Monday, March 22, 2010

Writing my own Tunes

On an impulse, and the idea of starting something simple, I recorded my first original instrumental:



It follows a very simple, and repeating bassline, as well as a simple snare-bass-snare-bass drum beat (the most used, most simple and easy, most recognized drum beat) with some improvisation on the hi-hat. Because I only had those two working instruments that's all the instrumental contains - drums and bass.


The tune had been dormant in my head for awhile. Then I made up the higher, different yet similar notes today to give it variety (so it wasn't simply repeating itself the entire time, like the Fine Young Cannibals song 'Good thing'). I also incorporated some descending notes at the end, again, to spice it up. I was going more on the drum fills towards the end as well, spicing it up there. A lot of it I came up with right on the spot, particularly with the drums (hi-hat mostly) and some of the bass parts.


The only problem with the song is the sound quality; the microphone in my camcorder isn't very good at separating drums except for the snare, and the hi-hat is overbearing, making them sound messy and mostly indecipherable. The bass was fine throughout though some notes sounded a lot quieter than other and sometimes it didn't start perfectly on cue. I've got to get into different recording methods. I wanted it to sound rough, like a demo, though it was a little too rough I think.


With the nature and ongoing sound of the general song, it ended up sounding very lazy and normal, ongoing. Therefore I ended up calling it "Lazy Hangout," since in a way it had a sort of boring, mundane feel (not the sound of the music, the nature of it). The nature is actually quite similar to The Police's "Walking on the Moon," in that the bass repeats the same notes and sounds laid back and easy-going.


The feedback I've had on it so far is that it's 'catchy' and 'good stuff.' It's far from perfect but I'm pleased with it. It's a very basic, rudimentary start to something potentially good musically. What I'm so happy for is that I created it myself. Making something original and your own is a lot more pleasurable and accomplishing than playing someone else's music, like the Madness I've been playing for three years on both instruments.


Expect future refinements, additions, and upgrades to that song and others. I'm really getting into this. The problem is my lack of other people to play with, really.


Justin C.

Monday, March 15, 2010

They're Within the Virtual Planet

Well, my 360 panoramas have now shown up in Google Earth:
The Merivale Road one I did a few weeks ago.

When I did it I was off to see a friend of mine, meeting him at Canadian Tire. I had just been with another friend at his school and was heading south when I decided to take a panorama with the wires overhead. I ended up exactly with the result I had been hoping for, and I'm pretty pleased with it. The only thing that's annoying is the sidewalk didn't stitch properly, as I didn't take the darn image properly. I posted the "planet" of it on Flickr when I finished it, and now all the panoramas I've published are in Google Earth, something I was hoping for as I find Ottawa's photographers always focus on the same monuments and government buildings. There's never the odd panorama taken on some simple arterial road or just anywhere but the usual places. One of my focuses is getting pictures and pans of everyday sights and scenes. Like the Merivale Road one.

Expect more soon. I'll be taking more. The only thing and annoyance is having to carry a tripod around, an item crucial to capturing good, well-stitched images without any parallax error.

Justin C.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Everyone loves a Hammer

This just burst into my mind last night, this which caused me to explode in laughter. Last summer I wrote about how I tend to suddenly laugh while going to sleep. This was one of those instances.


It was a memory from several years ago. I don't usually watch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live or Mad TV. They just sound more stupid or silly or dumb than funny to me. It's not my sense of humor. But, on those rare instances that I do, they sometimes do hit the right note. Rarely, but they do.


It was this sketch parodying American Idol. At the time it was quite a big show. Even I watched it sometimes, but not a lot. I tend to find people singing, with no instrumentation, very irritating. I don't know why. I just do. When someone sung O Canada on the intercom once during my time in high school, I almost cringed, especially when their voices hit a high note and became loud as a result. I just find it very annoying to listen to.


What the sketch was pointing out was satire on reality shows. The host, about to say who won, would hold it in desperately until calling a commercial. Throughout the whole thing, he called probably over thirteen commercials before announcing the winner. It was an exaggeration of the fact that reality shows like to hold suspense as much as possible by suddenly announcing commercials at the penultimate moment. It's a technique to both keep people interested and (largely) to fill up the whole hour. It's one thing I hate about reality shows, as well as the fact that they're full of method and routine. Everything runs the same. Each objective is the same.


The commercial they'd played during the sketch was another parody of the current coca-cola campaign that was running then. It had to do with keeping something real or something, I can't remember completely. This commercial parody was the only one that ran every single time the host called it. The repetition was rampant and nuts throughout the whole thing - squirming host making useless small talk and calling the commercial, and the commercial running.


This was what struck me as extremely hilarious: The repetition had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was the little graphic intertitle that runs when the show starts up again. You know the American Idol one - it's all blue and there's instruments zooming around, culminating in a blue outlined silhouette standing below the title with his arms out.


The graphic they'd created was exactly like the normal one - except for one thing. An acoustic guitar slightly turned. A keyboard zoomed sideways past the screen. A hammer moved forward, turning from back to front.


What would a hammer have to do with American Idol? It's not an instrument, unless it can be ruled as a percussion instrument on construction sites. The way it turned, and moved, and looked, and the fact that it was in an opening sequence for a singing pop show where you'd normally find instruments and microphones, and the way it was so random, completely had me gasping for air as I laughed.


I'm not sure where the team that put it together would have got the idea to insert such a random, unusual thing into that kind of context. And the best part of it was that because the host called the commercial over again many times over, I got to see the hammer that same amount of times as the opening sequence repeated itself after the commercial every time. Just the fact that the opening sequence itself kept repeating was funny. But the hammer drove it home. For me, anyway.


I tried to find that Mad TV sketch on YouTube. No luck. Otherwise I would have embedded it here to visually show what I'm talking about. It was just so extremely funny, and it's not usual that I find stuff on Mad TV funny. Most of my sense of humor is activated through camera angles and movements, the tone of voice, unintended facial expressions, and particular editing styles. Those things are what tend to make me laugh. Or odd little things that pop up, either unintentionally or in a hard to see way. A good over view of this is the post I wrote on December 28.


I hope I come across it again. It was extremely funny. I'm sure I can find it somewhere on the Internet.


Everyone just likes a hammer I guess. Maybe that's why they inserted it between the instrument pans in that opening sequence. I know I like hammers. They're cool.


Justin C.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Believe Me

One of those song reviews that really makes me think of some aspects of my social life that I've observed. "Believe Me" was a song on the album "One Step Beyond..." and the lyrics dealt with a relationship tainted with "jealous lies" and gossip.


It's a pretty good song that deals with the average social issues one in a relationship always has to deal with. Basically it tells, from the boyfriend's point of view, of how his and his partner's friends engage the girlfriend in jealous gossip and untruths about the boyfriend, leading to the girl to leave him over some apparent girl named Sue. The narrator has never heard of her.


For the music, which applies to me a lot more than the lyrics, it really gives a sense of "trying to make things seem normal and honest and attempting to get the girlfriend to believe him." Interestingly, the guitar, which simply plays the same note and rhythm over and over (then changes keys as needed), makes me think of boyfriends named "Jeff." And ironically, I've known several girls who had boyfriends with that name. It seems to be some sort of common name for annoying boyfriends who seem smart-alecky and are with the girl you like yourself (around me anyway). It's lead me to dislike the name in a way. The guitar reminded me of that starting around the time I was in grade eight and a girl I liked was with someone with that name and it reminded me exactly of them. I guess it still does.


The drums kind of get a little too flourishy with the constant double snare hits during the sax solo (which make it harder for one like me to play them) which gives it a kind of "trying too hard" kind of feel, but that's otherwise the only small downfall. There's even some comedy with the repeated "no no no no no's" that echo in the background when the narrator sings about the ruined relationship:


"Sue's a name I have not heard (no no no no)
I lost my girl from that one word (no no no no)
Will she come back I just don't know and I'm taking a heavy blow
I've got myself together (no no no no)"


...and so on.


The piano is nice, sometimes bittersweet-sounding, and the sax provides a nice touch (as always with their songs). The little piano/bass "mounds" as I see them (where the two instruments ascend and descend musically, visually like a mound or hump) are one of the elements that keep it going well.


Overall, the song in synesthesia is a general greenish color to me. The end, as the bass slides up (Mark running his fretting finger up the neck), it translates in my mind as someone, like the narrator, realizing the futility of his argument and just living with the situation reluctantly.


The fading keyboard alongside it seems to make me think of my cousin Jamie due to his personality in my perception of it.


The reason for the general green color of the song has largely to do, as usual, with the bass. And since the bass sets the tone and governs which keys the other instruments play in, it all comes together and sounds the same, which is how songs work - nothing can be off-key or else there's no musical harmony. So it all comes together and creates that general color. It's not the same for each instrument of course; the guitar is a yellowish thin, curved, undulating line that repeats itself as the guitar does and translates into a boyfriend named Jeff, to my slight amusement and responding thoughts on the matter. The piano is always changing colors.


I won't get into it like crazy, so I'll just rate the song:


B


That sounds reasonable.


Justin C.

Friday, March 5, 2010

360°

I finally did it! I'm able to do it now!


What I mean is that I've finally gotten over the hurdle of creating equirectangular panoramas. This means I can properly create those planets I like to create, and I can do those fly-in bubble panoramas. What I mean there is there's this site called 360 Cities. It's a layer in Google Earth. And since there's about maybe three panoramas located in Ottawa you can "fly" into, all either of Parliament Hill or the Ottawa River or the giant spider, I thought it would be cool if I could do that, and everywhere else but Parliament Hill.


The other day I finally managed to do it, and today I became able to publish my images on the site. With that, here's an example of what I've done:



Merivale Road Rail Bridge in Canada



I took this casually on my way to see Chris on Wednesday. And this:



Strandherd Drive in Canada



Taken yesterday. It's really cool.


So far, the only thing I've been having a bit of trouble with is the stitching of either the ground right below or the sky right above. I'm getting better at it, and those troubles should go away soon. The planet versions are also pretty cool. I've posted some on Flickr.


None are in Google Earth yet, but I'm still going on with this. Expect many more. It's just really cool!


Justin C.