Michaelwclark.com

Just my stuff


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Beyond the Night

Here’s a cinematic, atmospheric one that I worked pretty hard on. It began as a slightly chaotic assemblage which slowly came together. My main learning point was how to use a sequencer for drum samples, making it sound less robotic than sequencers can sound.

The sequencer I used (Megababy) allows for manual timing changes (called “humanization” or possibly “swing” when using midi). So I spent some time on each note, trying to imagine myself as a percussionist and how he or she might actually drum. To me, the kick drum sometimes sounds like it could use a bit of editing, other times it sounds okay.

Not exactly tearing up the SoundCloud charts, it was, as I say, a great learning experience.

As to what this composition is about, just follow the link to SoundCloud if interested.


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Shape Dance – A very 90s “Popcorn”

A few years ago I picked up a dollar store CD called Shape Rave, volume 4 (Pikosso records, Berlin 1996). I just got around to listening to it tonight and discovered a nice remix of an old radio hit from my childhood, “Popcorn.”

The pan flute sound is a bit passĂ© (technology has given us a much broader palette today). But as a novice bedroom producer, I can really appreciate the programming, the texture of the underlying sequenced sounds, and the fantastic swing. “Swing” is a feature used in sequencers where the 2nd, 3rd and 4th beats are delayed a bit behind the first beat. It makes it sound less robotic and when done right, gives it, well, swing… 🙂

I like the old-style graphics that the uploader put with the tune. I think it’s the same remix that is on my CD (there are several remixes). Back when the first “Popcorn” came out, that tape deck would have been really high tech.


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Ursa Major, Ursa Minor (Sketch)

A quick sketch of a melody/tune that came to me after seeing the big and little dippers in the dark countryside, by Lake Ontario… I may evolve it some day.. The two musical phrases are seven notes each, just as there are seven stars in each of the constellations…

While looking at the stars I noticed that the big dipper is, of course, bigger but the little dipper is brighter.

I love looking at a clear night sky devoid of light pollution. Finding a place without light pollution (sadly) seems almost impossible these days. But this location was pretty good. Just one small spot emanating from Cobourg Ontario, a town that used to be a hot spot for wealthy Americans back in the day.

Living in Toronto one can see 2 or 3 stars on a good night! Well, maybe a few more. But it is pretty appalling. So whenever I get a chance, which isn’t too often, I take to the country and reconnect with the ancient art of the night sky.

Image – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/445152744395241383/


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Beatniks

The original title for this was “Echoes from the Cave.” That’s an idea – I guess a bit of a clichĂ© – that I’ve wanted to use for a short story, novel, or maybe a song.

Well, time has passed and that seems a bit passĂ©.. at least for me. So I decided to call this “Beatniks,” mostly because of the jangley, slightly futuristic beats behind the voices. And I’m listening to a lot of primitive, beatnik jazz these days.

“Beatniks” is dedicated to Prince, who passed on around the time I began this.


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Sheer Distraction

The story behind this tune is that I was desperately ill through the winter months. It took a long time to recover. When I finally felt things were turning around, I sat by my computer and came up with a basic bassline. I sent that to Lee Neale who sent back this amazing melody with lyrics. It blows me away how talented Lee is.

Because his work is of such high caliber, it really pushed me to do my best. I wanted a minimalist sound that wouldn’t overtake Lee’s vocal track. But I didn’t want it too simple.

I hope you enjoy!


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Alpha Omega

When David Bowie’s last lp Blackstar came out, I remember thinking that I’d get around to listening to it. After a couple of days I thought, Oh, I really should give it a listen. After all, Bowie has been one of my favs since my childhood and early teens. His music resonated through many of my changes.

As a kid I drummed to Pinups. As a teen I grooved to ChangesOneBowie, Ziggy Stardust, StationToStation and Scary Monsters. And a young man I explored everything else he had to offer, from Low to Another Face. And even though I felt Blackstar would be a dark and jagged lp, I knew I’d have to hear it. It’s just like that with Bowie. Even if you didn’t slice with some of his material – I wasn’t wild about most of The Next Day – you still had to see what the ol’ Jean Genie was up to.

The Collection (David Bowie album)

The Collection (via Wikipedia)

So all this was going through my head when I began working on this tune. After a quick listen to Blackstar, I went downstairs and learned of the sad news that was breaking across the TV screen.

David Bowie has died at age 69.

Returning to Alpha Omega, I gave it an extra dirty mix. Rough, distorted guitars. Not much light. All very heavy. I never knew nor met Bowie. But I was hurting.

After some time I started feeling better and lightened up the mix. I considered dropping the fuzz guitar but decided it had to stay. If this was turning into some kind of nod to Bowie, it definitely needed fuzz guitar.

Anyhow, ’nuff said. Here’s what I wrote at SoundCloud:

This is dedicated to David Bowie. Some call him the Picasso of pop. But I prefer to think of him as the Sibelius of pop. He’s both, actually. And a whole lot more.


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Shooting Stars – An international kinda Christmas

Maybe living in Toronto, one of the most multicultural places on Earth, did it. Or maybe it had something to do with my living in India for a couple of years. Or maybe it was my interest in world cultures. I really don’t know. But I was playing around with some exotic scales and it turned into a kind of international Seasons Greetings.

I learned some new techniques here. Most notably, “ducking”—not only the bass by the kick drum, but also the synthesizer pad by the sleigh bell. If you’re not into music production, chances are you won’t know what the heck I’m talking about. No worries. Music is mostly meant to be listened to. Not analyzed.

My gut tells me this one will, like most of my others, miss the radar. But with these techniques now under my belt, I’m still hoping for that big hit (someday). That may seem far fetched but if you listen to the earliest recordings of most bands, including biggies like Supertramp and The Beatles, they went thru a “not so great” phase where they were still refining their style and polishing up their technique. That gives me great comfort, knowing that “Fool’s Overture” or “Hey Jude” didn’t pop right out of the box.

Anyhow… enuf talk.

Season’s Greetings! 🙂