This weekend I've had fun uploading new ambient music pieces to DisFish Records' website, and with recording new pieces.
Today I made a new discovery. I use a musical notation program called Musedit to create .wav samples to morph in my sample slicer (appropriately called Slicer). This mechanism permits me to compose a simple tune on sheet music, get Musedit's MIDI instruments to play the tune on my computer, and thus have a sample to record.
I use my 10 dollar value studio to record the resulting MIDI song, and save the result as a .wav file. I then place the .wav file into a freeware program which serves as a sampler or synthesizer, to further alter, or "morph", the piece, and then record the result again. Thus, I am able to create ambient drones and synthesizer-like sounds without resorting to any expensive form of synthesis. Instead, all my synthesizer software is freeware except for one twenty five dollar synth.
I also use another method of recording materials for Slicer. I play instruments or "found sounds" into a cassette player, and then feed this recording into my computer. I then slice the resulting .wav file to create unusual and fun sounds.
Lately, my favorite discovery is that a morphed harmonica sounds for all the world like an ambient drone of the subtlest order. I've also used a mass of other "found" sounds, ranging from a park bridge to a curious instrument called a wrench-o-phone, which is exactly what its name implies.
Until today, though, the two methods of song creation proved rather parallel to one another. I either create a song on Musedit, or I create a song on home-made samples (or I mix and match the two in my studio). Today, though, I found a bit of freeware called Wave Goodbye.
Wave Goodbye does something really cool that it always seemed to me ought to be do-able. One feeds into Wave Goodbye a .wav sample, and Wave Goodbye automatically converts it into MIDI.
For my set-up, this amounts to an easy way to marry the two ways I create music. Let me explain with tonight's example--a can-jo symphony. For those not familiar with the delightful can-jo, let me explain that a can-jo isa fifteen dollar instrument one can purchase on eBay. A can-jo is a one-string mountain dulcimer, except that instead of a wooden resonator that a traditional dulcimer or guitar might have, the can-jo features an aluminum can as a resonator. I cannot recall as I type this if my current can-jo is based on Diet Coke or diet root beer, but I believe it is the latter.
I had recorded a can-jo sample some weeks ago, which I had run through my sampler. The can-jo sample, thus morphed, made an interesting sound. Wave Goodbye, though, allows me to do something far more fascinating.
Here is the recipe for the fun I have had today:
1. Take one cup of can-jo sample, roughly 30 seconds in length.
2. Place the can-jo sample into Wave Away, and convert the can-jo sample into a MIDI piece.
I'll pause here, as a cook does on the Food Channel to say "look at that meringue!", to note
how utterly cool it is to put a plinky thirty seconds of a soda can stringed instrument into
a device that turns it into a MIDI piano piece. But the dessert is the best part, and it is still to come.
Wave Away allows the can-jo sample, now converted into a MIDI symphonic piano, to be exported as a MIDI file.
Then Musedit, my music notation software, will import the MIDI file. When Musedit imports a MIDI file,
Musedit converts it into sheet music.
Suddenly, the can-jo plinking is turned into a Can-jo Symphony. I'll grant you, it's a symphony more akin to Charles Ives than Mozart, but a symphony nonetheless.
Musedit also lets me do something more fun to the Can-jo Symphony. It allows me to restructure the sheet music and to switch the instrument from concert piano to orchestral strings. I can then record the stringed MIDI song as a .wav file, and place the resulting .wav file in my sampler.
The net result of these shenanigans? I was able to complete "Frisco" (named after a town in my area of Texas, and not as an inappropriate shortening of San Francisco). "Frisco" is that same can-jo sample, which has waved goodbye, been musedited, and then sliced into a series of layered strings, darkly foreboding.
I live for odd moments such as these.
I've been very pleased with the songs I've posted to DisFish.com, as the Collin County songs, 19 thus far (I anticipate having 25 of them) mark my new effort to keep my pieces very short, on the theory that the Ramones are wiser about song length than most orchestras. I even seem to have "charted" on DisFish, although I have no real idea what that means in this context.
Meanwhile, Ben Fleury-Steiner, the ambient music artist who runs this cool newish ambient label, Gears of Sand, gave me some good constructive criticism for "Eerie Exchange Prairie Park". Although his take on it was not particularly laudatory, the faults he outlined in it are the same faults I perceive in it. It's not important that a review is adverse--what matters is whether the listener has a critique from which one can learn. The download traffic at archive.org remains strong for "EEPP", so I'm pleased that it's gaining new listeners.
But I'm eager to go into new directions, as each month I figure out some cool obscurity I did not know the month before the month in question.