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Ugh, stop twitching
rock band
music Posted 2007-11-30 00:50:53 by Jim Crawford
I played Rock Band a lot over Thanksgiving, mostly solo. What excited me most about it was that it essentially teaches you to play drums. You're going to be missing out on a lot of technique, like rolls and, uh, dynamics, but one of the hardest parts of drumming on a kit, hand and foot independence, is all there in the game. With the Pavlovian reward system of a well-designed game, I've made a lot of progress really quickly here, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

I'm also at #13 on the vocal career score leaderboards. I wish I knew how many people I was singing better than, but I can't find the interface, if it exists, to seek to the end of the list. For reference, though, there are about 60000 people on the drumming leaderboards. Thing is, I'm really not that good a performer; I'm just really good at remembering and matching pitches, with no emotion whatsoever. A lot like Liz Enthusiasm of Freezepop.

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return of the smush
music Posted 2007-03-14 19:18:48 by Jim Crawford
Danny's been working on a web page for his music and VST plugins, and of course talking to someone about something they're doing that I want to do often inspires me to get cracking. By the way, Tim, your spending the past two years making an incredibly sophisticated serialization library and memory manager is not inspiring me to make a game!

Anyways, is now pretty much up. All nine Smush albums are available for download and for streaming on-page. Smush the State and Floor of Sound are by far the best.

Update! I had forgotten to add animated gifs to all the songs, and for good reason, because I hadn't collected and processed enough animated gifs to go with every song. I decided to match the ones I had to the ones on the Smush the State and Floor of Sound albums, so the best songs would get the best matches. So if you've already listened to those albums, be sure to check them out again for the new multimedia experience!

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music Posted 2007-02-07 04:36:28 by Jim Crawford
I wrote a song called “Switch Hitler” about Hitler needing a break because I mentally mixed up the terms switch hitter and designated hitter. Unfortunately, “Designated Hitler” doesn't flow nearly as well, and I'm wondering whether I should just drop the song entirely, or whether the error actually makes it funnier.
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music Posted 2007-01-12 00:05:58 by Jim Crawford
I got in touch with Danny again. Should've mentioned it earlier, but I haven't been posting much.

Danny:I'm actually really excited about how clean the signal is coming from the [Roland] A90 [digital piano and MIDI controller]. Skipping the mixer now, straight from the A90 to my interface. When I'm not playing, it's just silence, even in 24 bits. You can zoom in as far as you want, there's just nothing there.
Me:Wow. Is that a digital signal?
Danny:It is a balanced cable though.
Me:Don't know what that means.
Danny:It uses a two-conductor setup, like a stereo cable, but sends the same signal twice, in opposite phase.
Danny:Since the noise affects both equally, you can reverse one, sum them, and the noise cancels out
Me:Clever, very clever.
Danny:Indeed. I am worried about vocals though. I'm not going to find a silent room in this house, there's too much noise on my street, so the cleaner everything else is, the worse mic recordings are going to sound by comparison. I'll probably end up draping piles of blankets over my head or something and sitting on the floor.
Me:Be sure to hire a camera for the making-of documentary.
Danny:Ahaha. I'm sure the scene where I throw off the blankets and chase after the guy on the dirt bike screaming and throwing rocks because he ruined my perfect take will be pretty popular.
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pitch shifting
music Posted 2006-10-30 21:14:21 by Jim Crawford
I had been wondering how Tom Morello had been doing the pitch shifting in the intro to Wake Up. This video answers that question. Tom does an additional pitch up at the end of the intro in the studio version. It's too bad he didn't think to write the song in a key where the last note rather than the second-to-last note would be the proper tuning.

It's a good performance apart from that; not to mention, the parents of the girl on camera before the song starts must be very proud.
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game music
music Posted 2006-03-15 18:49:04 by Jim Crawford

I don't know how long this site will last, but I now have 2.5 gigs of game music on my work machine. Admittedly it's not all great, but some of it's so great that during the best parts I can't actually do any work, all I can do is clutch my head and think about how great it is.

Some specific recommendations, assuming you're already familiar with the usual Nintendo and Squaresoft stuff that everyone seems to know about:
Deus Ex: Hong Kong Streets by Alexander Brandon.
Kid Icarus: Last Stage by Hirokazu Tanaka.
Mega Man: Bomb Man by Manami Matsumae(?)
The Lost Vikings: Just Another Day by Charles Deenen
Duck Tales: The Moon by ... who knows? Google does not help me.
Streets of Rage 3: The Poets I by Motohiro Kawashima
Ico: You Were There by Michiru Oshima
Yoshi's Island: Story Music Box by Koji Kondo
Ikaruga: Trial by Hiroshi Iuchi
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: Bean Bean Castle by Yoko Shimomura
Katamari Damacy: Cherry Blossom Color Season by Yu Miyake
Life Force: Stage 2 by “KONAMI KUKEIHA CLUB”

I'm sure you'll thank me for not including all my favorite J-Pop from the Dance Dance Revolution series.
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music Posted 2006-03-03 12:12:54 by Jim Crawford
Take a look at this list of every Top 20 instrumental song since 1960. I've never seen such convincing evidence that America's collective taste in music has been going steadily downhill since 1960.

In each of the 1960s, six or a dozen instrumental songs made it to the top 20. Since 1980, there's been less than one per year, and they've all been movie themes or Kenny G songs. I never expected to be forced to latch on to Kenny G as the last bastion of sanity in the crazy, crazy world of pop music. Gaze upon our savior. He is a sample!

I exaggerate. There have been a few charting songs since 1980 that don't fall into either the Kenny G or the Movie Theme category. For instance, the Miami Vice theme! And then there's... well. Give me a second to tangent here.

As part of the Funky Modsquad, the precursor to Smush, I wrote a “song” called “Mega 60s Remix.” It consisted primarily of samples of classic rock songs recorded off of The Planet 103.7. In 1982, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra put out a “song” called “Hooked On Classics” which may as well have been titled “Mega 1700s Remix.” There's a short sample up on that site, it should be enough to give you a gist of what they had in mind.

Okay, maybe the decline hasn't been entirely steady.
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the sinking old sanctuary
music Posted 2006-01-25 20:47:47 by Jim Crawford
Mixing is hard.

I think I've decided to stop working on my cover of The Sinking Old Sanctuary, which I heard on the Castlevania: Circle of the Moon soundtrack but which originated on the Castlevania: Bloodlines soundtrack.

One feature of the CotM version that was difficult to reproduce was the prominent bassline. See, CotM played the bass an octave higher than it would really be played, and got away with it because the built-in speaker for the Game Boy Advance probably wouldn't be able to reproduce the frequency range that it would normally take up anyways. As a result, it's a lot more noticeable, almost overpowering the melody, and lends the song a lot of energy. In my version, in which the bassline actually has to function as bass in addition to being brilliant, I had to try to make up the energy in other ways, and I'm not sure I really succeeded.

The song was a lot more complex, structurally and rhythmically, than I'd realized. For instance, it's in 3/4 time. When I first started transcribing notes, it took me a minute to realize why these phrases weren't fitting in my little boxes. Also, while I had intended to make this a faithful reproduction, there were a lot of nuances that made a difference but were difficult to individually pick out, my source being mixed in 8 bits and at about 11khz. I think I captured all the important parts, but I did end up making a lot of the stuff up.

I also fixed the bass. In the original, for some inexplicable reason, there were parts where the bass clashed badly with the chord the rest of the song was playing. It's hard to imagine that this was anything but deliberate given the masterful construction of the song as a whole, but I can't fathom the intention, and since this is my version I get to pick my own intentions, one of which is not making myself wince.
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the napoleon dynamite soundtrack
music Posted 2005-01-25 08:51:39 by Jim Crawford
When I heard Sparklemotion's “Time After Time” on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack album, I was both horrified and curious. Horrified, because the verses use nothing but parallel motion between instruments -- in octaves, no less -- for the verses. String, synth, bass, vocal, always playing the exact same note. It's fucking hideous. Curious, because I wanted to know how I missed this before, having heard it in both “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.” Actually, I guess I was a little horrified that I hadn't noticed it, too.

In order to figure it out, I cued up the relevant scene in Napoleon Dynamite, and the orchestration was entirely different and much more palatable. After some googling, I found out that “Time After Time” is actually a Cyndi Lauper song! Sparklemotion just did a hideous cover of it, and some hateful prankster put that version on the soundtrack album, even though the movie used Cyndi Lauper's original version.

It was probably the same music-hater who decided not to include The Penguin Cafe Orchestra's “Music For a Found Harmonium,” used in the ending montage, even though there's a track on the album called “Alternate Ending Montage.”

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spare gmail invites?
music Posted 2004-09-18 05:08:17 by Jim Crawford
Gmail just gave me 6 more invites, and I don't think I even have 6 more friends. The going rate for them on eBay seems to be 30 cents each, which isn't worthwhile, so I have to think of another way to get these things off my hands ...

Ok, I've got it. Your task is to make a 10-second sound sculpture using as source material only the three Pope anthology songs that I was involved with, and Danny expressing excitement: pope.mp3, pope3.mp3, plip.mp3, and rockon.wav. Post a link below, along with what email address I should send an invite to, or email the sculpture to me in ogg or mp3 format and I'll put it on and post a link myself. If you already see 6 of these, don't worry; chances are very good that entries will come in more slowly than I get more invites.

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