EAR 2 EAR, a video opera suite

In 2001 I first heard [ Asmus Tietchens’ “Von Mund Zu Mund” ] and was very impressed by it. The use of voice and the violence and the abuse of human speech and language was very captivating. I have always been intrigued by the human voice and language as my catalogue makes quite clear.

I heard in Tietchens’ compositions diffierent characters and started writing up a (classic, cliché) story about an opera singer in Hamburg in the early 50’s. She is quite successful, indeed so much that people come from all around listening to her voice. Tourist agencies organize trips for people to even listen to her practising on stage. The opera singer has a personal assistant, a misformed little man with a lisp. Then, one day the opera singer is found killed. An inspector of the police starts an investigation. Who did it? The tour guide? The personal assistant? Some fan? In the EAR 2 EAR suite every character gets a part on stage, but there is no solution (as in: who did it).

I worked on the music on and off for a couple of years, until 2004. I negotiated with Die Stadt, the label that originally released the three 7inches of Von Mund Zu Mund. Unfortunately, after a year or so, Die Stadt decided not to go ahead with the release. This was of course a disappointment but in the meantime I had found another direction for experimentation: video. I had stumbled upon the software of [ VVVV ] , an open source tool, much like MAX/MSP but not that expensive (in fact it was and still is free). So, I decided, I will not let my head hang down but make the endeavour even more ambitious: start a video project which supports the audio. And so I took off, working for months mastering the art of VVVV, video editing, rewriting the audio parts to fit in with the video sequences. The final edits were done early 2006.

As you can guess, getting the video material released as a DVD was even more problematic. The material has been gathering dust since 2006. There have been a few public viewings but not with all of the material. The reviews were favorable but the commercial viability wasn’t.

This is the first publication of the entire suite, consisting of six sequences.

Just click the picture to go to the entire album.

You can watch it in one go, or pick one of the sequences.

Unfortunately VIMEO has not transfered the individual sequences properly. This means that there are hiccups during playback. The complete sequence “EAR to EAR, video opera suite (2001 – 2006)” does not have these problems. Sorry for the inconvenience.

RDS, step 2 so far

Yesterday I did a survey of the works that I have done for Radio Dub Soundtrack, step 2. As I described in [ this ] post I have defined three steps for this project. Step 2 is the rhythmical, perhaps even commercial part of the total project. I now have 8 works, totalling 45 minutes. All works are in different styles. There are 3 that are lazy, ambient, dubby whereas the others are uptempo. Naturally there is a strong Jos Smolders aspect present. It would be pointless to try and achieve music that does not feature the artist’s personal flavour. Yet, my goal was to stick to the rules of the style. You can hear most of the stuff that I did on my [ soundcloud page ]. These are called ‘early cloud renders’ because that is just what they are.
In the next few weeks I will be concentrating on cranking up the sound. Strangely enough I find this hard to do. I have already done my best, so what else can I do? I’m sure I’ll find things. Go back to the individual track and scrutinize its sound, the sound itself and the sound in context with the other sounds.
We’re always learning.

Choice choice choice choice choice choice choice…..

I have been thinking a lot about the disappearance of the filtering function that was embedded into the traditional music distribution system. Already we are not able to recognize quality (whatever quality) inside the flood of music that washes over us ever day.

This speech, delivered at is an excellent comment to the debate.

Is it Live or is it Soundcloud

The younger viewers of the blog will probably not recognize the pun in the title. It refers to a once famoous ad on tv where one hears a singer and then at a certain moment a wineglass shatters.

I had to think about this ad when I listened to a song that I had uploaded to Soundcloud last Friday. The original was a 24bit wav.file but Soundcloud compresses the sound to a 128kbs mp3. But then, there’s compression and compression. When I listened to the mp3 version I was appalled by what I heard. The mp3 sounded flatter (dynamics), the soundcolor seemed to have changed and transients had become blunt. So I decided to record the mp3 back to 24bit file and make some comparisons.

On the picture to the left you can see three wave forms (please click to see full detail). The one above is the Soundcloud crunch, the middle one is my own compression and the lower one is the original. You can clearly see that the Soundcloud version is quite distorted from the original and even rather different from the mp3 that I did myself (within Reaper, btw). Actually this Soundcloud file has already been altered because I found out that, for one reason or another, Soundcloud also reversed the phase of the file. So I had to correct this in order to make visual comparison easier. On the pic to right I have gone into more detail. It is at the point where the sound goes from silent suddenly into loud sound (like a drumbeat). The upper wave form is the soundcloud version, the lower one the original. In the original you can clearly see the wave suddenly rise high (red arrow). The picture below is an even better example of how the sound is ruined distorted by the Soundcloud engine. 

Okay, so what you hear when you listen online is definitely NOT what it really is. I would like to ask all people listening to my music on [ soundcloud ] to download the material. I upload everything in FLAC or WAV format and the downloads are in that quality. This is not a post to bash Soundcloud because I think they are really offering a great service. BUT:  if you listen to something and you even remotely like the stuff, then PLEASE DOWNLOAD the original!!!

Mastering assignments

Last month I finished my post-production/mastering job for Denis Kolokol. A very inspiring, daunting and at times hectic project. Denis composes exactly the stuff that is up my alley. It is full of dynamic curves and uses the full frequency spectrum. Love it.

Denis sent me four tracks in various stages. All of them were ready as far as composition was concerned. Denis just had some concerns about sonic issues and asked me to look into them. Fortunately I was able to make some suggestions that he was enthousiastic about. Of a few compositions, most notably “Proud To Be Loud” he sent me submixes. I simultaneously love working with submixes and find it very challenging because sometimes you drive into alleys that the composer doesn’t appreciate. I always ask composers to be clear about their intentions. If I give a suggestion (a certain mix sample) and they don’t like it, I want to hear it straight away.
Denis’s assignment was very rewarding and he is proud of the result. The Polish music label [ mathka ] will release the music any time soon. Please check it out. In the mean time you can listen to an excerpt below.

A new major assignment is for the next release of Franz Fjödor aka [ Wouter Jaspers ]. Thursday he and I had a good discussion about his intentions and he showed some of his new recordings. I can’t of course not go into the details of what I heard but it will feature a very interesting progression from his previous release (which I also mastered, btw). Wouter is not a composer who lingers within a genre and is always searching for new horizons. His new work turns away from droney work (although it’s still present) but will also drift into the fields of both electro acoustics and vocal work. So stay tuned about this!! We agreed that I will do both mixing (second stage) and mastering. We will start in the last month of this year and hope to have a finished product at the end of February 2011.

RDS, step 1 : so far

Today I did an analysis of the music that I compiled so far for Radio Dub Soundtrack (RDS), step 1. The picture below gives an overview. What you see is first three tracks with the different sound files that are renders from the original mixes. I have colored the parts that are originally from one composition. What you cannot see is where I cut out parts. Plus I should mention that the pink composition was originally in a different order. You can see that there is a cut at approx. 21 minutes. That’s where part 1 (in the original version) starts. I decided to start with part 2 because it connects better to the previous composition. The blue composition (starting at 7:30) was originally twice the length but I have cut a lot of BS.

In track 4 you can see the render (mono) of the tracks above and below that is a spectral view of the render. The brighter the color the louder the volume, low is low frequencies, above is high frequencies. I have made markers (the orange lines) in a 3 minute tempo. I have always measured the attention span of a listener in sections of 3 to 4 minutes , and so I try to make a ‘movement’ every 3 minutes. As you can see there is a ‘gap’ between 15 and 18 minutes and I will make something work there in a next phase. The green blocks on top of the picture indicate  where there is really something rhythmically or percussive  going on. This too is of some concern. When I take the original intention in mind I think that some parts are insufficiently related to the idea of popular rhythmical music. So that will take me back to the drawing board as well.
EARLabs, RDS situation September 14, 2010