Shaft + BSAF

Hi faithful reader.

I've been away for a while. I've been experiencing many wonderful things and making many changes in my life. I've gained over 90 points on my credit score. I've brewed some beer. I've gained at lost the same ten pounds at least twice. I got engaged to the awesomest female I know. And I've recorded a few things.

This recording is from a live set on July 18th at the Longhorn Saloon in Toledo, OH. I opened up for my friends and former bandmates in SHAFT!

There are no overarching themes or intentional experiments in this piece. I was simply attempting to performing something that felt right... I had originally intended to write a piece in memory of my dad who passed away on July 4th of this year. However, my ambitions were too large and I was unable to finish the piece in time. (Note: it's still not finished!) I did end up using 2 sections from that piece in this performance.


This collection of recordings captures two different performances of the same still-untitled piece. I wrote it in early September in preparation for my performance on the Black Swamp Arts Festival Electronic Stage. I guess technically it's two pieces, but I've always performed them together and they are in related keys, so I'm calling it one piece.

I was attempting to write in the tintintabbuli style invented by Arvo Pärt. From wikipedia: "musically, Pärt's tintinnabular music is characterized by two types of voices, the first of which (dubbed the "tintinnabular voice") arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion." The first section (clean delayed guitar) is using this composition method with a C major scale and an arpeggiated C chord. The second section (ebow guitar) uses a A natural minor scale and an arpeggiated A minor. These scale/arpeggio choices are not nearly as interesting as the ones that Pärt uses (ex. D harmonic minor scale w/ A minor arpeggio in Fratres), but the basic effect comes through. I expect to do more work in this style. :)



Blithe Field - Swam Home

Recently, a fellow BG band, Blithe Field, took requests for remixes of their track "Swam Home." I dug the track a lot, so I figured, why not? I submitted my remix a few weeks ago and just found out that the album has been released.

It's free. It's good. Perhaps you will enjoy it.


In other news, the tracks for my collaboration with R. Scott Oliver are all done, except for a little tweaking of levels, EQ, etc... Mastering I believe they call it. That album should be out soon on this blog, Modicum of Silence, and maybe even a label or two. Woo.


More tracks from my still unnamed new project.

This is from our second jam session. Much more confident than our last stuff, but still completely improvised, so there's definitely some rough spots. I played a little synth on this one and we did a Radiohead cover... Ha.

Track 1
Track 2
Track 3
Track 4
Track 5
Track 6
Track 7
All 7 Tracks



Tragic: One sequencer feeding several synths through bandpass filters. I modify the sequence in real time to progress from drone into something with a beat back into a drone. Evil and mean sounding throughout.

Piano: A sequencer playing into a piano into a delay. The sequence is a Cm11 chord played via a Sierpinski triangle shape. Very pretty at points.

Work.1: A sequencer playing piano and organ through bandpass filters into delays. As the various delays play, they create beat frequencies and other combination tones that slowly resolve. Very drifty.

Work.2: A sequencer playing a few different synths through bandpass filters into delays. The delay times are set very close to each other which creates flam/roll sounds that cascade across the stereo field. Clangy.

Surrent - TragicPianoWork


One long track with a pixelized cover... it's another solo recording!

I've become really interested in generative music systems recently. I'm especially interested in setting up loops that feedback on themselves - especially multiple loops that depend on and control each other. When setup properly, these feedback systems seem almost alive at times. It is my intention to someday program a fully computerized improv partner based on feedback loops that will listen to sound input and create accompaniments without any additional human interaction.

This preoccupation has infected my brain... I woke up early Saturday morning with my head full of programming and recording ideas. Things like "Sierpinski Loops" and "Tracker Loop with Instability" and "Neighbor Harmonization" had come to me in that time between slumber and consciousness. They make sense to me, I swear.

In those early, semi-lucid morning hours, I took the opportunity to quickly prototype a few of these ideas and began recording. Some setups were too stable and boring. A few created noisy and very unstable processes. Like Golidlocks: too hot, too cold. But this one was just right...

It is a MIDI sequencer playing an A3(or A2 or A4... I can't recall) every 8 seconds. The sequencer feeds 4 different synths, a DX-10 sim, a JX-10 sim, an electric piano sim, and an acoustic piano sim. These synths are mixed together to produce a single tone. This tone is then fed into 4 spectral equalizers which pass only certain portions of the signal. Each of the 4 equalizers is connected to a long delay set to different lengths related to the 8 second loop. As the piece plays, I gradually adjust the instrument mix, equalizer settings, and delay settings to create several different sounds.

While this system is not completely independent of human interaction, there are long stretches in this recording where I am not tweaking anything that still sound quite dynamic and alive. I'm certain with a little more programming to add some intelligence, this could be a very basic improvisational partner.

Anyway, here's the track/album/EP/poop.

Surrent - Harmonic A


Two New Solo Joints.

First up, my last solo live set of the year. This was recorded at Ramalama Records December 18, 2008. Hence the title. Very creative, I know. I thought the set was "meh" at best, but everyone I've played it for seems to enjoy it so I'm passing it on to you, my loyal reader(s?).

Surrent - 20081218

Next up is a manipulation/remix of JB Smith's "The Danger Line." The original track is a 45 second piece of speech that I stretched to almost a half hour creating lots of weird swells with glitchy artifacts. I then fed it through some spectral delays and used the frequency and amplitude of the track to control the feedback and delay time of a tape delay plugin. Basically, whenever the volume of the track gets louder, the delays become thicker and longer. I also fed the signal through a pitch tracking EQ that would boost the most prominent frequency in the signal. I recorded two versions of the track and faded them to opposite sides of the stereo spectrum. Since each version is very slightly different from the other due to the dynamic nature of the plugins and effects, you hear some strange stereo effects as the track progresses.

Surrent - The Stranger Line


Upcoming Shows + New Project

It's an exciting time in the life of Surrent.

First of all, I've got two shows coming up:

Thursday, December 18th @ Ramalama Records in Toledo w/Telemetrics. Show starts @ 7. FREE.

Saturday, December 20th @ Rick's Music Cafe in Northwood w/Tree No Leaves, Chad Foltz, Grumblecake and Telemetrics (Modicum of Silence showcase) Show starts @ 8. $7 door/$6 pre-sale. Contact me if you want tickets.

More importantly, I've begun working with an old guitarist buddy and a drummer on a new project. I'm finally back to playing my primary instrument, bass guitar. I don't want to put a label on anything, but the music sounds somewhere around post-rockish. Here are some samples:

Track 2
Track 3
Track 4

All tracks were completely improvised with no previous discussion or direction about what was to happen. We recorded very simply with just 2 microphones in the middle of the practice space.

There's also another track, but it's 15 minutes long and doesn't get really rocking until about 10 minutes in. I couldn't find what key we were in for quite some time.... If you'd like a copy of it, send me a message.


SSSS: Simple Symphony for Seven Sines


7 sound reproduction units with basic tone and volume controls. Some examples include guitar amps, PA speakers, laptops, etc. Individual tones should not be too drastically different - 6 guitar amps with 1 laptop would be a bad choice. Effects can be used to shape the tones as long as the effected tone is remains similar to the rest of the ensemble. No delay, reverb, modulation, etc is to be allowed, but light distortion and equalizers may be used.

7 devices capable of producing constant sine waves. Possible options: sine wave generator, CD player playing a sine wave track, portable audio player playing a sine wave file (lossless format preferred, though not required), or laptop running sine wave generation software. Devices must be capable of playing possible maximum length of piece.

7 performers capable of operating the above equipment. Performers must be able to count to 40.

1 random number generator which can be constrained to only produce numbers in a specific range.

1 conductor.


Time keeping device. Options: metronome at 60 or 120bpm either heard live or through headphones, drummer hitting single drum on a quarter note pace at 60 or 120 bpm, conductor playing drums, etc. A live drummer could add a bit of interest due to the inherent inaccuracies of human timing.

Mixing/PA equipment capable of panning sounds and sending master mix to external effects.


Before the performance, all sound reproduction devices will be arranged in a manner conducive to the performance space and audience arrangement. In a small space (ex. house, club), it may be interesting for the performers to encircle the audience, while in a large venue (ex. theatre, auditorium), it may be more feasible to have the performers in an arc on a stage facing the crowd.

After placement, all devices will be balanced in volume and tone using a identical test tone. After sound levels have been balanced, all performers will mute their sound reproduction device and start their individual sine wave in whatever manner necessary for their respective device. The conductor will direct each performer turn up their sound reproduction device to it's maximum volume in order to verify the levels are still relatively equal. Slight variations in volume/tone are encouraged at this point.

Frequencies for Sines:
128 Hz
144 Hz
162 Hz
182.25 Hz
192 Hz
216 Hz
243 Hz

Note: if frequencies assigned produce unsatisfactory sound in any sound reproduction equipment, frequencies can be adjusted up or down as long as ratios between frequencies are maintained. (Ratios will be added later when I remember what they are.)


At the start of the performance, the conductor will use the random number generator to produce seven numbers from a range of numbers s/he has decided upon. The range 10 to 20 should work well. If the conductor has a certain number combination that s/he would like to use, this is allowed. The conductor assigns each number to a performer and decides the order in which performers will be cued. If the conductor wants to remove himself from this decision, the random number generator can decide the order.

The conductor will cue the first performer to begin manipulating their volume so that they increase from zero to maximum volume in the number of seconds determined by the random number generator. The performer will then decrease the volume from maximum to zero in the same number of seconds. Example: if the random number generator produced 17, the performer would increase the volume from zero to maximum in 17 seconds, then decrease from max to zero in 17 seconds for a total cycle length of 34 seconds.

Each additional performer will begin X number of seconds after the previous performer begins his or her cycle where X is their assigned random number. Example: Performer #1 is assigned 12, Performer #2 is assigned 17, and Performer #3 is assigned 15. Performer #1 is queued to begin by the conductor. Performer #2 to begins 17 seconds later. Performer #3 begins 15 seconds later, 32 seconds after Performer #1 began. After all 7 performers have begun their cycles, the conductor will step away from the performance and join the audience.

Each performer should pay attention to the sounds coming from the other performers. If one performer notices another performer approaching maximum volume at approximately the same time as himself, an extra second of maximum volume can be maintained in order to explore the combination of the two tones. This is not a requirement.

After an appropriate time, probably in the range of 25-40 minutes, the conductor will step in to cue each performer to stop his or her cycle. If possible, the performer will power down his or her sound reproduction device. After all performers have stopped and powered down their devices (and the metronome/drummer is stopped), the piece is complete.

If the conductor or performers find this piece too boring to play, you can include the following performance options:

Performance Option #1:

The conductor can continue random number generation throughout the entirety of the piece. The conductor will create new numbers at his or her choice and assign them to the performer s/he wishes. After the performer is assigned a new number, s/he completes the current cycle and then begins the next one.

Performance Option #2:

If the performance space requires it, due to size or arrangement, you can mix together all the individual sine tones into a stereo mixer/PA unit. Each sine would have its own channel. Every tone other than the lowest is panned across the left-right spectrum to varying degrees. Three will be panned right and three will be panned left. The choice of which direction and how much each channel will be panned is left up to the conductor. Individual faders will be left at equal volume as long as front-of-house volumes are relatively equal. Faders will not be touched during performance.

Performance Option #3:

In addition to mixing the tones together, the conductor can choose to send all channels through additional effects. S/he can vary the overall level of effects, but not the individual effect level of each sine wave. Some possible interesting effects could be light but warm distortion, ring modulator or graphic eq. No delay, heavy reverb, modulation or harmonizer effects allowed. A light reverb can enhance the sound in a small room.

Performance Option #4:

If possible, a mixer/PA system with 4 or more output channels in a "surround sound" configuration can be used to place the various tones around the audience. Care should be taken to position the 7 channels equidistant around the 360 degrees of listening space.

Optional Ending:

When the conductor decides it's time to end the piece, he can cue each performer to increase their sound device to its maximum level. This sound mass can be held for 10-20 seconds. The conductor will then cue each device to mute individually or as an ensemble.


All performance options can be combined on one performance, but the various options should not become the focus of the performance. Some of most interesting bits lie in the interactions between the pure sine waves.

Effects applied to the ensemble should not be applied during the first half of the performance.

It should be encouraged that the conductor, performers and audience move around occasionally to get a different mix of tones.


Back from tour + more gear changes...

So, I went on tour. It was pretty fun. 4 dates scheduled, 3 dates played due to a little mishap involving my hand and a portable grill - we had to cancel the Burlington show. We met a lot of people and played with a bunch of great bands: Stone Baby, Joe+N, Century Plants, Kapala, LATRALMAGOG and Soporus. We had a lot of great beer, recorded a few live shows, recorded a one hour session with LATRALMAGOG at Al B's estate, camped out for a few nights, and visited the Liberty Bell. Thanks again Al for letting us crash on your super awesome couch.

Anyway, my gear situation... before North Hero went on tour, Kari and I had some rather tense discussions about the state of my gear. I like my computer. I do. A lot. But leading up to the tour, it was acting crappy. She had concerns about its stability. I changed software, bought a new mixer, just in case the computer died completely, we would still have SOMETHING.

Now I'm taking it a step further. My last recording was marred by some pretty bad glitches. I didn't really mind or even notice while recording for a few reasons.

  • I was going for a very lo-fi sound.
  • I was recording through my guitar amp which attenuates that sort of noise.
  • I was playing a very "noisy" set which masked the unintended sounds.
However, on playback the next day, the clicks were really getting to me. To be fair, there were many bits without clicks and glitches and the clicks and glitches were when I was driving the system the hardest, but I still don't want that to happen when I play live unless I intend to. :)

I began thinking about how to replicate my setup with hardware while at work yesterday. I told Kari last night that I was thinking about replacing my software with hardware slowly, one effect and a time, until I was mostly hardware based. I still plan on keeping my looper on the computer. It's just SO damn flexible. I can't find the same flexibility in hardware for anything less than a grand, so I'm sticking to it. Besides, I can play samples and use my USB-MIDI keyboard to play ssynths, etc. using the computer. It's really wonderful machine.

Despite the wonders of modern computing, I understand the fragility of machines. Comparing a software effects setup to a hardware effects setup in durability is like comparing an egg to a bowling ball. I can't spill a beer on my laptop like I can on some of my pedals. My pedals never crash. My pedals have no copyright protection.

There's also the latency issue. Even the best software setups, at my price range, have a latency that can be noticeable. Could I spend time tweaking stuff to make it better? Probably. Do I want to? I know I should, but I'm lazy! Luckily, I don't play music that requires highly-accurate timing.

Today I posted a MySpace bulletin asking people to sell me their old gear to begin my transition. While waiting for responses, I realized I had a bit more money than I expected and that I could buy some almost all the gear I wanted. Woo! The first thing I decided on was the Boss DD-20. I've heard nothing but good things about this pedal. Cory from Stone Baby was actually using two of them when we played together in Rochester. I had deciced a long time ago that I wanted it, but just needed to pull the trigger.

In addition to the delay, to properly simulate the rest of my software rig I needed an octave pedal, a reverb, a reverse sampler, a volume pedal and a modulation of some sort. I had a Leslie simulator in my rig, but there's no way in hell I'd pay for a Leslie, so something else would be needed... I decided to pull out my old Small Stone. That thing still rocks and it cost me no money.

I spent all morning reading reviews and forum discussions, listening to samples, reading manuals, and surfing for prices. I decided to complement my DD-20 with a Marshall Reflector (Reverb) and a Danelectro Chili Dog (Octave.) I love this octave pedal. I used it when I played with SHAFT! on both guitar and bass. Totally awesome classic rock/analog synth sound. The Marshall has had a few reports of quality issues, so I'm a bit concerned with that, but I love the sound quality and the reverse reverb effect it has. That's right! Reverse + reverb: two pedals for the price of one. And speaking of price, I got the sales rep to knock 31 bucks off the original $120 price through a price match. Score! I also got the DD-20 knocked down from $220 to $200. Double score!

So that's about it. I'm still going to use my computer as my looper, but who knows if I'll need it. I may decide it's unnecessary and just stick to all hardware. Who knows, I may actually start using an amp again instead of running into a PA!


Gadgets Plugged. (Lots of audio nerdery and some music.)

I gave up on Ableton Live. Yesterday was my official FU. I've been pirating it for the last year or so because several hundred dollars is a lot of money to be spending on something that I don't make any money doing. I don't mind paying decent money for guitars and other hardware, but software... eh. I suppose if I knew I could get guitars for free, I'd probably be pissed about paying 700 dollars for one too...

Due to my pirating, the program starting freaking out on me about copyright violations. And then my audio streams started getting choppy and glitchy. After a while, it was too much to bear. Ableton, I am no longer a (non-paying but possible!) customer. You almost had me, too.

I am now a Plogue Bidule user. Ultra-modular and ultra-flexible. Visual routing. Programming logic that far exceeds anything I've used previously (except Max/MSP, but again, too much money for me.) It's slightly less stable than Ableton Live was, but that's okay because Live was rock solid. The only time I've had any Plogue issues was when I was doing some weird routings during setup. Oh.... and it supports all the VSTs that Ableton 5.2 wouldn't. And only $75 with a fully functioning demo that will operate until June 1st.

I was able to prototype my entire Ableton setup in Plogue in a little less than 20 minutes. I've since spent a few days reprogramming all my control surfaces. Last night, I got the guitar section completely done. Here's the setup currently:

Guitar In => Audiowish Octaver => Audiowish Reverse Sampler => MDA Leslie => Apple MatrixReverb => Expert Sleepers Augustus Loop => Essej.net SooperLooper

From SooperLooper, the output is split three ways. One output is just the raw sound from SL. The second output is sent through MDA Degrade to give that nice low bitrate sound. The third output is processed by MDA Dub Delay. All of these are mixed together and sent out of my main output and into my amp or whatever sound production device I'm using that night.

I've got almost all of the important controls to the various playing surfaces available to me and I still have 25 buttons, 8 knobs, and 50 footswitches that could be configured. Yeah, it's a bit ridiculous and probably a bit of overkill. I love it.

Anyway, after I finished getting everything programmed yesterday, I turned on the MacBook and let my mind flow. Not surprisingly, I made multi-layered drone. When you have 3 delay/loopers in your signal chain, it's hard to do anything but drone, I suppose. It starts out semi-melodic and ends mean and evil.

Here it is: Surrent - gadgug.