“In the works” #1

Occasionally I won’t release anything for a while. This happens – either my creativity stagnates or outside forces conspire to prevent me from uploading anything to this site or my YouTube channel.

This post will serve as an update to any and all works that I am currently working on (or that I owe to people and have yet to send to them), which will hopefully be done in the very near future. They will be uploaded to my channel once complete.

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Abandonment – For Chaindude. This is a song that has remained in an unfinished state on my computer for probably years now, but it deserves the courtesy of being finished. [Done: 80%]
Art of the Conjurer
– Random song. This will be a creepy orchestral/woodwind track in 3/4 time. [Done: 80%]
Coal – For skillsaw. A mid-tempo synthy song reminiscent of Doom’s “Dark Halls”, with of course my own stylistic elements thrown in. [Done: 100%]
Conductor – For Grymmoire. A moody, mid-tempo guitar based track with 80’s-style polysynths over the top. [Done: 10%]
Dispersion – For valkiriforce‘s project “Reverie”. A fast-paced, guitar-oriented track, inspired by Mark Klem’s “Reason for Nothing”. [Done: 20%]
Fallen Sun – For valkiriforce‘s project “Reverie”. A progressive, sombre, guitar-and-synth-based track. This will also feature on “Creation”. [Done: 100%]
Slough of Traps – For Grymmoire. A remix of the original Doom’s music tracks for the levels “Slough of Despair” and “Tricks ‘n’ Traps”. [Done: 50%]

Two reasons why I don’t like your song

I’m addicted to Symphony X. It has to be said. Most recently I bought their two latest albums, “Paradise Lost” (2007) and “Iconoclast” (2011), and have had them on almost perpetual repeat since. I’m up to about 40-50 plays on each song by now.

So why do I find their music so more-ish? Very few other bands pull me into their world of sound with the same degree of force.

Okay, I don’t listen to a huge amount of different bands (I certainly wouldn’t know Take That from Coldplay), but I believe that I’m fairly open-minded about the various kinds of music – I can appreciate pretty much any genre, given that I decide to give it a listen in the first place. There aren’t any genres I outright refuse to listen to, but there are two criteria by which I judge the extent of my dislike for any given song or type of music. If your song violates either or even both of these rules, you will find it incredibly difficult to impress me.

  1. Repetition. It’s good in moderation, but a lot of music nowadays (particularly electronic) is direly repetitive. I can’t stand to listen to most pop for more than about 10 seconds before I start pondering on how exactly I could chew my own ears off to spare them the misery of how lazily most of it is written. This goes for not just the music itself, but also structure. In order for a song to really stand out from the crowd, it has to be something far more than just intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-outro. It should take the listener by surprise with a few unexpected bits thrown in here and there. A less pronounced structure is better, in my view. That’s why Symphony X resonates so well with me – their songs’ structures are terribly complex, and that entices me to listen to them more and more – to get those weird time signatures and syncopated sections memorized. πŸ˜› In my own music, I try to avoid mindless repetition as best I can – it’s a kind of last resort if I’m low on ideas otherwise.
  2. Vocal dominance. That is; the balance between vocals and backing track. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with your song having a message – but for me, lyrics are an afterthought when it comes to writing music, and they should be. It seems for a large portion of music (again, pop mainly), whenever a vocalist first appears in a song, the focus of it seems to shift entirely onto them, with the musicality of the piece taking a dramatically steep drop. Now okay, I understand that a “backing track” is so-called because it provides backing for the vocalist. But if the whole track revolves around either (a) the vocalist yelling out a repetitive and clichΓ©d message, drowning out most of the backing track, or (b) a single repeated motif in the backing track that runs throughout the whole of the song while the vocalist fires words into the mix like some kind of lyrical submachinegun, then I will lose interest quickly. For music to appeal to me, there has to be a balance – the music has to be nicely varied, and the vocals mustn’t complete dominate the mix. As such, I don’t tend to write my songs with lyrics of any kind in mind. I will occasionally write lyrics for the songs well after I’ve finished them (which I do enjoy), but I will always feel that my songs don’t really need them. Again, Symphony X do this well. They keep the music interesting by introducing a brand new guitar riff whenever vocalist Russell Allen starts singing a new section.

Pop music producers, take note, please.

ASD actually stands for “absolute social dropout”

Apparently, my nursery teacher once said to my parents something along the lines of “he’s a smart lad, but he’ll probably grow up to be a kind of absent-minded professor who needs someone to take care of him – you know, fold his shirts and stuff like that”.

While it somehow baffles me that she was able to make that deduction as early as when I was in nursery school, I have to credit her for spotting this. It probably turned out that had my parents not been warned of this, they may not have been able to cope with my erratic, borderline-autistic behavior.

Yeah, I don’t quite have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), but I certainly exhibit a lot of traits that suggest I do… I was kind of “half-diagnosed”, shall we say. I find talking to people I don’t know well extremely difficult. I focus all my time and energy onto two things (Music and Doom). And I loathe change to routine – particularly in my diet. If I have to eat a different assortment of chips (or fries as you Yanks say :P) for dinner one day, I’ll eye them with a cosmic degree of suspicion that they’ll lunge at me and wrap around my neck like a kind of lethal, potatoey daisy chain before choking me to death.

Certainly social interaction is a bit of a challenge for me. I prefer being talked to, as opposed to making talk. Initiating conversation is a massive stumbling block, but once I’m in a conversation I can sustain it reasonably well – until I run out of steam, at which point I’ll sit in silence and quiver as the maddening awkwardness of the situation rises exponentially. The same thing happens with Facebook Chat, Skype or MSN, or any of the other instant messenger programs I use. It’s far easier for me to converse through internet forums – things are so much more formal and organized. Exchanges are permanent, so they can be revisited whenever desired. You can deliberate on how to phrase your reply (for hours if need be) before submitting it. If the forum is geared towards a niche target audience, you immediately know that you’ll share common interests with the people you interact with. And best of all, you can access them wherever you are in the world.

Girls, if you’re wondering why I don’t talk to you often, it’s because I frankly don’t know what to say. You’re wonderful people and you make for far nicer company than most guys, but my brain and mouth struggle constantly to conjure up anything witty or even relevant to the subject at hand.

Now, certainly I’m an introvert with very little social life. But I’m not saying that I’m entitled to be one just because I was half-diagnosed with an autistic disorder. I’m determined to someday break the habit of staying indoors and avoiding contact with the rest of the human race. I like a bit of solitude, but not too much. πŸ˜›

Although, to be honest, living in the UK alone is enough to make anyone think that staying inside is the best thing – our weather’s crap, for a start. In Australia the sun shines all year round, and people are encouraged to stay fit and live healthily with strict regimes pretty much from cradle to grave. Not over here. We have a massive aversion to exercise and dieting – and programs like You Are What You Eat and 10 Years Younger that bully their victims (not “contestants”) into looking better only compound the issue. For me, and for many Australians, I’m sure, a relaxed attitude is what’s called for.

…though, not too relaxed, mind you.

Harmony MIDIs updated

To go with the YouTube update yesterday, I have now updated the Harmony MIDI Pack zip file.

Get it here. You’ll find the tracks under the /midis folder, and the zip contains a .wad file which you can run with Harmony by dragging it onto the .exe. It will replace the levels’ soundtrack with my own tracks.

Enjoy! πŸ˜€

13 “Harmony” MP3s uploaded to YouTube – 100 video milestone reached!

Early this year I made it a personal mission of mine to write unique MIDI tracks for all 11 levels of Thomas van der Velden‘s fantastic solo shooter project “Harmony”, which he released in 2009. It proved difficult but fun, and took me about four months of on-and-off commitment to finally finish it.

The game itself is a brilliant creation, featuring a huge pool of brand new monsters, weapons and textures – all made in the confines of the original Doom engine. However it was lacking in something which I thought crucial – a soundtrack. The existing tracks were good but there were only three in the entire game, so listening to the same song across 11 different levels got repetitive, and in my view kinda ruined the immersion factor. I’ve got no beef with the original artist (KyΕ«), but for me, music is really important to the experience of any game, particularly something as involving as a first-person shooter.

Anyway, the thirteen tracks I ended up writing for the project are now available to stream on my YouTube channel. Go check ’em out and comment! πŸ˜€

But most importantly, you need to get your hands on a copy of the game. It’s absolutely free to download and there’s no installation required. Go and grab it here – you owe it to yourself. πŸ˜€

To run my tracks with the game, get the Harmony MIDI Pack.

This has brought along with it a particularly significant milestone in my YouTubing “career” – I’ve reached 100 videos on YouTube! Sadly the upload of all thirteen tracks did not yield 100 videos exactly – but my 102nd video is basically an update video celebrating this milestone and announcing this very blog to all my subscribers. Hello if you’re one of those. πŸ™‚