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

Why vote yes? (Irish Marriage Equality Referendum)

So there’s this gay guy Keith Mills who is voting no.  As we get nearer to voting day, some of the no side are (ironically) rolling him out to bolster their claims. I read the article and I was amazed and angered at the doublethink and obfuscation. So I decided to take his argument apart.

1. He believes that civil partnerships are a better way of legally recognising same-sex relationships. This is a misunderstanding of the legal principles involved. Believing something is better doesn’t make you right. You have to have evidence, and he provides none. He’s wrong because a married couple enjoy constitutional as well as legal protection. A civil partnership couple only enjoy legal protection. Legal protection can be taken away, amended or reduced by an Act of the Oireachtas. Constitutional protection can only be taken away by a vote of the people.

Mr. Justice Kevin Kearns explains that, and more in this very clear article which explains what the referendum is all about in layman’s terms. I recommend you read it before you make up your mind.

2. Marriage is not so clearly defined in the constitution that it allows for marriage equality. He claims that “Successive Attorneys General have told their government colleagues that same-sex marriage is in conflict with this”. Well d’uh, that’s what the referendum is about. He’s making a very sneaky obfuscation there.

3. He states that “Obviously other family units exist, and children can be raised successfully outside of traditional marriage” then goes on to contradict himself “The result of allowing same-sex couples to marry is that agencies that are entrusted with finding parents to adopt and foster children cannot legally favour families that can provide a mother and a father, which all evidence suggests is the best environment for children”. The poor man is suffering from doublethink, and in fact the evidence is that there is no difference in outcomes for children. Here is a list of long term studies that prove that there is no difference.

He makes some other points too, but they’re diversionary and unimportant compared to the clangers above. He seems to be just adding points for the sake of it, rather than being honest with a clear and concise argument. But he has to be unclear, because he has no evidence for his claims.

So I encourage you to vote Yes for Equality.

New sounds for an old sampler

I got my old Yamaha TX16W back after it spent eight worthy years in a friend’s studio doing backing tracks for a covers band. The release of the Cyclone plugin from NuEdge spurred me to load up my old library. I’d forgotten how many great sounds I made with this thing! It has a unique character, dark and moody. It’s also great at drums.

So I have two new products: a set of 7 disks of unusual sounds from my extensive library, and a 2 disk set of drums. These will load in a real TX16W running Typhoon, and in the Cyclone plugin too.

The demo was created with the plugin and limited to 16 voices like the real thing. Some reverb from a contemporary Alesis Quadraverb IR. No eq apart from a touch of top end boost on the stereo mix.

madtheory TX16W discs
Unusual pads, atonal chords, synths and atmospheres showcasing the unique qualities of this sampler. Low sample rates, extreme transposing and those weird filters that kinda don’t do much but still add a vibe. The samples are entirely original, there’s nothing here from the original Yamaha Japan or UK libraries or the Muki Pakesch archive although there is a small number of sounds from various magazine CDs- but using some tricks of the TX with Typhoon.

madtheory TX16W drumkits
The TX16W with Typhoon excels at drums. Snappy envelopes, multiple outs and straightforward mute groups, layering, mapping etc. Use these kits as templates for your own, or just enjoy sharp sounding TR-808, TR-909, TR-505, DR-110, CR-78, Linn Drum and SCI Drumtrax kits, as well as my own “Realdrum” kit made up of a selection of sounds from classic digital drum machines.

What happened to politeness?


Lately I’ve been getting lots of emails enquiring about synthy stuff. Usually this is fun, a bit of techno banter, learning new stuff and maybe meeting new people. But then there are the ones without a real name, no signature, and no manners.

I won’t reply to those. Life’s too short for rudeness.

Famous Samples part 3: Choirs

So this week we have three sounds. I can’t get enough of keyboards that go “awh”, and neither can anyone else apparently. Back in the seventies the choir was the main reason bands took the heavy and unwieldy Mellotron (instead of a choir) on tours around the world. No synth could do that sound. But the Mellotron used several miles of analogue tape, which was not very reliable.


Several miles of tape in a Mellotron


Mike Pinder on Mellotron with the Moody Blues

When the Fairlight arrived, everyone used it for voice sounds. All digital, no more wobbly and unreliable tapes. Variations of people going “awh” then transposed up and down the keyboard almost defined the sound of the eighties. The Fairlight had two whole disks comprised almost entirely of “awh” sounds: “Humans I” and “Humans II”. To be fair, there was also “La” “Doo” and “Mmm”, plus screams, laughs and farts. But you know which one got used the most- the famous Arr1 voice. That’s an “Ah” with a bit of an “Rrr” in the sustain. But Arr1 has been done to death, so I’m not doing it again here.

So first up it’s the choir from the Fairlight series 3. Given the pedigree, I guess Fairlight decided they had to have a seriously good choir. And they achieved it. A professional choir with excellent balance all going “Awh” for as long as you hold down the keys. This is a very beautiful sound. It does have an odd noisiness to the high end, but it is an eminently useable sound. I used it in this track layered with a Mellotron for a great spooky effect.


madtheory: aphelion. Reverse reverb, Theremin, Fairlight and Mellotron choirs.

Next is the Emulator II choir sound. Emu managed to acquire the original Mellotron master tapes, so this choir is a very nice combination of the male and female choirs from those, nicely looped and mapped across the keyboard. The later Emulator III library has a fuller version of each Mellotron sound. It’s cool to use them without the extra weirdness imparted by the tape playback on a real Mellotron. They sound more timeless to my ear. The tape sound dates things, in a good way. But it still has that “dead people singing” effect. Or dead people going “Awh”.

Lastly, it’s the choir from the Kawai K4. Every synth manufacturer raced to get that Fairlight sound from a cheaper instrument. So in many cases they simply sampled the Fairlight or the Emulator II. Examples abound from the Korg M1 choir (a cut down version of the series 3 choir) to the Casio FZ-1 and Ensoniq Mirage strings (versions of EII marcato). This K4 sound was used very effectively on the B Side of LFO’s eponymous debut hit, a techno classic. Cmin, Amin, Eb min, root position, lots of reverb. Enjoy 🙂

Here are the three samples in Kontakt 5 compressed format: Famous Choirs.