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Journal

January 30, 2002. Created another new patch on the MicroQ last night. This is a sweep that starts FB2 (tentative title), and doubles an XP patch. The MicroQ interface is pretty self-explanatory, but occasionally I get stuck and should just check the manual. Of course the manual is not in the studio and Iím too lazy to go get it! One particular problem I was having was changing the oscillator balance in the new patch. The knobs are supposed to control it, but for some reason it wasnít working. Finally realized after checking the manual that I was on the wrong menu pageÖI think.

Started working out a drum line on the Electribe for the tune. Got some nice drum sound effects from the XP that work well in the track. Two sounds in particular: a slow chime that descends and a reverse cymbal/wind noise. Thereís also a fast sequence I play manually that sounds a little like the main rhythmic synth line from Ping. Iíve also got a sequence with a plucky sound, and two melodies: one using an organ sound, the other a raspy, slightly out of phase lead sound. Right now the mix is way too dense for Daveís contribution. Most likely just insert the melodies occasionally or maybe not at all.

Also came up with some patch ideas that will probably lead to a new tune. I have the patches basically worked out, tho they still need work and fine tuning. One is a pad/sweepy affair and a couple of patches that rely on the arp. These three parts will form the basis for yet another track to send to Dave. I need to see if he wants me to record dry or with effects. Actually, I mean just without reverb since some of the patches rely on delay/phase/flanger etc.

January 29, 2002. Actually created two new patches on the MicroQ last night that will find their way into existing tracks. One of the patches is a bass sound similar to on I crafted on the XP for Variations. Iíll either just use the Q patch or double them up. Also trying to rework and strip down Four Days On, Wholes, and Drunken Shadows. These in addition to Variations and the other new one that doesnít have a title yet are about 60 minutes worth of music. Havenít done anything with the tune I structured out yesterday, but will tackle it soon.

Was almost tempted to purchase a 309 on Ebay, but decided since Iíve already owned it twice already Iíd eventually tire of it again. Plus, this time around I have no need for the synth section. The drums and interface are cool, but the Electribe is easier to use and has a more straightforward MIDI implementation. Plus, I really want to get the Vermona drum module or a Novation Drumstation.

I've also been thinking about moving this site to its own domain and get rid of the annoying ads. At that point, I'll probably redesign the site.

January 28, 2002. Rearranged the studio on Friday night. Kept the keyboard where it was, but moved the rack of MicroQ, mixer and effects unit to the right where the bass and guitar were. Just moved the guitar into the corner, moved the bass amp where the rack was and put the bass where the amp was. More open space and everything works better from an ergonomic standpoint.

Didnít get much of a chance to use the Q this weekend, but have read the manual a few times so Iím ready to get to work. I was a bit perturbed that there wasnít a random arp setting, but I seem to have figured out how to do it based on instructions for user patterns in the manual. Iíll try it out tonight and see if it works.

Yet another tune in progress. This one is mapped out before sitting down at the keys, a technique I often use. The structure is based on repeating patterns, another writing form I often use (e.g., Ping). It goes like this, with each pattern coming in:

Lead/melody sequence (slow LFO controlling filter cutoff)
Subtle sound effects
Bass drum (decay controlling pitch)
Hi-hat pattern
Bass line
Claps (heavily filtered) as a snare
Snare roll (leads to next patterns; repeated as needed)
Solid bass drum (no decay) and snare
Another sequenced line
Synth chords
Drum break (new drum sounds; snare out), lead seq. off, other seq. off, chords off
Snare and other seq. back in
Lead seq. back in
Synth chords
Synth chords and other seq. out
Everything back in
Everything out but skeletal drums, lead, chords

Of course I still need to write the parts and create the sounds, but this is an effective way to build the structure. And when the parts are actually created, the structure goes through some changes to accommodate the way the sound work together. Iíll try to spread the drums out between the equipment, and four separate synth lines (lead, sound fx, complimentary sequence and a pad). There are 11 different patterns, but depending how the drums are constructed, this could be more or less. This may be too dense to allow for other folksí contribution, but Iíll give it a try anyway.

January 25, 2002. The MicroQ arrived yesterday. Mint condition. Hooked it up and went through some of the sounds. The filters remind me of the Microwave II; nice and smooth. I see a lot of potential for this box. Thereís much power under the covers. Really opens up the sound in conjunction with the XP and the Electribe.

I was able to easily upgrade the OS and load different sounds. I always forget that you donít need to load files into the XP, it can access them directly from a disk, so there is no limitation as I mentioned yesterday. Youíd think after owning one for almost seven years Iíd remember this. Anyway, Iím sure Iíll be running the Q through its paces this weekend.

Would still like to get the Vermona, especially since I saw they have an updated model: silver with blue LEDs. Looks a lot better than the blue-face one. Iíve listed a bunch of stuff on ebay, with more next week, to fund the purchase of the excellent analog drum module. With the Q, Iím pretty set as far as sound generators go. I canít really think of anything else other than the drum module Iíd want right now, since the Q and XP generate a lot of sound. I just donít have the patience for too much gear, since I really like to know them inside and out.

I also need to rearrange my humble studio because the rack stuff (MicroQ, effect, mixer) are in back of me when Iím playing the XP, so I have to keep turning around to access them. I used to have this stuff at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard, but moved it around so that I was facing out to the room instead of facing the wall. Will try some different arrangement this weekend.

January 24, 2002. Came across another limitation of the XP50 sequencer today. In preparation for the arrival of the MicroQ, I downloaded the latest operating system. The file is too big for the XP. I had to dig out my midi interface for the Mac and load a demo version of Musicshop, an old Opcode sequencing program. Hopefully this will work to upgrade the OS of the MicroQ. I also downloaded some sound banks, but these seem small enough to be handled by the XP. I still donít want to do sequencing via the computer, or synthesis. Everyone touts the Nord Modular, and I know it sounds good, but I still like hardware as far as synths go. I expect the Q to be waiting for me once I get home from work today. Tonight I plan on updating the OS, hooking up the cables and taking the synth for a spin.

January 23, 2002. Learned today that Pete Bardens, keyboardist for Camel, died yesterday. Sigh.

Just bought a used MicroQ that should arrive tomorrow. Excellent price for this powerful little synth. I had originally planned on getting an analog drum module, as Iíve been composing more beat-oriented work lately, but the Q has some drums in it, so that should come in handy in conjunction with the Electribe. Still working on two new pieces. Variations is coming along, and a I added some drums last night to see how it would sound.

The second piece, with a working title of FB2, is also sounding better with drums. I changed an organ melody last night and added a squelchy melody that comes in now and again. The hardest part is making these sparse so that Dave Fulton can add his magic somewhere down the line. Speaking of Dave, we spoke by phone today and left the door open that our collaboration could become Dweller At The Threshold material. Once I have enough material, Iíll be sending it to Dave for his views. I plan on recording two dubs: one with drums, one without.

Iíve been concentrating on beats recently, which works out well because I can bring the little Electribe anywhere in the house and just construct drum lines with headphones. Since it gets cold in the studio in the winter, this helps me keep motivated.

Still no word on a release date for Sonic Approach, but I decided to keep the titles from a few months ago. Thus, Hazy Prisms stays and Variations will be the title for a new piece referenced above. I listened to the master a couple of weeks ago for the first time in two months and Iím still happy with the results.

Hereís a draft of the poem I plan on including in the liner notes of the CD.

January 2, 2002. Happy new year. Roaring back into composition, Iíve picked up work on the new long track I started a couple of months ago, called ďVariations on a Theme of Absence.Ē Variations is now the title for what was called Hazy Prisms on Sonic Approach. But this may all change. Anyway, Sonic Approach is still set for release on Binary/Hypnos. Date still unknown.

Been considering how/if to expand the musical equipment at this time, but Iím drawing a blank. For all the equipment Iíve bought over the years, the XP-50 is the only gear Iíve been happy with and have kept. Iíve been looking at the Waldorf Micro Q, but fear as with lots of other boxes, I would end up selling it months later. Iím probably going to just replace the two expansion boards in the XP-50 and stick with this set up for a while. Thereís still much in this synth to be explored and Iím not ready to buy anything big right now.


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