I’m finally getting round to finishing up some of my synth jam video projects. This latest one is the most ambitious so far, with two cameras – one head-mounted GoPro and one Canon DSLR – and CG visualisations captured from Milkdrop, as well as added video FX in Sony Vegas. The little laptop I’ve been using to edit is groaning with the strain of it all, so much so that previewing became effectively useless, so you’ll have to excuse me if some of the cuts are a little off the beat in places.

Ambient noodlings

Whilst playing around with my recently purchased copy of Sony Vegas I came up with these ambient music/photography mashups. They’re all basically slideshows with very long transitions between stills, so that the image is constantly, slowly evolving. Lots of fun to do, and a good learning experience.

Dear Internet… sorry I haven’t written for so long…

I know, I know, I promised I’d keep you up to date with things, and it’s been ages since the last post. I’ve been busy, up to my neck in cables and screwdrivers, getting the new studio up and running. The Escape Pod is now officially operational and I thought it was about time I posted a couple of pics:



Heat and the Constant State of Flux

Still awaiting completion of the studio and so still stuck in a tiny back bedroom, hemmed in by equipment and drenched in the warm womb-like glow of a bunch of LED lights from IKEA. I’m easily pleased. Here’s a little jam I did whilst trying out my new toy – the Doepfer Dark Time. It’s a rather beautiful and quirky little analogue sequencer, reminiscent of the old Moog modular sequencers from the 70s, but in miniature and with MIDI and USB. It’s just begging to do Berlin school (Tangerine Dream et al) noodlings, crazy ever-changing polyryhythms made of little repeating phrases. So seeing as it was begging for it…

The recent heatwave* here in England made it slightly less bearable than usual though, for both man and machine. I spent several hours setting up a rather promising restrained, contemplative piece, but by the time I got to hit record the room was so hot I was screwing up, (knocking pots by accident etc.), and the tuning was drifting. In trying to fix it I made it progressively worse, till I gave up, stopped the recording, and then spent another hour trying to get back to where I started. It failed – I ended up with something entirely different, though it perhaps is a more accurate representation of my state of frustration, impatience and overheatedness.

I’m discovering that this is a major feature of working with analogue synth technology. Everything is in a constant state of flux. When you use softsynths all the time you get used to everything being saved and tweakable right up to the mix stage. There are numerous obvious advantages to this approach, but the downside can be a certain lack of focus. I find that with softsynths I tend to spend hours going through all the presets. Like, all of them, because if you don’t go through every single one you might miss that killer patch. It’s a really soul-withering way to spend your time.

With hardware synths, on the other hand, I just dive in and start twiddling knobs till it sounds pleasing. I think in a year of owning the Voyager I’ve saved a grand total of two patches. It’s quicker to make a sound from scratch than it is to go scrolling through menus looking for it, and even if you do recall a sound it never seems to be quite as good as you remember it anyway. Plus there’s that added element with analogue circuitry being susceptible to changes in heat etc., the fundamentally chaotic nature of it all, so that even if you don’t touch a single key, knob, switch or patch cable the sound just changes of its own accord.

The transient nature is what makes it so inspiring. The process is a constant exploration, an adventure where you don’t know what’s around the next corner. The tricky part is capturing the good bits while not filling up your hard disk with hours of rubbish that you’re going to have to sift through later. I’m learning to make sure my levels are set and I’m ready to record at the press of a single key.

And I’ve bought a bigger hard disk.

– Matt

* note: “heatwave” here means a couple of days where it doesn’t rain and a strange unfamiliar glowing yellow orb is briefly visible in the sky.

Modular Madness

Some shots of the higgledy-piggledy temporary room I’ve been working in whilst waiting for the studio to be built. It’s so small and pokey I’ve found the best way to get any sort of creative atmosphere going is to pull the blinds down and mess about with lighting. The screens are Ryan Geiss’s stunning Milkdrop plugin and the swirly cosmic laser business is all thanks to my new favourite toy: the Laser Stars Projector.

This setup is a Doepfer Dark Energy hooked up to a Moog Voyager being sequenced by Numerology. Much fun, though all a bit precarious! It was nice to be free of Logic Audio for a while.

Modular Madness 1

Modular Madness 2

Modular Madness 3

First Contact

Welcome to the Space Music UK blog. Here is where I will witter on about music and life as a media composer and keep you informed of the latest happenings. I’m a complete n00b at this blogging lark, so please excuse the lack of exciting widgety things like audio players. I’ll get round to working out how you do all that eventually. In the meantime it’ll just be some random thoughts as and when I get the time and inclination. Oh, and you’ll probably get a load of gratuitously nerdtastic photos of synths in the dark, cos I just can’t help myself.

– Matt