Monday, 28 October 2013

Another SuperWave soft-synth added and stuff......

When SuperWave suddenly offers their products at half price, you can't ignore it!!!
So, this evening I raided the Paypal account and bought their rather excellent Tarkus synthesizer. It's a three oscillator beast, based upon the legendary Korg MS2000 synthesizer. Other features include an incredible four sixteen-step sequencers, an arpeggiator and a multi-fx section which includes chorus, phaser, delay, distortion and EQ, all of which can generate a convincing analogue sound.
It's laid out in the same fashion as a Korg MS2000 and apparently, if you own one, you can use it as a control surface for Tarkus. I like that it has one control per parameter, I find it far more intuitive than multi-function controls and once linked to my Evolution MK449C MIDI keyboard controller, gives me more real-time control.
Tomorrow will see me doing a significant amount of work on the "Structures of Paradise" album. Callum has done his parts so it's time to get everything edited and arranged. It's coming along very nicely and the different bits and pieces of effects software I have added to the GTK Studio Computer over the last few months are rea;y proving themselves to be the investment I had hoped them to be, particularly the Waves and Minimal System Instruments plugs.
I'm also of a mind to have another crack at using the sequencers on my hardware Korg 01/W FD and M1R EX synthesizers - pointless having them in the rack and not using them!!!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Some news and some new studio bits......

Still cracking on with "Structures of Paradise" and "Hollow Sun" - both of which are coming along nicely. But in the meantime, I've had some news and some new stuff that has appeared in the GTK Studio.
So, the new proper news just in is that I seem to have found myself become a part of a Norwich-based electronic music set up called Weathered Wall. WW is fronted, as it were, by my buddy Dean Burnett, formerly of the bands The Tower and Japanese Whispers (I hadn't heard of them either). I won't be doing much with WW until I've got "Structures" completed and "Hollow Sun" is at least half done. Should be a lot of fun, Dean and I have a great friendship that goes all the way back to last week and I hope that rapport will come through in the music. Talking of which, it'll be predominantly synthesizer based with vocals. I'll post some more details about Weathered Wall soon :-)
And so to the new GTK Studio additions.
First up are two excellent software synthesizers from Arturia, namely the Prophet V and the Jupiter-8V. These two synths are based on classic keyboards from the 1980's, the SCI Prophet 5 and Prophet VS and the Roland Jupiter 8 (bet you weren't able to work that out, eh?). The Arturia Prophet V is actually two synths in one, with a third "hybrid" synth that combines the Prophet 5 and Prophet VS elements together. I love the sounds that the hybrid is capable of and I think I'll be spending a fair bit of time messing about with it. The Arturia Jupiter-8V has a lovely 1980's synth sound that is quite close to the original, I've not spent much time with it as yet, but thus far, I'm really liking the things it's throwing at me. Please do expect to hear these synths on "Hollow Sun".

On the effects front, I've added a fabulous "through-zero" flanger called Liquid from a U.S. company called Audio Damage. Audio Damage do some pretty cool stuff and I will definitely be adding more of their products to the GTK Studio arsenal. Liquid is a genuinely useful tool as it adds life and sparkle as well as the familiar "jet flanging" effect. I spent an evening with Liquid and some synth string patches and I was mightily impressed. It's an unruly little beast as well, so it needs careful handling and a compressor or two ;-)
You may recall (if you've read anything else on this 'ere blog) that I installed the free Alchemy Player from Camel Audio. Well, one of the things that attracted me to the free player was that you could still buy the sound libraries Camel Audio have for sale and use them. So, I have managed to get my sticky virtual paws on a few of them and I have to tell you that they are awesome!!! Here's what's currently in the Alchemy Player library:
Cinematic Atmospheres
Taste of Camel

And lastly on the GTK Studio new equipment list is the Korg Monotron Duo. I have the original Monotron and the Monotron Delay, so as soon as I saw this latest little lovely going for a silly cheap price on evilBay, I had to get it. It's essentially a two-oscillator version of the Monotron, with cross-modulation. It also has a proper chromatic keyboard which makes playing melody lines a lot easier. Hooked up with the other 2 Monotrons, this little beauty screams like a banshee and I will tell you that I've started a track for "Hollow Sun" that will be nothing but the three Monotrons ;-)
So, that's it for now. Much going on here in GTK HQ at the moment and hardly a moments peace - but it's all good and positive stuff, which is basically how we roll.

A re-discovered passion

I spend most of my time playing around with cameras or synths, taking photos or creating new music. When I'm not out trespassing or holed up in my studio, I listen to a lot of music, usually John Foxx, Midge Ure, Ultravox or some other such like. But I have found myself to be guilty of neglecting a long time musical passion, namely choral music.
I'm not a religious man in any sense, but the only two good things religion has actually given to the world are churches and music. I had classical training in music and as such was exposed to a lot of different styles of composition, but one of the most wonderous and impacting was choral music.
Choirs are usually made up of four sections so that they may sing in four-part harmony, though this isn't a set up that is cast in stone, for example,  the Tudor composer (and one of my favourites) Thomas Tallis composed a 40 part choral piece for 8 choirs that had 5 sections each, but the more usual arrangements are parts of 3, 5, 6 and 8. One of the beauties of choral music is that it can be backed by a full orchestra, a single instrument or no accompany at all. The latter is known as "a cappella" and, interestingly, the American Choral Directors Association doesn't like this term because it infers religious connotations and prefer the term "unaccompanied". Very typical of the Americans to dumb down something that has been in place for centuries - I personally think it's because either they can't pronounce it or because it's not American English (read: bastardised English language). Anyway, there's nothing quite as stirring as a mass choir and full orchestra or as sublime as a single instrument and a women's choir.
It's difficult to say what sort of choral music is my favourite as I love them all equally, be it the Choir of King's College, Cambridge singing Christmas carols, or Paul Hillier, Theatre of Voices, The King's Noyse and David Douglass singing the work of Thomas Tallis or The Purcell Singers performing Holst's third group of the  Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, to me, there is no finer instrument than that of the human voice.
Take a listen to this piece below. It's by British composer Benjamin Britten and is called "There Is No Rose" and sung by the Elektra Women's Choir. This beautiful composition comes from his "A Celebration of Carols" which was written for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp, consisting of eleven movements, using texts from "The English Galaxy of Shorter Poem"s, and sung in Middle English. Britten wrote this whilst travelling by sea to England from the United States in 1942. It's tonal quality is quite sublime and very ethereal:

In a slightly different direction is this next piece by Thomas Tallis, an English composer revered within the history of English church music and favoured by many as one of England's greatest composers because of his originality. Tallis was believed to have been born around 1505 during the reign of Henry VII and died in December 1585 (according to the Gregorian calendar and November 1585 if you go by the Julian calendar) and very little is known of his early life. In fact there are no known portraits of Tallis during his lifetime and the only one that exists was painted some 150 years after his death. You have to put aside the unfortunate "50 Shades of Grey" context and open yourself to the music rather than the modern references - ultimately this piece will be around far longer and held with greater reverence than the book could ever hope. It is a religious lyric, possibly written around 1540, and comes from the gospel of John, where Jesus promises his disciples during the Last Supper that he will not leave them abandoned, but will be with them through the Holy Spirit whom he will send from the Father (John 14.15). As with "50 Shades of Grey", the biblical aspect for me is without any importance at all next to the simple quality and beauty of the piece, which is without question:

The above piece was performed by the Cambridge Singers under my favourite modern day composer, John Rutter. Rutter was born in September 1945 and is a British composer, conductor, editor, arranger and record producer, chiefly of choral music. His compositions are predominantly choral, comprising Christmas carols, anthems and longer pieces such as a Gloria, a Magnificat, and a Requiem. The following is the first part of Rutter's wonderful "Magnificat", as performed by the Cambridge Singers and superbly demonstrates Rutter's fabulously modernist choral style. The "Magnificat", which is Latin for "my soul magnifies", is also known as the "Song of Mary" or the "Canticle of Mary" and is a canticle that's often sung liturgically in Christian church services. The title is derived from the first word of the Latin version of the canticle's text. Once again, put aside the religious context and allow yourself to be swept away by the up-lifting and wonderful cadences and crescendos:

I have to show favour with John Rutter for this posting as I'm really enjoying my return to listening to this sort of music and Rutter's compositions are really hitting the mark for me at the moment. This next piece by Rutter is another blindingly beautiful piece called "Esurientes", the sixth part of his "Magnificat" and perfectly performed once again by the Cambridge Singers:

And finally, mostly because I can, a third Rutter piece and another favourite, this is the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol". Very Christmassy and quite lovely :-)