I put some items up at Society6! It’s mostly from my triangle period (mwhahaha) and gots mugs, cellphone covers and laptop ones, too, along with the giclée prints. Oh, and cassette shirts & baby clothing!
(reload to randomize the banners – weird if you ask me)
Of course, there’s new stuff everywhere, in my Soundcloud, triangle tumblr and life in general. Started working with slot machines.
I’ve started making triangles, see. Four months into unemployment I got slightly jittery from not doing any graphics at all for the whole period, and into various geometric shapes. I thought “there must be a tool for this by now”. Found two, IsoSketch, which is a nice isometric sketchpad for iPad, and Hexels, an excellent (if layerless :D) variable grid painting system. It outputs nice .svg:s which can then be used in Adobe’s offerings.
That got me into sketching again, which got me into thinking about a first person geometry trip adventure game. Which can be seen as a dangerous thing. Since this is one of those ideas that wouldn’t be worth stealing, I’ll lay it out for you:
Our protagonist is a rather square fellow, living large at his apartment. He has clicked one of those “earn money by surfing the web” -banners and is now making his living surfing the polygon waves of dönerweb. Then an envelope appears on his doorstep, containing experimental pentagonal and hexagonal drugs to supplement his doctor’s triangle medication order. In a moment’s lapse of thinking our low-poly protagonist takes a pill and is transported into a penta(hexa)gonal mirror world.
The controls, which are a bit QWOP to begin with, turn into jelly. Rising from a chair demands a quick time event. He must find his way back home, fix his thumb that got cut off by a stray triangle and … well, take the rest of those experimental polygons. Oh yeah, the dialogue (and mostly monologue) is all sung by a Vocaloid and there’s a karaoke-style subtitiling. Sometimes in geometric language. Yeah.
Yeah. Some things you can’t steal. I should probably get a job. :D
t.. // poly
So we’re out of work. And for my part, it doesn’t feel at all bad.
No idea how I want to roll: unemployed & making records, freelancing (ughh, seems like a hassle for someone with my spending talent and lack of financial one) or some form of day job. Though that would have to be pretty damn interesting to be honest, I haven’t yet developed any hidden desire for being a part of a global family of bees.
Coffee tastes less good but waking up is better. I’ll have to see about the rest, the what-would-I-like-to-do-now -bit in the coming weeks/months. In no hurry, luckily.
Nyhow. It’s probably not a bad time also to tell you two about a couple of things:
FUTURE DREAMS is the third installment of the unfinished (but apparently growing) Future family. It’s the softestestest and most organic of the three. It’s a sister to these two:
Also, The Cave and Boxy Music are available on Spotify. Just search for Ghost Monkey, I don’t have the URL because I … uhh … haven’t used Spotify?
Most of what I do in my spare time is pointless.
I get no money off it, definitely no fame.
I aim at neither, and actually shy away from those two
as if they might somehow taint my art.
Most of the time I don’t do my music for you, I do it to keep sane.
there must be better forms of therapy.
Or I could start doing stuff that people like instead of the muddy carpet I seem to be drawn to. Then again, everyone and their madly talented cat Fatso is making music, why contribute to that? You just have to pitch it to -12 (half-tempo for normal people) to come up with some Ghost Monkey.
Yes, it’s one of those days. I’m having a holiday and am finishing the album tunes one by one but seem to be continuously distracted by everything. Next week I’ll post a happy update full of new-found joy, maybe some kittens. Meanwhile, here’s a bunch of non-album songs off my fancy Soundcloud page:
Your basic iPhone apps only need two icon sizes, a nice change from all the handsets around.
For our uses I’ve found it’s best to do the 512 icon first, while constantly keeping a small, roughly 57 sized zoomed version of the same document on the side to see that there’s enough interesting stuff happening on the small version. I tend to do my 512:s in 1024 for extra crispness.
(A fictional example image)
After the 512 is done, I (selectively) flatten & downscale it to 57 (with bicubic sharper), and add a layer where I try to return some small scale detail with the pen tool and eyedropper, not making a pixel art version of it but rather adding some sharpness and clarity to the edges.
I’m not a fan of ze Apple Glare unless the icon is a clean high-contrast vector illustration. So I’ve got a group in which the whole image goes, with a rounded vector clipping mask to retain the correct icon edges, and a couple of light layers that i blend on top of the image to add a nice highlight while retaining more shadows in the upper parts of the image.
(A fictional iPhone application icon)
Something like that. Zen Bound 2, not the iPhone one but the other one, is now in the late phases of testing and playing everything. Meaning it’s pretty close to ready, Apple and the gods of shiny unknown future tech willing. Soon, very soon, it’s time to rest.
In Turkey. Where the wild tourists are.
As told by ipodtouchlab. I’m certain. Yay! :)
Also, still loving this Minusbaby track to bits: .. .. .. And, I must admit, DO LIKE!
t.. / polyfonken / etc.
Every morning my eyes hurt a bit more. Of course coffee, the universal remedy, will stabilize me some but it’s getting slightly annoying anyhow. I can usually go with very little sleep or rest, now I kind of miss free time and my six hours of sleep. Next month, I suppose.
We’re finishing Zen Bound 2 for Apple’s magical new device, meaning I am working on skinning all the nice trees, creating backgrounds, textures (luckily done now) and all kinds of UI stuff. During the days, that is, and some of the evenings. Nights are for making some more music for the same, though I did get to play Bad Company 2 for two nights this weekend. And go out once. Not bad for a month or so. The game will be good, better, actually.
I want a maxiPad, let’s hope they’ll be out here sometime, or that someone goes to visit the land of the brave and catches one of those magical (currently also mythical) beasts for me once they come out. Two, actually, if it really is the interwebsor and multi-touch midi-over-wifi controller Stevesy would no doubt like it to be.
I understand why everyone and their dog (Oppensauce) is bitching about Apple’s content control and the lack of Flash but personally I don’t really care. I haven’t seen a single good porn app, ever, and every useful bit of gadgetry I’d care about seems to be no problem with the folks at Uncle Steve’s Factory, bar from the obviously business-breaking ones and …
… oh yeah, Flash. I’ll miss so many banners! And artsy, slow-to-load websites. Damn. Snap. Seriously, the device is going to have good games and makers of good Flash games seem to end up converting their game onto the device (here’s a kicker, they can finally sell single-player Flash games, something people have tried for eons, mostly unsuccesfully) and I have two macs to play Robot Unicorn Attack on already if the URGE strikes me. When work slows down, I promise to play it. And Nitrome stuff.
Would be wrong not to.
Erasure’s Always will follow me to my grave.
The other half of my job, additional music for ZB2, it’s a bit different; I didn’t just want to do more of the same, Zen Bound Template stuff (hah, I’ve heard people try that), the way I figured it is, people who only want to listen to Bound can use iTunes to do just that. Meanwhile, I’ll do it the hard way, see if i can make something different that actually complements the original songs.
I didn’t expect ending up with anything this fluffy though, I always thought I’d make °2 more minimalistic, this is shaping out to be more about simple melodies, drones and chromatic percussion. At times it almost feels like some odd sacral childrens music. ;D
Let’s hope you end up liking it.
tuukka / polyfonken / ghost monkey / all that
Our office has a fax machine. We’re at 358-9-3866038, how about yours?
With the internet and all, faxes should be in the bin now, all of them, but since a faxed contract is a different thing from an electronic, unprinted one (how exactly?), faxes are still needed in some offices.
Since faxing doesn’t cost much at all and these antiquated devices still hang around the offices, I decided to make them work, make them less lonely, while at the same time making having a fax at the office a bit less predictable and dull. Now I just need a bunch of numbers and i can start INFORMING!
ok, boring audio talk with a bunch of odd sci-fi names coming up.
as far as synths and drum machines are concerned, here’s my current kit list:
akai mpc 1000
and i think i’m ready to let even some of those go. the later ones on the list, that is :D
that’s not a lot of gear, could easily fit in one corner. now that i mainly use logic and live plus a lot of plugins and samples of my former gear, i don’t even keep those on most of the time. before getting my first mac i only used hardware for sequencing and sound sources and software for multi-tracking and countless edits. being old and all, i’ve had a couple of hardware sound sources:
korg rhythm 33
amdek rmk-100 drum machine
yamaha yc-20 organ
fender rhodes stage piano mk ii
nord rack 2
novation bassstation rack
e-mu e-synth rack
access virus C
ensoniq eps-16 plus
akai mpc 1000 (w. JJOS2)
ensoniq 16+ rack
roland d-50 (w programmer)
i’d like to think i’ve learned of every one of these machines, sometimes only to stay away from certain types of products (hello, mc-808), more usually: how some kind of a synthesis works, how nice it is to have proper drum pads or how a rhodes in your flat can upset the neighbors kids. i’ve used each of them enough to know how to achieve similar results in other ways. plug-ins, microphones and selective gear use have finally prevailed over having a room full of gear as far as i’m concerned, software has mostly caught up with the hardware.
some of the gear listed there i’ll definitely want to have if i ever live outside of the city, most of it i think i can do without.some day, in the countryside, maybe. and if i miss having my hands on knobs, i still have over 20 hardware effects processors plus a whole lot of objects that make noise.
i don’t know if that had any point to it. anyhow, i’ve gotten me a dreamy 17″ macbookpro and have started to craft some kind of a live set to play off it. on live. and i’ve done some naughty hippie music, too:
These plains are in your mind 0.2
And now, a truly random selection of links. As in “blog”.
This is still my favourite Little Boots track, ironically, since it’s a bedroom live Hot Chip cover. Not over-produced, at any rate!
The Carousel was the moment I realized that I had to see Mad Men, all of it. Plus, maybe the best soundtrack moment in the series. Also, as far as music is concerned, I’ve been listening to Portico Quartet a lot last week, it’s a jazz band with hang drums. Beautiful stuff. And got my FreakAngels books in the mail, love the way they can afford to let people read the whole series of this brilliant set of post-apocalypse graphic novels online.
Monday, entertainment day.
(file under: more musical notes after 2am)
When not doing “sketches for real instruments”, I usually tend to sample the sounds I use and wouldn’t want to use a preset or a drum loop someone else has made, unless it’s for the comedy effect. Since I can’t play for shit, I consider the sound, the tonality, to be maybe the most important part of my music and thus using mostly someone else’s sounds, out of the box, would be the equivalent of tracing a photo off a magazine, drawing some CMYK lines on it with markers and passing it as “my artwork”. No point in that, not for me at least. To use an example, I couldn’t really be proud of the Zen Bound soundtrack, were I using some kind of a pre-made percussion kit for the hundreds of wood&metal sounds in the background, instead of having spent days and days on recording and processing those and gluing them together. If I can’t be a musician or a landscape painter, at least let me pretend to be an artisan! :P
However, some sounds are simply not practical to record yourself or doing it well turns out to be a horrible job. Like sampling a Hang Drum, one of the sweetest instruments ever, sounding a bit like a balinese gamelan and maybe a metallophone making babies, costing a bit less than a ten grand. Or recording the sounds an army bunker. Hence I’ve been buying Tonehammer sample sets over the last few months and have to admit I’m totally hooked. Their stuff is really deeply sampled, like a hundred of samples for one note/sound and considering that, not expensive at all. Unless you’re one of the people who think that all things should be free and no-one paid for their work, that is.
Today, well, this night, like 20 minutes ago, I got their latest epic sample set, Rust 2. It’s funcredible, so many huge booms and scrapey sounds just begging to be bent out of shape and used, here’s a quick example of them without almost any bending going on, just me bashing some keys:
And as a bonus, here’s some kind of a Zen Bound song (probably a non-game version) with some Complementary Hang Drum on it so you’ll know how it sounds. I suppose I have to use the Hang set if we ever get around to making ZB2, Walrus Bound or whatever. This is just to give you a feel of the sound of the thing, hitting the keys in my barbaric non-musician way:
(Even though TH also carries their own equally good version of the theme, the Hang Drum sound set I’ve got is from Sonic Couture, another purveyor of classy sounds.)
I promise to tell you a more interesting bedtime story the next time, ok? Now curl up and sleep tight.
t.. / polyfonken / ghost monkey
See, I think game music is a genre that shouldn’t exist, in games, anyway. Game Music, as in Reggae, Pop, Communist Lawful Evil and all those other genres. For those willing to retain a shred of sanity on not interested in pointless rants, maybe skip ahead?
At first the music for games was mainly just bleeps. Simple melodies or classical songs, something that doesn’t strain the hearing. Or there was no real music. Pac-man, Space Invaders, Pong even, the “music” there is created by collision or movement. They had enough job, days, in creating the actual games and the current happy marriage between programmers and musicians didn’t exist back then.
Not even later on, always, talking about Commodore 64 times here. There were de facto musicians like Jeroem Tel or Martin Galway but still, most of the time game music was made by the programmer (witness the sweet sounds of Paradroid) or by enthusiastic musically minded friends (witness the games we forget to mention when blathering about chiptune greatness). The thing separating the somewhat abrasive bleeps and tweets of square-wave based earlier devices and C-64 was of course the fact that it had an actual synthesizer inside it, a desirable one designed by the same guy who did the Ensoniq synthesizers, none the less. We didn’t quite catch it then, but the reason Commodore games sounded vastly superior to those on Spectrum, Aquarius or what have you was that the so-called computer musicians finally got to experiment on proper synthetic sounds and textures and that might have actually turned the compositions from being music approximation to the real thing.
Of course they soon had to give it up. Just like with actual synthesizers that were transforming from knob-laden, sexually attractive growling beasts to a 2001 semi-glossy black surface and a couple of puny buttons overnight, the computer game sound was also going steady downhill from the wonderfully raw synth innards of the Commodore, sonically speaking. Instead of synthesis, they were, after a few years of chaos and tries at creating standard synthetic sounds sets (yeah, always a bright idea, standardization), to find the wonder of samples.
A wonder only starts being a wonder when it’s fully grown, I suppose. Nowadays that we can include full soundtracks in games the new technology has finally started being a blessing again. Initially, with games being stored on floppies, you can calculate quite fast that including one ten-second sample in CD quality, as if anything could’ve played that back, would’ve taken more than what was allocated for the sounds of a whole game. Instead, after clearing the minefield of Ad-lib, Roland’s earliest, crappiest sample-based sound cards and all kinds of FM bleepers, people had the choice of using TRACKERS in their music making! Fancy!
Trackers. The wikipedia entry was useless, so, basically, for the uninitiated, they are programs that allow the user to arrange samples, pitched individually, in a vertical grid representing time. Music making software, the first real universal one there was, for almost every computer or console that could play back sampled sound . It was a massive step forward, meaning that anyone could make music – and they did. Sometimes it was pure genius, like the Bitmap Brothers Speedball 2 theme, more often it was some kind of a precursor of Coder Trance, music that thrived in the unnatural pitching and quantization and lack of any kind of effects, limitations that the ancient tracker technology imposed. It suited some games, most of all games designed by coders, really well. Actually, when you listen to the tracker music of nowadays, it seems like there’s still an abundance of Coder Trance, maybe it’s become like a sign language to all demoscene guys after all these years, perhaps they can speak of the unnameable function only through it? Before I get publicly crucified for hating on the trackers, yes, i’m sure the 1% rule applies. Just as somewhere there doubtlessly is one good Christian Emo song (perhaps called “Cut a X for Jsus”, who knows), there is a lot of really brilliant tracker music out there. Some of my best friends are track. I’m, you know, down with shit? Track is the Bomb. It’s sick and ill. Anyhow,
It seems that for people more seriously interested in music making as opposed to being oldskool, trackers have become some kind of an analogy to analog step sequencers, with a modern, musically useful tracker software aptly named Renoise, at least. For me the two things that make trackers unique are the fiddly, rather mechanical sequencing and the badly interpolated machine-gun sound of too few samples being used, with too few bits, often recorded with Amiga in the nineties, and carried through ages, like a souvenier, proudly used in new songs, as to say that you want people to know you are 1337 and will not multisample or filter stuff if it kills you. Renoise kind of retains the second unique feature/constraint but by allowing the use of plug-in instruments and effects, and by having a good interpolation manages to become a tracker relatively unconstrained by the legacy of kilobyte-saving, letting people focus on the wonderfully mechanical sequencing.
Wonderful nowadays, that is, that whole songs don’t have to be constructed around a single bass sample, one for a synth and a few short, clippy drums, without effects. And it seems some of that original compositional sparseness and, well, rudeness imposed on game composers by the old technological limitations has been carried to the compositions of a lot of modern game music, if not always the sound.
Let me take another detour here, since I’m drunk and rambling, to synth preset sounds. The problem with those is, for me, that they try hard to sound like synth sounds. Take an acoustic piano, a beautiful, hulking beast unfit for handling by someone like me, sample it really well, with microphones SO precise that the sample sounds a bit cold if anything. Then clean up the sample, add tons of reverb, maybe layer it with a synthetic piano or another canned one, clean it like you were cleaning your own crime scene. You have a preset piano sound. It’s not piano, if it were, I’m sure people would complain about it’s lack of spaciousness and power or simply not_be_impressed when demoing the synth in a store.
Game music, as a genre, is a bit like that piano. It’s trying to be like game music so it’d fit the games that are trying to be games like people remember games to be. Think Epic Japanese Hair Metal Techno, as heard in the action sequences of half the nipponese games in the past 15 years. That’s not any music genre, it’s game music and it seems to have its own hectic set of rules. Those rules are often derived from the way music used to be sequenced and from the formerly good ethics of making the music small in kilobytes (thus, with samples, reducing the sonic richness). Now, it usually takes a certain love for gaming for people to enter the field so the ones deciding on the game art style are almost certainly hardcore gamers and after they have come to expect this kind of soundtrack in certain kinds of games they might specifically ask for it and that’s what they’ll get. Turn-based action sequence, cue in a general midi sounding but probably hugely expensive orchestral theme with an electric guitar solo. In 2009. And we WILL hear the same final fantastical synth guitar wankery in 2019, too. There will be people loving that shit in 20 years. Probably myself included, all bald and raving to the FFXV love theme!
Bioshock, Ico, Warriors, Fallout 3, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory; these are fine examples of games that have music, made or especially fitted for the game, and it’s not game_music, it’s actual music. Music that, in most of those examples, someone like me wouldn’t be educated enough to make. Music not constrained by the history of computer games but blessed with the history of music, maybe that’s what I’m getting at. In general, if you ask me, Game Music should think more about games and music, less about conventions. Game companies should try, more and more, to use actual breathing musicians in their productions and, if possible, not ask for that wanky guitar-and-a-hyperactive-orchestra bit in the turn-based fight scene even if it suited FFn so well. And even if your producer likes trance, well, it’s all too possible he’s a
massive cock right but how will it differentiate from all the other two-stick arcade shooters playing that same futuristic trance music? Is he in the target demographic?
Playing it safe might be the right choice when doing the gaming equivalent of The Young and the Restless but it never really gets people anywhere interesting, sometimes the right choice might actually be to just hire that hippie you know who is ready to experiment a bit and makes the kind of indian/nepalese kind of ritual music that your game designer thought might fit the Aeon Flux-inspired RTS game you’re working on. Luckily people do this more and more and musicians (a scary word) not from a computer music background, often meaning: “with some musical training” have also been lining up for game soundtrack work since games have been allowed to have real audio tracks in them.
From where I’m standing, my money not in my mouth, invisible clothes and all, unless you aim at making a game that sounds like games sound (you can put it nicely but the word is “unremarkable”), or are Popcap* doing a casual hit, it is always worth it to try something exactly suited for the game, the experience at hand, rather to do something for the genre. If someone’s opposed, they can always mute the sounds. With iPhone for one, it seems to be what most people do anyway.
*Of course the Popcap example brings out a nice point about why game music often sounds like elevator music – how would you create hours of game time worth of music without hogging an album’s worth of space? Or: “How long would people listen to this before getting annoyed?”
It’s been nice to do nothing special except a bit of music and recording of random objects! I made this walker (in the beginning of the clip) out of a 9 euro RC battle chopper, it makes brilliant noises as it crashes or is unable to turn. I’d imagine all kinds of toys would turn really useful if I one day got to do some proper sci-fi stuff. mmm.
CHOPPER WALKER (over Beanstalk Incident sketch)
Today I have been mostly killing innocent vegetables. Next week, even though it is my holiday, I was thinking of crushing a chicken.
No prizes for figuring out what kind of sounds should come out of that :D
MR LEEK AND MR DELICIOUS DRUMKIT 1
Flash. Yeah. It’s easy to learn and making it look good is not too hard, either.
All hail the new site, less flashy and hopefully more usable than earlier. For me at least, adding stuff to this is pleasant compared to editing text files to config which songs I wanted the previous Polyfonken site to play… makes you lazy, it does. Or maybe I just am. Anyway,
Besides all those albums which you are doubtlessly downloading as I type this, I’m going to add a lot more music stuff, random doodlings, ramblings and all that stuff nobody but mom should be interested in. I might even make the site pretty and less gray, for now this finely crafted example of Photoshop Layer Effects will do. It needs flaming skulls, blink-tags and some banners, maybe a hit counter but it’s getting there!
Welcome to the Thundermode!
tuukka / polyfonken / ghost monkey