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Entries in Music (3)

Tuesday
Sep042012

Mocking The Sound Guy 

I just saw a new video from I band I have been a fan of for many years called Band Of Horses.  In the video they do a comic version of nature field recordists from years gone by.  The conceit of the video is instead of trying to record animals in their natural environment they are trying to record the rock band out in the wilds.  This is not the bands best song but it is starting to grow on me.

Starangely the video also features an Argo all terrain vehicle.  Similar to the one I recorded earlier this summer.

As a bonus here is a farside comic from many years ago that has been up on the bulletin board forever.

 

Friday
May062011

Recording in Honest Ed's

One main problem with recording in stores or just about anywhere these days is that music is ominpresent in public spaces now.  Every store, every restaurant, even every bathroom seems to have canned music piped into it and this makes getting clean recordings of our world damn near impossible. But every once in a while you can luck upon a great recording and avoid capturing the music along with it.  

I recently got my hands on a Sony PCM-D50 (see review after audio samples below) and the day after i got it, I took it along on a shopping trip with my wife. Luckily on this trip a few things conspired to let me get a really great recording at Honest Ed's.  For those outside of Toronto Honest Ed's is a bit of an institution, located at a major intersection in the city the store has been in operation Since 1948.  

Ed's is huge its four stories covers a full city block and it sells just about everything you can think of and everything is massively discounted.  There are hand painted signs all over with "zany" sales pitches like "Honest Ed's is for the Bird's - Cheap Cheap" or "Honest Ed is Repulsive - But his Prices are Appealing!" and a big sign over the exit reading "Wasn't That Fun!"  This one store does over $65 million in sales a year on dime store fair, so it is a massive success.

One section of the store is for groceries and there is a strip of large very, very old freezers containing all the frozen foods, but unlike a traditional grocery store, this is a row of individual two door units instead of one huge aisle long unit.  So there is a humming chorus of all the compressors working away.  Thanks to the portability of my new recorder I was able to get in-between the fridges and record the ancient compressors  from the back of the units.  Luckily they were so loud and located a bit away from the ceiling speakers so that the music playing within the store was completely drowned out and a clean recording was possible.

 

I knew what I had got was going to be useful, both as literal refrigerator compressor sounds and as a base for for Sci-fi force fields and spaceship ambiences, with the help of some processing.

Here is a sample of the refrigerator compressors,  followed by some quick manipulation to transform the fridge into some sci-fi -esque sounds:

Honest ED'S Fridge Treated by azimuthaudio

 

After shopping on the way home we were on a particularly squealing subway car and I was able again to pop out the D50 portible recorder and grab some subway squeal.  Sadly I could not get everyone to be quiet for this recording (that would just be rude right?) so there is lots of subway passenger walla in the recording as well.

Subway Squeals by azimuthaudio

 

 

SONY PCM-D50 mini Review
I am really happy I finally got it.  I borrowed one from my friend Simon Edwards at Resolve Audio two years ago for a podcast I was working on at the time and it was great so I am not sure why it took so long for me to get one of my own, but so far I am glad I did.  Previously my portible recorder was the Zoom H2, and although it has had its uses it is really not a very good device.  The D50 is a massive upgrade in terms of the on board microphone and over all usability.  One of the things that drove me nuts about the H2 was how insanely long it took for it to boot up when you turned it on, on many occasions by the time it booted up the sound I was hoping to record had long since passed and the moment was lost.  The D50 boots up quick and is ready to go in seconds.  
I also picked up the Rycote mount for it so it is comfortable to hold and eliminates handling noise.  I can not go to deep into a review as I have only had a very short period of time but so far it has been a great addition to my gear closet and I am looking forward to more "stealth" recordings with it.

 

 

Friday
Apr292011

Everyone Can Be a Musician

Through out my life I have taken lots of joy in making noise, it has entertained me endlessly when bordem was creeping my way.  As a kid it was singing songs I made up, as a teenager it was playing drums in too many bands to count, and as an adult it has been as a sound editor.  But I know a lot of people for whom making noise seems to be something they just don't do.  Sometimes its fear of someone hearing them and laughing, sometimes its that learning an instrument seems too daunting, and other times it is just that they take joy from hearing what others are creating.  There are a million reasons to stay quite I guess, and there is a point that the world is already too loud in general.  Yet there is something that happens inside when a person is responsible for something musical that is not really replicated in any other pursuit and thankfully technology is helping bring that to more people.

Here is a really great and simple audio toy that ANYONE can have a whole lot of fun with.  @JadAbumrad, co-host of RadioLab, posted this as a link on his twitter feed a few weeks ago and I have been noodling with it ever since. It is an online step sequencer built around a simply matrix grid, just click on various squares within the matrix and they will make a "ping".  The higher up on the grid the higher in pitch the ping will be and it loops going left to right repeating your composition endlessly.  If you don't like the way a section sounds just click on the squares again and they will go back to silence.  Once you have played with it for 30 seconds it makes perfect sense.

Try it yourself: http://www.sembeo.com/media/Matrix.swf

I love playing with this because it can be tackled a few ways and will always be fun.  The simplest is to just randomly click or drag over the grid and see what happens, normally something great happens.  It is almost like you can not make bad music with this thing.  Another approach is to make visual patterns on the grid and see how the pattern sounds.  Finally you can really dig in and try to come up with something through trial and error that is just mind blowing.

The other great thing is how the grid illuminates the squares as they ping, and the light spreads like water after throwing a rock through its surface, between the soothing music you can create and the trippy lighting, this thing can really take away the debris of a shitty day quickly.  The main thing with this is anyone can play with it and have something cool sounding in moments, whether they are 3 years old or 75, no musical training necessary.  It is addictive!!!!!

Here are a couple of "songs" I did on the fly (no planning just winging it), with a video of the grid in action:

The way this thing sounds is similar to a song I made in 1998 with my friend Scott Ballem, when we were roommates.  I had a 4track and drum machines and he had a Roland JX-3P synth, so we pooled our gear and one of the results was this song.  He came up with the loop and I stole it and did the rest.  I took it into the studio where I was working the night shift at the time and did this mix:
(AUDIO NERD SIDENOTE:  I just found the protools session on a CD, Protools 4!  No plug-ins or automation in the session as it must have all been done in the console back then.  No stereo tracks either.  We have come a long way.)

And here is a video I found of someone expanding Mary Had A Little Lamb into a ambient nightmare, 

And here are some sound clips of other audio doodles I did with it:

Matrix 1 Boost by azimuthaudio

Matrix 2 Boost by azimuthaudio

These are other cool sound generators:

http://www.sembeo.com/pulsar/

http://www.unitunitunit.com/qwertybeats/

I know there must be plenty more out there, so please leave a comment with any suggestions of sites along these lines if you know of any.