Fixing stuff

Called to an acquaintance who recently purchased a Fractal Audio Axe FX.

It’s like the modern version of the classic Eventide Harmonizer. He’s using it with a lovely flat top Les Paul and a Fender 2×12 valve amp. As usual the technology did not deliver, so I:
1. Sorted out a dodgy MIDI interface
2. Updated the firmware
3. Got the editor working on his Mac
4. Removed a ground loop on the amp/ effects loop
5. Gain staged it all

He’s using a Behringer FCB1010 pedal board.

We could not get it to merge MIDI with the Mac so that we could edit and use the pedals at the same time. Turns out the software in the pedal has never worked properly (bad Behringer!) but some clever dude has written his own software for it. So next step is to fit that (simples).

So why am I posting this? I’m showing off, but this story also shows how several problems can conspire to create a really annoying situation for a musician who uses technology. However, it’s fun fixing this stuff, and once you get working it’s fabulous. In some ways, it’s the price of pushing the envelope.

Vintage samplers

I now have a complete set of sounds from the Emulator II, Fairlight CMI IIx and Fairlight CMI 3. All working in NI Kontakt. The Emulator II ones were converted via EMXP so they’re mapped and modulated just as they were on the original machine. The CMI IIx sounds are far more interesting than the CMI 3.

All these sounds come from disc images, avoiding the original DA conversion. Not authentic, but it gives them a new lease of life. What’s amazing is that some of these were sampled over thirty years ago!

Emulator II
Northstar
Richard Burmer
FMS
OMI Universe of Sound
Emu factory library

Fairlight CMI 3
Prosonus Strings
Prosonus Percussion
Sound Genesis Strings
Prosonus Brass
Complete factory library

Fairlight CMI IIx
Digital Domain version of rev 2.0 library
Mixture of rev 1.0 and rev 2.0 library from disk images (thanks Joe!)
Horizontal productions IIx library converted to series 3

Hoodwinked

I saw the play Hoodwinked at the Pavilion last night. It’s a wonderful venue, an intact 1921 cinema.

Here are some photographs I took.

Unfortunately I can’t provide a link with the blurb, because as soon as a run finishes the Pav remove the listing from their website. So you’ll have to make do with my review. 🙂

I was completely lost at the beginning, but “being lost at the beginning” made sense as the play unfolded. I won’t attempt to describe what it was about, because that is clear from the press releases. But I will say that the unique form of the work served the theme perfectly. Writer/ director Helen Kavanagh-Ronan deployed the power of the sung and spoken word with great skill. The production values were in no way a compromise.

Each character was strongly portrayed. Tadgh Hickey was frightening as the asexual character but by the end he left us with a heartfelt statement. At times he reminded me of Jack Nickolson’s joker, but mostly his acting was highly original. His powerful singing voice was moving and impressive. FionnBarra created an innocent, eventually corrupted. This was reflected in his “West End” style vocals, delivered with great passion. Bertie Brosnan’s character was powerfully rooted in the stereotype and his rapping was impressive. Even though the play was set in a realm not of this Earth, the actors each injected a huge level of passion to their characters and their interactions.

Exit Pursued by a Bear the “house band” created music unique to each character, really getting under the skin of each one so that the music was like three supporting actors.

The overall production was of a high standard, although I felt occasionally there were errors with positioning of spot lights on characters. Often a PA system can be a distraction, but here the sound was natural, clarity and balance excellent. Given that there was only one technician/ designer/ operator, sound and light showed superb effort and care, and can only improve with the budget.

Organum

I’ve completed a new piece. It’s the first one in the music player. Previously it was called Chant, but having researched Gregorian chant, I realised that what I was doing with the piece is more like medieval organum singing.

I was improvising with stacking fifths, using a sample of Gregorian chant. The sampled voices are transposed so much that we get that breathy quality, associated with the Fairlight CMI. What you hear in the piece is pretty much all improvised material, later edited lightly to strengthen the structure.

New Year, new synth

So after 20 years, I have moved on from analogue synths. I’ve replaced them with a Novation KS Rack. Just posted the old ones to their new owner in Helsinki. I feel slightly bereft, but also a little wealthier 🙂

I meant to make a little video of the packaging, but it was so much fun we forgot. Here’s the end: