thoughts

Platforms, Tech and the re-invention of audio

September is proving to be a month full of ideas and new work that has inexplicably found me. While the majority of the month seems to have been taken over by the herculean task of creating more music for a number of games, I have found myself increasingly trying to take out time to study more languages that could teach me more about software development from different  perspectives. Case in point, this webpage I worked on that lets you listen to some interesting sounds and look at visuals that seem very strobe-lighted to say the least. I believe even something as simple as a few oscillators can go really far in terms of sound design and help in designing some interesting sounds. I equate the sound you hear on that page, with something like a spaceship.

I think working with generative art, in particular presents its own set of challenges - the least of which is trying to figure out and make sense of how it can be used in real-world applications. After a while, the novelty of something and the 'ease-of-use' that makes frameworks like Maximillian so popular, tends to fade and eventually people end up going back to things like C++ to better solve their problems. But I believe that creative thinking is generally not hampered by a framework like Maximillian, that if anything - pushes the person using it to experiment with sound and visuals. I think that's an important part of creating any art, and even more so, something that has to be kept in mind when creating tools for creators and artists alike. The bottom-line is - if it's not fun enough to experiment with, people tend to get quickly bored with the same tools and decide to find another avenue to better suit their creativity. This is precisely the reason that creating tools has found even more importance in this era than, perhaps even creating the art itself.

If there is anything millennial artists and generally every artist in this era continues to struggle with, it's with medium rather than content. Netflix is increasingly taking over the television market picking up TV shows that were otherwise struggling trying to find an audience with traditional television, Shazam seems to be making huge losses to the tune of millions of dollars and then, of course is the classic question of Twitter vs. Facebook Live. Would you rather live-tweet an event or live-stream it? Does it really matter?

 
 

More recently, I went to an interesting conference that happened right here in the back-pocket of Delhi, in Gurgaon. It was one of the first conferences on Virtual Reality in Delhi / NCR that went by the name of vamrr, and there were quite a few fascinating points that I seemed to have picked on. Having lived in Los Angeles for a few months, I had more than enough time to mingle with the VR and game development community there. Being back here and attending a conference on VR with quite a lot of chit-chat in-between artists, designers, entrepreneurs brought me to the important realization that while the ideas and the initiative to start many ventures that can tap into the yet-untapped market of VR is there, it still feels like VR in Delhi is at a very nascent stage where people are still trying to figure out what to do with it. As with most new tech, it seems that the focus is almost exclusively on generating revenue as opposed to creating meaningful art and immersive experiences. While there is no shortage of creative visual artists like Charuvi Agrawal constantly trying to innovate creating things as varying as kinetic sculptures to augmented reality mobile apps, clearly creative people need more platforms and many new ways to express themselves to create more opportunities for themselves. I think that is something that needs to be present in any creative ecosystem in the future.

The point I want to derive out of all of this is - there are a large number of platforms in the current day and age that give the opportunity for the musician to share their music with the world. It is perhaps, not going to be the only factor that decides which platform stays and which disappears, but instead. What I believe is that the larger number of different services and opportunities one single central hub will be able to provide an artist or a collective of artists, is perhaps the platform that is going to be able to stay as disruptions are going to follow and completely change how things are being approached in the music industry. Blockchain technology has been on the rise for a long time, and it will be only a matter of a few years before it changes things not just for the music industry, but every single field like hospitality, real estate and engineering. Large-scale disruptions tend to cause ripples and in that particular case, platforms that are too dependent on a single technology are inevitably going to have to either re-invent themselves or crumble, the same way that artists struggle today. This is all indeed exciting, but dangerous at the same time.

All being said and done, while I believe that streaming is helping artists get more of an audience than what was traditionally possible as far as reach goes, I also believe that there is some probability that in the next ten years, streaming could go extinct unless there is a drastic overhaul of the current system of how royalties are paid out and the entire revenue of the music industry still seems pretty biased towards an artist with a 100,000 fans as opposed to somebody with a few hundred even though in some cases, the difference lies everywhere but the music. I feel that eliminating that bias is important and any platforms that pushes things in that direction could do pretty well for itself.

Platforms like Patreon, Pledge Music and Tradiio come to mind as interesting 'hubs of activity', particularly because they offer the artist the opportunity to stay busy with their creative endeavors and heavily push towards letting people pay not for a singular album or single or product, but as fans that engage more up-front and regularly as opposed to the traditional methods of generating revenue via CD sales. An artist gets more independence in terms of what they want to do and how they can do it, at the same time also being given the opportunity to create value for their work. I believe the artist of the future is not going to make only records, or only remixes. They're going to dabble and experiment with multiple mediums and different approaches to music distribution. A platform that allows that is eventually going to win. And understanding more about how that would happen is essential to making it happen.

Halt////Resume

As I sit in boredom listening to the erosively loud soundtrack to the new Wolfenstein game I have developed an intense liking for, I think about the past few weeks since I've been in Delhi. It has been a very interesting and rewarding year at Berklee Valencia. While my heart has been a bit on the heavy side - as with most things that you have to learn to let go of, I feel like somehow I may not have been quite done with Valencia. Something tells me I might some day return there. Or maybe not, and its just the uncertainty of what lies ahead talking. Maybe both.

While not a lot of musical work has been happening the past few weeks, I feel that the next few days might give me a glimpse of what future projects hold for me. Having very intensely concentrated on the orchestral side of music working with several film cues all through the year, I feel that I now see a lot more of the musical spectrum than I did before. I suppose somehow the internalisation in my work of that is yet to happen.

However, I will slowly be rolling out new compositions in the next few weeks that I have worked on all of 2014 and the past half of 2015 on my alternative soundcloud page. Some of them crafted with a blunt hand, others with careful precision. On some, I was quite the stumbler. On others, I found new avenues and genres that I had never thought I could do before. It has been a great learning experience and I feel that it’s important now than ever to leave the colourful world of preparation and study for one of application and hit-and-try-and-fail. Because truth is, you learn a lot more that way than any other else (not that going to school for music is not useful, quite the contrary)

In addition, there is quite the backlog of remixes that I have acquired the past two or three years. Having put it off for really long, I feel that the only way to break a giant tower is to first start taking a crack at it with a small needle and a hammer. Clearly, my compositional approaches seems to have changed and I’m looking to start a musical riot as soon as possible.

P.S. - To those of you who are looking at blogpost after blogpost, I worked on a small track for a sort of a ‘pitch’ to an indie game company, I’ve embedded the link below. More good stuff coming your way soon enough. Keep your eyes and ears open to the Facebook page as well.

 
 

The Driving Force

Behind any form of art, there is always a driving force. I asked myself the question probably a lot of people ask themselves. 'Why did I work on this song?' or to arrive at the existential part of it 'Why do I make music?' The answer was of course not as easy as juice and pie. Maybe because I find it beautiful that a lot of things that happen to me on a day-to-day basis impact and affect the kind of music I make. While in the short-term it doesn't amount to a lot. But in the long-term, I like to think the kind of music I make and the people I collaborate with, shapes and defines who I am. And maybe that's why I hold it so dear.

Some questions never really have clear-cut answers but I think that's the beauty of the human condition. We make out of it, whatever we can. We shape our own realities in an abstract way. So what really was 'Daze Blue' about? I don't really think there's a clear-cut story behind the song yet, except the fact that the past few months have been an uphill struggle both internally and externally. And to keep at it, to continue making music regardless of what I get from it materialistically or what opinions other people might have - to continue following the wavy and crooked road of my imagination that leads maybe nowhere, maybe somewhere. That was the spirit of it.

Perhaps one thing that I really pride myself on, is the fact that I worked on the artwork, if not completely - atleast partially. My sister provided me with consistent support and let me use some of her photographs which proved to be essential and central to the theme of the song. But more on that later.

My month was of course peppered with the odd gig or two that I went to, some familiar faces meeting me and then some new. Having been accepted to Berklee College of Music, Valencia for a Master's in Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games about a month ago, I also had to run around getting various things in order. Learnt some Spanish, worked on some music theory and harmony among several other things. I shall start in September.

Also, getting a student visa for Spain must have been the most excruciatingly tiring process I have ever came across. But at the end, it was done, along with succeeding celebrations, fist-pumps and of course the obligatory 'Bhai, kab ja raha hain?' question being asked about fifty thousand times. But it's all good.

Now with barely two weeks left to clock, Things really come full circle. A new journey is about to begin, and I feel just as excited as I feel determined to take on the challenges that lie ahead of me. So many questions and so many possibilities, it's actually kind of freaky how fast your life can change sometimes, in the blink of an eye. Three months ago, probably none of this could have been imagined.

Onwards we go.

Stasis

..aaaaand we're back.
Been six shaky months since I updated this blog. Sans redesigning the website, not much has changed. I would say I have been in a state of stasis. Think of it as a standstill at the crossroads of life, where I was weighing my options. Call it a bet with the devil, a game of chess with the universe or maybe tracing a map if you will.

That changed pretty much last week, when I finally decided to work on some of my own music, brand new stuff. (no spoilers yet). You see, making music isn't really like a tap of water. You can't turn it off or on whenever you want, It just sort of happens when it does. In the meanwhile, life happens. You learn to schedule and mould your life around seemingly random bursts of ideas, concepts and thoughts in your head. Sometimes it leads to magic, sometimes it just not enough.

I'm writing this as I slowly try and burst out of my creative block, I wonder what I could equate with that feeling of inspiration without alienating my fellow readers, however small the count maybe at the moment. Chips! Yes, it's like a bag of chips. So many of them in a bag. they're all the same but they're all err, tasty. Maybe not to the odd diet-conscious anorexic, but you get the drift.

Putting rants aside, I've started work on a band's song that I recorded the past weekend in addition to some more interesting ideas/projects that lie ahead this month. This one's sounding pretty heavy as fuck at the moment. I'm thinking Jambi meets Kyuss? Another two days full of hard work ought to do the trick. Time's ticking.

Tick Tock.

Ciao civilization, for a while.

Out of Ideas

As I move to work on the second track for the music score for Candy Catch, things get difficult. I have to make a song that sounds like a Christmas theme, with bells and whistles. As much as people think Christmas is happy, fun and all. I would say making a Christmas theme is pretty much a nightmare, especially when your clients are looking for something more traditional and specific.

I tried thinking a lot about what kind of theme would suit a Christmas theme, but nothing really came to mind. I tried listening to a few Christmas themes, but still nothing would come to mind. Eventually I gave up and started going through pictures of cats on the Internet.

Man, I love my job.

Round 2 : Fight!

Now we come to the interesting part. Fight sequences! Being the avid gamer that I am, there are months of my life that practically disappeared when I started playing games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Ask anybody and they'll tell you they were the best games ever made.

Nonetheless, coming back to focus, approaching fight sequences is absolutely no walk in the park. It still would have been much more easier for me, if there was just one fight sequence in the movie, but two made stuff complicated. Because the thing with fight sequences is you have to keep them as interesting as possible. and no two can ever be completely the same

I think the second sequence has a very Matrix-esque vibe to it, But not really a lot in terms of actual melody. Something that's absolutely crazy about making music for movies is, sometimes you don't even have to necessarily know a lot about music to make it. I really just fiddled around with random notes on the second action sequence as I was literally on the verge of running out of ideas by then.

 
 


I used a few analog synth VST's too with some kind of rhythm going to them, at about four times the actual speed in both the tracks, something that really complimented the speed of how fast the sequence was. There was a lot of FX going around in the track as well with wooshes and cymbal crashes all over the place. Going absolutely bonkers in a fight scenes has its own perks.

While the second sequence was still much more experimental, I think the first one really upped the ante in terms of attitude and swag. It had hoodlums cornering the protagonist from every side. Once again, it was synth ftw. The good thing about action sequences is the twisting and absolute destruction of drums that is permissible most of the times if not all the time. Of course, the occasional booms and bass add to the thrill as well.

And that's pretty much the gist of it. Track finished. Game Over. I win. Muhaha.