Monday, February 29, 2016

Here I Go Again

As promised, another video of me singing on YouTube. This time, it's Wake Up Call.

And a little bonus of sorts. I've decided to put up some of the songs that I can't just play and sing on the guitar. For the first one, I just used iTunes Visualizer to create the background. It's my most recent experimental piece, Random Pentatonic Inspirations.

More on the way soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Getting My Feet Wet

Okay, it's not as if I've never been on camera before. Not only do I have a few videos on YouTube of me talking, but I've actually been on TV. Me. Singing. In 1977. But I haven't publicly sang on camera since then.

Until now. I bit the bullet, set up a camera and my Zoom H2, and did some singing and playing. And, trying to quell my inner critic, I posted the first part of it on YouTube yesterday. And here it is.

Nothing fancy, just one continuous shot of me singing Bad News Always Comes In the Mail. I'm hoping to expose my songs to a wider audience by using YouTube and not just SoundCloud. There's more on the way.

And, in case you were wondering, the TV appearance was on The Gong Show. I sang Don McLean's Vincent (Starry, Starry Night). I won.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Finish Lines

If I had grown up later, I think I would have been diagnosed with some kind of attention-deficit condition. At times in my life it has served me well. Directing, for example, demands the ability the shift gears constantly and without warning. Writing, though, not so much.

I always have a lot of different projects in the works, and always of different types. Songs and books and scripts, and I jump back and forth between them. It's like running against myself in a race, leaping from lane to lane, and not knowing which runner I'm actually supposed to be at any moment.

Problem is, I have a little trouble getting to the finish line these days. Okay, I did just finish an 18,000-word book, which I just submitted a print version of. So I haven't been completely stuck on the track.

But I have a number of things that are almost finished. I just need a couple of lines here or there, or a refinement to the tune, or a good sit-down with the outline to bang out the meat of the story.

But I also have projects that have just left the gate. They beckon to me daily, telling me that I have not paid attention to them for an inordinate amount of time, and they're good ideas, things I really want to get moving on. But it's hard to run to the finish line when you're dallying around at the start.

I'll get over it. I've done it before many times. I'll be pulled this way and that, with no idea what I should be concentrating on at any moment. And then, without any particular warning, it will start falling into place. I'll get a good pace going and, no matter how many lanes I'm running, I'll pull ahead on most of them and produce some real work.

It's coming soon. I can feel it. But it's trying my patience.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Randomness

I was doing a little testing today to see if I could come up with some shooting situation in my forever-under-contruction house that looked and sounded good enough to finally put some of my music on YouTube. (I know, I could just put the music against a still background, but what's the point?)

The results look okay, but I'm not sure how they sound. When I've evaluated it, I may decide it's good enough to post. I've seen much worse on YouTube, and maybe I'm being too picky.

But that's not what this post is about. While I had the microphone out, I decided to do something that I've been meaning to do for a couple of weeks: replace the beat components of my random algorithmically-generated composition, title Random Pentatonic Inspirations, which was created using Georgia Tech's Earsketch online programming environment.

Of course, as I mentioned when the posted the original, it's not the same tune this time; every time the program is run, many random decisions determine what the final product will be. This is the latest result:

I don't know how much time I'm going to be spending on randomly-generated music, although I think I might, as a challenge, consider trying to write a song to a random track. But the tools that I used to create the music have many non-random uses, and I'll be revisiting them often, especially as I work on the album that will include the work based on the Animal Crossing experiment I posted before.

The tools available to musicians with little or no budget continue to amaze me. I'm an old guy, after all, and back in the day it took me a very long time to save up to buy a Tascam Portastudio, which recorded on cassette tapes, gave me four tracks, and offered very little in the way of control or effects.

Now, for the price of having a computer (which I also use for writing, filmmaking, marketing, and so many other things), and a small investment in software, I have tools I could never have dreamed of when I first started writing songs.

It's a good time to be a creator.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dollar Tree Finds

Sometimes you find the most useful things in unexpected places. I made a video awhile ago about a tripod mount I found for my phone, which was actually just part of a selfie stick from The Dollar Tree. Here's the video:

I've been using two of these for test shoots for what I hope will become my first music video. Nothing fancy, just me singing on camera, but I need to make sure I have enough light, a background that's not too distracting, and a way to record decent sound.

But back to The Dollar Tree. While I was there just a few days ago buying snacks for my family, I did what I always do: browse the electronic aisle looking for cheap charging cables. And my eyes locked onto something unexpected. A remote trigger cable for a cell phone camera.

It said it worked on iPhone, and for only a buck it was sure worth a try. I took it home, plugged it in, and sure enough, it works like a charm. As with the tripod mount, it's not very well made, and so I don't know how long it will hold out. Because of that, I'll buy at least one more if they have them the next time I go back (I live in the sticks, and so I don't make trips to the store for just one thing).

What did I want it for? Well, when you have a phone clamped to a tripod mount that only cost a dollar, there's a good chance that tapping the screen to take a photo or start a video might move the camera. Now I don't have to worry about that.

There are bargains to be had, even for filmmakers, if you just keep your eyes open.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Almost Forget To Tell You

I put up a couple of new experimental tracks on SoundCloud, and I completely forget to announce them.

The first is the final assignment for my final taking of Survey Of Music Technology course. It's code-generated using Earsketch (which is now pretty much exclusively online), and nearly all of the choices for beat pattern, note interval, and backing chord are randomly generated, within certain parameters.

I plan on making a new version of this with my own beat components, since I really couldn't find anything I thought set the mood for the music in the libraries I had available. Still, it's a pretty interesting piece:

Of course, the next time I generate it, the tune will be different.

The next experimental piece I did was a test to teach me how to use the output from the instruments in the video game Animal Crossing: City Folk and mix it together into a composition. This isn't even close to a complete piece of music, but there are already some things I like, and some things I discovered that will make my job easier when I'm composing the real music.

I particularly like the way the strings work together. I recorded the music on a WiiU game pad straight into my Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, cut the individual segment apart in ocenaudio, and imported the music in Reaper. I expected to have to do beat detection on everything, but luckily the game plays back at precisely 120 BPM, so I'm not even going to have to worry about it.

I'm back to playing around with Animal Crossing this week, while I'm also working on three almost-complete-but-not-quite songs. And recording, and writing, and trying to do some kind of music video for YouTube when I can find a quiet place to shoot.

Letting the Flat Earth Book Sail

The Earth Is Not Flat is available in the Kindle Store. It's out there for the world to see, and aside from formatting a print version and perhaps a new cover, and a little promotion here and there, I'm pretty much done with it.

And as far as this blog is concerned, it's the last you'll hear. I'm moving any reference to flat Earth to my new blog and my new Twitter account, so that you don't have to hear about it.

If you're curious, you can follow those other social media outlets, or buy the book, but here on Let Me Tell You a Story, I'm back to talking about music and stories and movies.

You know, the things that really matter.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Flat Earth Book?

Once I've gotten a bit of editing done, formatted the interior, and created the cover, I will be publishing another book. It will probably appear within the next week or so. And the title is: The Earth Is Not Flat.

Sounds like it might be a good title for a science fiction novel, right? Or an allegorical story commenting on the poor state of education. But, no; it's non-fiction.

As I briefly mentioned in November, and wrote about last July in the blog Synapticality, I first encountered the latest members of the (literal and figurative) flat-Earth society on YouTube some months ago. I was aghast at the shallowness of their thought processes, and their tenacious refusal to do the most basic research before making pronouncements and providing "proof."

I commented. I tried to stave off the flood of poor logic, not so much to save the already converted, but to shield those who seemed to be latching onto the idea as some kind of rebellious triumph over "the man."

It's been tiring, though, and so I thought it best to put as much of it down in book form as I could, put it out in the world, and then move on to the next thing.

I'm sure having a book on the subject will get me lots of email and comments on other social media that I need to answer, but I'm done seeking out flat-Earth nonsense to try to fight it.

I have too many other projects in the works that I don't find nearly so depressing.

Look for the announcement soon.