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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Collapsing Elbows is done!

I just finished the score for "Collapsing Elbows." Or course, I still have some minor editing to do but every note is on the page. The next phase after the final edit of the piano score is to add the instructions for mixing the electronics live. Once that's done, hopefully, I won't be too far from purchasing that Mac Book Pro that I've been in dire need of for my entire life and then Tania and I can sit down and rehearse the piece. So, upon finishing this evening, I threw my hands up in excitement. That's one more thing accomplished this year. Baby steps. That's how I finished the piece after all. By cutting it up into chunks. That and slowing it down and playing certain selections back looped. It was a long hard task it seemed mainly because of the rhythms. I improvised some crazy stuff. Complex septuplet rhythms and triplet 32nd notes all over the place, plus multiple meter changes. I'm still deciding if I'm going to cut out barlines for some of the measures. There's still more work to do to make this score readable, etc.

Anyway, remember my new website? That's still happening. We had some setbacks but fairly soon there should be something up. We're going with wordpress and we've come up with some great ideas for driving traffic to the site. I'll be blogging software and music tutorials as often as I can. I'm also going to be cross-linking the site everywhere and customizing my look on myspace and youtube. Excitement and anticipation again.

Meanwhile, this New York winter is giving me seasonal affective disorder or something. Okay, not really but I find myself craving sunlight and heat these days. The temperature was in the single digits the other night, colder than it got last winter, yet that's not what's been affecting me. Hell, I managed that just fine (the trick? thermal shirts). What really gets me is the angle of the sun. It's so low these days that I'm not sure I'm getting any vitamin D from its rays. I'm still not at the point where I loathe New York City winters. It's pretty grueling but I have this faint memory of what the city is like in the summer time that's going to get me through these next few months.

I'm not losing perspective though. In fact, I was reading stuff from my old blog that I had before I started this one and found that it helps me sometimes when I feel far away from the reasons I moved up here. I'm mostly scanning for entries that highlighted all the uncertainty that characterized the months leading up to my move. I enjoy the perspective I get from seeing how I was back then and what I expected would happen, the things that turned out when I thought they wouldn't. It's like much needed entertainment but also a reminder that things do work out. Also, it serves the function sometimes of reminding me of the things I was planning to do that may never have gotten done. Perhaps I'll get back on track with some of those things this year as I plan for the upcoming tasks on my plate.

For now, I'm going to go write a few more emails and watch TV because I'm tired of sitting in front of this computer. Daoust: out!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An entry where almost every paragraph has a sentence that begins or ends with "I've decided..."

Checking in, I've spent another long week hammering away at the notation for Collapsing Elbows and am pleased to say I've almost notated every measure. That's not to say I think I'm finished or anything. I'm going to go back through and add a layer to it that wasn't there in the recording, I've decided. Because, why not, after all? If I can improve upon what's there, I will. What I will do though first, before I tweak anything in the notation, is go through and notate all the instructions for the electronic part. That's going to be fun. Basically, there is going to be one mic on the piano going into my lap top and two channels of processed audio coming out. One will be an Absynth patch I used which will fade in and out gradually at different key points of the piece and the other will be a ring modulation patch from Guitar Rig that will fade in and out and pan left and right more aggressively at the climax of the piece. So I essentially just need to notate simply when that will happen, i.e. which measure, pan how far left/right and what should the volume of the channel be. This information thankfully is saved in the project file from the original mix of the piece.

Hopefully, I will finish this before the end of the month and Tania and I can get to rehearsing it. Meanwhile, the electronic music project gets underway as well. I've been taking breaks from notating the other piece to work on one of the first remixes. It's a song called Accidentally on Purpose that I wrote in 2001 and still actually like. Right now, I'm deciding what synth/guitar patches I will use for the song. I think it could go a long way so I've set to working on it first out of all the others. When the remix is done, I've decided I'm going to put the song up for free download for a period of time so you can all have it.

The idea is to give you all an idea of what this project will be before I go out and start playing these songs. I thought long and hard about using Rocket Hub but then I realized it just isn't feasible and might actually be a waste of time. After all, I want to get out and play as soon as possible so any delays have to be considered. Is it really necessary, I asked myself, to get the best of the best equipment-wise and pay for studio time when I can do the bulk of production at home. Plus, I sat down and looked at my equipment and I decided what I would need, bare minimum, to get started. It's not much. The laptop goes without saying but that's an investment that I'm comfortable with paying for up front. Then I realized, my M Audio Axiom 49 can do just about everything I need it to do as far as triggering samples and twiddling knobs and faders. I just need to really dissect the manual and figure out how to make it do those things that I know I'll be able to do with the hardware controllers I wanted to get, the Maschine and the MPC40. Beyond that, all I'd need is a MIDI footswitch like this one. I'm interested in being able to switch settings, control volume and tweak aspects of the sound with my feet since I'll have my hands full with the guitar. This seems to have all I really need for that. I considered getting the actual Guitar Rig pedal, called Rig Kontrol but it's more expensive and comes with software I already have. First review I read of the Behringer peadal the person mentioned using it with Guitar Rig, so there you go. Anecdotal evidence. Anyway, the Rig Kontrol pedal has fewer buttons on it and only one expression pedal.

As I acquire these pieces of my equipment setup I'll start to be able see what else I need and I'll simultaneously be able to start figuring out how I'm going to use this stuff to realize all of my songs. I've decided that there should be a healthy mix of old and new on this first album as well. Not having to wait until I acquire everything will help me to get started writing the new ones with a mind to how I'll be performing them. And something about not needing so much equipment will help me to simplify things as well.

Being able to work in this fashion is more important to me than worrying about getting the best equipment and fronting money for a lot of it. Maybe when I'm more established, Rocket Hub might be feasible for some small things like a music video or a more professional EP. Right now, I'm focused on making this a reality, however that happens.

I've also decided that I'm going to be submitting some stuff this year and that it's time to start working on the choral piece for the Brooklyn Unitarian Church...but more on all that later. Gotta go for now!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Projects and their influence on my ability to sleep...

Back in New York after a brief stay in Raleigh with my folks, I'm up at an ungodly hour, for me, (1pm) after having worked an overnight shift. Usually I sleep until 3pm or so on the days I do overnight shifts...I shouldn't say usually. It's been happening more often than not that I end up waking up for some reason or another around noon and am unable go back to sleep. So, I get up and I dive into work. Because nine times out of ten thinking about my work is what keeps me from going back to sleep.

On the docket today: more work on the Collapsing Elbows notation project, preliminary work on the songs I'm remixing for the electronic music project and exploring the Indaba music site since I just got upgraded to a pro membership as a Christmas present from my folks. So far all I've done on that last one is polish my profile a bit, added a few songs that weren't up there before and explored some of the groups.

As for Collapsing Elbows, I'm going to dive into that project first and try and regain some of the momentum I had last week. It's always hard to restart something that you've left alone for a while. People who exercise regularly and then have to stop for a few days might understand what I'm talking about. The hardest part about going back to jogging after a few days to a week off is getting yourself out of bed and saying, "I'm going to do it." Once you're out there jogging, you're good to go. The best thing I have going for me here is that I have already finished half of it and hopefully, with the number of repeated ideas in the piece, it shouldn't be that hard to make quicker progress on the last half. Plus, add to that the fact that I've honed my method over the past few weeks. I found a program called Transcribe that I can use to more easily slow down and loop portions of the audio file. Sure, I could do this with Sound Forge but it's a tedious process and I have no time for tedium.

Issues I've come across while working on this: it was improvised, so occasionally I'll get passages where I have no idea what I played and parsing out the notes and rhythms (especially where I play ppp, as in really quiet) becomes so difficult I have to decide to either do my best at transcribing something similar, or write something new. The latter is probably going to be my method for the last half that I have to complete. It's going to streamline the process for one if I make that decision now, plus, it has occurred to me that the final phase of this project is going to be going back and cleaning up the notation on the entire piece. I may find, while doing that, that I need to adjust some of the notation so that it makes sense to a performer. It's also occurred to me that I don't have to stick so strictly to what I played. To some extent, part of the appeal of this piece, for me, is that it is so free-form and uninhibited, unlike anything I've written to date. Capturing as much of that as possible is what's going to really make this piece still work, especially when it's performed live with electronics this April. I keep thinking, too, that eventually, if I give this piece to anyone else to perform, like in another city, where I can't be present, either for rehearsals or the performance itself, I may need to notate the electronic part somehow...in fact, that having been said, it's probably a good idea for me to do so anyway, because I'll most likely need to look at a score myself while we're performing and it would help to not have to read my scrawled handwriting on the score telling me when to fade in parts and when to pan. I've thought about writing a patch for Max/MSP or Reaktor that would automate all the mixing. However, that idea falls flat when you take into account the fact that every performer is going to play the piece differently and with so much rubato going on, it's probably a good idea to have the electronics done by a human.

So, those are all my thoughts on that right now. The electronic music project is getting exciting now, too. My mode right now is taking inventory basically and simultaneously doing research into how I can perform what I have and what new pieces I should write. The inventory is kind of a nice indicator of my progress over the years. I have some 25 songs, if not more, laying around. Fourteen from the days in college when I thought about going by the moniker "Automatic Head," six that are unfinished but that I feel I could still do something with and at least five new ones written this year. There are also songs that I've lost the project file for and will have to rewrite from scratch and countless others that are just shit that I have no idea what to do with. But having them all listed out, the ones I intend on working on, is a good starting point I think. What I'll do is, one by one, I'll open old project files and get working on them, revamping the drum sounds, song structure and synths that I use. I'll start a new folder for 2011 versions and save them as I go. Then, I'm going to have to start thinking about how to perform them.

I've got, in my possession, of the equipment I need, a guitar (obviously), several cables, a mic stand, my M Audio Axiom 49 keyboard controller, and...well, gee that's it. The MacBook Pro is next on the list with my work discount, immediately after a new audio interface to replace the shoddy Tascam interface I've been using (seriously after 3 months of owning the thing, the left channel output cut out all together and I had to mail it TEAC America in California for repair...a repair that was incomplete so I just gave up and worked around it, using the headphone jack when I wanted to mix). After that, I need some kind of MIDI foot controller and possibly a MIDI or USB hub to plug in extra devices that I may buy on down the line...like these for instance. I'll probably need at least an 8 channel hardware mixer, and I'm even thinking of getting a separate loop station for my guitar...possibly this one or something similar. Honestly, though, I think I may be able to achieve everything I need as far as being able to loop with a MIDI footswitch and software. And this brings to light a whole other discussion on whether to use all digital or to have some analog equipment as well. I won't get into that debate right now though, I will eventually have to at some point.

So you see, there's a lot to think about. When I get to a stopping point, I'll probably go back to Indaba music and do a little more exploring. For now, though, I'm going to actually get dressed and eat breakfast.