Monday, August 21, 2023

700円 Breakfast Outing in Japan: Ambient Soundscape

This ambient piece is all about the recorded environment sounds, as I left home, walked to the station, catch the train, walk to the café in the local Mall, and then the reverse. A real "time machine" for me. First thing I have made to place such importance on the environmental recorded sounds, even if the previous project lead to this.  

Use my Zoom H1 recorder set to auto level, usually with the low cut filter on and with a "dead cat" wind shield.  I found the wind shield is vital to any outdoor recording. For most of the walking outside the recorder is held in my right hand and I just walk normally, just not swinging my right arm. The H1 is all I have ever needed in a portable recorder.  

The 24bit WAV file were copied via USB from the H1 to the project directory, and were dropped on a track in Reaper, then sections selected, cut, fade in/out and level adjusted together. Color coding some clips helps with keeping track of things.

The first quarter is basically the sound of me walking to the station from home, with birds, insects, distant traffic noise and the sound of passing other people. It does set up a kind of rhythm and tempo. The sound of the train pulling into my local station, then cuts to outside the destination station walking past the bus stands, past some apartment building construction, up the café steps, then the sound of the coffee machine grinding the coffee beans and espresso steam. Then the café serving robot saying take the tray with your order and thank you in an anime style voice.

Some sounds in the Mall, then the sound of the train leaving after I arrived at my home station and the beep of the station exit gate as I pay with my contactless travel card. Then the walk home and close the front door. 

Will anyone else find it interesting? No idea at all, except some outside Japan may find a breakfast that good and cheap an impossibility.

It uses the VST synths with the addition of an ARP 2600 this time similar to the last few Ambient Music tracks. 

The music is not the focus at all. Just all adlibbed one take parts, not recorded to a grid at all.   

Have previously considered getting Roland Binaural Earphones with Microphone CS-10EM to use with the Zoom H1, for this kind of environmental sound. They probably aren't any good if there is any wind though.

This GUSTO café has the best value Morning Sets around and a Bellabot server robot. For that price you also have unlimited use of the drink bar, but a freshly ground hot or ice coffee is all I ever have.  Same breakfast without the sausage and beacon is 550円, and that is what I actually had yesterday. In all cases I get 5% off for being over 60, as are most in GUSTO having breakfast.  
The hip young things are over in Starbucks paying more for a sugar loaded Frappuccino.

I did a little 1 page comic on the Bellabot here: 

The image is a photo of the breakfast, and is slowly warped using the MOHO Pro 12 Bone method.

The track is also in our "pay what you want" (even 0円)  Spirograph Album on Bandcamp.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Japanese Railway Melodic Ambient Soundscape & Video

About 2 years ago I used my Zoom H1 and recorded an hour or so of local railway and station sounds. I didn't go into the station at that time, and got many train sounds from along the local park along side the rail line to Osaka.  That is far enough away from a rail crossing to not get the DING DING DING of the bell when a train is coming and passing.   But there is such a crossing next to my local station, so any recording of a train coming into or leaving the station taken on the platform gets that included. FOR FREE!    

After pulling out those old files and putting together an initial track, I decided to ride the train, and get on platform recordings on the platforms and in the train at our, and the next much larger station. While I was there got some environmental sound in the Mall as well.   And had a small Frappuccino. I find it strange people here will spend so long in a Starbucks. I much prefer being at home, and always sit outside, even in the heat or cold.

The wind shield on the recorder probably looked like I was torturing a small animal...

For this type of thing I generally have the mixed and mastered track WAV file looping at a really low level for an hour or so. If something stands out and annoys me, I go back and fix/ change what ever it is, then repeat the play on loop while doing something else.  It is annoying small noises or sounds, or the way a melody goes seem fine until you do this loop play thing.

I  revised this track 10 times today.  I just upload it again and say "it is what it is". It will take me many weeks away from it to get any perspective on it.  I must be 80% happy with the way it is at the moment.

I put a steep notch filter on local platform recordings to suppress the main DING to clean them up a little, but used other announcements this time when a train wasn't arriving or leaving, that didn't have the DING.

The motion graphics video uses this railways route map graphic element. I pulled it out of a PDF of their route map.  Shows what speed trains stop at what stations. It is pretty too.  Four copies of that graphic element was animated in MOHO Pro 12. I initially tried using pictures of the railway lines trains, but the result wasn't interesting or abstract enough. For something where the music is the main element, I think it works well enough.

The track is in our Spirograph Album on Bandcamp.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Play: Don't Know Where You Will End Up


Thinking about the creative projects been working on in the last 3 years being back in Japan.  "Don't Know Where You Will End Up" kind of describes it.

I cycle through my "creative" interests, among other things, of making music, illustrations, comics, videos and models/ sculptures. Not working fulltime anymore means there is more time to do these things. The first time in my life since being a little kid before I started the eternal boredom of school. But it isn't the doing more, but the doing what that has surprised be.  I have combined these interests, with enough technique to be interesting, in recent works.

Recent Melodic Ambient Soundscape videos have combined my animated illustrations with long synthesizer/ guitar pieces. The In The Asteroid Belt videos combined sculptured stop frame puppets and models with rock guitar and synth music. 

Also did 3 comic books using vector and ink on paper illustrations, in what looks like a quite unique manner. Two vehicle related and one Sci-Fi.

Before I started each project, I had no more direction than, I want to do a comic now, or lets try some soundtrack/ ambient music, write and sing a metal pop song, or do a Sci-Fi music animation.

They all came out of play

Hans Zimmer talks about play in his HOLLYWOOD REBEL documentary and I think it is why these things occur the way they do. And been fun. None are project managed or have detailed planning before hand. Such a change from my working life that had all been about schedules, time management and deadlines.

So in the last 3 years, I have discovered how significant Play is. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

UFO Kyoto Dusk


So did another melodic ambient soundscape yesterday, and put together this animation of the dusk sky with a photo I took out the window of my office/studio here in Kyoto a couple of days ago.  Put my phone against the window, pointing up to avoid most of the houses across the street, then cropped the roof tops out. A day or so before TYPHOON#7 came through. 

The Reaper project looks like this:

Still just adding little things to the end of the same project, but I do save it with a new name each time. MS-20mini and SQ-1 used to make some noises with additional motion in them.

The Animation is very simple, with zooming in on the the sky, with the black oval "UFO" zoomed around the screen to add additional interest.

The sky today is cloudy with brief thunderstorms passing through. The view from my desk chair is more this:

Our cat is admiring the view, until I stand. Then he will steal my desk chair and immediately fall asleep.  

I don't mind these melodic ambient things at all. Will play one on a loop for hours, while doing something else. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Soundscape Spirograph: Machine


At 5min 20 seconds, it is short for a soundscape piece.  The music is all synthesizer and sound effects in this.  The Reaper project looks like this, and shows the VSTs being used. 

Also Reverb, Delay and Flanging from ValhallaDSP.

The video is 4 images animated with rain and a slow pull back. 

Originally did the vehicles as dry marker sketch concept art in the 1990s. Very inspired by Syd Mead and Rob Cobb at the time, and still am.  

Revised that into a comic panel a few years ago for Terraform, and revised that panel by extending it on the left to get the HD (1280x720) aspect ratio to animate. 
The rain is a particle effect in MOHO PRO12, and as I have now seen, a common thing to do in an Ambient Music video on YouTube. Low effort motion on a still image.

The music has been uploaded and in our Bandcamp Spirograph Album

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Asteroid Music: Ambient Pulse


Ambient Pulse is a 10 minute synths and sound effects track on our Spirograph Album .  This one doesn't have any guitar, some of the others tracks do.

A Korg MS-20mini and VST synths with a good helping of ValhallaDSP reverb, delay and flanging went into producing it.  This is the first long track I ever tried. I call it more Melodic Ambient than Ambient music. Or do you just call this type of thing Ambient Sound or a Soundscape?

The VSTs I mostly used on this are shown here. Surge XT is a particular favorite recently. TAL Bassline is also something I get a lot of use out of, and never for bass lines. Such a simple, but useful synth. 

The long 60 second upward rising tone was generated in Audacity using the chirp generation function.  Easier than using the MS-20 manually.  

The visuals are reused props from our YouTube  In The Asteroid Belt animations, and put together using MOHO PRO12 Animation.

The starship model used is one of several craft and puppets I made in the 1990s, but the Asteroids where made from styrene foam in 2022.

In the 1990s I was fascinated with what the new Desktop Studio affordable tools for video, animation and music production could allow a single person to do. I wrote a series of articles on Desktop Science Fiction Production, and others on building custom models that were published in the UK magazine Sci-Fi & Fantasy MODELS

Exciting times then. Twenty Five plus years later I went back to trying my hand at that stuff again after a very long break, where life and work got in the way.  

A shot of the recent studio

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Parked Starships In The Rain: Ambient Soundscape Music


30 minutes of Ambient Soundscape Music, that has synths, sound effects, and metal guitar as a YouTube video. 

Shows a still image of Starships in a landscape, and it is raining. Visually nothing happens for the 30minutes of the video, the music does.

This is a very extended variation of the themes we have put in our Spirograph Album.  The Reaper Project looks like this:

Being 30 minutes, rather than 3 minutes needs a change of perspective on "something new should happen now" in the music. This is the first time I have done this, so I am not a seasoned professional of long Ambient music tracks.  Or is that Soundscape? Unlike the Tangerine Dreams Zeit album, where absolutely nothing happens,  this has little melodic fragments that keep coming back. So maybe I should say it is Melodic Ambient rather than just Ambient. Is that a thing? or did I just invent that? Closer to music than just a changing background soundscape.

The starships on the landscape was something I modelled and rendered in Animation Master in the 1990. I did this HD image when I rebuilt this PC a year ago.  I used MOHO Pro 12 Animation system to render out 8000 frames of the still adding a particle system rain.

Three of the 10 minute raining starship clips, the music, and Megacurve logo and text were put together in Movie Studio and rendered as the 29minute 59 second movie that I uploaded to YouTube.

Will anyone see it? A couple of friends will.

Have put the sound track in our Spirograph album on Bandcamp, but had to break it up into NotZeitish - Part A and NotZeitish - Part B as there is a filesize limit per individual file, and a single 30minute file is over that.  

What is NotZeitishZeit, is German for time, and the name of one of the first Ambient albums. An album where absolutely nothing happens. Huge held chords, electronic noises and soundscape. No melodies to mention.  An album that changes the ambience of a room you play it in, but you don't actually listen to it, but rather a background sound. So Not Zeit-ish, is that these things, even if large parts are soundscapes, they do have melody fragments and some things do happen sometimes, even heavy metal guitar power chord riffs and lead licks.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

That Hollywood Hype Machine: Barbie and Oppenheimer

That Hollywood Hype Machine was in over drive hyping up  the Barbie and Oppenheimer releases.

Suspiciously so.

Recent releases don't seem to have done too well, so I guess a Nolan film, even though Tenet didn't do well, was what they set their hopes on. The subject matter  also has a YOU ES AY, YOU ES AY, YOU ES AY, aspect to it  for that additional tribalism push.  Americans may have a different drive to see these films. 

Having seen all the documentaries about the Manhattan Project many years ago, I found the hype strange and actually inappropriate. So the head guy may have been conflicted, but really, many others got it worse from the results. 

So I haven't seen the film, and if/when it is released in Japan is unknown, due to the subject matter, which is a very real issue in Japan. And rightly so.

But the pre-release  reviews were too vague and gushing and all included YOU MUST SEE THIS! Maybe a condition of seeing the film early to include that, and keep their status as a critic in this new world of streaming? They refer to IMAX, in camera effects and the brilliance of the director.

The Oppenheimer Trailer makes the movie look like it is actually about a certain aspect of the story. In reality, the movie isn't about that at all, but the reviews didn't mention any of that. It is more: 

A character study of the man, his relationships and security clearance. The IMAX makes those close ups and the acting especially obvious.  Academy Awards expected for many actors in the film. 

Wasn't expecting much from Barbie, but from all accounts, that may have the more significant cultural impact. Barbie went to the moon before women were allowed to have credit cards. Very cleaver, funny and has a bigger box office than Oppenheimer. 

Not planning on seeing any of these films at the moment.  But the more I hear about them, the more that will change. Probably Barbie first, it start August 11th here.

I haven't seen Nolan's Dunkirk, critics call his best film.  I have issues with his films I have seen though. Rewatched Interstellar again just a couple of weeks ago. It looks great, but plot/ story/ emotion issues annoy me about it.  Inception, looked great with the bending city and all, but the dream, within a dream, within a dream didn't get me on board, and kicked me out of the world he made for being just random rules and illogical. Nolan may be brilliant, but there seem to be more than a few that see "non-linear time" or "big science" and that automagically makes the films more highly rated than they should be. But hey, they are just Hollywood Entertainment, and not important.

The RED SCARE still seems very much a thing in America, where even what is actually universally available in the rest of the world, HEALTH CARE FOR ALL, is considered by many in America to be Communism,,,

But having said all that, the crowds have flocked to these films, so That Hollywood Hype Machine has done its job. 

Update Aug 9: After the initial Hype blitz, there ARE other views now.  This guy is also Australian, and I have a feeling that has something to do with the different viewpoint. I've had Americans living in Japan, where I do, tell me American POV == Western POV, and I just know that isn't true much of the time.  He states his issues with all of Nolan films, and I have the same issues.  He also still recommends you go see it, though even though it is overrated, as it is still better than most films Hollywood makes.