Friday, October 2, 2015

Generative Music ... For Isolation Tanks.

Next month I'll be releasing my first Music For Isolation Tanks studio ambient album in almost 20 years. In going through my archives I found a lot of material I had squirreled away including a piece I did literally to put people to sleep. It's almost an hour of quiet ambient  and drifting patterns and somnambulistic tones. Slowly changing over time the end result is a trance-like journey to drift off to. 


I initially got the idea from clock radios that offer white noise or other natural sounds that mask out urban or technological environment. The initial idea of Music For Isolation Tanks was to create ambient and exploratory synthesized sounds and along the way I studied generative music - a process of setting parameters in motion so that actual sound and notes are created by a structure rather than played in a specific order. The composer sets the options and choices and then usually software or an interactive instrument generates what appear to be random and ever changing combinations of sound based around the initial criteria.  Of course Brian Eno and his associates are probably the most famous artists who used generative music techniques but they are part of the art and film world as well. 

I included an excerpt of my piece, Aurore, on the new album but the original was a longer extended piece; the idea being you put it on around bed time and let it play as it slowly sweeps you into sleep. The software used for this piece was created by the late Carlos Mateo who released a number of VST programs (including The Devil Inside which I used to make this little noise ditty). Adding some custom samples and tweaks I found just the right balance for deep yet non intrusive sounds which evolve slow enough to let your mind wander and body relax. Almost, well...  the perfect Music For Isolation Tanks.  

Sleeeep on...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Noise Annoys... or not?

I should be working on finishing the nice quiet ambient Music For Isolation Tanks CD but this is what happens when you have so many cool instruments in the studio begging for attention:

I started "work" on another project, this time the opposite of the nice quiet ambient stuff. Working from a fantastic custom instrument made up of various pedals offered by 4MS. The one-of-a-kind Vision Well was calling my name from the corner. 

At some point I'll probably need to document what this is but basically it's a series of souped up custom versions of freakish sound processors and noise generators such as the TriwavePicoGenerator,  Mondo Locto, Noise Swash, Atoner, and more with special internal and external patching, a mixer, and a few other bells and whistles. From the info I have this was built around 2007 to spec of a private buyer. I've had it in my studio for quite a few years and added some other features along the way. 

I suppose as I record more with this I'll probably be properly motivated to then put this aside and go back to the ambient album. Well, I guess that is just one of those good problems for an underground musician.

Buzz, Fizzle, and Fuzz on!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Electronic Party People...

Composer Dan Deacon does more than create and play electronic music. In this NPR Tiny Desk Concert he shows how much fun being a dorky, geeky, beautiful human machine can be.

I've been doing a lot of posts about inspiration and music in general and so figured this might serve as an antidote to anyone feeling I've been getting too philosophical or away from Electronic Music or synthesizers.  Dan Deacon is a creative electronic music oriented artist who studied conservatory composition yet isn't too proud to make noise with a circuit bent Casio. He's pretty unique in the field and his music builds and swells like an orchestral work constantly merging both emotion and elation. 

He's also very creative in his choice of tools and in this performance he brings out a midi controlled acoustic Piano.  Contrast this to my phone grabbed pic from his most recent tour where he tried out actual robotic triggered acoustic drums as well:

Dan Deacon Live in Philadelphia 2015

What he'll bring out next is anyone's guess. He's over in Europe now and will return to do a few selected West Coast US dates in the Fall. Highly recommended as an artist, electronic musician, and all around damn good time.

The full NPR post here:

Dance on!

Monday, May 4, 2015

How to and Why...

Electronic musician's are notorious for liking and creating obtuse, experimental, and downright uncommercial  music.  To that end the community is a lot like the genuine Indie Rock/Punk world where artists compose and record what they want and release it when they are comfortable. This stands in contrast to many major commercial endeavors where album production teams and release dates are meticulously strategically planned  by managers, executives, and maybe -as a token-  with some input from the artists themselves. So with that, this post will focus on a newly discovered ode to the independent both in recording (got to have some geek/tech content folks!) and the inspiration. is a non-profit dedicated to supporting and showcasing independent music and the people who make and enjoy it. They offer workshops and a video series as well as documentation and an "Instructors Toolkit" for others to use to teach recording and other techniques. All come highly recommended  and this month they released the second season of their great Web/Video series "Shaking Through" which showcases musicians, engineers, and producers talking about and recording songs in the famous Miner Street Studio in Philadelphia.

This Season's first Episode features none other that Indie/Punk legends the Dead Milkmen and showcases both their confidence and experience with direct recording as well as their curiosity and comfort level with experimenting and collaborating with others. For a band known for catchy irreverent pop "Bitchin' Camaro", "Punk Rock Girl" and hick punkish manifestos "Stuart" the two videos from this series show just how sophisticated that "unsophisticated" veneer really is. The series focuses on two videos; one of the "Artist" and one of the "Production" and both are brilliant, insightful, and entertaining.

It's a joy to watch the musician's and recording team both relax and work hard at the same time and the result speak for themselves. What once was a juvenile  pleasure has now grown into a mature yet fun artistic and expressive event losing none of it's drive or relevance along the way. Few artists can claim that in general. The fact that the Dead Milkmen can pull it off just goes to show how much it's not about the corporate planning or chart sales and comes down the the same universal themes that drive any and all music.

Listen on.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"The World's Gonna Spin With or Without Me"

Recently electronic music auteur Richards James (aka Aphex Twin) posted over 170 (so far!) free unreleased songs on Soundcloud. Some are snippets and ideas but most are fully formed tracks. From an artist that was minimally visible for almost a decade this wealth of material  is like a godsend to fans. His decision to post under a generic pseudonym (user487363530001) isn't that surprising if you know how he operates

(Update: The User487363530001 soundcloud page  has been removed: WATMM has archived the tracks for download here: )

What is a bit more curious is why now and why post so many things for free all at once? Given the Aphex MO these questions will most likely never be answered but in the meantime fans and new listeners alike can share this work that once was hidden and now is out there for all to enjoy.

I recently discovered another artist had a new album out in 2014 and am kind of kicking myself that I didn't know it sooner. I caught up when I heard her distinctive voice on a TV show of all things and then went to check out if she had released any new material. Sure enough a double album set of 20 new songs has been out since last September. Lucinda Williams is a singer/songwriter versed in blues, country, and rock and roll and not an electronic music pioneer but after poking around I found some data points that stuck me as similar in my experience of finding both sets of recordings.

First and foremost while hungry for more information on her new album I came across this article declaring her one of 2014's most Overlooked Artists. Guilty as charged I thought - I'm a fan and didn't even know she had new material let alone 20 new songs. Turns out she was promoting on everything from the Tonight show to this tasty stripped down set at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series: 

In his writing Old, But Not in a New Way author Grayson Currin  hits upon this insight:

"When we’re all trying to keep up with the best new Ableton users on Soundcloud or hunt for the best lo-fi uploads to Bandcamp, who has the time and attention to sit down with a 20-song set from a 61-year-old songwriter and parse just how thoughtful and articulate it is? I didn’t. She’ll likely release another record not long after we have a new president, anyway?"


On electronic music forums and mailing lists the Aphex Twin "Soundcloud dumps" (as they been called) have certainly got a lot of attention. But equally it seems some listeners are blinking, retweeting, and moving on the the NEXT(tm) thing. One post I saw recently seemed to miss the point entirely by saying (and I'm paraphrasing) "I really like the outtakes, I wish he'd release another ambient album". This after he just released well over NINE HOURS of just that. 

Are we not paying attention? Are we so spoiled with amazing work that as soon as something brilliant comes out we shrug, tag it, and shove it in a folder on our phones or computers or shelves looking for more without even digesting it? And if it's any of the above or even a combination of those or other reasons what does this say about those who do create music? Are we simply shoveling new recordings together in a collection, tossing it into the electronic aether, and moving on ourselves?

Currin goes on to add:

"This isn’t mere information overload, where folks are flooded with so many sources of online sound that they never give anything a proper spin...  Instead, Spirit and many records like it seem to go unnoticed because, in that new church of overwhelming data and choices, we’re looking to latch onto a narrative hook or the simple feeling of newness that we can share. The appeal of something you’ve never heard (and especially something you suspect very few others have heard) dovetails perfectly with our new sharing infrastructure: This is mine, and by showing it to you, I’ve upped the level of my imprimatur."

I don't have the answers and openly admit I'm guilty of this as well. There are only so many hours in a week for my ears and mind to dig music and that's even less when you are making it yourself. But as listeners or artists we owe it to ourselves - and others - to be vigilant about the fatigue that can set in in this day and age of electronic distribution and promotion. Not all music is created equal and while no one can tell you what you like it behooves us to pay attention and give what we do recognize as great music and art a fighting chance. 

I found the new album "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone" in passing. In listening to the song "Protection" over and over I found these lyrics and blinked:

You know people be grinnin' and talkin' about me
Make me throw up my hands and call out cryin'
But the world's gonna spin with or without me
So I still get up and I keep on tryin' 

I've always been an advocate of artists having to please themselves first and then share second. it might sound pretentious or arrogant but the reality is sending your notes and words out into the universe is a delicate balance. It's impossible to guess what someone else will like or being happy with if you don't have the foundation of being satisfied with your work first. What she sings so seemingly effortlessly in the lyrics above might be the blueprint for us as consumers and more importantly, fans, to use to make sense of what we see and hear on a daily basis and maybe, just maybe, separate the signal from the noise. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

We Smell Sausage...

Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame  gives a tour of his studio in LA and explains backwards masking to the masses....

Super bleep on!

Monday, February 2, 2015

I've been working on a post about Susan Ciani for a few weeks. In the meantime, here's one reason why I am working on a post about Susan Ciani...

Full info on this excursion here: