Mmmmmm, chafing. XD

ps: The collective nouns people came up with for a group of microphones were pretty funny. You know, like murder of ravens and parliament of owls and all that. Check them out. XD

a groupnoun of microphones

If there isn’t already a group noun for microphones – you know, like murder of ravens, school of fish, and all that – there should be. I propose a silly of microphones:

A Silly of Microphones

I had all those wired up at once because we were doing some test recording of Anna for flutework on Kitsune at War. Despite appearances, the two mics on the far left are quite different to each other, due to their different head capsules having dramatically different pickup patterns.

The choices coalesced really quickly, as it turned out, because Anna’s metal flute is totally clicky in the keys. Lots of clicking sound, and no way to turn it off.

Not even when dampened with a shirt. Not even two shirts.

The funny part is, back when I was trying to get these couple of Octava 012s, I really mostly just wanted the cardioid heads. And one came with that option only. But another ended up having a set of three heads: cardioid, hypercardoid, and omnidirectional. And that’s come back to serve us well now.

See, most microphones you’ve used have either been omnidirectional (pick up in all directions fairly evenly) or cardioid (pick up in front of the mic in kind of a circular-bubble area in front of the microphone). A hypercardioid mic, though? It’s like a laser beam, or at least this one is. Instead of a circular pickup area, it’s shaped more like a dirigible. And that means you can zoom in on the sound you want, and simply not record a surprising loudness of noises coming from shockingly nearby that you don’t want.

Which is why it was a damn good thing I bothered hooking up two versions of that microphone. Otherwise, we’d be looking into rental flutes. But we’re not. Go us.

eta: Over on Dreamwith, Corvi suggests “a Feedback of Microphones.” I do like that! But feedback also requires speakers – or in extreme cases a turntable – so… hm…

eta2: With 29 more ideas for this from people(!), we decided to make a list and poll, here. Look and vote if you want!

proof of work: kitsune at war

Another in-progress instrumental piece from the Bone Walker book series soundtrack; I’m calling this one “Kitsune at War,” at least for now. Three kinds of drums, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, fiddle; still missing are flute and a second fiddle:

It’s quite a scene I’m trying to paint here, with kitsune, a water dragon, representatives of faerie, and a member of the unseelie court hanging out around the fringes. It starts simple enough – and this is the first quarter of the scene – but mashing up Scottish (Douce Dame Jolie) and Japanese traditional music (Oedo Nihonbashi/お江戸日本橋) was not easy! I ended up treating it more orchestrally, and brought in and modified Kendis’s tune as glue, turning that into less “Road to Lisdoonvarna” and more “Forced March to Lisdoonvarna.” Or that’s what I’ve been calling it in the studio. XD

Most instruments (drums – even the electrics are played live – mandolin, irish bouzouki) are me; Sarah Kellington of Pinniped is on fiddle. We have another fiddler working on this (whose name will be familiar to many of you, but all that in good time…) to be added in, and a flautist (same notation). (MYSTERIOUS IS IT NOT? Yeeeeeeeees.)

Anyway, a 50 second excerpt for you. Enjoy.

a bit lost in all the kerfluffle

Amongst the news that got somewhat overlooked during the petition-to-SFWA flap of the last two weeks:

  • The two-CD-long Destiny came out, with my first voice acting role, and,

Along the way, I fixed another guitar – I keep repairing instruments I don’t even know how to play XD – and a cool toy appeared! If you have a new enough browser, go play with it, it’s fun.

Finally, this is legitimately hilarious (h/t to Ben Deschamps):

[Video deleted – sorry!]

and the winner is

Last week, I posted a work-in-progress roughmix of an instrumental track from the upcoming Free Court of Seattle book series soundtrack album.

I also posted the bass instrument, in excerpt form, as a solo track. It sounds like a a double bass (a.k.a. standup base) but, as I told everyone, it wasn’t that; I made something else into a double-bass, with studio tricks. And I challenged people to figure out what it was originally.

I’m afraid nobody got there. A couple of people got into the right category (“tonal percussion instruments”), then wandered back out again, because they kept being sure it had to be bowed, even after I said it wasn’t.

Because nobody guessed correctly, I’m assigning numbers and doing a random winner drawing from everyone who tried, across all reposts I know about! A d20 will work, which is convenient, so dice roll please…

THE WINNER IS DAVID, FROM THE ORIGINAL POST! Email me, David! Also I’ll send email if you left a valid one associated with your username.

As to the actual answer…

A Hammer Dulcimer

YES, REALLY. I thought I was tipping my hand, talking about the mysterious “bass instrument” at the same time that I was talking about Ellen’s hammer dulcimer, but I guess not!

The discovery was entirely accidental – particularly the bow sounds. That’s not hard work; that’s a processing artefact, I guess. I honestly don’t know.

Basically, I needed something to fill in down there, frequency-wise, to give the track some body. Usefully but separately, I had put four microphones on Ellen’s dulcimer, recording four tracks off it, with one in particular set up to pick up as much low end as her instrument could give me. But it didn’t pick up any more low-end than the bass bar microphone, and it also picked up a really “thunk”-heavy sound – every hammerblow got exaggerated. It didn’t add anything positive, so I was going to leave it out.

So I had a recording I wasn’t going to use anyway, and a need for something bassy. Using the built-in Ardour octave shifter, I dropped it two octaves to see how that sounded. The answer was “still terrible, and if possible, even worse.” I poked around with it, trying various things, and the answer kept being “terrible.” Less so, but still.

Then, on a whim, I dropped it another octave, and a miracle occurred.

I don’t know how, but suddenly I could hear bow noises – probably what happened to the thunk sounds – in a recording of an instrument that just plain sounded like a double-bass. Filter out the subsonics, and it became clearer. Filter out the high-end harmonics and again, clearer. After that, it was just treating it like a standup bass.

And I have no idea why. But damn, I am using this trick forever. 😀

Apparently I gained a second passport by voice acting

Remember that voice-acting gig I got last year? The project is finally out, so I can talk about it:

Destiny: A Tale of Unicorn Wings

I’ve only listened to it once so far, and had a small power outage in the middle (lol, windstorms) but – honestly, I’m really impressed, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. I’ve been following HeyLasFas on Bandcamp for a couple of years now, and he does really solid and often quite inventive work.

Destiny is a two-hour concept album/progressive rock opera, but I don’t think you need to know the background to follow the story, or need to follow the story to like the music.

Also, I’m pleased to say I was not left on the cutting room floor. Along with a bunch of other people, I am:

Dara Korra’ti – Citizen of Equestria

So I’m basically an extra in a crowd scene, but it’s a start! 😀 I have lines – again, in a crowd, so barely audible in with the mix – and therefore a voice acting credit! Go me! XD And thanks to HeyLasFas for including me, it was great fun.

Also, as a Citizen of Equestria, I presume this means I have an Equestrian passport now. Awesome. Take that, Conrad Black!

Oh, if you’re looking for the latest on the petition-to-SFWA pratfail – the new round involves threats to sue the internet and unwise protestations against “the Young” – here y’go. It’s hilarious, but then I try to be serious and constructive for a while, with genuine intent. It won’t do any good, but hey – I can but try.

a friday of followups

Is anybody else getting like eight million pieces of breast pump spam? I sure am. Akismet isn’t aware of this campaign yet, either, because it’s all going into the moderation queue. Most of it is normal, but a subset of it has informed me about a fetish I had not previously thought to contemplate, and which I will contemplate as little as possible in the future.

Saturday we have Sarah Kellington of Pinniped coming in to lend us her fiddle talents on one of our tracks – weather permitting, of course, which it may well not. Mixing and engineering work is moving along nicely; Ellen Eades (whose Facebook page appears to be unlinkable) was in for another round of recording on Tuesday, and I’ve been doing the pleasantly-simple comping and edits on that.

I had another follow-up with the surgeon, it went well; thankfully, that’s all I have to say about that this time. Even if all goes well, I won’t have proper vision back for three months, but it’s better than going blind. At least I’m getting work done!

If you missed it, I posted a final hint post for the Mystery Instrument, here.

Finally, the only new thing I’ve seen today on the petition-to-SFWA flap is Kate Paulk rewriting history so fast the TARDIS can’t keep up. There’s nothing really new in it, but there it is for you. There are several other trackbacks at the Radish Review post that reported it first, if you’re really interested in following what are hopefully the last trailings of this gruesome farce.

eta: If you’re new to this controversy, An Embarrassing Stumble Towards Irrelevancy and A Horrible Group of People should give you some background; plus, there are many links in comments. The followup post is What is Being Lost, posted Monday, 17 February 2014.

eta2: Jim Hines just posted what he hopes is his wrap-up piece on this mess. He tries to explain what the people signing it had to have thought. I cannot get there from here; you have to actively ignore far too much of what actually happened, and give far too few damns about the racism and sexism permeating the petition, the petitioner’s history of awfulness, and the insistent (and, again, horrible) rewriting of history. There is a petition that could’ve been written which would have me believing all of this; hell, there might’ve been one I could support. But not this one, not this way, not this path. I don’t like saying it, but for me, if you signed that thing – and stand by it – those bridges are still pretty damn burned.

eta3: Damn, this thing is the gift that just keeps on giving, isn’t it? What is Being Lost, wherein I take several shots but then attempt to be serious and constructive, because honestly, this is just sad now.


Last week, I posted a couple of clips from a work-in-progress, including a mystery bass instrument.

The mystery bass instrument sounds like a double-bass (a.k.a. orchestral standup bass) but is not that at all. I processed it to sound like that, thanks to an accidental discovery, so I encouraged people to guess what it might’ve been originally. I even made it a contest.

We’ve had a lot of guesses! But nobody’s there yet. This is the final hint post, and I’ll give you two hints:

1. If you’ve listened to my recordings, you have heard this instrument before.
2. It is not bowed. Not even in this recording. It just sounds like it is.

Here’s where you can listen to the tracks. Winner still gets one free download of anything on my bandcamp site, including the current work-in-progress – the Free Court of Seattle soundtrack – once it’s released.

Actual answer goes up Monday, if nobody guesses by then. Reply at the band site with answers, please!

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