Archive for the ‘Electronic Music’ Category

Interview with Cogswell Digital Audio student Randy Greer

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Randy Greer - Image from: randygreermusic.com

The Cogswell Pulse interviewed senior Digital Audio Technology student Randy Greer about the creation of his compilation album that was released last semester.  Randy began studying classical music in 2007, under DR. Scott K Bowen, Travis Silvers and Aaron Garner. He later shifted his focus from classical music to digital music while at Cogswell College. We asked about his experience in producing an album and the journey that he went through.

Q: What is the inspiration for your music?

A: The inspiration varies from song to song really. Because the songs have to cover a wide variety of styles, I have to draw inspiration from all over. I might listen to jazz and country back-to-back for a week straight in while I’m working on a rock song. I got one of my catchiest melodies “glock jams” from a mechanic who was whistling to my music as I wrote with my window open.

Q: What project did you create your music for? Why did you create your album?

A: I created an album for my Portfolio II class. It’s license free music to hand out to businesses to help get my name out there as a composer.

Q: How long did it take you to create? What software did you use?

A: It took me the whole semester to create the album. I wrote about 3 songs a week, but some of the songs had to be recorded. All songs had to be edited, mixed, and mastered.  The album art and website had to be created as well. I used Pro Tools 10 a lot. I also used a MIDI notation program called Guitar Pro, mastering was done with iZotope, and I used Propellerhead Reason 5 for a lot of my electronic sounds.

Q: What is your favorite part about the album?

A: My favorite part of the album was probably the country song. I had to learn to play the banjo just for that song and I fell in love with the instrument and its unique characteristics.

Q: What was the most challenging part about creating the album?

A: The most challenging part, believe it or not, was not the time constraints. It was not knowing how the music will be used. This meant I had to make music without direction even though it still had to fit parameters to stay as useful as possible.

Q: What did you learn while creating this?

A: I learned that although the people guiding you have knowledge, it is often faster and more consistent to execute your own decisions – with confidence and reason. I learned how to write a simple work-for-hire contract. I learned how to play the banjo, and I also learned how to prep meals for marathon work sessions. That might not be important to everyone but I don’t believe it’s necessary to kill your body to make good work while meeting tight deadlines.

Q: Did you create the album with the help of other people? If so, how did they contribute?

A: Having outside help was a must. I have original music falling out of my ears to the point where it’s a distraction on any given day. But finding ways to manage and present the music can be overwhelming with 45 songs at a time. I had to use other students in the audio department for mixing and mastering: Justin Floyd,  Joey White, Marc Rivas, and Andrew Wilkins were all a huge help. Often times, the school’s studios were overbooked, or equipment I reserved was rented out to someone else when I had booked a session with a professional musician.  Those other students pulled through to help me out in emergencies.

My whole class also helped with feedback on songs and how they might need reworking. It was a critical listening process. Also Katie Fortune was a huge help, she worked with me remotely to get the album art to present in a professional way.Q: What was your experience with working with other people on a project like this?  What did you learn?  What were the benefits and challenges?

A: Most of the people I worked with who were also Cogswell students were reliable and fast, however most of the people who were not from the school – like my session musicians – were flaky. They were willing to commit but reluctant to execute, without some coaxing and encouragement. The best thing I did was playing the instruments myself. I made recordings by myself. I mixed by myself. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to work with these people, but when I’m on a timeline and being graded and they are not, I can’t expect them to put the same amount of care and determination into a piece of work that I would.

Q: What would you do differently for your next album?

A: Hands down, I would write for a project that had a specific need. I like to make music that is uniform and collectively representational. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll write anything for the right price, but I only had a week to formulate this project.  At the time, I was also doing work with MediaWorks. That said, I’m currently working on an app that requires a diversity of music. Funny how that works I guess.Q: What career do you hope to get into?

A: As far as careers go, my first choice would be to create original music and sound effects for video games, followed by movies or television. I’d also be happy to be hired to write music for apps, commercials, online videos and startup promotions. Ideally I would like to work full-time for a company that has good benefits. I’m not sure how many 9-to-5′s are out there that fit that description, but I my goal is to one day start a family.  I want to be able to support them without compromise and I will need a job that can ensure that that happens.

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Cogswell’s own Kegan Chau attended the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention this year, gaining valuable knowledge and insights about his future career. Being both a student at Cogswell and a member of the student AES chapter at Cogswell, Kegan expresses how well prepared he felt while taking on this year’s AES. Kegan is a Digital Audio Technology student at Cogswell and has been a part of several large projects at the College. Currently, he’s working with on-campus animation studio, Star Thief Studio, as both composer and sound designer.

Watch the interview on YouTube here: Kegan Chau, Digital Audio Student, Attends AES

iPhone Apps for Professional Audio Engineers

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

From games to networking to organization tools, the number of apps available for the iPhone are almost endless and grow exponentially every year. The majority of apps have been fitted for enthusiasts, however, recently there’s been a rise in iPhone apps for professional audio engineers. These apps vary in price, from the free with advertising, to the eye-opening expensive. These apps make the everyday jobs of recording, editing, and exporting easier for audio engineers.

The three most abundant types of Pro-Audio iPhone apps are field recorders, portable digital audio workstations and remote controls.

Field Recorders

Many audio recorders apps lack the features found in traditional field recorders. However some have recently become available on the market that allow the engineer to conveniently capture a professional quality recording without having to purchase a separate device. Here are just a few:

  • Hindenburg Field Recorder
  • RODE Rec
  • iSLR Field Recorder

Portable Workstations

Utilizing the iPhone’s built-in audio interface, these apps are in essence simplified digital audio workstations used to record or program multi-track song ideas. The tracks can then be exported to a computer for later editing. They include:

  • Cleartune Chromatic Tuner
  • ioMetrics GigBaby!
  • Novation Automap 3
  • Sonoma Wire Works FourTrack
  • Thezi Studio Metronome TS

Remote Control Apps

These apps allow Pro-Audio engineers to control digital audio workstations (DAWs) or other hardware devices from the iPhone. They are specific to the DAWs in use, and have the ability to control the various virtual knobs, fader and buttons. Some of the more popular are:

  • Far Out Labs ProRemote
  • Hexler TouchOSC
  • Steinberg Cubase iC

Tell us what you think!

Which Pro-Audio iPhone apps have you used and which can you not live without?

Interested in becoming an audio engineer? Learn more about Cogswell’s Digital Audio Technology bachelor degree programs at http://www.cogswell.edu/programs/digital-audio-technology.php

Sound Design: An Ear for Detail

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Crash, Bang, Boom, – Snap, Crackle, Pop – Slam, Bam, Shazam – Not only are these onomatopoetic, but also harmonic gold to sound designers and editors alike. Sounds often make or break video content, and knowing what works takes more than just a keen ear for detail. Sound designers combine the art and science of sound to create the perfect fit for television, film, and video game content.

Editor vs. Designer

Recently, the lines between a sound director and that of a sound editor have been blurred. The major difference being that a sound director is a glorified editor of sorts. A sound editor is responsible for the existing sound – i.e. editing of the dialogue syncing, and removal of extraneous background noise.

On larger budget productions a sound designer is brought in to not only oversee the work of the sound editors, but is also responsible for crafting new sounds – i.e. laser gun fights, cars exploding, tornado wind storms, etc.  Sound designers are also responsible for creating the overall emotional atmosphere of the scene. What sound additions/subtractions would create more tension, suspense, or comedy?

Job Description

Sound designers tend to work long hours with strict deadlines. Depending on a production’s budget, sound designers may start their work months in advance of filming. There is a large level of strategy and organization required in order to conceptualize the production in its entirety. A sound designer must forecast and plan out what sounds he or she will have to create, verses what can be shot organically.

A vast technical knowledge is required in order to digitally create, mix, edit, and distort sound. Sound effects are then layered into the production along with dialogue and music. On the flip side, a vast creative knowledge is also required for designers to fashion new sounds where one had not yet existed. Designers get innovative, and use everyday objects to create new sounds – i.e. crunching cellophane to imitate a fire crackling, or flexing a large sheet of aluminum to replicate thunder.

Sound design is a highly competitive area, and jobs are based on experience. Education is vital to develop an ear for detail. Interested in a career in sound editing or design? Check out Cogswell’s Digital Audio Technology program to develop and fine tune your skills!

Get Your BEAT On in the Electronic Music Competition

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Cogswell Digital Audio Technology student, Daniel McFarren, has put together a unique final portfolio project – a competition designed to spotlight the very best electronic musicians in the Bay Area. The final field will consist of five artists who will complete challenges to inspire creativity and innovation.

From on-the-spot creation of interesting loops to full-on song production, to live performance in front of a club audience, artists will have the chance to prove themselves as worthy beatmakers. A panel of leading industry judges will put the artists to the test, critique their work and scrutinize their style. The ultimate champion will have the chance to headline at a Bay Area club event.

When asked, why this particular project instead of something else, McFarren replied,

“There is this vast population of talented musician/DJs, just waiting for their chance to get up on stage and show everyone in that club the cool stuff they figured out through many sleepless nights in front of a laptop, hunched over a MIDI controller. The creativity of these artists came from the disparity between their musical inspiration and the lack of of technological resources available to them. It is, in fact, the non-optimal conditions of music composition that drive the creativity that fuels the evolution of Electronic Music. This, I believe, is why we are seeing such a flourish of unique EM music from ‘bedroom producers,’ who scrimp and save the meager income from their day job to get he very basic tools needed to make the music that drives them. With the help of my good friend and Co-Creator for the show, John Buell, we have made an attempt at translating this evolutionary drive into the form of a competition, where those artists who have that creative spark get the chance to be noticed, and possibly jump up on stage next to that headliner that helped inspire them in the first place.”

Submissions must be in by March 3 and interviews will be held during the week of March 9 at Motiv Nightclub in Santa Cruz to select the five competitors.

For additional information and submission details, visit BEAT.

Growing Appetite for Electronic Music

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Students in Cogswell College's Ultimate Electronic Music Production class.

Since Cogswell College has a powerful electronic music program, we found this recap of the Krake Festival in Germany which includes a number of audio clips from Killekill’s Bill Youngman, Tim Exile and Samuel Kerridge.

In case you missed it, here is the promo video for the Ultimate Electronic Music Production class.

Enjoy!

Electronic Music Thrives at Cogswell College

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Late last spring we shared information about some of the unique classes available to Cogswell students over the Summer and “Ultimate Electronic Music Production” was one of them.

Now that it is winding down for this term, we would like give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the class, which was a combination of research, practical learning and great fun. This VIDEO demonstrates the amazing opportunity electronic musicians have when they study at Cogswell.

“The main focus of the class is to teach the ideology and culture behind electronic music, and not focus on any particular style. I wanted to create an overview of compositional and musical sound design approaches and processes, go beyond just sharing tips and tricks, and let students develop their own, original methods that they can apply to any electronic music project. Another major consideration was to give students some experience with using the tools of a working electronic music studio via various hands-on assignments,” said Julius Dobos, Distinguished Lecturer at Cogswell.

The class did spend time listening to Musique Concrete works, Jarre and Kraftwerk albums, followed by one of their assignments where students had to create a Kraftwerk sound-alike piece – not recreate a particular song, but apply the unique style to a brand new composition. Kraftwerk was a German quartet that laid the groundwork for most electronic- and synth-based artists that followed them in the 1970’s and 1980’s and even today. Students started with a blank canvas, designed their own sounds and used them to composed the music as a group.

The primary takeaway Dobos hopes students receive from this course is “the discovery of an unexpected diversity in this segment of musical art which we call Electronic Music. It’s not a style, but an ever-evolving combination of compositional, musical sound design and intellectual elements. Understanding and recreating the approaches from historic to modern, learning about the evolution of music technology and the pioneers of electronic music, including those lesser known in the United States, would greatly expand the creative horizon of any composer – not to mention Cogswell’s talented students with a particular interest in electronic music.”

“I took the class to widen my skill set and palette,” said student, Robert Kirby. “The class looked like a great way to expand my understanding of the genre. The advantage of electronic music is the wide range of sounds at your fingertips. Using the synthesizers I achieved some pretty cool things. I was happy with the class after the first assignment.”

Besides teaching at Cogswell, Mr. Dobos is the Founding Composer of The Creative Shop, a music production studio with a clientele that has included Sony Entertainment, The Discovery Channel, Nokia and other high-profile clients. Having been composing since age 9, Mr. Dobos has released seven musical albums in various electronic music styles, among them the platinum-selling Connecting Images. His music has been featured in major motion pictures including You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, as well as a variety of television programs, advertising campaigns, exhibitions and sound installations in the United States and Europe. In 2012, Dobos was invited to move his vast Studio CS to Cogswell to give students access to a level of equipment that many professionals only dream about. Some of the synthesizers are truly unique pieces, such as the rare Crumar Spirit (one of the 260 units ever built), the Ensoniq Fizmo, and the coveted Yamaha CS-60. (Check out the Studio CS equipment list.)

“It’s actually not the gear, but the concept that really matters. Technology can be impressive and even overwhelming, but there is no substitute for meaning & feel when it comes to textures and sounds.
More than being the core part of my career, electronic music has been my passion for as long as I can remember – I have been living and working in the world of sounds and music for close to three decades. Sharing this world and my passion within the structure of a special topic course with a select group of students who have expressed a deep interest in electronic music, seemed like a unique opportunity for them and was a great new experience for me as well.”

“Julius knows everything there is to know about electronic music so working with him was a chance to work with a master, plus the chance to experiment on all this amazing equipment,” said student, Daniel McFarren.