Sound Designing for Modern Things®

Just caught this over at Create Digital Music:

http://cdm.link/2018/09/jaguar-richard-devine/

I half-jokingly predicted this over a decade ago that as silent (i.e.: Electric) transportation becomes more and more prevalent Sonic Artistes could ply their wares by providing different ‘soundtracks’ and ‘sonic signatures’ for the drivers and passengers. Richard Devine to the vanguard. 

(But Srsly Richard? A Flash-based website? In 2018?)

I’m personally holding out for laser and or particle-beam devices to come of age. That’s my Sonic Specialty. 🙂

Anywho, always good to read about, and something to think about for the Modern Sound Designer.

Izotope RX 7

Izotope dropped RX 7 today, adding Music Rebalancing, Vocal Removal/Isolation, and a new Repair Assistant to its suite of audio correction tools.

RX is one of those pieces of software that I don’t use often, but is a lifesaver when you need it for fixing dialog issues or removing anomalies like extraneous sounds or clicks or pops (Audiocasters should look into this if you haven’t already just for the Breath Control feature alone). It’s a nice update to a solid audio repair and enhancement toolkit, with tiers available from the casual user to the professional audio, movie, or television Post-Production engineer.

All the info you need here.

What really intrigues me is though is the latest update to their Insight metering program, which is unparalleled for measuring Loudness (LU), Sound Field, Spectrogram, and other audio analysis functions. Insight is not something for everyone (although the new version is less than half the price of the original), but for those of us who need accurate reporting of audio spectra it’s money well spent.

These updates are happening yearly from the Isotope crew, and it’s great to see consistent for all all of their products. 🙂

Roland Boutique TR-08: The Missing Manual

Having owned four of the original TR-808’s, I can tell you that the original manual was packed with information and explanation. Today’s trend of poster-sized, multi-fold, multi-lingual instruction sheets pales by comparison. Even a downloadable PDF from the website is better than what comes in the box (usually…) 🙂

Sure, you can head over to the Tube of You’s and dig for some visual info and tips and tricks (and twelve gazillion unboxing videos), but having a well-crafted quick and handy guide to look if you get stuck or don’t understand something is an absolute necessity with a lot of music (and tech) gear.

I love my little TR-08, and although it operates very much like it’s older brother it does have some new tricks up its sleeve so I have to dig out that poster to remember what they do and how to get them to function. This will become my new go-to for that – thanks Sunshine Jones!

Go here for the manual, and you can also click the ‘non-fiction’ tab in his Nav Bar to find more Missing Manuals and other goodies. What great gifts to the community.

Kudos to Matrixsynth for the find.

The Secretive Genius (Redux)

In honor of the Scottworks Festival starting today in Los Angeles, I’m reposting this from my old Squarespace site. As a great admirer of Raymond Scott I really wish I could be out there for this, but just couldn’t find the time to break away. Hopefully can make the next one… 🙂

The Secretive Genius

Around 30 years ago, we did not have the Alexandrian Library that we call the Intertubes. Back then (aka The Stone Ages) we had to rely on face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and Trade Mags to collect and share information. As a young programmer and engineer I would spend pretty much all my downtime pouring through Mix, EQ, Electronic Musician, and Keyboard Magazine checking out the latest gear, deciphering DIY projects, and hyperexamining studio and stage setups for any tidbits I could apply to my work. Like Scotty reading technical manuals for relaxtion in the original Star Trek series, this was my decompression, my centering, my moments to breathe. I still do this today. 🙂

But I digress… One of the more interesting things to be found was Keyboard Mag’s Soundpages. These were Flexi-Disc records attached to the middle of the rag with excerpts of artists’ work or some product or effect processor demo tracks (nice listing here, and Peter Kirn talks about the Flexi-Discs here). They were a nice accompaniment to a featured article or a product review, and at least from me garnered a quick listen before being tossed into the dustbin. But one month changed my musical life significantly.

I knew about all of the big players in the Electronic Music Industry – Moog, Buchla, Oberheim, Smith, Linn, Palm, Rossum and Wedge, and a good bit about the musicians themselves – Walter/Wendy Carlos, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Stockhausen, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, as well as the modern wave of Rhodes, Clarke, Gore/Wilder, et. al., so I figured I had a pretty good handle on the ‘Scene’ so to speak. But with this particular Soundpage I was introduced to someone I had never heard of before. And I wasn’t alone.

Raymond Scott was a composer and bandleader who had quite a bit of success from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, and most likely would have been relegated to subchapters of the history books for just that if it weren’t for one tiny little other thing: he was creating and implementing electronics for music creation as far back as the mid 1940’s. I can’t even begin to dig into Raymond’s incredible life in this Post, so go check the official source and poke around if you want a lot more information. There is a lot of it.
This particular Keyboard Soundpage was showing off one of Scott’s most impressive creations, The Electronium (that’s it in the picture at the top – gorgeous, isn’t it?) The Electronium was not just some ‘bloop and bleep’ noisemaker as was common for electronic instruments at the time – it was an automated composition station as well. Take a moment and think about that for a bit. Scott had dreamed up and was developing – in 1959 – what our Industry took for granted just 30 years later with our MIDI modules and sequencers and still utilize with computers and DAW’s today. This alone is just completely mind-blowing, and when the article went on to talk about the many, many other inventions he had developed, I was hooked. Who was this guy and why am I finding out about this now? It wasn’t just the sounds that came off that Soundpage that beguiled me, but his musical style did too. I had to know more, but back then there wasn’t much to find.

Thanks to Jeff, Irwin, and Gert-Jan over at the Raymond Scott Archives, his music and history have become much more known to the masses thanks to their website and tireless devotion to all things Raymond Scott (thanks for all you do kids), but with all of the information and recordings and patents and writings that they have uncovered throughout these many years, there is still one big unanswered question to me: Why there was someone actively forging the future of music, and yet it took until after his death for any of this to come to light? Why was Raymond Scott such the Secretive Genius?

Although Scott himself expressed regret about this in his writings (he admitted that he was probably ‘too secretive’ and ‘worried about people stealing his ideas’), I personally believe that he was so enamored by the technology of it all – the ‘what-if’s’, the tinkering, the endless possibilities, that the very idea of finishing something and getting it out there just wasn’t as exciting to him. 

I think a lot of Artists have the same issues.

Just imagine what might have been if Scott had put The Electronuim on the market. Or the Clavivox (which he advertised for sale, but I don’t think any were actually sold), Or the Fascination Series (2018 Update: Rebel Technologies is making one! Give to Daddy!). Or his Circle Machine Sequencer. Would Electronic Music have been as commonplace in the 1960’s as it is today? What would his ideas have spawned in the minds of creators like Dave Smith or Ikutaro Kakehashi? (Raymond worked with Bob Moog, so we can safely assume that some of his ideas found their way there, however miniscule they might have been.) What we create and listen to today might be radically different, yet surprisingly familiar.

Nice thought experiment, and well worth thinking about this regarding your own work. Are you a Secretive Genius too? Are you too worried about others ‘stealing your ideas’ or too caught up in the tinkering that getting things out is the last thing in your mind? I know I’m guilty…

Yes, there’s always the possibility that after you slip off This Mortal Coil that your archives will be heralded as the work of ‘forward-thinking brilliance’ just as much as it could be panned as ‘run-of-the-mill insipidness’. Neither of which would matter, as you are neither there to bask in the adulation nor defend your body of work. 
As I’ve said before, you are currently in the perfect time to be an Artist. Stop being so clever and just get it out there – your audience is waiting. Would Raymond Scott agree? From the regret he expressed in his later years, I believe he would.

This Post was inspired by the release of Raymond Scott’s Three Willow Park on June 30th (2017) on CD, Vinyl (!?!) and most Streaming Services. 3WP (like its predecessor Manhattan Research, Inc.) is absolute joy to listen to not only for the achievements of Raymond’s engineering and musical prowess, but for how much he predicted the electronic music that would follow. Again, keep in mind that it’s very likely that nobody heard what Scott was doing (other than a few 50s/60s era commercials or Warner Brothers cartoon adaptations by Carl Stalling), so if you hear a bit of Devo, or Metamatic-era John Foxx, or early Techno, then just smile and think of what could have been… 🙂

Universal Audio Apollo-X Interfaces

Hits all the buttons: Thunderbolt 3, Unison preamps, scary dynamic range, superb quality, immaculate sound. 

Yeah, they’re expensive and the plugins are pricy too (although UA runs lots of sales over the course of the year and you can pick up some great deals), but as an Apollo Twin owner I have to say that it’s one of the best investments I’ve made for audio interfacing – you do get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a studio upgrade you should be looking at these.

I’m betting they’ll have a desktop version (Twin-type chassis or an update of the Arrow) soon which might be better for ‘the rest of us’ 🙂

More info here

Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long, long time…

Some Old Fossils (like yours truly) may remember that back in the ‘90’s and early 2000’s I was creating music under the moniker Pimp Daddy Nash. Not the best choice in tags for current times, but it’s just a name (not an occupation) and as a part of my history I can’t completely disassociate myself from it. So why the Star Wars reference in the title?

Let’s rewind to Tuesday morning (post-Laborious Day hangover) as I set the coffeemaker to ‘stun’ and check my phone for any updated audiocasts as per my usually early morning routine.

A new Space Javelin – cool.

Haven’t heard of Space Javelin? Neither had I until a few weeks back at the recommendation of a friend.

As a reader of this blurg you know that Music is what I do and most of what I read and listen to and write about revolves around that. But I also keep up with a lot of technology. Modern music (and pretty much everything else) is completely tech-reliant, so you need to know how (and why) your tools work. Teaching music and music technology ups that ante, so I have to stay as informed as I can. We never stop learning.

I’m also a Mac Geek. Have been since the mid-80’s. I’ve used Windows and other OS’s, but the Mac is what I know best so I just go with it until it doesn’t do what I want it to so anymore (which has yet to show up). So call me a FanBoii if you want…

I love Audiocasts in general, and I’ve gone through a lot of Apple-based ones over the years. And I’ve grown tired of most of them. John Gruber’s interviews are always fantastic and his reporting is thoughtful and deliberate – he doesn’t go in for hype, always stays professional, and has been an inspiration to Casters and Bloggers alike (myself included). Rene Richie does excellent work over at iMore, but his Vector audiocast is what I prefer from him – concise, well-crafted dailies of what happened today in Techland along with the odd long-listen interview. Both I highly recommend if you need info from that sphere.

The others (and it’s got to be in the dozens) have been dumped into the ‘Unsubscribe’ bin because I either tired of the schtick (i.e. ‘why won’t they just do what I want them to because I know what I’m doing better than a half-century old trillion-dollar corporation’) or they just sounded better when I was passively listening while doing something else – I wasn’t actively engaged with what they were talking about, it was just noise in the background. This last one is the real problem out there, and not just on the tech side. Creativity is hard, and making it work over the long haul with quality and integrity without sacrificing your soul to mediocrity takes skill. 

Hmm… kinda sounds like a lot of the modern music business, but that’s a topic for another time. 🙂

Everyone’s time is valuable and everyone’s interests vary wildly, but the power of audiocasts (much like radio) is that it can be an active or passive medium. Video, on the other hand, pretty much demands your complete attention – it’s hard to vacuum the house and binge watch at the same time. So I have a few shows that I put on for those ‘passive’ moments or just some quick entertainment, but when I want to be informed I want content that is not only as accurate as possible, but has been well thought out and presented without spin, or subversive personal bias, or attention-robbing fluff. I want to commit my time to those – to listen, to think, to understand.

Like Gruber and Richie, Space Javelin is one of those that fits all of the above on the Mothership® side. Charles and Mike have their opinions of course, but they temper them with common sense and technical expertise. That they also entertain on top of this makes for an hour of easy to listen to and easy to understand info on (mostly) Apple and Mac-based Technology. Because of this it’s now become my 3rd ‘permanent’ Mac Audiocast, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for some weekly analysis that is smart and topical on that front.

So where was I again?

Oh yeah… If you listen to Episode 102 of Space Javelin, you’ll hear a shoutout to yours truly, although in that Nom de Musique I almost never use and rarely hear these days. I almost spit out that first swig of java when I heard it mentioned, and actually started the whole thing from the beginning to make sure I wasn’t having one of those lucid dreams you hear about.

Nope, it was there. Plain as the fast-rising sun here in Disneyhell. 🙂

Which leads to the big question: exactly why they mentioned me (or at least a facet of me) was a bit of a mystery. Perhaps some crazy new technology that allows personal podcasts? Had they hacked my player? Did that latest update of Castro do something they weren’t talking about? Some more Facetiousbook® lunacy?!!?? 

Uh, no. But still quite clever. 🙂

Once I checked out SJ about a week or so ago, I did go back into their archives and listened to a lot of the past episodes since that gives me a good sense of their style , substance, and most of all – are they consistent? (Spoiler: Yes. Yes they are.) So I’m sure their logs showing a bunch of listens from this part of the globe triggered some crazy data spikes. But there are a lot of people in this ‘burg – how could you narrow that down to a single person?

Well, Charles was very much a part of the Orlando music tribe way back 20ish years ago, and although I don’t formally recall him I’m sure I our paths crossed a few times. I’m sure we had mutual friends back then as well.

Charles was (and perhaps still is) a graphic designer. I know this because the person who gave me the reference to Space Javelin is also a graphic designer. I also know many other GD’s in town and scattered across the globe. Like my friend who gave me the listening recommendation. 

So the answer is that it’s a Small planet. And also a bit of clever networking. 

Think about that last sentence for a second.

Have you figured it out?

It’s Networking kids.

I got a quick blurb on their audiocast and now they get me to evangelize for them on my blog. 

Can you make that happen with what you do? (Spoiler: Yes. Yes you can.)

So check Space Javelin out – they’ve earned it. 🙂

Bonus: SJ also has a ‘sister’ audiocast on All Things Gaming and non-Apple tech called The Hammercast that pops up in their feed as well, so that might be more up your alley and worthy of checking them out if you’re a different kind of Fanboii. 🙂

Until next time…