Analog Days Discography

Ok, after getting through about half of the book, I started wanting to type up the full discography at the back with links to youtube where possible to get a better feel for what a lot of this music actually sounds like (I’d only listened to maybe a tenth of this, if that much, previously). Not all of the albums are fully represented on youtube, and in some cases there’s nothing at all for a specific artist. Wendy Carlos in particular is very protective of her copyrights. If you like any of this music, you are encouraged to buy the CD and support the artist.

The authors included these artists, songs and albums in the discography based on their use of the Moog, Buchla Box or Arp synthesizers.

Air: Moon Safari

Barron, Lewis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet
Bass, Sid: Moog Espana
Baxter, Les: Moog Rock
Beach Boys: Good Vibrations
—Pet Sounds
Beatles: Sergeant Pepper
—Abbey Road
Beaver, Paul and Bernie Krause: The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music
—Ragnarok: Electronic Funk
—In a Wild Sanctuary
Birtwistle, Harrison: Triumph of Time
Blake, Tim: Crystal Machine
Bley, Paul: The Paul Bley Synthesizer Show

Can: Tago Mago
Captain Beefheart: Safe as Milk
Carlos, Walter: Switched on Bach
—The Well-Tempered Synthesizer
—Switched-On Bach II
—Walter Carlos by Request
Carlos, Wendy: Sonic Seasonings
—Switched-On Brandenburgs
Ciani, Suzanne: Seven Waves
—Pianissimo II

Cream: Disraeli Gears
Denny, Martin: Exotic Moog
Doors: Light My Fire
—Strange Days
Droste, Keith: Big Band Moog

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Emerson, Lake and Palmer
—Pictures at an Exhibition
Eno, Brian: Music for Airports

Fripp, Robert and Brian Eno: No Pussy Footing

Garson, Mort: The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds
—The Wozard of Iz
—Electronic Hair Pieces
—Black Mass Lucifer
Gold, Marty: Moog Plays the Beatles
Grateful Dead: Anthem of the Sun

Hambro, Leonid and Gershon Kingsley: Switched on Gershwin
Hammer, Jan: Black Sheep
Hankinson, Mike: The Unusual Classical Synthesizer
Harrison, George: Electronic Sounds
Haskell, Jeff: Switched-On Buck
Hawkwind: In Search of Space
Henry, Pierre: Le Voyage
Hoskins, William: Galactic Fantasy Eastern Reflections
Hot Butter: Popcorn
Hyman, Dick: The Age of Electronicus
—The Synthesizer

Jarre, Jean-Michel: Oxygene

Kazdin, Andrew and Thomas Shephard: Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog
Kingsley, Gershon: First Moog Quartet
—Music to Moog By
Kraftwerk: Autobahn
—Trans-Europe Express
—Computer World
King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King

Light, Enoch: Spaced Out
Lothar and the Hand People: Presenting
Mann, Sy and Jean-Jacques Perry: Switched On Santa
Melvoin, Mike: The Plastic Cow Goes MOOOOOOG
Montenegro, Hugo: Moog Power
Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed
Moog Cookbook: The Moog Cookbook Plays the Classic Rock Hits
Moog Machine: Switched-On Rock
—Christmas Becomes Electric
Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co.: Self-titled

Nice: Ars Longa Vita Brevis
—Five Bridges Suite

Oliveros, Pauline: Alien Bog/Beautiful Soop
Orb: The Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld

Perry, Jean-Jacques: The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound of Jean-Jacques Perry
—Moog Indigo
Perry, Jean-Jacques and Gershon Kingsley: The In Sound from Way Out
—Kaleidoscopic Variations
Pink Floyd: Piper at the Gates of Dawn
—Obscured by Clouds
—Dark Side of the Moon
Powell, Rick: Switched-On Country
—The Rick Powell Choir Book
Powell, Roger: Cosmic Furnace

Reich, Steve: Early Works
Riley, Steve: In C
Rolling Stones: Their Satanaic Majesty Requests
—Beggar’s Banquet
Roxy Music: Roxy Music
—For Your Pleasure
Rudin, Andrew: Tragoedia
Rundgren, Todd: A Wizard, A True Star

Schulze, Klaus: Irrlicht
Scott, Christopher: Switched-On Bacharach
—More Switched-On Bacharach
Sear, Walter: The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit
Sear, Walter and Richard Hayman: Electronic Evolutions
Simon, Paul and Art Garfunkel: Bookends
Stereolab: Switched on Stereolab
Stone, Chris: Gatsby’s World Turned On Joplin
Subotnic Morton: Silver Apples of the Moon
—The Wild Bull
Summer, Donna: The Dance Collection
My Brother the Wind
—My Brother the Wind, Vol. 2
—The Solar Myth Approach

Tangerine Dream: Alpha Centauri
Tomita: Snowflakes are Falling
Tonto’s Expanding Head Band: Zero Time

Trythall, Gil: Nashville Gold

White, Ruth: Short Circuits
White Noise: An Electric Storm
Who: Who’s Next
Williams, Mason: The Mason Williams Ear Show
Wonder, Stevie: Music of My Mind
—Talking Book
—Fullfingness’ First Finale
Wurman, Hans: The Moog Strikes Bach
—Chopin ala Moog With Lots of Strings Attached
Zappa, Frank: Uncle Meat

Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 25

(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 25, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
In the 4-panel comic, Rana is panicking because she can’t draw the artwork for her video storyboard, and Robo-Panda ends up doing all of it for her. In the classroom section, Rana learns about some of the folk music instruments that are included in the General MIDI instruments file, such as the fiddle, the tin whistle, the Janbe (a kind of hand drum), the conga drum, the Irish harp and the sitar. The music genre this time is folk pop, and the interview is with folk pop artist Yanagi. The SSW section discusses the various scales for some of the string folk instruments (the Sou (similar to the koto) and the shamisen), while the MMD section shows some of the facial expressions you can get with the Rana model, as well as mentioning the new Asian cityscape dance stage model. The final page describes the W1 Limiter effects package from Yohng, and the Ambience program from Magnus. The pick-up artist is Hayakawa. He likes using Studio One 2, and the Zola Project vocaloid voice package.

(Screen shot for the W1 Limiter package.)

(Screen shot for Ambience.)

New DVD Features:
Not a lot of new content this time.
The pick-up song is “Chouyo Hanayo” (literally, it’s “butterfly, flower”, but it’s actually a fixed expression meaning, “Bringing your daughter up like a princess”). Unlike most of the previous pick-up songs, this one uses a deeper, male voice (KYO, from Zola Project) and is a fairly decent pop rock piece. It’d be almost impossible to tell the vocals apart from a real, live singer. It certainly doesn’t sound like any of the real-life cookie cutter j-pop boy bands that are popular in Japan now.

The MMD data files include the Asia stage, and ten hand poses for Rana.

(4-panel comic plus 1/2 of the classroom section on folk instruments.)

The first half of the tutorial talks about the different major and minor scales. This is followed by a short demonstration of the harmonic minor scale used in the demo song and then a playback of the full song itself – “Last Dream”. There are no instructions here lesson-wise for the student to follow along with. The song is kind of a heavier rock piece that uses ethnic instruments. Pretty fun.

Part of the video just focuses on the Sou (like a koto), and gives examples of the scale it’s tuned for. Then we get the demo song and suggestions for tweaking the notes to match them up with the harder rock feel of the song. The publishers then repeat this pattern with the Shamisen, but add some touches for vibrato as well. They finish off with a mention of the Japanese flute, and a replay of the full song.

(Example expressions.)

The primary concern this time is on believable facial expressions, blinking, and whether to move Rana’s eyes when her lids are down or up. Everything is then tied together with last volume’s “Happy Birthday song” video, combining body poses and facial expressions to get different emotional effects throughout the video. The tutorial ends with Rana doing a simple sideways step dance in front of the Asia stage, and the promise of covering camera work in the next volume.

(Rana in mid-swirl using an earlier motion file, plus the Asia stage.)

Additional comments:
Lots of lecturing this time. If you want to follow along in the work files, you can, but the idea seems to be more one of “here’s some ideas, now go along and use them in your own work, on your own time.” Which would be fine, if I had enough free time myself…

Anyway, only 5 volumes left. Back last year, I had strong ambitions of making a fairly difficult video using Gershon Kingsley’s “Popcorn”, with Rana running around the set throwing Robo-panda in the air Now, there’s absolutely no chance of even transcribing the music, much less doing the animation. I really wish I was independently wealthy. Sigh. On the other hand, I still intend to use Rana for something else, regardless of how long it takes to get to it. With luck, I’ll be able to keep buying the remaining volumes, so I can mail in the proof of purchase seals and get the serial numbers to unlock the commercial versions of all the software when all of this is done.

Gakken Updates

A very small amount of new activity on Gakken’s facebook page recently.

First up was an announcement that Gakken was going to be attending the Tokyo Makers Faire at the beginning of August.

This was followed up with a mention of a new music video by the duo Yuzu. They redesigned the Gakken Automa-te (the mechanical handwriting kit) to play an electric guitar as part of the video.

Drect youtube link

Finally, there was a big children’s science event hosted by Maewa Denki, the company that specializes in producing gag machines, which sometimes include Gakken kits. Aug. 22, in Tokyo.

Analog Days comments

(Image from Amazon, used for review purposes only.)

The other book I’d gotten for my birthday was Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco’s Analog Days (Harvard University Press, 2004), a relatively decent history of the development of analog synthesizers from the 60’s to the 70’s. At the time of publication, Pinch was Professor and Chairman of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University and Trocco was Assistant Professor of Adult Baccalaureate Studies at Lesley University. The book is a pretty good mix of history and interview quotes from various key people (Robert Moog, a few people from his factory, several musicians, and others), but the authors adopt a “we’re researchers so we’re going to interpret for you how everything went down” attitude that I find distracting. The writing style is casual and “chummy”, and the interview quotes turn into tiny little sound bites used to support their “findings”, rather than the other way around. I mean, if you’ve got several hours of interviews with Moog, why not dedicate the entire chapter to that and then add a small amount of outside detail to establish context?

Anyway, it’s interesting to see what the authors chose to include (Leon Termen’s reason for coming to the U.S. to demo the theremin was to spy on America for Russia) and what to omit (Termen’s reason for starting development of the theremin was as a proximity detector for the Russian military). There’s a lot of focus on Don Buchla’s approach to synthesizers for experimental art purposes (the Buchla box used touch controllers because he thought that keyboards would restrict what people thought could be done in making music), but there’s absolutely no mention of Dave Smith, who created the Prophet 5 in 1978 and helped develop the MIDI standard.

(At least Jim Meddik has heard of Dave Smith’s Mopho…)

In the first 100 or so pages, the narrative switches between who the actors are, and what circuits they’d developed. Unfortunately, the explanations for what the circuits DO is pretty superficial. If you are already familiar with synths, the descriptions of an ADSR or an exponential voltage-controller oscillator (VCO) are obvious. If you’re new to the analog synth world, then they’re not going to make much sense. Fortunately, with the advent of the internet and wikipedia, it is possible to fill in by yourself most of the gaps in the book. The middle third goes into further detail on newer machine development, as with TONTO (and the Tonto Expanding Head Band), and interviews with performers like Suzanne Ciani. The last third talks about the bigger rock acts that became interested in synths (Stevie Wonder and Sun Ra are mentioned earlier, while Keith Emerson and David Borden of Mother Mallard are featured later). The later chapters focus on ARP, which had a short run competing against Moog in the 70’s, before going belly up because of management in-fighting; and EMS, the British company that came out with the VCS3 for school use, and which also went belly-up when their chief designer, David Cockerell, switched companies to design guitar effects pedals.

There are a lot of interesting little tidbits, like the Japanese company Roland getting its name when they were still making organs and the president deciding to page through an American phonebook to find something catchy and marketable. However, it isn’t until the authors get past all the talk of how psychedelic drugs influenced music in combination with Dave and his Buchla box at Acid Tests that the stories finally become more fascinating (to me). There’s a full page on how the Byrds started working with the Moog, and what happened the first time the Doors watched the Moog west coast sales rep (Paul Beaver, one half of Beaver and Krause) showing off the machine (Paul was throwing a bunch of patches together and creating various sounds when Jim Morrison told him to back up a couple sounds and replay something that resembled tinkling ice; Paul couldn’t do it because the synths at that time had really poor repeatability). In fact, the common thread connecting all of the synths at the beginning was that they were hard to use, hard to learn, didn’t really have user manuals, and if they didn’t break down outright, the oscillators would drift after a few minutes when the machines warmed up. ARP (created by Alan Robert Pearlman around 1967, after selling off Nexus Research, an early manufacturer of op amps) was designed from the beginning to be more stable for live stage performances, and competed heavily against the MiniMoog, which was Moog Company’s last-gasp move to save itself from bankruptcy. So, after years of being hard to use, synths started getting better in the 70’s, but that’s also when Moog was bought out and ARP folded. EMS never made in-roads into the U.S. markets, although it had been used by the BBC for sound effects on Doctor Who, and the Japanese synth companies didn’t start showing up in the U.S. until the some years later.

A lot of the book wastes time trying to set context for what influenced Buchla and Moog, specifically their settings on the east and west coasts, and how a lot of decisions were impacted by the 60’s drug culture. There are some artists that get highlighted along the way, but few of them are well-known now (Beaver and Krause, Mother Mallard, Suzanne Ciani, Pauline Oliveros). Keith Emerson and Wendy Carlos are the exceptions. (Just about 90% of the musicians listed in the index at the back of the book are name-dropped only.) Gershon Kingsley does get a couple pages for having worked with the Moog, but he’s mostly dismissed as producing “cheesy” songs, and his partner, famed electronica pioneer Jean-Jacques Perry, is almost completely ignored. Another waste of ink is the last 20 pages, the Conclusion that attempts to validate the authors’ arguments that synthesizers have some kind of mystical impact on music, which continues today in the form of House and Trance, while wrapping up with a “where are they now” on Bob Moog (1934-2005) and Don Buchla (1934-).

As mentioned above, there’s nothing on Dave Smith, who helped create the MIDI standard in 1983 after discussions with Tom Oberheim and Roland’s Ikutaro Kakehashi in 1981. Smith’s company, Sequential Circuits, came out with the Prophet 5 in 1977, the world’s first microprocessor-based instrument, as well as being the first programmable polyphonic synth. The Prophet 5 is mentioned once in the book, but didn’t even make it into the index. Tom Oberheim is mentioned briefly, though, as having worked at ARP. He left ARP to found his own company, which came out with the DS-2, one of the first digital sequencers, as well as the famed Oberheim 2-Voice and 4-Voice polyphonic synths. The authors spend very little time discussing these machines, though, and there’s nothing on the attempts to get machines from different manufacturers to talk to each other (i.e. – MIDI). There’s a little bit on Yamaha getting into the market, a mention of Roland as a manufacturer of organs, and Casio’s attempts to convince the U.S. government that synthesizers are machines, not musical instruments, in order to bypass the higher tariffs on imports (Bob Moog argued in front of the court on behalf of Casio’s lawsuit; they lost).

Overall, Analog Days is a frustrating book. It’s interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at Emerson’s adoption of the Moog on stage, how the VCS3 was used to make Dalek sounds, and to get a bit of a view on the Buchla Box (which I’d never heard of). But there’s so much more that the authors chose to leave out to make room for their “thesis”, and the thesis isn’t that important. So, I can’t really recommend buying Analog Days, but if you can find it at the library you should definitely pick it up. I’m going to be running the discography, with youtube links in a separate blog entry. I will mention here that the authors chose the entries they did for the discography because various songs or albums were created using either the Moog, the MiniMoog, the ARP machines, the Buchla Box, TONTO, or the EMS VCS3.

Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 24

(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 24, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:

Rana is wilting from the summer heat, and Robo-Panda puts her into a panic by saying that the magazine series ends in October and she still hasn’t taken her September tests. The classroom unit has Rana searching out new synthesizer plug-ins for SSW, then discovering that when you have too many strange plug-ins, SSW crashes on start up, and you have to delete everything in the VST plug-ins folder to get it to recover. (Rana also learns about donating money to freeware creators via paypal.) This is followed by a discussion of jazz as a genre again, and an interview with goth cosplayer jazz composer OSTER Project. The MMD section has step-by-step instructions on making the Anko Happy Birthday video. The issue wraps up with a description of virtual pop idol Anko Omori (see cover above), and introduces the Anko microphone accessory for MMD.

The featured freeware synths are:
DSK Saxophones
DSK Overture
Alan ViSTa’s Vibromaster
Alan ViSTa’s Marimbaphonic
Oberheim Two Voice

Note that development has halted on Oberheim Two Voice, which is a German emulator of a hardware polyphonic analog synth that was developed by American Tom Oberheim in the mid-1970’s (he recently released an updated hardware version of the Two Voice).

New DVD Features:
No pop-up artist song this time. Instead, we get 17 .wav files of Anko talking, plus the support files for making the Happy Birthday video, and the finished version of the video.


The tutorial goes through the steps of setting up 4-part vocals for a jazz piece (called Fireworks). Once you have the base track for the melody, the next step is to put in the harmony tracks, which is largely a copy-paste job followed by tweaking all of the note locations. There’s a lot of work for the student to follow along with, but most of this is recap from earlier volumes. The demo song itself is big band jazz, and the 4-part chorus is just a small part of it.

This video is a continuation of the lesson from issue #23, going further into setting up the arrangement for the horn section (trumpet, trombone, sax) for a big band. The first 4 minutes is spent just discussing the various horn voices in the MIDI definition. The next few minutes are used to show how the different horns work together in the sax, trumpet and trombone sections, each with their own note approaches. This is more of a lecture than a tutorial, so there’s very little in the way of new instructions for the student to follow. The only interesting bit is the mention of pitch bend to get a trombone slide effect. The demo song is the same as for Vocaloid – Fireworks.

(Screen cap from the Happy Birthday demo video showing the use of expression in the movements.)

The first part of the video discusses realism in animation for big reactions. We have two Rana models, both reacting in shock at something. The first model simply goes from a standing pose to the shocked pose, while the second one has the signature Looney Tunes/Tex Avery-style overreaction, which can also be seen in Disney and Pixar films. The publishers act like this is something Cort discovered or perfected, and it’s not. It is something that he’s used in his videos, though, and therefore he has motion files saved for how to do this. (Overshoot, bounce and stretch.) Most of these techniques are taught in animation schools. The video ends with the Happy Birthday sequence for Anko-chan, and a brief mention of the two motion files supplied on the DVD (shock and the happy pose). (Not sure if the publishers know that “Happy Birthday” is copyrighted, or if anyone paid royalties to use it…) This is just a lecture, and there’s nothing specifically to copy.

(Rana on the tropical island stage, in mid-shock pose.)

Additional comments:
No real comments this time. I would like to have more time to play with the various synthesizers, but that’s not realistic right now. Sigh.

QED, by Richard Feynman

(Image from Amazon, used for review purposes only.)

I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, which is always a problematic question. It’s easy enough to try picking a bunch of CDs, but the ones I select aren’t always still in print. Then, while I was checking on the Q.E.D. manga on Amazon, Richard Feynman’s (1918-1988) book popped up in the search results. I’ve long been a fan of Feynman’s, and even joined the Friends of Tuva in order to get the postcard with the Tuva stamp after I learned about Richard’s involvement in that. (As a side note, the FoT website mentions some music recorded by Dirtwire and Tuvan throat singer Kongar-ol Ondar. The album is titled Ondar. The first track, Taiga, is awesome if you like alternative electronica. Highly recommended.

Anyway, I was completely unfamiliar with Quantum Electrodynamics theory, and I was curious about how well I’d be able to understand it. Turns out that Richard had been asked by a layperson friend, Alix Mautner, to explain quantum mechanics to her. He decided to put together 4 lectures, which he presented in New Zealand as a test case. The lectures were transcribed, but Alix passed away before Richard could show them to her. Her husband founded the Alix Mautner Memorial Lecture series in her name, and Feynman’s lectures were then the first of the memorial series. The first printing was 1985, with revisions in 1988, 2006 and 2014.

The book is aimed at a general audience that has some understanding of simple concepts like complex numbers, reflection of light, and probabilities. It’s not intended to be comprehensive, and it’s definitely not a textbook. There’s no math and no rigorous derivations of the proofs. Instead, Richard gives simple examples of how QED can be used to predict real world phenomena, and a short explanation for how QED ties into quantum mechanics. The theory just uses vector math to compute combinations of probabilities, and as such wasn’t that difficult for me to follow.

I did like the stuff concerning the use of the time it takes light to travel one meter, rather than the normal value of “c” or 299,792,458 m/s, and that the speed of a photon may be faster or slower than the “conventional speed of light” based on certain conditions. The entire book was a fast read; I finished all 152 pages in about two days (although not all in one sitting).

Definitely recommended to anyone that likes stuff about stuff.

Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 23

(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 23, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
In the 4-panel comic, Rana is swimming in the school’s pool when she suddenly gets an inspiration for a new melody and goes rushing for a recorder before she forgets it. The main classroom chapter has Rana searching for new sounds to put in her songs, and Robo-Panda introduces her to a second VST synthesizer plug-in, the Superwave. There’s a mention of the next live stage, the swimming pool, and a new accessory – protective head gear to keep the tubes on the top of Rana’s head dry. The music page talks about the Hard Techno genre, and the interview is with techno artist EZFG. Part of the MMD tutorial shows various techniques for using background photos (classroom hallway), or a battleship model for the music video sets. Then, the final page introduces a freeware VST download plugin from Roberson Audio for their version of the MiniMoog Model D synthesizer, called the RA Mowg. And there’s a brief discussion of the studio setup for the pick-up artist, Fueruto.

New DVD Features:
The Pick-up Song is “Kaibutsu Mitaina Kimi” (You Look Like a Monster). It starts out simple then kicks into a driving orchestral rock piece (lots of piano, strings, and electric guitar) that would sound better if Rana’s vocals weren’t playing at the upper octaves where they sound really mechanical. I guess this is a good time to make a comment on the Yamaha vocaloid engine. It’s designed to sound human. You can tweak it to get a young girl’s voice, an older woman and even a boy, depending on which notes Rana sings. In my opinion, being a little above middle C sounds good. When you get to the farther right part of the keyboard, Rana’s voice breaks down and there’s a kind of screeching element to it, which no longer sounds like singing. A number of the vocaloid “producers” tend to like that sound, and use it a little too often in their compositions, such as “Kaibutsu”, maybe because it’s a bit similar in feel to auto tune.

The DVD menu has links to Rana stickers on the Line Store (available for 120 yen a sheet), and other Rana goods on Frontier Works.

The MMD models include an updated version of the warp room, with numbered doors for the first 8 rooms, plus a scenery panel, and the swimming pool stage. The pool acts a lot like the outer space stage, in that you have to turn off the axis grid and floor shadows, and you can get spherical camera sweeps. (Note that there’s no actual accessory for Rana’s swimsuit headgear.)

(MMD section showing “casual Rana” in the pool stage room.)

This time, the idea is to get a harder-sounding melody. The demo song (Hatsu Kanojo (First Girlfriend)) has a strong House feel to it that’s very synth driven, with filter sweeps and big base guitar and drum sounds on the rhythm track. Rana’s voice is clipped, with extremely short phoneme play times. It would be a decent song on its own without the vocals. But, to get the edge to the vocals, the melody is flat, staying right around C, with some variations. The student is encouraged to move some of the phonemes around to see what effects you get with bigger and smaller jumps between notes. But, the idea of a techno melody is to control Rana’s chord changes.

Finally, a tutorial that includes stuff for the student to do. Unfortunately, we’re back to copy-pasting fixed phrases from the phrase editor into the demo song, but at least there’s a bit of an example showing how some of the phrases use filter sweeps, and how to copy in MIDI synthesizer phrases to use the chords pre-included in the demo song.

(The actual model.)

The video starts out by saying that if there’s an accessory or stage room that you need for your video but just can’t find on the net, you can make your own using a CAD package like Meta Sequoia. But, that’s lots of work, so instead the publishers will show how to make work-arounds with static backgrounds and alternate approaches.

The important point is to get your story to work within the video. If you don’t have a full 3D model, there are tricks that you can use. First is to use a photo of the scene you want (i.e. – a school hallway) and mess with lighting and Rana’s positioning in front of the photo to make it more interactive. Second is, if you have a different model, adapt it. The example shows Rana walking through what appears to be an old train station, but when the camera pulls back it reveals a pair of battleship decks with a couple 2D photos of cars and buses that Rana was walking behind (Cort used this setup for one of his videos). Another option is to keep a tight camera focus on Rana and not worry about the parts of the set that aren’t in the shot (the example has Rana crouched in front of a fire outside on a snowy night; the camera pulls back to show there’s no texture map for the ground and the “fire” was just a lighting effect aimed at Rana’s face). Cort’s comment is that translating the mental image you have into the finished music video is a large part of the fun of making videos.

The actual instructions for inserting background images are fairly simple. Take whatever photo or illustration you want to use, size doesn’t matter but the bigger the image the slower MMD will run, and save it to the “rana_SceneryPanel” folder under the name “tx.png”. Then just drag and drop the “acce_SceneryPanel.pmx” file into MMD. The image will be treated as any other accessory model, with a “center bone” for rotation, resizing and curving the object with the slider controls.

Additional comments:

(RA Mowg)

The RA Mowg plug-in has its own keyboard-based user interface executable that you can use independently from composition software like SSW. It’s based on the MiniMoog Model D, so it has 3 oscillators, a variety of waveforms, amplitude and frequency envelope generators (Attack-Decay-Sustain), white and pink noise, and a modulator. It’s very limited compared to the Alpha3 plug-in, but I like the growly effects I can get at the left end of the keyboard. I guess what this means is that I probably wouldn’t be happy with the simpler Moog hardware products that don’t use patch cords.

(Superwave P8)

Superwave is a UK company dedicated to recreating the works of Jean Michel Jarre, and they have quite a few commercial software synth products available. Their one free synth is the Superwave P8, a VST plug-in that can be installed into the SSW VST plugins folder along with the Alpha3. I’m still trying to figure out how to get at the notes in the demo song so I can loop on them while messing with the P8 controls, so I can’t comment on how it sounds. There are a lot of presets, and the interface looks impressive, anyway. The SSW video tutorial doesn’t mention either the Mowg or the P8, and there’s only a couple paragraphs on them in the magazine. If I ever get some free time, I’ll have to do more with them as well as the Alpha3.

In the MMD tutorial video, the publishers comment that the reason for issuing warp_room2 is that the door used for room #7 didn’t match the colors of the other doors; something that I thought was an interesting glitch and they should have left it like that. Or, they could have just supplied a new door for room 7 and not bothered duplicating all of the other files for the full room model.

(The “back” and “front” sides of the Cyber Space door. Originally, there was just the one texture map from the room folder, and the default texture supplied with the Warp Room model way back in volume 1.)

If you’re not familiar with MMD (and I’d have to ask why you’re reading this; if it’s out of more than simple curiosity…) the stage model files consist of the 3D CAD data and a number of texture maps. In the case of the stage rooms, the “door” is just a rectangle with a door-like texture map that has the room name and number drawn on it. There’s no real relationship between the texture map for the Warp Room side of the “door” and the Swimming Pool side. Initially, the Warp Room just had 12 blank textures, labeled “dor01b” – “dor12b”, and then the other stages would have a single map (texture_door.png) for their side of the door with the room name and number on it. As each new room was issued, I just copied the door map from that new stage folder and pasted it into the Warp Room folder under the correct room name. However, the door for the Cyberspace Stage room is dark blue, while all the other doors have been yellow-orange, which resulted in the Warp Room having one door that didn’t match all the others when it was copied into the Warp Room folder. Having the Warp Room2 model “fixes” this imperfection, but it wasn’t really necessary.

Ryuichi Sakamoto

After writing up Komuro, I realized that I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about Ryuichi Sakamoto, too. According to the wiki entry, Sakamoto was born in 1952 and studied music composition, and electric and ethnic music at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He worked as a session musician with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, and the three of them formed Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) in 1978. The wiki entry goes on to say that YMO helped pioneer electropop, technopop, ambient house and electronica. Sakamoto had his first solo album in 1978 (Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto). He’s worked with David Byrne, Thomas Dolby, Nam June Paik and Iggy Pop. He also composed the soundtrack to Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Last Emperor (for which he won an Academy Award along with David Byrne and Cong Su). He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. His latest studio album, Perpetual, came out in January.

(Image from amazon, used for review purposes only.)

Technodon (1993)
Back when I was still living in Austin, around 2001 or 2, I wanted to get a YMO album, but I had no idea which one was best. There still weren’t that many options for obtaining Japanese-influenced music (although YMO had been based in New York for years by that time), and I kind of had to guess from only a couple albums that were available used at Cheap-O’s. I picked Technodon, which was the last of the seven studios albums they put out. It struck me as very avant garde; not particularly danceable, or easy to listen to, and Be a Superman had a spoken track that sounded like something from Allen Ginsberg. It didn’t inspire me to buy anything else from them.

I was back on youtube (again) weeding through the videos for KMFDM and I took the opportunity to see if there was anything for YMO. Naturally the answer was “yes”, but the important point was that “yes” referred to a live performance on NHK TV. The first song is Fire Cracker, which just has a regular piano sound on the keyboard. This is followed by Behind the Mask, with Sakamoto singing with very heavy vocoder effects. The entire set is much more relaxed and easy to listen to than anything on Technodon.

If you want to hear some of his work, Live at NHK is a decent introduction.

Direct youtube link

Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 22

(Images used for review purposes only.)

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 22, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:

In the 4-panel comic, Rana is tired of composing for piano all the time, and wants a sound that’s a bit more energetic, so Robo-panda suggests the use of the brass section. This concept is expanded on in the main classroom unit, with a discussion of what “brass section means”, descriptions of the parts of a trumpet and a trombone, and why a reed saxophone is not part of the brass section. There’s a link to the Yamaha main page to illustrate all the other instruments they make, and a mention of the next live stage – Rana’s room at night.

The music genre is Jazz Rock, which features the use of the brass section, and the musician interview is with Nem, a Jazz-rock composer. The MMD section continues with Cort’s approach to storyboarding a music video, and several outside websites are identified as being useful, including VPVP, Bowl Roll, Nico Video, Seiga Nico Video, Nico Model Festival, the Jikasei fonts site and Chiphead (for more fonts). The final page discusses monitor speakers (the Yamaha MSP5 Studio (33,000 yen) and the MSP3 (18,000 yen)), and Sea-no’s home studio setup.

New DVD Features:
The Pick-up Song is “Hana Some” (Flower Color), using the Hatsune Miku voice package. It’s a very well-written pop piece with a lot going on musically without sounding like it was copy-pasted cookie cutter fashion. Nothing earth-shattering, and no dance video (just the audio track), but pleasant enough to listen to.

And there’s the Rana Room at Night MMD model file. No other accessories this time.

(Description of Jazz Rock, and the interview with Nem.)

This is a continuation on the “how to write a melody” thread, this time talking about “jazz sound” and explaining the idea of the approach note. I do have to admit that the demo song, with Rana’s vocal track, has a bouncy, jazzy feel not too unlike the Squirrel Nut Zippers. There’s no exercises for the student to copy, just mentions of where the different kinds of approach notes appear within the demo song, followed by a full playback of the song itself. Since I’m still not at the point where I understand melodies, I’m not getting a lot out of this lesson.

The SSW tutorial discusses brass arrangements, the use of trumpets and trombones, and the application of octave unison. Because the trumpet track uses a MIDI voice file, it’s actually easy to copy-paste, then drag groups of notes to a lower octave on the piano roll to double up as the trombone voice. This is followed by open and closed voicing, and pitch bend.

(MMD page, with Rana studying the VPVP model file readme.txt file where it says “don’t take credit for other people’s models, or use them in videos you intend to sell commercially.)

Once you’ve storyboarded the video you want to make, the next step is to identify all the props and MMD model accessories you need. For the demo, Cort wants to have Rana in her room at night, then in the classroom, looking at the night sky and reading a book. The night sky banner and the book prop haven’t been supplied on the DVDs, so they need to be obtained from a download site. The recommended starting point is VPVP wiki, then Nico Nico, followed by BowlRoll. These are all Japanese-only sites, so you do need to know how to read kanji. For fonts, Chiphead. For photos and illustrations, there’s Nico Nico Commons. Naturally, there’s the entire issue of copyrighted material, and what rights are bestowed for common usage, so check first before stealing someone’s stuff. What’s funny is the American concept of “copyright theft” translates into Japanese as “having bad etiquette”.

(Relaxed Rana in the Rana Room Night stage.)

Additional comments:
There’s a card slipped into the magazine this time, explaining that the publisher apparently screwed up the activation serial numbers, having given a longer usage period to two of the three packages, and now the new serial numbers in this issue are intended to get all three packages (Vocaloid, MMD, the Rana model) back into sync again.

Daft Punk – Homework

My first memory of the name Daft Punk was from seeing an announcement that they were working with Leiji Matsumoto to produce Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, influenced by Matsumoto’s Galaxy Express 999 series. I saw them mentioned in the music press after that, and eventually I figured that I might as well check them out. I got Homework (1997) a couple years ago, and was listening to it recently and it kind of made sense to mention it in this blog series.

(Image from amazon, used here for review purposes.)

Daft Punk is that French duo that wears the robot-like motorcycle helmets all the time, although they do team up with other musicians for the videos, at a minimum. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo met in 1987, then formed a band in 1992. Their first demo release was “The New Wave” in 1994. They signed with Virgin in 1996, and finally had their debut album, Homework, in 1997. Homework is like a chocolate cake that is 90% frosting. It’s house dance music, labeled electronica, where the lyrics are primarily looped voice samples. While the music itself is listenable, the vocals get old fast. There is a fair amount of synthesizer instrumentation, but it’s just there to support the rhythm track, along the lines of the lead guitar.

If you’re studying synthesizers, Daft Punk’s music isn’t that bad to reference, but it’s dance music, not really experimental stuff. That is, it’s ok to listen to occasionally, but I’d rather have KMFDM…