tom moody

around the web

In praise of cash (Brett Scott, Aeon) reminds us of the not-so-wholesome political agendas behind a "cashless society."

Amazon warehouse workers describe the future of non-elite work in the 21st century (Outis Philalithopoulos, Naked Capitalism -- part 1 / part 2). Read before clicking "add to cart." This is techno-dystopia and it's not a fiction series from Amazon streaming video.

- tom moody

March 16th, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Posted in around the web

"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

sorry about your view

AKA "asshole architecture" AKA "the architecture of greed." You got air rights, you gotta use 'em.
This building artlessly shoving up against an existing building recalls a similar striver, in human space:

- tom moody

March 9th, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Posted in photos - cell

linux musings

Dell makes high-end laptops that run Ubuntu -- who knew? It's the only "major" hardware supplier that does, according to Linux Magazine. On the niche side, Think Penguin offers PCs and laptops configured for various Linux distros (as they're called). Highly recommended if you are looking to buck the system, that is, step outside the Apple/Microsoft/Google thought control paradigm. (The ambitious can also remake W10 in a more honest image -- see funfare's instructions). Unfortunately Ubuntu has an obnoxious "unity desktop" that's more user friendly than it needs to be; worse, Ubuntu is managed by a for-profit company, Canonical, that lost some credibility by partnering with Amazon on some customer enhancement whatever (apparently you can now opt out of this). Other distros, such as Mint, avoid the unity and the canon.

In the world of audio-for-Linux, a schism is brewing because some commercial DAW developers are suddenly making workstations that run on Linux, using its super-flexible JACK protocol. Tracktion and Bitwig both offer these, in addition to Apple and MS versions. The problem is plugins. Linux users have developed a range of interesting products using the LV2 standard, regarded by many as superior to the VST protocol developed by Steinberg (of Cubase fame), that serves as the audio industry standard, for better or worse. Neither Tracktion nor Bitwig load LV2 plugins, only VSTs. There are various bridges that no one seems ecstatic about. To take advantage of LV2, you must use Linux-centric DAWs such as Ardour or Qtractor. Unfortunately the Linux DAWs are clunky and crude compared to the commercial ones -- I've had ongoing issues with Ardour's MIDI tracks in Loop mode, and crashing from various plugins. Either Tracktion/Bitwig need to embrace the house standard (not going to happen, it appears) or Ardour needs to get a whole lot tighter (might happen, given time and competition).

- tom moody

March 8th, 2017 at 9:31 am

Posted in linux diary

gessen on kr*mling*te

So-called Kremlingate is the Clintonites' Benghazi -- a non-issue that they keep pounding on, thinking they are all super-clever. Long-time Putin critic Masha Gessen has a good point, which is that the Repubs want to keep Trump in, no matter how much disinformation the NYT and CNN spew out, so they can "shrink government" or whatever it is they think they are doing. (hat tip jim)

- tom moody

March 8th, 2017 at 8:14 am

Posted in general

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

alex on film -- three reviews

Alex on Film addicts the casual websurfer film fan with incisive analysis of plot holes, behind-the-scenes connections, and other lesser-considered aspects of movies.
His beat encompasses classics as well as genre trash you'd never watch (e.g., the Predator series).
Lately he hit three films I'd seen in the last six months, so the jackpot is... a blog post.

The Lineup (1958). Lesser-known rough gem from the great Don Siegel (see Alex on Film's screenshot above).

Le Samouraï (1967). Agree this is style over substance, and one might add, the ending makes no sense. The police procedural aspects and Inspector Javert-like cop add spice to the tale of a loner who would eventually be better-incarnated as Jim Jarmusch's and Forest Whitaker's Ghost Dog. Lastly, Jean-Pierre Melville isn't really new wave, more like proto-new wave, although this film came at the height of that era.

The Witch (2015). Spoiler: The witch did it.

Also, in a review of Coma, an appreciation of the under-appreciated Geneviève Bujold (who I celebrity-spotted in a NYC bookstore once -- the clerk who was helping her obviously had no idea he was assisting royalty):

Geneviève Bujold . . . well, she could have been a star. As David Thomson puts it, she “is so remarkable in [Coma] that she makes one conscious of how a steady career has neglected her real virtues.” Or per Pauline Kael: “There’s no way to sanitize this actress. She’s like a soft furry animal and she’s irreducibly curious; she snuggles deep inside the shallow material.”

She was in fact a star, Hollywood-career-arc-wise, from King of Hearts through Anne of a Thousand Days through Tightrope, roughly, but let's also recall the auteur types she worked with: Brian De Palma (Obsession), Alan Rudolph (Choose Me), and David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers).

- tom moody

March 7th, 2017 at 9:03 am

Posted in films

bank lobby semiotics


Citibank has been remodeling its New York branches. In Australia they've stopped accepting cash, and it's clear they'd do that here if they could. Paper deposit and withdrawal slips have been phased out.
Teller lines still exist but ATMs are the future. The first thing the teller requests is a card swipe.
Instead of offices where bankers assist you, they offer long tables with computer monitors, like open plan classrooms, where employees give tutorials on how to do online banking.
Comfy seats for waiting customers are replaced with a bleak, padded bench or two.
A posh seating area can still be found but it's for "Citigold" clients paying a higher tier for wealth management services. This lounge-like environment is clearly set apart from the benches.
Outside, facing the street, they have "Citigold" signs, with gold lettering.

- tom moody

March 2nd, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Posted in theory

subway ad, midtown

piece of resistance

- tom moody

March 2nd, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Posted in photos - cell

"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