The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the longest-running freeform radio station in the United States. Every mp3 on the Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era. These uses vary and are determined by the rightsholders themselves.
If you get a chance, browse around the FMA. It’s been one of my favorite websites for discovering creative commons music for a while, and I’m honored to be a part of it. In the short time I’ve been on the site as an artist, I’ve probably received way more downloads than I deserve. I’m really happy to have reached a larger audience and I hope they enjoy my work!
In the near future, I’ll write a new post with some of my favorite discoveries from the FMA.
For no particularly good reason, I just put some really old music on my bandcamp page. These are three songs I made in fruity loops over 10 years ago. I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe there is some charm to my cluelessness, but…probably not.
This weekend I took part in the global game jam. In case you aren’t familiar with the lingo, the global game jam website describes itself thusly:
The Global Game Jam® (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. Think of it as a hackathon focused on game development. It is the growth of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we could come together, be creative, share experiences and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games – it is very universal. The weekend stirs a global creative buzz in games, while at the same time exploring the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression. It is all condensed into a 48 hour development cycle. The GGJ encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity.
The structure of a jam is usually that everyone gathers on Friday late afternoon, watches a short video keynote with advice from leading game developers, and then a secret theme is announced. All sites worldwide are then challenged to make games based on that same theme, with games to be completed by Sunday afternoon. In January 2015, we had over 500 locations in 78 countries create 5439 games in one weekend! GGJ 2016 is January 29-31 at a location near you… if not you can make one of your own. The jam is known for helping foster new friendships, increase confidence and opportunities within the community. The jam is always an intellectual challenge. People are invited to explore new technology tools, trying on new roles in development and testing their skills to do something that requires them to design, develop create, test and make a new game in the time span of 48 hours.
The GGJ stimulates collaboration and is not a competition.
We had a team of five people working on a game. The team’s name was “Perplexed Morlock’s Fancy Principum Chips”. We had to come up with a name when we took a team photo, so we each chose a random word and stuck them together.
I originally had planned on using a handmade 2d game engine (mostly a thin wrapper around SDL). It’s probably a good thing I didn’t considering it’s buggy and kind of half-baked. We made use of the Unity game engine to make the game, which I personally didn’t have any experience in.
GGJ 2016’s theme was “ritual”. We came up with a game called Torchlight Tango. It is a two player cooperative game (although it works with one player as well).
You can find a link to the executable at the bottom of that page.
The left and right sticks each control different flames. One flame is red and the other is blue. The object of the game is to have each of the flames light the similarly colored candles on the screen. As you light candles, more appear on the screen. If you don’t move quickly the existing candles will burn out. Around each flame is a “spotlight” of the opposite color of the flame. If the red player moves right, the similarly colored spotlight around the blue flame will move left until the edge of the spotlight hits the flame. Movement is confined within the area of the spotlight. The effect is that if both players move in the same direction, they will get stuck. This forces the two players to coordinate with each other so they can get where they need to go. Once you finish lighting the candles, your score is based on the number candles that are still lit.
My role on the team was mostly that of a musician. The event started Friday evening, which I was unable to attend most of. Saturday morning, I lugged my giant desktop computer along with a midi keyboard, and some microphones to the game jam site. The team I was on caught me up on the details of the game and I worked on a song to use in the main game-play. I was going for a lighthearted, but upbeat song to fit the low-stress contemplative feeling of the game. I spent most of the afternoon recording the song. I think it came out well. It has a catchy laid-back melody with a luscious big sounding arrangement of synth and orchestral sounds. There is a quick moving synth bass that complements that melody.
I also did a small amount of work creating a few sound effects for the game. I had two sounds “success” sounds I made when a player lights a candle. I made them by programming a synth. The sound effect is a chord that is played in the key of the game’s background music which makes the effect very pleasant. I also attempted to program a synth sound for the candle going out. After spending a long time failing to come up with something good, I stuck a microphone in front of Ben. He made a “tsssss” sound in one take, and in half a minute we had a finished sound effect.
I then spent some time fumbling around Unity and eventually with the help of my teammates I got music and sound effects into the game along with a crash course in how unity generally works.
I was then tasked with making two new short pieces of music, one for the title screen and another for the completion of a level. I made a quick synth-driven upbeat funk song to match the cheery playfulness of the title screen art that was so graciously donated to us by a member of another team.
Then on completion of each level, we needed victory music. I was really happy how this turned out. It really gives off a celebratory vibe.
I shoved the remaining music in the game and then moved onto game development. I was much less useful in this regard compared to other team members due to my inexperience with Unity, but I helped out where I could with small additions, bug fixes, and testing.
We worked late into the next morning and went home around 4am with a very close to complete game. We came back later in the morning tired-eyed and sleepy-tailed to place the finishing touches on the game before we demoed it in the showcase. We rush fixed several bugs at the last minute which was somewhat nerve racking.
The showcase was a lot of fun. We got to walk around the room and find out what all the other teams had been working on all weekend. That room was certainly filled to the brim with talent and creativity. It was also neat to observe how people reacted to the game we created.
You can play games created at the location I was at here. Or if you want to browse games that were uploaded globally, you can find that here.
I hope to do more game development in the future. GGJ was a really fun experience.
I decided to record a video of me playing since I haven’t done that in a while. This is a song I wrote many years ago. It has a kind of pseudo-classical vibe to it which I usually don’t pursue. The playing is a little sloppy. Eventually I want to do a better recording of it. Perhaps alongside other musicians.
On a whim, I decided to finally press the publish button on bandcamp. I’m proud to present my new album, “The Maddening Parade”. I hope you enjoy!
Edit (1/14/2016): It’s now freeThe price is currently set at 7 dollars, but if you write me a comment in this blog post with a haiku (or really any form of poem), I’ll send you a download code. Hint: I’d prefer a haiku!
I’ve redone my website for the <very_large_number>th time. I’m no longer using some terrible handmade bash script to generate a website.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about what I’ve been up to in the recent past and what my plans for the future are.
What I’ve been doing
I’ve been working on a new album and spending waaaaaaay to much time on it. It is almost ready to go on my bandcamp page.
*hovers mouse nervously above the publish button*
*sweats profusely *
Usually by the time I’m ready to release a new batch of music, I have a whirlwind of mostly negative emotions involving all the canonical forms of self-doubt. If you sweep away all the negative crap-demons, I think I came up with the best solo work I’ve done so far. I’m really proud of it. I think the songs hold up on their own and together it makes a cohesive and engaging listen. I think it is relatively unique without going off too far into the weeds.
To a certain degree, the music on this new album has a little more infusion of electronic influences than a lot of what I’ve done. It can get pretty morose or stressful sounding, but it takes moments show some beauty.
I have several awesome guests on the album. Both Jon Wolff and Trevor Richards contributed guitar tracks. I managed to get Trevor to master the entire album. Cynthia Lee made killer album art.
You can here one of the tracks on my soundcloud page:
Trevor Richard’s album
I recorded some parts for three tracks on Trevor Richard‘s yet to be released album. I did piano, organ, wurlitzer and synth parts. I also faked a few clarinet parts in one of the songs (scary!). I’ve heard a few of the tracks off of it and I can’t wait for it to come out.
The end of the year is fast approaching and I hear that is a good time to make goals! Maybe if I write some of these things on a public website, I’ll be more inclined to accomplish anything for fear of the shame of breaking these sacred promises. We’ll see.
Go go gadget listicle!
Program a Game
I’d like to program a terrible game. Then make a less terrible one. I had previously started writing a simplistic 2d game engine, but work on it kind of petered out.
Start work on a hybrid audio/video DAW software. I want to write something that will allow you to record from a web-cam and audio source into a time-line directly along with any already recorded tracks. Specifically so I can more easily make videos like this:
Right now, audio and video software tend to exist as entirely separate entities in a way that forces you to do way more work than you should have to. For example, I absolutely abhor anything involving manually lining up a video track to an audio track.
Additionally, I have some ideas on making an easier work-flow for figuring out what video track should be shown and when.
These things can be solved with software, dammit.
I understand that such software would be pretty hard to write, but I want to get lofty complex goals out of the way.
I’m looking to sell out and record video game soundtrack cover songs. I can feed on the unquenchable thirst people have for nostalgia of their youth. <evil laugh>
Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2 is my jam.
Big props to youtube user, sonicKAI for realizing the song should not be bounded its normal play length of 2-3 minutes, but extended to 10 minutes (the maximum length that mere mortals of youtube were allowed to upload back in the day). How else would we enjoy it in its full glory?
I don’t want to limit covers to video games. I think it would be fun to try some different kinds of covers.
Instrumental versions of absurdly popular music of today
Re-imagined songs written by 300 year old dead Germans wearing wigs
Interpretations of old folk songs.
I’ve always loved The Bad Plus’s approach to doing covers. The music is instantly recognizable as the original song. The song still sounds distinctly as if The Bad Plus wrote the song. I want to be able to do that.
I have written a large number of solo piano songs over the years. I want to record some of them. I’d either want to leave them as solo songs or work with some musicians to record a live performance. The songs tend to be written in a way that make it hard to do all the layers only by myself.
Unrelated to the above, I’d also like to take a weekend day to make an album in 24 hours. See Crap Art: Album-a-Day. I think it would be fun and would help push me to not dwell so much in irrelevant details of recording/writing. I tend to be really slow.
I’d like to do more on-line collaborations with other people.
I’m not a great writer, but I enjoy it. I can use this blog as an outlet for that. Traditionally I haven’t used my website to write about anything other than myself. I hope to change that.
I am going to make more time to read. I miss it.
I want to be Stronger. Better. Faster. I want to be the lyrics of a Daft Punk song in the wrong order.
I’d like to walk or ride my bike more to work. I’ll make time to exercise more. I’ll work more towards to being a well-adjusted happy human.
Now that I have a blog, I can come back in a year and write one of those “lessoned learned” posts when I inevitably fail to accomplish any of my resolutions.