/* */

A New And Also Very Old Song

[mp3t track=”https://bendeschamps.com/MP3S/Dream_Of_Rhonabwy.mp3″ title = “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!

[mp3t track=”https://bendeschamps.com/MP3S/Decay_To_Truth.mp3″ title=”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 😉

Studio Fingers

We’ve been in the studio for two fairly glorious days now… we’ve done all the acoustic guitar, upright and electric bass, drums, piano and lead vocal parts for 14 (or is it 15?) songs now. My fingers are extremely sore, and my left index and pinky fingers (the ones that get most of the workout playing upright bass) are definitely swollen, but the record is really falling into place. Today we are doing strings, backing vocals, electric guitar and maybe mandolin. And when all this is done, I get to mix it (although I’m going to take a few days’ break before I tackle that!). Then I’m getting back to my solo stuff. When I can move my fingers again 😉

Jim "With Hair" Casson

The Drum Cave

(I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to include a promo shot from the Paleolithic era from Jim’s website. Look at that lustrous hair! Those sensitive eyes! Swoon, ladies, swoon.)

Spent the day hanging out with an old friend, Jim Casson (yes, the Jim Casson from “Sandwich” and other assorted songs from my site, as well as several Heather Dale albums), in his drum cave, rehearsing for our new album. Jim’s a real pro, a studio drummer from back when men were men, women were women and drummers were not allowed in polite society. Aside from working through all the charts in record time (see what I did there? Huh huh huh?) Jim showed us a video from his latest solo album, and it was absolutely amazing so I wanted to share it with everybody. So check it out, and then go buy the damn record already!


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!

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of Sandwiches And Things

[mp3t track=”https://bendeschamps.com/MP3S/Sandwich.mp3″]

So, you might wonder – especially if you’ve purchased a Patron Pack and are worried that I’m going to abscond with your money without delivering 50+ precious mp3s – where the hell have I been? No new song for weeks! Well, the unfortunate truth of being a producer & session player for other people (as well as wearing Numerous Other Hats) is that one’s solo projects tend to take a back seat. But never fear, I have some new compositions I’m working on at the moment, of a very spacy nature, as well as some trad material I’m just waiting to record with the right people (and next week we’ll have the whole band together, so that seems like an ideal time for a session…) But for now, I thought I’d give you one of the strangest tracks I ever wrote with James Clitheroe. The lyrics are a snapshot of his truly deranged mind, the music was some of the most challenging I’ve ever worked on, from a production and recording standpoint – and recording that mayonnaise sound, well, may I just say that was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever done in the studio, and I was sorely tempted to bury the microphone after the session. You’ll see why.


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.