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Rain and Birds and a Distant Train (Ambient Rushton Podcast 75)

A gentle rain recorded from my screened deck on Sunday, May 24, 2015.  There are occasional birds and a distant train, as well as a hint of road noise from I-80.

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Pajarito (disquiet0139-techtechnique)

Think about a specific technique that you are proud of having developed, perfected, or in some way folded into your work.

Listen to the beginning 80 seconds of my track “Pajarito” which I released in 2008. It was originally created in late 2006.

What technique am I talking about? There’s three things here in Pajarito that make it different from my earlier work and it’s an artistic pivot point for me.

First: If you listen to that low arpeggio – it’s not perfect. It goes out of time. That’s the way I arranged it. I wanted it to be imperfect. Rhythmically, it’s much more interesting to me. It’s repetitive yet shifting because of the imperfection of going out of time.

Second: I’ve always enjoyed pitch-shifting loops down. Something about the lower frequencies connects with me. I got my hearing tested last year, you know, just to check, and the hearing’s fine, but in my right ear I can’t hear higher frequencies. It “drops off” as they say. And now I see why I pitch shift down audio and loops in my work. Every loop that’s multi-tracked on Pajarito is pitch-shifted down an octave, a couple octaves, and even 4 octaves from the original sound.

Third: I incorporated a field recording in the background. If you’re familiar with my work and the track “Machine Symphony” then there you go, that’s the sound. And that is a recording of a faulty air exhaust fan in a bathroom at work about a decade ago, recorded on Minidisc (!), and I pitch shifted it down 4 octaves and it’s still got some high end on it. I’ve used that so many times since then.

So there you. The technique is a blending of 1. Allowing sound to go “out of time”, 2. pitch-shifting lower, and 3. incorporation of field recordings.

More on this 139th Disquiet Junto project — “Create and upload a track that exemplifies one key creative process you’ve developed″ — at: disquiet.com/2014/08/28/disquie…139-techtechnique/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: disquiet.com/junto

My Fickle Friend, The Solar Wind (disquiet0089-vger)

Nod to Johnny Mercer with the title.

Track was crafted entirely out of source audio, which was captured via one of those YouTube to MP3 programs. Chopped up in Sound Forge. Played around with in Paulstretch. Layered and mixed in Acid Pro.

When I was in elementary school I used to go with my dad to the old Science Center in Des Moines where the Astronomy Club met. That’s where I saw my first VCR in the mid 70’s, likely showing a videotape of something involving Pioneer 10. I would watch the presentation on the TV screen, usually involving those nifty NASA animations, and then took off for the “dumb terminal” computers when the adults starting talking. I’d play hi-lo, 21, and make the computer say “Yes Or No Please”. You could say I was more into the computers.

More on this 89th Disquiet Junto project, in which the sounds of interstellar space are used to make “goodbye music” for the Voyager 1 space probe, at:

disquiet.com/2013/09/12/disquiet0089-vger/

Source audio courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Iowa via:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIAZWb9_si4

Special thanks to Mark Ward (mark-ward.org) for having suggested this material as the subject for a Disquiet Junto project.

National Poetry Month: Mark Rushton (disquiet0067-odysseymachine)

More on this 67th Disquiet Junto project at: disquiet.com/2013/04/11/disquie…67-odysseymachine/

My process: Per the rules, I rolled a combined “8” for Book VIII, and with the 3 die I ended up with line 80, which is:

He set before him, next, a polish’d board
And basket, and a goblet fill’d with wine
For his own use, and at his own command.

After looking at numerous online text-to-speech tools, I ended up using NaturalReaders.com and eventually settled with UK-en voice “Peter” with speed set at -4. Later on, I added a touch of reverb and some chorus in Sound Forge.

It was important that I found the right voice and at the right pacing. I wanted older, British, slow, perhaps having downed a few drinks already, and I got it. The pacing was controlled by the way I arranged the text on the screen. After recording, there was only one tiny split-second glitch that got excised.

I help produce a literary audio magazine, Bound Off www.boundoff.com – it’s been published monthly since 2006 and presents short fiction read aloud by the authors or other readers. I perform audio editing of the stories, when needed, and half the battle of what I do is being aware of the pacing, editing out any mistakes of the readers, and trying to doctor whatever recording I receive the best I can.

The other thing I like is when readers slowwwww ddddddown. Slow down so I can hear it. Slow down so I can understand it. Slow down so I can enjoy it. So it was nice that NaturalReaders.com enabled me to “slow down” UK Peter. That’s really key. Especially when it comes to poetry. Particularly when you’re only presenting one line.

As you can see, the setup was really crucial.

The music? Eh… I am biased in that I don’t like music or sounds to overwhelm words or poetry in this sort of a presentation. I kept it very minimal. I loaded up the recording in Samplr on my iPad and recorded off some audio. 4 different loops were mixed in, although they are at a very low volume. It would be disrespectful to UK Peter -4 to compete. So I made a decision to put most of my effort in the “reading” rather than the “music”.

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

This project was inspired by the National Poetry Month event at SoundCloud, more details on which here:

soundcloud.com/groups/national-poetry-month-collaborations

The source text for this project is William Cowper’s translation of The Odyssey of Homer, available here:

archive.org/stream/theodysseyof…4269gut/24269-0.txt

Sad European Movie Soundtrack (disquiet0055-twoscrews)

This week’s project involves a shared set of source material. The source audio is the free solo piano album ‘Screws’ by Nils Frahm.

Frahm, who’s based in Germany, posted the nine-track album of short solo works for free download while he was recuperating from busting one of his thumbs. He subsequently created a site to house all the remixed/reworked versions that admirers sent to him, as well as the videos and other responses that he received.

This remix almost didn’t happen. I made a number of attempts, but was unhappy with the results.

Initially, I chopped out some sections of the tracks “Do” and “Re” and put them in the Samplr program on my iPad. Later, I recorded off some of the altered (and not-so-altered) unmixed sounds within Samplr into my Zoom H1, and then transferred those files to my DAW for mixing.

After some false starts, I watched the movie The Descendants, which I hadn’t seen before. It was a really sad movie. I like sad movies. I figure it was the saddest movie I’ve seen since The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, except the Diving Bell movie was much artier.

So I thought I’d try to come up with something based on the idea of a Sad European Movie Soundtrack. I wanted the recording to be real stark. Minimal piano. Like you’re watching a lonely old French or Italian black and white movie where the soundtrack was transferred from an old worn out print.

It was fairly straightforward to create once I got the idea down. And I got lucky with a brief dissonant section about 2/3s of the way through.

More on this 55th Disquiet Junto project at:
disquiet.com/2013/01/17/disquiet0055-twoscrews/

Central Discount 120915 [disquiet0037-asrealasitgets1]

Central Discount is an Amish-run salvage grocery store located about 15 miles SW of Iowa City. Bent And Dent is what the Iowa City townies call it. The store is open 3 days a week: Mon, Wed, and Sat.

It’s a very plain and white metal building. Inside, there are no electric lights, only skylights, and not many of them. Concrete floor. Metal carts. It’s a cavernous space. Half the shelves have nothing on them, so it’s reminiscent of old scenes of Soviet-era grocery stores. They don’t take plastic, only cash and checks. There’s no bar code scanners. No beeping. No music playing overhead. No intercom.

Saturday is the worst day to shop as it’s packed. And no, the Amish don’t really shop here. You get the occasional Mennonite mom & kids during the week. Mostly, it’s the well-fed (non-Amish) looking for a deal. And they’re constantly in your way.

It has all the usual boxed foods, chips, soup cans, salad dressings, and whatnot. It comes from different stores, Meijer and Walgreens and others, likely from Chicago. In the past I’ve seen and bought the occasional odd Indian snack food. It’s not uncommon to see things originally priced at $4.29 marked down to 25 or 35 cents, but staples like boxed scalloped potatoes will run 75 cents. Most, but not all, have passed their marked expiration date.

I wasn’t sure how this recording would work out. The day before, I made field recordings at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville (a suburb of Iowa City) and got an excellent recording of a Zamboni smoothing the ice at the skating rink that’s openly adjacent to the food court. I wasn’t sure I could top that (largely an undulating drone punctuated by passing voices), but I think this recording at Central Discount does. Plus this recording has more of the “store recording” feel that was sought.

Down the first long aisle, it’s a jam. Lots of people pushing carts, or not pushing carts and getting in the way. Near the end, I got under an odd-looking ceiling fan moved by a piston with an electrical cord that likely runs out to the generator along the side of the building. Yes, the building does have electricity, but not much. Cash registers and the ceiling fans are about it.

This ceiling fan made a sound that was irresistible to me, but it was a mess of people and carts and noise when I first went by. I did some shopping in another part of the building and came back when the crowd had moved through. I stood there trying to conceal the Zoom H1 that I held, and pretended to look at the boxes and packaging.

It’s an excellent rhythm, I think. Vaguely middle eastern or Indian with a slight hint of jazz. And since the crowd had largely moved on, I got a nice “store ambiance” coming from the rest of the interior of the building.

This Disquiet Junto project was done in association with the exhibit As Real As It Gets, organized by Rob Walker at the gallery Apex Art in Manhattan (November 15 – December 22, 2012):

apexart.org/exhibitions/walker.php/

More on this 37th Disquiet Junto project at:

disquiet.com/2012/09/13/disquie…7-asrealasitgets1/