New CD Release! 2011 Kicks off

2011 is here and it’s time to kick off the new year, get back to work with some crazy ass tutorials, make music, patches, refills and all other kinds of crazy things. To start the year off, I’ve released a new CD which you can check out at CD Baby.

New EP: Standing in a Hallway Staring at a Door2011 is here and it’s time to kick off the new year, get back to work with some crazy ass tutorials, make music, patches, refills and all other kinds of shenanigans. To start the year off, I’ve released a new CD which you can check out at CD Baby: Standing in a Hallway Staring at a Door.

This CD comes out of several more melancholy ambient tracks that I’ve been toying with all year and whittled down into a 37-minute EP carpet ride. It also was part of a challenge of mine to stick to the sounds that are found in my Generations refill. To that end, about 99% of the music on the CD is from that refill. A challenge to be sure; my fingers kept venturing into some of the other finer refills in my collection. But will power called me away and demanded I try creating something fully “mine” this time around. It was the first time I did and I’m pleased with the turnout.

I’ve also released a free download which is an alternate demo version of the last song on the CD (Locked), which you can find here in my trusty Soundcloud widget below. Feel free to have a listen, download, and share the tune. Just be sure to let them know where they can find the full CD if you do. Your help spreading the word is always greatly appreciated.

Locked (Demo) by Phi Sequence

Enough about that blatant self-promotion stuff. Now what tutorials do you want to see in the coming year? What types of sounds would you like to have in a refill? What general thoughts do you have about Reason and Record. Share your tips and tricks and fantastic creative voyages you’ve had with the software. I’m all ears.

The Musician’s Manifesto

The Musician’s manifesto. Or, subtitled: “The Reason Guide to getting Zen and Musical” — these are just some of the things I’ve learned throughout my life and more specifically being a musical-minded person working with Reason for the past 5 years

Or, subtitled: “The Reason Guide to getting Zen and Musical” — these are just some of the things I’ve learned throughout my life and more specifically being a musical-minded person working with Reason for the past 6 years.

I caution that you might find these points a bit preachy or moral or spiritual or whatever, or you might find it total bunk, but these are some of the rules by which I try to live, and they have served me pretty well over the past years. I keep coming back to them again and again because I realize nobody is perfect, and on a day where I find I’m slipping or feel like giving up, they are there to help me get out of that funk.

  1. Admit you know nothing and start from that vantage point. Everyone has something to teach us. Open yourself up to realizing that, humble yourself, and learn wherever and whenever you can from whomever you can.
  2. Ultimately be creative and make music! We all have the ability to be artistic and creative. We just have to find it inside ourselves and turn on the tap to let it out. Easier said than done, I know. But the journey is so worth it.
  3. Experiment, experiment, and then experiment some more. Devote as much time as you can each and every day to music. If you truly love it, then this will simply come naturally.
  4. Challenge Everything. Don’t be complacent. Question things. Come to your own conclusions. Think outside the box. Never sit still. Be your own person. Set artificial limits for yourself. Cherish the mistakes and the accidents. Be better than good. Music does not have to be formulaic, so don’t be satisfied with a formula. Challenge yourself to make things different.
  5. It’s all about the journey, not the destination. Be mindful of your past while looking forward to your future. As Winston Churchill wrote: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see.”
  6. If you are truly enjoying working in music, then count yourself lucky. You’ve found something that really does help fulfill you! And buddy, that means you’re ahead of about 90% of the population. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re on public transportation during morning rush hour, look around and see how many happy faces are in your vicinity.
  7. Never stop learning, because knowledge is truly power. Suck it up like a sponge. Be as curious as you can. Seek out the answers to all your questions. If you don’t know how a chord is created, go online and read about chords. Don’t know what an ADSR is? Look it up! Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are just as important as your successes.
  8. Stop lamenting what you don’t have or don’t own, and focus on what you do have and what you can do with it. Specifically learn Reason and Record inside out. Believe me, you can spend a lifetime solely exploring the base Reason Package with Factory Sound Bank and still never know it all. In addition, Google is your friend. YouTube is your friend. Wikipedia is your friend. Bloggers are your friends. The 800+ page Reason/Record manual is also your friend. Get to know them all intimately.
  9. Stop blaming the tools. It’s not the guitar’s fault you don’t know how to play it. Just as it’s not Reason nor Record’s  fault you don’t know how to use them. The blame and responsibility are squarely on your shoulders. Put on your big girl panties and suck it up Rockstar!
  10. Check your ego at the door. Don’t step on those around you to get a leg up, or fall into the trap of trying to “be better than the next guy.” It’s stupid, petty, unnecessary, and worthless. There’s nothing competitive about music and art. It’s not a competition to get to the top. It’s a fundamental ability that all humans have to let their voice be heard. It’s the most free-spirited part of being human. Focus on honing your voice and market yourself with respect as you would expect others to market themselves to you. Don’t belittle others in the process. That’s just counterproductive.
  11. Stand up for your art!
  12. It’s not wrong to be a perfectionist, but it may as well be. 90% of tracks are completed in 10% of the time. Stop spending 90% of your time trying to perfect the last 10% of a track. Learn to let go at some point or stop if you find yourself struggling or getting nowhere. Nothing is more frustrating than going nowhere for a long period of time. Avoid getting stuck by stopping and/or focusing your attention on something else: another song, another device, a new genre or just stop completely and take a break. Also learn how to brainstorm and finish things at a quick pace. Try completing a song in an hour just for the hell of it. Creating these artificial deadlines can help your creativity, just as brainstorming can.
  13. Seek out help, discussions, collaborations, and healthy relationships in general. They might be able to help you  finish up that last 10% of a track in less time than you could. You just have to realize that no man or woman is an island. We all need the help of others from time to time. And you’ll find great friendships in the most unusual places, or partnerships that you never thought would come about. They can often inspire you by steering you in different directions. It’s a natural form of networking. And it’s important. Probably more important even than your music, your art, or anything else really. It’s our connections with each other that make us who we are and define us.
  14. Give back to your community in some way, shape, or form, and to the best of your own abilities. You’ll feel more positive, and you may provide the spark in someone else’s life which ignites their passion or sends their life on a careening course which fundamentally changes who they are for the better! Charity is important and fundamental. And you’ll feel good too.
  15. Ignore negative chatter. Pay close attention to positive criticism. It’s the same 90/10 rule all over again and in various respects. 90% of the internet is mere chatter. 10% of the internet is solid and where you should focus. Also, spend 90% of your time on this 10% which is important. Also, knowing the difference between negativity and positive criticism is crucial. We all need — no, we must have criticism in order to grow as artists. Be mindful and humble of that. Believe me, I’m humbled every day at some of the songs I hear, videos I watch, images I see, places I visit. I could go on and on.
  16. Never under any circumstances send out an email, post, Soundcloud message, YouTube comment, etc. which starts and ends with “yo check out my track” or any variation thereof. Guess what? No one will check out your track. And people will purposely ignore your track. Your time can be better spent by getting to know people and checking out THEIR tracks and their work, and talking to them about their work, not yours. This requires a fundamental shift away from what you are doing. This is just common sense.
  17. In opposition to the point above, if you are providing free resources, such as tutorials and refills, then do the opposite. Shout it from the rooftops. In this case you should let everyone know and open everyone up to discussion about it and make it available. Here there be free things!
  18. Understand the difference between “I really hate this” and “God this is difficult but worthwhile and enjoyable.” In the former, if you really hate what you’re doing, try to figure out what you really do enjoy and go out and do that instead. Give it your all, no matter what anyone says. If you find that working in music or with Reason is incredibly difficult, but you just spent 10 hours without realizing it in front of Thor, then hey, you’re on the right track. Keep at it. And don’t stop. You do enjoy it.
  19. Use your ears 90% of the time and your mouth 10% of the time. I know this goes right back to the 90/10 rule, but it’s vital. If you think I talk too much here on my blog, what you don’t see is the other 90% of the time when I’m reading posts, watching videos, seeking out the latest tips and tricks from everyone out there, digging through refills and song files for more ways I can abuse Reason. And now we’ve come full circle back to points #1-3.
  20. Finally, remember that there’s a life outside of Music and Reason and Record. And that all of this alone cannot fully sustain you. Make time for all the other people in your life, vacation, hobbies, work, breaks, taking your sweetheart out for a night on the town or a quiet evening in. We are all made up of many facets. Try to gain a deep understanding of all those facets in your own life.

So there you have it. My views on what it takes to succeed and more importantly, what it takes to live up to your full potential as a creative and artistic human being.

And for some further reading, I would recommend the following:

Any other thoughts?

Kevin Parks, Remembered

Kevin Parks (aka: “Liquid Silver,” “Wyatt,” or “Ambient Synthesis”): June 8, 1949 – April 28, 2010. It’s hard for me to find the right words, but I lost a great internet friend recently, and I wanted to pay homage to his memory. He was talented, kind-hearted and was always there to lend a musical hand. He will be missed.

Kevin Parks (aka: “Liquid Silver,” “Wyatt,” or “Ambient Synthesis”)

June 8, 1949 – April 28, 2010

I am writing for Kevin to let you know his trip to Mexico was unsuccessful.  He died April 28, 2010.  Your friendship and sharing with him added so much to his life these past two years.  He enjoyed his friends in music to such a degree that he hardly had time to notice how ill he was.  Thank you, thank you.
– Louise Parks

Kevin Parks
Kevin Parks (1949-2010)

That was the email that hit my inbox last week and though I never met Kevin, we had some wonderful online conversations, discussions about music, discussions about Reason. He sent me a song whenever he could; usually more than I had the time to really get into and play with. And we shared in some wonderful one-on-one collaborations. I kept telling myself if only there were more time and if only I was less busy. But in the end honestly we make our choices in how we spend our time, and I regret not having more time to devote to our friendship and nurturing our collaborations. You see, we never finished anything together. We had a lot of back and forth musically, and we lended each other a lot of ideas over the past 2 years, but everything we did was unfinished. Such is the way life can be.

We first met due to a mutual interest in Photoshop and graphic design. From there it was a short leap to find our mutual interest in music. He was mainly using Adobe Audition for his audio, and I helped teach him some of the fundamentals of using Reason and midi. He taught me some of the finer points of audio processing. He was also the first to contribute an article to my blog all about panning and getting your mix right. A good read which I highly recommend:

I am very fortunate we had the friendship we did. Without him, you wouldn’t be reading this blog at all. This site would never have existed. It was in part his prodding and the fact that he was my first beta tester for a lot of my combinators. Without him, I probably never would have started this at all. So I owe him a great debt of gratitude. He was such a good musical friend. And when I got too deep into making combinators or designing sounds, he was always there to help out and he would always tell me to never forget about actually making music. That’s the kind of guy I knew him to be. Practical, honest, and always trying to improve himself through his music.

Letting the Work speak for the Man

It’s hard for me to find the right words. Usually most people will say the usual: he was kind. He was a great guy. He was always there when you needed help. With Kevin that was all true. Any question I would ask, he would always be there to respond. Anytime you needed help he was the guy you wanted helping you. In truth I can’t say enough good things about him.

It’s with great sorrow that I have to inform everyone of his passing. I hate letting go of the good people in life; the selfless souls that are kind to the core. I can only hope that he’s up there teaching a few angels how to play some really great music on his Fender Strat!

The following is an unfinished piece which Kevin sent to me. I’d like to share it with everyone as it is. It is 100% Kevin’s, and completely unaltered. It was the last piece of music he sent me. At the time, he was trying his hand at something atmospheric and ambient. I think this work is simple understated brilliance:

Symbionic: [ti_audio media=”486″]

And this is a piece he put together last July which shows a glimpse of his guitar work:

Blue July: [ti_audio media=”487″]

This is a video he put together for one of my songs. As I said, he was a great guy and was always there when you needed a helping hand. Since we both had a love for Photography and Photoshop, he wanted to try his hand putting together a video for me. I was so grateful when he did:

Here are a few links to some of Kevin’s work and online locations, if you are interested and would like to learn more about him:

And here is a quote from Kevin which can be found on :

Music means more to me now than ever before. I started music lessons in 1957 …first performed at the Worlds Fair, NYC, 1960. Did get tired of playing Debussy on clarinet, though. Then I discovered guitar!

Guitar was my constant companion through the 60’s and 70’s …playing in numerous acoustic groups, played a lot of parties, lots of late night jam sessions, and sidewalk-guitar. In the 80’s I played regularly for my church and taught guitar and songwriting.

I once had the privilege of knowing Broadway Musical Director, Stanley Lebowski, who many years ago said that he thought I had a germ of talent. I wish he were still around to see what I did with it.

Currently, I spend enormous amounts of time in my studio, searching out elusive sounds on guitars, harmonicas, keyboard, and congas. Retirement just doesn’t get better than this.

Rest in peace my friend. We’ll all miss you greatly.

Dream Sequences EP / Video

I was just way too excited not to post this here. I just released my new Dream Sequences EP with 5 tracks. 3 are remixes of tracks found on my Qxotc Slp CD and 2 are brand new tracks that have not been released yet. You can find both the CD or MP3 downloads at CD Baby. As the description says on there, these tracks are “Sonic sequences that came from a series of ambient glitch dreams I once had.” That sums it up nicely! Leave some love here or out there if you order or listen to the tunes. All comments and feedback are welcome and very much appreciated!

Dream Sequences CoverI was just way too excited not to post this here. I just released my new Dream Sequences EP with 5 tracks. 3 are remixes of tracks found on my Qxotc Slp CD and 2 are brand new tracks that have not been released yet. You can find both the CD or MP3 downloads at CD Baby. As the description says on there, these tracks are “Sonic sequences that came from a series of ambient glitch dreams I once had.” That sums it up nicely! Leave some love here or out there if you order or listen to the tunes. All comments and feedback are welcome and very much appreciated!

In my opinion, it’s one of my best CD/mp3 offerings yet and my favorite by far because it incorporates not only some of my favorite Ambient Glitch tracks, but also because my good friend Matt Pearson from zenbullets helped to collaborate on it. He provided the artwork for the cover and the CD itself, and he’s such a talented guy that I was really truly priviledged to work with him. If you have some time, you should also check out his Abandoned Art site, which is devoted to his generative art.

You can see what Matt has to say about the music in his Phi Sequence post on his site. Again, I can’t thank him enough for working with me.

To kick off the release of this EP, Matt has also kindly put together this video. Note that the video is a much better quality than this, and Youtube tends to squash the actual quality to make it fit for internet consumption. But still, I think he did a stunning job on the video.

Let me know what you think, and as always, thanks for looking and listening!

What Makes Glitch?

According to Wikipedia, Glitch is a term used to describe a genre of experimental electronic music that emerged in the mid to late 1990s. The origins of the glitch aesthetic can be traced back to Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises. But what makes good Glitch?

As defined by Wikipedia:

Glitch is a term used to describe a genre of experimental electronic music that emerged in the mid to late 1990s. The origins of the glitch aesthetic can be traced back to Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises, the basis of noise music. In a Computer Music Journal article published in 2000, composer and writer Kim Cascone used the term post-digital to describe various experimentations associated with the glitch aesthetic. Glitch is characterized by a preoccupation with the sonic artifacts that can result from malfunctioning digital technology, such as those produced by bugs, crashes, system errors, hardware noise, CD skipping, and digital distortion. Cascone considers glitch to be a sub-genre of electronica.

Production Techniques: Glitch is often produced on computers using modern digital production software to splice together small “cuts” (samples) of music from previously recorded works. These cuts are then integrated with the signature of glitch music: beats made up of glitches, clicks, scratches, and otherwise “erroneously” produced or sounding noise. These glitches are often very short, and are typically used in place of traditional percussion or instrumentation. Skipping CDs, scratched vinyl records, circuit bending, and other noise-like distortions figure prominently into the creation of rhythm and feeling in glitch; it is from the use of these digital artifacts that the genre derives its name. However, not all artists of the genre are working with erroneously produced sounds or are even using digital sounds.

Popular software for creating glitch includes trackers, Reaktor, Ableton Live, Reason, AudioMulch, Bidule, Super Collider, Usine, FLStudio, MAX/MSP, Pure Data, and ChucK. Circuit bending — the intentional short-circuiting of low power electronic devices to create new musical devices—also plays a significant role on the hardware end of glitch music and its creation.

Great. But what makes good Glitch? I’ve often pondered this question and think I’ve come up with a few characteristics of the genre.

  1. First, Glitch music has to have some balance of “randomness” or “chaos” and structure. It’s the tension between these two that give the song its listenable and deep quality. Something to be thought about, something difficult, and something that is not easily taken in by a single pass.
  2. Second, I think good Glitch music explores sonic possibilities, or rather, sonic IMpossibilities. If you listen to the works of Autechre and Aphex Twin, some of their glitchiest of tunes are interesting sonically because they use sounds that are not created by traditional musical instruments, and they explore speeds at which no human can play, even if they were created from a human instrument. Or, they create layers of sounds that are so out there and other-worldly that people would question the notion of the sounds being musical at all.
  3. Third, Glitch is not imitative. It does not try to mimic anything found in nature, but rather tries to break new ground by creating something completely new that you wouldn’t necessarily find in nature. I think this is why a lot of glitch artists turn to mechanic or machine sounds to create their music. It takes them further away from nature and more in the realm of the “man-made.” It’s not organic sound. It’s synthetic.
  4. Fourth, good glitch makes you think. Period. Perhaps that’s why us Americans refer to it as “Intelligent” Dance Music (or IDM). And while I know my brethren in the U.K. cringe at this very notion of terming any kind of music “Intelligent” (the argument as I see it stems from the fact that by labelling any one music “Intelligent” you automatically relegate all other music into the “non-intelligent” dogpile — something which I doubt was ever intended), I still think that you have to use what’s between your ears to fully appreciate glitch. I’m not saying any other music is any less intelligent or intellectual. But Glitch is not pop either. It’s not for the masses, and it’s not for those that want to immediately glean everything from one listen. It’s not background music.
  5. Finally, I think good Glitch uses the unexpected and surprising to capture or hold one’s attention. Whereas most music uses traditional hooks, such as filter openings, drum fills, or other crafty ways to keep a listener’s attention, I think Glitch tends to use more chance happenings and unexpected “free-for-alls” to keep you moving forward through the track. For example, a sudden switch from a wide-open reverb to a small space reverb, or a sudden jump in EQ. Or perhaps a major shift in tempo (as Autechre is fond of doing). All of these things seem to pay homage to the origins of the word Glitch: “erroneously” produced or sounding noise. The art of mistakes.

I would say if anyone has a further interest in the subject, they should definitely read up on the Art of Noises, a Futurist manifesto written by Luigi Russolo in 1913. A nice little summary can be found on Wikipedia. If Russolo were alive today, I think he’d be a fan of works by Autechre and Aphex Twin. I think he’d be supremely impressed at how we use computers as tools to create an infinite array of “noise-sounds” which we couldn’t create before. What I find very interesting is how so many sound designers work so hard to re-create sounds of traditional instruments. I think if Russolo were around he’d probably encourage them to forget about traditional instruments and instead focus on creating new experimental sounds that are unlike anything we’ve heard before. But perhaps that’s a thought for a future(ist) post.

What are your thoughts on the subject?