It’s a fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, process making music. I make field recordings on my iPhone which I then have to convert into MP3 files – all fairly nice and simple with the amazing software available (often for free). I then whack these on the DAW system and slowly add layers of sounds to them. Picking the right sound and then altering it, via filters, equalizers, effects and whatnot is an enjoyable process – at least I find it so. Sometimes I loop the sound and sometimes I constantly change that sound for a shifting background of noise. Sometimes I want a vocal sample and there is wonderful software which can lift the vocal track from a movie (always making sure it’s public domain of course). Tinkering around with voices is also a fun exercise and can sometimes distract from the “serious” business of making music.
I generally don’t plan anything when it comes to the music I make (some may raise an eyebrow at the term “music). I pick a sound, or a field recording, muck around with it until I like the end result. Then I choose another sound, or instrument, to go with it. If I like the result it also stays. Slowly the track builds up until I have a three or four minute piece, sometimes longer, Usually I’m happy with the end result so I pop it on Soundcloud, ReverbNation and Bandcamp. The melodies I use I make up on the spot, when the song has any. They’re not exactly Beethoven (although I have pinched his stuff in the past) but they seem okay. Inspiration usually arrived when I bugger around with sounds – nine times out of ten, well, eight …
It can be frustrating when the technology used has a hissy fit and decides, for whatever strange computer logic, not to work properly. This happened last week with my DAW system. Would it load uploaded sound files? No. Would it load saved songs? No. Then it would go through a period where it would load songs – but only some of the channels, or a part of the sound file but not all of it. Then suddenly yesterday, when I wanted to complete and album (called Shadows in the Dark) and upload it to Bandcamp (https://ianhaygreen.bandcamp.com – shameless plug) it worked fine. Hopefully it will continue to work fine. Ah, the ups and downs of technology.
It’s a strange business doing music – by which I mean writing it and so on and I expect every musician/composer has a different approach. Mine is to start with sounds: I get a basic mood and feeling I want to portray and then find sounds to match, and then after I am satisfied with the sounds I’ve finally ended up with then I think about tunes and the like – if I want them, that is. Depends very much on the mood.
Saying that, though, sometimes I start with some voice samples – I’d done this with the piece Nulaanau. I had a piece of the Winston Churchill speech “Their Finest Hour” on the computer and thought it would make an interesting dark ambient piece – I didn’t want stirring and bombastic music to accompany Winnie’s speech so I thought something darker would be best – a sort of brooding, menacing soundscape which would seem to be a perfect fit considering what the UK was going through at the time and what would come. There’s a Soundcloud whatsit at the bottom of the page which can be played.
Mrs H says she prefers the cheerier stuff – Rinore which aims to evoke woodland walks for instance – and they are fun to do, although I always prefer doing the darker stuff (just a personal preference when it comes to listening as well) since I find it more interesting to do – finding the right sounds and manipulating them on the ‘puter till they sound correct (not that I always get it right!) and trying to create a dark landscape of sound (don’t always get that right either!) which hopefully, when done well, summons up things of a, well, Lovecraftian or nightmarish quality. Although saying that I’ve only done a couple of these properly so far – the others have elements of that in them.
In other words, I generally make it up as I go along.
Do what? Pyramids, aliens and stuff.
It never ceases to amaze me the almost infinite capacity in humans for self-delusion. On Twitter a picture was shown of three pyramids – one Egyptian, one Aztec and one from Indonesia – three cultures separated by time and oceans. The caption was coincidence or connection? The comments were interesting – falling into three camps: 1) coincidence, 2) connected, 3) aliens did it. The coincidence seems most likely given that a pyramid is quite a stable structure – although I’d imagine one would run into difficulties when adding chambers and tunnels – and the people who built these structures were clearly very capable engineers who knew a thing or two. The connected idea seems unlikely but I guess isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility but I haven’t seen any serious evidence for it. Aliens? No. Just No.
The reason I say no to number three is because for one thing I really believe it is disrespectful to those ancient cultures and people who sat down, worked out the mathematics and physics behind it and hired the best artisans to build it. Also the evidence for aliens building or helping to build pyramids (and other structures around the world) is zero. I know the likes of von Däniken have proposed theories based on carvings and the like but I honestly cannot take these theories seriously. Now I like watching UFO videos and have seen one years ago (that’s another story) but most videos seem to be of lights in the sky, which frankly could be anything. I don’t take much notice of people’s tales unless there is corroborating evidence (rare). There have been a few which stand out as interesting (and baffling) given the sort of people involved – Rendlesham springs to mind, but by and large as fun as they are I don’t take seriously the vast majority (around 99% in truth) of reports. Do aliens exist? Who knows – I certainly don’t think we’re alone in the universe. But have they visited the earth? Again, I guess it’s not impossible but when you consider the obstacles which have to be overcome to achieve interstellar travel (and, presumably, in their own lifetime).
Some people prefer a fantastical explanation over a more prosaic one, I guess. Unfortunately most answers turn out to be prosaic but it doesn’t stop the conspiracy theories or the ancient alien theories from whizzing around, multiplying and cross-breeding. Once, out of curiosity, I tried to track down the origin of one particular story (can’t remember what know – it was years ago) but the trail just lead from one conspiracy site to another, all repeating the information, slowly embellishing it. A meme or Chinese whispers. I guess the bulk of them are harmless enough, ridiculous certainly, unrealistic definitely, but almost always entertaining.
But one thing which shouldn’t have amazed me from the comments in the Twitter post was how little people actually knew about things – one chap didn’t believe that anyone was capably of crossing the oceans when the Aztec civilisation was around. I mean, really? Did this person not do history at school? Or perhaps the school simply didn’t teach him these things. The old saying was ignorance was bliss (and I suppose this is still true to a degree) but that was before world-wide media was available. Now, I think, ignorance is the choice not to know.
Videos and stuff
Well I’ve been tinkering around with making videos today. So-so results really, but it’s all new to me so hopefully they’ll improve as time goes by. Have posted a couple on my RevebNation page. One was simply using my iPhone to record the weather from the upstairs side window with a music track added to it. The other was from YouTube – the fella had made this time-tunnel like effect and was happy for people to use it for whatever purposes they saw fit, which was nice of him, so I added another music track to it. I shall have to see if I can make my own special effect videos but wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the specialised gear costs so I don’t know, will have to see.
I also finished off a track (on Soundcloud and ReverbNation he said shamelessly plugging) based around the Laurel and Hardy theme tune, Dance of the Cuckoos. It’s only a minute and a half long because of the Internet problems we were experiencing all morning and half way through the afternoon, but ’twas done finally and uploaded. Happily the Internet problems have been sorted out now.
We seem to be experiencing severe Internet problems at the moment. I know there’s nothing wrong with the gumbins at our end of things but after spending an hour on the phone to BT they said they were having a few difficulties with broadband at the moment but they were on the case. Hopefully they’ll resolve it soon. In the meantime I’ll have to put up with the Internet being alternatively slow, non-existent, slow, and so on on. Happy days.
Tinkering around on a Saturday
we have a sort of routine on a Saturday. Fiona goes out with Angela to pottery in the mornings and afterwards she often pops into see her parents on the way home. This means I have a lot of Saturday to myself, which is useful since it means that I can tinker around with my own stuff. Today is no exception. I’ve spent most of the day up to now (4:48 pm) on a piece of music which I’ve been buggering around with for a while. I’ve finally finished it and although it’s no great shakes I’m rather pleased with it. As I type it’s just being converted to a mp3 file so I can upload it to ReverbNation and Soundcloud, which is a fairly lengthy process, but worth the wait – probably.
I recently discovered this piece of software which can lift the soundtracks from film and I’ve been having fun with that as well and have started incorporating these bits of speech into music, which is good fun. I try to be careful, though, and only use public domain stuff – the same goes for the sounds and effects I use, as I don’t particularly fancy running into copyright problems. But since I don’t currently sell my music I don’t suppose too many problems would surface.
Fiona has just emailed me to say the horse she was betting on in the Grand National fell, so as some sort of commiseration she’d like to eat up at the pub, which is fine by me since the pub has a new chef who’s pretty good and the food is wonderful. Followed by a few beers and talking nonsense, needless to say, until Robin, the landlord, get bored of us and kicks us out.
Well it’s a grey old start to the day. Overcast and threatening to rain but I don’t mind that – I quite like stormy old days, in fact I reckon we could do with a good humdinger of a thunderstorm: they’re much more interesting and entertaining than television. Plus, they scare
my neighbour which always puts a smile on my face. She’s not a bad person, per se, but she’s nosy, irritating and not very bright (the not very bright isn’t a qualification for disliking her but she does come out with some outstandingly moronic statements at times which cause irritation. She has that undefeatable logic that all truly unthinking people have). There is something magical about a good thunderstorm – Thor battling the Jötnar again!
I shall have to give Dave a ring in a while to see if the parts for my car have arrived. It failed it’s MOT on Monday – not a cause for surprise – and needed stuff doing to it. In between laughing he explained what was wrong, and he may as well have been speaking ancient Egyptian for all it meant to me. He’s a nice bloke and drinks in my local but whenever my car needs fixing and I take it to him I’ve worked out that every laugh adds at least £50 to my bill. He laughed a hell of a lot on Monday.
If my car is fixed by this afternoon I may do some writing – I’m vainly attempting to write a science fiction piece of nonsense, which probably isn’t terribly good but it keeps me out of trouble. Or I may work on a piece of music I’m not overly happy with: it’s alright but just not quite working for me at the moment. Not sure why. Of course I could abandon it altogether and start a new piece. I’ll see what mood I’m in after the car is, hopefully, fixed. Of course if it costs large then I may jettison writing of words or music and just pop down my local for a few pints to drown my woes, which I shall be doing this evening of course, but I may feel the overwhelming need to start earlier. We’ll see.
A Link to my ReverbNation page
My music on ReverbNation.