Monday, 7 April 2014

PaulMakesMusic rides again?

Time was, I used to do a lot of farting around with music. I've played guitar since my early teens, and with the advent of personal computers with a reasonable ability to output sound (we're talking Amiga onwards here) I've used the tech to create and record my own music.

It was something I did by myself, for myself. The stuff I did was introverted, self absorbed. Self. Self. Self. I harboured no ambitions to be a rock god or to make money from it. Indeed, I'm generally extremely self-conscious, and would be mortified if something I did somehow reached a wide audience. I'd say that copious consumption of cannabis probably played its part too, as did having a lot of time on my hands, while I spent all day every day on my own.

Being "A Musician" was part of how I defined myself back then, but when my circumstances changed, the motivation and opportunity to make music disappeared. PaulMakesMusic became abbreviated to PMM. I never entirely knocked it on the head. I'm forever picking a guitar up for a few minutes and doing a bit, but the dedication to the construction of tunes or songs or sonic textures just took a back seat for the last decade.

A couple of months ago, I bought a telescope. I had a look at the moon a few times, and we will take it on holiday with us to Cornwall at the end of this month, but after that I will probably sell it. It's taking up a lot of space. When I bought it, Bren made noises about "Mid Life Crisis", but really that was wide of the mark. More that for the first time in my life, I had the income to be able to indulge such whims.

There is one thing though, that I've had on my bucket list of possessions ever since I first encountered it. A MIDI guitar controller.

Now, a MIDI guitar controller takes the signal from an electric guitar, but instead of an analogue thing to be amplified, it gets converted into a MIDI input. This can then be used to trigger MIDI events. Effectively, you can play a guitar, and the computer will interpret what you're doing and turn it into something else, like a drumbeat, or a warm vocally synth sound, or a completely different guitar. It also allows you to sequence these events, so you can mess around with them still further.

I'm trying to go back to doing music, and I suppose that this is indeed a futile stab at regaining something lost. You can never really go back.

For example, no matter how much weed I smoke, it will never make me giggle again, like it did when I was in my late teens and early twenties. No matter what I do, nothing will sound as good as listening to the first Stone Roses album, on a crappy walkman, after smoking a sneaky pipe when I was about 19 or 20 years old.

Anyway, I've shelled out quite a lot of money, primarily on a thing called the Fishman Triple Play, which is a MIDI guitar controller. I also bought another SSD drive, and a MOLEX splitter, because my super duper gaming system had a scant single power outlet for hard drives. I wanted the extra hard drive because I have a couple of old but decent soundcards, neither of which is compatible with Windows 8. Unfortunately, my XP disk just wouldn't install on the SSD, and the software that comes bundled with the controller is not compatible with XP anyway. In the end, I spend another few quid on getting a windows 8 compatible sound card from ebay.I may yet have to spend even more on an electric guitar if it turns out that the acoustic guitar with built in piezo pickup/microphone is not suitable for the controller.

Until the soundcard arrives, I can't really get midi output, but when it does, if the guitar works with it, and if I can get my head around it all, I hope to start making tunes again.

Tunes, not songs. Like most people, I find the sound of my own recorded voice a horror to behold. It's not a bad voice as voices go, and I'm happy to sing to my pupils all day long, but just about the only time I've really put a song I've written and sang on, it's been multi-tracked to give it a much fuller sound, and to hide it's inherent pathetic reediness.

Also, I don't really do emotion. Autistic spectrum thing perhaps, or maybe it was drummed into me as a child. Boys don't cry. Stiff upper lip. All that sort of stuff.

I once emoted while playing a song in front of other people. It was at a riverside bar in Waterford, ROI. I'd walked in at 11am with the guitar I'd carted around with me from the ferry, and there was another guy there, also with a guitar. We played Kilgarry Mountain to good acclaim. Other things too that slip my mind. Then at some point we played "Help Me Make it Through the Night. And at some point, during that song, I emoted. I sang a spontaneous "Oooohhhh". It just slipped out somehow. I cringe to this day to think about it.

You see bands on the telly. They're singing songs of love and sorrow, and they emote freely. Even though the'yre not actually suicidal with grief as they harmonise on a spotlit stage, you'd think that they were from the yearning and doe-eyed sincerity they put into their performances, but that's all it is. A performance. They're faking it.

Most of the time.

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