The new album would be ready to go except that in the process of setting up crossfades between some tracks, my “track 1” is a copy of track 2.

Other than that, it’s good. I like how it came out, despite having some doubts about… basically all of it at one time or another. I guess an important part of art is questioning yourself.

Speaking of good, I had my annual performance review at work yesterday and it was full of “exceeds expectations” and “couldn’t have done it without you” and the like. I’m formally being promoted (to do the same things I’ve been doing anyway really), which thankfully gave me the opening to ask if that comes with a pay increase. Which it does, and also I will get to work from home most of the time (because they want to keep me happy) and work on pet projects (which I kind of do anyway to some extent).

There was a point where the boss started to say I’m the kind of person who lives my work, that I’m not just here to collect a paycheck but I believe in what I’m doing, etc. Um… I have said before (not at work!) that I don’t love my job and I am totally doing it for the salary and health insurance, and that I’d quit in a heartbeat if I won the lottery. I can occupy myself with more fulfilling and exciting things. But then, he changed tack and was talking about how I seem to get satisfaction from the “detective work” aspect and from making the product better. And that part I could agree with.

I wouldn’t say I’m dedicated to or passionate about the job, but rather: since I have to spend a significant portion of my life at work anyway, it is better to get things done than it is to just slack and kill time. It keeps me engaged, it keeps them happy, and it fulfills my side of the contract. It’s the honest thing to do, and it’s much more interesting and less frustrating than just trying to keep up appearances.

And it’s not like I don’t spend any time at work writing blog posts (::ahem::), researching music gear and techniques, listening to music, playing little web puzzle games, fiddling with magnets, etc. There are builds and tests to run that sometimes take a while. Even without that, I don’t think anyone in a “knowledge worker” sort of position can give 100% for 8 straight hours 5 days a week, without brain cooldown time. But I get a ton of stuff done and that’s what counts.

I don’t think I mentioned it, but I bought a used Make Noise Wogglebug, and it’s waiting for me to rack it up as soon as this album is out. I had one in 2018, found some neat uses for it but underused it at the time, and sold it. For the past year though, I’ve been thinking about getting one again — it was part of the stream of thought that led to trying Marble Physics and then getting Inertia. I don’t really use Inertia for obvious wobbly CV all that often, but its resonance is nice for filter applications. Wogglebug I think is better suited to taking a regular pattern and making it wonky, and subtle gradual random fluctuation is also more appealing to me now with the music I’ve been making than it was in 2018.

I don’t think the Dreadbox Antidote is going to stay in the long term. It does a few things, sure, but I really only find myself reaching for it to justify having it, not because it’s calling out to me.

I expect I will also turn over WMD MSCL since it doesn’t get patched often.

Joranalogue Compare 2… I don’t know. I have some ideas to try with it. It can be neat for sure, but isn’t a key player for me. Usually when I want a comparator, it’s to do something in Bitwig Grid rather than the hardware. So it’s kind of on probation.

I still intend to get Xaoc Koszalin as soon as it’s available, though (like everything…) its release seems to be delayed a bit.

AtoVproject cDVCA is an intriguing one. It has an ultrasound oscillator that uses PWM to switch a gate open and closed, which gives it a somewhat different character than a typical VCA. The frequency can be lowered to create artifacts, and it follows 1V/OCT so you can have tunable aliasing that tracks an input. Or you can drop it to audio rate and use it as an oscillator or LFO itself. There’s also a drive section and a lowpass filter. So overall it’s way more than just a VCA. I’m inspired to try some patch experiments with gear/software I already have to see what I can do with that, but this is a possibility.

I’ve also pondered getting a spring reverb again. I think I’ve talked myself back around to no though, since u-he Twangstrom is so convincing.

Noise Engineering is up to some things (as always). The new Legio module is like a mini Versio, with an encoder and two knobs, instead of 7 knobs. The two firmwares available for it now seem good, but my “too many oscillators” thing is holding me back for the moment. Any plans to put new stuff in my case are factoring in that 6HP for the future, though…

And of course there’s still the possibility of Klavis Grainity. Later in the year there should be some demos of that, and we’ll see how convinced I am about the sound vs. just the idea of it.

It should only be another couple of weeks or so before I hear some news about my Miezo order (or else, to email to ask for an ETA). I so look forward to getting that into my hands and being an even better example of the sort of thing the more stodgy traditionalist gatekeeping types at TalkBass don’t like. 😉

(I have no desire to be in a “dad band,” to play “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Mustang Sally” in bars, or to settle for just playing root notes on the 1 on the first 5 frets of the bottom two strings. I like the bass for other reasons. And yes, it’s still a bass even if I solo on it and even if I play ambient drone weirdness on it; it’s still a bass without a head, it’s still a bass if it trades the low E string for high C and F strings.)

next in line

Decomposition: A Music Manifesto turned out to be the one about the myth of musical authorship and the solitary genius composer, the problems with “authenticity” in music (without even touching on a whole lot of gatekeeping issues in various musical genres), the not-as-clear-as-one-might-think line between live and recorded music, sampling and “piracy” vs. unacknowledged appropriation that makes a genre or a culture what it is…

It’s pretty good. Not really inspiring to me as a musician in particular, but something to think about from time to time nonetheless.

Now I’ve started reading The Quantum Thief, and let me tell you, this is not a book for people who want to know what’s going on in the story they’re reading. It’s the far future and all kinds of bizarre things are possible, so of course there’s all this weird technical and cultural stuff that is simply not explained at all. There are some big, creative ideas but just a little more hand-holding for us 21st century primitives who don’t have computronium in their blood would be appreciated.

Stranger Things season 4 has been an intense ride. I hesitate to call it the best seasons since it’s a little uneven, but it has definitely had some of the best scenes so far. Really looking forward to the second part of it.

Moon Knight has been… okay. When you’ve spent a part of your life studying Egyptology and worshipping Egyptian deities in earnest, the way media approaches the mythology always, always comes off as cringey and dully stereotypical. Sometimes the amount of stuff they get right is pleasantly surprising but it doesn’t really serve as as a counterweight. Like inevitably, Egyptian gods in genre fiction have “tombs” rather than shrines or temples — even though only one of them is dead and buried (and there’s no actual reference I know of to a “tomb” of Wesir). Marvel’s Khonshu is maybe kind of an interesting grey area character, but the original Khonsu (no second H!) isn’t some kind of buff bird skeleton. Honestly though, if I could ignore all of that, Moon Knight is still just Marvel’s answer to Batman, and this is the weakest of the Disney+ MCU shows so far.

Ms. Marvel is better, but also not perfect. Another change to her origin story, which I’m not sure about yet, and also I feel like there might have been an episode that got cut from the original plan or something because certain plot points felt like they happened way too quickly. It’s solidly entertaining though; the slice-of-life part of it combined with the way we see into the protagonists’ heads through animation are pretty great. From what I have read online, the depiction of Pakistani Muslim culture in America is spot on, which sometimes confuses other Muslims because they have their own thing going on.

I recorded a song yesterday morning, then realized to my surprise (again) that I had an hour of music ready to go for the next album. One day I’m feeling like it’s going slowly and awkwardly, with a couple of failed experiments that I could just not make work; the next I’m done. I’ve got the last edits in, tweaked the track order and prepared my cover art — so today I begin mastering. Once it’s ready I’ll just go ahead and release, since the next Bandcamp Friday isn’t until September.

We just had our 18th anniversary a couple of days ago. We didn’t really go anywhere to celebrate, but I do have some days off before and after the July 4 weekend. We’ll probably go to the St. Louis Aquarium. I have a new button-down shirt with 80s-bright fluorescent jellyfish on it, so that’ll be the perfect occasion to wear it. 🙂

a load off

We’ve had some oppressive heat and humidity these past few days, all near 100F, breaking some records. The forecasts all looked like it was going to stick around and even intensify over the next couple of weeks, but now some of them are saying it might not be so bad. One of them still does expected a lot of high 90s and a 102 though.

My spouse had to remind me yesterday that it’s not even summer yet, “legally.” It’s an illegal summer, a bootleg summer.

At work, a new version release has been on hold for a few weeks as we keep finding showstopping bugs. We were going to have an improved testing process throughout the whole release cycle and that didn’t really work out so well. But these last few days I’ve gone through moments with nothing on my list, and actually took some time to write up some feature ideas I’ve had. I hope to take a few days off after the release… not that I will want to do much in this weather, but not doing much is fine too.

My dad’s medical adventures have reminded me that I should catch up on that colorectal cancer screening that the MyChart app has told me I’m overdue for. They lowered the recommended age for screening from 50 to 45 about two months before my 50th birthday, as I recall.

Between the minor GI issues I’ve had for a while, and reading up on colon cancer, and being the type to get nervous about, well, everything, I managed to scare myself. I had a visit to a nurse practitioner yesterday and that put me at ease, though. The screening itself will be near the end of July, and at this point I’m not dreading it.

This might take several minutes

Oops — Needle releases July 13, not June 13. So I have a month to forget what happened in the other books in the trilogy and need to find more reading material.

I’m settling for rereading, for now. I just went through Emily Devenport’s Shade for the… maybe 4th time? It’s all right, sort of cyberpunk with very little cyber and a lot of punk, plus aliens. But I don’t really want to read the related books in that setting now.

So Decomposition: A Music Manifesto is on the list next. I don’t remember having read it; maybe I started and didn’t get very far, or maybe it got put in the wrong pile. More likely I’ll recall it once I get a few pages in.

Since Modular Addict is open again and actually has a lot of their skinny cables in stock, I have shored up my supply of blue 12″ cables and filled in my pink 18″ and green 24″ so they can all be the same brand. Should have gone for some 6″ too because I’ve got a mismatched group of Control Crono and Arturia Minibrute cables in that length, but that’s OK.

So the new ones are currently being stretched on the rack. They arrive with some curls due to the packaging, and need to be worked and stretched until they’re straighter… I know this is a horrible thing to do during Pride month 🙂

I’m finally getting a new computer at work (thankfully still Windows 10), and while it’s fresh in my mind I figured I would list all of the things I had to do to make it not annoying.

  • Use Edge to install Chrome. Ignore the desperate pleading of Edge that I don’t have to do it, because yes, I have to do it.
  • Uninstall OneDrive. This used to be difficult but they have made it much easier now.
  • Uninstall the XBox stuff. This is an enterprise Windows machine that is used for businessy business things, and I don’t even have at XBox at home anyway.
  • Hide the search bar and disable the news and weather thingy.
  • Clean up the junk out of Quick Access and do the registry hacks to hide the extra folders from “This PC” that aren’t actual drives.
  • Install these on any machine I use:
    • Bandzip
    • Open Shell
    • Process Monitor
    • Listary
    • Agent Ransack
    • Notepad++
    • WinMerge
    • Greenshot
    • WizTree
    • MusicBee for my music library, VLC or MediaMonkey for random other stuff.
    • Icedrive to securely sync some personal stuff. VeraCrypt so I can use my USB drive while following workplace cybersecurity requirements (it’s 99% my music library).
    • WinSCP to upload stuff to my web server.
    • I kind of like 7Stacks to categorize my taskbar a bit, but it’s not perfect and I don’t bother with it at work.
    • For work, Visual Assist X. I got way too used to it at my old job and Visual Studio does not feel right without it.
    • For home, Steam, Bitwig, Sound Forge, Paint Shop Pro. SyncTrayzor to sync my music library to my phone over WiFi.

small things

I’ve started writing a bit of a guide to Mutable Instruments Beads. Granular synthesis can be unintuitive and fiddly, but there are a whole bunch of relatively simple uses for Beads. If I were the type to make video tutorials I’d do that, but I’m not, so I’m writing up some text and recording a few audio examples.

So far I have 16 patch ideas described that don’t even use grains at all.

I bought a used Dreadbox Antidote. This is an all-analog “Karplus-Strong Strings” module — a BBD with short delay times with a noise burst generator and 1V/OCT tracking, as well as a filter.

Karplus-Strong synthesis simulates a vibrating string by “exciting” a short delay line with an impulse (a click, a short noise burst, etc.), and then feeding the end of the line back to the beginning. The delay length and clock rate determine the frequency of vibration, while the feedback (and any filtering) determines string damping. With a very clean delay and careful parameter choices it’s a decent simulation, though it can potentially be a bit harsh and bright. With a rougher circuit like this BBD, it can be really gritty, not particularly string-like and not musically useful in a lot of contexts. But K-S is definitely not the only trick this module has up its sleeve.

  • Antidote can act as a resonator, fed with other audio signals — like a dirty version of Rings.
  • It can act as a comb filter by just keeping that super-short delay time and moderate amounts of feedback.
  • It can act as a flanger or chorus by modulating the delay time.
  • It can simply add dirt, noise and character to a signal by running it through that lo-fi BBD.
  • The filter has a nice “round” character to it, and with an envelope, can act as a lowpass gate.

I’m not 100% blown away by this module, but it’s not without its uses. Future demos of Klavis Grainity may convince me to replace it, or I might choose something else or just hold onto it for a while. I still plan to pick up Xaoc Koszalin when available, and perhaps the Hel expander for Odessa. I do feel pretty confident though in replacing Manis and EnOsc with non-oscillators at least.

The next album is about half recorded. The most recent track was an accidental triumph with the U-bass. I just could not get MIDI controller assignments working with Audio Damage Enso (looper plugin) but a spontaneously recorded loop turned out awesome anyway. A second part using the bass to control Rings fit extremely well. I used the same Bitwig LFO that drove the loop playback to trigger 0-Ctrl with an asymmetric rhythm and got Odessa sounding more like Rings than Rings did. Overall it just came together perfectly and I’m super pleased with it.

I missed an Ambient Online compilation this time, thrown off by the family emergency and then just kind of put it out of my mind, but that’s OK.

I’m about halfway through my expected wait time for the Miezo. I’m very much looking forward to that first encounter and hopefully a lot of joyful playing afterward.

I’m catching up on Linda Nagata’s far-future fiction. I’ve had Edges and Silver in the Inverted Frontier series on my list for quite some time, and finally bought them. This led me to discover Memories (a sort of prequel) and Needle (about to be released next week).

The series is the continuation of the Nanotech Succession, of which Vast is one of my favorite science fiction novels ever. Two surviving characters take the extremely long journey back generally Earthward to find out what happened to ancient humanity, and of course, they find some very strange things. It’s been the same sort of combination of huge and mind-bending ideas (and how people react to them emotionally) and compelling characters that made me love the Nanotech Succession books.

I kind of want to go back and reread the Stormlight Archive. But the first draft of first draft of Stormlight 5 is barely underway and it’ll be a while. This winter the next Wax & Wayne novel should be out, and next year some of the “Secret Project” books will drop, some of which are Stormlight-related but not a continuation of the epic. Maybe I should wait a few months at least, so when the big one is ready it’ll all be fresher in my mind.

I also want to rewatch all of Steven Universe again. It’s just so comforting.

ringing in the new… June

As of today there are 940 albums in my main MP3 library, and I don’t know how many that have been moved off to my “One Star Archive” because I’m not sure I need to listen to them anymore (taking them out of active rotation, not syncing them in the cloud or to my phone).

A while back I decided I would start listening through it methodically — sort of alpha by artist, but allowing myself to jump around within each letter until I decide to move on to the next. (With occasional exceptions for specific works I especially felt like listening to.)

On my drive Tuesday I got through the Rs. On the drive back Sunday, I started into the Ss but there are a lot of those, thanks to it being a particularly common letter for names — there are more Ss than Ts even counting all the “The”s — and especially with Skinny Puppy and… Starthief. 🙂 I’ve been interspersing my own albums between other S-names, mainly starting from my oldest and working forward.

On those older albums I certainly find some things I like, but mostly, I can tell I’ve moved on, developed something a bit different with the structure of the music. I knew that about Nereus (with its tendency toward MIDI-sequenced 0-Coast lines and similar) but it applies to the next few as well. I wish I could put my finger on what changed, but right now I’m listening to Materials, am much more into it, and I feel that shift had taken hold. It wasn’t the stronger emphasis on tactile performance controllers, because the 16n Faderbank was early 2019 and my run with the Lyra-8 was later that year. Hmm.

we interrupt this regularly scheduled program

Why I have no Drone Day recording for this year:

I got a phone call from Mom minutes after I woke up (around 5:30 AM), telling me about a medical emergency Dad was having. It seemed to start with food poisoning a couple of weeks ago, but he wound up going to the ER Monday night, then being transported to a larger hospital 50 miles away, since he had kidney failure and the local hospital has no nephrologist. And naturally, they were already having car trouble…

I told her I’d need to work one day to tie up loose ends — we have an impending version release and I’m the lead developer — but wound up wrapping up ongoing stuff in 45 minutes and taking off the rest of the week. It’s about a 10.5 hour drive each way (plus stops), making it a total of about 31 hours of driving over 6 days (of which 13 was Sunday alone, ouch). My wonderful spouse arranged for her cousin to look after the dogs, and followed on the next day, which helped me to keep it together and which my parents also greatly appreciated.

Without going too much into personal detail, my Dad needed just one dialysis session to clean out the built-up toxins and then his kidney function recovered. It was a 5 day hospital stay though and he was frustrated and ready to bail out on day 3 if not sooner. More follow-up is needed soon to treat what may be the cause of the problem (which is itself somewhat scary), but for now he’s safe and feeling much better.

So that was emotionally and physically difficult for all of us in different ways, but this chapter has, thankfully, ended okay.

glittering in the dark

Vangelis, may he rest in peace, is high on my list of influential electronic musicians. Isao Tomita is at the top for me, for his modular synthesis techniques and classical arrangements (and probably because I listened to a few of his albums over and over at a younger age) — but Vangelis was the more inspiring composer, and a fine multi-instrumentalist, and really had an ear and a talent for many different styles.

Chariots of Fire was everywhere, and the main theme is one of the first melodies I remember learning by ear. The Blade Runner soundtrack is the best thing about the movie (sorry, “tears in rain” monologue, Syd Mead flying cars, “enhance” scene, paper unicorns and Sean Young’s shoulder pads). Music from Albedo 0.39 and Heaven and Hell accompanied our journeys through the cosmos with Carl Sagan — “Alpha” still gives me chills, and Albedo 0.39 also features some killer jazz and rock in places (“Main Sequence” and “Nucleogenesis”).

Vangelis allegedly never learned to read musical notation, and preferred one-take improvisation over “writing” music. That’s pretty gratifying considering that’s how I roll myself 🙂

chill restored

The AC company was able to send someone yesterday at around noon. Apparently they usually have 2 people on duty on weekends, but they had 15 volunteers to work overtime. And yes, it was the run capacitor, it was still under warranty, and replacing it was a very quick job.

Overall the hallway thermostat got as high as 87; it never got below 82 even when it rained and cooled to the mid-60s overnight. Of course the temperature in that particular spot only very loosely correlates to the temperature in the places where we actually spend our time.

The other thing I have cooled off on is the Xaoc Sofia. For most of Superbooth there was no video coverage of Xaoc’s new stuff online, no matter how often I refreshed my searches. 🙂 But this morning two videos appeared, and… eh, I can do without the module really.

But what I’m looking at now is one of Xaoc’s other new things, the Koszalin frequency shifter. I wrote it off originally because a freq shifter — which inharmonically lowers and/or raises the frequency of the incoming signal by some constant Hertz value, as opposed to a pitch shifter which changes incoming frequencies proportionally and keeps them all in tune — struck me as kind of a niche effect. At low ranges, it’s a swirly sound reminiscent of a psychedelic 70s flanger. At higher ranges it sort of sounds like an extra harsh ring modulator.

But as the demos pointed out, one thing you can do with a stereo frequency shifter is to shift up, process the signal with some other effect, and shift back down — causing the effect to act a little differently but staying in tune. That idea inspired me to give the frequency shifters in Bitwig and VCV Rack a try this morning. Okay, cool… but then I want back to watch the original Koszalin announcement video, and that thing really sounds freaking great. The Density control which affects feedback (I think by filling in delayed copies relative to the shift frequency) adds a lot, and it’s also got TZFM which is unique in a frequency shifter. The feedback sits just below self-oscillation, so it can be pinged like a filter, and in some ways it kind of sits the resonator space. So, that’s a strong contender.

To my ears, the other winner of Superbooth is Klavis Grainity — a “granular VCF” which immediately made everyone ask “what is a granular VCF?” It’s an analog multimode filter that has 13 different simultaneous modes, which are sliced and combined under digital control. Something very much like a wavetable oscillator sets the pattern of those slices, and that oscillator automatically tracks the pitch of the input signal, but can be detuned and divided. The upshot is, it adds all kinds of texture and waveshaping and phase modulation along with its filtering, and it sounds pretty amazing. Plus you can just use one of 6 of the filter modes without the fancy granular aspect and mix that in or use it separately.

These would be a total of probably 20-22 HP (the width of Grainity wasn’t announced). I’m still thinking it’d be Manis Iteritas and Ensemble Oscillator that would make way for these — so as of now, they’re both sort of on trial to decide whether or not I can part with one or both.