Gone… A Loss of Fond Technology

It started a few nights ago. Someone in a music production forum on Facebook posted a synthesizer advertisement from back in the day…a vintage synth. Before long, members of the forum were chiming in about what they remember about those days – things like they used that synth at one point, how it compared to others of its timeframe, etc. Even I pulled out a set of old music production user group magazines and posted a pic of them.

This got me reminiscent of the first computer I was every able to purchase. The backstory (some of you may know) is when I started my professional career out of college, I was a young systems engineer working in a Naval satellite system program office. This office, surprisingly, had a mix of Macs and PCs. It was then, in 1988, when the Mac was only four years old, that my love affair with the platform began. Our business affairs guy was the keeper of the Macs in the office and it was through his enthusiasm and love for the platform that got me interested, not to mention (as I found out shortly thereafter), the magic of Apple. For the next two years, I dreamed of owning a Mac.

In 1990, I was settled into my own apartment (no more roommates) and was making enough to finally afford a brand spanking new Macintosh Classic. I purchased that computer for a whopping $1200 from a small computer shop in Silver Spring, MD. Until then, I was recording the music I was composing to a Tascam 424 multitrack tape recorder. Getting the Mac was way more exciting then most of you could ever imagine – it opened up the world of music sequencing and facilitated greatly how I composed music. It was also the first time I was able to connect to BBSs online via a blazing fast 2400 bps modem (LOL).

Since that Mac, I’ve had many more, some of which I still have in storage, some not, but it was that all in one Mac, the 9-inch B&W, the tiny sequencer, MasterTracks Pro, and a lot of other things during my early journey into using a computer for music production, that leave me with fond memories.

Two nights ago, I pulled it out of storage, set it up, turned it on, and set it in my studio. A little, but well know screensaver called Darkside, was installed. I set it to fade to the “Kitten” screensaver, a little spunky kittne that ran around the screen chasing a ball of yarn. A lot of memories came flooding back, especially those of what I could do with so little hard drive space and processing speed compared to what I have today. Having to load programs via 3.5-in floppy disks, and all the other charming things that only Apple could make you experience.

Last night, when it was appearing everything was fine with it, I decided to move it. I went to shut it down via the shutdown menu, but the mouse froze on the screen, along with the kitten. All I could do them is manually shut the power switch off. When I turned it back on, the video screen essentially malfunctioned. An awful looking pattern was now frozen in place. I repeatedly turned it off and on, trying to see if that issue would fix itself. I followed my a short shake, then firm pounding on both sides, as if I was trying to resuscitate it. All of that…amounted to nothing. It was no more.

Interesting how attached we can become to inanimate objects. While it wasnt necessary the object itself, it was more the memories attached to using it, the things I was able to accomplish during the beginnings of a journey that I’m still on. I admit that I miss it, despite the fact it was sitting in storage for years, despite the fact that the Macs I use for music production now are vastly superior to it. I just miss it…call it tech nostagia.

Today, after some research, I’ve decided to purchase another for posterity. For an original price of $1200 I paid 27 years ago, I’ve seen that computer in flea markets and classified ads selling for as little as $20. On eBay, one in good condition is well over $250. I won’t spend that much, but I’ll continue to research, continue to look around and just maybe, a sort of resurrection of sorts will occur one day in the hopefully near future.

oceans of rhythm…

Fresh!

That thing, that thing, that thiiiiinnnng (the cellphone)

An-iPhone-4S-007

[9:32PM EST]. Hit the road to pick up my daughter from a school field trip. As I was driving, the lights and traffic caused me to think of some things…nothing in particular…but the scene was strangely thought provoking. I pulled up to the stoplight, about 5 minutes from my house, only to realize I left my phone home. Immediately I checked the clock to see how much time I had to make it to my destination. Though I wasn’t far from the house, I proceeded on my way. As I drove further I said to myself, suppose I encounter an incident where I need the phone (car trouble, etc). I continued to drive on but then thought to myself “When, let alone where, was the last time I saw a phone booth anywhere?” I do remember seeing one at a local gas station, but even that one was useless because the handset was missing. Driving further, I began to remember riding everywhere and anywhere in the back of my dad’s Chevy Impala….decades before cellphones (and the big, bulky ones at that) were carried around only by realtors, let alone the small, light, smartphones we all carry today. Back then, pay phones were plenteous…today, not at all.

Needless to say, the roundtrip was uneventful but all the way there I thought about our dependence on the mobile phone today….and consequently about a time when it wasn’t in existence and how we survived without it.

#techdependency

peace,
Doug

The Return to Coding….

Picture 10

Today was an interesting day, one of the more interesting days I’ve had with regards tech meetups. In the spring of 2013, I decided it was high time that I return to learning computer programming. Yeah, I had taken (and got good grades in) college level computer science programming courses, but it was ages ago. Fast forwarding to a myriad of internet resources on self-paced (in the very least) learning, I wanted to make moves to boost my skill set. I always liked coding/programming. The last programming project I did was to write a program calculate overall system reliability numbers for various satellite subsystems for a DoD satellite program I was working for, but that was MANY years ago – and in BASIC (but I digress).

I chose Python as the language to start my journey with. My learning vehicle of choice has been Codecademy and I’m quite pleased with it. Specifically I’d like to learn Python and apply it to engineering and scientific specific applications as a whole. In the mean time, I already have one project I’d like to code after gaining confident knowledge – the best way to learn anything is to jump in and start doing it, in essence.I had the good fortune of meeting with a local cloud computing solutions company recently at a local Starbucks (this also came about for participation on the mailing list). After meeting with their lead systems architect and the CEO, I hope to do some collaborating with them to some extent on two of the contracts they current have in place. A future meeting is scheduled.

Back today…I’m part of the DC Python Meetup mailing list. A few days ago, someone posted a question about the possibility of getting together for an impromptu study session, something just to get questions answered, do some coding, share resources and other bits of knowledge. I thought this was a good idea, and remembered seeing a post on the list from an administrator at MLK Library, who also offered to teach a beginner class. I reposted his email, that got the ball rolling. AFter all was said and done, within two days we had a huge room at the library’s Digital Commons area.

There were about 20 individuals in attendance, all experience levels and like the list, all very helpful. Before the session was out, one of the members quickly set up a group hackpad for collaboration/sharing of learning resources. By the end of the day, the library administrator allowed us to keep the room on a weekly basis as a Python Lab for “open office hours” coinciding with the library hours for general discussion, coding, hacking etc. The official Python classes start next Saturday. We agreed on a text and already have our first reading assignment. Along with finishing my course on Codecademy, I’ll highly looking forward to what will come out of these meetup sessions. I’m hoping these future developments will aid in the result of some future news I hope to share with you soon.

Before closing, I’ll give a quick shout to all the coders/developers on ADN that I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. Thanks for all you (some of which don’t follow me, and vice versa…yet) share in your regular posts. Thanks especially to BayProgrammer for the extra effort in explaining the basic differences between static and dynamic coding languages, back end vs frontend development, considerations, and much more. I’m feeling like a kid at Christmas time in that there’s some much to learn, so many resources out there, it’s sort of overwhelming as to where to start, but I’m looking forward to being able to talk (and code) intelligently in the future. They say “code is art”, I’m about to be on my way to realizing this.

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh

Fitness Tech Phenomenon 2012 – Nike+ and the rest: My Experiences

Greetings all,

I hope this blogpost finds you well. For many of you following me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve seen my various status updates and tweets about my health and fitness training, especially in the areas of running and weight workouts. You also know, being the techie that I am, the ability to use technology to track my performance metrics against goals, is of great interest to me, and frankly makes exercising that much more fun. You also probably know that I am a fan of the Nike+ fitness tracking system. Well, this post is not about waving the Nike+ banner, but more about my experiences and knowledge gained about the whole fitness tracking phenomenon and how I see it with respect to exercising/training the old fashioned way – basically paper and pen at best!

I’ll start by conveying my experience with the Nike+ system, my likes about it, and convey a little about the dislikes of others about it (in comparison to the competition). I discovered Nike+, not via one of the many YouTube videos or a TV commercial, but by reading an article in Wired Magazine entitled “Living By Numbers”. While the article featured the work of Apple and Nike in developing the Nike+ system, it was also comprised of other articles and examples of websites and apps regarding performance metrics tracking. You can read the article here.

I’ve pretty much worked out -prettttttttttty- regularly since late HS, through college, etc (though I won’t state how many times I fell off the horse and got back on – thank goodness for muscle memory). Finding out about idea of using tech to track my performance was immediately golden to me and obviously, as said above, appealed to my tech side. What I liked (and still do) about the sports and fitness giant we know as Nike, is their entire approach – marketing, advertising, etc to sports and fitness. The appeal to THIS consumer and fan is great. Another company that does the same for me is Apple (as I type away on this sleek black Macbook).

So, Nike has developed this whole system called Nike Plus, or more overall Nike Active. The whole premise (if you didn’t read the article above) is the combination of an iPod nano or iPhone, coupled with a sensor that goes in specialized Nike running shoes, and a sensor receiver that goes into your iPod (which is how it was originally designed). It was first geared towards tracking your run stats. Since then, the iPod nano 6G (v1.2 software update) and iPhone 4/4S with iOS 5.0 do away with the need for the iPod sensor receiver that comes with the Nike+ Sports Kit. Here’s a video (not the newest, but my favorite) about the basics of Nike+

Since 2006, various Nike+ products have come into existence – the sports band, the Nike+ GPS watch. Here’s a comparison chart

For me, the best product is the iPod nano. I’m not at a point where I want to track my routes, nor do I need the instantaneity of posting to the Nike+ site via GPS. I also own an iPhone 4 that I make reference to later in this post.

Nike has upped the bar and added yet another fitness tracking item: The Nike Fuel Band

A really interesting, yet pricey, fitness tracking device that is designed to motivate you to stay active. I like everything about it (sans the price), except it isn’t waterproof and if you like working out to music, you’re out of luck. It’s slated to hit the US market on Feb 22nd. Here’s a good article on it.

Nike+ is great to me, however there are some definite naysayers and disatisfied users of the system. If you are on FB and search on the keywords “Nike Plus”, you’ll find their page. 98% of the comments currently there (they revamped the page over the last two years) center around the following areas”

  • Inability to connect to the website
  • Run data not posting to the site via iTunes or GPS
  • Run data not crossposting to Facebook
  • It appears to me that a good deal of the problem points to the fact that it’s a Flash based site, when many, if not all of the other ones are not. Frankly I like the site, and in the almost two years of running and using it, I’ve never suffered the myriad of problems these people are griping about. Nike did admit, and posted a formal letter, to the issues the site was having. I think that was admirable of them. Not having experienced the issues others have, it’s hard for me to share a sympathetic ear, but I hope that the site issues become minimal.

    One of the major capabilities in fitness tracking tech is the use of GPS, especially in running. As widely known, you can track your routes and via GPS upload them to your favorite fitness track website via the accompanying smartphone app. Garmin, of course, is in the game and many fitness sites, along with Nike, like Map My Fitness, GainFitness, Dailyburn, Dailymile, and so on. As you can see from iPhone screenshot, I’ve downloaded a number of fitness tracking apps that, aside from Nike+, have tried yet. Since I workout with weights as well, I’m looking for one that will allow me to success track performance there as well. There are eight so far that need investigation. Assessing each will be a project in itself. Currently, in addition to the Nike+ sites, I am using the online site, Dailymile. It was recommended by a friend of mine who’s done a thorough assessment of the site and what I’ve seen so far, I like. It not only allows me to track my runs, but other types of fitness workouts as well. It crossposts to Twitter nicely, allows for the upload of pics and video, has the ability to import my run data from Nike+. From what I understand, it has great capability for analytics as well. Many of these sites allow for import of data from Nike+ and other sites as well.

    Many of the sites mirror the same capabilities so, as said above, the best thing to do is compare and maybe use multiple sites, if necessary, to meet the needs you have for tracking your metrics. This leads me to an obvious aspect of performance tracking – accuracy. Just how accurate is all of this? To quote a friend. “If it’s tracking faulty stats it’s futile”. True indeed. One can, depending on what they want to get out of tracking performance, get VERY hung up on how accurate one device is against another in an apples-to-apples comparison. Then there are those like a weightlifter, whose comment I saw in a forum that was attached to an article about this aspect. He basically said he didn’t care much about tight accuracy because he’s just a weightlifter, but wanted to have SOMETHING to gauge his run performance, something simple he could use as a tool to track improvements. The article by Daily Burn CEO Andy Smith is entitled “DailyBurn CEO: Fitness-Tracking Devices Aren’t Gimmicks, but They’re Close”. The article can be read here. Personally, I think one, especially someone who is highly data driven, can get too caught in the phenomena, losing sight to why they started the fitness journey to begin with.

    In summary, I look forward to continuing in the leverage of fitness tech to allow me the added enjoyment of keeping fit. I’m settled and happy with the physical tools (iPod nano and Nike Sports Kit) that I have…I can see a bluetooth transmitter for the nano and an accompanying lightweight set of bluetooth headphones, but other than that, I’m good. As for the apps and websites, research and trial awaits. I’m looking forward to that as well, but in the mean time…it’s all about breaking that 10 min mile and training for my first 5K this year. Hopefully I can find an interesting app to aid in my bodybuilding, or should I say weight workouts. Time will tell. In closing, for all the excitement there is in gaining and maintaining good fitness, I try to keep this thought first and foremost.

    Here are a number of popular online fitness tracking sites:

  • DailyBurn
  • DailyMile
  • Gain Fitness
  • Map My Fitness
  • Thanks for reading….

    peace…
    Fresh!

    He makes the jump….to the iPhone 4.

    Yes…the time has come for all good men…no, no…ok. Yes, I made the jump to the iPhone 4 today. The purchase experience was great. The same Verizon store salesperson that helped me with both Blackberries over the last 3 years, was there to assist, and everything went smoothly.

    For those who are not on AT&T and/or didn’t know, they are offering the iPhone 3GS for free (annual two-year contract required). As I drove past the AT&T store, the line was out of the door and down the street (oooh, am I about to encounter the same at 8:15am?). No, no line. The salesperson told me many people pre-ordered. I’m a kinda basics guy and didnt see the need for the iPhone 4S (and frankly wanted to keep the extra money I would have paid, in my pocket). Basic black, 8GB iPhone 4 for me.

    Ok, though I’ve been rockin’ an iPod Touch since 1G, all you iPhone experts out there, school me on your favorite apps for task and contacts management, as well as your fave Twitter app…they’ll be my main interests, as my 160GB iPod Classic is my main music player. Any other tips and tricks are greatly appreciated!

    Great to finally be on board, at a great price!

    Have a good day…

    :::oceans of rhythm:::

    Fresh!

    Chronicles of a Remix: I’m Walkin’/Mary Mary – Day 8 (The Sendoff)

    Sup crew…

    I just finished the final base arrangement of the mix. Added a little track automation to the acappella track, as well as a jazzy guitar riff towards the end. I tend to like using a nice combination of a clean tone with just the right delay on it. Here’s a screenshot of the arrange window:

    Leveraging technology today, for creative purposes. is really quite easy. As Bill commented on the last update post here, it allows worldwide collaboration no matter where the participants are, or what time of day (or night it is). Some of you know of the collaboration by me (DC), Todd Kelley (Cali), and Fave (Houston), namely Cross Country Collective.

    Another thing that helps is to know the tools you’re working with. In this case, I use Logic Studio (Logic Pro 8), and Bill is using Logic Express 9. Same software but as usual, an “express: version of software usually has less functionality than a full version, but in this case, I put together the session such that he could import it into his version and nothing would be lost…pretty much the same process used for the C3 EP (with Todd and Fave using Logic Studio 9).

    It’s off to Bill C in NYC…handle it, bruh! Stay tuned for the birth sometime this week.

    peace,

    ::: oceans of rhythms :::
    Fresh!

    Sampling and Music Composition- A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt. 3: Presently Speaking


    Native Instruments’ Maschine

    Crew,
    Hello. Here I am, back with the final installment of this blog post. Took the day off (Happy Birthday to me), sitting in Starbucks, finishing up this blog post. Listening to Foreign Exchange’s “Authenticity” (superb new release by Nic, Phonte, Zo, Yah, etc). Nice day so far.

    I’ve had time to do some more reading, see some more tweets, have some more conversations, all related to this topic. That being said, I’ll be highlighting three of those diatribes later on this post.

    On the information highway, Twitter is my primary stop for all things. Readers of this blog and followers of me on Twitter have heard me sing the praises of how I use Twitter to get all info I am interested pushed to me, based on the IDs that I follow. It keeps me abreast of, and learning about, the things that make me smarter, without having to hop on Google search (pull info) all the time (though that’s a regular activity too)

    In any event, outside of the topic matter in the first two posts, Part 1, and Part 2, Twitter has brought directly to my attention how many sample construction kit/sample vendors there are out there. Yeah, I read a few music production magazines, but the info-push from Twitter places them in front of me on a daily basis. This, in itself, (for the most part) really shows the popularity in using samples in music composition today…anywhere from the computer novice and “beat maker” to the most accomplished trained musicians and writers of film scores. Speaking of which, here’s a good article on the use of such from another follower on Twitter, Soundsandgear. His article is here.

    That being said, I decided to leverage the power of my Twitter connections and present a survey to two of my followers to get some feedback from them on the very topic of this series. Since sampling does have it’s roots in hip-hop, I’ll present first some footage of a video interview done by Propellerheads (Reason, Record, Recycle, etc) of the legendary Hank Shocklee, sonic architect, producer, artist, behind the hip-hop legends, Public Enemy. The first minute of his commentary confirms how sampling has continued to live:

    Good video. Now, I’ll let one of my followers, MsTrisBeats, a producer and studio engineer out of Baltimore, answer a series of questions I presented to her, regarding the topic of this series;

    Fresh: What got you interested in sampling?

    MB: I was in a rap group and our producer DJ Profaze was, and is a sample king. He introduced me to it before I touched a sampler. Over the years as a rapper, producers came and went. I knew I had ideas. I purchased an Ensoniq Eps. I started going crazy with crate digging. Profaze taught me how to extend the time on the Eps. When I first started producing hip hop, I had no idea that 90% was sample based. I’d recognize some songs, but my favorite producer at the time, RZA, was great at chopping samples beyond obvious recognition. Later, I learned more about sampling from another producer Scottie B, Baltimore Club Music pioneer. He raved about the new Ensoniq sample workstation, the infamous Asr10. Once I found out RZA also used it, I purchased one and it was on..

    Fresh: What got u interested in using sampling as a primary means of composing your music? (If you don’t consider it a primary means, explain to what extent you use it).

    MB: It was primary in the beginning, because I could only play by ear. No real chord progressions or any thing. Just playing what sounded good, as far as composing was concerned. Hip Hop was all about sampling at the time. I remember artist saying ” I don’t like whack keyboard beats”. They were meaning beats without samples. Every producer I loved was sampling as well. It wasn’t that I was only interested in sampling, sampling was how hip hop I loved was made.

    Fresh: What are your thoughts on the history of sampling. How has it’s evolution played a part in music composition to date?

    MB: Sampling gave birth to rap music. Although it has evolved into using more composed tracks, the history is there from the Bronx. DJ’s played and looped a sample of old soul music, the emcee rhymed over it.

    Before that, the first synthesizers were being created with samples. Music would not sound the way it does today without samplers. Samplers allowed musicians to extend the limits of sound, and sound manipulation.

    On an extreme extent, samplers have cut the cost of music. If you’ve seen “Whats Love Got To Do With It”, there’s a scene with a huge orchestra. Talk about money to pay all the players and engineers for one song?..wow. Samples have allowed musicians with little budget, to create the feel of full orchestras with one module.

    Fresh: What are your favorite tools and current methodologies for sampling in your composition?

    MB: I’m sort of a gear junkie..lol. I love learning all types of hardware and software. My favorites have been , the Asr10, Fl Studio’s slicer and slicex. I use the mpc2500 as well. Today I honestly found the best sampler for my set up in Native Instruments Maschine. It mixes both hardware and software for endless possibilities. It’s a concept which brings the ease of Fl studio to the hands on of the Mpc… brilliant!

    There are many many styles of Sampling. Chopping a sample into many parts and replaying the chops is my favorite style. It gives a song a certain feel which no one can create playing straight melodies. This style has a swing most popular in boom bap hip hop.

    When I use samples, I chop/slice samples with an editor into as small as 1bar loops. I assign each slice to a keys or pad. The sample is now like an instrument. I play it with keys or pads of the sampler.

    Fresh: How do u see sampled based music (loops and samples only) as a means for composing music today with regards to the ease and popularity of such music in popular genres that use it.

    MB: I’ve been learning more music theory, which allows me to compose my own samples. There are so many laws against sampling, that a lot of industry artist don’t want to deal with. It can be very expensive for sample clearance. The copyright owner may not even allow use.

    It’s only right morally and legally to pay if using music that another artist made. The mainstream artist that still use beats with samples, can usually afford clearance. It’s gotten so expensive that many want to take it out of the producers budget.

    I don’t think there is an ease of use anymore, unless you don’t plan to release the sample based song on a major level.

    Fresh: Do you think a composer that has no formal knowledge of music, but learned knowledge of computers, digital audio workstation software and the use of samples and loops only, is considered a musician?

    MB: A musician makes music, instrumentalist play instruments. Some people do both. Some are masters and some are not. I would not consider some one who arranges straight loops as a master of the craft, but the fact remains they are musicians if they make music.

    It’s more about how they use the samples, computers, and software that would make the general public consider one a musician . Some people are born with musicianship as a natural gift.

    It’s 2010, we have kicked off a new millennium. Music has taken a digital turn. Anyone who uses a sound module like the Motif, Triton, or Fantom are actually using “computer, software, samples, and loops”. When the composer sits down and plays a orchestra type chord on the motif, there is no chamber, no oboes, or trumpets. Yes that’s all samples played together to make a chord. Because he/she did not blow the reeds or horn, does not mean he or she isn’t a musician.

    I know people with no formal training who sample a chord, place it across a software piano roll, and make entire songs drawing in each and every note or step. All samples, all digital, and they make the most amazing music.

    You have composers/instrumentalist with formal knowledge of music theory, and those who sample with no formal knowledge both winning Grammys. I think the instrumentalist with formal knowledge are the only ones who wouldn’t classify computer musicians as musicians today in the 21st century.

    *****

    That was an interesting take on the topic. Below is another set of viewpoints, this time by another follower, Lady The Producer, a producer, songwriter, arranger, trained pianist, and studio engineer.

    Fresh: What got u interested in using sampling as a primary means of composing your music? (If you don’t consider it a primary means, explain to what extent you use it).

    LP: It’s not so much my primary means of sampling because I do a lot of work without sampling, however, I enjoy sampling because I enjoy music. I am a trained pianist, and have dabbled with other instruments too. I’ve always collected old music and I love the idea of being creative in conjoining pieces of another creative piece into something extra special.

    Fresh: What got you interested in sampling?

    LP: Listening to music all my life, and the passion to play and program sound is a drug to me.

    Fresh: What are your thoughts on the history of sampling. How has it’s evolution played a part in music composition to date?

    LP: When I heard a sampled joint for the first time, it was an amazing discovery to my ears! To take a creative piece of music and recreate something even more special is a collaborative effort in my opinion. I call it recycled music. I call it appreciating the value of what the original artists and producers brought to the song. I also think at times, it’s a win-win for both parties involved. Often times old songs are forgotten and revamped into major hits because they were chopped into a new song. As long as the paperwork is right at the end of the day, and all parties are happy, what can be more beautiful?! I’m grateful for the history of sampling, and regarding the evolution…Kanye is one of the big names that made it a commercial art. Personally, as one of my goals, I’d love to get a production deal topped with a hefty sampling budget…talk about the ultimate exploration of music!

    Fresh: What are your favorite tools and current methodologies for sampling in your composition?

    LP: I’m a sista from the hardware era, so I like to touch knobs, push buttons, and scroll through screens while programming my music. I like being made to hear the music and not just see it in a wave form. It’s a certain discipline for me. My preferred tools for sampling is the Roland Fantom X6, Ensoniq ASR 10 and the Beat Kangz Beat Thang Virtual. I’ve also used software titles Ableton Live, and Reason. As for my methods of sampling, I’m different from a lot of cats in the process. It’s not just about snatching a bit of a song and dropping a drum loop over it, and done in 5 minutes. I process every detail of the chop, and I’m very particular about my chops and placement. I don’t use drum based loops to build upon the track. I actually process and play my drums around my chops. I also may play over my chops… the list goes on (can’t give away all my lil’ secrets!)

    Fresh: How do u see sampled based music (loops and samples only) as a means for composing music today with regards to the ease and popularity of such music in popular genres that use it.

    LP: There are some really great companies out there with tons of sounds, plus as we all know, any piece of hardware or software production tool you buy comes loaded with sound samples. I like manipulating those sounds. I don’t use drum-based loops, I create my own. I think with composing music today or anytime, the art of it lies within the creator or producer. I find that many aspiring producers today are seeking the easiest way to produce a track, and it shows in the end result.

    Fresh: Do you think a composer that has no formal knowledge of music, but learned knowledge of computers, digital audio workstation software and the use of samples and loops only, is considered a musician?

    LP: Formal knowledge alone doesn’t make you a musician… you must have a talent first. Also, understanding the depth of the creation process, obtaining your own tricks of the trade, studying and perfecting your craft and being able to ‘play’ and understand music is what makes you a musician in my opinion. You can know your software in and out, even your DAW, but you have to know your music and be able to communicate it. You know immediately when you’ve come across a musician by their sound, and it’s definitely not through a couple loops. To be a musician is an acquired behavior!

    *****

    Very good insight by Lady Producher. It was my intent, in 2010, as a musician who has been writing and composing music from my teenage years, to look at the evolution of sampling in how music is composed today, especially in the urban contemporary and dance music scenes.

    Lastly, for your listening pleasure, is a podcast I did with Todd Kelley, aka The Big La, for a series I wanted to start back in 2007 called Fusion. This podcast, done back in 2007, is an interview I did featuring the history of Todd Kelley, the producer/writer/arranger/podcaster/hip-hop and soul lover, who has leveraged technology in producing his music as well. This is 50 minute interview so be ready for a long one.

    With that, I’ll conclude this series. I hope you’ve found it interesting. It’s given me food for thought…not anything new, but just a wider outlook from other creators words, not just actual articles. I’m much like Lady Producher, still love my hardware (buttons, knobs, LCDs and LEDs – the whole tactile thing in creating and producing music), which (to me) goes hand-in-hand (no pun intended) with my 30+ years as a guitarist, bassist and *somewhat* keyboardist – haha! I love the ability to be able to use samples at the level I choose in my compositions, but find it more difficulty to solely rely on loops and construction kits for a finished product. Be it personal or not, these days, in any way you tend to look at it, it’s the final product that speaks.

    For more on my followers, check out their sites:
    Lady Producher – StudioNoize
    MsTris Beats – MsTris Music
    Todd Kelley
    Sounds and Gear

    Thanks for the read…

    peace,
    Fresh!

    Android classes for minority teens in DC

    Crew…

    Good evening. I’d like to share this great opportunity for DC Black and Latino area youths sent to me via the DC Robotics list from @philshapiro. PLEASE RETWEET THIS WIDELY. All the info is below! It’s my understanding that the class is being offered to Black and Latino youths only.

    Thanks!!
    Doug

    —–

    Message: 1
    Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2010 15:05:53 -0400
    From: Phil Shapiro Subject: [DCRobotics] Android classes for minority teens DC
    To: dcrobotics@atinc.com

    Hi DC Robotics community,

    At a recent meeting of the DC Area Androids Users Group, I met a
    very smart geek, Leshell Hatley, who is getting her doctorate in Human
    Computer Interface design at the Univ. of Maryland. Leshell applied
    for and won a grant from the Macarthur Foundation to teach Android
    programming to Black and Latino teens in DC. These classes will take
    place on Tues. and Thursdays from 4 pm to 6:30 pm at Howard
    University. The classes are free. Teens need to apply to be accepted.

    The announcement of these classes is appended below. Thanks for
    forwarding this email to anyone you know who might be interested in
    applying for the classes. I’d hope some of our very smart teens from
    Banneker Academic High School (across the street from Howard Univ.)
    might apply.

    As a graduate of Howard University myself, I’m thrilled that
    Howard is offering space for these classes, too.

    You can also read about Leshell Hatley’s many talents and
    accomplishments on her web site.

    Phil

    Winner of the MacArthur Foundation 2010 Digital Media & Learning
    Competition, Youth APPLab is designed to teach Black and Latino high school
    students in DC how to design and create mobile Android applications (apps).
    Classes are starting soon and will be held on the campus of Howard
    University. If you or someone you know is interested, please send an email
    to leshell@youth-lab.org for more information and a student application
    package. Space is limited, so reply now. For more information about Youth
    APPLab, please visit http://www.youthapplab.org

    Classes will go until May/June with an app competition for internships
    at the end.

    Phil Shapiro pshapiro@his.com
    http://www.his.com/pshapiro/briefbio.html
    http://www.twitter.com/philshapiro
    http://www.his.com/pshapiro/stories.menu.html

    Sampling and Music Composition – A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt 2 – Sampling/Interpolation/Legalities


    Photo Credit: Akai MPC 2500 w/black pads by: ficusrock

    Greetings crew…

    Hope all is well with you. I’ve finally gotten around to Pt 2 of this series. In Part 1, I gave a brief history of sampling and, specifically, the tools used in the early days; and the explosion of sampling in the 80’s and 90’s that was fueled by the music of James Brown. Since then, not only has sampling evolved greatly with the advent of sampling technology, both in hardware and software tools, but it’s also taken on the form of a different kind of sampling – taking a song’s basic arrangement and feel (usually the hook) and creating a new song from it. One example that immediately come to mind in the last decade is Kirk Franklin’ s radio version (remix) of “Stomp”. When this release first hit the airwaves, it was quite noticeable to the listening public that the song’s groove was reminiscent of a very popular song by Funkadelic, namely “One Nation Under A Groove”. The interpolation comes into play as the tempo of “One Nation Under A Groove” (the verse section) was slowed down and the bass track was extracted for the main groove for “Stomp”. Whosampled.com shows a side by side comparison of the two. In this particular case, Kirk took the obtained permission and provided reference and credit to Funkadelic in the liner notes of his release. Before, during, and since then, there have been many instances were permission was not granted, resulting in copyright infringement lawsuits. While I’d venture to guess hip-hop holds the record for the highest count of sampling lawsuits, especially with the landmark case involving Biz Markie’s “I Need A Haircut” sampling of Gilbert Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally”, Kid AdRock of The Beastie Boys claims they hold the first sample lawsuit.

    The laws of copyright infringement in cases like those above span far and wide and, to many, are still open to interpretation. I came across an interesting article (I’m sure there are many more out there) written by an artist on Twitter named Sean Grey. His article Thinking Out Loud: How to Legally Sample Songs For Free, provides some interesting questions for consideration, as well as feedback from other readers. While it’s not my intention to delve into the legalities of sampling in this post, it’s an area with depth that continues to be revisited time and time again. One of many good resources on this subject is here. Disc Makers also recently posted a good article entitled Sampling Safely – A Primer to Avoiding Lawsuits.

    As the late 80’s progressed into the 90’s, Sean “Puff Daddy (bka Diddy)” Combs took arranging and composing based on sampling a step further and actually obtained permission to use the actual masters (not samples or interpolations) of songs to compose songs for releases under his artists Junior Mafia, Biggee Smalls, Little, Kim, Lil Cease, Faith Evans, etc. Popular hip hop songs were produced that used actual hooks from Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out”, Herb Alpert’s “Rise”, The Police’s “Every Step You Take”, even Jeff Lorber’s classic fusion track “Rain Song”. You may be able to associated each song above with the hit Diddy produced.

    This type of new song arranging and composing hit it very big, and still continues to do so, with the likes of Kirk Franklin using the hook to Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard” for his 2005 hit “Looking For You”.

    The topic matter in this particular post is nothing new. The question I have is, as of late, is there any merit to what I call “gross sampling” (using the actual song itself, (in the case of what Diddy and Kirk have done)? I would submit that there is some skill level, maybe some would say an art, to composing new (and I use the term loosely) songs. What, if any, are your thoughts? As an artist, songwriter, composer, and producer, I have my own but will reserve them until I finish this series.

    In Part 3, I’ll give my perspective on sampling, sample packs, the tons of vendors that make them, the use of them in music composition, and related issues.

    ::: oceans of rhythm :::

    Fresh!

    Sampling and Music Composition- A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt. 1: In The Beginning


    Akai MPC 2000 Photo Credit: Dan Medhurst

    Welcome readers.

    I hope this post finds you well. The topic of this post is something I’ve been meaning to write about for quite some time. Sampling has been a long time tool and methodology of music composition. I’m almost certain everyone reading this post is familiar, in some form or fashion, how sampling has found it’s way into modern day music creation.

    While there are MANY articles and multimedia on this subject I’ll give a little background as a foundation to the reason why I’m writing this post – my own perspective on sampling: where it came from and and where it is today and some of my own opinion as a musician, songwriter, and producer. It’s not my intent to write about the chronological history of sampling (though I begin by citing its early days), but to talk about how I use and the reasons why, as I compose my own music. To give added perspective from others, I’ve also got a short interview with an artist on Twitter that uses sampling in her compositions, as well as an excerpt from an podcast I recorded, interviewing another artist on Twitter who is a sampled-based composer. You can check these out in future parts to this blog post.

    Without going too far back to the first non-commercially available samplers, such as the Computer Music Melodian or EMS MUSYS, the first commercially available samplers actually came on the scene as the second wave of samplers. These are the more recognizable machines such as New England Digital’s Synclavier (’75), the Fairlight CMI (’79), and the Synclavier II (’80), While these samplers were to be found on many album liner credits, they cost in excess of $25,000 and obviously were only in reach of the top music superstars.

    By the mid-80’s, the advent of sampling technology allowed for less expensive machines which were also smaller. Popular models of this era included the keyboard based Ensoniq Mirage and it’s rack version, the Mirage Rack, the Akai S612 (which used the least popular 2.8″ QuickDisks (same as some typewriters used), the Sequential Prophet 2000, the Akai S950, the Yamaha TX16W, and Roland S-550. These units boasted 12-bit sample resolution. You can hear the Mirage sampler usage all over Janet Jackson’s “Control” album, for example, the digital horn blasts on the hit “When I Think Of You”. I owned both the Yamaha TX16W and Roland S-550 samplers and participated in the Roland S-Group Sampler forum. Though the forum is pretty much non-existent these days, I still have a set of samples I uploaded to their archives in the late 90’s (ahh the good old days!). My primary use of the S-550 was to use snippets of samples I’ve created (mainly in the hip hop and dance genres) for use in my own compositions. Strangely enough, I never did any live sampling via a unit’s mic input, but instead used various Mac audio editing apps to convert audio to S-550 format.

    It’s a well known fact that by the late 80’s, the E-mu SP1200 became the premier choice of samplers for commercial and indie hip-hop producers worldwide. Introduced in 1987, The grimy 12-bit sampling resolution and 10 second maximum sample time proved to have it’s limitations but despite that, it became the hallmark, signature sound of old-school hip-hop and house music. The SP-1200 was SO popular that it got reissued and manufactured through 1997. All the major hip-hop producers out of NYC, from Lord Finesse to Marley Marl to Pete Rock used the SP-1200 has their weapon of choice. Below is indie beat maker Surock showcasing a track done on the SP-1200.

    In 1988, Roger Linn (known for the famous Linn Drum (think Prince tracks from Purple Rain), created partnership with Japanese corporation Akai and created what is probably singlehandedly known as the greatest machine made for creating hip-hop music: The Akai MPC Music Production center. Scores of hip-hop legends from DJ Premier to Pete Rock dominated this machine and made it the center of hip hop production. The MPC-60 began a long heritage of MPCs such as 2000, 2000xl, 3000, 2500, 1000, 4000, 5000, 1000 and 500. The MPC is known for its TIGHT timing and swing that is a staple of 90’s hip hop, still incorporating, as a 12-bit sampler, that grimy sound both associated with and loved in, hip hop. Here is a history of the MPC in video format:

    Here is indie producer Disko Dave of The Better Beat Bureau on the MPC 2000 showing any of its capabilities in making a track (“beat”).

    As a songwriter, musician, and composer, I grew up playing in R&B bands as a teenager. The drum machine found it’s way into my composition tool box way before an actual computer did. By this time, the same vendors that manufactured hardware samplers, also manufactured drum machines that had internal sounds based on PCM samples of various drum kits. I became, like many, accustomed to programming drum tracks on these machines which have pads just like the MPC. As my studio grew, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I finally got around to incorporating a MPC 1000 into my setup. What I enjoy about using the MPC is not only the availability to load and edit samples for tracks, but I much more enjoy programming drum tracks with pads via using a keyboard.

    With the availability of the sampler in mainstream music production, it exploded in the area of hip-hop, with artists “crate diggin” for the most obscure tracks on vinyl to create the next banger. It turns out that the most sought after, used (and frankly exploited) tracks came from one artist, the hardest working man in show business: James Brown. To get an idea of just how much of his music was sampled in hip-hop (and beyond) check this link out. While the use of JB’s music greater exposed him to even music fans (young and old), there’s always been the issue of legality in sampling his tracks and tracks of the artists he produced. I’ll touch on legality issues in a subsequent part of this post. Suffice it say, I’ve heard some of the most ingenious and creative results of sampling Mr. Brown over time, some being the hottest tracks ever created. There is no question that James Brown and his music provided the fuel to propel hip-hop forward in many ways. Once again, barring the legal issues, the skill and creativity of hip-hop producers in the sampling of JB’s tracks, paid him great homage (and still do).

    That’s it for now. In Part 2, I’ll give my thoughts on sampling vs interpolation and touch briefly (as if it hasn’t been touched on enough), the legalities of sampling.

    Til then, peace…

    F!