Category Archives: Strange New Worlds

The Deserted City

SNW had a session last Sunday, featuring Nolan McFadden on guitar. Here are some select tracks.

My favorite is no. 8, and it still would be even without the story. Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 are quite excellent as well. It was a good session.

Upon reflection though, I notice a lack of melodic content in these. These songs have many interesting and solid textures, good solos, but not really any primary melody. I guess that’s something to focus on for next time.

Another Session with Bob

Here’s the session from March 5th, with Bob Mulligan on drums. This was the first session I recorded with three tracks; the sound is much, must cleaner than last time.

  • 01 – light and fluffy
  • 02 – gets good and funky by the end
  • 03 – a fantastic space out jam, very subtle with lots of interesting textures
  • 04 – some eccentric piano jazz
  • 05 – almost tribal funk
  • 06 – an interesting polyrhythmic piece
  • 07 – happy and chilled-out

My favorites are 1,3, and 5.

The Return of Strange New Worlds

By now, Eric is fleeing to Venezuela to go make some latin band down there awesome, and do God-knows-what else. Meanwhile, Evan and I have been playing with a drummer named Bob Mulligan, who is too good for us. Still, it’s a great opportunity to play with him, and I think given a few months after we find each other’s buttons we could rock.

Eric was our recording engineer, too, so we’ll have to make do with the room mic again. Still, with some post-processing, it’s not too bad.

Using the Guitar Hero controller as a musical instrument

At the show last night I played the Guitar Hero X-Plorer controller. No, really, as if it were a real instrument. Like, I could actually determine whether I played a C or a D.

After the show people asked me how I did it. XNA easily interfaces with the X-Plorer controller as a standard xbox 360 controller. So I built a little C# program (after learning C# with some of Jude’s help) using XNA and the C# MIDI Toolkit to map the controls to MIDI notes (in a clever way, see the program documentation for more details) and output to a MIDI Yoke port which was read by Reason. Then I just used Reason’s excellent guitar and synth patches and played away. There will be YouTube videos of the show soon :-).

The C# program is here, called Guitar Hero Hero, and here is the source.

Non-improv band

In the style of the SNW call for musicians which created the last year of great music, I just posted the following to craigslist Denver.

I’m trying to create a project, in whatever genre that emerges from it, which is inspired by the ideas of classical music. That is, a project where members write complex songs with beautiful harmonic interplays and variety, not songs based on repetition of the same idea for five minutes and then end.

I come from a background of improv jazz/funk and classical piano music. Basically I want to see what music with a jazz/funk instrumentation sounds like if it’s be finely arranged and rehearsed, in a way that would be impossible to improvise. Hmm, it might end up sounding kind of prog-rocky. I’m open to whatever happens with it, though.

So, I’m looking for any talented instrumentalists regardless of their instrument (in order to put together a balanced ensemble for the first session). You get extra points for each of these things: * reading music, * being a composer, * open-mindedness.

Don’t worry, SNW is not dying1. At the risk of musicing myself out, this is an additional band.

1 However, it will undergo a personnel change in the near future. Eric is moving to Argentina :-(. Farewell Eric, it will be damn near impossible to replace you.

Session with David Barry

We had a jam session last night, with David Barry standing in for Eric on drums:

4 and 5 are pretty cool, the rest are listenable but nothing spectacular. Part of that could be blamed on the recording, which popped and clicked, and removing the pops and clicks left little “holes” which messes up the rhythm by a few milliseconds, which is apparently enough to notice.

Crumbs of Mind

Here is the Strange New Worlds session from October 18th.

  • 01 – an idea that I want to come back to at shows: Evan and I play solid chords at random every two bars, and Eric does his thing. (And then, as usual, we see where it goes from there). It turned out very jazzy.
  • 02 – all over the place, a “suite” more than a song, and it has some really incredible passages but has trouble holding together as a cohesive whole. In particular, I’m proud of myself for stepping outside my usual box and assigning more things for my hands to do than they are comfortable with.
  • 03 – a song template we’ve been working on
  • 04 – another suite, fools around in a bluesy theme for a while. Starting at about 9 minutes in, it gets moving on a really steady trance, which is quite cool. It also features a good amount of that classical tone that we get sometimes.
  • 05 – short and sweet
  • 06 – Evan the madman
  • 07 – one of our typical sounding songs, pretty funky though.
  • 08 – Crumbs of Mind – my favorite of the session, named after George Crumb whose piece “Black Angels” I quoted during the song. This one is very, very creepy, in a good way. Best with headphones.
  • 09 – Nonstandard Soul – cool and soulful
  • 10 – another funky one
  • 11 – 3 and a half minutes of noodling (that’s what I get for not editing), followed by an interesting but not great slow, trippy jazzish thing.
  • 12 – we were searching for a direction to take the last song. Evan said “one last freakout?”, and I said “something elegant”… the result was a little bit of both.

I was pushing various sorts of experimentation this session, since I had been growing a little tired of our “usual sound” (not that I think it’s bad, of course, but I hear it for three hours twice a week!). It turned out really well. I like all the tracks, and most of them are pretty unique, both in terms of what this band does and what music is like in general.