Posts Tagged ‘electronic music’

Jetlag

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Imagine that it 5am and you’re in a bed somewhere thousands of miles away, wide awake in a pitch black room. Or, don’t imagine that. But at least take these 10 minutes to do nothing but listen.

I hadn’t made an electronic piece (or any music, for that matter) in a while. This one is a little softer, a little more delicate than the others. Headphones recommended.

Sirens

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

I went down to the ocean one day back in January, stood knee-deep in the water, and pointed my new recorder at the vast expanse of horizon. The sun set and the colors of twilight tinged the waves with warm, dark hues as I contemplated eternity. The waves gave this piece its shape and brought out different shades of sound when I convolved my voice with their recordings, carrying with them mysterious ocean songs from far away.

Sirens by queenmelike

Above is uncompressed version uploaded into Soundcloud. Below, mp3 for download:

Sirens (13:43)

siren (Classical Mythology) One of several sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing.

A Story of Failure

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

When I saw that Indaba Music was holding a remix contest for Daft Punk, I had to do it. I had the amazing idea to remix it in a Baroque style; I was pretty sure nobody would think of adding a continuo to an electronic dance beat! How deliciously nerdy!

Unfortunately, I am not happy with my submission at all. Even though I had over a month to prepare my piece, unforeseen circumstances at work caused me to work 60-84 hours a week since the beginning of April, and continued through the entire month, unbeknownst to all who were involved. My only chance to work on it narrowed down to the two days that I had off after an 84-hour work week, on the week that the submission was due.

I spent the first day developing the themes and writing the music. I spent the second day recording the parts on violin for hours until my migraine became unbearable, forcing me to stop. Just as I predicted, I had no time left over for the editing and mixing that evening. I had to finish it up when I came home from a 12-hour work day the following day, which ended up being a marathon of editing through 6am. I submitted my piece, changed my outfit, and went straight back to work again for another 12 hours.

So, was the 38-hour stretch of awake time worth it? At least I can say that I finished what I set out to do. However, I’m not going to promote this one as widely as my Steve Reich remix last year, because the concept, however fresh and imaginative it may be, is poorly executed. It was the best I could do in the limited time that I had.

But don’t let that stop you from voting for my piece!

Xenakis!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Last Friday, my friend Etha and I went to a MOCA exhibition called Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary. Etha and I hadn’t seen each other since high school, or 7.5 years ago, and would not have reunited so soon had it not been for our common interest in the composer.

Xenakis was a 20th century composer whose original profession was architecture. He is known for constructing his pieces from mathematical calculations, like the sweeping glissandi mimicking paraboloids in Metastaseis (my personal favorite, pictured below). He also plays around with “stochastic,” or probability-based, music, as well as many other ideas derived from math and sciences. His calculations are then notated into a score for the orchestra to perform.

The exhibit was excellent, because we could look at his preliminary sketches for some of his most notable pieces while listening to them on the iPods that they lent us. We both noted his fascination with graph paper and colored pencils, as he used them liberally in the calculations and illustrations of his ideas. We left the exhibit in renewed awe for Xenakis, and the real world seemed duller in comparison when we stepped out of the gallery.

The exhibit inspired me to think about writing music not centered around a pretty melody, but around an effective musical gesture created by a certain process (mathematical, visual, philosophical, etc.). Yes, it seems obvious, and yes, we learned about all that in school, but being separated from the academic musical setting and immersed in the world of popular music may have dulled my intuitions.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, I’d highly recommend any musician, engineer, mathematician, and architect to see the exhibit before it closes on February 4th.

Reich Remixed

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Yesterday I submitted an entry to my first remix contest on Indaba Music. The task was to remix a new Steve Reich piece. Voting is open to the public through November 23rd, and this is where you can help. The top 10 entries with the most votes get honorable mention. The first prize winner and two runners up will be selected by Steve Reich himself! The poor man will have to listen to 254 contestants’ work. I don’t know how he’s going to handle all that.

Here’s my version of it. I like it, because it’s different than most of the entries. I used the same structure and notes, but in a completely different texture that involved several sleepless nights singing into the computer with all my doors and windows shut while consuming large amounts of tea and water. It was during a time when I had some deadlines for work, too, so it was a grueling few days for me.

If it strikes your fancy, please vote for me! It’d be awesome to get at least an Honorary Mention, but that’s going to be difficult to hit considering the huge number of contestants. And besides, a lot of the other entries are quite good. I’m impressed with their creativity.

I’m also impressed with Indaba Music itself. I hadn’t heard about it before hearing of this contest. It’s an online collaborative musical community, and everybody seems to be very inspiring, nice, and helpful with constructive comments. One of my life’s goals is to collaborate with one or two musicians, but I’d been baffled by how I was going to find people; joining Indaba might be the first step towards that goal. Who knows?

All I know is I’ll definitely join more of these contests. This little project really stirred me into action and made me realize that I should spend more time making stuff like this.

By popular request, you can download my remix here.

Weep!

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Aha! I finally reworked a piece I had “completed” in 2007, but had taken off the Internet because I was unsatisfied with it. I knew exactly what I had to do to fix it, but I had been putting it off for over two years now. Today I knocked it off my list of things I’ve been meaning to do for years!

Weep (7:36)

This piece… The love-hate relationship has turned into pure love, but with scars left behind. I can finally say that I’m satisfied with it. It sounds best with headphones, when you immerse yourself in the thick wall of sound. Speaking of which, that rich, sonorous, brassy, somewhat off-tune, whirling, ever-changing groups of tones were all derived from my voice some way or another.

Kudos to anyone who can tell where the title comes from.

Enough of pigeons; let’s talk music.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I’m not sure why I deprived myself of two particular albums for the better half of this year- oh, I know, why: sheer laziness. Well, yesterday I couldn’t stand it anymore and purchased the two albums I’d been dying to hear for months.

1. Earl Greyhound – Suspicious Package. Earl Greyhound was one of the opening bands for an Ok Go concert I’d gone to a couple months ago; it was the first time I’d seen or heard of them, and I was mesmerized by their performance (especially after the mediocre opening act that they had followed). The group consists of three members, with two singers: an alto and tenor, whose voices blended perfectly as they rocked out and belted out their songs while harmonizing perfectly in tune. Their songs were catchy, full of energy, dark, and NOT fluffy. These people were serious about rocking out! It had been a while since I’d heard a rock band that I actually liked.
I can’t help but mention that I love the memorable band name, too. Their website has a streaming version of their full new album, so no need for me to post previews here. My favorite songs are Shotgun, Holy Immortality, Eyes of Cassandra.

2. Ryoji Ikeda0°C. I had a few Ryoji Ikeda mp3s when took electronic music classes in college. It was mentioned that he was a highly respected electronic composer of his time. His music sounds like a bunch of beeps and clicks on the surface, but it is all so expertly synthesized. He’s one of my favorite composers of all time. Anyway, I was driving home after a night shift one day last November, when my Pandora radio station started playing Continuum. It jarred me at 6:00 in the morning – the high-pitched tones being alternated in the left and right speakers while I was already in a drowsy and half-dreamy state of mind – as I was a few blocks away from home. I sat and listened to previews of all the pieces on that album and was blown away with excitement and inspiration. I told myself I’d buy it immediately, but it took me six months to actually get around to doing it. Last night I finally did it. Pure ear candy!

See: a new piece

Monday, April 26th, 2010

This weekend I made an electronic piece that had been in my mind for at least two years. It is a simple enough concept, but I had never set aside the time to do it. I used sounds of recorder, violin, voice, piano, and various other sounds to create it.

Listen to See (duration: 3 minutes)

Here is a screenshot of the final product:

I’ve been in an inspired mood lately, and when Ryoji Ikeda popped up on my Pandora radio station on my drive home from work on Wednesday, I knew it was time. The other inspiration for this piece was Tenacious D’s One Note Song.

Systematic Music Discovery

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I’m finally starting up a systematic process to discover and acquire new music. This was a long process in the making, and began about a year ago when I started weeding through my entire iTunes library and deleting and categorizing the music I already have. Now I am ready to start building on it.

I have several tools to help me remember what pieces I like best:

  • 1. Notebook. I always carry it with me, and quickly jot down the name of the piece.
  • 2. tobedownloaded.txt – A text file where I maintain a list of songs I like for downloading later. This is usually when I’m listening to online radios at home and the information is readily available.
  • 3. Shazam (iPhone app). This one is awesome when I’m in a public place, like a coffeeshop or restaurant, because I can take out my phone and send a little snippet of the music to retrieve the title and artist (if it’s in the database). The best part is that the app can identify the song despite background noise, like people talking loudly in a restaurant.
  • 4. Nabbit (iPhone app). This app is great for when I’m listening to the radio and want to make note of a song I’m listening to. I use this mainly when I’m listening to KJazz while I drive to and from work. My jazz collection is quite small, so I wish to expand it.

I then consolidate all my findings in tobedownloaded.txt and buy them off of iTunes.

Jazz is my main focus of the musical discovery efforts, but I will share my jazz findings in a later post. Today, I will talk of new pieces I’ve bought to add to my “chill” playlist – yes, you guessed it: a playlist of downbeat electronic music.

  • Keston and Westdal – Vaccine: I admit it, I’m a sucker for string instruments in “songs.” This one has a light feel to it and makes me think of lemon sorbet.
  • Xela – Japanese Whispers: This one reminds me of Pattern’s Patterns by Paul Lansky and granular synthesis methods I learned in electronic music class in college. I love how cleanly the phonemes are dissected out.
  • Plaid – Light Rain: I like the little sounds in this one.
  • Zero 7 – Destiny: I still can’t remember if I Shazam’d this track because I wanted it, or because I was testing out Shazam. Generic downbeat electronica chord progressions and sound. However, I kind of like the melodic line. After I bought the song, I was repulsed by a section of parallel fifths towards the end. Many of my favorite composers would have turned in their graves. Too bad I can’t get a refund, so I might as well keep it. It does fit in nicely with the playlist.
  • Jon Hassell – Last Night the Moon Came: I Shazam’d this song during a modern dance performance I went to last night. The artist’s name sounded familiar. I then remembered that I saw Jon Hassell in concert in February 2009 in an electronic music concert. This fact was confirmed by taking a peek in my concert program collection; I’ve been saving programs from all the concerts I’ve gone to in the past decade in my file cabinet. HAH! See? I knew it’d be useful someday.

On another vein, I also recently downloaded Roy Harris’s Piano Quintet. I heard this on KUSC (our local classical music radio) on the way home from work on a rainy afternoon. I liked it so much that I sat in my car for fifteen minutes, waiting for it to finish so I could turn off the car and go home. This piece has just the kind of sonority that I like in modern chamber music.

There you go. Expert musical criticism from a person with a music major degree. Seriously, though, this is just a start. I’ll have more substantial musical purchases to blog about in future posts.

Synthetic Sky

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I put up a new piece today. I had actually made it last August, and it had been a cause for frustration ever since. I had great plans for this piece; I prepared a bunch of sounds that I would layer on top of a smooth, eerie backdrop of tone clusters. However, the “background” sounded great by itself, but it felt like something was missing.

I was fed up with the piece and decided to set it aside and come back to it some other time.

Last night, approximately eight months since I had left it, I listened to it again. I was still undecided. This morning, I attempted to add in some of the other ideas I had prepared, as unintrusively as possible. However, at the end, I realized that I couldn’t come up with anything to add to the piece that wouldn’t take away from it. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity.

In case you were wondering, I am working on some more conventional music. I’m just having a bit of a writer’s block at the moment. However, I’m pretty confident that they’ll be finished sometime this year.