I’ve Been Tinkering With Music Again

I put together another mix-set:

I used to DJ fairly regularly when I was younger. I even lived in New York for a year and during that time I spun out nearly every week. Usually at goth/industrial parties and within the fetish scene, but I also played at some places focusing on more “traditional” types of dance music (house, techno, etc).

It is now several years since I DJ:ed in front of people. Sometimes I miss it, but not enough to put in the effort required to do it again. I still like the act of mixing two songs together though – matching up the beats and tweaking the levels into a nice transition between two tracks. It’s an amazing feeling when you pull it off just right and hit that perfect mix, when it all comes together and the beat just takes off.

I still have my decks and mixer set up out in the living room, but I don’t really use them anymore. I got a computer program to do it for me. That way I don’t have to worry (much) about matching up the beat and I can tweak the volume and EQ levels until the transition between the tracks is exactly as I want it.

What’s more: I can focus on the selection of music.

I’m spending a lot of time picking out the music for my sets. I want to use songs that work together, so that the set becomes more than just a sequence of tunes. I’m probably being pretentious, but I like to think of it as a soundtrack for my imagination.

I like to let my mind drift away with the music and I like it to keep drifting.

I want the music to support a journey of the mind. It’s fine if it swings back and forth a little, but too much and it gets confusing and distracting and the mind snaps back to reality again. That’s why I try to take care already when picking out what songs to include, long before I even start putting them together.

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The set I linked above started with the track Femme Ultime by Moshic. It’s a piece of dark progressive house and it’s a track I’ve known for quite some time. It’s in my playlist I used when I did a lot of night-time running. I tried to pick tracks that would support this and for which this track would be a natural culmination.

It didn’t quite work, but it still turned out pretty good. Rather than one long continuous journey, the set split into two. The first part, which is longer, is more mellow than dark, with a lot of atmospheric sounds and effects. It’s not until the last third of the set that the dark sounds really come into the mix. Here, the sounds get deeper and more eerie. It gets a little bit more intense.

For me, it still works really well, even if it’s not exactly what I had first envisioned. If you have the time, give it a listen, even if you’re not normally into electronic dance music you may still enjoy it.

I’ve Been Tinkering With Music Again

I Made Music

Okay, so, technically, I didn’t make music. I took music made by others, tweaked it, and put it together with other pieces of music to create something of my own. This:

I’ve been DJ:ing on and off for nearly twenty years (okay, eighteen), but it’s been a while since I played out and it’s been a while since I put any kind of effort into it. Lately, I’ve just been listening to the sets of other DJs. It’s been good, but it’s also inspired me to try and put something together myself.

I want to focus on the selection though, and not on the technical aspect of mixing the tracks together, so I decided to try and do it on the computer, instead of live. I’ve got turntables and mixer set up, but I rarely use them these days, and it’s a hassle to record live. On top of that, it’s really frustrating to mess the last mix up when you’ve been spinning perfectly for an hour straight. I figured I might as well “cheat” and do it on the computer.

It worked out great.

On the advice of a few friends I decided to try out a program called MixMeister Express. I’m using the free trial at the moment, but I’ll probably buy it once the trial period is over.

The software helps with the beat matching. It lets me queue up the songs and it lets me adjust the volume and the levels of bass, midrange, and treble, of each song – pretty much the same as on my mixer out in the living room.

On top of that: if I mess up, I can just go back and do over.

That’s the big advantage over doing it live. I can tweak the transitions between the songs until I’m happy with them. The set above is the second one I created with the program, and I put it all together yesterday evening. It’s still something of a learning experience but I think it’s the start of something good.

I’m really happy with the set as a whole. The songs are great, they flow together well, and the overall atmosphere is really nice. Sure, I didn’t make any of the music, but I picked out the songs and I strung them together.

I enjoyed making this set. I hope others will enjoy listening to it.

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I didn’t pick the songs to fit the picture, but the picture still fits the mood of the set.
I Made Music

Another Wednesday Off

The other day I figured out how to include Mixcloud widgets in my blog posts. I haven’t really had anything to share since then, and I felt that writing a post just to try it out would be overdoing it a bit.

Now then, here it is. The set above is what I’ve started my working days with the last few days. It’s pretty laid back, but with a steady beat that keeps chugging along. It gets the day in motion. For those of you (yeah, I know it’ just one person) who’ve read Enar’s Vacation, this is the kind of music Amanda enjoys – probably on a rainy day with a cup of coffee.

In other music related notes, I’m thinking of picking out five songs for my character Emma, similar to what I did for Alene a while back. So far I’ve only come across one track that really fits the bill though, the song Chrome, by VNV Nation.

It came to me today, just when I left the cafe after my Wednesday-morning writing session. I put on my headphones and pressed play, and the first thing I hear is “I’m still talking and you’re not listening.

Those words fit just perfectly with what I’d been writing. Emma is trying to explain to Torkel why she’s uncertain about marrying him, and while he says he’ll show her he can be a good husband, he just doesn’t seem to get it.

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Tools of the trade. My laptop and my pint. Picture from the Mutton Lane, Cork.

Presently, I’m happy with how the story is progressing. It follows the outline I’ve laid out, but as always, there’s wiggle room between the lines. Burje is taking a step back in the story and doesn’t really have much to do or say. Emma is turning out a bit stronger and more forceful than I’d first anticipated. I’m fine with this, quite happy about it actually. It gives the story a little more punch, which is something I’ve been a bit concerned with.

Like I mentioned in another post a while back, Emma isn’t really doing anything to further the story. She isn’t an actor and the story is mainly about how she reacts to event taking place outside of her control.

Supposedly, this isn’t how it’s done.

You’re meant to have active characters who take command and driver the plot forwards. The characters aren’t meant to just drift along with the river of the story; they’re meant to steer their little boat through the rough waters, narrowly avoiding disaster at every turn and finally bringing their passenger to safety – or something like that.

Emma doesn’t, but at least now she’s paddling against the stream trying to get to shore. She won’t make it, but, well, tough. That’s how the story goes. I guess I’m a bit Swedish like that.

Another Wednesday Off

Soundtrack For A Strange And Lonely Girl

When I began the characterization of Alene, I created a playlist to get me in the mood.

I picked out songs that I liked and songs that I thought would fit her. It ended up being a fairly varied mix. Most of the songs are on the darker, slower side of the spectrum, but there are some happier, more upbeat tracks as well. Alene’s not always a brooding loner. She’s got her passions and her good moments too. They’re just not that common.

It’s been a while since I created the playlist now. Some of the songs on it still fit, while others no longer work at all. Rather than sharing the entire list I’ve picked out a handful of songs that I feel fit her personality especially well.

1. Pet Shop Boys – Breathing Space

This is a slow and melancholic song about getting away from it all. In a way, I think Alene’s a lot like that. The world dealt her a bad hand, and she’s playing it as best as she can, but she dreams of finding peace somewhere. She won’t, but a dream’s a dream, and she’ll keep searching for that place where she’ll be free.

2. Robyn – Dancing On My Own

Here we have an upbeat pop song. It’s got energy and rhythm and a catchy hook to sing along to. This one’s here for the lyrics. Alene’s the girl sitting in the corner watching her man kiss another girl – metaphorically. It fits though, she lives and works among regular people, but she’ll never be one of them. She’ll always be an outsider – even other therianthropes shun her for what she is.

3. Battery – Aftermath

This is the angry, pissed off, song of the list. It’s about the rage and frustration Alene keeps hiding away from the world – it’s the ghost of who she was and who she could have been, and it rages against the injustice and unfairness of what she’s become. This song symbolizes the madness that seethes under the surface and threatens to take over.

4. Garbage – The World Is Not Enough

I feel like this song represents the face Alene presents to the world during her travels. She’s a young ambitious woman, traveling the world and seeking fame, fortune, and enlightenment. I also like how there’s a bit of a James Bond feel to the music, and how the lyrics suggests it’s not all fun and games.

5. Kite – Ways To Dance

This song is about how Alene is lost in the world, and about how she’s longing for some kind of stability. This is largely a subconscious longing. She doesn’t want to admit to herself that she’s lonely, and she definitely doesn’t have any time for love or relationships. Still, she is lonely, and it really would be nice to have someone to talk to once in a while.

Those are Alene’s five songs. They represent how I feel about her – right now. She’ll probably change and evolve before I get the actual novel started, but this should give you a good impression of what I’m going for.

In other news: the story is progressing and I have high hopes of meeting the deadline.

Now, time for a cup of tea and some more writing. I even lit some candles.

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Soundtrack For A Strange And Lonely Girl

Struggling With The Short

I’m trying to write a short story, and I’m trying to get back into running.

Both are turning out to be struggles. The running is going so-so. I’ve got a short round of about four kilometer that I run a few nights a week after work. Last week I managed to do it at under five minutes per kilometer, but this week I’m back up to five and a half. It’s not encouraging, but I guess it’s a good thing that I’m at least doing it. I want to get back into a shape where I can comfortably run the fourteen kilometer route I found last autumn. It feels like I’ve got a ways to go still before I pull that off.

Then again, I kind of got rushed into it last time. I went to the hash in San Francisco while visiting my brother and ended up running nine miles without having barely run at all for two weeks before that. My legs hurt like crazy, but it passed in a few days and I kept it up, running fourteen kilometers once a week and a few shorter runs as well as walking and spinning.

That sounds like a whole lot now.

I could probably get back to it, but I’m not sure how easy it’ll be with the shift changes at work. At the moment, I get off from work at midnight and I’m home half an hour later. If I go out running at one am there’s no traffic at all – just the odd drunk. Its awesome being out running at that hour. It’s dark, I’m alone, and I’ve got some really good running music. I feel like I can go on forever.

This is one of the mixes I listen to while running. It fits perfectly. It starts out rather slow, but builds in intensity the longer it goes, and at the end, it really helps keep me moving. It’s also the kind of music that really sets my mind wandering. My body runs one way and my thoughts drift of somewhere else entire.

It’s perfect.

I may not be able to do that for much longer now. With my new shift at work, I’ll leave the office at four in the afternoon. I also have to get out of bed at five in the morning in order to get to work. With a shift like that I can’t wait until the streets are deserted to go out running.

Technically, I could get up even earlier and run then, but I doubt that’ll happen. I’m not the kind of person who gets up earlier than he has to. It’s just not me.

I’m sure I’ll find something else that works though. It can’t be that hard. Necessity breeds innovation and all that. Then again, first I’ll have to work myself up from the measly four kilometers so I can get some meaningful distances behind me. If I don’t, it really won’t matter anyway.

Picture somewhat unrelated. This is from one of my favorite summertime writing spots, the Angler's Rest between Cork and Ballincollig.  It's a decent walk from home, they've got a big beer garden, with a view of the river, and a decent selection of beers. Great spot. Go there.
Picture somewhat unrelated.
This is from one of my favorite summertime writing spots, the Angler’s Rest between Cork and Ballincollig.
It’s a decent walk from home, they’ve got a big beer garden, with a view of the river, and a decent selection of beers.
Great spot. Go there.

Same as I’m struggling with the running, the writing is acting up too. I’m trying to get my short story going – the one about Alene, that I’m writing for the Diversity in SFF challenge. I wrote another post about it here.

It’s coming together, but it’s again not coming together as planned, and it’s going real slow. I like the situation I’ve put her in. It’s great for the theme of the challenge and I’ve got a bunch of different ideas for how I could angle the story. It’s just not coming together very well.

I feel like maybe I should take a step back to the outlining phase and do a really detailed outline of what’s going to happen. That way I can have the bones of the story in place and I’ll just have to dress it up with pretty words.

The deadline is Sunday, so if I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress by Wednesday evening I’ll probably do just that. When I wrote the first draft of my novel I found that starting over and re-planning the scene often worked really well. There’s no reason it shouldn’t work for a short story either – especially when I know what it’s meant to be about.

We’ll see how it goes.

Struggling With The Short

West Into The Ocean

Today and yesterday me and my dad drove around the West Cork peninsulas of Kerry and Dingle.

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I’d say we were lucky with the weather. Yesterday provided some spectacular sunshine while today came with a deep fog. Both days made for some great views and I’m somewhat more determined to try and save up to a respectable camera.

The landscape of West Cork is alien to me, and all the more fascinating for it. Where I grew up, the forest was the dominating feature. There were plenty of hills and valleys, but they were of the low and gently sloping kind. In a way, the land where I grew up was just uneven – and covered by trees.

The mountains of West Cork dominate the landscape. You’ll see them for miles around – enormous mounds of stone and dirt, with their peaks hidden in the clouds. On top of that, these mountains sit right on the edge of the sea. They’re part of the peninsulas that jut out like fingers into the Atlantic Ocean on the Irish west coast.

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It is a majestic and impressive land.

How does living here affect people? What does it do to you when the only straight horizon you know is that of the sea? What’s it like to always have a mountain by your side?

I don’t know, and I probably never will – not for real. It’s still fascination to think about though.

It also woke an old idea for a story I want to write one day, once I’m more confident in my abilities. It’s largely based on this song:

The story is about how on the last day of the autumn, before the fishing stops for the winter, the folk of the fishing villages go up on the mountain overlooking the bay and light the fire that calls the fishermen in their boats back to the shore. They’ve always done this, for as far as anyone can remember, and as far as anyone they can remember could remember, and even further back. It’s traditional.

They light the fire to lead the boats back to the shore and to the safety of the village. It’s done in every village along the coast and they all do it on the same day. Everywhere it’s the same – and when the boats come back, there’s always one less than went out.

The story will be about the people waiting by the fire.

West Into The Ocean

Song of the Moment

I am, among other things, a fan of music, and right now – tonight – I want to share this song with you. Turn off the lights. Light a candle, or two, and listen to this.

Or just close your eyes and listen. That works too.

This song’s been with me for well over a decade. I don’t remember exactly where I first heard it, but I believe it must have been while I was living in New York and was just discovering and exploring this kind of music. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

To me this is a safe and friendly song. It sits at home, resting in a favorite chair, remembering places it’s been. It doesn’t make your mind go wander, but it puts you in a little boat and lets you get carried away by the current. Fortunately, the river is old and respectable, and it knows to take good care of you.

You just lie back and look at the stars above as you float down the stream.

I don’t know if that’s how you’ll feel about it, but even then, take some time to sit down and listen. If nothing else, it’s good to take a break. When was the last time you stopped whatever else you were meant to be doing and just sat down to listen to a song?

It doesn’t even have to be this song.

Song of the Moment