tom moody

Archive for the ‘music – tm’ Category

"Streets of Passive Aggression"

"Streets of Passive Aggression" [4.1 MB .mp3]

As noted previously, I've been working with the Tracktion digital audio workstation, which, amazingly for a commercial DAW, offers a Linux version in addition to the standard Mac & Cheese alternatives. My understanding is its JUCE code is designed to work with any OS, and, on Linux, integrates very well with the JACK audio standard.

I use looping MIDI files quite a bit in my autodidact-ish form of composing -- that is, listening to C2-F3-F2-A2-D3-A3-F3-D#3-C#3 (or whatever) over and over as I write the next part that plays in harmony or counterpoint to that. If I have to keep adjusting the loop markers to keep notes from disappearing -- as happens constantly with Ardour, I get frustrated and go read an e-book or something instead of working on music. Several people on the Linuxmusicians forum noted that Tracktion and Bitwig are "stable" in that regard, so I'm checking out the alternatives.

The good news is Tracktion-on-Linux is incredibly stable for long term editing work with MIDI and audio. It's superior to Cubase and Ableton in its ability to render loops "on the fly" (as they say) and place them in the timeline as you are working. It also has a better browser that allows you to quickly find and move samples from your PC into an open project window, or individual sample players.

The bad news, on Linux at least, is it doesn't handle third party plugins well. They tend to crash, or not have save-able presets. This forces you to use Tracktion plugins -- which are perfectly fine for most effects such as delay, reverb, compressor, limiter, but somewhat lacking for software synthesizer choices. Tracktion has a ROMpler-type sampler, that you can arrange in racks of multiple samplers, and that's what I used to make this track, pulling from my burgeoning, motley sample archive. (Many of these sound files originate "on the internet," including 808 kits, the Legowelt synth collection, and some truly gritty 8-bit "Streets of Rage" samples -- hat tip to kiptok for that last one, I think). The one softsynth used here, Helm (that chirping sound at the beginning and end) is pretty reliable as a plugin as long as you don't care about saving presets -- Tracktion remembers the settings for project, however.

So, for the moment, at least, am treating Tracktion as a self-contained instrument sitting on the PC -- like a virtual Octatrack -- until I get a better handle on the "plugin situation."

- tom moody

March 17th, 2017 at 9:54 am

Posted in linux diary, music - tm

"Nova's Elixir"

"Nova's Elixir" [3.5 MB .mp3]

Original title: "Softsynth Interaction." Have been learning the Tracktion digital audio workstation, which has a Linux version. Looping MIDI works there, where it's still buggy on Ardour. Tracktion-on-Linux is incredibly stable as long as you use their house plugins. Instead of an unfortunate limitation, am trying to think of it as fact of life and treat Tracktion as a self-contained instrument sitting on the PC -- like a virtual Octatrack -- that can do some interesting things.

Have not yet gone full-on Tracktion; most of this tune is made in Ardour with a combination of Ardour- and Tracktion-made loops.

The basic beat was done in Ardour with the LSP Plugins sampler instrument. The first two synth voices are also Ardour-made, employing (i) the Calf Monosynth and Harrison reverb running inside the Carla plugin host (which works fine except for the audible pop at the loop point -- the developer hasn't coded for that yet and it only affects monitoring, not the exported audio loop, but it's still annoying) and (ii) Loomer Aspect.

The other synth voices and beats are all sequenced in Tracktion using non-Tracktion plugins, then imported back into Ardour for a final mix. The synths are Loomer Aspect (a different patch), Helm and ZynAddSubFX. I got these working at about the 90% level -- I couldn't save presets or they might crash but it was enough to get some audio saved.

The challenge here was mastering. That beat has a very heavy bass kick that interacts badly with other tracks when you boost the gain for a "CD mix." To get it up to the same volume level as my other tracks without obvious distortion, I had to use the PSP Vintage Warmer on (sigh) Windows, which I was hoping to move away from. None of the Linux limiters I tried (including Tracktion's) could handle the job. If I was a pro mixing engineer I would fix this in the mix but it's beyond my skill set ATM. [/linux diary]

- tom moody

March 14th, 2017 at 7:52 am

Posted in linux diary, music - tm

from the vault: "Heyday" and "Pacific Scrim"

"Heyday (2017 Remix)" [6.2 MB .mp3]

"Pacific Scrim (2017 Remix)" [3.9 MB .mp3]

Dusted off these tunes from 2010 and 2011, respectively, and remixed them (as in editing out parts, compressing individual tracks, and making a louder "master").

The style is the rhythm-ambient stuff I was doing before I started getting more interested in crude songwriting/arranging. "Heyday" has a found speech sample from the art world that cracks me up, in an easily-amused sort of way.

"Dusting off" means "performing elaborate forensics" since both tunes were done on a Windows XP computer running Cubase 4 with UAD plugins. Trying to load the projects in Cubase 7.5 on Windows 7 meant the following didn't work: (i) Battery -- thanks, so much, Native Instruments, for not making Battery 4 backwards-compatible with Battery 2 (ii) Reaktor -- ditto for Reaktor 5 and 2, (iii) Waves compression plugins had to be substituted for the UAD. Half a day of fun, at least.

- tom moody

March 7th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

"Seven Parts"

"Seven Parts" [6.5 MB .mp3]

The Elektron Octatrack uses "parts" to store groups of samples that have been sliced or tweaked in various ways. Each part has a group of patterns that "trig" the samples.
Parts and patterns are stored in banks. The Arranger makes songs using patterns from various banks. This tune could be called "Seven Banks" but the main focus of the exercise was to seamlessly switch among various sample families stored in the parts.
The samples are mostly from live recordings of the SammichSID synth. That is, live in the sense of triggered by the Octatrack's MIDI channels and sampled in real time. Other sounds come from sample chains found on the internet and sliced, and some percussion from the samplv1 and a-fluidsynth synths, playing in Ardour (Linux version).
Playback from the Octatrack was then recorded in Ardour and then mastered (i.e., loudened).
The "tech-house" part at 1:12 is a fanfic nod to Antonelli Electr.

Update: Tweaks to the gain of one Part, and made the antiphonal section at 1:12 fully stereo (setting got lost on the first go); reposted.

- tom moody

February 28th, 2017 at 9:44 am

Posted in music - tm

"Esperklatsch Variation"

"Esperklatsch Variation" [4.6 MB .mp3]

Have been using the Elektron Octatrack wrong, which isn't entirely my fault, since the manual does a lousy job of explaining how Parts work. Merlin's guide [pdf] finally straightened me out. So this tune is all done with my new knowledge (as Tai Lopez suggests, it's about the knowledge). Not that anyone would know, since I've been using the PC to cover what I thought were the Elektron device's limitations.
Most of the banks (and Parts) here use sliced single-cycle waveforms, which provides the vintage sequencer sound. Other audio comes from the same grab-bag of recycled material used in "Esperklatsch."
Another development was getting comfortable doing a final mix on Linux, using compressor and limiter plugins from LSP. Had sort of been clinging to the PSP Vintage Warmer on Windows, but now I've cut it loose and am completely Gates-free.
And last, using Audacity to convert to .mp3.

Update: Minor tweaks, reposted.

- tom moody

February 23rd, 2017 at 10:25 am

Posted in music - tm

Discontinued Beatbox LP released on Bandcamp

This is the first track of my latest musical release.
Ardour (Linux DAW) has a bundled synth called a-fluidsynth that uses soundfonts for its audio engine. "Esperklatsch" (psychic gossip?) features soundfonts taken from the original ROM files in the E-Mu SP1200, an '80s/'90s drum machine. Hence, the pseudo hiphop feel of this track.

- tom moody

February 13th, 2017 at 9:58 am

Posted in music - tm

"Discontinued Beatbox"

"Discontinued Beatbox" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

Made with the Elektron Octatrack, Elektron Machinedrum, and recorded and mixed in Ardour (Linux version). Only the Machinedrum has actually been discontinued but I like the title. This a bricolage song in that it consists of scraps from earlier (mostly modular) synth tunes, and homemade kits cobbled from various instruments. One loop is recent -- the Helm softsynth, recorded in Ableton and transferred to the Octatrack via flash drive. Also in the mix are some SuperKicks by Inspektor Gadjet, downloaded from the Internet.
One problem with the Octatrack is the eight tracks get used up pretty quickly and its a pain to mix them down or use alternate samples via "parameter locks." Having the discontinued Machinedrum was a way to add extra tracks, with the two boxes running in sync via MIDI.

Update: Re: "eight tracks get used up pretty quickly" on the Octatrack. Wrong. I wasn't understanding how "parts" work. An Octatrack guide by Merlin [pdf] explains it much better than the manual.

- tom moody

February 3rd, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in music - tm

"Virtual Canapés"

"Virtual Canapés" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

Some Elektron Machinedrum beats (mostly mine but there may be a snippet from the device's previous owner, if so, hat tip GYS), with added beats and softsynths recorded and arranged in Ardour (Linux version).
Was happy to find the softsynth Helm, which works very well as a Linux (LV2) plugin.
The Machinedrum "kits" include many "user waves" that I made with cut-up and normalized snippets from earlier, modular synth tracks, transferred to the MD using MIDI sample transfer and converted to 12 bit sound files.

- tom moody

January 27th, 2017 at 9:41 am

Posted in music - tm

"Working Lurker"

"Working Lurker" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

Beats: Elektron Machinedrum (these were not made by the previous owner -- they are step-keyed by yrs truly)
Softsynths: Loomer Aspect, Calf Monosynth
Recorded and arranged in Ardour (Linux version)

Am a few songs shy of the ten needed for Generic PC (Vol. 6), so this is the next installment.

Generic PC (Vols. 1-5) are available for modest prices on Bandcamp.

- tom moody

January 19th, 2017 at 7:43 am

Posted in music - tm

desktop computer photos, new Bandcamp release(s)

I made these images as cover photos for my newest music release, Generic PC (Vols. 1-5) on Bandcamp. 50 songs from 2016 -- please buy some, for the music, or, if you prefer, to support the efforts of the last blogger on earth.

These aren't old PCs but rather, a form of personal rebellion against the "design award" aesthetic for computer hardware, popularized by the late, unlamented Steve Jobs.

Just stick some wires in them and they work; they don't have to look "cool."

- tom moody

January 15th, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Posted in music - tm, photo 3