Sleepwalker

It’s here, the day of my debut album release has arrived! (Cue whooping noises in the background). Busy day, as there’s also a gig tonight to get ready for, so I’ll just drop the link here and go rehearse…    It’s available for download from CD Baby as of today; other online stores will follow, in due course.

Note: You can hear 30s snippets of the songs on the page – these previews are in a low res MP3 format… purchasing the album from CD Baby gets you the high res MP3s AND lossless FLAC format files.  Any problems with the site, please please let me know 🙂

Stoneygate Sleepwalker album cover art

Graftwerk

I haven’t said much about how work on the album is going, so here’s a bit more about it.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-03-13-01

I’ve been working on the tracks for my debut album for a long time already; some of them have been floating around for a couple of years in one form or another. Originally, I thought I’d be final-mixing through the summer after college finished, but I really needed some time out, so finishing the album fell down the priority list for a while.

Then I had a conversation with a friend, Matt Steady, who has recently left his job to pursue a career in musicianship. “You need a project,” said Matt. “I’ve already got one, but I need to finish it,” was my reply. Matt offered to listen to my tracks and give his opinion. Around the same time, I was asked if I would play a gig in the not too distant future in another city. It turned out that these two things were the carrot and stick that I needed to get going again with the album.

Just over a week ago, after some further tweaking, I sent Matt a set of ten tracks, inviting him to be as brutal as he liked. He gave very positive, constructive feedback, and didn’t tell me to drop any of the tracks from this release. (I’d feared he might).

It’s been all systems go since then. As well as organising business cards to hand out at the gig and continuing to code graphics that can be projected onto a wall during the performance, I’ve been working on refining the mixes, working out the track order, choosing the title (Sleepwalker), designing cover art for the online store and trying to figure out what I’ve missed. There’s a growing to do list.

The most challenging part has been that the whole mixing process relies on your ears being ‘fresh’ and therefore you can’t rush it. At some point during a work session, your ears start to get tired and then start playing tricks on you. Things that you thought were loud enough sound too quiet. Your sense of the overall volume of the piece gets disorientated. This adds extra pressure when you’re working to a fairly tight deadline.

Nonetheless, the aim is to get everything mastered and uploaded this coming week – the sooner the better – with a view to releasing the album before the end of November. More hard graft, but it will be worth it. And next time around, the process will be easier. There will be a next time.

Fractals for fun?

The last week or so, as well as working on the mixes for my first album, I decided to have a look into fractals as it seemed like a logical next step from the graphics animations I have been working on so far. I found that Wikipedia has a lot of good resources, but probably has too much detail for a beginner, if you follow all the rabbit holes it leads you down like I did.  A far better introduction was a Youtube video, which brought together pretty much everything I’d read to date and then some. (Sadly it’s been taken down since I wrote this post so I can no longer share it with you).

At least some of the more visually appealing fractal patterns are constructed using maths that involves the square root of minus one, eg Mandelbrot and Julia sets. Those sets also looked as though they were not going to be easy to animate, as it looks like the whole image is calculated pixel by pixel, with the colour of each pixel set by how long it took to reach a threshold value.

There are some (more basic) fractals that were more easy to understand, however, such as the Cantor set and the Sierpinski carpet, which are made by an iterative process. The Cantor set is a set of lines with the middle section taken out. Then you rinse and repeat, taking the middle section of the new lines away for the next iteration. The Sierpinski curve does something fairly similar, but with rectangles. I could see a way through the fog for programming visuals for these types of fractals in Processing, and have incorporated some of these into a new set of visuals for displaying during my next live gig.

Vorsprung Durch Technik

After some more headbutting and reaching a point where I didn’t think I would be able to solve the original problem of routing live sound through a self-programmed music visualiser, I went back to basics. Ditching the sound module provided on the Creative Programming course, I looked into Processing’s own sound library using the online documentation.

And bingo, using the available sample code in the online tutorial, I suddenly had something that was responding to input from the soundcard. Just like that. The graphics were terrible – just a fuzzy line at the bottom of the screen, but the body was still twitching, so to speak.

So, moving on from there, I’ve incorporated the relevant commands into the visualiser code, and developed the graphics further to create something workable. The short video here is just a teaser: I want to keep the full graphics for live shows.  Here, output from Ableton Live Lite is being picked up by the visualiser from the signal going through the soundcard, and processed on the fly.