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Category Archives: Celtic Avalon

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!

Heather Dale at the piano


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!

Celtic Ableton

All of the existing material that is to be included in Heather Dale‘s “Celtic Avalon” project has now been exported from the various DAW formats it was in and imported into Ableton, where I can slice, dice, compose, expose, impose & hopefully repose for the next several months.

Ableton is an amazing system, but it is designed primarily for oontsa oontsa music, and as such is not a huge fan of ritardandi and rubati. Heather, on the other hand, loves the expressive tempi. So I’m going to be getting my hands very dirty indeed with tempo maps and such. Because of course it can’t just *go*, it has to have a click that the band can work with.

At the same time as this, I’d rather just be mucking about with Max4Live, learning all the awesome things I can make it do for this show. But nooooooo, I have to go do practical real-world things with deadlines. Hmph.