This post is in the Special Interests category

“The Lamb” from SubCon Warrior 2.0 – Zen Zen Zo 2008

Dear Reader

When I first started mixing on large consoles in the recording studio, it was common practice for the whole band to be involved.  We would “perform” a mix of the verse, or the chorus – each person having control of certain tracks, tweak the level at the end of the third bar, push the echo send on this word or that, duck the eq on the bass when the guitar dives.  We would practice it, then commit it to tape.  We would then re-set the board and record another performance.  Later we would go through the performances and choose the best bits to splice together for the song.

Then we got automation.  I remember saying to a more experienced colleague – “great, this will save us some time”.  He gave me a blank look. “It will take you three times as long.”  He was right.  Automation gave us the tools to chase perfection, or at least the many different versions of it.

The computer based sequencer brought this power to composition too.  It enables us to quickly make something “pretty good”1 and very slowly make something “really good”. It is the mediator that lets us define a performance in terms of pitch and level and time and timbre and envelope.  The Digital Audio Workstation goes even further.

In this piece I used more computer power than sent man to the moon.  Much more, orders of magnitude more. My samples are played from the keyboard, via sophisticated scripts that splice together words and make the choir sing a language I can not speak but can have accurately translated and phonetically demonstrated on the internet.  The drums are not a real drummer but several degrees removed, single strikes recorded, played “round robin” from the carefully drawn MIDI data.  The rising resonance of the pad has twelve envelope stages.  The piano is a mathematical model that calculates the sound based on the density of the wood and can be modulated by changing the virtual temperature and speed of sound.  The violin performance cost me more2 than paying a violinist would have done.

Deus ex machina!

  1. or mediocre []
  2. time = money []

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