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Category: Studio Diary (Page 1 of 23)

Diary #2 for Album #3

After completing the WestPac Bolero, I decided to produce a cover version of Simple Minds’ “New Gold Dream”, originally released in 1983. I’ve always wanted to do this, and the recent state of the World inspired me to update it for the ’20s. I uploaded my version to SoundCloud earlier this month, and you can hear it here:

I could write a whole blog post about the trick needed to get the OBXa strings slap-back to sound right. (Shorter version: the 4th triplet delay on the synth is not synchronized to the BPM of the song – it’s slightly slower, 114 bpm instead of 123.)

I wasn’t originally planning to include it in Album #3, but it might end up as a bonus track or something, because I am quite proud of it. One thing I did was to make sure that I pitched the backing tracks to my voice before attempting to sing it, and somewhat to my amazement, I was able to lay down all the vocal tracks in two short sessions. Clearly there’s a “pro tip” in here somewhere.

But that’s enough about old music…

I’ve mentioned before about how this next album is going to be a blank slate, with nothing pulled out of the archives and re-worked, and as of now, this is still more-or-less true.

For the songs on Steel Tree and the Inevitable sequel, the music has typically always come first. A lot of work then went into refactoring the existing music to accommodate the lyrics, applied retroactively. Hopefully that effort paid off, and the results weren’t too awkward.

In the case of Album #3, however, almost the opposite is true: I have lyrics for five songs, and although I hear proto-melodies and harmonic changes in my head, I didn’t have any music committed to a project that directly corresponded to these five compositions. So where does the music come from?

Shortly after I acquired the Novation PEAK synthesizer, I started creating custom patch after patch. Pretty soon I realized I needed somewhere to store musical ideas that developed as I played around with each sound. So I created a Cakewalk project called PEAK_Patch_Demos, with a separate MIDI track for each patch slot, with musical phrases and text notes. Some of these ideas show promise.

In the past, when I’ve experimented with a new piece of software (VST instrument or effect) I’ve create a project to host the plug-in, and save any musical ideas that developed as I experimented. Some of these are pretty interesting.

For some time, I’ve also had a single project containing piano improvisations, where each track is its own little melodic idea, collated and built up over time. I expanded on this and started trawling through the other projects to bring all the ideas into one big “idea bucket” project.

Each idea has its own track, and a choice of instruments to play back on – either strings or a type of piano. Only one track is un-muted at any one time – the tracks are not related to each other.

The Idea_Bucket project made a great starting point for identifying similar ideas that might work together in a single composition.

The next step is to create a second type of “idea bucket”, this one for linear composition: I have instrument tracks set up, with drums, bass, piano, rhodes, and strings. My drum instrument is comprised of just a Cajon and Hi-Hat, in order to limit distractions: I can create a simple beat, but not get carried away with elaborate percussion fills before basic arrangement things like key and time signatures are decided on. This stage is all about finding the right vocal melody, pitch, and correct meter and tempo, using only just enough instrumentation to establish the feel.

At this point it’s a bit of a dance: The lyrics have to come together with rhythm and melody – there’s some give-and-take there. I have to practice singing the melody against the music – and now the tempo and pitch might have to be adjusted to suit my voice. Choices such as, do I sing that an octave higher? In which case I have to transpose that section down a fifth for comfort. Now I have a problem getting section B to follow section A… etc.

And at the back of my mind, I have this fear that I’m actually ripping off some other artist subconsciously, and if so, will it be too blatant? I’m pretty sure this is all normal creative angst. When it gets too intense, it’s time to go out on the bike with the mp3 player on shuffle and listen to some different artists.

How I use the Roland A-880 MIDI Patch Bay

Fig 1. A Roland A-880 MIDI Patch Bay, in situ

I can not remember when I acquired the Roland A-880 MIDI Patch Bay. It certainly wasn’t the first piece of kit I ever bought – that honor goes to a second-hand Roland Jupiter 6 back in 1988. It had some DIN ports – In and Out – on the back for something called MIDI. It was soon followed by an Akai sampling keyboard and synthesizer rack module, which worked very well together when connected with MIDI cables. Also, you could send notes from the Jupiter to the Akai devices over MIDI, so long as you set the rack to listen on MIDI Channel 1 or 2. Shortly after that, we found a Roland MIDI Interface (MPU-401?) for our PC, and started recording MIDI sequences into a copy of Passport Software’s Master Tracks Pro.

Recap: MIDI in a nutshell

So far, so good. We had PC software that allowed us to perform patch librarian tasks using MIDI (called System Exclusive or SYSEX) on many of the devices but it requires bi-directional data transfer between the sound module and the computer, and signals in a single MIDI cable only go one way: You need two cables connecting the In and Out ports. From the computer OUT to the module IN; and also from the module OUT to the computer IN. The computer requests data; the module sends it; the computer sends more data.

MIDI messages are assigned a “channel” between 1 and 16. So if you connect a MIDI cable between two devices, a device listening on channel 1 won’t respond to any messages assigned to channels 2-16. More information here.

This allows more than one device in a MIDI chain. In fact, later keyboards and modules included a third port, a MIDI THRU that would re-transmit incoming MIDI signals to the next device in a chain, allowing layering and multi-timbral setups. Some manufacturers combined the THRU and OUT connectors.

I realize as I write this that it all sounds archaic these days, when we have digital bi-directional comms over a single USB connector, let alone Ethernet and WiFi. But back in the 1990’s, it was like magic, and no-one complained that they needed two cables for this type of two-way communication.

The problem is that the more devices you have, the more un-plugging and re-plugging of MIDI cables is required to manage all the equipment. Some sort of automated patch bay becomes almost required. Enter the Roland A-880 MIDI Patch Bay.

Fig 2. Front panel controls of the Roland A-880

The A-880 is basically a box with 8 inputs; 8 outputs; and it will connect these together any way you like. You can use it ad-hoc by selecting an input (from the top row of eight buttons) and then selecting which of the eight outputs (from the bottom row of buttons) the MIDI messages are echoed on. If you find yourself using the same set of connections over and over, you can save it in one of the 64 possible memory locations for easy recall.

The Studio Equipment

For the purposes of this article I’m using the following devices:

  • Windows 10 computer running the Cakewalk by Bandlab DAW
  • MIDISport 2×2 USB MIDI interface (ports A and B)
  • Roland A-80 Keyboard controller
  • Roland SPD-20 Drum Pad controller
  • Novation PEAK synthesizer desktop module
  • Korg M1 Synthesizer keyboard
  • Korg TR-Rack synthesizer rack module
  • Roland D-550 synthesizer rack module

All these devices have MIDI In and Out ports for sending and receiving MIDI messages such as notes, clock, and system-exclusive (data dumps and patch edits). I’ve already decided which MIDI channels each device is going to use.

Aside: Cakewalk and MIDI Echo

Cakewalk – and presumably other DAWs – has the ability to mimic the behavior of a THRU port, and echoing the incoming MIDI data from input to output. It records the performance into the active track, but also optionally echoes the notes through the computer’s MIDI output port. This lets me play the Roland A-80 whilst hearing the sound from, say, the Roland D-550.

More on this in the Cakewalk Manual: Controlling MIDI playback – MIDI Echo

Use Case 1 – Playback of a previously recorded MIDI project from the DAW

It’s an old project from back before we had the ability to record Audio tracks in our computer. It has three tracks and I need to send the MIDI out to the Korg M1; the Roland D-550; and the third track was drums and there’s a nice standard kit on the TR-Rack that will do nicely. So I need to connect the MIDI OUT from the computer to the MIDI In on those three modules:

Unfortunately, that arrangement can’t be done as-is because the MIDI cables are point-to-point: one Out port has to go to one In port. Instead, we have to daisy-chain them using the MIDI THRU ports on each unit:

That works – providing you have the THRU ports available.

One down-side of this is latency, in that if your chain has too many hops, then the instrument at the end of the chain can take a noticeable time to respond after you press a note. Also, there’s a potential for signal degradation. If you limit yourself to 2-3 devices in a chain, it’s not a problem, and it works.

Use Case 2 – Recording a performance into a new MIDI track

Now I want to record a MIDI performance on the M1 keyboard into a new track in the project in the computer software. So I need to connect the M1 Out to the computer’s In:

Hang on, the M1 keyboard is great for some types of playing styles, but after some practice runs, I think I really want to use the weighted, 88-keys of my Roland A-80. Just a sec, I need to re-connect:

Okay, enough! I’m sure you get the idea. Let’s move all these connections into the Roland A-880. One advantage is that now, we can feed multiple In ports from a single Out port, reducing the latency and signal degradation (which in practice isn’t a problem, but hey, it’s all good):

Bank/Patch 1:7 with A-80 as controller

Making virtual connections between the ports is easy once you know how: Press a button on the top row, followed by one or more buttons on the bottom row. Then press Scan/Mix or Signal to complete the configuration. So to set it up as shown above:

  • Press In-8
  • Press Out-4, Out-5, Out-6
  • Press In-7
  • Press Out-8

Now I can send my performance on the A-80 to the Cakewalk DAW running on my computer; and in turn, Cakewalk sends the MIDI notes from the existing tracks out to my sound modules.

If I decide I’d like to record the next track on the Korg M1, I can merely switch from the A-80 by:

  • Press In-4
  • Press Out-8 (this “disconnects” the previous connection from In-7)

Now the M1 is the “controller”.

Connecting the rest of the gear

Now we go into the closet and pull out ALL the MIDI cables, and connect all the devices:

Ports 1 and 2 are accessible from the front panel of the A-880, so I tend to reserve these for “temporary” connections (although, my SPD-20 drum pad controller has been out of the closet and connected up for about a year now). Port 1 is handy when I want to integrate my iPad into the studio, or back up patches on the Line6 POD.

Now, it is so easy to lay down a new drum track using the SPD-20 as the controller:

Bank/Patch 1:2 with SPD-20 as controller

Use Case 3 – D-550 Editor/Librarian operation

I can use SoundQuest‘s MIDI Quest software to download, edit, and upload patches to the Roland D-550, and this requires that we connect both In and Out to the computer:

Bank/Patch 8:6 for SyEx/Dump from the D-550

Memory Management

We have 64 memory locations available in 8 banks of 8 patches. I can’t imagine needing all of them. I divide mine into two categories: Bank 1 is “Controller select”, and Bank 8 is “SysEx Operation”. To make it easy to remember, I use the patch number to indicate the “subject” of the configuration:

  • 1:2 SPD-20 is controller (on port 2)
  • 1:4 Korg M1 is controller (on port 4)
  • 1:7 Roland A-80 is controller (on port 7)
  • 8:2 SysEx/Dump for SPD-20 (on port 2)
  • 8:4 SysEx/Dump for Korg M1 (on port 4)
  • etc

Other features

MIDI Clock is a “pulse” or timing reference transmitted along with other data that can be used to synchronize devices. The A-880 will respect the MIDI Clock on the port nominated as “Control In”. You can set which port (1-8) is the “control” by holding down the corresponding input button during power-on. I use Port 8 as the Control In because the PC/DAW is my timing master.

I personally don’t use the Merge function but according to the manual you can merge input messages from Control In along with one other port. You can select which port to mix with Control In by holding down Scan/Mix while also pushing an input button.

You can change programs on the A-880 by sending it patch change messages on the Control In port, using the Control MIDI Channel. You set this channel by pressing Memory + Write , then one of the 16 input/output buttons. For example, to set a control channel of 12:

  • Press MEMORY + WRITE (don’t hold)
  • Press OUTPUT 4
  • Press SCAN/MIX or SIGNAL to complete.

Final thoughts

The A-880 has remained the heart of my studio since arriving back in the early 1990’s. Keyboards come and go (a moment of silence for the Jupiter 6, alas) but the A-880 remains at the hub, probably the most reliable piece of gear I’ve ever owned.

Other useful links

Gamelan SFZ Instrument Definitions

If you’re just here for the free SFZ files, the link to download them is at the end of the post. But if you are interested in the journey I took to get there, keep reading.

Introduction

I’m thinking of including sounds from a Javanese Gamelan in my next project. After some Internet searching, I found a pretty complete set of samples available from Casa da Música released under a generous license. The sample files are available in a single download:

DigitopiaCdM_Virtual_Gamelan.zip   360 MB

Unpacking the ZIP reveals a substantial directory structure:

DigitopiaCdM_Virtual_Gamelan\
    CASA DA MÚSICA's VIRTUAL GAMELAN.pdf
    Gamelao_CdM\*.nkm
    Gamelao_CdM\
        WAV\
            Gamelão da Casa Da Música - Porto, Portugal\
                BONANG\
                DRUMS\
                GAMBANG\
                GENDER\
                GONG\
                KEMPYANG\
                KENONG\
                KETHUK\
                SARON\

The sample files for each instrument are distributed within the subdirectories, along with a set of instrument definitions for NI’s Kontakt Sampler.

Unfortunately I can’t use the .nkm Kontakt instrument definitions because I don’t have the full version of Kontakt. However I do know how to create my own instruments using the SFZ format, which is a standard text file format used by many Cakewalk virtual instruments and other third party sample players like the venerable but lightweight rgcaudio SFZ Player, or Plogue Sforzando.

Reviewing the Library

The library contains samples from three families of instruments: Drums; Gongs; and Keys. The samples are in stereo WAV format, grouped into subdirectories and with a file name prefix to identify the instrument:

FamilyPrefixInstrumentDescription
DrumsKendhang AgengDrum, Large
CiblonDrum, Medium
KetipungDrum, Small
GongsBB_ _Bonang BarungLaid Gong, Medium
BP_ _Bonang PenerusLaid Gong, Small
K_ _KenongLaid Gong
Kt_ _KethukLaid Gong
Kp_ _KempyangLaid Gong
GA_AgengHanging Gong, Large
GS_SuwukanHanging Gong
GK_ _KempulHanging Gong
KeysGS_ _Gender SlenthemMetal Bars, Large
GB_ _Gender BarungMetal Bars, Medium
GP_ _Gender PenerusMetal Bars, Small
SD_ _Saron DemungThick Metal Bars, Large
SB_ _Saron BarungThick Metal Bars, Medium
SP_ _Saron PekingThick Metal Bars, Small
G_ _GambangWooden Bars
Table 1 – Instrument Families in the Sample Library

These samples do vary in quality: most are very good, but many have odd resonances; are too quiet; are excessively long; or have tonal differences that are distracting. I can also hear from recording compression artifacts as the sounds decay into silence. Some even have negative phase correlation.

I could actually modify the sample .WAV files themselves for my own use but my reading of the license tells me that I then would not be able to distribute them. (I could be wrong about that.) However there is still a lot that can be done with the raw samples just by controlling how they are used in an SFZ instrument definition.

An SFZ instrument definition is just a text file, using simple HTML-like tags to define how samples are allocated to a MIDI keyboard; and played in response to a key press. (More information on SFZ available here.)

The Scales

Gamelan instruments are either SLENDRO (5-note scale) or PELOG (7-note scale). The scale intervals and root notes are not standardized between orchestras like Western 12-tone temperaments, but within any given orchestra, there should be consistency among its instruments.

The Pelog scale roughly approximates that of the phrygian mode of the Western major scale (E-E on the white keys of the piano), with the notes EFGBC corresponding to the note positions 12356 in the slendro scale used by most gamelan.

Catherine Schmidt-Jones, Musical Travels for Children

Musically, the 5-note Slendro scale is similar to the Western pentatonic scale, with scale intervals of large, small, small, large, small.

The (pelog) scale “selisir” is the most common; this scale leaves out the fourth and
seventh notes.

Pieter Duimelaar

Back to the Library

For pitched instruments, a file name suffix indicates the scale of the instrument, and a number or letter indicates the scale note and octave:

    Sample file suffix  Scale                    Scale Notes
    ------------------  ----------------------   --------------
    __SLxx              Slendro (5 note scale)   1 2 3   5 6   
    __PLxx              Pelog   (7 note scale)   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

Scale Notes

The Slendro scale samples in the CDM library would appear to use a root note of C, whilst the Pelog samples start on D.

Approximately mapping sample note to apparent pitch:

                   Slendo Scale           Pelog Scale
  Instrument       1   2   3   5   6      1   2   3   4   5   6   7
  -----------      -------------------    --------------------------
  Bonang           C   D#- F   G+  A+     D-  D#  F-  G   G#  A+  B  
  Kenong           C   D+  F-  G+  A+     D-  D#  F-  *   A-  A+  B
  Kempul           C   D#- F   G   A      D-  D#  F-  *   A-  A+  B
  Gender Slenthem  C   D+  F   G   A+     D   D#  F-  G   G#  A#+ B 
  Gender Barung    C   D#- F-  G+  A+     D-  D#+ E+  *   G#+ A+  B  
  Gender Penerus   C   D+  F-  G+  A+     D   E-  F+  *   G#+ A#  B+  
  Saron            C   D+  F-  G+  A+     D-  D#  F-  G+  G#+ A+  B  
  Gambang          C   D+  F   G+  A+     D   D#  F-  *   G#+ A#- *

* = No sample provided (see “Selisir” scale variant described above).

This assumes that the scale note number in the sample file name is accurate – which seems to be the case.

Assigning Samples to the Keyboard

When mapping the Slendro samples to the conventional piano keyboard, we could start at C. However, musically, the 5-note Slendro scale is similar to the Western Minor Pentatonic scale, and therefore maps quite well to the black notes on the piano keyboard. If we did that, we could then map the Pelog scale notes to the White keys.

In reviewing the samples of each instrument, I found that the Slendro scales aren’t consistent in their interval sizes:

Instrument     Slendro Scale Interval                     Pentatonic Root
----------     --------------------------------------------  ------------
Bonang          [1]long [2]short[3]short[5]long [6]short[1]    [1] C    
Kenong          [1]short[2]short[3]long [5]short[6]long [1]    [6] A+
Kempul          [1]long [2]short[3]short[5]long [6]long [1]    [1] C   
Gender Penerus  [1]long [2]short[3]long [5]short[6]short[1]    [3] F-
Gender Barung   [1]long [2]short[3]long [5]short[6]long?[1]    [3] F- (*)
Gender Slenthem [1]long [2]short[3]long [5]short[6]long?[1]    [3] F- (*)
Saron           [1]long [2]short[3]long [5]short[6]short[1]    [3] F- 
Gambang         [1]long [2]short[3]long [5]short[6]short[1]    [3] F-  

                                               (*) approx, matches Penerus

If we assign the Slendro scale note that corresponds to the Minor Pentatonic root to the Eb key; and assign the Pelog scale notes to the corresponding adjacent White keys, we get:

                     Slendro Scale        Pelog Scale
   Instrument        1  2  3  5  6        1  2  3  4  5  6  7
   ---------------   ----------------     --------------------
   Bonang            Eb Gb Ab Bb Db       E  F  G  A  B  C  D 
   Kenong            Gb Ab Bb Db Eb       G  A  B  -  D  E  F  
   Kempul            Eb Gb Ab Bb Db       E  F  G  -  B  C  D 

   Gender Slenthem   Bb Db Eb Gb Ab       C  D  E  F  G  A  B
   Gender Barung     Bb Db Eb Gb Ab       C  D  E  -  G  A  B
   Gender Penerus    Bb Db Eb Gb Ab       C  D  E  -  G  A  B
   Saron             Bb Db Eb Gb Ab       C  D  E  F  G  A  B  
   Gambang           Bb Db Eb Gb Ab       C  D  E  -  G  A  -   

I admit, I’m probably way over-thinking this.

Pros:

  • The “Keys” instruments will share a common scale note : key note mapping (same pitch = same key)
  • The Slendro scale notes will be intuitively produced from the Black keys on the keyboard;
  • The 12 notes in each octave will uniformly increase in pitch from low to high, making some interesting performance possibilities (trills, note substitutions, cross-scale melodies)

Cons:

  • Note 60 (“middle” C) isn’t going to produce a tone pitched at 262 Hz for any instrument, although this is hardly a new concept in orchestral assemblies;
  • It’s a shame that Kenong doesn’t map elegantly to Eb, matching the other Gong family instruments.

The SFZ Instrument Definitions

I developed the SFZ instrument definition files using Plogue Sforzando and the SFZ v2 format. However it would be easy enough to convert these back to SFZ v1 if necessary; I didn’t use any features unique to v2 other than the default sample path.

Each definition file uses a <control>default_path= operator to set the base directory to allow the sample files to be located. If it weren’t for those accented characters in the directory name, I’d have located the .SFZ files in the same directory as the .nkm files, the Gamelao_CdM\ folder.

But even just cutting and pasting the subdirectory name can cause problems, as you can see: “Gamela╠âo da Casa Da Mu╠üsica – Porto, Portugal”.

So instead, I’ve assumed the following relative directories:

./*sfz
./WAV/BONANG/*.wav
./WAV/GAMBANG/*.wav
etc...

This means that you’ll have to re-arrange the subdirectories to match, or edit the .sfz files to relatively or explicitly locate the samples where-ever you decide to put them.

I’ve prepared three categories of instrument definitions, indicated by a file name prefix:

  • RAW_ uses all available samples assigned to MIDI notes as per the table above. Slendro on the Black keys, Pelog on the White. I used Key Switches to separate the different kinds of sample (scale, mute/unmute, piano/forte) where available, for easy comparison. Feel free to use these instrument definitions in musical projects but really this was just intended for reference and review. I’ve made comments against each sample, where appropriate.
  • FIX_ are based on RAW_ but refined. Some sample substitution to omit noisy or tonally distracting samples, but retaining the original charm of the instrument. Hopefully still “organic” sounding. Ideally, this is what I’d use in projects that required the traditional Javanese tuning.
  • TET_ are 12-tone Equal Temperament versions, with A4=440 tuning, using cross fades, multi-samples, and other techniques to create instruments that would be used for Western tuning projects.

RAW_drums

In general these are well-recorded samples, L-R balanced, low noise. A collection of “door slams”, “bongo hits”, and “face slaps”. I’ve assigned them to C2 > C3.

RAW_bonang

C1 and D1 are used to switch between the Barung and Penerus voices respectively.

RAW_gongs

Kenong, Kethuk, and Kempyang are arrayed with C1 and D1 switching between Muted and Un-muted (sustained) tones.

Kempul, Ageng and Suwukan are arrayed together with E1 and F1 switching between Piano and Forte voices.

RAW_gender

Slenthem, Barung, and Penerus instruments are available using Key Switches on C1, D1, and E1.

RAW_saron

Demung, Barung, and Peking size instruments are available using the C1, D1, and E1 key switches.

RAW_gambang

No voice variations, just Slendro and Pelog mapped across the Black and White keys, from A2 > G6.

The “FIX” instrument definitions

FIX_bonang

I’ve combined Barung and Penerus into one SFZ instrument, using round-robin alternating for over-lapping tone ranges.

FIX_kenong

Seeing as we have both muted and un-muted (sustaining) tones for Kenong, Kethuk, and Kempyang instruments, it seems sensible to combine these into one instrument definition. We could use key velocity to switch between them, but I don’t think it “works” from a performance point-of-view. I’ve used key switching, with C2 and D2 controlling Muted and Un-muted respectively.

Alternatively, we could replace the Key Switch with the following opcodes in order to play the sustained notes when the Damper Pedal is depressed:

<group>
hicc64=100          // play group when cc64=0   (sustain pedal up)

<group>
locc64=100          // play group when cc64=127 (sustain pedal down)

In practice, I didn’t like how the sustain pedal affected the natural decay of the sustained tones when the key was released, so I’ve left it as key switching. Feel free to experiment.

FIX_kempul

We have loud (forte) and soft (piano) tones for Ageng, Suwukan, and Kempul gong voices, so I combined these into one SFZ instrument, using velocity switching to change to the Forte tones. Some volume matching between samples was used.

I realize that the point in the velocity curve where the switch happens is dependent on the controller’s velocity curve; personal preference; etc, so tweak to taste.

FIX_gender

Tonal differences between the Slenthem, Barung, and Penerus sizes mean that I’ve left them as separate key-switched ranges in this SFZ instrument. C2, D2, and E2 respectively.

I’ve used sample offsets and volume matching to try to even out some of the harsher samples, and used sample substitution in the worst cases. The result is a more uniform instrument, but still with character.

FIX_saron

Because of a similarity of tone between the three sizes, I’ve combined these into a single SFZ instrument, using velocity switching for loud and soft tones; and round-robin for duplicates. I’ve adjusted for volume differences and also substituted some samples in cases where noise was distracting (vibration or rattle).

FIX_gambang

Generally clean samples. The Slendro notes have some rattle but it is a musical sound. Outliers in the Pelog scale have been substituted for. Clicks and initial “dead space” in the samples have been removed by limiting the sample playback regions.

The “TET” instrument definitions

The CDM library samples are used to construct a good-sounding 12-tone Equal Temperament instrument with A4=440 using the Gamelan Instruments’ samples as a source. This could be used in musical projects that would work best with Western tuning.

I’ve allowed more creative leeway in assembling the instruments. In the case of Gender and Saron, I liked the effect of playing all layers at once so I’ve provide a couple of alternative SFZ files that do that.

DefinitionDescription
TET_bonang.sfzLaid Gong, Range B3 > F7
TET_kenong.sfzC2: Laid Gong (muted), Range C4 > E5
D2: Laid Gong (sustain), Range C4 > E5
TET_kempul.sfzHanging Gong, Range E2 > C4
(piano/forte on velocity switch)
TET_gender.sfzC2: Large Metal Bars, Range C3 > C4
C#2: Medium Metal Bars (Slendro), Range C3 > G5
D2: Medium Metal Bars (Pelog), Range G2 > G5
D#2: Small Metal Bars (Slendro), Range G3 > G6
E2: Small Metal Bars (Pelog), Range G3 > G6
TET_gender_ALL.sfzAll layers enabled. Thick! Range C3 > C7
TET_saron.sfzC2: Thick Metal Bars (Pelog), Range G3 > C7
D2: Thick Metal Bars (Slendro), Range G3 > C7
TET_saron_ALL.sfzAll layers enabled. Thick! Range C3 > C7
TET_gambang.sfzWooden Bars, Range G2 > G6

Okay, so where can I get these SFZ definitions?

The SFZ definition files are available here: https://prodigalsounds.com/downloads/CdM_Gamelan_SFZ.zip

Reminder: You will also need to download the Gamelan WAV files referenced by these SFZ definitions, from Casa da Música.

A review from DPRP

Theo Verstrael of The Dutch Progressive Rock Page has given us a fair review of the latest album. As usual, we are amongst good company, with all the other recent releases reviewed this week.

You can read the review here:

https://www.dprp.net/reviews/2020-067#prodigal-sounds

Alas, they don’t really like the cover, but generally it is a good review and I appreciate the thoroughness of Theo’s research and informed evaluation of our offering.

A couple of comments on the review:

I don’t get the similarity between Paradigm Shift and Painting Abstracts, but perhaps I’m too close to the music. Theo’s entitled to his opinion. They are both have 7/8 riffs and have similar tempos but apart from that… I’m proud of both pieces.

(Update: I might now understand where Theo’s coming from. The opening statement or phrase in the chorus in both songs is a rising 5th interval, and I acknowledge the similarity, but I am not embarrassed by it. If self-plagiarism were a crime, Neal Morse would be put away for 10 years.)

He’s also not a fan of the Spoken Word verses in The God Program. I respect that. I did try other things early on but kept coming back to it. It’s pretty close to how I heard it in my head, originally, and I just have to plead my lack of ability to realize it in a way that resonates for everyone. I’ve used the growly, pitch-dropped vocal technique before, in the previous album. There’s some continuity in it, but hopefully it is not a “signature”! I don’t intend to use it again.

My brother and I aren’t actively writing together because we live in different parts of the world and have done so for many years. Long-distance collaboration is not something we’ve been able to do. There wasn’t a “falling out” or anything. There’s still music that we wrote together that may see the “light of day”, but I also have more ideas of my own. Hopefully album #3 will happen.

The Blank Slate

I have this fantasy that Album #3 is a blank slate, with no material left over from previous sessions or unfinished projects.

In reality, I have lyrics and musical fragments that I’ve been working off-and-on over the last few years. I usually get my ideas while out cycling, and it is no trouble to pull over, whip out the iPhone and record the fragment into the Voice Memo app. Later, back in the studio, I transcribe the lyric into my notebook. Sometimes I’ll open my Scrapbook project and add another piano track with the melody.

That’s cool. On the plus side, these new songs will hopefully start out being actually sing-able in my comfortable range, as opposed to many projects in the past where the music came first and the melody second and was almost always not pitched comfortably for my voice. So that’s a good thing.

Outside of these lyric and melody fragments – some of which have expanded into pretty complete stand-alone song ideas – I still have a comprehensive library of musical ideas that date back to those Grey Lynn flat jam sessions in the 90’s, converted to mp3 from C60 tape cassette.

I still feel that this situation qualifies as a “blank slate”, as far as Album #3 is concerned. Every track is going to start with a new empty project, and not an existing one, worked on in years past and put on the back-burner due to lack of time, interest, energy, ideas, whatever.

Even “The God Program” from our current release was conceived back in 2003 and much of it laid down in 2007. (And consequently re-recorded, but that’s par for the course.)

So, I’m looking forward to never again having to sit back and listen to a newly recorded section of music, and say “dammit it just doesn’t have the magic of that older demo”.

*Record Scratch*

…Yeah. That was nice while it lasted.

Back in 2002 I didn’t have any plans to resurrect “The Prodigal Sounds” as a music-releasing entity, and instead explored some other new music ideas with the tentative goal of putting it out under another band name. I had three longish instrumental thematically-related pieces recorded in “pretty complete demo” form, but only titles for the other three or four pieces.

I’ve related elsewhere the story of how I got back on track with Prodigal Sounds and the “Fruit of the Steel Tree”, and consequent to that, this other project was shelved.

Long story short, I think I’m going to incorporate the music from this old project into the songs of Album #3, or one of them anyway. The music seems to fit. It’s worth a try.

So, will it be a concept album?

A better question, should it be an “album” at all? CDs are not selling much these days, it’s all about streaming and playlists and bullshit like that.

Personally, I prefer the idea of a curated collection of songs, rather than emitting the occasional single on some indeterminate schedule like a chunk of U-238.

So, yes, there will be an Album #3, unless I give up or expire before it is released.

And I do have a concept for it, although it is of a subtle nature. Tangential, even.

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