Blog: entries tagged with "bass"

Presonance at last

Flash visualizer from the Presonance site I’ve been messing about with Flash and Actionscript lately, and one of my big motivations was was wanting to finish the Presonance site.

Some months ago, I started trading files with Rezo Largul, and we decided to use the name “Presonance” for our collaboration, and “Mycestene” as a name for an eventual CD. So far we’ve completed four tracks and have a couple of others in the works. The finished ones are now up, along with some pretty little visualizations (yup, there’s the Flash programming coming into play). Spacy analogue waltzes, mysterious orchestral arrangements colliding with mad electronic rhythms, a dose of Casseiopean free jazz…

Have a listen! You can download the tracks there too.

And in the acoustic world, another Toronto lamppost has been graced with its own built-in bass. Now that I’ve got a new digital audio recorder I’ll have to pay the new “Garrison Creek” bass a visit. All hail RGB for bringing more music to our parks and sidewalks!

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The other day carlos_G at the Immersion Composition Society announced the Lime Gecko Virtual Lodge - an all-day music composing marathon. The goal is to record as many pieces of music as humanly possible in one day. I started a bit late in the day, but managed seven:

2007_0331_01_habanerique.mp3 (1’57”)

11:30 am. Oh crap. I’ve started doing a pseudo-Cuban piano number. What am I doing? I don’t play piano. I do my best to fumble my way through a drum part as well.  conga (only one conga today; the head on the other one suffered water damage thanks to a leaky roof up here) - piano - J-bass - drums - guitar (added later).

2007_0331_02_ShootForTheMoon.mp3 (3’07”)

Better start this one in more familiar territory, namely on the guitar. Then clumsy Roland drums - J-bass - lyrics - experimental 1+3+4 harmonies on chorus - keyboard. Me and the celestial imagery again.

2007_0331_03_Lander_beeswax.mp3 (2’10”)

Kept the keyboard on that same patch and did a lazy, introspective instrumental. Then I decided to change it up with a big stompy beat. Rolannd thru FilterQueen - Apple Loop processed heavily - re-recorded keyboard part - 2x electric through POD’s volume-swell.

2007_0331_04_Processional.mp3 (1’22)

My eyes settled on a recorder lying on the shelf. And the tin whistle. Which to play? Why not both? Doofy pseudo-folk. For the record, it is a pain in the ass playing a bag of marbles in 5 without a click. Both the conga and the warped head off its twin make an appearance.

2007_0331_05_Uh_oh.mp3 (0’53”)

Uh, there really isn’t any excuse for this one.

Perhaps I was subliminally affected by the message board, where lodge dude Nick Dobson had suggested, “why not squeeze off a speed-filler song when you’re done with this one?” and carlos_G had added something about “glad to hear that things are moving…” Oh dear.

2007_0331_06_Beyondah.mp3 (2’19”)

Spy show theme. Needs a breakdown. Fury bass through POD.

2007_0331_07_Sunday.mp3 (0’57”)

Starting to wrap up. Wasn’t sure what to do with this so I wrote some stream-of-consciousness “lyrics” and said them.

Edit: here’s the ICS forum thread where today’s Lodge was organized - you can find commentary and other people’s music there.

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Spring music

Fender Jazz headstockThis winter I seem to have been in a sort of musical hibernation. No gigs, no writing, hardly any jamming, no listening to any new music.

My main musical effort was playing bass in the band in show-tune revue some friends were putting together. Good experience, and while I still can’t sight-read well, it certainly gave me the chance to improve at it. (My favorite tunes to play: “Nobody’s Side” from Chess, “Life Of The Party” from The Wild Party, both full of syncopations and time changes; “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent, where I got to rock out a bit; and “I Could Be Happy With You” from The Boy Friend, just because it was so damned cute in that faux-‘20s, so-very-English sort of way.)

But other than that - perhaps in part because of it - I’ve just been burned out. Frankly, I was getting worried how little interest I had.

I managed to rouse myself enough to familiarize myself with Yes and Peter Gabriel, having borrowed some of their albums… and suddenly, much was explained to me about ‘70s rock.

A while ago J and I laid down some scratch versions of a whole pile of songs, both new and old, to use as the basis for a new CD. They sat untouched until a few days ago, when I stuck bass parts on some of the newest ones to send to our drummer. Here’s one:

Hold_Up_Donny.mp3 (3’43”)

I was afraid I was getting into a rut with my parts, so on these new songs there’s all kinds of pushed rhythms and other oddness. For the first time I’m making use of the Jazz bass, and taking advantage of its punch and sustain with a much more legato line. I’m attempting to play chords on the “choruses”, also for the first time, and the whole thing has a sort of Fender Rhodes feel to it. Starting to sound pretty trip-hoppy. Fleshing this one out is going to be a lot of fun!

The Golden Dogs: still from 'Construction Worker'New music discoveries this week too. Currently on the playlist:

Flook (borrowed from my Go-playing friend downstairs, also a Celtic music aficionado) an Anglo-Irish band who specialize in wonderful hyperactive flute-and-bohdrán grooves.

The Golden Dogs. Ran across two of their videos while browsing idly, and immediately went and got their album Big Eye Little Eye. Chock full of my kind of hooks (my favorite is “Runouttaluck” - if you cranked Stereolab up to double speed and mashed it up with the B-52’s it might sound like this) plus the same sort of dueling boy/girl vocals that make the New Pornographers and other bands so addictive. And they exude such joy in the video for “Construction Worker” that I think I have a crush on the whole band.

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Lodge training

As mentioned previously, I’ve been all excited about setting up an Immersion Composition lodge. Enough so that last night, I did a mini-session on my own. It lasted about four and a half hours, during which I recorded these three pieces:

Not In Nine (1’19”)

As I was walking home to start the session, I had an odd-meter groove going in my head, but by the time I started recording, I’d forgotten it. I thought it was in nine, but this turned out to be in seven and four and extremely Phleg Camp-y, particularly the 6+6+4 section at the end. I seem to end up aping them whenever I bring out the Fender Jazz bass. This one earned me the “trying very hard to say something positive” look from my SO.

How’s About You (0’35”)

Drums -> title -> lyrics -> chords -> done. Self-explanatory I think.

Frost (1’55”)

My keyboard-written songs tend to either be in a particular vein I’ve followed since high school, or these more lyrical things that wander from one melody to another. I’ve just realized that this is more or less a restatement of a piece I did a while back called “Dawn River”, right down to the clicky percussion. I can’t escape myself!

All in all, a fun exercise and most worthwhile.

One and a half hours per song. Too much futzing and trying to get parts “right” (especially the slap bass on #1) and take down some of the hiss that crept in somewhere. I’m still very much getting used to my new setup: Logic on a laptop, equipped with a very finicky Mbox. Before I try another one of these, I have to get a few specific cables, figure out the ideal signal path into my computer, and set up some new Logic templates so I don’t have to mess with setting things up on every song.

Edit: more discussion of this mini-session on the ICS discussion forum.

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A week

Monday - worked like mad on a new blog-based web site for Spinglobe, and several other projects.

Tuesday - more of the same; nearly burned myself out. Largely self-inflicted. Must remember to take breaks. At least I didn’t spend ten hours straight at a desk again. Blog is looking good though.

Wednesday - jammed and hung out with the gang out High Park way, which made everything all better again. I didn’t have my bass with me, so among other things I tried to get as many different sounds as I could out of one cymbal and one gong suspended from a radio-style mic stand.

Thursday - recorded bass tracks for Ellen Carol’s upcoming CD, at Don Kerr’s brand new basement studio. I’ve recorded myself a lot, of course, and been in lots of studios, but it was my first Actual Recording Session. And it went quite smoothly, too. Afterward, went bowling as part of a fundraiser for Gallery 44‘s youth programs. I am a terrible bowler.

Friday - All a blur. I think I worked on the company blog some more.

Rockit RP6 monitorSaturday - much sleeping in. Also headed in to the new office-to-be to help install some receptacles for the network. In the evening, some very adventurous jamming with Roulette and friends (I played mostly bass and drums).

Sunday - sore as hell. Must have been playing like a maniac last night.

Monday - met up with office mates at the new space again. It’s gonna be pretty cool. And as a sort of reward, I finally snagged those monitors I’ve had my eye on for months. Lots of work to do on the studio now to get it into shape. But: progress!

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Along the streets

Aerial viewTook a couple cool walks through the west end, down the hill north of Davenport that marks the ancient Lake Iroquois shoreline, past the old Wychwood streetcar barns and the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, a couple of souvenirs of Toronto’s transportation history. The former site is slated for conversion to artists’ studios, greenhouses and parkland, the latter for restoration as a national heritage site.

And there were other neat things along the way - parks and neighbourhoods and friendly cats, and other stuff that may provide inspiration for the radio scripts I’ve been working on.

Down on Bloor Street, we passed by the trio of construction sites at Varsity Stadium, the Royal Conservatory and the ROM, and wandered down Philosopher’s Walk past the Conservatory and the U of T music building, there to check out the second lamppost bass installed by Richard Bishop (who ran across my post about his earlier installation, the Kensington Bass, and was kind enough to alert me to the arrival of its new sibling). A bit tough to play, but fun! I’ll have to come by with my contact microphone and an amp or recorder sometime.

Eucan megabin Speaking of the urban landscape, city council is now seeking proposals to provide street furniture citywide. One side effect of this is that the Eucan “monster bin” project (see left) is dead. Good thing too - but we’d better keep an eye on the proceedings and let councillors know we want ads kept under control.

There’s also one really maddening bit: those three-sided “ad pillars” that AstralMedia have installed in parks are exempt from all this. They’re just off the sidewalk, and therefore within the jurisdiction of Parks and Rec, not Urban Planning.

More about this via Spacing Wire. Also, a Star article by Christopher Hume.

Also, on Friday, Newmindspace (instigators of Bubble Battles, subway and streetcar parties, and other revelry) are having a big mobile party they’re calling Flight Of Fancy, somewhere close to downtown. Route to be annouced via email. I’m gonna be there, hopefully playing some music!

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FilterQueenThe other day, I stumbled across a used Electrix FilterQueen in a store, and snapped it up - a bit of a treat for myself. Instant musical fun!

I spent a couple of hours today playing my basses and guitar through it (using my POD as a preamp), and playing with long delays on the POD. So liberating to play with sound in realtime like that, instead of recording things and poking at them using software. Haven’t been able to use my Roland hihat pedal as a foot controller, though - not sure why not, since it seems to work fine as an expression pedal with my Alesis QS synth. Got to experiment.

And if that weren’t enough, the FilterQueen also takes a phono input! So I’ve finally got my turntable working again, and am currently listening to some traditional Japanese music from my grandparents’ collection. I have no idea what it is - I think it’s a Noh play, but I can’t enter Japanese text on this computer to look it up. In any case, it’s quite interesting and sounds hilarious when I filter the bejesus out of it. ^.^

[Addendum, some minutes later: wow… this thing can turn anything - especially weepy Japanese enka ballads - into early Yellow Magic Orchestra. This thing has totally paid for itself already.]

If I weren’t running sound for the play tonight I’d totally be here all night making weird noises.


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Bass dreams

Lately a running theme in my dreams is ‘alternative ways of playing bass’. Like bowing it with the blade of an ice skate, a technique favoured by the devil in some sitcom. (I found myself on the show’s set between shows. The devil and the angel who shared the house along with an ordinary twenty-something guy, were hanging around, still in character.)

This morning I dreamt there were big lighted buttons of various shapes and colours all around the bridge of my bass like some sort of kid’s toy. Each button played a different tone. And I woke up going “Aww, you mean they’re not real?”

I once saw John Gzowski play guitar using some sort of little electronic noisemaker device which he placed over his pickups, sending the sounds direct to his amp. Maybe I should steal that idea.

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Bass notes

Second rehearsal tonight with the Parts. It’s a good workout, since Nigel writes catchy songs with lots of tricky changes and twists, and there’s lots of room to do cool stuff. My playing continues to improve, and I’m finding my way around the fingerboard with a lot more confidence - in terms of finding the right notes, improvising, and intonation.

The Fender Jazz is still an alien beast… I’m used to the ultra-light touch of the fretless, so my playing is clumsy, with lots of missed notes. I’ll have to see if lighter strings help.

Oh, and we had a puppy at rehearsal. At our first practice, about a month ago, another member of the band brought in a tiny retriever puppy. Young Sammy whined a bit when we started, but once we sat her down in the midst of the band, next to her adopted mum, she was fine. Now, Sammy is about four times the size, and on the verge of being too big to fit in laps and duffel bags. She’s a sweetie and has ears like boat sails.

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The Kensington Bass

From time to time, the four of us in this house get together with a friend or two for coffee or dinner and talk about Stuff - tonight it was a long conversation about spirituality and purpose and big things like that. Afterward, we wandered up Augusta St into Kensington Market, and sat for a while in Bellevue Square Park, chatting and watching the action: two rambunctious dogs, a grizzled guy with a staff who seemed to be putting hexes on people…

And then I looked up at the light standard next to our picnic bench, and saw that it had strings.

Someone had drilled holes in the aluminum pole, bolted on a makeshift bridge, and strung it like an upright bass. Above the nut (if it can be called that) was inscribed “The Kensington Bass”, and below, the artist’s name (though I understand he’s a bit secretive about it now). It was tunable, and in pretty good tune. It’s been there, according to the inscription, since June. I amused myself playing all the Soul Coughing songs I could remember. A bit hard to play for my hands, used to playing electric… but still, how delightful!

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