In this week’s blog I want to try out something new. You may have noticed that none of my previous videos showed me playing any of the instruments I used – well that is about to change. Here I am using the AX (Roland’s shoulder synthesizer) to add a little spice to the electro-baroque version of Vivaldi’s Summer Concerto (part 3) that I included in my last album (‘Baroque Transformation‘).
While you read the following article why not listen to my e-baroque compositions – just click on the box below:
or if techno music is more your cup of tea here are my techno/ambient compositions:
I hope you find the article below interesting…please visit chrisduggleby.com again.
If you have never seen a shoulder synthesizer before this is what it looks like:
One of the special characteristics of this model, making it different to other keyboards you hang around your neck, is that it actually has a pretty sophisticated synthesizer built into it. Earlier models were simply keyboard ‘controllers’ which needed to be hooked upto a computer with a built-in digital synthesizer to make their sounds. The AX does not need the computer. You can simply plug it into an amplifier on stage, very much like a guitar, and away you go.
The reason I have computers and screens in the picture above is because this is the equipment I use in my UK studio (VALIUMM 1) for making recordings. The displays are showing my Digital Audio Workstation or DAW software (for techies: I am using here Cakewalk’s SONAR X3 Producer DAW with a Roland Octa capture high-speed USB Audio Interface). The video below shows me adding a new AX Synth track to my earlier recording of Vivaldi’s Summer Concerto (this ‘backing track’ was included in my Baroque Transformation album which is now available via i-Tunes).
I decided to invest in an AX Synth earlier in the year when my incapacitation with a nasty skin allergy prevented me from playing (gruesome pictures of various bits of my body are in the article here). As I was unable to move about much I had plenty of time to contemplate and realised that it would be rather difficult to perform most of my music live. The problem was that typically each track used between 15-25 instruments and it would be a bit expensive to take another 15-25 musicians out with me on the road. Some artists get around this problem by simply playing recordings of their work from the stage whilst fiddling (or pretending to fiddle) with a few knobs or faders and occasionally waving their arms in the air to remind the audiences that they are in fact alive.
I wanted to be able to actually play since this, for me, is the fun part of making music. So I decided to write some new tunes which I could play ‘over’ my original baroque pieces. These new tunes are original compositions by yours truly but designed to blend in with, and add a new dimension to, my earlier recordings. The earlier recordings all faithfully followed the music scores of the original baroque composers like Vivaldi or Bach but I had rearranged them to be played on modern instruments. The new tracks are totally new compositions – in fact they started off by me simply ‘jamming’ to my own earlier recordings (I know it’s sad isn’t it – he really should get out and meet girls!). Eventually the ‘jam’ matured into the pieces you can see in my videos.
I worked quite intensely during the last couple of months to get 3 of these ‘new’ live tracks ready. When you see the videos you will realise that my rather rusty old fingers needed a little practice to get upto speed and to be able to get through each recording from beginning to end without dropping a note. I prefer to record in this way because I feel it gets closer to what you would see in a live performance. The downside is that you may spot some mistakes but it means every recording will be unique (and is not ‘quantised’: an approach musical techies love in which they fix bum notes and timing mistakes in recordings using digital software – this may be a reason why much modern music is starting to sound similar and rather sterile).
The reason I was under pressure was that I needed to get the AX recordings completed before departing to Cape Town where my studio facilities are slightly more modest. I have two AXes in my German and UK studios but a third one for Africa would have bust the budget (and they are a bit too big for hand luggage). Now I have arrived at my pad in the Table Mountain national park I can finish off this work and share the videos with you. This activity is being supported by some much needed wet weather around Cape Town (but with the occasional rainbow – see the photo below that I took from my balcony this morning).
The first of the three new videos is now ready to share with you. In this I have taken the Vivaldi Summer Concerto recording I made earlier and played over this the AX Synth part. So if you heard the original recording you will notice this playing in the background (a simpler video for this earlier recording without the AX can be found on YouTube here). For the new video I am playing the AX in its pure lead synthesizer mode but modifying the notes using an electronic tremolo effect (this is what my left hand is doing while the right hand plays the twiddly bits on the keyboard).
Here it is. I hope you enjoy it and will try and share more videos with you in the coming days. Meanwhile greetings from a rather wet South Africa.
If you found this article interesting please consider taking a look at some of my other recent reports.
Just click on the titles below:
…starting with some fun reports…
…and here’s some more serious stuff…
You can also find some of my more humorous reports in the Alpine Press section of this site using the link here.