It is much better to base beliefs on love rather than fear.

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Dude’s Gonna Get Vanned

Happy to be releasing a new track, titled “v&”, as in “Dude’s gonna get vanned.” This is an electronic piece with a driving, punchy kick drum and bass line with some melodic ear candy. It’s over in the Music section of the site. Hope you enjoy!

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“Whatchu Readin’ For?”

I have a vast collection of books, many of which I have read. Okay, as far as jokes go, a better one is the Bill Hicks joke of this post’s title regarding a question he was asked by a waffle waitress. The focus is the wording of the queston, not “what are you reading” but “what are you reading for?” The punch line response was “for many reasons, mostly to not end up being a waffle waitress.”

Being inculcated by literature of all types creates varied attitudes about reading voluntarily as an adult. It’s something that if you do it’s because you enjoy it, though at times there’s a notion of reading books to get to the end, like some kind of check off a list of achievements. We’ve all witnessed some prick smugly mention having read an author like Dostoevsky with a certain sense of pride. And books can make us proud because they can make us feel good like any other form of art, and change us as people. But the pride comes within the enjoyment of the work, and from the transformation as it happens live. Investing a bit of every day for weeks or months of your life into a book can paint a feeling on a period of your life, much like the albums you are listening to.

The idea of reading books to get to the end is akin to doing anything in this world. Do we go to a concert for the enjoyment of the live music, or to say we saw the band? I hope in most cases it’s the former, though I sometimes find myself doing things to get to the end, like traveling. Sometimes it feels like the goal is to get back home and have a story and memory. This memory, however, does not come with regret. Considering I have written about running in the past that seems like a good example. Sometimes I’m definitely just running to get to the end, but ideally it’s about finding joy being present in the moment. It’s ok to feel bogged down by an overwhelming book or workout or adventure. But we do our best to savor the moment in the present and keep it as part of us moving forward. We don’t read books just to get to the end, and we don’t live life just to get to the end.

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Let’s Be Clear

A hallmark of quality writing and art is clarity of expression – what are you trying to say? In the case of music and other art it might not always be possible to put in words, but the same concept of clarity applies in using only as much as needed to communicate an idea. In order to do this, you have to know what it is you’re trying to say. It feels obvious internally, yet so often escapes us when we search for the words, and it can be helpful to stop and ask this when creating.

I think almost everyone wants to communicate a message to the world. We want to tell the world we love it like a child, that we hurt for it, that we share it’s hopes and dreams but know the realities. We want to tell the world it’s all going to be okay, and sometimes we need the world to return the favor. And these feelings swirl together in our minds to make symphonies, fill books and canvasses, and pierce the air through the powerful stab of an electric guitar.

Everyone has something to say, and in many people there will be an endless drive to find a way to express it. But now having said all that, it can’t be overlooked that sometimes we just want to rock. Sometimes we just want to run. Sometimes we just want to fuck. Sometimes we just want to feel. And when our bodies want this, it’s very clear.

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Gating the Noise

In my most recent article here I spouted a bit about music gear and software. I didn’t go deep enough to bore anyone I hope, and I’m not going to here but I thought about some other music making tools and how they apply to life. There are commonly used software and hardware devices like EQ and gating that can cut out (or add in more of) parts of the sound. Gating can cut out sounds altogether, say any sound that doesn’t reach a threshold of volume.

We interpret sound the same way we interpret most everything else there is, by sensing waves and vibrations. In music this ranges from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz, or vibrations per second, and the combination of all these vibrations is the secret recipe that results in one of God’s greatest gifts. This is not too different than how we see, or receive whatever mysterious waves we generate between each other.

There are far too many of these coming at us at any given time to interpret them all. In a sense, our mind is a tuner, or radio-like receiver for these. The more control you have, the less static interference. And within the world and our interactions with people, we have to control the frequencies we let in and amplify. In some cases, the only choice is to cut something out altogether, to gate the noise.

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Tools of the Trade

Periodically I will get asked what type of hardware and software Dorian Green uses to record and produce music. The answer of course depends on what track or album we are talking about. Some music is made using analog instruments and outboard gear while some is made “inside the box,” meaning purely on a computer. My earliest experience in recording was receiving Pro Tools software when I was 18 years old. Home recording was really starting to take off around this time and the previous decade to where for $1000-2000 you could record in your home something that before would have cost tens of thousands worth of studio time. This is an incredibly powerful tool for an 18 year old musician to have, and like most other opportunities I didn’t fully immerse myself in it until a few years later.  I used Pro Tools to record some college band demos, and eventually got fluid enough with it to record the A Symmetry demos. The final version of A Symmetry was recorded mostly in a studio, with some parts done in my home studio and the files moved back and forth on an external hard drive. Then there was editing. Hundreds of hours of editing. This is less than ideal and should be necessary for a typical album, though you can read earlier posts from the site to understand the challenges of that particular album. With all that said, I still use Pro Tools for the majority of rock-band oriented recording, i.e. anything played and recorded with real instruments. Pro Tools has some issues and the company has historically frustrated many people with their licensing policies, but haters gonna hate, and it is still the standard in most studios around the world as far as I know.

Somewhere during the A Symmetry demo process I got exposed to another digital-audio workstation (DAW) software called Ableton Live (with Ableton being the company, Live the name of the software). This opened up a whole new world of possibilities of new digital instruments, and the layout of the software is different, which allows you to approach creation from a different perspective, always a good thing. Ableton uses two different views, one of which matches the standard horizontal view in most other DAWs like Pro Tools, but another view more vertically oriented to where you can mix and match different sections, or keep one section playing on loop while changing around and improvising on another section. Ableton Live is now fairly ubiquitous and used by the majority of DJs, something that is easier than ever since the software is capable of matching tempos and transposing keys. The software is intuitive enough that a beginner can learn very quickly, but advanced enough that professionals with other options still use it to create. Ableton Live is unique in its ability to be used as a live performance tool.

Additionally, I use a software synthesizer by the company Propellerhead called Reason. Reason is recording software like the others, but its primary offering is being a giant instrument rack, ranging from drum sounds to string pads to wild piercing leads. I use Reason within Ableton Live, so have the primary song structure and controls set up in Live and pipe Reason instruments into that. One other neat thing about Reason is it contains a visual emulation of an actual “instrument rack.” It visually displays the instruments you are using, and also allows you to view the backside with virtual wires you can connect to a virtual mixer or other instruments. It’s pretty incredible and good for a confusing headache if you have a session with lots of instruments and effects. Or maybe I just need to be better organized.

None of this is to claim superiority of these softwares over others. Plenty of producers use Reaper, Logic, even GarageBand can be used effectively by people who know what they’re doing. In fact, over a decade’s worth of producing and software experience have taught me one important thing: There is no right way to produce music, just the outcome. If it sounds good, it is good. Sure there are more effective ways than others, but you could use just about any of the softwares I have mentioned here and several others to achieve many of the same things that would ultimately be indistinguishable. Find the one that works best for you. Get to know the tools you have before moving on to a new one. Most importantly, you can read all you want about different types of music production software, but your ears are the most powerful tool you will ever have.

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