the beginning


At some point during grade school, I mentioned to a teacher that I might like to teach music someday. Later that year, an opportunity was presented to me. My class was going to teach kindergartners about food, and there would be a song to sing. The song would be set to the music of “row, row, row your boat.” No backing music was available to us; just the lyrics. I was recruited to produce backing music with my casio keyboard.

My plan was to record the music in advance rather than perform it live. I hadn’t entered the age of sequencers yet, and didn’t have any music software to aid me. So, I recorded my keyboard with a cassette recorder and a microphone. All I did was play the notes to match the lyrics, so I missed the chance to make a more elaborate accompaniment and show off my skills.

When I played the music for the class before the event, one student thought he was being clever by stating that I had played too many notes. But he was imagining the original song rather than the song we’d be performing. Anyway, the event itself taught me all about stagefright (since I had to lead the song) and the concept of lead-in (since my backing music started with the first note of the lyrics).

I just wanted to capture and share this little stepping stone in my journey of music production. It also serves as a reminder of the necessity of iteration. Create something and start using it right away, so you can identify and address the weaknesses. Keep going until you run out of ideas or time.




In my catalog of unfinished works, there is one song that I must finish.  I started it in a special place with a heightened state of mind, and I am drawn to it every time my studio computer is booted up.  Finishing this piece doesn’t fit well into my plans for 2010.  I am torn about the opportunities on two sides of a coin: finish this song and release it, or work on a separate project that a friend has pitched to me.



I haven’t done any earnest work on new music for four months now. When the time comes, I haven’t decided if I will resume the way I usually do, which is to review all of my works in progress that I haven’t already cancelled.

I want to do something that I haven’t done before, which suggests that I avoid my earlier work. But I have to balance this with my desire to finish things that I start. I believe this break in productivity gives me my best chance for a fresh start.

party venues


I wish I had the same excitement about trying to put together a demoparty that I had at the beginning of this year.  Two desirable venues have let us down in various ways.  I am willing to keep working, but coping with an unknown quantity of fruitless effort across an unknown duration is not a skill that I have right now. I’m still trying to avoid using a hotel conference center, because that is commonplace these days.  It also means that demoscene money goes to big corporations.  I really wanted to spend the money on a local art organization.

One of my biggest goals for this project is to enable the creativity in others.  Getting people together to create and show productions in a rented venue for the local art community would be amazing, but it may not be attainable at the outset.  I need to plow forward and focus on the gathering itself.

minneapolis demoscene


SigFLUP is making an effort to hold monthly meetups in the Minneapolis area for people interested in the demoscene.  If you’re in the area, or you know someone who is, check out the site with the event schedule: .

tales from a hopeful party organizer


Liran and I did some location scouting yesterday for an upcoming event.  We saw two spaces, both with pros and cons.  We also learned that a facility’s event coordinator has been on vacation, which is why she was failing to respond to me.

The two facilities we visited were basically art galleries. One of the spaces described as 2000 square feet was closer to 1400 square feet when we measured it with our walking pace. But this facility is well-equipped for ceiling-mounted video projection, and has plenty of electrical outlets.  The other facility has three huge usable spaces, although a distinct lack of nearby power outlets.

I’m actually leaning towards the smaller space at this moment, because the event coordinator has been much more helpful, we have ballpark figures for the cost, the electrical situation is better, the nearby food situation is better, and there’s a partially-divided back room area which we can use as organizer space and a VIP lounge (for those who know something about Evoke). Using the smaller space would mean that capacity would be limited even further than hoped, as well as raising the per-person cost.  I don’t want to get into a budget discussion here or now, though.

We’re trying to pick a facility and a specific date as soon as possible, because we’re trying to give everyone at least three months’ notice to allow everyone to attend our San Francisco party. I have a list of all the people I think are likely to attend, along with which dates some key people are unavailable. I’m kind of treating this as a regional event, at least initially, so I’m focused on sceners in California, Oregon, and Washington.

the sum of the parts


Listening to some old tracked music that I enjoy, I notice that other tracker musicians got away with little glitches and risks that I wasn’t willing to try.  Basically, I sought out high-quality samples and considered my approach to sample selection as part of the art I was creating. I used the approach that each instrument had to sound perfect on its own.

In some of the old necros tracks that I really like, for example, I find lots of samples that I wouldn’t have been willing to use.  However, necros did some truly genius work with tracker software. And hopefully you’re well aware of what virt can do with a set of chip samples.

My compositions were merely a sum of their parts. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that an audio mix could come out to be more than the sum of its parts. While I can identify this weakness now, I’m not sure I’ve conquered this barrier.  I have one example of trying to compose with an inferior sample set, which is a 2001 track called “5hirt”.  The chip-sized samples originated from my CD collection.

I usually tried to make things easy for myself by picking out samples that I really liked, and composing with them like someone else would compose with real instruments.  Trying to compose with imperfect samples can result in a fantastic outcome, as other tracker musicians have proven. I want to accomplish this too.