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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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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Firebrand

This is a pretty old tune that I originally sang. The first recording was done in the late 1980s / early 1990s on a Fostex 4-track tape with a Yamaha mini keys keyboard, an Ibanez digital delay and a couple of foot pedals. Despite the limited tech, the end result was pretty good. (I might transfer it from tape and post it some day for interests sake).

This time around I didn’t feel like singing so just did the main melody with a synth line. And I gave it a sorta i Robot update. Digital age…

But still, I left in retro “Disco Toms” and California-style lead guitar. So it’s a bit of old and new.

All the VSTi plugins are freeware. Some were slightly modified with other paid-for VSTs that come with Reaper, which itself is a very modestly priced DAW (digital audio workstation).

Photo (cropped): www.flickr.com/photos/ihearaviolin/8103585130/


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June

So ends a pretty terrible month in the news. I started this at the beginning of the month. At some point I realized that it was mirroring the tragic headlines that dominated a good part of June.


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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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freebird – remix

Grundig tape recorder

Grundig tape recorder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a tune I wrote way back, after I’d returned to Canada from my two year sojourn in India.

Originally composed on a Yamaha porta-synth (with those tiny keys), I tried a couple of versions using midi and digital technology some years later.

Because I really didn’t know anything about mixing and mastering, the results were interesting, to put it nicely…

Here’s a remix, using all the virtual tech and know-how I’ve acquired over the past two years:

I like this simple, futuristic tune. To me it has an Asian and Middle Eastern flavor, even if the chord patterns and guitar are decidedly Western.

For the sake of comparison, here’s the (not very balanced) last version I uploaded around 2014:

When I was a kid I used to play with radios, tape recorders and electronics.

English: A RadioShack brand cassette recorder,...

A RadioShack brand cassette recorder, with built-in microphone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a young adult I became an “audiophile” and spent hours fiddling with speaker arrangement, cassette recording techniques, etc.

So my current interest in mixing and mastering is just a logical extension. At first I was overwhelmed by the myriad of knobs and sliders available to today’s bedroom producer. But I’m now getting a handle on it, and am REALLY enjoying the process.


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fly by night

Here’s a tune I worked on over the holidays. Probably doesn’t sound like it but it’s 20 different tracks in Reaper (my audio workstation). All the instruments are either freeware or my stretching the most out of demo plugins. I tried different types of mastering, and finally decided on the rough and dirty FL Studio “Slam Amp Master” preset in its Maximus plug-in. I thought maybe the result was a bit too cavernous so tried adjusting it. But with the demo version it’s a bit tricky. One wrong move and you lose everything (because you can’t save with the demo). After some mastering variations I decided I liked this best.

Uploading the file to SoundCloud changes the sound balance too. SoundCloud uses mp3 files, at not a very great quality (last I heard, 128 bitrate). So you have to take that into consideration too. How will uploading “crunch” the sound?

Anyhow, lots of fun. I hope you enjoy. My favorite part is the piano. Although I do like the trancey guitar too.