Thursday, September 29, 2011

Llama Acquired

People's Remix Competition 203 brought in a handful of entrants as well as a tie for first place. For the round OneUp chose the Level Theme from the game Tyrian for others to remix. sggod89 attempted to avoid synth sounds for his entry and started it with gentle harmonies before slamming into a rocky arrangement with a hint of pads. Lidawg eased into electronic ambiance and nostalgic leads, and then sped things up a bit with guitar chugging and steady drums. Binweasel rounded things out with a piano-centric take of the theme bounded with acoustic guitar and accompanied by an incomprehensible sales pitch in the description.

JHCompo on Tuesday happened to fall on my birthday, and as a gift to the entrants I settled on an accessible space-related theme: "Reaching the Planet". RAMPKORV delivered an extensive piano solo entry that starts mildly somber and progresses to quirkiness. dusthillguy on the other hand went straight into kitschy synths and vocal loops running under a minute. nikola also put out "A Fast Bout of Synth", in his case a groove centered on a bassline. coda characteristically crash-landed on a dog planet and uploaded his moody electronic tune without listening to it beforehand.chunter credited his guitar solo to wide variety of sources, guided by a simple hi-hat pattern and Latin percussion. jmr made an appearance to give out birthday wishes and stayed to make a filter-filled track with melodic twanging. 

StatusD recorded his Korg devices live and showed off nearly seven minutes of acidic dance as he traveled to the "Planet of Electribe". Gario made his first JHCompo entry and typed out a poetic description to match his sonorous bells and pads. Evil Shrubbery made his "Deadly Arrival" using subdued bass and synth strings that come in waves among methodical pulses. Mirby put up a rendition of a certain composition by Patty and Mildred Hill, topped with whistle accompaniment. Obtuse experimented with electronic sounds and asked me to record narration; I obliged by performing the Leonard Nimoy monologue "A Visit to a Sad Planet". Finally Zerothemaster uploaded a collage of various sampled clips including Daft Punk, The Beatles, Owl City and Electric Children.

The theme for Thursday's OHC was "Montage", a summary of the preparation for victory. Following my introduction, dusthillguy put together his signature vocal clip pitch manipulation set to a choral beat. RAMPKORV set the abrasiveness to eleven on his track, with submerged rhythms and swirling effects. nikola unfortunately suffered a power dropout and lost his work, prompting him to put a segment of what could have been. Shael Riley made a rare appearance and submitted chip music that he "probably" wrote, or probably ripped from Pokémon. Fusion2004 joined acoustic drum loops with synthetic bass and contrapuntal elements, described as "a pot. Of Code." Mirby composed in her unique style of layered takes, this time with some semblance of structure and a title provided by a friend.

Tomapella's thought provoking name "The Summer I Became A Tomato" served as a launching point for his lo-bit arpeggios, piano chords and stereoized snare. sci went back to sounds of game's past and sent along a a succession of harmonies ending on an open chord. Arcana used raw waves for his melody and punchy kick as the score for his adventures in Crazyland. Usabell's piece contains a sample of Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)" which itself is heavily based on Pachelbel's Canon, though in the entry it is in the key of C# and ventures into drum and bass. CJthemusicdude elected to use an alternate spelling of montage and submitted music that would not be out of place in a film sequence on a dancefloor. jarski muffled a bongo riff and gradually opened it up, seemingly "Jamming" somewhere in a jungle.

Shadix married acoustic chords and wordless choral with rhythmic piano that brings to mind Streets of Rage. ShrackAttack effectively wrote a snippet of a montage lasting twelve seconds. munchi took a dose of acid and proceeded to bang on prominent hi-hats with frantic synth. DDRKirby(ISQ)'s drone arose from the darkness with 8-bit blurbs, breakbeat, ambiance and electro, described overall as a "song so epic it requires Wikipedia research". SupaSpeedStrut sent along his "pretty sketch" entry featuring syncopated electric grunts and pounding kick drum. At the end of the round, Forty-Two did some last-minute touch ups before re-submitting his "Landscape", a gentle mix of pads and chimes smoothed over with piano.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beauty Contest

For JHCompo on Tuesday I selected “Hedge Maze” as the theme, which brought about an eclectic assortment of entries. nikola’s arpeggios rose out of silence to a tune that would not be out of place in a 8-bit dungeon. chunter similarly swooped in gradually, this time with rush of white noise and an unusual time signature. mv once again prepared a multi-textured, densely produced piece using filters and glitch for his “Prison”. Jarski inexplicably accompanied his electronic entry with a photo of a pair of insects fighting, and ended with a bit of woodwind. Xarnax42 offered layered strings bounded to gentle percussion and a wah-effected lead. StatusD took the opportunity to compose his track using KORG DS-10, meeting the challenge of the working with limited software. MandraSigma worked his vocals into a synth-rocking song wondering, among other things, “Where is the outside?” madbrain appeared at the last minute with a flourish of cor anglais and brass that lasts twenty seconds. Finally SonicThHedgog was unable to turn off his swag, which caused the second half of his submission to blast above zero decibels.

The Sonic Amateur Games Expo debuted earlier in the week, and with it came the SAGE 2011 Composition Contest. The premise for the compo involved creating music suitable for a nonexistent video game level, in this case a Factory Zone for Sonic the Hedgehog. DJEAR stepped up to create breakbeat funk replete with vocal utterances of "static!" and sax-filled breakdowns. tentril kept it simple by his own words, laying down drum riffs and bass that rolls along at the speed of guitar leads. AeroGP made a tune in conjunction with DJEAR paying tribute to the sounds of the Sega Genesis with over-the-top e-shredding. Shadix lamented the incompleteness of his work, but managed a dense cluster of vintage 16-bit chips.

Thursday's OHC settled upon a ""Natural beauty" theme including a pair of images to spur the imaginations of the participants. Following my narration, frkygp served up reverb-drenched chords punctuated by silence and eventually drums. nikola stated that his synths lacked lubrication, but sent otherwise smooth ambient work that picks up an energetic pace. Arcana conducted his string section samples with the aid of an electro beat including extended oboe melody. DDRKirby(ISQ)'s track starts off with the ebb and fade of chiptune and builds several lo-bit harmonies. Bren appeared and submitted his signature chord changes, this time "about a good dragon instead of an evil one." SupaSpeedStrut built his piece around a default kick and a Korg unit for a session of warm distortion. ShrackAttack, like other entrants that night, leaned in favor of violins to express beauty and rose to great heights of pitch before ending.

sci took the sounds of nature and set it to rhythm for his entry accompanied by dollops of e-piano. CJthemusicdude set the mood for his track immediately with a bowed chord joined by harp and then alternating while choir wafts in. munchi on the other hand began with a steady buzz of synth followed by sped-up speech and a quirky backing music. Usabell found beauty in nature and expressed such with a low soundbed complemented by riffs that dance along the high end of the spectrum, and percussion that arrives halfway in. Forty-Two used minimal piano chords to signify the sun setting, filling out the sonic space with pads and xylophone. MandraSigma performed DEFRAG via extensive glitch effects and an array of electronic sonorities. At the end of the listening party, Acuity noticed the leaves drifting as he ran home for compo carrying his strings, kick drum and snare in a sack with him.

When I stumbled upon an artists whose work inspires me, I tried to learn as much as possible about that artist's background. I want to know how and why they make their art. My goal in doing this is to gain insight, in the hope that it would give me perspective regarding my own output. Among other things, compo provides an inviting way for artists to share their knowledge, and this is a blessing considering the many inspiring artists who participate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Boxing Around

Punchfest made its triumphant return this past week after an eight-month hiatus, as its theme brought about a fair amount of entries. For “The Rip-offs” the participants had to remix music from games that lifted ideas directly from other titles. auriplane sent along a solemn mixture of acoustic and electric strumming for his take on Battle of Olympus. Obtuse delivered a jazzy rendition of Darkwing Duck complete with a keyboarded flute sample, dollops of piano and organ. LuketheXjesse approached Bucky O’Hare using heavy guitar chords before laying down the drums, buzzy lead and a surprise ending for good measure. Prince of Darkness’s guitar works over disco rhythms in his Gunstar Heroes remix in a rollicking manner despite complaints in the listening party about the bass.

bjkmenu prepared a batch of “Turd Soup”, his arrangement medley of Diddy Kong Racing that opens with a synth chord and continues with shreddage inter-cutting portions of the original tracks. Tibone’s brief Rad Racer rendition was aptly described by a listener as “love making music” as a form of acoustic un-tiss. Snappleman adhered to a chippy soundbed as he arranged Neutopia before smashing into a rockier version as well as a dash of MJ near the end. Demonstray remixed Brain Lord in e-piano fashion garnished in lead guitar and sparse drumming, but picked up the pace later with a bit of chugging. Finally M-H forwent a conventional buildup or intro to dive into a remix of Lagoon, cooling off with some tom roll action.

People’s Remix Competition 202 featured two source tunes to remix, as the previous round ended in a tie for first place. Entrants could choose to arrange Mega Man Battle Network, a Star Fox 2 track, or both in the same entry. The tied winners were also allowed to participate as long as they remixed each other’s source tune instead of their own. OneUp fitted Mega Man into a dubstep format, making use of voice clips and sparse snare patterns commonly associated with the genre. chroxic used the lack of canonicity of Star Fox 2 as an excuse to interpret it as he saw fit; he worked in vocal samples in his moody, frenetic remix, anchored by growling electronic bass. Obtuse remarked on how the source composition affected his “big synths”, riding out the sonorities without percussion for almost half the duration until the kick drum drops. marcusg to had little time develop his arrangement and wished to have a harder sound, but submitted an otherwise distinctive rendition of that picks up steam near the end. Zerothemaster, a first-place entrant of round 201 opted to join, uploading his plucked and fittingly spacey version of Star Fox 2 with snippets of dialogue.

For JHCompo on Tuesday I selected “For a Cause” as the theme, perhaps as a nod to the events of ten years ago and how they prompted wars that are still fought today. nikola served his duty by presenting militaristic drums and horns before transitioning to a more dance-oriented vibe along with choir. Obtuse incorporated a bevy of soldier chatter and gun sound effects accompanied by synth chords and rumbling bass. Jarski stated that he made his entry on a “crappy laptop”, but nevertheless put up an effective DnB track featuring a shape-shifting low end. Newcomer LoneStar fired up his drum machine to make a headbobbing beat centered on the titular “Pew Pew” effect. mv revealed his “Unspeakable Truth” by way of cinematic orchestral befitting an epic battle. Mirby appeared near the end of the compo submission stage, but worked out some keyboarded riffs and an unexpected whistling session.

StatusD uploaded his first JHCompo entry and put a Korg Emx-1 to use for his track, centered on an unusual time signature considering its electronic dance roots. SonicThHedgog’s tune ruptures at the start, establishing the somber mood with solo piano and leading to a rush of strings signifying an ascent to “Black Ops Valhalla”. MandraSigma appeared with a hooky pop song about peace, pressing the matter by repeating “PEACE” several times; the second half changes gears with a uptempo drums and a series of grunts. At the end of the round, youngstrizzle presented a rap operetta about knights embarking on a journey to “conquer in the name of the kingdom.

Thursday's OHC used "Hope" as the theme for the night and I recorded my hopeful introduction, after which doctor Arcana provided a status update as his entry. Acuity was similarly unable to make to compo, and his ice-themed track was uploaded courtesy of DDRKirby(ISO). dusthillguy submitted his characteristic pitched vocal samples and spastic structure running just over half a minute. frkygp's methodical thuds and lo-bit kick and clap made for a decidedly dark take on hope. ancara22 made his first OHC entry putting together piano arpeggios with flute and soft strings. jarski again noted the failings of his laptop, but managed created a brief, competent dance tune. nikola went for evocative synth ambiance that ends in a major mode. Mirby continued her extemporaneous style, throwing in more whistling that could probably reach a cab driver a mile away.

sci looked to his trusty chips for his entry, presenting his harmonic construction by looping it multiple times. ItsMatt explored dense industrial with "Is All Hope Is Lost [Rads Mix]" referencing a world in the wake of nuclear war. zorg's alliteration bordered on obsession as he latched onto the letter D; his gentle composition is complemented by percussion partway through. General Mumble send along a orchestral-turned-electro cue that captured the hopelessness of being stranded miles away. CJthemusicdude took on a multi-faceted production, part of which included a sample of Cornel Campbell's "Boxing Around" per my request. siebensus4 submitted strings and filtered rhythm, thus declaring "I Try The Other Way".

Shadix took the opportunity to plug an upcoming event with his entry, though he did offer a song for critiquing. MandraSigma could have actually been "In Awkward Darkness" considering he left his description blank and uploaded a 32-second tune. Usabell on the other hand put forward inspiring words and a lush, expansive soundscape. DDRKirby(ISQ) turned on his Game Boy and subequently tore up the listening party to save the world from chaos. Rounding out the entries was Forty-Two who admittedly rushed the track out, but served an climactic blend of e-piano and pads.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Break It Down Again

Freshly Baked ReMixer Challenge 2011 went through a bit of turmoil due in part to confusion regarding the start of the mixing phase, delayed responses and other lapses affected by the life schedules of those involved in the compo. The challenge nevertheless managed a fair turnout of eight entries. Chernabogue was given a gentle King's Quest VII tune to arrange, and turned it on head to create moody, stomping electro. wildfire fulfilled my Blast Corps remix request with chord variations propelled by synth-beats, resting on a bed of strings. Rexy tacked Final Fantasy X using her characteristically conceptual approach, starting light and gradually gaining a heavier low end, building to a dense composite of instrumentation. Amphibious was served “The Boundless Ocean” from Final Fantasy III, which was interesting coincidence considering he had recently released his Oceans EP; he served up his distinctive ambient style by working the e-piano over a minimal percussive loop, and then lifted the low-pass cap to open up the soundscape.

Prophetik went about doing a solo in his Smash TV by “faceroll”ing the keyboard and editing the results to fit the key; it fits well with the frantic electronics and breakbeats that the remix consists of. Xarnax42 offered a chilled out iteration of the Golden Sun battle theme with the promise of developing it further; in the current form it swells over the course of its duration and tops out in the final seconds. Moseph initially intended to do a full-orchestral arrangement of Terranigma, but settled on a hybrid of strings and e-bass led along with sliding synthesizer melody. The eighth entry of the round came from Gario, who put together a frenetic chip-influenced version of Felix the Cat in a short time; by Gario’s own description, “It's fun while it lasts.”

JHCompo on Tuesday featured “Before the Dawn” as its theme, open up the compo to interpretation. nikola set the mood of his piece with a solo arpeggios before dropping the beat and widening the stereo field. jesm04 graced the piano with a hip-hop vibe, a flurry of electronics and violins. MandraSigma lamented the escape of a hedgehog by spinning drum loops under quirky lo-bit harmonies. Xarnax42’s “Renewal” noodled on acoustic guitar samples accompanied by the keys, coming together at the final chord. coda continued his seemingly arbitrary replacement of words and themes with the word dog, uploading glitched percussion punctuated by piano chords and fuzzy bass. mistermv also carried an industrial vibe and imbues it with elements of electro and weighty pads. Obtuse started his entry with synth stabs and thickened things out with sonorities and piano filling the empty spaces.

sci discarded his initial ideas for the compo round and scrambled together an offbeat tune featuring vocals from SunshineSmiles. MisfitBYTE’s low fidelity tones precede the entrance of guitar soloing on top of bass plucking in a somewhat discordant manner, perhaps fitting the “We Sleep, They Ooze” title. X-Trav made his first appearance in JHCompo using an ominous bassline and piano lines that play off a minimal beat. SonicThHedgog succeeded in getting his track in before the deadline a second time, admittedly rushing his work but nevertheless delivering a pumping session of Star Fox rock. Finally Jarski created his tune in half the allotted time, displaying a slowly fading chip-hop riff beefed up with dance rhythms.

The theme for Thursday's OHC was "Break it down", bringing to mind a comment made by the organizer starla in a previous round that led to my dramatic reading of the phrase. After my new intro, nikola reportedly "took a giant crap on [his] DAW and hit render"; the result resembles a rock tune fed through an ancient chipset. Mirby again showed her unique approach, composing several arrhythmic keyboard takes into a swirling blend. MickRip returned after hiatus with organ and distant drums that rush in to meet it. TheMisterCat also made an unexpected appearance using orchestral growl, strings and harmonized singing. Fusion2004 offered a short entry, possibly as a precaution to prevent its "epic"ness from destroying the world. Usabell stated that he wasn't feelin' the compo theme, and centered his track on slap bass, e-piano and snare.

Obtuse experimented with electro house leanings and built steam off of a steady kick and tribal strikes. sci fulfilled my request to use a sample of the Tenacious D song "Classico" that I prepared for him, putting the clip through the wringer by applying various pitch and glitch effects. DDRKirby(ISQ) put the entire listening party into a dark place with his gloomy tune, but eventually lifted them up using funky rhythms. General Mumble similarly put bells to use in his submission, which give way to screaming distortion that dominates until a return to quiet later on. munchi's high pitched vocal chants reminded me of Daft Punk's "Technologic" but otherwise goes on its own patch via energetic drum patterns. jarski deleted his melodies by his own admission, leaving behind a fat beat, bass and dots of lead synth.

Foozogz's breakbeats apparently hit a dirty spot on his CD and skipped for a fair while, followed by a series of unfortunate events. Forty-Two prompted listeners to turn up the volume for his composition spotlighting extensive barafon work. mv seemed to put his usual trip-hop aside in favor of electronic disco complete with diva voice clips. Shadix got straight to the point by serving up a piercing riff and exotic percussive instruments, then switching to rockier drumming. Jakesnke17 dropped out of the listening party momentarily, but not before slamming down a dance vibe sprinkled with chiptunage. At the end of the night, frkygp rushed out his mellow bass and hi hats, hinting at the longer excursion it could have been.

The way I interacted with certain members of the compo community is a great metaphor for my path in music. At first I approached, not knowing much about the subject. Instead of gradually gaining an understanding, I jumped the gun and latched onto the subject obnoxiously. After getting burnt as a result of that clinging, I moved on to things that bring me joy. My creative life has taken a few left turns, but my enjoyment of creative competitions has not diminished. What has changed is how I express my interest, and I believe that change is one for the better.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Always Wanting More

OLRmageddon LI harkened back to the days of BEER/EAR, providing a handful of sources that entrants could choose from. For bonus points a participant could also elect to include the “wobble” effect associated with the dubstep movement. At the end of the round Brunzolaitis ended up being the only participant: his track “The WUB DAY” offers a heavily compressed take on the game Crystalis, breaking up the overworld theme and ending with constant thuds and reversed speech. People’s Remix Competition 201 fared slightly better in turnout with two entries, both based on the Ganon battle theme from A Link to the Past. SubNormal J3 served up nostalgic lo-bit synths, finding a groove within the shifting time signature and throwing in a bit of piano. Zerothemaster started his remix with a clip from the CDi Zelda, and then settled on a repeating “mai boi” with moody electronics.

The Soundevotion Competition reached its 60th iteration: an open round that brought in five entries. lwpss made his first ever SDCompo entry, displaying minimal drum and bass that works in elements of jungle and voice clips. ambtrax chose to comment on the recent UK riots via a news footage sample, and built up a mixture of industrial drums strings and a fair amount of synthetic harmonies. chunter attempted to write a song in a foreign language, making use of two speech synthesizer voices to convey pop phrases with the help of a proofreader. ThumbWrestler’s entry begins with a lone arpeggio that multiplies and desynchronizes until it crescendos, leading to an ambient section with distorted grunts. stardiaries submitted extensive glitch percussion as a bed for a heavily gated low end riff and sub-bass tones. Finally organic_io wrote his entry on a Pocket PC before importing his work into Renoise; the acid bass is complemented by cymbal work and a vocal-like detuned lead before dropping in a beat.

JHCompo on Tuesday began in the wake of tropical storm Irene and thus featured a “Hurricane” theme. DJ_SOMBRERO once again showed off his latino-tinged electro announcing “¡oyé! ¡Es un huracan!” and changing up the mood halfway through. MisfitBYTE mostly stayed above the storm by sticking to the high end of the frequency spectrum using chippage. Clockwerk’s ambient track takes a while to fade in, but finds its groove and coasts along unsettling dissonance befitting the theme. chunter unfurled his sweeping piano entry and remarked upon events that happened to his relatives in the description. Lo-bit broken-up chords permeate nikola’s tune along with a funky rhythms and other panned instruments. MandraSigma released a firmware update for “iHurricane”, the only cyclone that doesn’t support flash floods. Jacob summoned his tribal drums and string sections, and then lays down the drums and synth for a piece that apparently fell out of a disaster-film trailer.

mv’sOpportunistic Desolation” earns its title by serving up somber chord structures driven by his usual trip-hop stylings. sci uploaded a track composed in 40 minutes that comes off as being partway between oompah-oompah and untz. youngstrizzle presented his nerdcore song lamenting the damage to his roof and offering a sandwich. coda countered the theme with a laidback composition with particular attention made to sonorities. Detective Tuesday broke out the drum machine for some minimal dance laden with exotic percussion and choir. The stormy elephant in the room came from Zovi, who sent up nine minutes of distortion so loud that even the silent intermission peaked the decibel scale. At the end of the listening party SonicThHedgog managed to submit in time after several missed attempts in prior rounds, using rain and rising bass synth topped with a searing melody before introducing wub-wub-wub.

For Thursday's OHC the theme dealt with voracity, leaving things wide open for interpretation. DJ_SOMBRERO showed up to ThaSauce with spicy bongos over frantic un-tiss and again offered a message en español. dusthillguy submitted an extended speech featuring Microsoft Sam regarding the installation of Linux. MandraSigma's ambient entry consists of him saying the phrase "I need more" and putting it through various filters. nikola again used an arp as a basis for his tune, accompanied but guitar buzz and acoustic drums. RAMPKORV worked the piano four over four minutes, ending with sporadic burst on the keys. sci's track features pitch vocal grunts and a patchwork of clips nailed down with a beat. Mirby returned to compo with her distinctive extemporaneous keyboard layering, this time throwing in an ursine growl.

Cowbell is X-Trav's best friend based on his first OHC entry, working up a lather of other instruments and phasing the bell across the stereo field. Foozogz uploaded sped-up funk that he admitted was his weirdest ever. Forty-Two balanced things out with softer composition filled with piano and pads with a length of three minutes, his longest ever. jarski created a sequel to his OHC108 entry "the funky nightmare" that is perhaps slightly funkier than the original. Follow a trend for the night General Mumble started his entry with a lone arp and develops a groove over the course of the song. td244's solo horn line brings to mind Banjo-Kazooie, but otherwise carries a distinguished air as orchestral accompaniment swells.

CJthemusicdude indirectly admitted to using the compo round to test out his MIDI keyboard and synths; after an ambient intro, his tune goes into a more beat-driven mode and back again. DDRKirby(ISQ) fired up his chippiness with plentiful kick drum and ventures on a spacey journey cascading amongst 8-bit blurps. An sensual moan marks the start of munchi's submission "Sex" before going into a rap about the subject. BrandonS's entry title was so long that it apparently broke the site's player, but it problem was eventually solved revealing a extended guitar tuning session. scibot9000 wrapped things up with and extended version of his OHC139 entry "hey, That's MY Shadow" incorporating bits from 20 of his own songs in a chaotic amalgam ending with several iterations of 3-4-5-1-8.

When I veered away from making music in compos, I knew I would eventually become conflicted. I grew uninterested in producing music, but I also wish to maintain connections to the competitions community. While it's entirely possible that I may disappear as an active participant entirely, I'll always have an interest in chronicling compo adventures.