By Michael H
* Shuki Levy
** Gerald V. Casale
All tracks written and composed by Michael H unless otherwise noted.
As the year 2015 comes to a close, I thought it would be a good time to look over some the demos that I have recorded in the last half-decade and do a bit of reflection.
The tracks are presented in chronological order in this compilation. Hopefully we can hear some sort of progression, and at times regression, in the quality of composition and technique.
This was one of the first tracks that I put together, and in a way one of my favorites. I had done some experiments before hand, mainly an EP done with the KORG DS-10 Synthesizer software for the Nintendo DS, but this was the first to do away with sequencing. Outside of the sequencer-grid, there was a certain freedom I found.
That freedom also brought out a few new challenges, such as keeping everything in sync. It took me a bit, but since I had experience playing clarinet in a band I eventually got back into the swing of things.
The track revolved around repeating pattern with an increasingly unpredictable layer on top. This ultimately culminates into the brief "Lesson in Dissonance," a burst of chime-like sounds at the end.
All of the sounds on this track were created with a Yamaha VSS-30. A versatile sampler, it is featured on most of the tracks in this collection. A special note on this track, the heavy distortion/overdrive sound occurred by accident! My setup at the time was to record directly from the VSS-30 to Audacity on my Linux desktop. Something was odd about the hardware support, and that was just the sound it created.
Influences on this track include Devo's "Mechanical Man," "Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy)," and Daft Punk's "Technologic."
I pulled this one from one of my favorite cartoons! I had been noodling on my keyboard a while and figured out how to play this piece. I excitedly got my set-up together (again, the Yamaha VSS-30 piped into Audacity) and recorded the melody. I was surprised by the guitar-like sound that resulted from the distortion, I think I had actually used the Piano preset on the VSS-30. Anyhow, from there I added layers of sound (probably the Harpsichord preset) and then threw in a few manipulated samples to round things off.
This was recorded nearly the same time as the previous track, and was similarly influenced by Devo's early works, like their cover of P.F. Sloan's "Secret Agent Man."
I saw a video online of Devo performing this song on a television appearance. Gerald V. Casale sang it through a vocoder. I didn't have a vocoder, so I looked up alternative methods to create similar vocal effects.
I stumbled upon Peter Frampton's use of a talkbox, and decided to hobble one together. I used a straw and small speaker. I loaded up a patch on my DS-10 with some plain saw-tooth, and tried my best.
I have mixed feelings about the results. Out of maybe fifteen or so takes, this was the best one (and only surviving recording). The vowels worked nicely, but I wasn't able to enunciate the consonants properly so it all slurred together.
Properly learning the talkbox would be worth revisiting sometime in the future.
Jesus down by the river bed ooh
Jesus laid down by me too
Jesus down by the river bed ooh
That Jesus came into me
I saw Jesus in the morning by the burning bush
I saw Jesus in the afternoon
I saw Jesus at dinner swimming in my stew
That Jesus is everywhere
I think what I liked about this song was the statement it made (as I interpreted it): people look for signs of faith everywhere, always holding onto optimism in the face of great adversity.
This track was the result of a combination of ideas. I decided to focus on creating a balance between sequenced and performed elements in a song.
In this untitled track, the drums were sequenced on the KORG DS-10, while the chime-like sound and the trumpet-strings sample came from the VSS-30. Actually, everything other than the percussion came from the VSS-30.
The track developed a certain, almost medievil sound to it. I think it worked. That is until the failed solo. I feel it started well at about 2:10-2:20, but quickly fell apart into random noise after the 2:30 mark.
The ending was a bit abrupt as well. I think I was planning to fade out, but never actually did so.
Fun and messy. Well, mostly messy really.
I had been approached by some family members (perhaps jokingly) to perform mariachi music for their events. I worked on developing a whole stage show. Beyond the music, I was going to have costume changes, moving from full-on mariachi digs down to Mexican-peasant like attire.
The plan was to play this song as an encore at the end dressed up like a Pancho Villa-style bandit named El Gran Borracho.
While the performances never occurred (I was never quite sure if they were kidding or not), this is one of the demos from that period (circa 2014). I sequenced the drums, bass, and explosions on the DS-10. I played the melody on the VSS-30 and the chirping tones were generated by a KORG Monotron.
It was my intention to combine the repetitive mariachi music with some techno/EDM-style elements, and I think my vision begins to realize at about the 1:00 mark.
This track was the first rough sketch; an attempt at seeing what might or might not work.
This track was originally going to feature lyrics. However, I decided against it as I didn't want to ruin the ominous and dark vibe that I had developed in the piece.
I had wanted to write a song that juxtaposed the sounds of a rebellion against an oppressive regime. Marching boots, explosive shells, machine gun fire, industrial tones, and darkness; these were some motifs that I explored in the piece.
This was the first piece to feature more extensive mastering. I actually took the time to apply some reverb to sequenced tracks, a recommendation that I remember getting from a friend on a previous project.
The majority of the piece was sequenced on the DS-10, except for the pulsating saw-tooth. I accomplished that particular sound with the KORG Monotron.
Copyright © 2016—2018 Michael Hernandez.