Friday, August 28, 2009


This track is a recently completed, all new recording of a very old composition. It will be 30 years old this fall, in fact. This was my very first "serious composition", written when I was a freshman music major at Belmont College and blogged about previously right here.

Some of the many definitions of "Passage" include:
a short section of a musical composition
a way through or along which someone or something may pass
the act of passing from one state or place to the next

If memory serves, I believe I was thinking of the first two definitions above when I originally wrote the piece. But over time, this piece of music has become somewhat representative of the "life passages" I have experienced over the last 30 years.

I suppose life is all about Passages, isn't it.

I still remember how insecure and out-of-place I felt as a music major at Belmont. I just didn't fit in, I knew it, everyone knew it. I knew I wasn't there for the long haul, and I didn't even last 2 years. After three semesters the "call of the road" was too strong (not mention the call of making money playing music) so I joined a "show band" and embarked on the "Holiday Inn Circuit". I saw 24 states in 2.5 years, playing in 3 main bands over this period.

While the first passage of this three-part piece was written as an assignment for that freshman music composition class at Belmont, the 2nd and 3rd passages of this three-part song were actually written about a year later, in late 1980, during a band stay-over in Vermont at a ski resort. The first day of our week-long stay there, I dislocated my shoulder skiing, so for the rest of the week I took painkillers and played my keyboards. This was long before I had any kind of portable recording apparatus, so I actually wrote down the new sections of music, along with the old, on staff paper. I still have that document somewhere!

I probably have played this piece (at least the first passage) at nearly every "sound-check" I have ever every music store where I sit down and try a new a test piece when I try out a new piano-emulating piece of software. It seems like this piece is always there. Burned into my brain to a degree far exceeding anything else I've composed. It's like a familiar old friend, and I always feel a sense of peace when I play it.

In the late eighties, I recorded this piece for the first time on a borrowed 4-track cassette "Portastudio" (a term invented by Tascam) using only my old Fender Rhodes 88 Suitcase Electric Piano and my Moog "The Source" synthesizer (which are, incidentally, the only instruments from my road days that I still own). Having only four tracks made me really think about which melodies I wanted to augment with the Moog. Somewhere along the way, I decided to use the Moog's "arpeggiator" function at the end of the track as an effect. I liked that effect so much I copied/emulated it for this recording.

I won't go into too much detail about the VST instruments used on this new recording, but suffice to say that in the first part of the song I was trying to emulate the kind of keyboards you heard in the 70's....Fender Rhodes, Arp String Machine, Mellotron (flutes), Moog synth and Moog Taurus bass pedals, etc. Then in the 2nd part, the main keyboard sound advances to a very 80's sounding emulation of the Yamaha CP-80 Electric/Acoustic Piano. And for the ending, the instruments once again seem to morph into a more modern-sounding blend, carried forth by the pounding drums (once again created with EZDrummer running the Drumkit from Hell expansion, using some awesome 5/4 MIDI patterns from

Which brings me to tonight, since a major technological "Passage" is happening here at Hybernation Studio. Today I purchased a new DAW software package, Cubase 5 Studio from Steinberg. I have been a Cakewalk/Sonar user since Cakewalk for Windows was released for Windows 3.1...sometime in the early 90's. More than 15 years! I've seen this product mature and morph into today's "Sonar 8 Producer" product. It's robust, feature laden, and visually it has a beautiful user interface.

But it's just not stable. At least not for me. I've reached a point of nearly zero-tolerance for crashes, unexpected errors, flaky and inconsistent behavior and the dreaded BSOD, and believe me, I see them ALL with Sonar. Frequently!

In the PC DAW market, Sonar has always played 2nd fiddle to Cubase. Cubase is cross-platform, but the PC version alone has many more users than Sonar. It's supposed to be more stable and consistent, with much better support for the VST standard (well, it should, since Steinberg, who was acquired by Yamaha a few years back, invented the VST standard). Today I installed it and imported a track I've been working on in Reaper for a couple of months. I worked with it non-stop for several hours without a single hiccup or glitch. So far, so good. I hope to post that track soon.

This recording of "Passage" will most likely be the last one I do using Sonar.

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

1 comment:

Ron Arnold said...

This is very nice. When a sound, words, feeling, image or smell invade your spirit it is the Holy spirit guiding you to do something. You have responded in a beautiful way. Sometimes the journey takes years, but is worth it.