Monday, June 05, 2006

Early virtual synthesizer excursion...

Click on the play button below to listen:

I found this track called "Space Voyage Zeta" the other day while cleaning up my hard drive...I had forgotten all about it.

Back in March of 2005 I upgraded Hybernation Studio from an old Klunking Dell P3 750Mhz relic to a new Dell Precision 370 P4 3.2 Ghz machine. This was the beginning of something very new to me: "Virtual Studio Technology" or "VST". (well, actually VST is only ONE "implementation" of the idea, but I tend to use the term "VST" to mean any kind of "Virtual" synth, sampler, rompler, etc). Before this point, my PC just wasn't fast/powerful enough to even bother with VSTs.

First I bought the Moog Modular V from Arturia. Next I bought the Native Instruments Xpress Keys (little preset versions of the FM7, Pro-53 and B4, which mimic the legendary Yamaha DX-7, SCI Prophet 5 and Hammond B3 organ, respectively). Shortly afterward, I found a great deal on the "Komplete" bundle, which contains 13 instruments including the three I mention above, plus a very unique synth that I immediately fell in love with called Absynth.

Next I bought two synths from rgc:audio which do not directly or intentionally mimic anything "vintage"...these are the most excellent z3ta synth and the Pentagon I.

Unfortunately, I didn't stop there! But this song was composed at this point in time, so my arsenal was much smaller than it is today, over a year later.

This track was recorded in a way completely different from anything I had ever a word "unstructured". It started with me just improvising for about 1.5 minutes using a very spacey "pad" sound from the z3ta. Then I overdubbed another track, using Pentagon I. Then I overdubbed yet another improvisation again using Pentagon I. Thing is, there was no tempo, no real "chord progression" and the parts didn't really do anything with respect to each other....they were just all in roughly the same key using some of the same pseudo-melodic ideas.

At this point, I played with a new feature of Sonar (the program I used to record and mix on the computer) called "track freeze". What this does is basically creates an audio track from a VST MIDI track. Once this is done, you can cut-and-paste and slice-and-dice the audio track as much as you desire, and this is what I ended up doing. I actually froze all three tracks, which were of varying lengths, then I looped them such that the start and end points of each track overlapped in interesting ways. So, this created the illusion of a 5+ minute composition that slowly builds, and which has very little obvious repetition.

Next I added two tracks using Absynth, playing over the duration of the track. Both are very far back in the mix, but still vital to the mix. Once is a echoy windchime sort of a sound, and the other is a ghostly droning sound. Neither plays continuously, but they come and go thoughout the song.

Lastly, I added those little "bleeps" that you hear (using the z3ta) as one long track. My idea was the the bleeps would start out happening infrequently, and then gain in intensity as the song progresses, with the song ended with a long fading shimmering bleep.

Prepare yourself for a very deep excusion into space...which I call "Space Voyage Zeta". Click the play button at the top of this posting to listen.

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