Transitions 4 EP

EP 4 in the series. All of the tracks transition into each other like a DJ set. So you could have a (short) party with this! The tracks are me having fun and geeking out with music technology. Getting various ideas,then painting it all together in Pro Tools. For this EP it was all about not judging too much, letting it flow and remembering the dance music of the late eighties and early nineties with the omnipresent 909 type kick beating the pulse. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did 🙂

  1. Sequencer Sanity: Experimenting with the step sequencer on a Casio CZ-5000 back in about 1992. Hypnotic patterns and rhythms in 4/4 time. This is the kind of thing that sometimes falls out of the pile of old ideas, and becomes fresh again with age.
  2. Dimple: The result of experimenting with turning up the quiet bits at the end of samples in the grungy 12 bit Yamaha TX16W. This is from a sample made by Paul Wiffen. Fun with the Kaoss pads and FM synthesis. April 2016.
  3. Snow White: Tuning experiments with the Monark MiniMoog, an un-predictable un-stable analogue beast. This is a preset, go find it and have fun with it yourself. A bit of Korg Wave sequencing and a keyboard electric guitar solo at the end, making a transition. December 2014.
  4. Epic: Weeks spent sampling orchestral chords on a Casio SK-5 instead of study for my Leaving Cert (the State Exam) in 1990. Beats made with a Roland drum pad plus a Roland drum machine triggering a Yamaha CS-5.
  5. Transition 4: Experiments with layering and modulation on a Casio CZ-1, with old tape machine noises. September 2008.

Equipment:
Here is the list of instruments and equipment I used on Transitions. Any hardware listed as software is stuff that is either sampled into or physically modelled in the computer.

HARDWARE
Akai MX-1000
Casio CZ-1
Casio CZ-5000 sequencer
Emu ESI4000
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6
Korg Kaoss Pad 1+2
Kawai K1, K4
Lentek S4
Novation KSR
Quad 405
Roland SPD-11
Roland TR-505
Sennheiser HD25II
Yamaha TX16W

SOFTWARE
Arturia ARP2600
Arturia ARP 1613 sequencer
Ensoniq SQ-80
Emu Emulator II
Fairlight CMI IIx+III
Korg Wavestation
Martin Luder PG8X
Monark MiniMoog
Native Instruments Battery
Native Instruments FM8
Native Instruments Guitar Rig
Native Instruments Kontakt
Native Instruments Reaktor
Oberheim DMX
Pianoteq
Roland TR-909
Roland TR-808
Sonic Charge Cyclone
SoundToys EchoBoy
Sunbird acoustic guitar
Waldorf Attack
Yamaha CP35 (Sample Katra)
Yamaha DX100
XPand!2

Recorded in 27″ iMac running Pro Tools 12.

The album tracks part 2: For Gaza

It’s hard not to feel powerless against the human rights violations being committed by Israel. Back in 2014 when it flared up, again, I saw a video by Israeli film director Naomi Levari. A very brave move for an Isreali national. I composed For Gaza quite quickly, to raise some money for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) whose aim is “…to participate in international efforts to put pressure on the Israeli state to cease its oppression of the Palestinian people”.

The fund-raising was a great success, and this new album was an opportunity to do a remix of the track, and change a few things that were not quite right.

The process

The origin of the piece goes back to 1990 with the little Casio SK-5 8 bit sampler and the Yamaha CS-5 synthesiser. The heavy drums and the bass loop are sampled from that original tape with all the noise and distortion it had. The strings are a development of an idea from back then. I didn’t even realise this at the time. I just went for a performance on the keyboard, while listening to the horrendous news from Palestine with tears in my eyes. In electronic music, what you hear has often been programmed in the the computer. This artificially tight, sometimes robotic rhythm is one of the cool things about electronic music I think. But it’s good to have actual live human playing on it too! Towards the end of the process I was very tempted to move some of the notes around because I felt they weren’t quite on the beat. But that’s where the feel is. Sometimes, just because it seems to measure right it doesn’t mean it hits the soul! So I built up some layers of different string sounds, to give a Turkish ensemble effect, a sound I heard a lot in North Africa and Southern Spain. The slight variations in each part are just like what happens with a real string section.

The rhythm guitar is sampled from a jam session with one of my old bands, played by Ken Hayes. This was cut up in Recycle and the parts placed across the keyboard so they could be replayed. The lead guitar at the end is from the same session, with the notes and timing played around with in Melodyne, an amazing software tool that makes pitch and time totally flexible.

The atrocities continue, so please support the IPSC.
20115145420263734_20

The Album Tracks Part 1: Orchestrion

This is a combination of atmospheres and sounds from the 1870s and the 1970s. The Orchestion of the title is an Imhof & Mukle Orchestrion Music Machine. It uses a wooden barrel with pins on it to open valves in over 100 pipes that are built like woodwind instruments such as clarinets and flutes. Basically, a large version of the barrel you would see in a music box. To run it, you wind a weight up to the top of the machine, and as it runs down it drives the barrel and pumps the air through the pipes. This one was located in Dunkathel House, where I worked in the recording studio. Here’s a picture of the actual machine in the house, courtesy of the RTÉ archive.

Orchestrion featured on Treasure Ireland (1993)

Orchestrion featured on Treasure Ireland (1993)

Continue reading

New album release

It’s finally here!

madtheory-electrickery I’m very pleased to get this released. It’s been a long time brewing. Many thanks to my friends who helped with feedback and encouragement:

 

Aidan O’Driscoll
Brian Dunlea
Dominic Murphy
Eoin O’Sullivan
Enda Grennan
Gary McKee
Mike Gavin
Mike Lyons
Michael O’Sullivan
Ralf Kleeman
Ronan O’Dea
Rupert MacCarthy-Morrogh

And my lovely wife Sally O’Reilly for encouragement both musical and emotional 🙂

Some of these ideas go back to 1990 when I first started to compose. I think it’s important to keep an archive of ideas and stuff to play with- play being the key word. I really enjoyed the process, with all the help and support. I hope you all can feel the same joy I felt in making this music. 🙂

 

 

Also available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc. etc.

BBC Radiophonics live at the National Concert Hall

I recently had the pleasure of the Radiophonic Workshop at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. This was a dream come true. When I was about 10 years old my father joined the Rory Gallagher Music Library. This holds a massive collection of recorded music and spoken word. First it was Goon Show tapes, and later the full BBC sound effects library. Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects Volumes 1 and 2 became some of my favourite albums and a major influence. 🙂 Continue reading

Pro Tools and the next stage of the album

So the grooves are coming together. But technology has two sides. On one, it facilitates creativity by not getting in the way. On the other, it totally gets in the way when bugs happen and updates are needed and formats get changed for more betterer fasterer (except installing 12 DVDs clearly isn’t) So if I may, here is a bit of a technorant!

Like a few of my friends I’m on the verge of changing over to Pro Tools version 11. The challenge is trying to retain your favourite plugins. Avid have changed the format. It’s a good change, it makes the whole DAW faster and more reliable. A lot faster for some things. But the code is very different, so some developers are struggling to keep up, while for others it’s not worth the cost of paying people to make it happen. Some charge for the update, some don’t, some charge a lot for an update but add in lots of great new features- like Native Instruments Komplete 9 above, which is amazingly wonderful.

BobbyM1_b

A Korg M1 yesterday

There are some I’ve been using for years. The Korg M1 is a synth from 1988 that I grew to love. It’s really just a glorified crappy sampler that doesn’t sample. But the 4 Megabytes of onboard sounds are full of character, and are both quirky and playable. That piano has possibly overused, but a lot of the other sounds still have mileage. Korg made a virtual version which is what I use now. There’s very little hardware in my studio these days. So you can load your old hardware patches into the software one, and it has a better functionality than the hardware too. You also get the Wavestation, a great sounding synth that I don’t really understand but I use it a lot anyway. And you get the effects from the synths as a standalone plugin which is great- best phaser ever. But it’s quite old in software terms, and Korg have stopped updating it. Bummer #1.

IR-Chancel

Setup for sampling a chapel

Impulse Responses are something else I don’t really understand, but they’re easy to use. They allow you to sample the acoustic ambience of a real space, and stick it in the computer. So you can have everything from the inside of a shoe box to the Grand Canyon at your fingertips. No need to run cables for miles and miles. I went very meta and sampled my settings from my two favourite hardware reverbs, sold them and bought an inexpensive but perfectly formed plugin called Mellowmuse IR-1 to run the impulses. It’s a one man company and he hasn’t gotten around to updating it yet. Bummer #2.

Roger Nichols c. 1978. Note computer at the back- it’s a digital drum replacement machine. Yes, he invented that too.

The equaliser is one of the top three most important tools in audio. For the last 8 years my main one was made by Roger Nichols. A great man, he died a few years ago so this great sounding plugin will never be updated. I’ve changed over to the Avid Focusrite Red equaliser instead. It works well, it’s just a pain having to manually transfer settings and tweak them so they sound right. So notmuchofabummer #1.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 8.58.21am

Dynamics is in that top three. For giving that final polish to a mix, a limiter is essential. It’s also nice to have the warm sound of tape, a format I don’t miss (it wobbled, it hissed, was expensive to run and required regular maintenance). Another one man shop is Massey plugins, and I use his limiter and tape simulation plugins (just the warmth, not the other stuff). He had a very cute updater for small money, so that had to be done. A few bugs but they’re sorted now. So notmuchofabummer #2.

A really old tape echo box.

Then there’s echo. I love echo. It gives space. It gives rhythm. It make da funk (I love syncopation). You’d think it’s not a big deal, the bundled plugins are very good. But in their wisdom Avid changed the look of the plugin which did two annoying things. The controls are now all in a different place for no particular reason except to annoy your 10+ year old muscle memory. The other thing is it has exactly the same sound and parameters as the old one, but it doesn’t recognise the settings. So you have to open your track in the old Pro Tools and manually convert each delay to the new one before it will sound the same in the new Pro Tools. And old Pro Tools is “unsupported” (translation: unstable) in Mavericks. Aaaaaargh! Bummer #3.

Echo problem 2
I said earlier I don’t miss tape- the wobble, the noise etc. The exception is echo. The messedupness of tape does lovely things to echo. A few years ago I bought Line 6 Podfarm for cheap. The TubeEcho in there is my ideal echo. I even use it to make stuff sound like it’s recorded on a crappy old tape. This is another plugin that will never be updated. After a lot of research and tips from friends, I was able to make SoundToys EchoBoy do the same thing. So I’ve started saving up to buy that one. Or maybe not- it doesn’t do the crappy old tape thing with quite as much character- or at least, I haven’t fully explored the possible tweaks. So that fully functioning demo is gonna be working hard for the next 21 days.

The big problem solver
So there’s this guy (why is it always a guy?) somewhere in Europe called ddmf. He makes a lovely sounding Equaliser that I use when I want to pile on the top end with impunity. And it’s a total bargain. Now he makes Metaplugin. This will take almost any other plugin format (there are quite a few) wrap its arms around it and cuddle it so it will work inside Pro Tools. It does some other cool stuff as well. Bingo! The Korg and the Mellowmuse work with it. PodFarm doesn’t, but that’s OK.

So all of that technical crap is now sorted, it’s back to playing in the sandpit and making music. I plan to release one track a week. Starting soon. In a few months, I will have a completed thing we will call an “album”. A nice vague deadline, so I don’t get deafened as it makes that whooshing noise as it flies by (to paraphrase Douglas Adams).

Chow for now!

Tomás.

Edit- this was reposted on September 23rd because the original got lost in the changeover to new servers.