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Category Archives: Solo Project

This Is How We Play

Play This Is How We Play
One of the stranger tracks I recorded for The Korea Project… not that any of them *weren’t* strange. We had to work hard to time that can opening sound! Had to be very authentic… good Canadian micro-brew… and, well, you can’t do another take until you’ve finished the first can… I’m surprised there are no out-takes from the session of us singing “Take Off (To the Great White North)”. I guess I turned off the recorder in time.

So take off, eh? Hoser.

Tatiana Freeway

Play Tatiana Freeway

Before you ask, I have absolutely no idea what the title means. I just know that this song was a lot of fun to write and even more fun to play live, but I haven’t played it live in about 14 years. We certainly took the music seriously, but we had a huge amount of fun with the profound silliness of it all.
Kev Perry was the leader of the band, which I think started out called Cathode Ray Emission, and evolved to CRMission (this is before CRMs were a thing, I guess), before becoming Xoo, which continues to this day. We’re currently working on a Xoo spinoff project, which is to be more spacey, less rocky, but as always it’s a case of finding the time to pick up instruments!

Oh and please don’t forget to go to The Music Page and buy a copy of this and many other fine songs so I can afford some gourmet Kraft Dinner. Which is now officially just called KD. Sigh. I suppose some expensive Dijon ketchup is too much to ask for?

Notes From The Secret Laboratory

Where have I been? This is a question that keeps coming up, isn’t it?

This time, it’s pretty straightforward. As you probably know, at Amphis Music we’ve got a lot of projects going on at the moment; we’ve just sent the new album, Imagineer, in to the factory. Actually, it’s been printed and is available for sale, but only if you’re at Pennsic, and so I haven’t even seen it yet. We’re also just weeks away from filming Queens of Avalon, which is both exciting and terrifying, and I’m not just talking about the budgeting…

So have I been making any music? Well, three of the songs on Imagineer are mine, which is pretty cool (including the title track! How cool is that? Although due to a problem with the liner notes, you wouldn’t know it to see…) There’s also the soundtrack/score for Queens of Avalon, of course. And a ton of experimental work that hasn’t seen the light of day yet, simply because it’s not ready. I’ve been working with ChucK and Csound and Max/MSP to generate new and strange sounds. That’s been a ton of fun. There is a new collaboration with an old collaborator, Kev Perry (of Xoo and Assassins fame/infamy), which has received fewer hours than it deserves, and a number of sessions that are ahem not moving as quickly as they ought, but I’m hoping to put some more time in with them this week.

I’ve also been doing a lot of mundane, boring work. I want to have the Heather Dale Store back up and running before we officially release Imagineer, and that requires a bunch of challenging but frustrating MySQL work, for which I am completely untrained, but when have I ever let that get in my way? The new look of the store – and the rest of the site – I’m quite proud of, actually. And as is always the case when I work on a project like this, I get to learn more about my favourite editor, emacs, and the cool things it can do. Actually, I’ve been using emacs for almost all the projects I’ve been working on. It turns out that emacs has an excellent major mode for ChucK, which allows me to code live music inside my editor, which is damn cool if you ask me. Which, by now, you probably know better than to do, because it has become apparent to most people that I’m just a very tall gnome with a laboratory of things that go gurgle and klonk and occasionally blow my eyebrows off. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I’m also working on some very interesting video projects at the moment. Using Max/MSP/Jitter, I’m developing a framework for live video in our concerts; this will include (I hope) playback of pre-made video, live cameras, and generative video responding to the music & the crowd. Will it all explode? Oh, it’s exploded many times already. But my metaphorical eyebrows grow back quickly. Will it be cool? I surely hope so. Will we be able to afford it? Well, that’s sort of the complicated part at the moment, as live video requires projectors and screens and lighting and computer hardware and stuff, so I’m going to have to put on my scavenging hat and see what I can find. I’m also privately nursing the hope that I can make videos for every song on the new Heather Dale album, and while I’m doing that, sneak in some songs from my solo material – including one song that some of you have heard in an unofficial capacity, but which I haven’t released yet, because it so desperately needs a video. Suffice to say, I sometimes have nightmares about buying a white Toyota.

OK, I’d better get back to doing that stuff they pay me the big bucks for (in this case, ruining databases left and right). See you all soon!

Rosetta Suite Part III

Play Rosetta Suite Part 3
A tiny, dutiful voice in the black depths of space, cheerful despite the friendless void. And yes, Bill, you can also find parts I and II on the Music Page 🙂

A New And Also Very Old Song

Play Dream of Rhonabwy
For a variety of reasons that I won’t trouble you with, I’ve been having trouble finding time to get into the studio and work on my own material, and the inspiration to come up with anything at all. But I’ve also had trouble finding some of the material that was in progress… and a couple of days ago I found the hard drive with the sessions I recorded last year with John Stadtlander. O frabjous day! So here is an oldish song, with a brand-new treatment, about a very old story indeed.

About Bloody Time!

Play Decay To Truth

Hey look!  A NEW SONG! OK, so it’s not that new, as it was written in 1997 and recorded in 2001, by my old band CRMission (which remains extant as Xoo…) Anyway, a marvellous bit of gritty space rock, sort of a comet in the rough. I still love Ruth Harper’s interpretation of my lyrics (that’s right, I wrote lyrics! And they’re not about toilets!) and Kev Perry’s spacy, meandering guitar. That big crunchy bass sound was pretty excellent too… too bad someone stole my damn P-bass. Oh well.

 

Computer Music

My last few weeks (aside from a stint making a new Heather Dale record, and then a week taking care of my brother’s farm) have been largely spent devouring everything I can learn about computer music. This has involved a couple of substantial tomes – the Computer Music Tutorial and The CSound Book, for starters – and more PDFs and inline/online tutorials and manuals than you can shake a stick at. In a way it feels like I’ve found an amazing toolbox and am now looking for a problem to solve with it…

As my faithful reader(s) know, I do a lot of my composition and production work using Ableton Live. In a number of ways it’s a gateway drug, since it opened my eyes to the possibilities afforded by Max/MSP, and thence PureData and CSound and a pile of other things. But of course it’s not all roses.

For one, Ableton & Max/MSP are commercial software. For the most part I have no problem with this – I certainly don’t object to paying real money for carefully written, well-maintained software, which Ableton and Max both are. My main concern with unfree software isn’t the price, it’s the end-of-life and planned-obsolescence situations. I’ve been burned by EOL’d and obsolescent music hardware and software often enough that I’m a bit gunshy. Also, I like OSS because I like to tinker and prod at things and find out how they work. I wouldn’t know nearly as much about fiddles and guitars and pianos and amplification if I hadn’t had the chance to take them apart and see what makes them go (sometimes they tick… sometimes they go back together with all the same pieces… sometimes, not so much). But “no user serviceable parts inside” or a closed code base just irritates me.

So here’s the dilemma: Do I keep working with Max/MSP, which is beautiful software and integrates exceptionally well into Ableton (via Max4Live), and accept that I’ll be paying for often only marginal improvements and dealing with closed source, but a big, healthy community, or do I put the time into learning PureData, which can do pretty much all the same things, but is less pretty, less tightly integrated, and which is open source? And either way, do I put the time in to figuring out the insanely récherché MSP objects, or just learn the (equally insane but possibly more flexible) CSound objects?

And why don’t I just use the perfectly good synths offered by Ableton and Reason, and my remaining physical synths, and get on with it? Well, the answer to that is obvious – I have to learn and explore or I just lose interest entirely. So that’s not even a real question.

The real question, though, is “what am I going to make at the end of all this?” And I still don’t know the answer to that, any more than I understood why I took apart my first Gibson two weeks after getting it, or my latest amp 3 hours after getting it. I just have to take things apart and see how they tick in order to have creative ideas about how to use them*.

 

*This does not, I remind myself, extend to date night 😉

Heather Dale at the piano

MIA

Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?

I haven’t put any new music up in weeks! It’s horrible! Have I abandoned music completely?

Not at all, mes amis. I have instead been working on two huge projects, and a host of smaller ones. The two big ones are Queens of Avalon, the new Heather Dale crowdfunded musical, which I’m sure you already know all about. The other one is a new Heather Dale album, about which I’m not saying much, but it’s a lot of fun to work on and we’re going to be in the studio in the next two weeks making it happen. So today I’m writing fiddle parts and string parts (yes, there is overlap there, but in this context I’m calling the fiddle parts the more rhythmic and independent solo violin parts with a traditional sound, and the string parts are the sections where there is cello, viola, and violin. So there). I’ll probably have to get Heather to write them out neatly, or typeset them with Lilypond, because my musical handwriting is even worse than my day-to-day handwriting, if you can imagine that. I’ve been a musician for 30 years and I still can’t draw a quarter note rest…

Will there be more solo music? Yes! Soon! But given the cost of studio time, we have to be very ready indeed for this next bit, so I’m going to have my head down labouring in the note mines. See you soon!

Snarky T-Shirts!

Because, in truth, nobody likes it when I speak 🙂 Since we make ’em ourselves, they’re available in pretty much whatever colour & size you’d like… just add a note to the order & we’ll make it happen!

  • Apparently some people want just a shirt. A shirt about how nobody likes it when I speak. Should I be offended? Maybe. (In case you can't see, the shirt says "Nobody likes it when I speak." And it's drawn by Rich Morris of Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, who is awesome. Go read his stuff, seriously. Watch out for the angry dwarf.)