Category Archives: Music

Given how I make music, this could have gone under Tech. :-)

Divertimento Spring Concert

It’s that time again! I’m very pleased to say that I will be playing in the Spring Concert of the Divertimento Orchestra, April 28th and 29th, 2017. We’re playing three pieces:

Halifax Harbour by Elizabeth Raum
As part of the Canada 150 celebration, we will be playing this fun piece (with a great cello part 😉 ) by Canadian composer Elizabeth Raum. Shhhh! Rumour has it that depending on the night, you might see her in the audience.
Tres Danzas Españolas by Enrique Granados
Enrique Granados was born the 27th of July 1867, 150 years ago. The three pieces that we’ll be playing are orchestral arrangements (by J. Lamote de Grignon) of three of the “12 Danzas Españolas” a piano work published in 1890. There’s a strong Spanish feel and some great solo playing (not by me <g>).
Symphony No. 3 in Eb, Op. 97 “Rhenish” by Robert Schumann
This Schumann Symphony is big, deep music, with complexities that you probably don’t hear on the first listen through. It really wasn’t until I’d played the cello part in context that I felt like I understood it. Very cool!

All and all, it should be an excellent show. And given my recent health issues, I’m particularly glad that I’ll be able to participate. By all means, come and give us a listen.

Here’s the poster for the show. Feel free to print this out and post it wherever people might see it. We love playing for a full house!

Poster for the Spring 2017 show

Psst… Track 8?

Not sure how many people downloaded the [HBDI]:four album, but for those that did if you were sharp eyed (eared?) you would have noticed it was missing track 8. I have since rectified this omission and the complete album can be downloaded by clicking on the album title on that page.

The missing track is called “New Dream”:

(If your browser doesn’t support in line audio. Click here to play or download it.)

I know, I know. I haven’t been posting.

This is yet another of those posts that starts out by apologizing for not keeping up with the blog. Believe me, I’m more frustrated than you are that it’s been so long since I last posted.

The thing is, my life has been busy, to the point where I haven’t even been finding the time to keep up with 140 character tweets, let alone full blog posts.

Anyway, here are some highlights…

New role at work

In addition to being the Eclipse Project PMC lead, I have now taken on a significant architectural role working on the “IBM DevOps Services powered by JazzHub”. This is a new property that provides project hosting, including online development (based on Orion), tracking and planning support, etc., which is intended to be the premiere environment for building applications that are part of the “IBM BlueMix” platform-as-a-service. What’s even cooler about this is that it can be used for free. Definitely check it out.

Just finished a Divertimento concert

*sigh*. Yes, it would have made more sense to talk about it ahead of time. Oh well. This was the orchestra’s 30th anniversary concert, and it was an awesome program:

  • J. Strauss — Die Fledermaus Overture
  • Mozart — Violin Concerto No. 5, K.218
  • Brahms — Symphony No. 4 Op. 98

The concert was sponsored by the Austrian Embassy including bringing in the soloist for the Mozart, one Daniel Auner, who is a truly excellent up-and-coming violinist. Even though we only had a single rehearsal with him, I felt like he helped us achieve a recognizably stronger understanding of the music.

I bought a car

A Fiat Abarth. I haven’t actually received it yet — It’s still being built — but I expect it will show up some time in the next couple of weeks. For now, here’s a shot of basically what it will look like:

red

It’s very small, but I verified that it will hold my cello case with the back seats folded down, so we’re good. Zero to 100 KPH in 6.9 seconds. I’m excited :-).

Ottawa Synth Meetup

Here are some pictures from last Saturday’s Ottawa Synth Meetup. It was an evening of conversation about gear and technique, along with much making of odd noises and even a smattering of actual music. 🙂

Mostly it was an opportunity for some of us analog synth nuts to get together and realize that there really is a scene in Ottawa. It was a ton of fun.

Btw, if you’re interested in getting involved in the next one, you should join the Ottawa Synths Facebook group.

a pair of synths one for audio and one for video plus a ribbon controller
One person brought two analog modulars, one for audio (at the back) and one for video (in front). See the last photo for an example of the video synth in action.
a pair of classic analog polysynths
Someone brought an Arp Omni and a Korg PolySix. Classic sounds, that were instantly recognizable!
Awesome tube powered drum machine, crazy synth in a wooden case, plus a very nice, beats focused eurorack machine.
The synthesizers I brought
This is what I brought: Pittsburg Modular, MiniBrute, MonoTribe, Monotron Delay and a Qunexus controller.
Eurorack and ribbon controller
Monde synth ribbon controller controlling a eurorack setup. I got a chance to play with this, but I need to try it again in a less chaotic environment.
A really nice eurorack setup
This was a very nice eurorack setup, plus an Elektron Machinedrum and keyboard controller.
Video synth in action
The video synth driving the projector.

And there a few others that I didn’t manage to get pictures of.

PC, Vista, Music

I was trying to do some music, using Reason on my dual G5 Mac, and for reasons (sic) that aren’t clear to me, started with two tracks of arpeggiated Combinator patches. Believe it or not, just those two tracks was enough to give me the dreaded “Your computer is too slow” message. Ugh.

Normally, when this happens, I go through the rigamarole of rendering one of the tracks to audio (then slice and reload), or simplifying the sounds I’m using or some other hack to reduce the CPU load, but just for grins this time, I decided I try installing Reason on my PC instead. Time to figure out just exactly how much faster the C2Q is than the G5s!

So, I installed Reason, the driver and automapper for my Novation keyboard, and the absolutely required to do anything useful musically on a PC ASIO4ALL universal ASIO driver. [Ah yes, I remember the “joys” of doing music on a PC.] And finally, I was ready to go.

I recreated the original two tracks I built on the Mac, and then started layering more; not, you understand, to build something musically pleasing, but rather just to see exactly how many layers I could end up with. The result was this:
mess-thumb

What you are looking at is 13 Combinators, for a total of somewhere around 135 (!) individual modules. The result is, of course, an absolute mess, but if you want proof click here:

a Mess

Remember now, I started with the original two tracks that brought the G5 to it’s knees, and it has another 11 layers added on after that. Unfortunately, that really was the limit, I tried for one more layer, but hit the “your computer is too slow” boundary. But still…

Wow!

Hm… Now if that’s what you can do with a Core2Quad, I wonder what you can do with one of these. 🙂

At last! Now, no one can hear me.

I stopped at Long & McQuade one day this week and noticed that they had a Yamaha Silent Cello sitting in a box. I have always wanted to try one of these instruments, so Friday I managed to coherce Ken and Steve — no, it wasn’t that difficult — to go on a road trip at lunch time to see if it had been put on display yet. It turned out that it hadn’t been, but the salesperson who worked in that section was happy to set it up while we waited. I was pleased to see that he knew stringed instruments well, going from removing the packing material to having it fully set up and tuned in about five minutes.

While waiting for it to be prep’ed, I looked through the cello bows they had in stock to see if there was something interesting to play. For grins, I ended up trying a fiberglass bow. Um… no. It seems that fiberglass bows have considerably more flex than pernambuco, and there’s something about the lack of grain / direction to the flex that felt very weird. Oh well.

Since the silent cello is (nearly) silent without amplification, the salesman asked if I wanted to try it with headphones, or go for an amp, and I (being the brave soul that I am) went the amp route. After a little initial awkwardness I found that it was quite natural to play. Ken helpfully snapped a candid shot with his iPhone, then used his psionic powers to annotate it with exactly what I was thinking…

McQ tries the SVC-50

Anyway, the summary is, money-or-no I decided to get it. Hopefully, somewhere between a year-end bonus and a tax refund I can clear up the $1500 damage. (Of course, any cellist will tell you that $1500 for an instrument is cheap, but that doesn’t make it any easier.)

The thing is, it really is exactly what I wanted. Even though the SVC-50 is the cheapest of the models Yamaha makes, and is missing some of the sensors that are in the more expensive ones, it still sounds quite good — better, in fact, than the sound I got from the piezo pickup on my “real” cello. It has a built-in headphone amp and a line in jack that I can use to connect my iPhone, so it will be the perfect tool for practicing at work[*], while listening to the pieces for the orchestra.

It’s also perfect for connecting up to music software, since you can hear the processed result without having to block out the original sound of the instrument. I’ll try to get something recorded soon, so you can hear what it sounds like.

It’s very cool!

Here’s one last image, from the official Yamaha site:

Yamaha SVC-50


[*] Since everyone I have said that to has replied “Aren’t you supposed to be working instead?”, I’m compelled to note that I mean at lunchtime.

Korg DS-10

This was one of the things on my Christmas list this year that I didn’t get[*], so, during boxing week, I wandered down to my local EBGames and picked one up. It’s a cart for the Nintendo DS that provides software emulations of a pair of Korg MS-10, semi-modular analog monosynths and an analog drum machine. It also provides a simple step-sequencer, and has both a traditional keyboard and a “kaos pad” input device. Here’s a couple of screen shots:


Korg DS-10
Korg DS-10

I haven’t had it long enough to do anything interesting with it, but if you want to see what it’s capable of, just search for “DS-10” on YouTube — last I looked there >1000 videos of people making music on them. Among other cool features is the ability to sync up to four DS’s running over wifi, so if anybody else picks up a copy, let me know.

Anyway, here’s my first attempt at making some sounds on it; it’s dreck, but it gives you some idea of what it sounds like:

2008 12 31

(wait for it, it starts slow.)


* Note: I did get a kick-ass, ice crushing blender, a GPS, a bottle of the 2000 Dun Bheagan Islay and numerous other cool gifts, so I’m not complaining at all.

The new album

First, I have to apologize to everyone for the lack of updates on the site for the last while. Since I got back from EclipseCon my life has just been too fracking busy. There is one bit of good news though…


Cover of the HBDI three album

Yup, that’s a new HBDI album. If you click on the above image, it will take you to a page with individual links for all of the songs, but you can download the whole album (as a ZIP, including a high-res image of the cover and a printable CD insert) by clicking on the link in the top left corner of that page.

Reason 4.0

I picked up the Reason 4.0 upgrade this week. If you’re looking to do this, and you live in Ottawa, I heartily recommend ordering it directly from the Propellerhead store: I saw it on sale at one Ottawa music store for $299, but I got mine direct from Propellerhead for US$142, including shipping. That’s a particularly good deal given the current strength of the Canadian dollar. It also took less than a week to get here.

In honour of the upgrade, here’s a little piece I pulled together from several copies of the new-for-Reason-4.0 “Thor” synthesizer, a couple of Rex loops and a little help from my friend Alex 😉 …

Zero Hours

(It’s what my G5 says to me at midnight.)