The Homophone is for You

For those of you who don’t know (or likely care) I’ve been working for several months on a musical project of immense personal interest. Under the banner of my noise project Asphixiator, I have been “conducting research” into homophony, polychords, and extended instrumental playing techniques. And by “conducting research” I mean in the entirely scientific sense of hitting things and seeing what happens.

This project is starting to take final shape. As the title Homophonies suggests, it essentially consists of a number of pieces which are homophonic in nature. Some pieces consist of chords voiced over multiple instruments, with their natural timbres interacting in unexpected manners, one piece consists entirely of a single note simultaneously played across multiple octaves on multiple instruments. I’ve arranged it conceptually into two halves; the first comprising smaller individual pieces, the second a single collage of elements. This second half features all kinds of unexpected twists and turns, including some almost traditional melodic elements (which I usually avoid with Asphixiator).

I am not sure quite how to approach the final stages of this “album” though, whether to hold off until I get to the SAE to use their facilities for final production and mixing, or to forge ahead and just finish it as soon as I can. I’m swinging towards the former, because I know that if I give this one enough attention, it could have potential. Not commercial potential, mind you, but maybe listening potential.

To give you, the faceless, pasty-skinned troglodytes of the internet some idea of my “creative process” for Asphixiator, I will outline it below.

Conception

First, I hit upon the idea of homophony, from listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, a piece of music so monumentally awesome that the only people who don’t like it are the kind of people who think that classical music consists entirely of Beethoven and Mozart.

So the core idea was homophony. Look it up. You know, on wikipedia.

Second step is to think up potential titles, usually ones that stir up some kind of image or feeling that will be a reference point for “composition”. In this case, here’s what I wrote.

    Studies in Cobalt
    Razing Arizona
    Implanting the Gorilla Goals
    Sleeping in a Bed of Broken Glass
    Bones of a Horse
    Gathered on the Wings of an Angel
    Each Night I Dream of Home

These probably don’t mean anything to anyone else, but they capture ideas on paper that I later use.

Composition

Calling this phase of my musical process composition is an insult to composers and professional music-makers throughout history. To call it a process is in insult to processes. Let’s just forget it shall we?

Recording

Recording techniques vary from project to project, but for Homophonies, they have been relative simple thus far. For “live” tracks I simply plug something into my Line 6 Toneport UX2, and using the marvellous sequencer Reaper by Cockos Incorporated, I proceed to bash out some sketch takes. These are sometimes refined with further takes, but unless there is a huge fuck up, I like to keep things organic and spontaneous, and mostly I am too lazy and talentless to improve on anything once it’s recorded.

For Asphixiator I rely heavily on the happy accidents that occur during an improvised take, because Asphixiator was never supposed to be proper charted music with specified notes. The feel and the sound is always more important than accuracy.

Other items are programmed, in this case, soft synths.

Mixing

I have no formal mixing training as yet, so I do it by ear and the results are shoddy at best. I have no studio monitors (ie. expensive speakers) but I do have decent headphones for the first time (Sony MDR-7506). For Homophonies I do a rough mix as I record, basically trying to keep the master level below the red and panning a few elements across the stereo field. Generally speaking I keep the bass central and move the higher-frequency elements around.

One technique I’m developing for Homophonies is double, sometimes triple recorded tracking parts, different versions with different effect panned hard right and left. It helps create a fuller sound, but I’m still miles from anything even approaching professional quality. So far the latter half of the extended second side of the recording has about 15 tracks. It’s hard to strike a balance between wall-of-sound and clear stereo positioning, but hey, that’s why I’m going to the SAE.

Conclusion

What the fuck am I doing with my life?

Ho ho ho.

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