And the Sunrise Welcomes You Home

July 1, 2017 1:56 AM

A short instrumental piece (featuring synth) in which I basically have fun building from a loop. This is my entry for the MeFi Music challenge to submit music inspired by a MeFi post (I Saw This Thing On The Blue And...). Credit actually goes to three MetaFilter-related posts from last month: two MeFi posts by not_on_display and one MeFi Music post by ignignokt; they inspired me to create electronic music again after a decade+ hiatus.

The three posts that helped propel me here:

The first post was by not_on_display: The spaces between the notes, which introduced me to composer Joanna Brouk, a pioneer of electronic music and ambient/new-age music. I had not known about her at all and wish I'd heard her music much earlier, especially back when I studied electronic music for a bit in school. I used to spend hours in the music studio working with synths on different projects or just for fun, and would always lose track of time.

I hadn't really worked with electronic music in at least 10, maybe 15 years, so the post got me thinking even more about going back to it again. (It was already on my mind because of a recent conversation with n_o_d where we talked about synths, sequencers, MIDI, loops and other good audio stuff.)

Well, about the same time I saw n_o_d's post about Brouk (it might have even been the same day), I also listened to ignignokt's cool piece Mouth of the Coldest Seas here on MeFi Music. I asked about his recording process and he gave a great, detailed answer in-thread that mentioned NanoStudio. I'd meant to research sequencing software (since I was out of touch with the latest programs), and here was a link to one that was free. I made a mental note to try it out.

Later in May, n_o_d made a MeFi post Random Violins about, where you can build your own piece from recorded samples of music/sounds performed by a real string quartet. It uses circles to represent the samples visually, and this reminded me of Brouk who sometimes composed with geometric shapes. Over the course of a few different days, I kept going back to the website and experimenting with the various samples: layering them, changing dynamics, repeating them. It was sort of like real-time sequencing -- the site doesn't have a way to edit sequences and replay them, so that got me thinking about sequencing software yet again, and gave me the final nudge to install NanoStudio and get acquainted with it, and it's what I used to make this piece.

About the tune:

There's something Joanna Brouk said in an interview that stayed with me (mentioned this in her MeFi thread also):
I began teaching and one of the things I loved to do was watch students use the synthesizer for the first time. I was always interested to see what they came up with, see what note they first went to. I’m drawn to that moment when you hear something and go, “Oh yes, that’s the note, that’s my note, that’s my sound, that’s me.
In NanoStudio, I kept coming back to an interesting preset called "Ping Pong" where the base sound was mellow but also changed and introduced other sounds/textures depending on the duration of the note. I'm guessing Brouk was maybe talking about analog synths and not digital presets, but "Ping Pong" was my sound, at least for the time being. So I chose that preset to learn the basics of how the software worked: recording tracks, using my (qwerty) keyboard and mouse for midi input, editing the notes, etc.

I ended up making a little piece and looping it, using only the one preset. It was originally meant to be a test (and I accidentally recorded continously over the same looped track at first), but I liked the result and continued working with it (often losing track of time!). I even kept the metronome sound because I missed it in the mixdown. So this is a recording of the NanoStudio playback with the click enabled.

I can definitely see myself working on it some more but I wanted to get it in for the challenge. (Btw I did not plan on posting two songs so closely together, one title with "night" and this title with "sunrise." Weird coincidence.)

tl;dr Thanks to not_on_display and ignignokt and Joanna Brouk and the Infinite String Quartet for inspiring me to work with electronic music again!

posted by rangefinder 1.4 (7 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

This totally belongs as the theme music on a PBS or BBC TV show sometime in the 70's. I also like the "chorus" (or part B) and especially the last 20 seconds' chord progression. It has a nice balance all-around, too. Happy to have inspired you to dive back into the computer as music-tool!
posted by not_on_display at 9:57 PM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love this! More of this kind of thing!
posted by greenish at 3:32 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's like listening to the birds welcoming the dawn.
posted by CancerMan at 10:59 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

OMG, I love the Ping Pong synth. It's got this nice pulsing that tends to fill in a lot of rhythmic space for the composer. You've used it in such a warm way! Would be great for a wordless intro to a game or film about some humble character leaving their town for the first time.
posted by ignignokt at 6:55 PM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Which I guess is the opposite of what's suggested by the title, but it could work for that, too!)
posted by ignignokt at 6:56 PM on July 6, 2017

Dang, why don't my NanoStudio noodlings ever sound this good? Well done, rangefinder 1.4!
posted by mpark at 9:25 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone!

I'm still not sure I've figured out some of the functionality in NanoStudio (like, how to use "Undo" is one big example) so this piece was an interesting case where I saved new files more often than usual and sometimes just left accidental edits alone. I'm pretty sure it was a major reason I didn't spend as much time editing as I normally would.

That being said, it's still a neat tool and I'm continuing to play around on it -- I'm working on a new collab with n_o_d (yay) and will probably use NanoStudio for it.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:16 AM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

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