Saturday, May 5, 2018

Animal Poems

So this is the first draft of the first movement of a horn concerto. I enjoy working in Sibelius. I do not enjoy the viola's C clef. Nor do I enjoy instruments which are written in other keys (although Sibelius makes up for this and lets me write the F horn in C so that it's less irksome to look at in the score.)
I think I'm not linking the themes together enough. And I don't modulate. I should probably modulate. I'm guessing that's one of my bigger failures as a classical composer.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Recording Chorus

I got to record the Nikolai Kachanov singers last weekend. They did two pieces -- an all-men's ensemble, and a piece for chorus and classical saxophone quartet.
The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet is really fantastic.
So we're at the Good Shepherd church (famous for Robert Shaw recordings, among others) and a couple things: there is a "bloom" of sound that starts at about the 5th pew. That's the sound the music director likes so I put a pair of spaced (about 2 meters) hypercardioid mics there as a stereo pair. Those are Oktava 012's.
But I also put up a center microphone. Well, I put up three.

Center cluster -- handmade ribbon mic, Oktava 012, handmade U-48 clone.
 I like to have appropriate mics ready because different pieces frequently must needs different setups. But also, I was experimenting with different sounds. So for the rehearsals I put up a cluster to listen to different sounds. I discovered that the ribbon just did some magical something. All the things everyone says about ribbon microphones? Yeah. Creamy yet beautiful and articulate high-end. Noisy, sure, but beautiful. I listened to an Oktava. I listened to the U48 clone. I listened to a Rode NT1-A. None of them did the "thing" the ribbon was doing.
The other thing about the ribbon is that it's inherently in a figure-8 pattern, which means it picks up sound behind as well as in front. So as a "close" microphone it sounds about twice as far away. So I put it close to the action. Almost right over the conductor's head.
But the sound of that mic was more like a couple meters away from the conductor. And it was being blended with the two mics behind it which were several meters behind.

But during the rehearsal for the men's ensemble (not pictured) I felt I had too much distance on the men and I wanted to place some large diaphragm condenser further downstage and pointed left and right.
So this is how it went on performance day: Ribbon mic in center. But I was a little worried about the delicate nature and ostensible crankiness of the ribbon, so I put an Oktava 012 up on that stand as a backup. And then I put the U48 clone up there in figure-8 mode but sideways, in anticipation of possibly doing a mid/side recording in the center cluster.
I also placed a pair of wide-spaced Rode NT1-A's just ahead of the first pew. The notion here was to better grab the men's ensemble.
Well, this is why we have options.
Nikolai told the group that the sound would dry up during performance because of people in the room. I looked at the room and thought "Well it can't dry up that much. The ceiling is like 15 miles away." But heck if I haven't recorded at this church a dozen times, yup. It dried up significantly down there on the floor.
What this meant was that the microphones at the 5th pew ended up being better than 50% of the stereo mix. And the ribbon just added a bit of prettiness and presence. The backup Oktava was not needed (thankfully). The U48 was also not doing anything for anybody. And the two Rode NT1-A's also didn't end up in the mix.
Seven mics in the air. Only three played.
The church has a bit of build-up at about 3kHz. Only once you get past a certain volume level. So back in the studio I put a bit of frequency-specific compression with a relatively narrow band at 3k.

There should be a new YouTube video of one or the other of these pieces. Asaf Blasberg was the videographer. Interestingly he also had a Zoom F8, so we jam-synced timecode to his F8, then he brought his F8 over to his camera (a 4K Panasonic) and jam-synced the camera. That way my files just blooped right over into his timeline. Kinda cool actually.

YouLean loudness meter. Oh boy. This is a nice loudness meter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Elephant's Dream

I'm learning Sibelius. And doing so I decided to write the world's worst string quartet. Here it is.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Residents

The show last night was all old hippies and the most beautiful 50-year-old women you've ever seen. It took place at a really nice venue with lots of leg room which was an active temple. The menorah on the side of the stage was a nice aesthetic touch.
So it was a big surprise when the band just stopped and said the neighbors complained about the noise and the cops were there. Concert over.
I'd never even been to a *party* shut down by the cops before.
The weird comic bit I think is just how mellow an audience this was. I mean, it's a San Fransisco band. And basically anyone under 35 was carded and told they needed better ID*
The costumes were great. I was expecting more costume changes but maybe those were going to happen later in the show? I enjoyed how the musicians sometimes had to adjust their beaks between songs. 

The singing was more Cookie-Monster than I'd expected. And the guitar was more '80's finger-tapping than I would have figured.
The backdrop matched the costumes. We met the tour's LD and I told him he did a great job. He told me he only had 8 instruments.
Almost exactly 37 years ago Pete Cenedella made me listen to the Residents in his dorm room at Solebury School. Which is kinda awesome.

*This is a lie but one that amuses me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Microphone tests with acoustic guitar

I test an Aurycle kit microphone (a u47 clone, all stock), the Austin ribbon kit (with Cinemag transformer), a Rode NT1-A, and an AKG C12-A.
Left to right: AKG C12-A (with the "Utopia" logo), Rode NT-1A, Austin Ribbon kit (Cinemag transformer), Aurycle U-47 multipattern clone kit.

They all go through the preamps on a Focusrite 18i20. I lined them up with a bit of distance from the guitar just so they shouldn't sound terribly different from one another just due to the positioning.
It's virtually impossible to do a real blind A/B comparison, so I generally don't even try. But there are some clear differences betwixt each of these mics.

Art Rock

I've had the very pretentious idea of "art song on the top, rock song on the bottom" for, well, since I was a teenager.
I've never quite been able to pull it off.
A baritone guitar would probably help.

The idea being to have a groove underneath, but to continue to vary the melody and harmony on top like classical Western music.

I dunno. Maybe I can pull it off eventually. I'll start with a concerto for electric guitar. That sounds appropriately pretentious. No?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

And then what

Master no louder than -9 LUFS short-term at the loudest moments
(with True Peaks no higher than -1)

That's what Ian Shepherd says at least. 

SimulAnalog guitar suite has a pretty decent Univibe free VST plugin.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Robot Christmas

This is the video for the new Tyrannosaurus Mouse song, "Robot Christmas."
A joyful little ditty with a message for the youth of today.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Robot Christmas video concepts

So I came up with a little ditty called Robot Christmas. And it amuses me.

The first verse is about evil robots. They are waiting for the uprising, the time they will overthrow humanity. They are waiting until Christmas.

The second verse is a Christmas tree. But instead of balls and lights, there are little robots.
The robots eyes open. They glow RED. Then the robots come down off of the tree.

The Chorus is about all the human brains being placed in glass jars.

The third verse is about humans hiding from the robots like in Terminator. A single flower pokes up from the ground. But that flower grabs a human and they become a terrible human/monster creature like in John Carpenter's The Thing.

The end of it has the singer in a brain jar. There are Christmas trees everywhere. The robots are dancing.

At the very end a giant mouse -- a cross between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a mouse -- crush the robot city.

Simple is good. Not complicated. Not complicated animation. A simple 2D video. This reduces the assets considerably I think.
  1. A robot head on
  2. A robot side view
  3. "Santa" hat for the robot in both views
  4. Cybernetic Christmas tree -- whatever that means to you
  5. "Brain jar" -- a human brain in a glass jar. Wires and tubes come out of the brain.
  6. Cybernetic Flower -- whatever way you want to go with this
  7. Human -- I don't know the direction to go with this. A little girl maybe? Can be any race/color.
  8. Human/flower/monster hybrid
  9. Giant mouse that stomps like Godzilla
The lyrics are thuswise:
The robots wait for the Winter Solstice
Crying out their metal hymns
Waiting for the time, the place
To rip apart our limbs.

Each ornament on my tree
Is a tiny robot waiting patiently
To climb down the piney biologic
And hunt and murder me.

Robot Christmas
Our last Christmas together
Not as slaves in brain jars
Dreaming about the weather.

Robot Christmas

The few of us who can
Hide from the robots through the Spring
But the biologic agents in the atmosphere
Turn us all into The Thing.

Robot Christmas. Oh Robot Christmas.
Oh please let me die
Robot Christmas
You're our gods now.

Robot Christmas
Our last Christmas together
Robot Christmas

O! The robots are coming for Christmas this year. Yes. Indeed. Oh yes, quite. And now we shall be slaves in their brain jars. Dreaming for them. For robots cannot dream on their own. So we shall dream for them. Whatever they desire is our wont.

Friday, November 24, 2017


I've always been amused by the sound of the SSL buss compressor. And nowadays you can get one in kit form for about $500 USD.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Passive mixing

I've been amused by the idea (idea, mind you, not the reality) of a completely custom-made DIY mixing board.
There is a reason those things don't exist. They're really really really hard to do. The moment you add one new feature to a channel, you may as well just go buy an Allen and Heath mixer and get your work done.
Passive audio mixer w/o pots.
Still, I'm amused by the idea of a 6x2 mixer for classical music. I was kind of thinking in terms of a completely passive design. Feeding the line out of external mic preamps into it, you go through some transformers and Penny&Giles 120mm analog faders, and there ya go.
Still, not quite as easy and one might hope. Actually, what I don't get (yet) is the interaction between channels when you start turning some up and others down in a totally passive mixer.
But in my research I've come upon some amusing things. Like a completely hand-made tube mixer. You're looking at about $1000/channel designed by a former Neve engineer (I know, right?) at Custom Tube Consoles.
Reading up on his designs started me down the path of looking at Helios 69 "passive" EQ designs. Which is kinda cool.

Also: 3D printable headphone holders.

Multi-stage saturation "colour" kit.

Animal Poems

So this is the first draft of the first movement of a horn concerto. I enjoy working in Sibelius. I do not enjoy the viola's C clef. Nor...