Recently my family went on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico. During this trip we frequented the grocery store Selecto (as well as short visits to a few others). During the duration of the trip I took a few photos of designs that stuck out to me for one reason or another.
In my photography class this weekend, my professor (Eric Carroll) mentioned the photographer Garry Winogrand who passed away with over 8,000 rolls of undeveloped film. After class he was telling a classmate and I about some studies he did over the summer with another student based on the research of Donald Glaser (a physicist who traced charged particles through a bubble chamber). This got us on the topic of leaving certain elements up to the random. The art of chance.
I decided to wash dishes and see how the computer would translate these common sounds in to something more recognizable as music. There's a few options in Ableton that allow you translate sounds in to MIDI drums, harmonies, and/or melodies. When importing the sounds of washing dishes in to Ableton for translation, I really anticipated there would be some cool dissonant melodies from the clinking of dishes. After each sound was translated in to each MIDI category, the computer found each recording to be much more accurate in the percussion spectrum.
If you're unfamiliar with how MIDI works, think about a player piano. The interpreting device reads information that says something should be activated when a hole is interacted. When the holes are traveled over on the roll of paper, a note is played that corresponds to the hole's location. MIDI is fully controllable on a computer. The velocity of the note, it's sustain, the actual sound of what's played, etc. For the melody and harmony sections, I chose the sounds based on how much time was in between each note. If there was more space, I chose a sound with a longer tail. The drums sounds are mostly from my Boss DR3 and some miscellaneous electronic kits. In the future, I may do another version where the translated percussion notes are replaced with piano or synth notes, but this experiment was to translate how the computer interpret. Let the computer translate how it would hear dishes being washed and put away, but as audio or more specifically, as music. Both the original audio recording and the MIDI>audio are in the mix of the video.
About a week ago I released a music project titled "Toroid". Besides in casual conversations with friends, I've never elaborated on the process behind the music I make. Too often I'm either focused on the next thing, but this time I want to give a look at how the sausage is made. I'm still new to his music, but I've read more about Brian Eno's process of writing and recording than actually listening to his work. Miles Davis is another musician who I highly regard with his process (as well as his music).
An artist who I look up to (well beyond music but we'll stick to this topic) is Omar Rodriguez Lopez. He was the main man for the band The Mars Volta. I had read in interviews that for their album Frances the Mute, Omar got together with the singer and they discussed shapes of how they wanted the album to look, brought it to the drummer and built a click track map to resemble the shapes and recorded drums to the album first (Modern Drummer, June 2005 Issue). With Toroid I did not draw shapes, but I recorded drums first before anything.
Recording Process: In November of 2015 I bought a Presonus Firestudio off of Craigslist and this was a very important piece of gear for me. Up until this point I had only been able to record with one microphone input at a time. The Firestudio has 8 microphone inputs. These 8 inputs allowed me to record a full drum set with much higher quality and flexibility.
During this process the only recording software I had access to that was compatible with this piece of equipment was Protools LE 8. This was only able to run via my 2009 Macbook (the white plastic one). The problem with this is is that Protools is owned by Avid and Avid doesn't like anyone to use any other product with their software besides their own products. So in turn I would record drums in the open source program Audacity, export the individual tracks and import them in to Protools to continue working. Although this was a hassle, I was excited to finally have decent drum sounds by comparison to how I had been recording prior.
With the situation I was in, having to record drums in a separate software, I could have recorded to a click in ProTools, exported the song with the click, imported it to Audacity, recorded the drums, exported the individual drum tracks, imported those in to the ProTools session and work from there. This would makes sense (besides the madness) as it's normal to come up with a riff or melody first. Given the hurdles to jump, I decided to turn on a click track and just drum. No ideas, just drum. This is how the title track to "Toroid" came about.
This process is pretty clear if you listen to the song. Everything recorded was in one take (except bass) where I would either punch guitars in an out or just take out what wasn't as pleasant in post.
Over the course of a few months I upgraded some pieces to my space, but I continued on with this process for the album. Although some songs are in pop structure (verse/chorus/verse/chorus) the length and beat in mind before anything else. After the drum parts, each riff and solo would was wrote to compliment each part of the drums previously recorded.
Concept: If you're reading this, chances are you already know I have a full time job. In the spring of 2016 I was accepted to the University of Minnesota to study Graphic Design. I was also in the midst of a project with a few friends, "Broken Focus" and working on a project with MC Danielle Chéri. What I'm getting at was there were a lot going on and yet there was still energy to work on this project.
The name was inspired by a table top Tesla Coil I built in 2015. The top part to a Tesla Coil is called a Toroid. It's a donut shaped piece that holds the leftover energy. With the description above and what was all going on while working on this project, the word "Toroid" was a bulls eye.
The lyrical content on the project revolved around the leftover energy one has. This may be work related, school related, or even just normal exhaustion related. MonopoleJoe understood the concept when I explained it to him as he works a couple jobs and creates a ton of music in his free time. With Sierra's lyrics I explained to her the trouble I was having writing about the race issues our society is facing these days. She hit me back with the lyrics within an hour. They are ambiguous for anyone who isn't in on this for their own interpretation.
One song that has an abstract approach is In the Doldrums. The effected vocals are to represent the voice of a tour guide. The clean vocals are from the perspective of the person on a tour. The tour being one's own mind. The end of the song gets a bit more intense with questions as thoughts can get dark as soon as you get a way from the said tour guide.
Extras: With each project I record under the name Wet Eyes, I like to give back energy to the music universe that I've enjoyed. Attempt to treat the music how the music has treated me. With this project I tried to give back to the soul and jazz influences above most others (genres). Of course there are other influences, but those two are tops here. (Some of the darker Billie Holiday tunes, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and some of the deeper cuts on Van Halen's Fair Warning are some notable records of inspiration)
This album was a full circle of many parts in my life. The drums themselves were what was left over from two moves (to Las Vegas and back) and a few toms borrowed from friends. In all honesty the kick drum was a First Act kick drum from my first drum set. The mastering was done by Jordan Skophammer who I met at the first college I attended (The Institute of Production and Recording -also met Mono here as well), the artwork was done by Guedda HM who I met while attending my second college (MCTC), and I met Sierra through Dani's project who I met from a friend who I met while playing in a cover band in Wisconsin. All of the songs were recorded on the first computer I ever bought for myself (that Macbook) while I was in high school.
Closing: Now I didn't want to give away too much about this album but I've never given insight publicly on a project. Really, I've never given much insight to any project I've ever done via blog or public journal. I've appreciated when artists I look up to share their process, especially when I don't have to dig through links and forums to get to the meat. Some of the content I would like to remain ambiguous for your interpretation. You can draw your own meaning, but the gut concepts are here.
If you haven't listened and are curious now or didn't even know about the project until now, feel free to stream and download below. If you're still here, thank you. Seriously.
This afternoon I published a music video for a track called Fresh Squeezed. I produced the instrumental and my friend MonopoleJoe contributed some vocals. The idea popped in to my head to make the video a visual representation of how a song sounds sonically. You'll see how I mean, but for an example - the drums are always chilling in the background, they don't take up much space but they are there at all times. The vocals demand the most attention, so Mono takes up the most space visually.
This concept was taken one step further as I was trying to figure out how to make the colors pop. A few years ago where I was talking to a friend about music and mentioned (as if I figured she knew what I was talking about) that the song had a little too much blue. She, being a nurse, informed me about synesthesia. Now I've not done a ton of research on this "disorder" but apparently I've got it. Colors can be subjective but I figured this video could benefit from altering the colors to be how I imagined them in my head from the tones in the song. You'll see there are undertone changes, but one part his a dark patch and the colors reflect this. Anyway, here's the video...
This past spring the University of Minnesota College of Design put out a contest. The objective was to design a t-shirt as a "Welcome Back" or "Welcome To" the College of Design (I don't recall the requirements saying any text was needed, I could be wrong though). I'm normally not in to contests, but an idea hit me as I read the contest description and figured I'd throw it in the ring. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take or something, right?
The concept is that Goldie's head is shown from the eyes up implying he's in over his head but his eyes aren't sad. Not sure about other students but a good amount of last semester was spent inside my own noggin. Each ring represents one minimum credit that is needed to be a full time student. I'm sure you can connect the dots to the theme here. Needless to say, it didn't take too long to get a rejection letter in return. Regardless, I still dig the design and figured it was worth a share.
If you're subscribed to any design publication (AIGA Eye on Design and HOW are my personal preference) there's frequent talk of including humor in design. This past week a problem/goal was presented and a creative solution more or less just showed up. After one round of spit balling the idea myself and two co-workers headed for the parking lot. With the content being of serious manner, my goal is to juxtapose it with welcoming humor. The video got some folks in the office giggling and that little boost of morale is a solid result (for me) if anything.
A few months ago I had gotten home pretty damn late and the sky was looking a little different than usual. The air was pretty thick and didn't smell normal. If I remember correctly, it may have been around the time Canada was having it's forest fire situation. Figuring this might be one of the only times I'd be around for air like this with access to my camera, I grabbed it and my tripod. Here are some of the results. (all photos are untouched besides the raw to jpg conversion)
A few weeks ago I bought the Roland JP-08. Been wanting a synth since (arguably) 2010 after watching a documentary about Robert Moog. After seeing M.Sage post about loving his, I found someone selling theirs on Craigslist. My good friend Trevor came over one day and we recorded this song simply based off the synth line. The rest emerged from there. Fast forward a week and we decided it would be an interesting time to create a fake fish and just throw it around the neighborhood while filming it. Below is the end result.