What is a Musician?

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Autechre is an electronic music duo. One of the foremost artists of the genre since they formed in 1987. Today marks the release of their 14th studio album, SIGN. So for over 30 years, Autechre has been making world renown music. And yet, in a recent New York Times interview, Sean Booth says “I still don’t feel like a musician.” Here’s the excerpt with that quote:
Booth and Brown are both from Rochdale, a town near Manchester, England, and they started collaborating on mixtapes and electronic music in the late 1980s. Neither had any formal music training; Brown studied architecture at art school, and Booth spent six months taking courses in audio engineering and electronics.
“I still don’t feel like a musician,” Booth said. “I don’t know what we are, because we came from messing around with other people’s records on tape. You just learn this stuff by listening to a lot of records and then having the equipment. Most of my training early on was equipment manuals.”
This would sound completely outrageous if it did strike me as so relatable. Not that I’m comparing myself to Autechre. Because there is no comparison.
I started playing guitar in 2007. I began writing music soon after. During that time, I’ve dedicated more time to music than anything else. Yet, I still don’t feel like a musician. The label feels so detached from the act of playing an instrument. That’s all I’m saying.
At what point does one become a musician? Surely, not everyone who’s ever picked up a guitar is a musician. So where is the line? But then, what does it matter?
I enjoy experimenting with sound. When I hear something I like, I record it. Then I’ll play something else over that. If it sounds good I might record that too. This layering process is the primary way I write music.
But surely, I’m not a composer. Not in the classical sense of the word. I haven’t formally studied music theory. I’m not really big into Beethoven, Bach, or even The Beatles. Yes, I’ve written many songs. But not everyone who strums 3 chords around a campfire is a composer, right? So where’s the line?
Does it really matter?
I guess it matters if you’re going out for the Philharmonic. But I’m not. And I’m sure those ladies and gents of the Philharmonic would be astounded by all that I don’t know about music. So I won’t offend them and their lifelong pursuit of musical mastery by giving myself the same label as them: musician.
Then again, isn’t the culture around “proper” musicians a bit stuffy? A bit exclusive? Exclusivity benefits those who are inside the club, but doesn’t do much for anyone else. Maybe that was part of the enthusiastic fervor behind rock n roll music, then punk music, followed by hip hop, and eventually electronic music. People like being included. Being a part of something. And by definition, not everyone can be part of the elite. So while a select few are diligently practicing scales on their violin, thousands are chopping samples into beats and telling their story one rap verse at a time.
But let’s emphasize that neither approach is wrong. Of course preference will be determined by someone’s individual values. Some people favor tradition, order, diligence, scholarship, even elegance. Another might be more of a free spirit. The type that doesn’t like to be told what to do. Is inspired by experimentation and not having rules. Free flowing, unscripted expression. Can you guess which type of music each of these very stereotypical and hypothetical people might like?
The point is, there’s no reason to be so exclusive about music and musicianship. If someone wants to record a capella rap music on their iPhone and call themselves a musician, fine. That doesn’t take anything away from suits that can sight read symphonies. In fact, it may even add to it. People who appreciate “real musicians” will appreciate them even more in comparison. Today though, a lot more people have iPhones than violins.
There are valuable life lessons hidden within the pursuit of music. I don’t see why those rewards should be kept behind a paywall. Whether it’s the price of a of a cello, or piano lessons, or a Master of Arts in Music Theory. Learn from those who inspire you. Make work that inspires you to see it to completion. Try something new and you may inspire someone else to start on their own path. These are just a few of the traits that define Autechre. If they’re not musicians, neither am I. But hey, the label isn’t all that important anyway.

Disquiet Junto Project 0455: Inner Invertebrate

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A Day in the Life of a Jellyfish

Objective: Compose a piece of sound/music that summons up what a moment, or an instance, or a day in the life of a jellyfish is like to the jellyfish.

Process: Set the scene by building vast openness. Long, slow evolving notes. With long attack times on the volume envelopes. No one is in a hurry here.

Project bpm set to: 8.000.

Add subtle water sounds to give the feeling of being submerged.

With the atmosphere set, time to add the jellies. They mainly open and close while drifting along.

So I added constant side to side panning drift to my top layer synth. And a filter that slowly opens and closes as the note sounds.

Then added another layer over that with different notes and panning. Sometimes one jelly passes by. Sometimes a few.

Sometimes they’re in unison.

And sometimes they’re not.

Discovering Disquiet

Last week I discovered and subscribed to the Disquiet Junto Project. Then I get the first prompt and it’s to channel my inner invertebrate. Such moments are the definition of the word serendipitous.

This project is exciting in several ways. Getting a writing prompt externally instead of digging one out from within is a big change of process for me. I like the idea of having a topic to make a sound sketch on every week. The condensed timeline keeps the pressure down on the spontaneity up. Whatever happens happens. I imagine if I keep at it there will be times when I fail completely and that will be just fine.

I’m used to building ideas off of improv. Playing around until I hear something I like and then running with it. Having a prompt given to me gave me stops and starts that I don’t usually experience. I’d write a part with jellyfish in mind, but when I played it back it wasn’t quiet right. But I also had limited time to work on this song this week. The deadline forced my focus. And no time for perfecting. Endless tweaking? Not an option.

If this project gives me practice working with such focused forward momentum, then it’s worth it for that alone.


To Become Water [disquiet455] (permalink)

Learn More about Disquiet Junto

More on this 455th weekly Disquiet Junto project, Inner Invertebrate (The Assignment: What does a moment (or a day) in the life of a jellyfish sound like to a jellyfish?), at: https://disquiet.com/0455/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0455-inner-invertebrate/

A Droplet of Inspiration: Pt. 2

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For most people, cliffhangers are the worst. But you know what? I don’t really mind them. So for a moment, forget about the water key (Can you?).

Who is Sevish?

Sevish, is an electronic music composer based in London, UK. The song, Droplet is on his 2015 release, Rhythm and Xen.

Rhythm, that’s pretty straight forward. But what is Xen?

Xen is short for Xenharmonic music, a way to write music “with new harmonic relationships that humankind has never heard before.”

So how does that work?

Think of a guitar, or a piano. They all have the same notes:
C D E F G A B. These are the white keys on a piano.

Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti.

And then you have the black keys:
C# D# F# G# A#

Thus, we arrive at a grand total of 12 notes. If you live in the Western world, there’s a good chance every song you have ever heard was created from these 12 tones, and only these 12 tones. This tuning and it’s harmonic relationships are deeply ingrained. It’s become second nature. It doesn’t take a musician to tell you when a guitar is out of tune. Your ear just knows.

But technically, wouldn’t there be other notes in between the “real” notes? This is where using color as a metaphor comes in handy.

Let’s say you have a box of crayons. It’s a 12-pack. So you have 12 colors to work with. You can mix those colors together to make other colors. Some of the combinations are nice, others, not so much. This is similar to how notes are combined to make chords in music.

But an artist, a master painter for example, doesn’t use a 12-pack of crayons. Rather, they are experts at mixing colors. They can mix their paints to get those 12 colors, and every shade in between. And combining the in between shades will make more new in between shades. Which can then be combined. And so on.

So why do painters have access to the full spectrum of color while musicians are stuck using the same 12-pack of notes over and again? For now, we’ll just say “because, ‘tradition'” because the real answer involves recounting history outside the scope of our focus here.

The idea of limitless new note combinations is intriguing. And incredibly daunting. That’s where Sevish comes in. He’s made it his mission to not only compose xenharmonic music, but collect resources to make writing Xen music more accessible to everyone. I am especially grateful for his work. Because for me, it has unlocked a new universe of creative possibility in music composition.

So Droplet, the water key, grants access to xenharmonic music, the water world. A place where boundaries are redefined, if not removed altogether. A place where shapes, sounds, and textures have shifted slightly and become a little odd. A little curious. In some cases a little more refined. And in others, a little more challenging than we’re used to.

A treasure seeker who finds a chest will wish also to find its key. To open the chest, seize the treasure, and complete the journey. But a key is not always a means to an end. When we’re lucky, it’s a means to begin. A way into a previously inaccessible area. A chance to explore the unexplored.

A Droplet of Inspiration

  • Post category:Rando Bin

One day, I found a song called Droplet. By this artist called Sevish. I’d never heard of him. But the song was immediately pleasing. A peaceful intro with a lone synth. It’s texture as a smooth as glass. Then, bass. The sound was transporting. I was on a summer hike at dawn, when sunlight starts to peek through the fog. There was a sense of dreamlike familiarity. I could see my feet moving, one in front of the other. I knew this path because I’d hiked it before. But it felt different, just subtly. Like the sun was shining from the wrong direction. 

I saw the ground sparkle in an unusual way. My previous line of thought evaporated. What is that? I bent down slowly, careful to keep my eye on the spot where I saw the reflected light.  It looked like a key. But it was nearly transparent. The sun must have caught it just right. How many people before me must have walked right over this mysterious object?

I turned it over, passing it back and forth between my hands. It really looked like a key. But it’s material? It almost seemed to be made out of … no. I don’t understand how it could be that.

The shape of this object was unmistakable. It was a key. 

But it seemed to be made out of .. out of water.


How can a key be made out of water? 

But the shape was clear. It is a key. I know what a key is. And now, the material was clear too. Water. No doubt. 

Fascination replaced disbelief. I watched it’s flowing appearance change naturally as the key moved in my hands. Like water swirling in a glass. Except there was no container. Nothing I could see that would be responsible for holding this water in such a defined shape. 

I noticed my legs had resumed their operation. Now at a faster pace, as if closing in on a destination. But where? My hike had begun leisurely, with no particular destination in mind. Now, leisure was replaced with a sense of purpose, a mission. And yet no more direction than before. 

The fog had since retreated from it’s standoff with the sun. And my eyelids began a defensive against oncoming beads of sweat. Thank you eyelids, for keeping my vision uninterrupted right now. My eyes focused on the edges of the trail, alert for any additional abnormalities. 

What did I expect to encounter? A water lock for my water key? A water safe, full of water jewels? A water doorway into a water world?

 Of course. A water world. Absolute purity. No hard surfaces or sharp edges. And just think, when light touches anything? Rainbows abound. Millions of colors. Cascading, combining. Maybe forming new shades, never before seen by humans.

My eyes flickered their focus back to my hands, confirming that impossible key remained in my possession. Yes. 

Now, eyes up. Back to the search. 

To be continued…

How Loud Should My Song Be?

A Look at Reference Data from 10+ Classic Electronic Albums

Do you ever wonder, “how loud should my master be?” Or, “how compressed is my track compared to the pros?” 
Well, I have news for you. There is no right answer. 
But you already knew that. So let me tell you something you don’t already know. And it’ll be up to you to use it wisely. 
The overall loudness of ROYGBIV is -13.4 LUFS and it’s loudness range is 10.7 LU.
What?… That didn’t answer your question?
Reference tracks are everything. They are the answer key. You just have to do a little reverse engineering. But you’re right, looking at a couple stats from one song isn’t going to help you much. Even if it is one of the best sounding songs out there. Love you ROYGBIV.
Every song has a unique purpose and context within it’s album as a whole. Looking at data from one random song is insufficient. No, worse. It’s misleading. Because then you’ll be trying to model every song you make to that one reference, whether it is a relevant comparison or not. What a disaster!
But what if we looked at data for an entire album? Or a bunch of albums? Wouldn’t that be more informative?

So check it out: here’s a couple EPs worth of data just to start. Notice the Integrated LUFS, that’s how loud the song is overall. The closer the value is to zero, the louder it is. Then look at Dynamic Range. A lower value here indicates more compression. Lastly, the Loudness Range is the difference between the loudest parts of the song and the softest.

 See you on the other side.


She Smiles Because She Presses the Button

Aphex Twin


01 AMB
Integrated LUFS: -14.6 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -11.6 LUFS
True Peak: -0.1 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 11.4 DR
Loudness Range: 5.2 LU
Integrated LUFS: -12.2 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -10.1 LUFS
True Peak: -0.2 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 9.9 DR
Loudness Range: 4.0 LU
Integrated LUFS: -14.8 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -11.3 LUFS
True Peak: -0.2 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 11.1 DR
Loudness Range: 17.1 LU
Integrated LUFS: -15.6 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -13.8 LUFS
True Peak: -0.2 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 13.6 DR
Loudness Range: 2.0 LU
Integrated LUFS: -13.4 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -10.2 LUFS
True Peak: -0.2 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 9.6 DR
Loudness Range: 18.7 LU
Integrated LUFS: -13.0 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -9.7 LUFS
True Peak: 0.1 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 9.5 DR
Loudness Range: 6.3 LU
Integrated LUFS: -9.6 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -6.9 LUFS
True Peak: 0.7 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 6.7 DR
Loudness Range: 4.3 LU
2 – 1ST 44
Integrated LUFS: -10.4 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -8.3 LUFS
True Peak: 1.5 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 8.1 DR
Loudness Range: 5.4 LU
3 – MT1 T29R2
Integrated LUFS: -11.0 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -7.9 LUFS
True Peak: 1.2 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 7.7 DR
Loudness Range: 5.6 LU
4 – ABUNDANCE10EDIT[2 R8’S, FZ20M & A 909]
Integrated LUFS: -10.8 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -7.3 LUFS
True Peak: 1.0 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 7.1 DR
Loudness Range: 7.0 LU
Integrated LUFS: -11.7 LUFS
Short Term LUFS: -9.2 LUFS
True Peak: 0.8 dBTP
Peak: -0.2 dB
Dynamic Range: 9.0 DR
Loudness Range: 7.9 LU

Hello again. So, as you saw, T69 Collapse is the loudest song out of the 11 listed. It also has the smallest Dynamic Range. These tend to go hand in hand. But Brise has the smallest Loudness Range. Meaning that once the song starts, it’s pretty much the same volume until it ends. Not much volume variation between the sections. Conversely, you can expect some parts in Rhyme Four to be dramatically louder than others. 

Now that you know how to read the tables, I have even more for you. Click here for data from 10+ more albums by

Aphex Twin
Boards of Canada
Four Tet
John Frusciante
Skee Mask

But don’t forget my warning. This is still a very small sample size. Ten albums out of, well, all albums in existence. I picked these albums because I like them. I like the way they sound. And they are a similar style to the music I make. So it’s good reference material for my purposes. It may not have the same value to you. Take what I’ve started here and tailor it to your own pursuits. That’s where the real value begins. 

Song Sifting: Loud Pipes

What is Sound Sifting you ask? Here’s what it’s all about.

Artist: Ratatat
Album: Classics
Year: 2006 
Is there a more aptly named album than Classics? It’s hit after hit. Montanita comes on and I think “this song embodies the Ratatat sound.” Then Lex comes on and I think “no this song embodies the Ratatat sound.” And so on. 
The arrangements are sparse. Each instrument is right up in your face. Nothing comes between the listener and the music. The album is remarkably consistent and cohesive in terms of quality and sound. When I listen to these songs, I recall the following quote, attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“
Loud Pipes exemplifies this ideal. 
When listening, I ask myself: What element would you take away? I have a hard time coming up with one. Every element of Loud Pipes is essential. And when each instrument carries such weight, just switching one for another within the arrangement is a dramatic act. For example, at 1:25, the bass drops out and is replaced by a light, high register keyboard. Dynamic variation is one of the hallmarks of these compositions. We’ll explore more examples of this nature in the final section of this post. 
I wouldn’t describe Loud Pipes as fancy, flashy, or advanced. And that’s the beauty of it. Mastery of the fundamentals.
Their debut, self-titled album sounds slightly less refined in comparison. For example, I love the guitar riff in Desert Eagle. But the song lacks the command in dynamics demonstrated on Classics. The sections last longer than necessary and lack enough variation to keep them fresh. Desert Eagle would have more impact if it were shorter. There isn’t a single song on Classics that makes me feel that way. 
In a Reddit AMA, Ratatat member Evan Mast mentioned how the duo has “been figuring things out as we go since the beginning. Our first album was recorded VERY simply and we’ve slowly expanded things with each album. The best way to learn is by putting in work. Sometimes people with the least amount of technical knowledge make the coolest sounding records.1” 
Comparing Desert Eagle to Loud Pipes highlights this progression. It’s satisfying to see their work become more dialed in over time. Their production techniques continue to advance with each album after Classics. Later songs show stylistic flair where there was once only practical utility. This is an observation. Not critique. Not praise. Each listener has their own preference. But Classics remains a hallmark example of how much can be accomplished with a bare minimum setup. 
Well maybe not bare minimum. When recording their debut album, they didn’t even have guitar amps. The guitars were recorded directly into their laptop through a distortion pedal. 
“For Classics we upgraded to amps and microphones.2
Still pretty minimal, I’d say. 
There’s hardly any effects processing to speak of either. The clap has some reverb on it. And it stands out because everything else is so dry. If you focus on the quiet gaps between notes you can hear a hint of reverb across other instruments. This reverb is probably just the sound of the room they recorded in rather than any significant post processing.
Each instrument in Loud Pipes has a pleasing saturation to it rather than a clean tone. This helps blend them together to form one cohesive sound. Nothing sounds sterile or out of place. Then again, the extra distortion and noise may not please everyone. But as Evan points out, imperfections add “a certain character to the track. [I’m] generally not a fan of overly clean and polished recordings.3
With that in mind, consider the tone of the bass. It’s somewhat flappy and blown out. If played in solo, the sound probably wouldn’t be desirable. But it’s never heard in solo. The bass is always supported by other instruments. Those guitars, keyboards, etc fill the sides of the mix and leave plenty of room in the middle. That allows the big booming bass to be the uncontested centerpiece of the mix. It’s tonal character is complimentary and fitting to the whole.
It can be a challenge in instrumental music to keep the song sounding interesting and complete without a vocal present. People expect to hear singing. Ratatat is the standard for those looking to take on that challenge. As described above, Ratatat’s careful song production gives each element it’s own space. When one of these spaces is left empty, it builds anticipation. When they are all occupied, the sound is satisfyingly complete.  Just because a song lacks a vocal doesn’t mean it lacks a focal point.
Sometimes, people feel compelled to add vocals to instrumental songs. In most cases, I assume, this is just for fun. Adding personal flair to a song they love. Otherwise, it’s missing the point.
“I’m flattered that people are inspired to record vocals on our tracks, but honestly I never really like what I hear. The songs are designed to be instrumental so it always sounds messy to me when there’s another layer in the foreground.4
And we’ve come full circle back to the Exupery quote. Nothing to add. Nothing to take away. That’s how you know when your work is complete.
Continue reading below for a more granular analysis of Loud Pipes:

Instrument overview and opening impressions:
  • Center panned: Bass, Kick, Snare
  • Left: Organ
  • Right: Guitar
  • Claps have some special information, roughly back left
Just about everything in this mix is hard panned. Doing so leaves the center clear for the big, loose toned bass. That sets up an opportunity for dynamic contrast. When the bass drops out at 1:25, it leaves a wide hole to fill.  A high key part takes its place at 1:27. One switch takes the mix from dense to spacious. These skillful swaps are key to keeping forward momentum in a song with a relatively sparse instrumentation.
Structural overview:
Anything less would be incomplete. Anything more would risk becoming repetitive. 
Section A
  • The intro is two complete cycles of section A, without guitar. This lasts 8 bars.
    • The guitars enter and repeat the main riff over 16 bars
    • A matching guitar comes in on the left. But, the right guitar is louder which shades the overall guitar sound right of center. This leaves space on the left for the organ to play along with the guitars.
Section B
  • A gliding synth lead enters. Reversed guitar chords too, swelling each chord of the progression. The combination of the two creates a swirling sensation. It’s immersive. It feels like you’re being swept up and surrounded by sound. The structure here works in tandem with the instrumentation to provide a dynamic transition into section C.
  • The gliding synth is doubled on the left for the second cycle
Section C
  • Starting at 1:27, this section calls back to the intro. It’s sparse and open. The heaviness of the bass now replaces with a feather light piano. Soft flutes take over the backing chord duties. They are helped by muted guitar plucks placed hard left and right. These guitars are the polar opposite of the distorted strumming heard previously.
    • When the strumming returns, it is just one mono, hard panned right guitar. The distortion is reduced. It sounds like reminiscing. Recalling the earlier high energy sections, but enjoying a break for now.
  • This section ends at 2:09 with a brilliant pause, as if taking a breath before diving back in. The lone guitar on the right is briefly doubled on the left. All other instruments drop out for two counts. Then, bam. The chorus lands like an on time arrival. Satisfying.
  • A shaker is introduced in this section. It bounces left and right each beat, punctuating the guitar plucks.
Section A 2
  • There’s a couple additions to this section for its second pass but they are subtle
    • A lead tone guitar enters on the left, covering the organ. The harmony raises during the second 4-bar cycle, suggesting the song is reaching its apex
  • There is a tambourine on the 2 and 4 that doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else in the song
Section B 2 – 2:32
  • Nearly identical to first B section, but the gliding synth is doubled from the outset of the first cycle. It appears to again add a layer for the second cycle, perhaps going from 2 to 3. This is the most densely orchestrated moment of the song.
Section C 2
  • No plucking guitars this time. The organ is on chord duty now, panned right for the first time all song. 
  • Unlike C1, we have bass this time. But, its played an octave higher to keep things light.
  • No strumming guitar comes in this time, instead the section fades out, completing the song.

Parting thought:
“Ending the day with a song that didn’t exist that morning is the best feeling in the world.5

Enlightened Legislation: Laying the Groundwork for Today’s Social Injustice Issues

  • Post category:Rando Bin
This isn’t the sort of song I’d normally choose to write. So you’ll understand when I say it wasn’t my choice. The song chose me.
I was working on something else entirely. An unrelated song. I had an idea for a voice sample I felt would tie the song together. A quick little message to wrap things up. I perused the internet and found a potential candidate. I listened to the first 30 seconds and decided the tone would indeed fit. The whole clip was 7 minutes long. So I hit record and went for a snack.
Upon returning, I cut out a few phrases from the first 90 seconds or so. It felt like plenty, so I didn’t even need the rest of the 7 minutes. As I was about to trash the rest of the recording, I realized it had recorded not 7 minutes, but about 15. Another clip must have auto played after the one I chose.
Of course, I was curious. I began clicking through the second recording, just to see what it contained. I’m glad a did. These messages were provocative. Even more so than the ones I had chosen. Provocative and painfully relevant. I could hardly believe the serendipity.
In fact, take a listen for yourself.

It felt like this material was delivered to me. It was impossible to ignore. I had already been working for hours. And I thought I was wrapping up. But now I had to sample this message and bring it to life through music. I had to dig in while the inspiration was so fresh.

The next hour was a sprint. I placed the voice in a new project. I programmed a beat around it. Added percussive layers. A bass line. And finally some sparse, sampled instrumentation. I worked as fast as possible. I wanted the entire creation to be born within the context of the original feeling. The feeling I got when this mystery broadcast first played back through my headphones.
The entire process took at most, 80 minutes. Now, the feeling is captured in music where it will live on indefinitely. For whatever that’s worth.

But what was the message exactly? You are no doubt wondering this. And with a hint of frustration, if you skipped the demo and haven’t yet heard it for yourself.
It is a New York Public Radio broadcast. The host announces the passing of new legislation that allows policemen more leeway in their firearm use. Before, she says, an officer was only permitted to fire his weapon in self-defense, or on behalf of the safety of a third party. She mocked the old rule for its obvious lack of sense.
Now, the officer may discharge his weapon at his own discretion.
A welcome change, according to the host. She mentions a situation “last September” in which a perpetrator escaped due to the overly restrictive old law. She begins as if she’s referencing a specific event that actually occurred. But by the end, it’s clear that she’s invented the story of the “rapist, or strangler, or what have you” to make her point. And what is her point? She believes that restricting a police officer’s firearm use is active encouragement to rapists and murderers, or anyone else that may be considered a threat.

Our collective safety depends on an officers ability to fire his gun at anyone he “knows or believes has committed a felony, or has a gun, or any other kind of deadly weapon.” 

The officer does not have to wait until he is in danger to use his weapon. He only has to *think* he is in danger. Combine that leeway with the systematic racism that has been programmed into white America to see people of color as dangerous criminals, and you begin to see the problem.
The broadcast went on to talk about the new “no sock” law “which enables an arresting officer to make it a felony if a person physically assaults the policeman in an attempt to resist arrest.” Even in the case of an illegal false arrest.
Again, the host is relieved. “It is heartening to note that the legislature has responded to the public’s wish for more police power and protection at a time when, according to the latest FBI reports, the incidence of crime and violence continue to rise at a rapid pace.”
By citing the FBI, she meant to add credibility to her otherwise unsupported claim that violent crime was on the rise. But the FBI’s motives were notoriously dubious during the late 1960s. For example, recovered Bureau documents “revealed directives that required FBI field offices to watch African-Americans wherever they went.”
“These people were enemies of the state, and in particular Martin Luther King [Jr.] was an enemy of the state. And Hoover aimed to watch over them. If they twitched in the wrong direction, the hammer would come down.” Hoover, for those unaware, refers to J. Edgar Hoover. The director of the FBI from 1935 to 1972.
And the hammer did come down on King. Hoover’s spying escalated. He “had his intelligence chief bug King’s bedroom, and then sent the civil rights leader a copy of the sex recordings.” The blackmail package included a letter in addition to the sex tapes. It’s anonymous author described King as “evil,” a “fraud,” and a “dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.” It concluded by telling King he was finished and “flat-out suggests that the leader commit suicide.”
King ignored the threat. 
When he was later assassinated, the FBI understandably fell under suspicion. To this day though, no proof exists in their involvement in King’s murder. 
That’s not to say the FBI never murdered any Civil Rights leaders in their attempts to disrupt the movement. Internal documents show the FBI proudly took credit for killing Black Panthers member, Fred Hampton. A heavily armed team of police raided his residence in the middle of the night. Mark Clark, also a Black Panther, was on security duty at the time. The police shot him in the chest upon entry and he died immediately. When they found Hampton, he was asleep in his bed. They shot him twice in the head from point blank range. Chicago police were found to a have fired over 90 shots inside the apartment. One shot was fired by the Black Panthers. When Mark Clark died, his gun felt to the floor and discharged once into the ceiling. 
“At a press conference the next day, the police announced the arrest team had been attacked by the “violent” and “extremely vicious” Panthers and had defended themselves accordingly. In a second press conference on December 8, the police leadership praised the assault team for their “remarkable restraint”, “bravery”, and “professional discipline” in not killing all the Panthers present. Photographic evidence was presented of “bullet holes” allegedly made by shots fired by the Panthers, but this was soon challenged by reporters. An internal investigation was undertaken, and the police claimed that their colleagues and friends on the assault team were exonerated of any wrongdoing.” source
The raid would not have been possible without the FBI. One of their informants, William O’Neal, provided the floor plan of the apartment. He organized the raid. He drugged Hampton so he’d be incapacitated at the time of the murder. The FBI rewarded his successful mission with a bonus. He later admitted his involvement and committed suicide. 
Right now you’re thinking, how did we even get here? You’re right. That was quite the tangent. So let’s recap. 
Once, the law stated that a police officer may fire his gun only as self defense, or to save a third party. 

In 1968, new legislature permitted an officer to fire at anyone he thought was a felon or armed. 
New York Public Radio invited their listeners to celebrate the change. Because according to the FBI, violent crime was on the rise and these laws would help keep everyone safe. The host aligns this point of view with her identity as a proud Republican. If you disagree, you’re encouraging rapists and strangers to run rampant in your community.
But the FBI’s real objective was, in part, to disrupt the Civil Rights Movement. And new legislation gave room for law enforcement to pursue anyone they wanted, as long as they could provide an explanation for it later (and they would be investigating themselves). The story on the radio just secured public acceptance for a more draconian police force. These measures inflicted disproportionate damage on communities of color.

And they still do today.

Good Neighbors Mix and the AFX003 tuning file

  • Post category:Mix Journal
I wrote Good Neighbors in May of 2018. I only had one goal when I started this fresh Cubase project: Figure out how to load .tun files into my U-He Zebra synthesizer in order to make microtonal music. Or at least I thought I was making microtonal music.
I downloaded this Aphex Twin custom tunings pack. I tried out each of 6 tunings to see what they had to offer. AFX003 yielded some great sounds right away. Before long, I’d created the original Good Neighbors loop, which you can hear below.
At the time it didn’t feel long enough to be a proper song. Occasionally, I’d open the project and try to add a new section. Then I’d close the project, unsatisfied with the results. Whenever I go back and listen to the original loop, I appreciate how straight to the point it is. It begins, makes it’s case, then ends. No fluff.
Today I finally decided it was time to mix this song. To finalize it the way it is. Except the project was still a mess from the last time I tried moving sections around. There were a bunch of scrap parts interspersed that needed to be deleted. Sorting that out created a delay, opening an opportunity for me to try a couple new ideas. Maybe I could replace these old junky ideas with a fresh new one. It didn’t take long to realize this was a bad idea. The song is good the way it is. Stop forgetting that!
But when I was trying new parts with the harp patch something occurred to me. This tuning I thought was my first foray into exotic microtonal music sounded an awful lot like, well, the regular old minor scale. Ironic. I was so focused on playing in a way I never had before I didn’t notice how regular the notes really were.

Testing the nature of the AFX003 tuning:
The D3 key in the AFX003 tuning equals the D3 on a regular keyboard.  On a regular keyboard, start on D3 and play only the white keys until you reach D4 an octave up.
D E F G A Bb C D
This is the D minor scale. It’s also the 7 notes in the AFX003 tuning. Except in AFX003, these notes are mapped onto on 7 consecutive keys. Activate the AFX003 tuning. Start on D3. Play every key, including the black ones, until you reach A3.
D E F G A Bb C D
It’s D minor, although in the space of 7 piano keys instead of the usual 12. 
Now play only the white keys from D3 to D4.
D F G Bb D F G Bb D

I can’t help but notice these letters are all in order on my computer keyboard. Does this mean something? Probably not. But I am curious about the inspiration of this tuning. If you were only going to use the 7 notes of the minor scale, it would be easier to play if you mapped them to only the white keys and left the black keys unmapped.

So, this tuning ended up being more regular than I’d hoped for. And yet, it yielded a song that sounds different than something I’d usually make. I can think of a few reasons why that may be.
  1. I was focused on playing it in a way I never had before.
Musicians, and perhaps especially guitarists, can get stuck playing the same old patterns. Consider these two composing mindsets:
“Today I’ll write a song in D minor.”
“Today I’ll write a song in a new, unknown tuning. One that I’ve never used before. One that I’ve never even heard the sound of.”
You probably have preconceived notions about the sonic possibilities of D minor. You may start thinking about chord progressions in the key. Or about which harmonies to use. Conversely, the second mindset is more childlike. Here’s a tuning I’ve never encountered before. I don’t know anything about the harmonic relationships. Therefore, I must rely on only what sounds good as I play. The more music theory you understand, the harder it is to play with this type of carefree creativity. To do so is rare and valuable. As they say, you’re unlikely to discover anything new by following the same old road map. 
  1. Although the notes are ordinary, their mapping to the keyboard is not.
Again, old habits die hard. Common patterns ingrain themselves through muscle memory. Your fingers probably have a tendency to land on all the usual intervals. Major thirds. Perfect fifths. And of course, octaves.  The AFX003 tuning condenses the 7 scale tones down to 7 consecutive keys. This almost guarantees you will play wider intervals than normal. Notes that would have been a stretch are now close by. Notes that were too distant to ever be considered are now in reach. Even if your fingers fall in all the usual places, you’ll still be playing different notes than usual. 
  1. There might actually be a slight microtonal quality to these notes. 
I’m leaving this one up to you to decide. I played the AFX003 notes along side the D minor scale over and over. Most of the notes sounded identical. But a couple of them sounded the slightest bit out of tune. Or maybe I entered a state of delirium and was only imagining a difference. We may need to consult the World’s Greatest Ear to confirm or deny this claim.

The following is a summary of the changes I made to the original Good Neighbors demo during the mixing stage:
Expand track some to give the composition more dynamic. Keep punchy in and out feel of original short demo.
Heavily compress droning bass synth. All flutters all over the place and needs to be tamed.
Slight widening to snare. EQ to brighten a touch.
Light short reverb on the drums to create a room feel
Swap pan sides for harp and strings
Build intro out of recycled harp line
Eq work on the vocal lines to get them to sit properly/remove mud for clarity
Add delay fx tails to the ends of vocal lines
Spice up transition between main section of song and outro
  • Stutter fx on Stereo out bus
  • Tight BP filter on repeat of vocal line
  • Have bottom drop out of the drum 

8 Lessons from Music that Apply to Any Field

  • Post category:Rando Bin

Here are 8 universal lessons I’ve learned from my work as a musician. Inspired by this thought provoking twitter thread by David Perell. 

  1. An instrument is only as good as its player.
  2. Great work can be boiled down to a formula. But following a formula will not yield great work. 
  3. If it sounds good, it is good.
  4. Tension and dissonance can arouse intrigue for a moment. But they quickly grow tiresome. 
  5. Flow comes when you let go.
  6. People view your work through the lens of your persona.
  7. If you’re not unique, a better version of you already exists. Be yourself and you will be unique.
  8. Practice makes perfect. But perfect is not relatable. Emotional connection goes further than demonstrations of sheer skill.  

If I missed any good ones, let me know on twitter, @jromejko

Mix Journal: Suspended Animation

  • Post category:Mix Journal
This song sounds cold and desolate. As if frozen in time. Like a body paused by cryonics, awaiting revival. Can their thoughts, memories, and personal information be recovered?
Or, how about a more contemporary example. A body sustains mortal injuries, but the brain remains intact. Using a brain-machine interface, an image of the brain is created. Like backing up computer data to a server. The collection is successful. Neatly packaged, the full contents of the brain await redeployment into a new body. What is the nature of consciousness in this state?
That’s what I mean by Suspended Animation.
In terms of the mix, this song is fairly minimal. Most of the instruments already had a little reverb on them from the writing stage. I added some light delay to a few tracks toward the end. But for the most part, they fill the space without needing additional fx processing. 

Step by step actions:

Balance static mix
Add light distortion to drum group
Compress drum group
both of these steps helped glue the kit together into one cohesive unit
Eq Bass to remove some of the nasally low mids.
Compress bass
Eq Kick to sit just above fundamental bass frequency
Eq Snare: just one small cut out of the low mids
Eq pulse synth
Compress pulse synth
Eq Keys for more hi clarity
Add spice into drum patterns for middle section
Add phaser to drums during section starting @1:30
Use volume automation to
  1. Lower drum volume during less dense sections
  2. bring forward the main element whenever there’s a shift in focus. For example, at 0:30 the volume of the harp-like instrument is raised. It says up until 0:52, then ducks below the icy key lead that enters.
  3. Fade in/out the top layer of the bass synth. it comes in gradually until 0:30 then drops out. Where else do you hear it in the track?

So, that's all for now...

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