Archives For Sound

On Composing Audio And Its Woes

This one  was written on May Day of this year. It was supposed to be the first piece in a project of May/Beltane themed poetry and music. That project never got completed. This poem was meant to accompany the video for “Another May Dance”.

A May Song

And another may dance
And another may sing
And lonely in the square
Little girls spin and twirl in rings

And another may dance
And another year turns
And are we not aware
Of the things that we still must learn

And here in this forgotten wood
And here in this burning air
And here in this cyclone of seasons
The feathers catch my fall

And another may dance
And another heart breaks
And slowly we'll dance there
Until the sun and dreamers wake

Here is the video for “Another May Dance”. It is also on Vimeo, if you prefer that route. If you like it, it would be nice if you would to subscribe to my channel on YouTube, Vimeo or both.

I am a delay and reverb junkie. It’s a problem that I’ve lived with for most of my life. Over the years I have used taken just about every opportunity that I could to wedge in an extra delay line and a bit more reverb on every track I have ever written. Wet would not be the word for some of my tracks. Drenched. Deluge. Diluvial. All of these would be better words.

Now most delay/reverb junkies are all about analog and tape. But not me. I have a soft spot for digital. I like a digital reverb better than just about anything. From the classic EMT 25o digital plate to the Alesis MidiVerb series, and even the gritty little reverbs on the Zoom 1201fx. I love them all. The expensive ones sound great, and the cheap ones add a vibe and character that nothing else can match.

Now days my friend Sean Costello creates most of the reverbs that I use. His ValhallaShimmer has made the use of the venerable Alesis MidiVerb II completely redundant. VShimmer can create all of the Bloom presets (as used by every Shoegaze band ever) without breaking a sweat and can pull off a dozen or so other slow etherial spaced out effects. And, since it’s all software, I can instance several back-to-back and create sounds that you can’t make without owning six or seven MidiVerbs. ValhallaRoom has so many different modes of operation from super high-end classy and clean to lo-fi dark and modulated that I have retired a couple of my favorite cheap “character” reverb boxen.

But there is one bit of actual outboard gear that I have never been able to actually get my hands on, and if I ever do I will never let go. The Roland Space Echo. Not the fancy RE-201 tape delay that all the cool kids have, but its bastard little brother the RE-3 Digital Echo. It is my white whale. It is the effect that I have always wanted, and nobody has made a plug-in that sounds anything like it. There is a weird crystalline quality to its sound, but it still can sound warm if the right source material is run through it. Also, being digital, the delays can feedback indefinitely giving sounds the feeling that they are just hanging in mid-air. But then you can turn one knob, and the sample begins to get trimmed. And the trimmed sample gets fed back through where it can be trimmed again and again until it turns into an evil digital scream. Granted most early digital delays had this “flaw”, but few could slide into that glitch as gracefully as the RE-3. And the “Warmth” knob. It’s nothing but a (very bad) pitch mod LFO that was supposed to emulate the wow and flutter of tape delays. But, like all things on the RE-3 it can be turned on way too much and give things a sickening wobble. In a good way. A very good way.

This thing is just beauty all around. Used subtly it can achieve surprisingly delicate reverbs and delays, but if you crank the knobs past the safety of the 12 o’clock position the RE-3 becomes a completely different entity. An untamed beast of a machine. Listen for yourself. And make sure you watch the whole vid, because the digital madness is at the end…

Also, if anybody was still looking for a last-minute birthday gift for me, there is an RE-3 on eBay right now.

Chorus/Ensemble/Multitap/NonlinReverb Thing



After I went Stepping Out the other day, I got a little more time to play around with the ValhallaÜberMod beta. As I got deeper into it, I couldn’t stop grinning. It does the standard gamut of chorusing, flanging and phasing of a standard modulation effect, but with a few twists of a couple of knobs the thing becomes a doorway to something dark and evil. It is a hellmouth of a plugin that allows me to quickly dial-up sounds that would take me multiple effects and odd mixer routings to achieve in another context.

I knocked out a quick example of it yesterday.
UberMod Test by wgparham
It’s a simple 6/4 loop built on one instance of Aalto with ÜberMod as an insert, and a Mellotron guitar sample with ÜberMod on a send. The synth line has the mix automated from 100% dry to 100% wet over two measures and then the feedback automated from 0 to 100% over the next two measures, then the feed back is automated back down to 0. The guitar line is two measures dry, then the send is automated from 0% to 100% over six measures, then back to 0% over two measures, then dry for two measures, then finally automated back to 100% over the next four measures. Real simple… Also, this is a very tame example of the madness that the ÜberMod can create.

All in all, I’m super exited and glad that I have gotten a chance to mess around with it.