Archive of the MixSounds Category
Sometimes it’s easy to be the tallest tree. Fortune smiles and you tower over everyone else. At other moments the simple act of rising from the ground is difficult.
Josh Thompson, a native of Orange, New Jersey, has an enviable record of accomplishments. A guitar virtuoso who recorded an album with George Benson in 2004 (“Irreplaceable”) and has penned 19 hit singles for top tier artists, including Aretha Franklin, Usher, Alicia Keyes, The Temptations,and Luther Vandross, Josh has an enviable list of accomplishments. To check out his complete discography, or learn more about the studio where he produces for the clients who believe that his touch will lift their game up, visit Josh’s website (www.tallesttreemusic.com).
Josh and his wife are also the proud parents of an 11 year girl and a 15 year old boy. According to dad, Avery evinced an ear for imitation early on. “At the age of one he was imitating Bugs Bunny. It was obvious that he had a good ear. He currently does between 40 and 50 impressions, including Jeremy Irons, Obama, John McCain, and Seth McFarland from “The Family Guy.”
Avery also developed a pretty fair talent for rapping and singing. “His impression of Sting is one of my favorites,” says Josh. My wife to him to New York to see Sting recently and he really enjoyed that.”
The kid isn’t shy about performing or competing either. A member of his high school freshman basketball team, which went 22-0 this season, Avery beat out about 10,000 other contestants and made it through several rounds of one of America’s premiere talent competitions. Things were looking pretty good for the Thompson family.
The ground started to shake on January 2, 2012. The diagnosis? Avery was suffering from t-cell leukemia. The basketball season, for this young man, was put on hold. So was the next round of the talent competition. It was time to battle the disease. The family held out hope that his young body would rise to the challenge and put itself into remission, but it hasn’t worked out that way-yet. Avery is currently receiving chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan.
The illness was discovered early on, and that’s good news for the Thompson family. Avery’s chances of making a full recovery are high- and, by the way, he beat out 10,000 contestants, what’s this one opponent got that he can’t handle?
Bills are mounting up. The Thompsons have insurance, but the co-pays in situations like this can be devastating. A fund has been set up to help defray the costs of Avery’s care. If you’d like to make a contribution, this link will take you where you want to go:(http://www.talbertfamilyfoundation.org/pages/AveryT.html).
CODA: Josh’s mom, who passed away last month at the age of 92, lived an interesting life. Her autobiography, “From One to Ninety-one: The Life of Margaret Thompson,” is available on Amazon.
Our ancestors divvied up tasks for a good reason: the practice of going out to club lions while the wife stays in the cave with the kiddies established a model that’s provided time apart to centuries of married couples. Survival of the species depended on it! There are examples of successful marriages that include a working relationship, however. Submitted for your approval, Roseanna Vitro and Paul Wickliffe.
Paul (www.skylinepro.com) is well known to Mix readers. The one time owner of Skyline Studios in Manhattan, Paul moved his production studio to his home in central New Jersey in the early days of the ADAT revolution. He’s continued to work from home as a mixer, mastering engineer and producer since that time. Paul and his partner, Eric Troyer, are the owners of Charleson Road Studio, a recording studio located a few miles down the road.
If you don’t know Roseanna, head over to her website (www.roseannavitro.com) and check her out immediately! Great eyes, right? The cognisanti have known for years that Roseanna is a supreme song stylist. With the Grammy nomination (Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2011) she received for her latest release, “The Music of Randy Newman,” (Motema Records, www.motemacom) her reputation is likely to grow.
Roseanna and Paul co-produced this venture. I spoke to Paul recently about the experience. “We pretty much co-produce all her records. Working with one’s spouse has its moments, as you can imagine, but it’s a great experience. We’ve been married nearly 30 years and have achieved a level of creative intimacy and honesty that goes well beyond the typical producer/artist relationship. Passions can run high, but they are rooted in artistic conviction rather than a professional tug of war.
“Recording an album of Randy Newman songs was my idea; his work has been largely ignored by the jazz community and that gave us an opportunity to bring something fresh to this outstanding material. Roseanna’s Southern roots brought an authenticity to her performance.
“Generally speaking, my job is to make sure that her vision gets across to a broad group of listeners. I try to stay out of the way, but there are times when I’m compelled to let her know when something she’s doing isn’t right for a general audience.
“If I feel that she’s got a better performance in her then I have to push-and be willing to take the heat! Again, the commercial aspect is something I have to keep in mind regarding the performances of Roseanna and the other musicians. Each of them is intensely focused on their individual performances. Sometimes a musical line will get tossed in that’s a bit far afield, too hip for the room. Other musicians might love this stuff, but if you’re making records for musicians you’ll never make any money!
“Roseanna did an album of Ray Charles songs (“Catchin’ Some Rays: The Music of Ray Charles”) a couple of years ago that was pretty successful for her. We both love Randy Newman’s work, and she decided to record a CD of his material. As with the Ray album, our process was to have Roseanna focus on some of the lesser known material, songs that are just as powerful but haven’t received as much exposure. Randy’s a great story teller. Getting back to the point about corralling in the players, I wanted to make sure that his stories were never obscured by excessive filigree.
“Roseanna’s been working with Dean Johnson (bass) and Tim Horner (drums) for many years. She’s done a couple of records with our good friend Kenny Werner playing piano. Mark Soskin loves Randy Newman’s work, though, and so he seemed like a natural fit for this project. I worked on a record with Sara Caswell (violin) and Fred Hersch, and she’d been out here at the house, which is where Roseanna got exposed to her. Roseanna’s manager Jeff Levenson also thought that Sara might be good for this project.
“Sara’s a brilliant musician. She has an emotional depth that’s awesome, unparalleled in my view. We wanted to keep the band small, and using a violin in place of a horn made sense because Randy’s roots run through the South. The violin is a kind of a tip of the hat to that region, the country music aspect fit this project nicely.
“Everyone knows that the music industry has changed drastically over the last several years. For most artists CD’s serve as promotional material to bolster performance revenues. We thought about putting this record out ourselves, as many artists are doing. There are distinct advantages to being associated with a label, however, particularly in the area of promotion and distribution resources. Jana Herzen, the head of Motema, is a songwriter, and she’s been a client of mine. Jana expressed an interest in this project, and we were able to work out a p+d (press and distribution) deal with her. Motema’s great, and they’ve put together a rather massive catalog for a young label.
“The Grammy experience was quite interesting. Now that I finally understand how the nomination process works I have respect for it! Essentially there are two rounds of voting, with a review committee in between. For starters, everyone throws into the pre-nomination process. In our category, about 80 submissions were made. These are sent to the members of The Recording Academy, who winnow the pool down to 15. At that point a panel of NARAS board members pick the five they feel have the most merit. These five are then sent back out to the members to vote on. The top vote getter- Terri Lyne Carrington, in this case- is the winner.
“Our next project? We’re discussing that. Roseanna’s currently working on a concert series, “Ballads of Bird,” that will feature the music of Charlie Parker. That may turn into a record, but I can’t say for sure at this time. I do know that we’ll keep working, and both Roseanna and I appreciate all the support and attention that “The Music of Randy Newman” has received.
I’m a big fan of continuing education and I really like the products that iZotope (www.izotope.com) has been turning out. So do many of you, I would imagine, considering the market share gains that the company has been enjoying.
Izotope has a couple of videos on the ‘net that walk the user through examples that use the RX2 plug-in to rescue damaged audio. You can also download the actual before and after audio files that were worked on and a pdf that explains the procedures. You can even download a trial version of the product if you want to take it for a test ride prior to purchase.
I just spent about an hour replicating the processes that Matt, the tech support guru who cleans up background noise from a clip shot in a park, and the dreaded 60 cycle hum from a guitar track, performed.
Quick take: I was able to clean up the audio nicely, but I didn’t feel that at the end of the process I had gained a fundamental understanding of the concepts. Look, this particular blog is not for you Mix genius engineer-types… to you folks, this is elementary school stuff!
As high quality tools like the ones iZotope is turning out become less and less expensive they will become increasingly available to troglodytes like me. I’m going to keep working at this, and will let my fellow neophytes know how I’m doing- hopefully the teacher is grading on a curve!
Check out the video tutorials here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMrVgZeCXa8 (reducing unwanted background noise)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCkvnSXrHxY (rescuing noisy guitar)
Grab the files here:
Let me know how you do!
When did the fascination for ethnic percussion overwhelm the film scoring landscape? Maybe it was the day Eric Persing made a pilgrimage to the land of mystery and came back with a set of samples that he turned into the hugely successful “Heart of Africa” library. Today, no film composer worth his salt is without a mighty set of pounding drums that can convey a sense of power and awe at the flick of a key switch.
Given the fact that multiple libraries of this nature were already available, I wondered why Mike Peaslee decide to devote the time and energy that went into SOUNDIRON’s new release, Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble. Mike told me that Tonehammer (of which he was a co-owner) developed techniques for recording big drums that he was constantly striving to improve. Mike felt he had at least one more major release of this type in him.
Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble, available as a download from the SOUNDIRON website (http://www.soundiron.com/instruments/percussion/apocalypse/) is currently discounted to a price of $179, is the result of these efforts. Eventually, APEwill return to its list price of $199. The full version of the Native Instruments Kontakt 4 player is required.
What a gorgeous sounding library, and extremely well laid out to boot! SOUNDIRON went crazy with multiple mic placement combinations, and to be real it’s going to take me (you too!) some time to compare and contrast them all.
APE weighs in at a hefty 14+ GB, and many of the presets draw tons of CPU cycles, so SOUNDIRON followed the well established practice of offering several different versions of each. The lite ones have a limited number of samples (four) per round robin. They load the quickest (obviously) and I’d recommend that you use them to explore APE. Computers with less than 64 bit operating systems will most likely choke on this material, particularly if you use the heavier presets.
Download the manual from the SOUNDIRON site. It’s fairly clear, but I pointed out to Mike that there are some omissions. For example, the company has a very interesting arpeggiator they niftily name the Uberpeggiator. I get it; it has lots of controls. You can for example, instruct the plug-in to hold the note you’ve just struck, and then add other notes (the same drum sound with different pitches, perhaps, or different instruments) into the arpeggiation cycle. I couldn’t figure out why some notes were going in and out until Mike and Chris (the SOUNDIRON partner who added this feature) explained that if you hit a note a second time you remove it from the cycle- the manual didn’t tell me that!
The bigger presets contain round robin cycles of 12 samples per note. You can also hit the Shuffle button, which introduces a random factor to the note repeats. I can’t believe I’d ever hear the repeat in a round robin cycle of a dozen, but if your golden ears can, knock yourself out with this function.
May I riff here? That is, Riff, as in West Side Story! When you’re tapped to execute a midi version of this classic Broadway score, check out the solo bongos! Damn, they’re good!
As you’d expect, there are controls that allow you to re-pitch and play with filters and eq. SOUNDIRON has also provided some very useful convolution reverbs. These aren’t the Carnegie Hall type, but rather warehouse and garage type environments, plus a bunch of zingy sounding spaces that let you take the drums into some weird and very attractive places.
Multi-drum presets are included and so are some empty templates that you can use as starting points for the creation of your own. APE also ships with a set of Ambience presets that derive from the drums themselves, adding a tonal unity to the package. Of course, you probably own Omnisphere, in which case these sounds may simply become a pleasant diversion.
If you already own a healthy complement of mondo drums you may want to pass on Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble. If you’re in the market for this kind of product, however, APE is a must consider item. The drums are beautifully recorded, the effects are excellent, the interface is first rate… and the price is quite reasonable.
Long a player in the lower priced sampled products market, bigfishaudio established a separate division, Vir2, several years ago. Vir2 products cost a bit more, but they are still very attractively priced and have a luster and feature sets that distinguish them. Fractured Guitars (which can be purchased for $150 as a download by visiting the bigfish site: http://www.bigfishaudio.com/detail.html?512306) fits neatly into the Vir2 scheme.
All of the sounds, Instruments, and Multis included in Fractured Guitars derive from one or more acoustic guitars-I think; I couldn’t find any information regarding the source material on the bigfish site. This product operates within the Kontakt 5 player, which is included in the download.
The five categories of Instruments (Chromatic Kits, Tempo Synced, Pads & SFX, Melodic, Drum Kits) fall into two broad categories. The quick attack/release samples have a prepared piano quality that makes for effective rhythmic patterns, while the longer samples have an ethereal sensibility that film score composers will quickly glom onto.
To get the most out of this library you’ll want to distinguish those sounds that have a clear tonal center to them, even though they’re colored with sound design elements that create a dissonant edge. Take one of these sounds, and play an F#m7(no 5th) chord in your right hand and an Fm7(no 5th) chord in your left. The ear tries to hear through the shimmering and is pleasantly confused by the tonal ambiguity. Sounds cool, right?
The effects that ship with Fractured Guitars (reverbs, flangers, etc.) are quite serviceable, and the interfaces that let you control them are well laid out. You can, of course, re-pitch, pan and apply equalization to all of the material.
No sample library worthy of the name would ship without a set of samples that evoke the magic of Jimi Hendrix at his most freaked out. Even though these sounds were all created from an acoustic guitar (again, I think!), the manipulations do include the kinds of sweeps and harmonic excitations that the great master was fond of.
Developers tend to fall in love with the permutations that their products are capable of producing. For me, the number of presets is a bit too high; quite a few of the instruments are variations on a theme that the user could be left to explore on his own. I would also like to see an audition button. As things stand you have to load an instrument and strike a few notes on your keyboard controller to get to know it.
Notwithstanding these minor complaints, Fractured Guitars is a beautiful sounding library that’s worth every penny you’ll pay for it.
Big news out of NAMM from MOTU, particularly for Digital Performer fans who moved over to the Windows platform and had to switch from their beloved workstation because it was only coded for the Mac.
DP 8, due to be released in the Spring of 2012, will operate on on Mac OS X and Windows 7. Stay tuned for a full review in the near future.
Sure, you have the chops to become a highly recognized rock musician whose peers include Leslie West, Jack Bruce, and Hall & Oates. But can you turn those skills into a real business like Joe Franco has done?
Seriously folks, Franco, who worked his way up the New York rock ladder in the mid-70’s, has toured throughout the world, written a well respected book on the art of his craft (“Double Bass Drumming”) and, for the last 15 years, owned a highly successful audio post production facility, Beatstreet Productions, located in the Flatiron district of Manhattan.
Joe’s no stranger to the pages of Mix, but we thought we’d catch up with him and see how the last several years have treated Beatstreet.
Mix: Joe, how has the audio post industry changed in the last five years or so?
Joe Franco: “Budgets have tightened up, particularly in the last couple of years. Some of the PBS shows we work on are having a harder time finding grants and sponsors. Our business trimmed back as a result of these changes, but we’ve been fortunate enough to pick up shows on Nickelodeon, Playhouse Disney, and Adult Swim.
“We’re also writing music and doing audio post work with a few overseas companies located in the UK, Italy and France. FTP servers have been a game changer, particularly in the area of globalization. Other than time zones, working with someone in Europe is no longer much different from working with someone across town.”
Mix: Has the impact of the home studio revolution maxed out?
Franco: “Probably. If we made a living recording bands we’d be in trouble! Fortunately, our core business is music and audio post for network television series.”
Mix: What’s the latest piece of technology you’ve fallen in love with?
Franco: “Our SNS San Storage System. I can’t imagine carrying around drives like we did in the old days. Our storage is unseen; it lives in a four space array in our machine room. The volumes can be shared by all six of our Pro Tools rigs. They come up as icons on a desktop, cloud-like. It’s great!”
Mix: Are you playing much these days?
Franco: “Not as much as I’d like to- running Beatstreet takes up most of my time. I played drums recently and produced Eddie Ojeda’s solo album. Eddie was the guitarist in Twisted Sister. As you know, I played with that band in 1987.
“I recently played on Kansas guitarist Steve Walsh’s album, and also worked on projects from electric violinist Mark Wood and guitarist Zak Soulum. Both of these will be released later this year. My 70’s band Good Rats, plays an annual reunion show at BB King’s. The next one is on March 31st- check it out!”
Mix: Any final words of wisdom?
Joe Franco: “I’m glad to have found a niche in audio. I read your blog on “Glad All Over.” Dave Clark made sure the drums were mixed HOT! I loved that song, and “Bits and Pieces.” Classics!
Someone once said that a generation is defined not by the most outstanding popular music it produces, but by lesser examples that manage to capture its collective imagination. Wait, nobody ever said that-I just made it up. Still, as I scrolled through my iTunes master playlist just now and tapped on the Dave Clark Five’s (semi) classic single, “Glad All Over,” the thought popped into mind.
For those of you who lived through that era (“Glad All Over” was released in November of 1963), no explanation of the times is required. As for the rest of you-ha ha, you missed a real treat! Seriously, folks, the sixties were gear!
The marketing machine quickly recognized that well scrubbed alternatives to The Beatles would appeal to kids and their parents, who saw groups like The Monkees, Gerry and The Pacemakers, and The Dave Clark Five as less threatening. It would be a mistake to dismiss the output of these bands, though. Some of the songs-The Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross The Mersey,” the first Monkees single,“Take The Last Train To Clarksville” for example-were finely crafted and well produced.
Dave Clark was the drummer and business mind behind the group that bore his name. He had an ego large enough to shatter established performance practice and under Dave’s direction the drum set was moved to the forefront, where he banged away freely without any apparent concern for timekeeping. Keyboardist and lead singer Mike Smith was the kid with musical training, however, and it was Mike who wrote and delivered “Glad All Over.”
Rock writers dream of unearthing three chord hits, and apart from the bridge, which introduces a fourth chord (the lowered sixth, which ultimately leads the final chorus up a semitone), “Glad All Over” is a quintessential example of this, the Holy Grail of pop artifacts.
A simple anthem to puppy love (“You say that you love me. You say that you need me.”) delivered in call and response fashion, “Glad All Over” retains its appeal today, nearly a half century after it entered the charts. It peaked here in the States at number six.
The Dave Clark Five had a couple of other successful singles. The best of the bunch, “Catch Us If You Can,” came from the film of the same name, a weak facsimile of “Hard Day’s Night.” Like all the other groups that piggybacked on top of The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five had a limited upside, and when they disbanded in 1970 it was without the hysterical sense of loss that numbed Beatles fans felt when that illustrious quartet called it quits. Still, for those of us who were there- and the rest of you who wish you were!-Glad All Over” remains a signature song from the sixties.
“Glad All Over”
Columbia DB (UK), Epic (USA)
Writers: Mike Smith, Dave Clark
Producer: Adrian Clark
Makemusic (www.makemusic.com) releases a new version of its flagship product, Finale, each year. Sometimes the advances are radical, other years less so. Finale 2012 offers users who rely on the Garritan Orchestra instruments that have shipped with the product for the last several years increased flexibility in instrument assignment, more control over the audio engine, greater implementation of the Unicode standard, a significant simplification of the score spacing function, and a printing option that, while not sexy, is the new feature I find most useful.
If you’re a power user who integrates score creation software into a fully loaded work station environment, the advancement in Finale’s audio engine may not interest you. I hit Finale after a score is completed, and therefore have little experience routing staves to the instruments from the Garritan library. However, it’s obvious that the new, highly customizable Score Manager feature will be extremely attractive to writers who need to maximize control over Finale’s internal audio play back functions. Each year Makemusic moves a few steps closer to developing Finale into a stand alone DAW for composers who need to verify the accuracy of their scores solely within this environment.
Let’s face it: spacing remains the most problematic aspect of all notation products. Allowing for fluid placement of all the symbols and articulations that make up a score is simply a difficult job for any program to handle. All of us have had frustrating moments entering a forte symbol and then having to grab and place it where we thought it was originally stamped.
I write several large orchestral works a year, and spacing of systems is an issue that I have to deal with. In 2011 Makemusic made it easier to grab individual systems and move them around without disturbing neighboring ones. The new Space Systems plug-in goes a step further. You can grab an individual page, several, or the entire score and experiment with the different spacing options… very helpful.
Most of my scores are written on a Windows 7 machine. Previous versions of Finale forced me to load Cute PDF, a free app that acts as a go between between Finale and the PDF format. This year Windows users have been given the gift of elimination- scores can be saved as PDF docs directly, and in addition to the convenience factor there’s another huge advantage: Finale 2012 uses its own page size functionality, not the computer’s, so the size of the score you output is aways correct. Save an 11 x 17 score as PDF, and you can print the PDF will print to either an 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 inch printer accurately.
If you use this application and are interesting in streamlining your workflow, FInale 2012 is clearly worth considering.
Ok, I admit it… I kind of choke up every time I hear Andy Williams break into “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” Forget the fact that his hot as can be ex-wife was convicted of killing her model good looks ski bum boyfriend, this track speaks to the family get togethers that seemed mythical in the universe my birth family inhabited.
Obviously, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” sung by anybody- I prefer Judy Garland’s original, from the film musical “Meet Me In St. Louis,” is a tear jerker for all but those who spent some time in the Muqtada al-Sadr “kill whitey” training schools. And yet, year after year, I keep spinning the late great Donnie Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
Maybe it’s because we know that this gifted young artist tossed himself out of a mid-town Manhattan hotel room, but whatever the reason, Donnie managed to conjure up the joy and magic of Christmas without denying the genuine pain that’s part of this coveted holiday for so many people who live on the fringe, the outskirts.
Whoever gets your vote, I wish you Peace, Joy and SOUL (wait, isn’t that how Don Cornelius signed off of every episode of Soul Train?) throughout the holidays, and beyond.
Fairlight Xynergi Media Production Centre
Mix The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the Briefing Room for the latest press postings.