Composing Contrasting Material (College 2013 – 2015)

During the second half of our first year of technology we had a composing module. Towards the end of this module we had to put together a small portfolio of contrasting compositions including one created in the composing lessons. Here is that Portfolio:

1. Twelve Bar Blues

This first peice was the one i composed for the composition module it self. The song as suggested by its title is just a simple twelve bar blues including electric rhythm and bass guitars and a lead slide guitar performed on an acoustic steel string. I got the idea from Pink Floyd’s ‘Seamus’ from their album Meddle. The song also is just a short twelve bar but their song has lyrics to it where as mine is purely instrumental. Actually thinking about it i think i basically copied their song’s chord structure and lead melody almost completley…

2. Elevator Music

This peice was created as a final project for our Sound, Creation and Manipulation module which when said makes you sound like a nob. The module was about using LFO’s, Filters, Automation and other technical modulating guffings. We also learnt how wave forms work and stuff like that, most of which i have forgotten already.

The backing basis from the song again came from Pink Floyd as i used a looped sample from ‘Shine on Your Crazy Diamond Part 8’ which i then added bass synth, lead and drums to. Worked surprisingly well to create an instrumental Hip-Hop peice…

3. Enola Gay and Little Boy

This final track is actually the score i did for my Sound and Moving Image module. The film clip i chose was from the film Bare Foot Gen, a film about a boys experience of the Hiroshima Bombing (hence the title of the peice). The clip it’self is of the bombing scene in the film and is very graphic and almost disturbing to some people. As a result the score for this scene was dark and experimental (again like the first peice i actually kinda ripped this one of from Roger Waters score of When the Wind Blows)

Developing a Music Product (College 2013 – 2015)

During our first term of music technology we had to create an EP of music. Around the time i was getting into both Dubstep and Ambient music. Please keep in mind that i know these peices sound like bollocks but it was early days, i only wanted to share some banter…



1. Jukai

Describe your intentions for the first track:
I wish to create a 5:00-7:00 minute ambient piece in the style of Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’.
It will be an original piece that uses 2-3 movements and will incorporate midi and audio recording. I am probably going to ask Max (Bailey) to play some of the synthesizers through his drum machine to create some unique sounding synths. If I do so I am going to need a soundcard that has a midi input.

What resources will be used for this track?
I will use midi VST’s such as ES2 and EVP88 sampler to record most of the project however I wish to add recording from real synthesizers into the project or from a drum machine.  Max (Bailey) is going to use his drum machine to record some synthesized effects for the piece and create some of the instrument sounds for the track.

How will you go about recording this track?
I plan to begin by recoding and programming some midi into a logic file. Most of which will be run back through the drum machine to create unique sounds. Afterwards we shall book out a soundcard and midi cable.This will be used to setup the drum machine.

Once we have set up the drum machine we will edit the sound to create a nice sounding synthesizer to run the first loop through. We will then do this for each of the other loops.
Once all the loops have been recorded for the first movement I am going to write the second movement using the same techniques as I did for the first one. Once both movements are recorded and finished I will master the projects by adding various effects to the master output and to the instruments.

I will also need to EQ some of the instruments to allow all of them to sit comfortably in the mix creating a harmonically and sonically pleasant piece. I plan to do the final mastering and mixing before we burn the tracks to CD.

For my first track I created an Ambient/Electronica piece. I wanted to create a piece in the style of Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene Part 1’. To create this piece I used a mix of Midi VST instruments and also got Max (Bailey) to use his drum machine to create unique synthesized sounds.

I started out by creating an arpeggio loop in logic; this was to be the main rhythm in the piece and would last through the whole track. I used this loop on three VST’s changing the octave to create contrast between the synthesizers. I also sent the loop through max’s drum machine to create an arpeggio sequence with a unique tone.


Next step was to program in a percussive synthesizer. I wanted to have one playing throughout to give some sort of beat to the track. To create this we created an appropriate voice on the drum machine. After this I took the arpeggio loop and just left the first and last note of each arpeggio. We recorded the sequence into logic. Afterwards I decided to add some delay to the percussive synth in order to help it stand out a bit in the mix. I used tape delay to do so on the track and adjusted the levels till I had an appropriate style of delay on the synthesizer.

I wanted to add in some white noise to play throughout the piece to emulate the sound of wind or the ocean. To do this max used the drum machine to create a White noise synth. Then he improvised over the track and created a filtered loop of white noise.


After I had all the recording and Midi done on the track I decided I wanted to add some reverb on some of the main synthesizers. I wanted to do this as it would help create a false environment in the track. To save time I opened the mixer in logic and selected the desired tracks in logic that I wanted to add reverb to. I then sent all of them to a Bus Aux and labelled it reverb. To this track I added Space designer to the Aux. I then chose the seashore Reverb as I felt I gave a unique and interesting sound to the Synthesizers and gave the track a mystic and interesting tone.

Overall I feel that my piece did not turn out as I expected. I wanted to create a track with two movements much like Oxygene Part 1 however I could not get any ideas for the second movement so left the first movement as one piece. I feel that I achieved in creating a harmonic a piece that flowed smoothly throughout but there were some things to improve on. I feel that pretty much all of the synthesizers where to automated as most of them where programmed into logic using the piano roll. I also feel that I could have maybe used more real synthesizers or drum machines because they give a nicer sound than VST’s can. To improve I would have maybe used a wider variety of synthesizers such as the Micro-korg.


2. Eye of the Snowstorm

Describe your intentions for the second track:
I plan to create a Dark ambient piece in the style of OneAmbient4’s ‘Positronic Synapses’. For this Piece I am going to use just midi VST instruments in logic and I will make this piece on my own.

What resources will you use to create the track?
I plan to use VST instruments such as ES2 and ESP88 sampler.

How do you plan to record the track?
First I will listen to ‘Positronic Synapses’ several times and note down any key aspects about the piece that I could emulate in mine. After doing so I will start the piece by creating a logic file that includes 5 Midi track.

I then will choose my first synthesizer that will create the main tune of the piece. I will use this synthesizer and improvise in logic. I will set the BPM to around 60-90 BPM. After improvising with the synthesizer I will proceed to edit any mistakes out and make the track flow smoothly.

I will then select a different VST on the second track to be my bas synthesizer. With the bass synthesizer I plan to copy the midi notes from the main synth and move them down to the 2nd and 3rd octaves. I will edit the notes to create a sustained bass line. After that I plan to add different complimentary VST instruments such a ghostly sounding piano which I will probably use reverb and EQ to create an eerie tone.

I will then cut out the low end of the Main synthesizer to help pull the bass through to sit nicely in the mix. I plan to fully master and mix the track before I burn them EP to disc.

For my second track I wanted to create a Dark ambient piece. For this track I just used VST midi instruments in logic. I began by creating a logic project file with 5 Midi tracks. I chose the first synthesizer to create the main sound of the piece.

I began by improvising with the first synthesizer for about 5-6 minutes. I used a BPM between 60-90 because I wanted the piece to last for about 5 minutes but give the effect of lasting longer than it actually does. After I had improvised I went back over the midi track cleaning up any incorrect notes or problems.

Next step was to create a bass synthesizer to go over the piece. I wanted to have a heavy sounding sustained bass to play throughout the track. To create the bass I used Massive and chose one of the preset Sub bass synthesizers. After tweaking with the sound slightly I copied the midi track from the main synthesizer into the bass track. Then I cut out the high note leaving the sustained ones; which I then moved down to the 2nd/3rd octaves to give a deep bass.

I wanted to add a ghostly piano in the middle of the piece to add some difference as most of the piece is very repetitive. So to create the piano I first used Massive to find an appropriate sound for the piano. I then used Space designer, Tape delay and channel EQ to edit the piano sound and make it sound phat.  I used the channel EQ to cut out the low and mid levels of the piano; this created a compressed effect that sounds like the piano had been recorded through a phone. This also helped add an eerie tone to the piece.

Screen shot 2014-01-17 at 2.19.02 PM

I then layered the piano tracks two more times and panned two of the left and right. The third track I added tremolo to make it bounce from the left and right pan creating a false space and also adding the eerie tone of the piece.

I used automation to fade out the track at the end. I added space designer to the main to create a false environment that gives the impression that it was recorded outside somewhere. I also used a space designer to the main output and used the analogue buffer reverb to create a retro tape sounding tone to the piece, though very subtle.

Screen shot 2014-01-17 at 2.18.48 PM

After creating all the tracks the piece I used Channel EQ on all of the tracks. I did this so I could cut out bass levels and let all of the instruments sit nicely in the mix creating a sonically comfortable piece that still retains its eerie tone.

Overall I feel I succeeded in creating an eerie atmospheric/ ambient piece however the track was a little too repetitive than I would have liked to have made it. I also feel that the piece could have been more comfortable to listen to and could have had more instruments added into it.

3. Ambiguity

Describe your intentions for the third track:
I plan to create an original Dubstep/Electronic tune using just midi in my piece. I will get Fabian (Knight) to create the beat for this piece. Again this piece will just use VST instruments but this time will use VST’s like Massive and Ultrabeat.

What resources will you use to create the track?
I Plan to use VST’s such as Ultrabeat and Massive to create some phat sounding synthesizers. I will only need logic and a midi keyboard to make this so at the most I will only need to go into a booth.

How will you record the track?
I will start by creating a logic project with 5 midi channels. I will then create the main tune to the piece. After this has been don’t I plan to build up different VST’s and create the drop.

I will then get Fabian to program in two drum loops (one for the build and one for the drop). I will the finish of the drop and structure the piece. I plan to master the piece by using EQ, Compression, Limiting and Space designer to create a phat sounding piece and also a track that is comfortable to listen to.

All final mastering and mixing will be done before I burn the EP to disc.

For my third piece I made a Dubstep track. I wanted to take a different turn in tone for the EP as the first two tracks were very similar in style. I began by creating a logic project with 5midi tracks. I first set on of the VST’s to a piano. I used this to create my introductory instrument, one that I would open with and also close with. After creating the loop i began to build the instruments up creating the first build up. I then create the first drop.

After the build up and drop had been created I got Fabian Knight to program in some drums for both parts. After this I then developed the drop more filling out the track to make it longer.
I then improvised the first synthesizer solo over the drop and also to create a second build.

Next step was to create a second drop and ending to the piece. To make the ending I repeated the first build and then two of the piano loops. I then proceeded to improvise another solo over top of the second drop.

Screen shot 2014-01-17 at 2.22.50 PM

I used automation on the bass synthesizers to automate the LFO speed and make the bass sound more interesting than having just sustained repetitive notes. To create the synthesizer voices I used the Massive VST instrument.

I feel that more effects could have been added into the piece as the main mix was fairly dry. This is especially noticeable on the drums as not much was done with these at all. To improve on this I feel that I could have recorded some real drum samples, put them into ultra beat and edited them to sound nicer.

Overall I feel that this piece went ok but there was a lot to improve on. One thing would be that the instruments don’t really sit nicely in the mix and the track is sort of uncomfortable to listen to in a way.

4. Allegro (Dubstep Remix)

Describe your intentions for the fourth track:
For my final track I wish to create a Dubstep remix of a song, I am not entirely certain on which song yet. I intend to use a mix of VST midi instruments and recorded audio using a microphone. I will also get Fabian (Knight) to program in some drum beats for me

What resources do you plan to use to create the track?
I will use VST instruments such as Massive and ultra beat to create the main track. I also wish to create a short Rock style section of the piece. For this I will use an electric guitar plugged into and amplifier. I will also use a microphone to record the guitar so I plan to book out an SM58/SM57 microphone including XLR cable, Headphones, Microphone stand. For the most part I will not need a booth but plan to use one as I am using a microphone to record the guitar and not plugging it directly into a mixing desk or sound card.

How will you record the track?
I will first select which track I want to remix and listen to it several times. This will help me understand the layout of the track and give me ideas on how my remix will sound.

Once I have had several Ideas I will Create a logic file that includes 5 midi tracks and 3 audio tracks (I can add more in later If I need more). I will then download an MP3 version of the track which I will import into the project file.

Next I will time stretch the sample into 140 BPM (If not already that BPM) as this is the BPM that Dubstep uses. I will then take the starting of that track to help me create the build up. Once I have created that I will get Fabian to create the Drums for the build up.

I will then proceed to create the drop and structure the piece more, I will also make a drum loop for the drop. Midi way through I plan to have a second build up, this will be a rock inspired section. To create this I will book out an amplifier, SM58 microphone, Mic stand, XLR and ¼ Jack from the technicians, I will bring in my guitar to record with. I will record a small guitar loop using chords that fit the original song.

I will then build the instruments up again and have a second drop. I plan to finish the track by fading the piece out. I will master and mix the piece before I Burn the CD.

For my fourth track I decided to create a Dubstep remix of one of my old techno tracks that I had created. I started out by creating the logic project file and importing the bounced version of the techno track into the project.

As the original track was 120bpm and Dubstep is made at 140bpm I had to time stretch the song so that it was in time. I began by taking the original starting of the techno track and adding more instruments over top to build it up. I began by adding a Klopfgeist over the top of the original track. In the original I did include this instrument in the same place but it was too quiet in the final mix and did not stand out as much. I also added drums to the opening which were not present in the original.

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 4.08.41 PM

For the drop I used a sound sample from the original drop in the techno track. From here I used Massive to create a bass synth that would come in every other two bars and replace part of the synths from the original mix. After the main part of the drop was created I changed it up by changing around the sampled sections of the techno track and also adding and removing synthesizers.

I decided that for a second build up I wanted to move away from that standard structure and create something rock inspired. For this I booked out an SM57 microphone, amplifier, XLR and microphone stand from the technician’s office. I plugged my guitar into the amplifier and then used a microphone to record the output of the guitar.

sm57 amp setup.JPG

I then programmed in a basic Rock drum loop using ESX88 sampler. For the main build I cut the Kick out from the rock drums and replaced it with the Dubstep kick from the first build up. Following this I had the second drop which repeated till fade. However I changed it up slightly by using a chopped sample of the guitar loop I had used the prior build up.

I wanted to side chain the sub bass to the kicks in this track. To do so I bounced both kick tracks down into audio tracks. Then put a compressor on the sub bass. From here I sent both Kick tracks to a bus however I didn’t want to here the output from the AUX so set the output to nothing. I then opened the compressor window for the sub bass and side chained the sub bass to the kick. This allowed for the kick to push past the sub and sit nicely in the mix.

To give the guitar its voice I used Guitar FMX rig. Overall I feel the piece went quite nicely and I achieved in creating a remix. A problem to mention is that original track when time stretched had a click which was caused by the original kick. To fix this I could have gone back and used EQ to maybe cut out that kick from the mix.

An Analysis of “Jean Michel Jarre: Oxygene Live in your Living Room” (College 2013 – 2015)

Watch the full performance here.



What Equipment do they use?
As Jean Michel Jarre started off in the late 60’s and early 70’s he uses primarily analogue synthesizers of various types including modular, polyphonic and monophonic. Using analog in place of the modern digital synthesizers keeps to the original sound and tone of his music and also creates more authentic tones and textures. When it comes to controlling effects the main things controlled are modulation and filter FX. All the equipment used is hardware as again it adds to the authenticity and overall sound of the music. Some notable examples include:

  • Eminent 310 U – used a lot throughout the album
  • E.M.S VCS3  – one of his first synthesizers which he has used for most of his compositions
  • RMI keyboard computer – one of the songs for oxygene was made primarily with this synthesizer.

He has used some other instruments though which were not originally used on the album. One such is the Theremin, which he has used as a lead. Another synthesizer that wasn’t on the original is a key tar, again used as a lead. I think that even though they weren’t originally used on the album changing the equipment list gives a fresh sound to the music and also results in live performances being superior to the original recording.


What Techniques do they use to perform their music?
The majority of the performance is all performed live by him and his backing musicians who play the instruments manually however some parts require arpeggiated sequences, which have most likely been looped. All of the synthesizers are hardware as it keeps with the original sound and feel of the music when it was recorded.

Where do they fall within the historical timeline of performance technology?
He began making music in the late 60’s and 70’s when synthesizers where just being perfected. There was almost little to no sequencing so any mistakes made would have to be re-recorded from the start. Sampling was also a very rare concept, which came about during the 80’s with the Fairlight CMI; an instrument utilised by jarred on later works. The CMI used a computer to process the samples and also popularised the use of MIDI.

How do they fit in with other related artists?
His primary influence is Pierre Schaeffer who he learnt a lot of experimental techniques from in the late 1960’s. During the 70’s and 80’s artists such as Vangelis and Kraftwerk created similar music using electronic music however all the artists managed to maintain a unique sound due to the synthesizers they used.

For example Jean Michel jarre used the Eminent 310 home organ a lot in his earlier albums utilising the string sound through a phaser, this gave his music a very spacey sound. Vangelis on the other hand used the Yamaha CS-80 a lot in his works. This synthesiser had some very orchestral sounds included which Vangelis a symphonic tone to a lot of his music whilst still being electronic.

Despite the differences in personal sound each of these artists all started by using hardware synthesizers as Software synthesizers were rare and computers were also very primitive and could not support musical software.



Sound for Moving Image (College 2013 – 2015)

Something from my years studying music technology, we had to score and do sound effects for a film clip…



Afterwards we had to talk a bit about our clip and the sounds effects we used…

Which instruments have you used to create your music soundtrack?

ESX24 – Piano, Orchestral Percussion, Analog Synth Bass

Massive – White Noise (as Wind SFX)

ESP – Synth Pad

High Hat (as Cymbal)

How does your music enhance the action in the movie?

I feel that my music helps emphasise certain moments in the video. One example is the silence at 0:57 – 1:11. This helps put emphasis on the explosion of the bomb and also creates a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere. I have also used a repeated theme at the beginning of the clip and end. The theme begins at the start of the video and continues until the bomb is deployed. At the beginning it adds a sombre and dark tone and empathetically enhances the knowledge of what is going to happen. The theme reprises at 2:35 but includes more instruments most notably the synthesizers. This again enhances the uncomfortable tone of the video. From 2:11 – 1:51 the only sound used was White noise (with the exception of the dog SFXs). I wanted to enhance the uncomfortable nature of this section and so I felt that using almost nothing created the atmosphere I wanted to. The only other sound effect in this section is for the Dog. I felt that if I had added sound effects for the humans dying it would sound to comic and take away from the dark tone of the video however I felt that adding SFX to the dog just gave this section and extra something. The next section shows various building and object being destroyed and blown all over the place. I feel that my composition compliments the mayhem and ferocity of the explosion. I used a cymbal and piano hits to emphasise some of the stuff going on in the video such as at 2:00 where the pagoda is being destroyed. I felt this put emphasis on that exact building. The repeated bass loop in this section fades out into the reprise of the opening theme and the ending of the video.

What effects or automation techniques have you used?

I have automated the filter cut off on the white noise to create a wind sound effect. Volume modulation was used to fade various instruments in such as the Analog Synth Bass and Cymbal Crash (High Hat).

I sent the SFX and some instruments to a Reverb Bus. I used the reverb to create a false atmosphere to match with the setting of the film.

How have you created your sound design for the movie? How did you record and process your sound effects, and did you use any synthesis techniques?

I recorded all the sound effects using my phone. I used several different samples that were processed to create another sound e.g. the sound of the propeller was created by recording a fan at three different speeds. I placed the phone on top of the fan and recorded an 8 bar clip, I did this for all three speed then layered them appropriately to create the final sound effect. Another example is the SFX of the debree flying around. First I recorded sound samples of various plastic cups, bottles and metal cans being crushed and crumpled up. After importing these into logic each sound file was converted into a sampler. I used delay designer to create a random delay and make it sound less processed and each of the different sound samples had different effects added to them to create contrast and to enhance to sound of debree, making it sound like various objects flying around.

How have you created your files ready for delivery?

I created the uncompressed video file by embedding the audio into the video, creating a MOV a file. I did this in Logic. I then created a Compressed version using Quicktime, this was a iPhone M4V file.