Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 4 - Global Game Jam

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 4 

What a weekend! I love being a part of game jams. It feels so good to be surrounded by so many creative minds and highly passionate and motivated people.

This is my 2nd year at the Global Game Jam which is a global event with over 600 jam sites around the world. The objective is to find a team and make a game from start to finish with 48 hours. Our site here in Minneapolis, MN is hosted by Glitch at the U of M and is called Gamecraft.

Similar last year, I ended up working with 4 different teams. (Being an audio and art guy, it is a little easier to work on multiple projects since you are not responsible to make the thing actually work). Hats off to all the programmers!

One thing I'd like to mention in regard to my creative process while being part of a 48 hour game jam, is how the time frame really helps me be to highly prolific. By the nature of the beast, you are required to be very confident and decisive. There is no time to second guess your ideas. I'll admit, for the Zen Garden game I did work for a few hours on a completely different idea, but then decided to scrap it and start over. So glad I did. When time is of the essence, you must have quick editing eye (ear) while be attentive to details, but not let it stop you in your tracks. It's all about having an end product that works.

Below is a list of the games I worked on and Soundcloud players for the music. Click the game name to go to the Global Game Jam site, play the games, and more!

Full disclosure, not all of the games are 100% playable...yet. There is a follow up meeting and presentation of all of the games next Wednesday, Feb. 10th, so be sure to check back after that as the games will be more complete and functional after that point in time.

So, without further ado, the music!

Zen World:
Place different seeds in different areas of the zen garden and see what grows. Each type of seed has a small sound that can grow into several different full musical themes depending on where you place it within the garden. There are endless possibilities to create your own beautiful garden and soundscape.

Here is a full cue of the of the ambient zen music that exists as the canvas for you to place items on and watch/hear them grow:

Here is a full cue I made to show off the a potential final result (...with some artistic liberties...I am the composer so I can do what I want...Buahahahah!):

...and now for something completely different!

My cats are famous! Ruby and Aggie are the stars of this game. Late night in Da Kitty Club lookin' to get some tail. Purrrfectly mimic the moves of dat curvy feline on the dance floor and you could be the luckiest tom cat this side of the Mississippi. Step outa' line and you'll end up at home alone face down in a sad, heaping pile of cat nip.

Here is a full cue of da hottest track eva' spun...Drake, gimme a call. Lets collaborate :-P

....and another 90 degree turn!

Tiki Torcher: (Yes, it's a pun).

You must appease the gods’ need for blood by sacrificing mortals into the molten lava of the fiery volcano. Fight for your life in the depths of the volcano in this multi-player death-match. The gods WILL get what they want. The only question is, will it be YOUR blood they receive?

...Lastly, I was approached within the final hours of the jam by some jammers I had worked with last year. They needed music...NOW! I was happy to help them out. 

You play this game from the very terrifying perspective of a farm goat. Among the cartoon-like guise of a scenic pasture, you are ruthlessly and relentlessly hunted by the farmer. Run for you life! ...The thing that is totally F.U.B.A.R. is that THIS IS REALITY FOR COUNTLESS EARTHLINGS. The advocate in me says, "Play this game and then reconsider you daily meal choices."
Here is the full cue. It may look and sound serene, but deep within your being you know there is only impending doom...Sorry to end on such a somber note.

Many thanks to all the Jammers I worked with over the weekend. I couldn't have asked for a nicer, more passionate, and highly dedicated/talented group of collaborators. 

Stay tuned for A Thing A Week: Week 5

Until then,

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 3 - A Guitar Quarter of Sorts: Movement I

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 3

I had so much fun creating this music and video! I've had the idea of doing something like this for a while. What better time than Week 3?

I wrote this piece to showcase some of the different tones and roles of the guitars I play. I'm really looking forward to creating more music using this instrumentation. I plan on writing at least 5 movements total this year (maybe more).

Listen in stereo or with headphones for the optimal experience!

Here is a link to the sheet music for your perusal.
Let me know if you want copies of parts for performance :)

View the Score

See you next week with some video game music. Time for the Global Game Jam!! :-D

Until then,

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 2 - Aftermath

Last week I spent a lot of time refining "Soundscape No. 1 for Solo Piano" by improvising in a certain style and key. A number of ideas and themes that I had started with didn't make it into that final work, but have stuck with me never the less. This short refined improvisation represents the aftermath of boiling down a different piece of music into a concise idea.

I should also mention that I've been listening a lot of Bowie this past week (along with the rest of the world). Apparently a certain amount of Neuk├Âlln from Heroes has made its way into my brain and fingers for this piece (I only noticed it after listening back...strange how inspiration works).

Already working on "Thing Number Three" for next week. Time for some guitars :)

Until then,

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Thing A Week - 2016 - Week 1 - Soundscape No. 1 for Solo Piano

I've decided that all of 2016 I'll be writing/creating/releasing one new piece/composition/song/soundscape per week.

This is week one!

The first in a future set of works for solo piano, Soundscape No. 1 is an exploration of C Locrian as discovered through pandiatonic improvisational composition. Focusing on the overtones of gestures amid silence.

The inception of the idea for this piece actually happened over the holiday break in 2015 and I've been improvising on these gestures since that point in time. The actual writing of the sheet music and recording of the audio happed this first week of 2016.

Audio Stream:

Sheet Music Flipbook: CLICK HERE


See ya next week!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Expandable Form in Music

How much can the organization of the sound change before a piece of music becomes a different piece of music?

Copyright law tells us that we cannot copyright a chord progression. This means that if two people play the same chord progression, they aren’t necessarily playing the same piece of music.

On the other end of this, you can copyright a riff or melody line. So, if you change that riff or melody by lengthening all the notes, is it the same piece of music? I’m sure many will say “yes”.

Let’s take it a step further. What if you were to not only lengthen the time it takes to play the melody or riff  by slowing the tempo, but then you shortened the length of each note and inserted another riff or melody (in the same timbre and range as the original) in all of the empty space. Is this still the same piece of music? I’m sure there would be a very differing answer to this depending on the example used (and the determination of the person trying to defend their intellectual property in the court of law...).

In the first post on this blog I shared two pieces of music. The first was a studio recording of several electric guitar riffs looping out of sync with each other in order to create phase between the timing of the riffs (like the timing phase between car blinkers in a line at a stop light). In the second example, I performed live and looped those same riffs, and then improvised and explored different sounds and sections inspired by the original idea.

In the time since that improvisation, I have come up with a list of sounds, riffs, and formal sections that work really well with the original looping riffs. Making the score for the piece more of an open "to do list".

What I mean by "open" is that since the timing of the loops is not exact (due to the phase effect mentioned above), the entrance and length of each new section starts to matter less as well. Given all of the musical ideas I want to have happen in this piece, the length can get as short as 7 minutes.

Here is a live recording at Studio Z (As performed by Bryan Schumann 11/20/12):

Here is where things get really interesting. Since any of the entrances of any of the riffs or sections can happen at different times, each formal section can also be extended in length since it is really up to the performer to decide when to proceed to the next section. For example, the solo section could go on for a very long time or could be just a few quick lines if desired.

Using the "to do list" method outlined above, I have made a studio recording of Sunday with its form expanded out to just under 11 minutes long.

Pro Tools Session - Sunday - (12-15-12)

So, going back to my original question.  Is the 7 minute-long piece of music the same piece of music as the 11 minute-long piece of music? 

I intend to explore the idea of expandable form in greater detail, and come back with more examples, more questions (I promise), and maybe even a few answers.

Until then, cheers,

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Those Who Make Sound - Part II: All Those Who Contribute

Recently I was given a fantastic experience that really shed some light on the second of the three questions asked in my last post.


Are all those who make sound also making art?

On Friday, Oct. 26th I had the opportunity to improvise 3 hours of ambient music for The Minneapolis Photo Center's Photo Exposure Lotto event. I brought a pocket recorder so I could listen back later.

Shortly after beginning the first set, the room filled up with about 100-120 very noisy patrons who quickly became happily imbibed on flowing spirits and even more noisy.  My initial thought was, "there goes my recording – but no big deal, I’m glad there are people here.” Upon listening back, I found that the sound of the crowd added a really great ambiance and whole new level of interest to the overall sound.


Fading from foreground to background the murmuring crowd blends perfectly with the other parts of the music. When somebody walks near the recorder with loud shoes (good one around 18:58)...the clacking falls perfectly in time (or perfectly out of time) with the other percussion. The bursts of laughter (starting at 16:25) are outstanding contrasts with the otherwise subdued sounds with which I was then filling the room. I can't help but smile when I hear them.

In the first entry in this blog a questions was asked. Are all those who make sound also making art?

My response, although not addressing every instance of sound making, is a response none-the-less: All those who made sound in that room contributed to this piece of improvised art.
Now, is my above statement only true because I am the “creator” of the art and I have the right to say so? Probably. 

Would it be a completely different scenario if the music were not improvised, and the sounds that made their way into the recording where a random cough or sneeze? I think so.

Is it time for another open ended question without an answer? Of course.

If the audience adds enough of their own sounds during a live performance, can the overall output of sound be considered to be a different piece of music?

A special thanks to The Minneapolis Photo Center for having me, Sara Horishnyk for booking me at the event, and Kate Schumann for her amazing trumpet playing.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Those Who Make Sound

I have started this blog for a two main reasons. First, it will act as an open journal for all of the musical happenings in my life and career. Secondly it will serve as a vehicle to explore the philosophy of sound as art as a whole. I will use samples of my current and previous works as part of the discussion, and in doing so, will provide a deeper insight into my creative process.
I’d like to start by posing a few questions that have been on my mind lately:
When does sound become art?
Are all of those who make sound also making art?
Does sound need to be organized, edited, and polished for it to be counted as music?

Every day while living our lives, we all experience a constant barrage of sound:

Our alarm clock, our footsteps, the door, the water running, automobiles in traffic, the radio, a squirrel in the brush, those who say "good morning", the clacking of keyboards, the infinite wealth of music available to be streamed directly into our ear buds...sigh

In the vein of the last question listed above, I actually have another question that if addressed may help provide a little bit of insight. 

Does the time spent editing, refining, and polishing the sound directly correlate to the level of legitimacy of the art?

Here is an original idea. Using multi-track recording on Pro Tools, I tracked the original line on electric guitar, and added additional layers only after refining my performance before each take. 

This track is 3 minutes and 20 seconds long, and took me around 8 hours to complete from start to finish.

Here is the same original idea. This time (about 7 months later) I played the idea into a Loopy HD on my iPad, and developed the idea through live improvisation inspired by the guitar loop. Every sound on this recording was laid down in real time. I was able to instantly record, loop, and mix all the different sounds I felt inspired to make.

This track is 45 minutes and 25 seconds long, and took me around 47 minutes to complete if you count set up time. 

Because of the time I spent methodically assembling the first example, is very clean and precise. I enjoy listening to this piece of music a lot. The second example is not very clean or precise, but has a lot of very interesting moments that probably would not have happened if I had spent as much time redoing all the “bad takes”. I enjoy listening to this piece of music a lot too. 

Again I ask, does sound need to be organized, edited, and polished for it to be counted as music?

Please contribute to the discussion by leaving your comments (in time) directly on the SoundCloud players above.