Digital Sabbath

Long day biking across the city…, from Embassy appointments straight to class and then studio recording time… I decided to take my bike along a S-Bahn route to shorten the journey without a properly stamped card which ended up resulting in a ticket… It was stressful and learning my lesson with the strictness of Germany’s reputable system of ruthless unforgiving guidelines came quickly. Immediately following this situation I got off at the Hauptbahnhof and walked to a nearby park to work on some studies and gather myself. That’s when my ears were drawn to the sound of the environment which is the intro to this track, church bells going off simultaneously with the sound of a helicopter. Perfect sonic separation in timbre and frequency that neither seemed to detract or enhance either yet they co-existed giving hundreds of people the characteristics of sound in Berlin.

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The recording was taken from my Nexus phone that isn’t good nor terribly bad. Luckily software is a thing and using an EQ and Saturation Filter I was able to create a Ontological layer of sound that melded well with a simple arpeggiator, giving dynamics and movement with the use of Cut Off Frequency automation. The intro is delicately long with support from a bass sine wave that blends slowly with the sound of the helicopter. It was my intention to give the arpegiator characteristics of the bells to organically blend the soundscape recording into a tranquil cup of tea.

Right after a short entrance of a vocal VST there is a change of pace and character starting with sound loops and a kick. Using samples and clips I created in my Electronic Production course using Ableton’s amazing launch and groove tool, I created percussive sounds that drew upon classic 808 sounds and minimal FX usage. It is always too fun taking a wave file and stretching, cutting, pulling it apart in various ways until some sort of instinct recalls a specific yet general use of such sounds to apply to other works that fill my time. It wasn’t until a good friend mentioned to me not to be afraid of using a four-to-the-floor beat which gives the propulsive drive and groove needed to sustain the development of a stronger rhythmic section. My comfort-ability and understand of a rhythm section/ beats is quite far from harmony and tone color but I gave it a shot, putting in a strong kick followed with precise percussive samples that pull and push interchangeably with each other.

Initially there was no Filter Gate used on the organ sound that drives the harmony on the build towards the Wobble section. There was something that just didn’t feel correct with just a straight organ sound so after some inner debate and experimentation I added a Filter Gate that turned the Organ into small pulsing sound that increased in Swing percentage over the build-up phrase into the wobble section. It is subtle yet important on challenging the arrangement to pull the listener forward.

Using the wobble was difficult and it will never be clear if it was the correct one to be used however I stuck with what I had and used various samples of “pops” and timbre control to blend everything together. There is extensive depth in this section and it would be fantastic to have some critical analysis of what works and what doesn’t. Comments are appreciated. Here I let lose with audio effects like panning and distortion to give rise and falls to small motifs that decorate the aggressive wobble.

At last, the ending section is a long tail of recapitulation and re use of a sonic environmental samples. A week prior to the completion of this track I learned how to use microphones in a studio space so one night a friend and I gathered instruments to dabble around, getting ourselves familiar with such tools. After he left I remained in the studio slowly turning into a 3 year old… Playing nonsense and improvising on everything I can get my hands on. Eventually a solo guitar melodic line developed and randomly I added it to the track to see what would happen, there was no intention for the two to ever come together. It isn’t a perfect fit but it still provides an emotional burst of tension especially after blending the sound with electronic synthesizers. It builds slowly into a trance of Organ, Arpegiator (used in the beginning), and another audio sample of myself hitting a drum in a slow melancholic way giving way to a dream like state.

The Track name refers to a point of time that is designated specifically to the removal of digital devices to have a moment of deep though, self-reflection, or growth of relationships. It has a more sacred or ritualistic approach meaning it is more serious than taking a break from your phone and going to do something that helps one grow as a person. More information can be found on the School of Life website or on the video provided.