Saturday, April 3, 2010

Computer Enhanced Music

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Recently young A.J. and I did a bit of a road trip to see a good musician pal of ours who lives around the other side of the bay. Bill Canty is the best keyboard player we know, and he is an absolute whiz with computers as well.

He has combined these two skills superbly, and is currently working on a new type of hybrid piano music which he calls "Shades of Ivory". Here is a bit about how he uses computers in making this unique type of music.

First of all he uses a Piano emulation product from Native Intruments called: "Akoustic Piano":

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The piano sounds from this computer software are superb, and they transpose perfectly across the full octaves range of the instrument. (And I thought N.I. only made brilliant guitar amp emulation software like "Guitar Rig"). This software runs on his Apple Mac and he plays the samples on a connected Yamaha KX88 midi keyboard controller.

He also has some samples for other instrument sounds, as well as some synthesizers in a very compact rack. This set of electronic boxes holds the equivalent of a symphony orchestra, combined with just about every kind of drum beat you could ever imagine:

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All of these sounds are played on the midi keyboard and then fed into some other software called "Logic Pro". LP is like Sibelius notator and Pro Tools all combined into one beautifully integrated unit:

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There are a few other programs that do the same kind of thing: Cubase(Mac & PC), Samplitude (PC) and Digital Performer (Mac).

Musical notes can be edited directly on the screen, and cut and paste repeated as background decaying echoes to add fantasia style ambience and accents to various notes and phrases. These type of play and record in real time, and then edit and enhance the score methods, are what Bill is using extensively for his current project "Shades of Ivory".

SHADES OF IVORY is a unique piano album that explores beyond what's possible with two hands on an 88-note piano keyboard.

It has been recorded and edited in a computer and every sound is made by a digital piano. Its imaginative arrangements are composed of :
  • normal piano playing
  • playing that has been transformed by the computer
  • notes generated by the computer
  • piano sounds that have been edited - subtly, moderately or beyond recognition

  • audio effects such as reverb, echoes, etc.
Being part of Bill's "Inner Resting Music" series Shades of Ivory is rich, fascinating and beautifully relaxing.

Click on the webpage link below for more information about the S.O.I. project on Bill's website. (We can also listen to samples of tracks from the album on this page):

Bill's most popular album to date has been "Elysian Peace" which is pretty much ultimate relaxation/meditation disc.

It contains twelve 5-minute tracks of celestial harps, angelic choirs, layers of orchestral and synthesized sounds, all flowing seamlessly together, in a world of heavenly, elysian peace.

To listen to this album online click the play button next to the tracks below:
(They each take a few seconds to load in).

My favorite yet to be released album by Bill is "January in Windsor" where he brilliantly emulates the sound and structure of chamber string music a la Vivaldi, JS Bach etc.

Click the player below to listen to this fabulous music that was made using the bare minimum of equipment as shown in the photo below:

(Eg. No keyboard was used, the notes were entered directly into the computer and then played through the sampler).

For further information about "January in Windsor", click on the link below:

Finally here is a dodgy quality 1 minute interview with Bill. I put him on the spot and asked for him to make a big Saxophone sound for us. Young A.J. also features adding his own unique blend of improv to the video.

Note how Bill uses a breath piece plugged into the keyboard to actually blow the notes as the fingers of his right hand plays them. He can also be seen using the pitch bend wheel with his left hand to add the required nuances.

Bill Canty certainly is the master of musical emulation.

We will have to do a more detailed interview with him sometime later on in 2010. We need to show you his guitar shredding improvisations, all done with keyboard and computer, without a fretboard in site. It has to be seen to be believed !

Big Passy Wasabi

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