Archive of the MixSounds Category

Native Instruments Announce KOMPLETE 9

Native Instruments recently announced the release of KOMPLETE 9 ($599) and KOMPLETE 9 ULTIMATE ($1,099). The latter product, which includes 65 products that weigh in at 370 GB, comes with all samples and software pre-loaded on a hard drive.

If you own KOMPLETE 8 and are considering making the move to 9 for the upgrade price of $149, you’ll probably what to head up to the NI site (www.native-instruments.com) and check out the chart that details the differences. Battery 4 seems like a genuine advancement over the highly popular Battery 3 drum machine, and NI has also tweaked Reaktor. Two new product lines, including “Solid Mix Series,” an effects package are included. No changes have been made to Kontakt, the sample play back/editing module currently in its fifth version.

KOMPLETE has been among the best values in the software industry for quite some time; I expect that 9 will be worth taking a look at.

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Alvin Lee, R.I.P.

Did you attended the fabled Woodstock Festival? Not one of the lame remakes, but the original three days of peace and music that turned a tiny upstate New York agricultural town into the center of the universe for a couple of rotations of the earth’s axis.

I did, and was miserable every moment. For starters, my pal Tipper and I drove up from our home town, Suffern, NY, intending to meet my girl friend on the grounds. Needless to say, I wondered as I wandered-wait, Danny Kaye’s rendition of Frank Loesser’s “Anywhere I Wander” is floating into my head-(“Anywhere I wander, Anywhere I roam, ‘til I’m in the arms of my darling once more, my heart will know no home”)-where she was, what she was doing, and with whom!

What’s more, the place was filthy, sopping wet, and peopled with folks who seemed to feel that flailing arms and legs about to the sound of music with no apparent sense of time was the reason they were put on the earth. Worst of all, the sound system sucked. High frequencies, even heard from a distant hill, were excruciating.

Which brings us to Alvin Lee, who died unexpectedly today at the age of 68. The central force beyond a band, Ten Years After, whose performance at Woodstock was arguably the apex of its life cycle, Alvin Lee was a guitarist and singer who loved the blues and its guitar legends. For a while, he stood among them.

He may not have possessed a wealth of original ideas, but Lee had fast hands and a vocal delivery that matched his playing. He will be remembered best for “I’m Going Home,” the Ten Years After song that was featured in the Woodstock film.

Hope you made it home safely, Alvin. Rest in peace.

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Luther

When someone brings up Luther Vandross, which of this great singer’s hits enters your mind? “Never Too Much.” Ah, you knew Luther at the beginning, when he was migrating from the Manhattan jingle scene into the pop/R+B field, which he would dominate for several decades. “A House Is Not a Home.” You know that the great Dionne Warwick was an avatar for Luther when he was a child, and he recorded this gorgeous Bachrach/David song as an homage to her.

“Any Love.” Wow, we’re in sync. This beautiful song, penned by Luther and the incomparable Marcus Miller, released in 1988, would become Luther’s fourth number one on the Hot Black Singles Chart.

But if I was forced to choose only one his songs to add to my virtual playlist, it would be “Stop To Love.” Released in 1986, “Stop To Love” topped the R&B chars and crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Luther wrote “Stop To Love” with Nat Adderly Jr. Written in the early days of MIDI, when computer related timing issues were still being resolved, this track was programmed by synth whiz Jason Miles, who also contributed his talents to the Vandross/Adderly collaboration, “Give Me The Reason,” released on the same album.

I interviewed Nat several years ago. He was surprised when I asked him about the difference in feel between these two tracks. Take a listen. “Give Me The Reason” has a more mechanical quantization… less groove, right? Nat told me that the production team was unsatisfied with the feel on this track, and made some technical corrections that allowed “Stop To Love” to swing more.

Ah, Luther… RIP dude, you had the gift.

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“The Light In The Piazza”

Several years ago Steve Epstein, who has about the same number of Producer Of The Year Grammy Awards as Pete Sampras has Grand Slam titles, sent me the sound track recording he’d produced of the musical “The Light In The Piazza.” I listened once to the score, written by Adam Guettel, (who also contributed the lyrics) and fell in love with the song “Love To Me,” but hurried through the rest of the recording. Several days ago I decided to write a blog about the unique qualities of this gorgeous song, delivered by Matt Morrison, who would become known to millions when he accepted a starring role in the television show “Glee.”

“The Light In The Piazza” received mixed reviews when it was released in 2005. Based on a novella of the same name written by Elizabeth Spencer, the plot centers around a wealthy American woman who takes her 20-something daughter to Italy on vacation. The young woman, saddled with a mysterious malady that’s revealed late in the production, falls in love with a handsome Italian boy who barely speaks English. Setting aside the plot contrivance (Craig Lucas wrote the show’s book) some critics felt that Guettl’s score was a muddle of influences; Sondheim, opera, pop music, that never quite gelled.

They’re wrong. I pulled out the CD this morning and listened to it from top to bottom. The score to “Light In The Piazza” is a great work of art, one that future generations will reference when they check off the musical masterpieces of the early 20th century stage.
Of course, Robert Schumann didn’t always pick the right horse, so any composer who falls in love with a score has to temper his passion, but this one overflows with an individual harmonic sense and an understated contrapuntal aspect that propels the music forward in waves. The vocal lines, which move effortlessly between melody and declamation, are without exception perfectly suited to the human voice. Not surprising, since Guettl was a boy soprano who performed at both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Operas when he was a child. As you may know, his theatrical pedigree traces back to Adam Guettl’s grandfather, the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, through his mother, Mary Rodgers (“Once Upon a Mattress”).

Recalling their chance meeting in the square, “Love To Me” is Fabrizio’s declaration of affection for Clara. Scored for nylon string guitar, which Guettl himself played on the record (I thought it was a harp until Epstein corrected me) and chamber orchestra, this beautiful song has something about it that’s harmonically unique. But what? Dissecting it at the piano the answer became clear: “Love To Me” features the largely forgotten diminished chord-four of them in all. The diminished triad, built on the seventh step of the major scale, has long been considered too weak to stand on its own. Folded into the dominant seventh chord centuries ago, it’s been used in extended harmonies, but you’d be hard pressed to find many examples, in either popular or “serious” music, where the diminished triad is displayed so nakedly. Its usage heightens the tenderness of the melodies Guettl assigns to Fabrizio. Gorgeous, and in service of the character.

The cast album was recorded at Right Track Recording in New York and mixed in Sony Music Studios, Room 309, by Todd Whitelock. Anyone who had the pleasure of mixing in that great room, which featured a custom console built by David Smith, will forever regret the day SMS was torn down.

Every project that Steve Epstein turns his talents towards glistens, including the gorgeous score to Adam Guettl’s “The Light In The Piazza.” If you’re not familiar with this music, check it out.

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“Since You Stayed Here”

Do you like Michael Crawford? I hate that guy. His singing is so affected, and that plastic mask he wears over half his face… dude, let it go! Still, I just listened to his vocal on “Since You Stayed Here.” What an awesome song…and the arrangement rocks!

For starters, this song is from a musical, “Brownstone,” I know nothing about, other than the fact that Wickipedia says Josh Rubins wrote the book and lyrics, with help from Andrew Cadiff. Peter Larson composed the music for this production, which centers around a group of folks living in a Manhattan brownstone…I can relate; I walked up five floors to my 83rd St. and Lexington Ave. brownstone apartment for three years, including the one after I’d broken my ankle in six places backing off the catcher in a show biz softball game played behind the Delacort Theater in Central Park in the summer of 1982.

What a gorgeous arrangement. Who ever thought a midi piano/Rhodes pad would sit at the center of such a lush track? I know; Nelson Riddle would have jumped on this sonic combo, had it been available back in the day.

Then there’s the reverb; a gorgeous room enfolds the orchestra, and it sounds like a lesser amount of the reverb send is directed towards Mr. Crawford himself… the ambience, in aggregate, sounds great, doesn’t it?

Ah, the oboe… a perfect complement to the vocal. And who said Michael Crawford had a deficiency. Man, this guy sounds terrific!

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Reunion

File this one under shameless self promotion. Christopher Johnson-a truly brilliant pianist who combines blistering speed, a feathery legato, and the ability to bend tempi the way Yuri Geller bends spoons-hiked into LBrown Recording on 9th Ave. several weeks ago to record two of my works, “Soft As a Kiss (Emily’s Song)” and “A Brief Discourse On The Blues,” on the studio’s 1881 Steinway D concert grand piano. As expected, he did a superb job. My only problem was trying to fill the two hour minimum booking time; Chris laid this material down before I could reach for a second cup of coffee.

Louis Brown has a great room. If you’re looking for a place to track in Manhattan, particularly if your session involves a piano, I’d strongly suggest you head to the company website (lbrownrecording.com) and poke around.

I created a virtual album of these two works, “Reunion,” and put it on my Nimbit store, in the Piano category. Like everything else, it streams for free. INSERT HUCKSTERISM HERE: “Hey, check it out, check it out, Psst, come on, what you got to lose?”

If you do listen, leave a comment if you care to! Here’s the link:

http://www.nimbitmusic.com/garyeskow

Peace,
G
E

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David Starobin

Perched in mid-career, David Starobin has a resume that brims with achievement. The guitarist came of age in the late 1960’s, a time when his instrument was leading the assault against earlier forms of popular music. He picked up the guitar as a small child and experimented with rock bands during his teens, but David Starobin would find his initialt success as a young master of the “classical” guitar.

Established on the concert stage by his mid-20’s as an exponent of the much beloved but limited concert repertoire, Starobin became a champion of new music. In 1981 he and his wife Becky formed Bridge Records. Devoted to new music, this still thriving label is now a family enterprise; both Starobin children are active in the business. Bridge releases have received 26 Grammy Award nominations, and received three (Best Contemporary Compostion, George Crumb’s “Star-Child” (2001), Best Classical Vocal Recording, the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson/Peter Serkin performance of Peter Lieberson’s “Rilke Songs” (2007), Best Solo Instrumental Recording, Garrick Ohlsson’s Beethoven Sonatas, Vol. 3 (2008), Adam Abeshouse, Producer).

Starobin remains active on the concert stage and in the classroom. He is currently head of the Guitar Studies department at the Curtis Institute of Music.

You grew up in the halycon days of British pop and soul music. Did you play in rock bands when you were a kid? If so, did any of that music make a lasting impression on you?

David Starobin: Between the age of 12 and 14 I was lead guitarist in a band. Our glory days included an appearance at the 1964 World’s Fair, captured on a film clip that has provided much mirth to my children over the years. All of my musical experiences contributed to who I am as a musician. My most recent guitar recording just happens to be as an electric guitarist, playing playing a 1964 era electric guitar-very much like the one I played back then (The $100 Dollar Guitar Project: BRIDGE 9381A/B).

Is the chasm between pop and “serious” music greater than it’s been in the recent (or distant) past?

DS: I think the chasm has been shrinking steadily. We are now at the point where a lot of good music can not be categorized as either ‘serious’ or ‘pop’, so blurred are the boundaries. The breakdown of the “chasm” has had many contributing factors,but mostly it’s the inexorable march forward of communications media. Most good musicians keep open ears. Exclusion of musical influences because one is trying to keep one’s art “pure” is a fairly dead horse at this juncture.
 
Can you maintain your technique without practicing six hours a day?

DS: I almost never practice six hours a day. When I do put in long hours on the guitar now, it’s to learn new repertoire. Come to think of it, that’s always been my modus operandi.

Has the posture that a “classical” guitarist has to endure caused any physical problems for you?

DS: I’m very fortunate. About 25 years ago I transformed my playing position after watching the great Joe Pass play. He had the most beautifully fluid technique I had ever seen. So, I copied it, began playing with a strap, and have not had physical problems since then.
 
The 1950’s experienced serialism, there was then a reaction against it; multiple waves, from the “third” on have altered the course of contemporary music. Is there a lingua franca in modern music?

DS: The lingua franca might be Esperanto. The educated ear demands that our artists have a working knowledge of what came before them. No matter what materials an artist chooses to employ or reject, the weight of history demands decisions that are based on literacy and familiarity with our shared heritage. When art is naive, it generally is ephemeral. There are exceptions, but I believe they are rare.

Is an audience necessary?

DS: I’m sure there may be some great work that has been created in a virtual vacuum. For many artists who create or perform, interaction with an audience is inspiring and therefore, essential. I really can only speak for myself here. I do my best work when I know someone is listening.
 
How does Bridge fit into your artistic life? Why go through the trouble!!

DS: Even on the worst days, I’ve never questioned why we go through the trouble. Bridge has become my life. My wife and I (AND our son and daughter) all work for the company. Our closest friends are the composers who write for us, and the performers who record for us. Our travels revolve around the company. There is never enough time in the day to accomplish what we need to do. I’m very proud of our catalog, and excited about upcoming projects. Trouble? Nah, it’s an adventure.

Do CD’s have a future, or will downloads be the exclusive delivery model in the future?

DS: I don’t have a clue. Both are doing well, with no let up in CD sales.

Do you write as well as play music?

DS: I’m a dabbler. A Sunday afternoon artist. I’m a published composer, poet, and filmmaker. I don’t do any of the preceding all that often, but love to get my feet wet.

Is Fernando Sor still worth playing?

DS: I played Sor’s Op. 54-bis Fantasy for two guitars yesterday. I was doing my teaching at Curtis Institute, and one of my students (Jordan Dodson) and I read through the work. The piece is fantastic-one of Sor’s few pieces in the popular Spanish style. In addition to being one of the great players of his era, Sor as a composer is to the guitar what Mozart is to the piano-his work is full of inspired melodic and harmonic turns and composed with impeccable technique and taste.

How do the responsibilities break down at Bridge Records, Inc.?

DS: As A&R Director I’m largely responsible for the content of our catalog. No decision of mine, though, moves forward without Becky’s (Starobin) approval. As Bridge’s President, she has made a largely classical company, specializing in a very high percentage of new music releases, a going concern. In this day and age, this is a true rarity. Her work in building Bridge has been nothing short of phenomenal. Our son, Rob Starobin (Vice-President) is another essential player. He oversees our digital distribution network, and is point man on various funding initiatives. Our editor is Doron Schachter, and Adam Abeshouse has been the mastering engineer for nearly everything we’ve released during the past 20 years.

Do you produce any of the records you release, or is Bridge primarily a
distribution label?

DS: We’re primarily a production company. I produce a lot (but not most) of our recordings; my work includes George Crumb Complete works (working on Vol. 16); Elliott Carter (working on Vol. 9); Odense Symphony Orchestra (Mozart Piano Concerto series and numerous other releases); Poul Ruders series (working on Vol. 9). In addition, solo artists and ensembles that I produce for are Daedalus Quartet, the cellist Steven Doane, the baritone Patrick Mason. Recently, I’ve produced orchestral sessions in Denmark, Los Angeles, Cardiff (a co-production for the BBC), and Becky and I co-produce a Library of Congress series-restorations of historical recordings. In addition, we regularly work with a lot of independent producers: Adam Abeshouse, Judy Sherman, Silas Brown, David Bowles, Steven Epstein, Viggo Mangor and Max Wilcox, are a few that come to mind.

Where do you like to record? Do you edit in house? If so, who does that work, and do you have a digital audio workstation in house?

DS: I prefer recording most things in concert halls. I made my first record at the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975, and it has always been a favorite venue for solo and chamber music. We record a lot at SUNY/Purchase’s PAC (both Theater A and C), and in LA we’ve been recording in Zipper Hall. In Denmark, we’ve made dozens of orchestral recordings in the Carl Nielsen Hall, and in Warsaw, we use Philharmonic Hall. We edit in house, with Doron Schchter, using Pyramix.

You teach at Curtis and Manhattan School of Music. How does teaching the guitar fit into your artistic life?

DS: Pretty seamlessly. I try to encourage my students to play music that I am interested in, and many of them come to me specifically to study some of the repertoire composed for me. In addition, I try to perform with them, and on numerous occasions have brought them into the recording studio to work in professional situations requiring a good player. I’m fortunate to have drawn superb talent over the years. Many of my former students have gone on to win leading international competitions and pursue successful concert and academic careers.

Is the study of the “classical” guitar different than it was 40 years ago? Has performance practice changed at all?

DS: The guitar has changed radically during the past 40 years. This is mainly because of the increasing requirements of the music composed during this time. When a Britten, or a Carter, or a Berio writes a new work, players need to meet the music with greater understanding and additional technique. History has proven that it is almost always composition that has pushed the art forward.

Who do you feel are the best players of your generation?

DS: My generation? Well, there are a number of very good players who have carried the instrument forward in one way or another. They really are too numerous to list, and any naming of individuals invariably leaves out others who are of equal importance to the guitar’s growth. One generalization I can make with assurance: the players of my generation are easily outstripped, technically, by the players of the next several generations. Current teaching of ‘how’ to play the instrument is light years ahead of where it was when I began as a seven year old.

Evolution!

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Working With Gobbler

By now you’ve probably heard about Gobbler. If you routinely share digital audio files and sequences with collaborators and/or need a secure place to park back ups of your work and you haven’t investigated Gobbler, I’d suggest you head up to their website (www.gobbler.com) and study the videos the company has posted.

It’s easy to think of Gobbler as yousendit.com for musicians, but that comparison suggests that it simply handles audio file, and doesn’t do justice to the platform. Gobbler has some build ins that help us out in ways that are unique to our workflow. For example, we’ve all had the experience of recording audio files thinking they’re safely nestled within a designated audio folder only to find out that some of them have been scattered around our hard drive array. Gobbler scans your system and develops a catalogue of all your audio files, making it easy for you to see if any file reorganization needs to take place. Its full feature set is explained in the tutorials, so I won’t rehash Gobbler’s functionality here. I’m simply going to share my first experience as a user with you.

Last week pianist Christopher Johnson and I went into LBrown Recording (www.lbrownrecording.com) to record “A Brief Discourse On The Blues,” and “Soft As a Kiss (Emily’s Song).” Louis Brown has an 1881 nine-foot Steinway D Centennial Edition, and it is a beauty. The recording set up was simple: a pair of left and right close microphones, another flanking pair, and a third pair, used to capture a rough mix. Louis established a Gobbler account the day of our session; for safety reasons we recorded simultaneously to his system’s internal drive, to Gobbler (we hoped!) and an external drive. After the session we confirmed that all the material had made its way safely up to the cloud, but to save time while he learned the Gobbler process Lewis burned a CD of the session files for me to bring back to my studio.

I loaded the stereo mix files into an empty Cubase 5 sequence using the default tempo of 120 bpm as a reference point, then created an edit decision list for both tracks. If, for example, an insert of bars 9-11 needed to applied to the base track, I made note of the bar in the Cubase sequence where it could be found. Ed Goldfarb mixes a lot of my material. Ed’s a Pro Tools user, so I asked him to load up a blank sequence in his DAW set to a tempo of 120 bpm.

Then Gobbler was brought into play. I opened up the Send Files component of the Gobbler interface, typed in Ed’s e mail address (he’s also a user), dragged the six audio files into the appropriate box, and hit send. That’s it! I repeated the process to check Gobbler’s claim that initial transfer takes more time than subsequent ones because the app first executes a full scan of your hard drives and that takes longer than the following update process. It’s true; the first send took a couple of minutes, the second went by in an instant. Shortly thereafter the six tracks showed up on Ed’s virtual doorstep.

The size of the project (approximately 1.5 Gigabytes) is small by audio industry standards, but far too large for online transfer services, and transferring with Gobbler is simpler than using an FTP site. This project didn’t involve two people editing sequences and sharing updates. I’ll try that at another time.

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Bob Malone

Back in the day young rockers of the male variety dreamed about landing a major label deal, signing with a squinty eyed manager, and spending the rest of their lives counting royalty checks and female fans. Some of those dreams come true today! Major labels still exist, of course, but the careers of most artists are now built out of talent and self promotion, mixed liberally.

Case study: Bob Malone. Malone grew up in rural New Jersey, graduated from the Berklee College of Music and hit the road. A powerful singer with a penchant for the kind of raucous, two fisted, New Orleans style piano playing that’s characteristic of Dr. John, one of his early influences, Malone found himself with a fan base and a willingness to tour. Today, his career combines working with his own band and recording and traveling responsibilities as a member of John Fogerty’s group. I caught up with Bob by telephone from his home in Studio City, California.

MIX: How did you get into the business?

Bob Malone: “I grew up in Jefferson Township, New Jersey. After high school I went to Berklee, and began playing professionally when I was about 18. I moved to LA in 1990, spent some time in New York and New Orleans, and eventually settled back here in Los Angeles. I play about 100 dates a year. The rest of the time I’m in LA. The studio scene here is certainly not as heavy as it was 20 years ago-before I was a part of it-but there is a fair amount of session work.

MIX: You seem to have a well thought out vertical marketing plan. Your Facebook page is populated with fans, your Nimbit store is beautiful, and you use Reverb Nation. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into social media?

Malone: “Before social media there was the internet without social media. Prior to that I sent out postcards to people on my mailing list; they’d sign up at my shows, during meet and greet sessions.

“I joined Facebook three years ago, maybe a little bit before that. I had been on Myspace. The secret to using social media is to understand that these platforms keep changing. For example, Facebook has tightened their flow of information. They want you to pay them to get the word out, and they make sure you get tons of views when you do. But I’m on the fence about that strategy, because a lot of the hits you get are from people who aren’t in your audience and never will be, so what’s the point? They’ve structured things so that the people who do follow you don’t always get to see your posts.”

MIX: Do you mean that if you’re not paying to advertise on Facebook they block people from seeing your posts who in the past would have had access to them?

Malone: “That’s right.”

MIX: I’m impressed with Nimbit. Their basic templates are very good. There are other online stores as well, though. How did you happen to choose them?

Malone: “I went to school with Phil Antoniades, the founder of Nimbit-he’s a drummer. I’m there because of him. Nimbit’s cool, it’s a nice platform for sales, and I collect fans from them.

“The key to marketing yourself successfully in this business is to use all of the tools that are out there. I’m on iTunes, Amazon, and I have a distribution deal with the Burnside Distribution Company, so my CD’s can be found in stores as well.”

MIX: “What are you currently working on?”

Malone: “I’m about half way through my new record. I’m also playing with John Fogerty, and have been for about two years. He’s got a new album that will be coming out shortly as well.”

(Bob Malone invites you to visit him at his website, www.bobmalone.com, or find him on Facebook)

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The Power In Digital Performer

Folks tasked with writing manuals for digital audio workstations have a tough job. On the one hand, the copy they generate has to be digestible for the prosumer market, which includes newbies who know little about recording midi and audio-and many who can barely play an instrument. Seasoned pros are another target market; many of them like to learn on the fly, consulting documentation only when they run into a roadblock. Composing inclusive user manuals that cover all of a DAW’s features while still being accessible to the neophyte…like I said, a tough gig.

A number of third party companies have stepped in, offering video tutorials and “how to” books meant to co-exist with manuals. In general, these materials are less concerned with covering every square inch of an application’s potential; rather, they give a relatively breezy walk through a DAW’s main features.

Hal Leonard (www.halleonardbooks.com) tapped long time Mark Of The Unicorn guru, David E. Roberts to pen “The Power in Digital Performer.” Magic Dave is a logical choice-stumping him on any aspect of Digital Performer is a tough task!

In a large print, easy to read, reasonably priced opus (U.S. $16.99) Dave walks the user through all of DP’s main features, and more, without drowning the reader in each and every aspect of the program. Installation, recording, working with tempo maps, it’s all covered, and with a flowing style that’s based on the understanding that everyone who owns DP will be able to pull out the app’s manual to dive more deeply into a specific area.

High power users may not need this kind of gentle massage, but first time DAW owners as well as some who have shifted over to DP from another software application, will find Dave’s relaxed approach quite appealing and instructive.

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