Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moonshine Reggae

I will start a blog post series about my songs, about the influences they had, their instrumentation and any other useful information. Nowadays, when music is practically freely available, you can choose any music you like, but it's a challenge to find songs that really match your taste. I started to publish my own songs because they filled the gap between the musical styles that I listen to. They are sort of a synthesis of many influences that I had in my life.

Moonshine Reggae is, as its title may suggest, a reggae, but that's not that straightforward. It started with me looking out at the January moon, with small clouds floating by, and then a simple melody came to my mind. This circular sequence of notes is the basis for this song. Then I sat down and played that on my guitar... at that time I was listening to many songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, so I invented a slowly moving chord progression like his songs have. Jobim is a great composer (just remember The Girl From Ipanema or Waters Of March) , and what I like the most of his songs is that the melody is often very simple, while the weirdest chords come to give the songs its colours. So there I had the scheme of a bossa song.

The sweet melodies and swinging upbeat reggae-ska rhythms of Rico Rodriguez (and Vin Gordon) gave me the idea to convert this bossa song to an instrumental reggae. That's where the sampled trombone theme came from (both are excellent Jamaican trombonists). At that time I didn't have any means (like a Zoom H2) to record my own trombone sound (I do own a trombone), so I had to use a sample. I added some reverb and delay to bring back those dub sounds (like in the songs of Yellowman in the 80's). That was the initial version.

After many listenings and having listened to some criticism I realized that the song was a little bit "empty", and because the programmed tunes it sounded sterile. By then I had my Zoom H2, so I added an ashiko (djembe-like hand drum) track (fully improvised!) and a tres (Cuban guitar with 3 pairs of strings) track to it. My tres sounded a bit like in the songs of Sierra Maestra, maybe because I also use a larger instrument body for my tres. Some notes went off-beat but I left that this way. My son was already sleeping and I didn't want to bother him.

Feel free to vote for this song at TheSixtyOne:

Classifying my music

Last year I have been working on publishing my music on sites like ReverbNation, MySpace, TheSixtyOne and CherryPeel. I encountered the most problems when I had to classify my music: is it alternative, jazz, electronica, ska, latin or what? Well, I have listened to a great bunch of musicians from The Stone Age up till now and I'm still not sure which musical style my songs belong to... If I wasn't asked every time to classify the songs I upload, I wouldn't bother. But on many sites I just have to choose a musical style to tag my creations. So some thoughts about them...

They have that sweet upbeat, melodic ska feeling that Rico Rodriguez and Vin Gordon have. But still, the melodies tend to be Eastern European, which is not a big surprise, me being Hungarian. However, I cannot call my music "ska", because that is played by a band, not by a computer. So from the instrumentation point of view, these songs are electronic (electronica) songs. So is it electronic ska, some sort of dub, instrumental dubstep like Skream? Well, my songs are more like music for listening, not for dancing. Some songs of Plaid, RJD2 and Lemon Jelly might sound like my songs, too. So, is it nu jazz ska, or something like that?

Some ideas:
  • nu latin ska jazz
  • electronic latin ska jazz
  • ...
Comments are welcome.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A "timbre stretching" example in ChucK

As many of us, professional or hobbyist computer music aficionados, I adore Miller Puckette's freely available book on this science, "The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music". If you are more into the material, you may have noticed that the examples in this book are written (more accurately: "drawn") in Pd, or Pure Data, which is a graphical computer music synthesis environment.

I wanted to try the same concepts in my favourite music language, ChucK, which lead me to the conclusion that it's quite different to create the same concepts in these two environments.

So here's my take on "timbre stretching", which is an interesting approach to radically change a waveform without the use of filters or frequency modulation, whatever.

// "timbre stretching" in a ChucKist way
// by Hillaby

// the sinosc can be replaced by any waveform generator
// in this sample it's only used for one period
SinOsc osc => LiSa lisa => dac;

// modulator will modulate duty cycle
SinOsc modulator => blackhole;

/* in case you want to record it...
lisa => WvOut rec => blackhole;
"lisa.wav" => rec.wavFilename;

// play around with these settings:
100.0 => float fr; // the base frequency
1.3 => modulator.freq; // modulator frequency (keep it low :))
5.0 => float modRate; // modulation rate, the minimum duty cycle will be 1 / (1+2*modRate), maximum: 1

// calculate period and set wave generator frequency
1::second / fr => dur period;
fr => osc.freq;

// record one period and unchuck wave generator
period => lisa.duration;
1 => lisa.record;
lisa.duration() => now;
0 => lisa.record;
osc =< lisa;

// play back recorded period
while (1) {
0::samp => lisa.playPos; // start at 0
1 => lisa.play;

// set rate, 1.0 when duty cycle is maximum
// and 1.0+modrate*2.0 when minimum
1.0 + modRate*(1.0+modulator.last()) => lisa.rate;

// wait until playback terminates (at specified rate)
lisa.duration()/lisa.rate() => now;
0 => lisa.play;

// wait until the "empty part" of the duty cycle passes
period - lisa.duration()/lisa.rate() => now;

Sunday, November 15, 2009

La Charanga Habanera in Slovenia!

OK, I have just come back from Vienna from the concert of Pupy y Los Que Son Son, and now I'm planning to travel to Slovenia at the end of this month, because David Calzado y La Charanga Habanera, one of my favourite Cuban bands will perform. The concert dates and places follow:
  • Wednesday, 25. November 2009 - Festivalna dvorana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Thursday, 26. November 2009 - Festivalna dvorana Lent, Maribor, Slovenia
  • Friday, 27. November 2009 - Kresovanje, Sežana, Slovenia
Maribor is only 350 kms from Budapest, that seems to be the closest point of their European tour in autumn '09.

(For my Spanish-speaking friends: las fechas y los lugares de los conciertos en Eslovenia de La Charanga Habanera se pueden encontrar aquí arriba en la lista.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Concerts (tour) - conciertos (gira)

Here's a list of the concerts I may be interested in:
  • 2009-07-29 - Verona, Italy: Orquesta Revé (Elio "Elito" Revé y su Charangón)
  • 2009-08-01 - Bled, Slovenia, Okarina Festival: Orquesta Revé (Elio "Elito" Revé y su Charangón)
  • 2009-08-01 - Milano, Italy, Latinoamericando: David Calzado y La Charanga Habanera
  • 2009-08-02 - Lonato di Garda, Italy: Orquesta Revé (Elio "Elito" Revé y su Charangón)
  • 2009-08-03 - Milano, Italy, Latinoamericando: Orquesta Revé (Elio "Elito" Revé y su Charangón)
  • 2009-08-05 - Milano, Italy, Latinoamericando: Calle 13
  • 2009-08-12 - Roma/Rome, Italy, Fiesta: Carlos Vives
  • 2009-08-14 - Roma/Rome, Italy, Fiesta: Orquesta Revé (Elio "Elito" Revé y su Charangón)
  • 2009-08-16 - Milano, Italy, Latinoamericando: Carlos Vives
(Elito Revé = Elio Revé Jr.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

So Long, Unclefucker!

Has anybody realized how similar these two songs are?

South Park - Uncle Fucka, from 0:37:

ABBA - So Long, from 0:40: