S. A. D. |
Song a Day
Those famous words when Caesar crossed the Rubicon: Alea iacta est. The die is cast. The decision is made. That's that.
But there's another translation: Let the dice fly high.
This is my somewhat gamified approach to a brief daily creative practice, inspired by aleatoric music, a form of composition in which elements are left to chance. The goal is not to create perfectly mixed, polished pieces, or even to use these pieces for anything at all. It's a brief exercise in shedding paralyzing perfectionism, a 15-30 minute meditation, a reverie in neuroplasticity, a shoebox of scraps made for the joy of exploration. "Song" is a loose term.
The "chance" elements might include randomly selected sets of notes, rhythms, instruments, tempo, or pulling an assignment from a jar.
Beyond the strictly aleatoric, some pieces are challenges to write in a certain key, or on a certain topic. Maybe I'll pull a melody from a voice memo I hummed to myself when I woke up from a dream. Maybe I'll begin with something I captured on my field recorder. I might see what I can do with premade loops or other found elements, incorporate phrases from what I'm reading, or revisit outtakes from past projects. I'll jot a few notes down for each entry below.
Anything's possible in the liminal space of an airborne die.
SAD 001: The first thing I did when I got Logic Pro X. Began with a random sequencer pattern.
SAD 002: Began with a random sequencer pattern. There's only one pattern in the song, just with different note lengths/instruments.
SAD 003: A composition exercise from some time ago, written on staff paper and put into Logic as a score. The assignment was 8 measures in C Major. Then we talked about what it means to have a tonal center. Side note--I can't believe how far computer clarinet sounds have come! They used to sound like clarinets in the way watermelon flavoring tastes like watermelon.
SAD 004: Got absorbed in the Rusty Lake point and click escape games several months ago, and one puzzle was "deadface" written on a piano. I've been interested in what I can spell with musical notes since.
SAD 005: I started with a weird whirlpool sketch I'd made for a play years back, and layered some software instruments over it.
SAD 006: "Baggage" is the longest word I can currently think of to spell with music notes. It's funky! Once I heard it, I knew I wanted these violin clips I recorded and manipulated for a play earlier this year. I'd like to revisit this once I figure out Logic's pitch tools.
SAD 007: I started with a beat loop I'd made several months ago in a different project and then explored Logic's Apple Loops. Totally not where I thought this would go. Kind of futurewestern.
SAD 008: I've been working on an experimental piece based on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. I was looping a couple seconds over and over as I tweaked the EQ, and noticed the musical quality of it. I love when musical things emerge from things that aren't "music." (That's one reason I love reversed speech; when you remove meaning from it, you can appreciate inflection in a totally new way.) I added a sequencer track to bring out the "notes" in the original loop. (But I wonder why the automation didn't make it into the new project? #logicinvestigations)
SAD 009: I'd been learning to play "Christmastime Is Here" and stocking up on footage from my backyard. My friend had a birthday, so I decided to try making my first video. (Song credit: "Birthday Boy" by The Residents)
SAD 010: Just a little song. I was checking out Syntorial, and swiped this loop from one of the exercises after a little melody popped into my head.
SAD 011: Spelling "feedbag" with musical notes. This is a sketch for a thing I want to do about my pet pig, Sneaquel. I've been collecting sounds of him on my field recorder, maybe I'll make a video. I added a real quick drummer track in Logic. What a crazy tool. Like the percussion equivalent of a magic wand.
SAD 012: I converted a deck of playing cards into a composition device. The diamonds are the white keys, and the clubs are the black keys (and the sharps/flats that are actually white keys, like B#/C). I started with Ace as A. When the cards exceed an octave, I kept going, so the higher numbers can indicate a higher pitched note, as they do here. I used them for the sequencer line and then decided wrote the horn part myself, mostly by choosing the top note and going a 5th down for the bottom note.
SAD 013: Wanted to see if I could do "pretty." This time, I picked sets of three cards which became chords. (My god, how good does Logic's piccolo sound?! I continue to marvel at how far midi voices have come since I last used them in high school.)
SAD 014: The cards made a sequence, I wrote a little melody, but it needed more. I was working in the garden and the only audio file I had on my laptop's hard drive was this little cue of a character named Yadra humming for Azul. We never used it because it was too creepy. So I chopped it up and made it part of the...whatever this is.
SAD 015: Not an aleatoric exercise. I have a mostly-under-control condition called Basilar Artery Migraine characterized less by pain than by stroke-like symptoms. It's a frustrating and sometimes embarrassing thing to have difficulty speaking when I have a migraine, so I don't generally talk to anyone. But I was sick and loopy last month and I recorded this monologue on my laptop's microphone. I used scraps of things from other projects for the rest. I talk a lot about loving sound design because it allows me to fully realize the things I hear in my head. It's hard to say where the line is between the metaphorical and literal in this piece. I don't exactly hear these things during a migraine. But these sounds illustrate a quality my thoughts and senses have. Try it with headphones.
SAD 016: I made new cards. 5 sets--qualities, elements, tempo, production, musical. I pulled: LIGHT (quality), AUDIO SCRAP (element), CHORDS (element), MODERATE (tempo), PANNING (production). Then I used my note cards to pick the notes. I used only the red cards (the white keys) and decided to make a chord from whatever 3 cards I pulled instead of pulling one card and making a chord with that note as the root. Of the 4 chords I pulled, I got the same chord twice and they all had an E in them. These became the bassoon chords. I didn't use the cards for the flute chords.
SAD 017: "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "Happy Birthday," "Jingle Bells"--melodies so well-known that their rhythms are almost just as recognizable. If someone knocked on you door in the rhythm of "Jingle Bells," wouldn't you recognize it? But, do you recognize it here? I entered in the rhythm of "Jingle Bells" as a score, all on one note. Then I used my cards to determine the melody. Added some layers of software instruments, and topped it off with horrible dog sounds I made for a project last year. Best of all, I finally found a purpose for that horrible SAD 005. I didn't set out to make it sound like "Jingle Hell" but realistically, was it ever not going to sound like hell? This one cracks me up.
SAD 018: I discovered that the Apple Loops in Logic have...SOUND FX!!! I set out to do something with all the animal sounds in there, but there's no way to filter them from the rest (?), so I got bored scrolling by the time I got to the C's and saw a clump of car sounds with some background atmospheric sounds, and I decided that was my project.
SAD 019: A revisiting of the D-E-A-D-F-A-C-E melody...now with 100% more loons!
SAD 020: A terrible continued experiment with Jingle Bells. Notes randomly selected with my cards.
SAD 021: ...etcetera...
SAD 022: A frustrating audio editing experience lead me to spell NO and NOPE visually on the Logic sequencer, using a C scale. It looked like this.