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 🙂

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Graftwerk

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

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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.

More Digital Art

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I’ve kept going with the Creative Programming course that I talked about last time, and continued coding. After an amazingly good start, I reached a frustrating head-butting stage which I’m not sure I’m out of yet. I’ve now covered the whole syllabus, but need to go back and properly get to grips with waveform synthesis, to be able to do the last assignment and get the qualification. Plus, it might also be useful for performances if I can create an interesting and unique new digital instrument.

I’ve been working mostly on a music visualiser application based on Digital Signal Processing (DSP) of the sound, which I’ll talk about more in another post. In the meantime, whilst the visualiser is still in experimental mode, I thought I’d share a few more images I’ve created with my graphics-only app and an interactive version where sound was played and was changed in pitch and speed by what was happening on the screen.

 

A Worthwhile Detour

 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a couple of events at Lincoln’s Sonophilia Festival (the UK one, not the one in Nebraska). One of these events was the Weird Garden experimental music club, and a chap called Dave C was demonstrating Lissajous curves by generating four tones using a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino board, then plotting these on an oscilloscope, projected so we could all see it. I thought that this would interest my Dad – he’s been known to experiment with a Raspberry Pi – and sent him some photos of the set-up.

Well, this started a conversation and a half. It basically headed in the direction of ‘you should learn some Digital Signal Processing’, with me misunderstanding what that might entail, thinking that it would involve circuit board design and a very steep learning curve. There was a lot of talk at cross-purposes, but Dad eventually explained I would need to learn some new programming skills, in a language called Visual DSP. The boards are already designed, so I wouldn’t need to worry about that, and you can do DSP on your computer, anyway, because computers already have the physical tools needed to do DSP.

I said I would look into it, so that I could possibly learn to present my music in a visual form when playing live. Any programming skills I pick up along the way are a bonus, anyway.  So, I enrolled on a several of Coursera courses, to check out the content, and got stuck into one of these, which I will follow through and hopefully complete.  This course isn’t specifically a DSP course, it is Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, but it seems to be pitched at about my level. It uses Java/Javascript (another language I haven’t used before) so any DSP I do when I get more advanced at programming might need to be via my computer, rather than an external board, unless there is a way round that… Actually, it looks like I can tell it to output the program in Python, the language that Raspberry Pi uses…. I have a lot to learn.

I’m still working my way through week 1 of the course, but the images above are all screenshots made from code that I put together* and then ran and interacted with to make art. I modified the code a little between each image captured.

Even if I get horribly stuck from here onward, I will have an app that I can use to make some unique album art!

*Disclaimer: my code also uses functions taken from a module coded by the course providers.