Previous month:
October 2010
Next month:
December 2010

Posts from November 2010

Show Report: Gary Numan at the Gothic in Denver 10/28/2010

Shot from the back of the Gothic Theater. This gives you a good sense for the cool LED light columns and motor control LED spots

As part of a 16 city tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Pleasure Principle album, Gary Numan played the Gothic Theatre in Denver on October 28th, 2010. I finally got around to organizing photos from the show and thought I’d offer a show report.

First off the Gothic is just a fantastic venue. The first shot above was taken from the top balcony and gives you a sense for the number of people in attendance. Also, it illustrates the minimalist LED lighting rig. They had LED light columns. On the columns there were larger LED spots that were driven by motors. The lights could produce any color, chase and strobe. Mix this with continuous fog machine action and you got an incredible light show without any projected or LED video displays.

If you’ve never seen Gary’s recent performances, you might be surprised that learn that he’s primarily not a nostalgia act. He has continued to evolve, write, release albums, and perform - and these days is much closer in “vibe” to the dark industrial feel of Nine Inch Nails. I personally really like his more recent work as much as the classic work. The venue was filled with fans of all ages who seemed to know every song regardless of age which I think speaks well to Gary’s body of work.

Part 1 – The Pleasure Principle
The first half of the show they played songs from The Pleasure Principle out of album order. On the back line were Richard Beasley on Drums, Ade Fenton on Keys (very cool), David Brook on Keys. In the front line, Tim Muddiman on bass, Gary Numan on Keys and vocals, and Steve Harris on Keys.

Gary Numan playing songs from the Pleasure Principle on an Access Virus TI

Steve Harris and Gary Numan played Access Virus TIs for this segment of the show. The rigs in the back line looked like MIDI controllers driving virtual synths and rack gear. It sounded absolutely incredible and the wall of synths were super warm. The arrangements were freshened up a bit, and the band was really well rehearsed and the crowd was really into it. They finished this segment of the show with “Cars”, which from an energy point of view was a great idea.

Part 2 – Songs from Jagged and More
When the band played the last note for “Cars” the stage went black and in like 20 seconds roadies removed the two Virus TIs and when the lights came Steve Harris was wearing a guitar and Gary just had a mic. The energy of the show went through the roof as the band drove into the newer harder material.

They pretty much just were kickin’ ass and takin’ names from this point out and just played like maniacs and quickly moved from song to song without talking to the audience.

Continous fog machine action - awesome

I can’t remember everything they played (I was too busy being immersed in it all to note the set list), but they did play some of my favorite newer tracks like “In a Dark Place” and “Jagged”, “Pure” and “Halo”. The also slipped in a few older tracks like “Are Friends Electric” and rocked them up.

Final Thoughts
I saw Gary Numan when he came through Boulder in 2006 and played almost all new material. I appreciate that he’s kept growing as an artist and that he doesn’t want to be known for just the classic tracks. That being said, I enjoy this show immensely. Going from the classic to the new material worked really well as it got the crowd engaged from song 1 and kept them that way all the way to the end. Young and old, most of the crowd was singing along.

This was one of the best concerts of 2010 for me and I highly recommend you catch Gary in the future if you get a chance.

More Photos
I took a lot of shots with my iPhone 4. Use the embeeded plaer below to view my favorites from the show or checkout the set on Flickr

Links

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com


Music of The Walking Dead, Composer Bear McCreary's Behind-the-Scenes Blog

image

Ok, I’m all caught up on The Walking Dead. Brilliant! I was quiet excited to find out that Bear McCreary was the composer for the show. If your not familiar with Bear, he also composed original music for Caprica, Eureka (although Mark Mothersbaugh wrote the theme), Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles, the first season of Human Target, and of course Battlestar Galactica.

Back in the Battlestar Galactica days, Bear started Bear’s Battlestar Galactica Blog where he discussed his work on the show. While BSG is long gone, he still uses this blog to talk about his work.

For his current show The Walking Dead, he’s been both blogging and video blogging. I recommend the blog if you are interested in The Walking Dead and day in-the life notes of a Hollywood composer. Bear really does a fantastic job writing and talking about his work. The videos include Bear commenting on the work as well as behind-the-scenes sessions shots. Great stuff.

The videos are streaming from his site as .flv’s so rather than try an embed here I’ll just send you off to Bear’s site. This is a better move anyway as the text in the blog will help give you context. He also includes MP3s clips of some of the cues.

Bear's Battlestar Galactica Blog: http://www.bearmccreary.com/blog/

Bear McCreary Official Web Site:  http://www.bearmccreary.com

 

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com


FXpansion Geist Sampler Workflow

image

I was looking through the many videos FXpansion has been posting on their new virtual instrument Geist. When I fist saw the teaser for this I was thinking this was just going to be another drum machine. While it is a drum machine, it’s definitely got some strong sampler capabilities and they are in fact billing this as a “next-generation sampling instrument”.

Watch embedded video

FXpansion Geist Sampler Tutorial

 

This embedded video above shows off some of the sampling features that were standard on on-school hardware samplers that I kind of forgot about – like triggering recording with “threshold”.

Another feature revealed in the video is “Spitter” which is a plugin that routes audio from your DAW to Geist so you can resample audio on the fly. I appreciate FXpansions due diligence in making sure their instrument works within existing work flows.

I’m pretty happy with my Ableton drum rack, sampler, instrument rack resampling workflow so I’m not sure I personally will jump on Geist at the $249 price point. FXpansion addresses the question of adding Geist to your SAW in their FAQ:

Does Geist do anything that I cannot already do with my DAW?

Nowadays, all DAWs are incredibly capable, powerful tools. However, there are an infinite variety of ways to implement any given feature, and many sample-based processes can be extremely tedious in DAW software, often requiring several different applications. Geist tries to make these kinds of long-winded processes extremely fast, and virtually instant in many cases.
We encourage you to download the demo and take it for a spin to see how it could speed up your creative projects!”

So to FXpansion’s point, if you are finding the workflow in your DAW “long-winded” or are using a more linear DAW, Geist is worth a look.

What are your thoughts on Geist?

Links

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
www.MarkMosherMusic.com
www.ModulateThis.com


U-HE ACE TIP: Pulse Width Modulation Basics

image

After watching my YouTube video “u-he ACE Tutorial: Patch Cables 101”, I had a viewer ask “How can i modulate the pulse width of the osciliator?”, so I thought I’d do a quick answer here in text form. Click the image above to see a larger version of the synth. Annotation numbers in diagram match steps below.

For VCO1, LFO2 is already hard-wired to modulate pulse width. To get going follow these steps:

  1. Turn the Waveform1 knob clockwise to select pulse width
  2. Turn the lfo2 knob clockwise. You’ll hear Pulse Width Modulation right away
  3. Turn the sync knob to increase the speed of modulation
  4. Turn pw knob to set the PulseWidth

Play around with other lfo2 params to get more extreme results.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com


Modulate This Exclusive: First Look at Tone2's New ElectraX Virtual Synth

Gladiator 2 is one of my primary go-to synths. I just love the sonic range and the way it cuts through the mix. Prior to Gladiator I was using Vanguard and I still use Slayer 2. Both Slayer and Vanguard’s audio engine were also developed by Tone2. So, needless to say I’m a huge fan of Tone2’s work.

I’m happy to report that Tone2 has been hard at work at a brand new monster synth called ElectraX (click images to show larger view).

image

They’ve been running a closed beta with sound designers and recently sent me a copy to try and have given me permission to share this info on Modulate This.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
First let me say ElectraX sounds incredible. It is a 4 layer instrument and each layer is a complete 3 oscillator synth. So, it’s kind of like having the power of multiple Gladiators and then some. In my testing, even with 4 layers on, the synth was incredibly CPU friendly.

While ElectraX clearly inherits some elements from Gladiator, it is laid out in a different way that makes it more immediate and easy to program. Skins can be setup-changed by editing the 'ElectraXskin.txt' file found in the ElectraX folder (I switch skins for some interface snapshots below).

Each synth instance is accessible via a tabbed interface. Another great improvement is there is lot more animated visual feedback as you program. For example, the waveform display for each oscillator animates to show the effects of PW modulation. I also appreciate that almost all knobs and controls bigger making programming easier.

While the magic of Gladiator came from the innovative HCM synthesis engine (see this post), ElectraX offers a more familiar PW (Pulse Width) parameter for sweeping through harmonic content for modes that support it. The PW can then be modulated by a huge number of modulation sources. I think this approach allows for a less abstract and more familiar and predictable method for achieving a huge range of harmonic possibilities - especially when you consider you can combine and mix synthesis methods across so many oscillators and layers.

SYNTHESIS METHODS

image

One thing I always wished Gladiator had was the ability to load my own samples as oscillator sources. I also wished there was a more immediate FM modulation method. Well my wait is over. Each oscillator offers a choice of 13 different synthesis methods which include 45 oscillator types!

  1. Virtual analog
  2. FM
  3. Samples
  4. Wavetables with re-synthesis function and the ability to load own waveforms
  5. Ultrasaw (up to 10 detuned OSC at once)
  6. Fractal (a completely new synthesis method)
  7. Phase distortion
  8. Waveshaping
  9. PWM
  10. Sync
  11. Noise
  12. Ringmod
  13. Vocoder

AUDIO ENGINE

image

The audio engine supports psychoacoustic processing, polyphony, legato, glide mode, analog and quality settings.

FILTERS

image

ElectraX has 23 dual multimode analog modeled filter types including:

  • 9 analog modeled filters with self oscillation
  • Lowpass/Highpass/Bandpass 12dB/18dB/24dB
  • High precision digital filters: Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass, Notch
  • Equalizers: LowShelf, HighShelf, Peak, Wide
  • Special types: Phaser, Comb+, Comb-, Vocals, Aliaser, Ringmod

Each filter has selectable drive model which include:

  • Tube
  • Soft
  • Fuzz
  • Asym
  • Crush
  • Shaper

LAYERS

image
Each layer also includes:

  • Dual multimode distortion/waveshaper
  • 3 LFOs and a Step LFO
  • Four Envelope generators
  • Arpeggiator
  • Insert effect
  • Flexible modulation matrix

EFFECTS
There 18 effect types are:

  • Reverbs: Hall, Cathedral, Room
  • Delays: Delay, Delay band, Ping Pong, Multitap
  • Chorus, Ensemble, Phaser, Flanger, Rotary
  • Trancegate, Compressor, Ampsim, Equalizer, Surround Encode
  • Vocoder

FRACTAL SYNTHESIS

image

One of the new synthesis methods is called Fractal. Fractal oscillators work with a new type of synthesis based on chaotic systems. According to Tone2 “Four different modes available each uses a mix of chaos and predictability to model its output”. They described the modes as follows:

  • Fractal1: Models a real crazy analogue circuit which randomizes between asquarewave, a sine, a sawtooth, noise or feedback. PW controls it's double-minded mood. The tuning mostly follows pitch.
  • Fractal2: Can be sine, feedback, granular, screaming, flute or sawtooth. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.
  • Fractal3: Can be sine, square, bandlimited noise, granular or feedback. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.
  • Fractal4: Can be square, granular or lowpassed noise. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.

GLOBAL PARAMTERS

image

Global parameters include a MasterFX processor, EQ (Low, Mid, High), Volume, and one of my favorite new additions “Mod Wheel”. Mod Wheel is very handy when you are doing sound design work from your laptop and don’t have a controller hooked up.

FACTORY PATCHES
One of my favorite things about Gladiator was the sheer number of patches that shipped with the synth and were available as add-on libraries. They are extremely well programmed and make for great starting points for tweaking as well. Even though ElectraX is still in beta, there were already a huge number of incredible patches that make use of all this horsepower.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I’ve only had limited time with ElectraX and have barely scratched the surface, but I’m pretty blown away. I think Tone2 has a real winner synth here and ElectraX is going to provide an even bigger harmonic range, and a potential for more complex sounds with more movement and expressiveness. They made some great user interface choices that simplify programming even though there are many, many more parameters to manage.

If you are a Gladiator user, there is enough similarity in the user interface that you’ll be able to hit the ground running with ElectraX. For new users, the wide range of presets and interface improvements shorten your learning curve and make the synth usable right after install.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

  • PC: Windows XP, Windows Vista 32/64, Windows 7 32/64, Windows ME; Intel Pentium4 compatible CPU with at least 800 Mhz; 512 MB RAM
  • Mac: Mac OSX 10.4 or higher; G5 or Intel Mac with at least 800 Mhz; 512 MB RAM

TECHNICAL SPECS

  • PC formats: 32-bit VSTi, 64-bit VSTi, standalone
  • Mac formats: VSTi, Audiounit; Univeral Binary
  • Supported samplerates: 44,1 kHz; 48 kHz; 88,2 kHz; 96 kHz; 192 kHz
  • Multicore CPU support; SSE2 support

AVAILABILITY AND PRICING
According to the official web site the synth should be available in December. No pricing or launch date was available – but I can vouch that this is not vaporware.

LINK

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com