Yesterday I finished another album in the series of releases that I'm now referring to as The Learning Project because I'm using each one to learn more about a small selection of the large number of new instruments that I've acquired since I upgraded my bedroom studio over the last three months. This one is all about pianos, and makes use of sampled pianos like The Grandeur, The Maverick, and Noire (which is a sampled version of Niels Frahm's concert grand) from Native Instruments as well as the computationally modelled pianos in Piano V2 from Arturia's V Collection. I had fun with all of them, and when I listened back to the finished album this week, once again I felt like I'd managed to level up once again. The album's called Spontaneous Grand Pianos:
Click on the cover to head on over to Bandcamp and pick up a copy. Once again, I've made the album available as a pay what you want/free release, so I hope you'll give it a listen and tell me what you thought!
I had a new webcam for last night's live stream and this one is rather more wide-angle than I've used in the past. In fact it uses a 1.6 mm fisheye lens that delivers a circular field of view and the feed looked like the shots from HAL's point of view in Stanley Kubrick's classic science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I thought that was a bit too over-the-top, even for me, so I decided to zoom the image in using OBS and hide the edges of the shot.
I played two tracks from the album and talked through some of the ideas from cosmology that I was exploring with the track titles. Editing the show today, I think it was one of my better efforts—I feel like I'm actually beginning to know what I'm doing during these shows!
Well, colour me astonished: my venerable old Dell XPS laptop had yet another go at installing last year's 2004 feature update to Windows 10 this week (its fifth or sixth attempt) and to my considerable surprise it managed to complete the upgrade withot BSODing once.
But for every step forward, there always seems to be a step back. This morning when I sat down to edit yesterday's livestream on the PC downstairs, I turned on my sixteen-year-old Dell A425 speakers only to discover that there was almost no sound coming out of the right-hand speaker. The recording of the show itself was fine, and the vu meters in the video editing software that I use showed that both channels had more or less equal signal levels.
So the speakers appear to have died on me. It's a pity, as they have been a really good pair, lasting more than three times as long as the system that they came with, which I bought in December 2004; I've certainly had my money's worth out of them. I tried disassembling them before sending them off to the recycling centre, but no dice. It's a shame, as they were a great little desktop audio delivery system and even though it was only rated at thirty watts, the subwoofer could deliver a really impressive kick. The replacement speakers, which are a generic-looking low-end Logitech 2.1 system, are rated at a rather more meaty eighty watts and the subwoofer looks like it's a smidgeon larger. I haven't fully burned them in yet, so they don't sound as tight as the Dell speakers right now, but I had to reorganise my desk to make room for the tweeters, which have a significantly larger footprint than the old Dells. They're also a simple set of rectangular boxes instead of the rather arty ellipses of the Dells, but that's good, because the Dells were top-heavy and their small, circular bases meant they had a marked tendency to tip over and fall off the desk.
My "work" desk is a tip at the moment, so a forced tidy up is an extremely good idea. I have little accumulations of pens all over the place and you really wouldn't believe the number of bottles of fountain pen ink I have in front of me right now.
Tonight we celebrate the Scots poet Robert Burns, the first line of whose poem On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough gives the blog its title banner this month. As I do every year, I will be eating haggis and tatties for supper, and the haggis will be christened with a wee dram of Scotch to set off its magnificent flavour. I'm very partial to haggis, and it's far too delicious to only eat once a year.
If you're celebrating the great man tonight, I wish you a pleasant evening.
Many thanks to Mel for being my first ever subscriber on Twitch. That was a very nice surprise waiting for me when I fired up the HFO systems for my regular Sunday-night live stream last night!
The show—my first as an affiliate—seemed to go okay. This afternoon I skimmed through a few of my early "Is It FAWM Yet?" shows and very rapidly realised just how much slicker I've got at things since I moved my recording gear out from under the bed. That was less than three months ago, but it seems like years to me.
Links mentioned in the show:
I checked the stream stats afterwards and everything was rock solid for the duration of the show, but I am becoming more and more frustrated with the poor quality of the picture I get from the that camera I'm using as my default. Even after spending a good half-hour this afternoon trying to tweak things, I couldn't get much of an improvement on how it already looked. It's annoying. I might try swapping things around tomorrow to see if one of the other cameras can do a better job. I'm determined to make my shows stand out in terms of content and delivery, and I've got a long way to go, but I will keep making tweaks to anything that is really bugging me about the current setup.
Case in point: my chair. The new one is so much more comfortable than the last one, and it doesn't wobble or gently collapse to the floor like the old one did, either.
It's stayed very cold here since Saturday night's snowfall. Although the snow on the road had all melted by nightfall on Sunday, there was still plenty of it in my back garden. It was even colder last night than it was on Saturday night, dropping to -6°C in the back garden. My Sunday night show on Twitch came in at over two hours, so I didn't close up until well after 11 pm, and I suspect that I was still burning through the adrenaline of presenting it when I went to bed. I was very glad that I'd filled up my hot-water bottle but despite its warmth, I really struggled to unwind and it was well after 2 am before I finally managed to fall asleep.
At least my current circumstances mean that I could have a lie-in this morning. The hot-water bottle was still warm when I woke up, and I was very tempted to just stay buried under the duvet because it's still extremely cold here and there's still plenty of snow left in the garden.
Tomorrow the forecast is for heavy rain, and where that hits the frozen ground there will be lots of ice about, at least for a while. I reckon I'm going to spend the day indoors.
Over the last week I've been having some terrible nights. On Thursday night I had such bad indigestion that at one point I was fully expecting to have a heart attack (note to self: do not have a late dinner of tuna melts ever again, okay?) On Friday morning I still felt so rough that I went back to bed, which was enough to nudge my sleep score to a meagre 73. But on Friday night, I slept the sleep of the just with a score of 91 (nearly half my sleep was the restorative NREM kind) and last night, despite staying up late—more on that in a second—I scored a perfectly reasonable 86 and again, a reassuring 37% of it was NREM sleep. I feel more like my old self today, but it's a bit of a shock discovering how quickly I can be knocked back by a single night of disrupted sleep. Once again, it brings home just how much I need to take better care of myself.
I got a surprise when I opened the curtains this morning, though: last night the temperature dropped to -5°C and there's at least a couple of inches of snow on the ground here. It's gone noon, and it's only just beginning to thaw. It looks lovely, but the first thing I did when I got dressed was to put supplies out for the birds. In this weather, they struggle to find food. The starlings have already arrived to take full advantage of the menu.
I made the decision last year that I wanted to try dipping my toes in the bewildering ocean of the sync licensing industry. So far that has mainly consisted of joining a Facebook group, using Google, and brief chats with friends who have already dipped their toes in the water, so to speak. If you're good, and you have a robust network of contacts, it can be a lucrative business.
Yesterday I watched a seven-hour sync licensing "bootcamp" which gathered together a bunch of people from all aspects of the business. I'd heard about it via Bobby Owsinski, who was the producer who ran a very good (and free) production workshop on Facebook last year which I took part in. Once again, it was free to join—I'm guessing that the organisers are planning to run paid events using the same webinar platform and were treating last night's run-through as a trial run.
Last night's event showed me some useful tips and tricks, but I'm afraid it was nowhere near the standard of Bobby's events. From an audience perspective, the webinar.jam platform clearly just wasn't up to the task. It only worked for me in my Chrome browser; Firefox had absolutely no intention of playing anything; the video was only so-so in quality, and buffered every now and again; several presenters couldn't join the meeting on their first attempts and some of them had really poor audio on their connections when they finally appeared; I lost the feed entirely several times, and at other times the host said "let me reset the room," but appeared to have no idea of how much time it would then take people to reconnect, which meant I missed out on a couple of interesting chunks of what was going on during the second half of the proceedings. To cap it all, the chat facility died almost completely after the lunch break (the event was running on Pacific Time, hence my extremely late night), leaving one solitary viewer able to post in the chat window. His name was Craig. He didn't seem very impressed.
From a training design perspective, the event tried to do too much. Instead of focusing on how to get into the sync licensing business as I was expecting it to do, there was an hour spent on explaining how to set up your home studio, an hour spent on teaching folk about how to write songs (yes, really) and so on and so on. Each of those seminars lasted less than an hour, which really wasn't enough to do justice to any of the topics covered.
I stuck it out to the bitter end, but when it finished I was left feeling that the whole thing had been a bit of a let-down. I can't complain, because the only thing that it had cost me was my time, but there were a couple of other online events taking place yesterday evening that would have been much more rewarding to watch.
During last night's live stream I picked up enough new followers to get me to the magic number of fifty. That means that I've finally made affiliate status on Twitch! Go me! How does that affect you? Well, you'll see a very brief advert when you tune in on Sunday night, but it will only be for five seconds or so before the stream gets under way and I hope you'll understand that as I've not worked for over 18 months now, the fact that I will actually be earning a (very) small amount of money for streaming is extremely good news as far as I'm concerned. That was kind of the long-term goal when I started out on my Twitch adventures just nine months ago, and I'm chuffed to have reached that particular milestone in less than a year. I hope you'll keep watching, because things are getting interesting; I think I've really started to make progress with my music in the last six months or so and I'm keen to share what I've learned.
The stream went quite well last night, although I did get Kontakt to crash so spectacularly that it took Ableton with it...
So it's onwards and upwards; I hope you'll join me for my next show on Twitch on Sunday night at 9 pm GMT.
I took part in a virtual tearoom session on Zoom on Saturday afternoon with a bunch of friends from the William Gibson Board. It had been arranged earlier in the week by two of the WGB's stalwarts but when it actually took place, it took on greater significance, as we'd heard a couple of days previously that one of our global family of Gibson aficionados has passed away. Ian was a long-standing member of the board and a big cinema and TV nerd; he accompanied me back in August 2012 when I made my pilgrimage to Twin Peaks. His passing came as a shock to all of us; he was only 35 years old. Word soon spread around Twitter and folks around the world joined in to say hi and reconnect with friends that they hadn't interacted with for years. The circumstances that brought us together were sad, but it was a joy to see all those familiar faces on my screen.
The event grew to the point that we very quickly maxed out the conversation participant limit on Twitter, so not everyone heard about what was going on in time. I got a bit frustrated by how terrible the Twitter user experience was, so I decided that I was going to set up a WGB workspace on Slack in case we wanted to do the same thing again in the future (and it was clear that we will be doing this again.) I let people know about it, and sent out some invites, expecting maybe a dozen of the WGB diehards to sign in.
24 hours later, the headcount was nearly 70. I was amazed.
People were pinging me throughout last night's Twitch livestream, where I talked briefly about Ian and played a new composition which is dedicated to him.
It's been a weird few days, but I look at the WGB workspace that has been buzzing with old friends checking in all day, seeing everyone bringing each other up to date with what's been happening in their lives, and it makes me happy.
I didn't hit my step goal yesterday, and I only managed a sleep score of 85 last night. It's much colder outside today—just 2°C at the moment—so the windows are staying closed and I suspect that will mean a lower score for me tonight. But after a three-day run of sleeping soundly, I feel much better than I did.
I was noticeably perkier in last night's livestream, and in my opinion it was one of my better efforts. I kept going for two hours without fading out or losing the plot too seriously. I'll take that as a win.
The £20 webcam I talked about during the show arrived this morning and the old adage that you get what you pay for held true; as I'd been expecting (but hoping that things might turn out otherwise) not only is its field of view much less than the 150° claimed in its product description, it was less than the camera I was hoping to replace. Its picture quality is worse too, so I'll be keeping my streaming setup just the way it is. I've installed the new camera downstairs, so I can at least make Zoom calls from my work PC in HD.
Show links for this episode:
SPOILER for Avengers Endgame ahead but if you haven't seen it yet, just what have you been doing for the past eighteen months?
WandaVision kicked off on Disney+ in the UK today, with two episodes waiting for me when I fired up the app on my TV this afternoon. I've already watched both of them. The show seems to be striking a clever balance between paying tribute to classic TV shows of the past and showing us the stranger, darker undertone of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); I think we're far enough past the events of Endgame for the fact that Thanos killed Vision not to be that much of a spoiler (but I did warn you just now, all the same.) And yet here he is, living in domestic bliss with Scarlet Witch. Clearly there is something extremely weird going on, and that's saying a lot for a media franchise that amongst other things features a sentient tree, a guy who rides ants to work, and a talking, kleptomaniac raccoon with a weapons fetish. The S.W.O.R.D. logo has already cropped up more than once. For non-comics nerds who may have stumbled across this blog, they're the outer space version of S.H.I.E.L.D. that we might just have caught a glimpse of in the post-credits sequence in Spider-Man: Far From Home. I dunno what that means just yet, but it's going to be tons of fun finding out.
Each episode features a period-specific pastiche advert: the first was for a toaster made by Stark Industries (the toaster's anachronistic red LED was the only spot of colour in the entire episode) and the second ad was for a "Strucker" brand Swiss watch—complete with Hydra logo—that is a reference to Thomas Kretschmann's character in Age of Ultron (which was the movie that introduced both Vision and Wanda to the MCU.)
The use of colour in a black and white (and 4:3!) TV show was nicely done, although it's not new; I thought that the tone and approach very closely mimicked 1998's Pleasantville, a film set in a 1950s TV show that featured a pre-Spider-Man Tobey Maguire in a lead role. The scene in the second episode where Wanda finds a bright red toy helicopter (complete with the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the nose) in a black-and-white garden was a visually striking and genuinely unsettling moment.
So I'm hooked. I'm looking forward to seeing just where this bizarre tale takes us next.
As it got dark last night, the streetlight opposite my house came on. But then half of it went off. Then the other half did. Then it came back on again. It continued to behave in this erratic way for the rest of the evening. Once it had become completely dark outside, I noticed that the other lights in the street were doing the same thing. A quick perusal of the local council's street care website revealed that they were aware of the problem, and that it was much more widespread than just my street. Much more widespread—there were cases being reported across the UK. According to the Manchester Evening News the problem only affects streetlights that depend on GPS to figure out the local time of sunrise and sunset. The fact that the network which is used to control them is called PLANet, which sounds suspiciously close to Skynet, does not reassure me at all.
I got a sleep score from my watch's sleep tracker app in the 90s again this morning. That's three nights in a row. What's going on?
My efforts to improve my activity levels have continued, and yesterday I hit my step target for the second day running (well, it was more of a leisurely stroll, to be honest.)
But I suspect that what has helped my sleep the most has been airing the house during the day so that I can breathe more easily at night. I've got the upstairs windows open again at the moment, so we'll see if I can continue this run of restful sleep for at least one more night.
The temperature outside hit double figures today, so I've opened the windows upstairs again. And for good measure, I've just opened the windows downstairs as well. I can feel the room cooling down, but even in the first minute the house smelled fresher and I can feel myself becoming more alert. The fug of lingering cooking smells has cleared. The original windows in the house may have been draughty, but those draughts did go some way towards circulating the air in the house. The new windows are draught-free, and with spending all my time in the house this winter I've really noticed that if I cook some bacon, I can still smell it in the living room several days afterwards. That can't be good. The new windows are also much more soundproof; with them open, I can hear the occasional strains of birdsong filtering in from the back garden and I'm trying to convince myself that it won't be long before spring finally arrives.
Yesterday I wrote about feeling better and having more energy. I ended up meeting my daily step goal, which was the first time that I've managed to do so this year—since the 11th of December, in fact. And once again, I had a decent night last night with 41% of it spent in deep, NREM sleep. My fitness app gave me a score of 90 this morning. I can't remember the last time I got a score in the 90s for consecutive days. I suspect that I might not have done so since I acquired the technology to track my sleep quality. The last time I got even one night with a score in the 90s was back at the beginning of November last year.
Unfortunately the increased amount of exercise I'm getting has resulted in my appetite returning as well, and the temptation to hit the snacks this week has been strong. Too strong; I've been eating too many carbs of late, because it's winter and for most of the year so far the temperature outside has been below freezing. Combine that with the fact that I now have my home studio set up pretty much how I want it so I'm more motivated than ever to spend all my waking hours just sitting in front of my DAW making music, and you won't be surprised when I reveal that it's had predictable effects: when I weighed myself this morning I was the heaviest I've been for an entire year.
I definitely need to do something about that. So I've already been out for another walk around the village. I haven't reached my daily target step count yet, but I've already done better than I managed last week, when I'm ashamed to say that my daily step count didn't even get to four figures on one day. I've been more active this week than I've been for months, because I need to get out of that spiral I talked about a couple of days ago. Being out in daylight and getting some exercise in the fresh air is a powerful way of resetting your brain chemistry and getting the endorphins (the body's feel-good chemicals) flowing again. Even after a couple of days of this, I'm noticing the beneficial effects it's having.
But I've also taken steps to improve the "sitting in front of my DAW" part of my lifestyle, because the chair I use in my studio is worn out after six years of increasingly heavy use. Its gas lift mechanism now gently lowers me to the floor after I've been sitting in it for half an hour or so and the lock mechanism that stops it reclining when I lean back in it has also become unreliable. It's given me a nasty shock on more than one occasion. It rattles and squeaks (which is most definitely not what you want when you're recording audio in the room—I've noticed the sound while I've been editing some of my recent livestreams, because I'm terrible at sitting still while I'm on camera) and I can rock it from side to side even after I'd tightened up the bolts that secure it to its stand. The Eliza Tinsley chair that I'm presently sitting in here in front of my work computer is much more robust, so I've ordered a new chair for the studio that's made by the same manufacturer. I'm looking forward to it arriving and it will be pressed into immediate service.
After the current (and ultimately very disappointing) season of Star Trek: Discovery drew to a close last week, I have been wondering what I was going to find as an entertaining replacement. With the release of WandaVision on Friday I think I've found the answer, particularly after discovering that my mobile service provider is offering six months of Disney+ for free at the moment.
So I have finally bitten the bullet and signed up for the Evil Empire's streaming service. And I am already two episodes in to The Mandalorian and I am enjoying it immensely.
I wrote in yesterday's blog that I felt like I'd won a battle after finally getting a few tasks and chores done. I also wondered whether I'd sleep more easily after the weather had become warm enough to open the windows so that I could air the house out for an hour or so.
This morning my watch's sleep monitor told me that last night I slept for just under nine hours and that I spent 51% of the time in deep, non-REM sleep. The health tracker app awarded me a sleep score of 94. That's the best result I've had since I started tracking my sleep a couple of years ago. I'm genuinely astonished by that result. It's more than twice the amount of NREM sleep that I usually get.
It's 7°C outside again today, so I've got the upstairs windows open once again. I feel like I have more energy today—my mood has been good enough to allow me to finish off the rest of the mail and one or two other tasks that I have been putting off since Boxing Day. I've even been to the Post Office, which has resulted in my largest step count in more than a week. If I can feel this much better after a single decent night's rest, it would be really great if the same thing could happen again tonight. And the rest of the month at least, if that's okay with the rest of you.
The cold snap appears to have come to a close here, and the temperature outside has climbed to 7°C (that's nearly 44°F for those of you who still use old money.) It's warm enough for me to have opened the upstairs windows for an hour or so in an effort to air the house out and clear some of the brain fog that has once again been plaguing me for the past week. In an effort to shake off my winter blues I've been getting housework out of the way; I spent nearly an hour and a half ploughing my way through the stack of ironing that I'd built up since well before Christmas. I've done a bunch of paperwork; I've started working my way through a bunch of emails that I need to respond to, and I've generally been behaving like a responsible grown-up.
Depression is an insidious disease. It drains you of the motivation to do anything constructive and productive; you then become more depressed because you haven't done any of the things that you know need doing and before you know it you're in a vicious spiral where every week you feel even worse than you did last week because there are now even more things that you haven't done. And believe me, that feeling sucks.
Getting a bunch of minor housework out of the way might not seem like that much to you, but for me it feels like I've just fought and won a significant battle. And I hope that now I've tidied up the living room, ironed the big stack of clothes that were lying on an armchair, and aired the house out means that I will sleep a little more easily tonight. I've had enough of feeling this rough, I really have.
I was not at my best for last night's show, but I plugged on regardless. The process of editing each show before I upload it to YouTube is always an enlightening one, because it allows me to carefully check my physical state to see if I'm declining or improving. And despite the fact that I am still not very well at all and I was really tired on Sunday night, I still look better than I did when I started making these shows back in May last year. I have no doubt that it's because these videos made me confront the state that I was in and spurred me to look after myself a little more than I had been doing. I lapsed over Christmas, but that's because the festive season is a time for indulgence. Seeing the state I was in last night makes me think that it's about time I got down to improving my fitness once again.
But despite my ill health I'm really enjoying making music these days. I know that I keep on banging on about how much the studio refit has meant to me but it really has changed my life for the better in a significant way, and I can hear the effect of it in the compositions I've created since I put the new setup together. They're much more coherent and my playing has gained a new level of confidence. I played three tracks that were all written in the last ten days on the show:
YouTube still strips out formatting in the video's description so once again the links I mentioned in the show are listed here:
I know a couple of people had network issues while watching last night's show, but I checked Twitch Inspector afterwards and was extremely relieved to establish that it wasn't my fault. The feed was rock solid for the entire show; not a single glitch!
I want to do more impromptu streams on Twitch this week while I'm writing more material for this month's "learning project" album. These streams won't be archived on YouTube, so if you want to see them the best idea will be to follow me on Twitch as that will mean that you're notified when I go live.
And I'll be back on on Thursday, so you can see if today's sudden burst of productive housework was the start of a positive trend or just a flash in the pan...
Brexit is having an horrendous effect on UK musicians. In the good old days, bands made their money from album sales but these days that source of income has entirely dried up (and trust me on this; I'm speaking from personal experience here.) Touring is more or less the only source of income that bands had left, and the pandemic has shut that particular revenue stream off completely. If things do return to normal, however, UK bands now have an additional barrier to negotiate: playing Europe now involves visas and paperwork and that all has to be paid for. The EU recognised just how desperately needed European work will be for UK artists and offered to provide a scheme where musicians could perform visa-free work in the EU.
Not only did Boris and his gang turn down the offer, they then blamed the EU for failing to allow it.
Just process that for a moment. Let it sink in: the government just deliberately sabotaged a lifeline that was being offered to the UK's entertainment industry, and then lied about doing so.
BJ is as much of a narcissist as Trump. He clearly saw much that was familiar in his encounters with a vain, obese white guy with bad hair who was struggling to perform a role that was leagues beyond both his intellectual and his diplomatic capabilities. The two men, I shouldn't have to remind you, got along famously. Just like Trump, BJ hates being the bearer of bad news. Listen to any speech where he's been backed far enough into a corner that he has to do so, and you'll hear him use the word "alas" so often he sounds like he thinks he's in one of Shakespeare's plays. But even if he can be forced into announcing bad news, you will never see him accept the blame for it. Instead, he'll intentionally mess up his hair and play the "bumbling clown" role for all it's worth, desperately hoping that this will divert attention from the monumental incompetence that, it has become clear, will always prevent him from being the grand statesman that he sees himself to be. And if he can blame Johnny Foreigner for his failings, so much the better. He knows that the people who fell for his grand vision of Nationalism and voted him into power will lap it up without once pausing to ask themselves whether or not it's the truth. So why should he be concerned about lying when he gives one of his interminable press conferences? He does so with abandon. He has always done so.
Meanwhile, according to the Government's own figures, more people died of Covid-19 here in the UK yesterday (1,035 on January 9th) than Australia's death toll for the entire pandemic so far (909 up to January 9th). The UK now has more cases of Covid-19 per head of capita than any other country in the entire world. This might not be the type of British exceptionalism that BJ likes to drone about when he talks about Britain's place in the world, but it's the only sort that he's capable of delivering: I now live in the most infected country on the entire planet. And the responsibility for that fact lies entirely at Johnson's feet.
Let's not let him forget that. Maybe, if we're lucky, we can get him to go back into the fridge and we can leave him there.
As you may have gathered, I'm not feeling particularly great at the moment. I am having considerable difficulty getting a good night's sleep, I'm in a lot of discomfort, and tales like the one above do not exactly leave me feeling optimistic about the state of the world out there because global politics appears to have become infantilised beyond redemption. We appear to be inexorably sliding into a dystopia where the power dynamic of the world is driven entirely by a cadre of multinational corporations. And they don't give a monkey's about things like climate change, or people.
I'm really not having the greatest of times right now, to be honest. I'm down. And at the moment the only things I can do on a personal level to make the world a little less bleak are to reduce my carbon footprint (done; according to my Google timeline I travelled less than 1300 miles in the entirety of 2019—in 2018 there were times when I was doing that sort of mileage every fortnight) and by making and sharing music.
So I'm going to spend the afternoon, as I usually do, in my studio messing about with Ableton Live and making stuff which at the moment is sounding quite a lot like Tangerine Dream. Yesterday I mastered three tracks for this month's pay-what-you-want album, and when I listened to them last night on my headphones before I finally managed to drift off into a fitful doze, I was really pleased with how they sounded.
On Tuesday I summoned up my courage, girded my loins, put on my game face, and psyched myself up to go and do my first grocery shop since before Christmas. Unfortunately my car had other ideas. After being left in the garage for three weeks, its battery was completely flat and even the central locking system wouldn't operate. So I closed the garage door again, came back inside, took off my coat and shoes and set about finding a reasonably priced battery charger somewhere online.
Restoring the car's battery to life took less than twelve hours and this morning I was able to go out for food supplies without a hitch. That came as quite a relief, believe me. I was even more relieved when the car started again when I returned to it in the supermarket car park. I returned home with a large haul of tasty treats. Just as well; the fridge was looking rather empty.
YouTube really makes it hard to share information in the description field for each video I post. Their practice of stripping out carriage returns is particularly unhelpful. As of this week, I've given up. I will no longer try to make the links to the items I mention in each livestream legible on the YouTube page. Instead, I've posted a single link to the blog entry for the show. I'll list all the links I gave immediately below the embedded video. So here's the stream:
And here are the links to the items I mentioned:
Arturia V-Collection 8
Get iZotope's Breaktweaker Expanded for just £8.95
Cakewalk (free DAW for Windows that supports VST plugins)
A beginner's DAW for MacOS
BBC SO Discover
The Una Corda piano
TB PRo Audio sTilt
A free, richly-sampled Steinway Model B for Kontakt
Valhalla's superb Supermassive free reverb
NI's Kontakt 6
Spooky sounds from Cryptar
Klang Neon Tube Buzz
Pianobook is all about the bats
NI's free production suite bundle
YouTube really don't make things easy for creators, believe me.
The show went okay, though. I enjoyed myself, and I had three new pieces of music to share with everyone watching (because that appears to be what I do when I tell everyone that I'm going to be taking things easy for a week of two...) January's "Learning Project" album seems to be shaping up as a bit of a Tangerine Dream tribute album, as I've gravitated strongly to some Arturia V Collection Mellotron and Solina String Machine patches that owe more than a little bit to the late lamented Edgar Froese and his bandmates. Tune in next week to find out how things are going!
I know that traditionally it's another couple of days before all of the Christmas decorations get taken down, but today's the start of the week and I decided that I ought to just bite the bullet and get on with it. The tree has therefore been dismantled and returned to the loft for another year and I successfully negotiated my step ladder while carrying the suitcase full of decorations. All that remains is to get the vacuum cleaner out to collect all the bits that have fallen off my fake tree over the last couple of weeks (which is an uncalled-for dash of authenticity that seems to become more realistic with each passing year.) The living room feels larger and brighter without the tree next to the fireplace, but now it's no longer the festive season it's just January and quite frankly that doesn't exactly fill me with good cheer.
After I've had a wildly exciting time using the vacuum cleaner for the first time in a fortnight, I will empty the densely-packed laundry basket at the top of the stairs and fire up the washing machine. Yes, today has brought a seemingly never-ending collection of all the chores that I've been steadfastly ignoring because hey it's Christmas.
After doing the laundry, I'd originally intended to go shopping for food, but that can wait until tomorrow. I can't face interacting with the outside world today. I'm feeling pretty much wiped out at the moment as my sleep has been extremely disrupted for the past few days and I just don't have the energy to spend a couple of hours schlepping around the supermarket.
Today there are just 28 days until the glorious celebration of creativity that is February Album Writing Month gets under way once again, and last night I talked through how you should go about archiving your comments and messages if you took part in 2020; the site will be reset next Saturday, January 9th.
It was a short show as I've actually eased off on the music stuff since Thursday. I'd only written two pieces of music, although as I'd had to start again with one of them after something in the Ableton set started crashing Live every time I tried to open it, it felt like I'd been very busy all the same. The second piece I wrote this weekend was some new music for my closing credits, which I had to redo because the copyright date needed to be refreshed. As it was playing, someone in the chat described it as "quirky", which was just what I'd aimed for.
But the day is getting on, and I have lots of chores to do...
There was a time when writing the date of a new year was wonderfully exciting. It felt like I was somehow living in the future. Then I grew up and the new year became something I'd forget about when it came to writing cheques for things and the new calendar became primarily a thing that was associated with crossings-out and clumsily revised digits. But the table of dates in my blog archive has expanded by another row today, and I have to admit that that brought a small frisson of excitement to my grumpy, pessimistic heart.
But given my experiences in the last few years, each new January now brings with it a sense of dread more than anything else. Yesterday the UK turned its back on Europe, determined to go it alone/reclaim our place on the world stage/ensuring our position as the money-laundering capital of the world is maintained (choose whichever viewpoint fits your political sensibilities). I woke up this morning feeling very sad. In complete contrast my ninety-two-year-old Aunt, who voted leave, is exultant. She told me this morning that she was going to put her Union Jack up in the window today. People of her generation view Europe from a profoundly different perspective and still despise Edward Heath for leading us in to the Common Market. Like them, she remains blissfully unaware of the damage that she has done to the future her grand nieces and nephews will face. I suspect that by the time they reach her age (if they're fortunate enough to do so), the NHS will have been wiped out and healthcare in this country will have become a carbon copy of the evil mess which exists in the US. But hey, blue passports, eh?
Today the news is warning of "some disruption" to essential goods and services over the next few weeks as a labyrinthine new system of customs restrictions comes in to play. I have no doubt that panic buying will be rampant in the supermarkets tomorrow. I will be staying at home until I absolutely have to go out and get food.
I know I said last Sunday that I wouldn't do a stream last night, but in the end I did go online for an hour. The show was mostly given over to a recording of my live set from Wednesday night, which I'd recorded in HD and was able to send out without the audio and video glitches and network disruption which had been an issue during Wednesday's event. And to finish the show, I sang a song which I'd rewritten earlier in the day which I think perfectly sums up the year just gone.
I needed to keep proceedings to under an hour, because (a) it was New Year's Eve, after all and (b) I had a gig acting as vision mixer and tech support for Wobbie Wobbit's Wootenanny event, which got under way at 21:30. I had great fun and even if it was a strange way to see in the New Year, it was a lovely evening.
The temperature in the back garden dropped to -8°C (17°F) on Wednesday night. Yesterday I left the central heating on for most of the day as the temperature never got higher than -2°C outside. Last night was a bit warmer; it only got down to -7°C and judging by the conservatory roof, there may have been a very light snow shower in the small hours of the morning. By 1 pm, the lawn had turned from white back to green and the temperature had returned to positive values, with a faint drizzle falling to melt any remaining patches of ice. It's a day for not going anywhere and just staying in, I reckon.
(Sigh) just like every other day has been for most of the past year...