2015 Drafts Playlist

My 2015 playlist is minimal, to put it politely. Months ago I knew that I would make nothing new but it seemed only right to wait until the year was officially over to document the fact.

I’d already noted in my 2014 playlist that I’ve been focusing my free time on this particular blog, getting the narrative up to date. In 2015 all my free time, other than reading a few books and taking the occasional nap, watching a couple of movies and spending time with my family, from January through August went into Prattle and Din. Now I just add as I go.

In 2015 I made some effort (September and November) to learn Sonar. After twelve years working with ACID Pro it was disconcerting to switch to another DAW. Some things in Sonar are similar or even easier. But sometimes I have no idea how to do something that was a no-brainer in ACID (for instance, pasting a clip (that is, an audio file) multiple times at a set spacing along the timeline (in printing this is called step-and-repeat)).

As mentioned in a previous post, I bought the microphone I’d been lusting after for years. You’ll be hearing it on future recordings though you might not be aware of it. It works very well with my voice. Though I’ll probably continue using the Røde NT-1 for recording most other sounds.

Something I hadn’t mentioned, from lack of time, is that in November I finally bought the Arturia virtual synth collection because it was on sale for $200. These are software replicas of about a dozen classic synthesizers and electronic keyboards popular in the 1960s through the 1980s. I’ve had very little time to play around with them, to actually get to know them, so it’s probably more a matter of infatuation than true love.

(Our younger child, aged 19, took a leave of absence from college and purchased a plane ticket to Australia with the intent of spending a year in Melbourne. It was our plan, therefor, to spend as much of our time together as a family as we could. This included a trip to Florida, officially for a wedding, just before the kid left.

On top of which, a few days before Thanksgiving our stove and kitchen sink were removed as the first step in a long overdue remodeling. We didn’t get the new ones installed until December 22nd, I think it was. This was a distraction. At least, it wasn’t conducive to recording.)

And there you have it. A blank playlist. It’s kind of soothing, don’t you think.

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Our newly remodeled kitchen. In the back entry, through the open door, you can see the old door fronts and hideous hardware we’d been living with for 22 years. The little cabinet by the stove has a tip-open door on the side for garbage—we’re just thrilled by little things. The light that I’d just installed above the stove is blinding for short people, so we’ve commissioned a piece of stained glass from a friend. And after 22 years of cooking on an electric stove, gas seems like one of the seven wonders of the universe.
Karen and I on Sanibel Island, early December 2015. I hate hanging out on the beach, so the rain made little difference (except that I only had one pair of shoes).
Karen and I on Sanibel Island, early December 2015. I hate hanging out on the beach, so the rain made little difference (except that I only had one pair of shoes).
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2014 Drafts Playlist

The fact that I did absolutely no audio in 2014 may seem like a failure. To me it was a necessary fallow period, of which I’ve had many over the last 40 years (quite often this means a change of medium). It’s also a victory of sorts: for someone with perfectionist tendencies to not have tweaked anything is, perhaps, a major accomplishment.

I would say it was 90% distraction, though.

I got caught up in two epic novels: Neal Stephenson’s Baroque cycle, which is about 2000 pages; and a 5500+ page space opera by Peter F. Hamilton (still not sure why I finished that one). I have so little time for reading that each took months. It felt like a luxury to read.

In May, I think it was, I bought Cakewalk’s Sonar X3 to replace ACID Pro. I had other things on my mind and never worked on anything to test it out, perhaps not wanting to take on the learning curve. I have yet to even start a new composition in Sonar.

June or July I bought a laptop to fulfill all kinds of portability fantasies, of being able to listen to music while blogging from other parts of town or even out of town. Kind of a geezer’s attempt to move into the 21st century. That led to me uploading a couple thousand albums onto my computers, which took me something like three months. (A “couple thousand” albums was not a hyperbolic statement. Merely fact.) Though I seem to exhibit some OCD traits this was by no means a completist operation, especially since about half my library has never been digitized (by that I meant that I’d not gotten CDs nor converted my LPs to disc, but some seem to not have been converted to digital by anyone or have been out of print for 20 years since first being reissued digitally).…The laptop has not gotten much use but I have been listening to more music in the past year than I have in probably the last decade, on my desktop, since I don’t have to go running to a different room to find a CD then wait for it to load. Having music on my computer is very handy. And distracting.

Initially it was my intention to post more on my ranting blog, The Naked Old Man, but I kept having this other project nagging in the back of my mind. I wanted to compile a narrative of my recording experiences, both documenting the creation of each composition and my trials with the technology. In November Prattle and Din started to come to life.

2013 Drafts Playlist

Very little audio was worked on in 2013. My enthusiasm spurred by SoundCloud waned in 2012 as they began to tinker with the interface. Almost everything I’d recorded had been remixed/mastered in September 2012, so I felt like leaving things alone. More importantly 2013 is when I began focusing on digital publishing by reviving an old chapbook, Essay, as an interactive PDF and by creating a dreamlog as a website.

There were only three new compositions.

2012 Drafts Playlist

My motivation for making art has never involved an audience so what little boost and thrill I got in 2011 by having a few people listening to and commenting on my recordings was quickly waning. Yet most of what I did in 2012 was socially motivated. In the spring I initiated the blog Poetry and Other Sounds. In September I remixed/mastered almost all my recordings to make my voice and words easier to hear. I have no documentation but I suspect I was also working on a website for an online archive of all my artistic output that has been found, going back to my youth—the website and various explorations for ways to publish have been ongoing and begin to dominate in subsequent years.

There are only five new compositions, three of them in the first six months and one at the end of the year. “The Naming” was recreated for something like the fourth time; some of the old track recordings and samples have been re-used; the vocal was rerecorded and the whole thing somewhat rearranged.

 

2011 Drafts Playlist

2011 was a busy year for me, second only to my first year recording (even if you look at only 1996 rather than making it a full year by going as far as March 1997). 17 new compositions. I attribute this to opening an account on SoundCloud and for the first time in my life having immediate (and somewhat positive) feedback on my art. The last time any of my artistic output had been before an anonymous public was in the spring of 1985 when I participated in a group exhibition of drawing.

(I think the image below was featured in the Duluth Star Tribune, for their article on the exhibit, though Gendron Jensen was the star of the show (I was the instigator). Interesting, a drawing of a newspaper page (Rolling Stone) being reprinted in a newspaper. Also of interest is that at that time I knew absolutely nothing about type. Not saying I’m all that knowledgeable now but, back then, I truly knew nothing. Didn’t even know what a font was, or a typeface, much less ascenders and serifs. It barely crossed my mind that the photo was presented as halftone dots and that magnified three times they’d be visible. This is not Pop art. It also fails as Photo Realism.)

Echo and the Bunnymen vs. the censorship of bad advertising. A drawing of mine circa 1984 that was seen publicly at the Duluth Art Institute spring 1985. The images were done three times life size. 14"x21" Graphite, india ink, chalk, and white acrylic on Rieves BFK.
Echo and the Bunnymen vs. the censorship of bad advertising. A drawing of mine circa 1984 that was seen publicly at the Duluth Art Institute spring 1985. The images were done three times life size. 14″x21″ Graphite, india ink, chalk, and white acrylic on Rieves BFK.

 

“Music, the Beginning” and “Sex Is Something (You’ll Never Forget)” were recreated in ACID Pro early in the year, one of which was featured on my anniversary collection 15 Years of Prattle and Din. A couple of other older compositions were remixed. But, really, almost all my audio work was new stuff. As had happened in 2010, a few things that had been sitting on my computer for years were finished off. With these older attempts I was still working with other people’s loops. Primarily what I was doing on new creations, as I had the year before, was to focus on my own loops and playing “live” with the abundance of software instruments on my computer, often restricting myself, at least initially, to one loop source or one synth (an attempt to learn the instrument). I would describe this as an educational and experimental year, much like 1996, though I always seem to be learning rather than mastering this medium (I may have mentioned before that when I do learn a medium or tool I tend to get bored and move on…I think that might have been on my other blog, The Naked Old Man).

 

To some extent I was floating, not because I had become popular or successful but simply because someone was listening. Not only that, people from all over the world were hearing my noise. Because of SoundCloud a few of my works had found their way to obscure radio shows and DJ sets: the UK, Germany, and Serbia in particular. Even more exciting was the fact that I’d found others doing something similar to what I’m doing. It would seem audio poets remain a rare breed. Check out Mark Goodwin’s group site on SoundCloud Air to Hear if you’re hungry to hear more.

2010 Drafts Playlist

2010 was primarily a year of tweaked mixes and my first attempts to master my recordings with iZotope’s Ozone. Three of the four new compositions are verbal ad libs (“Hello, Earth”, “One Without the Other”, and “Work Yourself to Death”). Only “Hello, Earth” seems in any way inspired or successful.

That year I also recreated “The Apostle” with draft 5. I reused the samples from earlier drafts but thinned them out so it’s less cluttered. I think I reused the MIDI synth tracks but with all new sounds (again thinning out the note data) and mixing them so they’re barely audible at times. And I added some new synth parts with better sounding software instruments than the cheap hardware I’d been using in the 1990s. The vocal has been rerecorded. The drying rack is the old analog recordings from 1996. The wheeze…for some reason I think I rerecorded it with a drain stopper/seal, a little water, and a bellowed plunger.

It also looks like I recreated “Evil 1” with draft 8 and “Sex Is Something (You’ll Never Forget)” with draft 2. In the case of “Sex Is Something” new software synths were used and the voice rerecorded, the same MIDI tracks and samples were used. Since “Evil 1” is almost all performance it had to be rerecorded, but the arrangement is pretty much the same.

 

2009 Drafts Playlist

2009 was a painful, frustrating year as I continued to fight with my computer. The big problem by then was Native Instruments. Sony had come through the previous December with the release of ACID Pro 7, which was 64-bit compatible. NI kept giving me bogus settings suggestions to make my computer run better with their software. Yet they had, the preceding fall (2008), made a plain statement that they were not yet convinced that 64-bit was the way to go. I had been led to believe that you always buy the biggest, fastest computer you could afford in the hopes it wouldn’t be totally obsolete in a year. Yet here is this software company saying they don’t see the value of the top-of-the-line computers on offer. That was where the market was heading whether they appreciated it or not. It wasn’t until September or October 2009 with the release of Komplete 6 that my problems came to an end.

Yet it took me a couple months before I got back into the swing of constructing with sound, when I got a little break from most responsibilities around Christmas and New Years, to produce two new compositions. I wasn’t, nor am I now, completely done with commercial loops but from here on out I work primarily with my own loops and software synths.