Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Trying not to be a Grinch this year

Christmas has never been my favorite time of the year. It's cold (and usually rainy in Nashville), traffic is awful, everyone is grumpy, and right on Christmas day...BANG! I turn another year older. Yep, I could skip the whole thing and be fine with it.

But in the spirit of NOT being a grinch this year, here is an arrangement I did a few years ago of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" from the Nutcracker.

here is a direct link to mp3 in case player won't play for you

Peace on earth, good will toward men (grinches included)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Brother Up In Heaven

It's hard for me to believe that it has been four years since my friend Dale Roy Mansell went to be with the Lord. His untimely passing was about the most difficult thing I have ever had to face. I've been working on this track for well over three years, a cover of a song from Alan Parson's CD "On Air". So in memory of my good friend Dale, please enjoy "Brother Up In Heaven".

here is a direct link to mp3 in case player won't play for you

A boy flies for freedom
But dies for the peace
In the clouds, he waits for an answer
But there's no release

It's strange here without you
And it's so hard to see
So brother up in heaven
Please wait up for me

Oh brother up in heaven
Please wait up for me

I still see his shadow
His laugh lingers on
When i dream, we're all back together
When i wake, he's gone
It's strange here without you
This was not meant to be
So brother up in heaven
Please wait up for me

And though we try to change the world
A flower when it's cut will surely die
So why do men with so much hate
Destroy what they cannot create
While we all stand by

We'll look back in anger
But you helped us to see
So brother up in heaven
Please wait up for me

Oh brother up in heaven
Please wait up for me

lyrics and music written by Ian Bairnson

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Song for this Day

Here is a short, thought-provoking tone poem that I hope can provide some peace and meditation for you today.

May we always remember the heroes and victims....

Here is a direct link to the MP3 in case the player won't work for you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twelve Memories

Here is a track that I am proud of. I recorded this piece a couple of years ago before I started blogging, and several people have insisted it's their favorite, so I though I would give it some new exposure here. The twelve-string guitar parts, mellotron strings and flutes, and harpsichord sounds are all from IK Multimedia's Sonic Synth 2. I don't remember what else I used (not much I don't think).

The guitar part was somewhat inspired by the Styx song "Crystal Ball", which I was was playing around with when I came up with this riff.

I promise I wasn't trying to sound like Yanni with the key and tempo change, but I fear that perhaps I did!

Click on the play button below to hear "Twelve Memories"...

here is a direct link to the mp3 for non-shockwave environments

Monday, July 14, 2008

Industrial Waste

This is not something I'm proud of, but in the interest of full disclosure, here is a "track" that I literally through together in about an hour, made of ENTIRELY of DrRex loops, a few reDrum patterns, and a simple EZDrummer track.

In Reason 4.0, I first put together nine different synthesizer loops from Analog Monsters 3, the Quadrasynth Story, and Virology Refills. Then I constructed the drum loops in the reDrum device using a combinator patch from the PhatMath Refill (this amazing refill using NOTHING but Subtractors).

Next I rewired Reason into Reaper 2.4 and bounced down the audio onto a single track. Then I loaded up EZDrummer's Drumkit from Hell and laid down a simple pattern over the 2nd half of the track. Then I bounced the whole thing down, and here you go.

The reason I say I'm not proud of it is that I never TOUCHED the keyboard (the musical one with the little black-and-while things) to create this. Didn't play a single note. Nada. Zilcho.

Musician? Programmer? Technician? DJ? I dunno, you decide.

here is a direct link to the mp3 for non-shockwave environments

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Organic Lifecycle

This is a rather "organic" sounding new age / ambient piece that I produced using only Propellerhead's Reason 4.0. As I have said before, this is one very amazing piece of software, as evidenced by it's massive popularity. In professional circles, it gets a bit of bad rap for it's "sound quality", but I think this track is evidence that you can get a very powerful final product out of Reason without a whole lot of effort. Granted, I do usually export the WAV from Reason, and then "master" it using another VST plugin in Sonar or Tracktion, but that takes all of 5 minutes to do!

The piano sound was produced with Sonic Flavours Home Piano Premium Refill, and some of the other synths were from their Mystic Dream Pads series. These french guys sure know how to produce some incredible sounds!

The fretless bass sound is from Sonic Reality's Triple Bass Refill, and the drums are from their Monster Drums Refill.

There is just one other synth sound in there from Pink Noise Studios Analog Monsters 3 Refill. I just obtained this one recently, and boy has it kept me up late a few nights! Hundreds of incredible old-school analog synth sounds to expand the mind.

Hope you enjoy this track...click on the play icon below to hear "Organic Lifecycle":

Friday, June 06, 2008

Recovered from the DAT archives

Today I hooked up the old TASCAM DA-30mkII DAT machine (that's "Digital Audio Tape" for you youngsters) for the first time in years. I started looking through all my old tapes and discovered five pretty decent tracks that I have never converted to MP3 and put on soundclick! So, here they are...press play below, and then read on...

These are tracks recorded between 1995 and 1996 that didn't make the cut for the CD release I called "Stay On Trail" (also available on soundclick here).

Quick run-down of the tracks:

1) Gentile Jive - originally written and recorded in the pre-DAT days, around 1989, and part of the cassette release called "Temporary Rituals". Definitely influenced by one of my all-time favorite progressive bands, Gentle Giant!

2) Imaginary Friend - This somewhat sad little tone poem was written after I had read Isaac Asimov's "Nemesis" novel in 1989. The main character, a teenage girl named "Marlene" has an imaginary friend, who of course turns out to be real...an alien consciousness.

3) Making Myself Happy (Triplets) - This was also a do-over from the 80's, originally recorded to cassette in 1989 and re-recorded here using updated synths and no tape...direct to DAT.

4) Enchantment - I honestly don't remember a THING about this track. Listening to it now, I am amazed at how good the sounds are considering this was in the hardware days, long before virtual synths and multi-gigabyte sample libraries. I believe a lot of the sounds came from an emu Proteus 1 and a Korg M1R. That might be real Moog synth (The Source) in there too.

5) Meandering - I called this song Meandering because if just "never really goes anywhere". It's kind of a fun little semi-atonal ride though.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Short prog piece from the composers archive

Back in 1979 I was a freshman music major at Belmont University here in Nashville. One of the scariest things was Freshman Composition class, where everyone had to write music (actually write it down, this was long before music technology became mainstream) and present it to the class. Those of us that had in "instrument" in our major (my major was "Commercial Music - Piano") had to also perform the pieces for the class, and we were graded on the composition and also the performance. It was pretty scary for me.

Up until this point in life, I had written only some pop music. Really just a few ballads and a couple of rock tunes. I had never actually tried to write a "serious" piece of music, though confident teen that I was, I was pretty sure I could if I tried. Well, now I had no choice...I had to. And it had to be at least 18 measures long!

I was heavily into Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant at this time, so of course most of the things I heard in my head I could not only NOT play, but I could NOT begin to write them out in musical notation....I just didn't have the skills yet. But I was acquiring them, or at least trying to. The first piece I wrote I called "Passage" and it was slow and creepy, lots of open fourths with a left-hand ostinato figure...looking back it sounds a bit like the opening theme for Keith Emerson's soundtrack to the Italian horror film Inferno. It went over quite well and I got a solid A.

For the 2nd piece, I envisioned that I would write something vaguely similar and start a "suite" or pieces meant to be played as a whole. The 2nd piece was to start in the same key (sort of an A minor 7 with sus 4) but be in a rapid rollicking 6/8 as opposed the slow and stately 4/4 of the first piece, and also make use of much more "angularity" in the musical passages. In my head I was hearing driving drums and bass, searing Moog synthesizers and blasting Hammond organ, and crashing CP-80 electric piano, not unlike something Eddie Jobson's band UK would have played (without Allan Holdsworth's guitar noodling of course, God bless him and his wonderful tone).

But of course all I had to work with when performing it for the class was the humble piano. I explained to the class that this piece was a bit of a continuation from my last one and got the teachers permission to perform "Passage" first, followed by the 2nd one (the piece this blog is about) which I called "Intermezzo". Though I performed Passage well, I didn't do a stellar job on Intermezzo and I don't think most of the class "got it". At all. Wickedly muted response. I knew at that point that I had accomplished my goal and written something progressive enough to not appeal to the masses. Success! And I got a A-.

Fast forward to 2008. My friend Jimbo has just turned me on to a very cool piece of software (which of course I rushed out and bought for myself) called "EZ Drummer". Though the name is silly and makes it sound like a toy, it is not. It is one very serious compositional tool. It comes with very high-quality drum sounds, an awesome interface that is intuitive, and a boatload of MIDI drum loops. You can drag-and-drop loops into Sonar, stringing patterns and fills together into your drum track, then edit them and add stuff in Sonar. Very powerful. It took me about 10 minutes to put together the drum track for Intermezzo....it would have taken me HOURS had I been programming it by hand like I used to do, and I doubt I ever could have programmed a drum performance this convincing. You would never guess that a "drum machine" came anywhere near this track!

I used the "Drumkit from Hell" expansion sounds for this track. Look at this GUI! Need I say more. Wicked.

Then I spent the better part of 4 hours on the keyboard parts. CP-80 and Clavinet from East West Colossus, synth bass from Native Instruments FM8, Organ from their B4II, Minimoog and Roland Jupiter 8 synth emulations from Arturia's Analog Factory. Amazing that it took 4 hours considering the piece is only 1:14 in length! Then again, these are some of the more difficult keyboard passages you are likely to hear on this blog.

Maybe next month I'll finish up my reworked version of Passage so you can hear the prelude to this one, Intermezzo. Oh, I should also point out that even though the original composition was in 6/8 (and I have recorded it that way in the past) I chose to convert the composition to 4/4 for this go-round, mostly because I found a very infectious groove in EZD that I thought "fit". But, I should add that not one single note of the composition was changed, only the timing.

Click the play button below to here Intermezzo:

Here is a direct link to MP3 for non-shockwave users

Featured Instruments:

Toontrack's EZDrummer, "Drumkit from Hell" expansion

Arturia's Analog Factory

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I've gone all Loopy

Click on the play button below to listen:

I'm thinking someone had better put me back in my box before it's too late!

Well, I've been experimenting again. I guess you could call it that anyway. I used to really be down on people who "composed" using loops; As in "loops of music create by other people". It just never seems like really "composing" to me...just clever borrowing and rearranging.

Then I tried it a little in Reason 4.0. And not only is it fun, it's a bit addicting. Especially this "Dr. Rex" thing. Basically, it can play back a drum beat or other loop that's been all "sliced up" into little snips, so you can change the tempo and/or rearrange the slices without changing the pitch.

So, both of these tracks are just really 2 minute "throw-aways", but still...it's a lot of fun!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I recorded the 8 tracks that make up this composition in about one hour a few evenings ago, based on an idea I had a month or so ago. It's sort of a heroic sounding theme. I don't have a lot to say about it, but I hope you like it.

Click on the play button below to hear "Heroes":