By mistake I opened the folder where I keep my music projects, and was struck by the sense of nostalgia. I browsed them, listened to all the tracks and unfinished bits thereof I made many years ago. I decided to string some of them, the more complete and the more listenable, into an EP, this one here I call Fade. It’s only 15 minutes of lo-fi/bleep music, and it’s probably not even worth a listen, but here, I release it nonetheless.
(Head into the post to listen without downloading.)
These tracks are all from 2009 at the newest. Since those days I haven’t been making music, except for the occasional track for a game. I know no one’s missing all the crap music I haven’t made these years, but I sometimes think of that parallel me who focused more on music and perhaps became proficient in an instrument, and wonder if I wish I was that me.
I decided to make a new video, as an exercise. A quickie—took me two days. Another music video, but this one is for a song I made myself a good while ago, together with Matt Peter.
I used a few family photos from the late eighties, playing up their graininess and color patterns. Their texture made for a much less mechanic-looking set of kaleidoscopic compositions than what is probably the norm. It was also my intention to play with alternately obscuring and revealing the nature of the images, hiding them in the geometry, and slowly giving way to recognizable objects and people. The middle section is intentionally psychedelic, switching to meet the mood of the music. Toward the end it’s much more of a nostalgic slide-show of memories.
I had the opportunity to hear Jem Cohen talk three times in the past three days. The first was a supposed ‘master class’, which was really just a talk, where he was accompanied by Guy Picciotto (of Fugazi) and Todd Griffin, both musicians. The talk was called Another kind of music, and it was about the way he approaches filmmaking in relation to sound and music. One of his insights was that making films can be a bit like making music; there’s rhythm, texture, and other sensory elements in the mix, beside the more evident aspect of narrative that is most films’ core. He also said that the way he shoots his footage is akin to a musician’s improvisation.
He showed some of his short films/videos, or fragments of them. One of those was Little flags, which will give you an idea of what he does. The truth is, I went to this talk not knowing anything about this man, other than him being a filmmaker, and his link to music. For, you see, he seems to often work with musicians, or simply make sound a vital part of his work. The day before that talk, I was seeing Avi Mograbi’s Z32 while one of Jem’s works was being screened elsewhere, called Ciudad de México por azar, with simultaneous live music by the aforementioned musicians, plus DJ Rupture and Andy Moor. I didn’t know this event was taking place, or I would have been there, especially after seeing Chain the evening after the talk, which was already a day too late anyway. Chain is a feature-length, sharp, documentary-like view on the culture of consumerism. After the screening of that movie, he was there to answer questions and talk a bit about it.
He’s here in Chile because of Sanfic, the Santiago International Film Festival, which has been my chance to see some new films, and also hear the directors talk about them, which is quite an interesting experience. The final time I saw Jem was after a showing of a few of his shorts, including Lost book found, most likely the highlight among the bunch. In this short, he tells his story of what it was like being a push cart vendor in the city, and his discovery of a notebook that was filled with a strictly categorized, but seemingly nonsensical, list of numbers, places, things, situations related to the city. I asked him whether the story was real, to which he said it partially was. He refused to say if the book ever existed.
In six days, spaced over three weekends, three guys online, recording songs collaboratively, grabbing what the other made and putting some guitar on top, or some stream-of-consciousness vocals, or some crazy radio static. That was the dynamic that resulted in the creation of Tree, a full-length (well, 30 minutes long) digital release by The Color and the Leaves project!
What we lack in technical skills we make up for in craziness, I think. Lots of good stuff in there, and I can even count some of my own in that category! Tools used (other than the boring ones) include: a Game Boy emulator, an actual Game Boy, a keyboard running out of batteries, and a kettle. The two guys who made this with me are Matt Peter (go listen to his stuff) and Cody Ross (first timer, like me—though he can actually play his musical instruments, which is unlike me).
(Edit: You can stream it from the player at the bottom of this post.)
If you think that having this digital thing sitting there in your harddrive is not very exciting, and decide to burn it on a CD, here’s a sleeve design I made, which you can print on a regular letter, or similar sized, paper sheet (on both sides). After you print it, all you need to do is fold around the edges of the square, length-wise first. The overlapping flaps can be fit one into the other to neatly close it.
After salivating a bit for the Korg DS-10, a software that simulates a synthesizer named Korg MS-10, for the Nintendo DS (not a game), I came to realize that I did not need to wait or spend money to make music using my DS, for there was NitroTracker freely available to us lucky flashcart owning people. I had known about this tracker (music sequencing software) for a while, but I had never attempted to use it. I was feeling adventurous now, so I downloaded it and read the rather short explanation on using it; it has a surprisingly approachable interface, which was put to the test with someone as ignorant on music composition as myself. Thirty odd minutes of toying with it later, I had made a song. Hooray—my first recorded composition, ever! I only used the samples recommended in the short tutorial I read, which proved to be insufficient, so I went looking for more. After seizing my arsenal, I went back. And, right now, I’m sitting on four frankly awkward tunes that no one would likely want to give a second listen, but I am, honestly, pretty proud of myself. As much as I love music, it’s surprising even to myself that I can’t play any instrument, so it was not only satisfying to have finally drafted something listenable, but also like taking a weight off my shoulders. I crossed the line, and it feels pretty great.
The little horrors are in extended module (XM) format, which should play fine in Winamp if you have a not-too-old version, and probably in other audio players as well. The first in the list below is my latest ‘oeuvre’, and you could consider it my contribution to this year’s Halloween. The others (chronologically ordered, with the oldest last) are unintentionally terrifying. Boo.