Sea of Silence… How experimenting with a new tool can lead to something way cool (audio, video, story)

[Hey, that rhymes! It was unintentional, but somehow fitting… I’ll run with it.]

Something popped up in my Facebook memories today that reminded me how ever-present our creativity is… how cool stuff can come from unexpected places and we can find inspiration hidden in plain sight if we just explore and experiment.

(Well, in honesty… I’m not sure that I ever truly forget that. It’s a faucet that I actually have to turn off sometimes… just ask Keith :) )

EXPLORATION…

One of my songs – Sea of Silence – got its start from just such an experiment.
I wrote it on the fly to test Microsoft Songsmith on the day it debuted.
Sea of Silence was a creation that started as a throwaway experiment, but blossomed over time to become a well-received music release.

Like any good music geek, I’ve long been a fan of any techy tool that aids in the songwriting and recording process. As a programmer myself, I have a deep admiration for clever musician programmers who develop innovative tools to aid music creation.

On this day – January 8th – in 2009, Microsoft released one of their new Microsoft Research products – Songsmith – a software program that generates an accompaniment to a melody provided by the user. It captured my techy musician fancy. I, of course, had to play with it.


(Note: These BudUrl shortcuts have expired, but the links they resolve to are still available – you’ll see the original link when you access the BudUrl)

CHALLENGES

I was intrigued by this new PC-oriented software, but I had already moved to Mac at this time, which introduced “complexities” to my experiment:

Undaunted by the challenge and, thankfully, still in possession (at that time) of a fairly current PC (but soon to be neglected when I moved to Pro Tools), I ran upstairs and installed it there.
(I have regained my hardware dual citizenship since then as trying to code ASP.NET MVC in anything other than Visual Studio just doesn’t cut it… I’ve tried.)

My initial trials with it were encouraging… as long as I limited it to simple melodies.

I had fun playing with it, but the initial Songsmith version was probably more geared toward a non-musician consumer crowd – it wasn’t as suitable for more complex melodies and chord structures, however the ability to tweak the chord progressions offered some control for the theory-minded. I wanted to explore its possibilities – whether it would be useful in my songwriting – so I wrote a more complex melody line to test what it could do. The initial chords created didn’t really follow the melody. However, like all well-conceived software, they added flexible functionality… in this case, the ability to override the chord progressions the program came up with and enter your own. Oooh, now we’re talking!

SUCCESS… a new song is born!

The initial challenges aside – once I worked with it a bit and rewrote the chords it generated, I was able to come up with a pretty decent demo of the new song I had just written. The coolest thing about the program was the ability to choose an accompaniment style and flesh out a simple demo track. There weren’t many programs in this space at that time. There are many more software tools for this now… especially those available on the iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices. Songwriting support wherever you are!

(I’ve since been using iReal pro on the iPad (and a few others) for charts and quick song demos.)

I pseudo-scatted out the full song format and wrote the chord structure for the backing track, then selected a style in the program that I thought worked for it. I recorded the full demo with the program, then quickly wrote lyrics for the first 2 verses and recorded another short demo.

To save you from battling with the expired links, here’s the embedded audio:

The full song pseudo-scat version:

The short version with lyrics:



A pretty cool beginning! With more tweaks and changes to come!

FINISHING THE LYRICS

I continued to mess with the song and about a month later, I fleshed out the lyrics for the full song form. (I would later add another bridge section and accompanying additional lyrics.)

UKING IT UP

About a year later, I started playing ukulele. I was a long-time professional vocalist, but hadn’t ventured much into instrumentally accompanying myself… until then. A couple of months into my instrumental foray – once I felt comfortable enough – I started working up ukulele versions of my original music. Sea of Silence was one of the first of my original songs that I experimented with. (caveat: I had only been playing a couple of months at this time, so no judging! :)


(That hoarseness is a hint at how many times I had to film my performance to get it right. Singing it was a snap – singing AND playing it was whole ‘nother story…
That was a while ago. I had only been playing for a month or two at this time. Thankfully, I’m a lot better at it these days :) )

RECORDING IT FOR REAL

I put the song aside for a few years while I worked on other music and on honing my arranging, recording, and audio production chops, then picked it up again – finishing and releasing an initial version last year.

Here’s the promo video:

My initial concept for Sea of Silence had been more in a pop, dance, or EDM vein. However, as I fleshed it out last year, a bluesier rock style came to me. I liked the way it was evolving, so I ran with it.

The initial release of Sea of Silence is available on Amazon MP3, iTunes, and Google Play, as well as other digital music purchase and streaming sites.

RECOGNITION IN A BEST SONG CONTEST

As I was releasing it last year, I decided to submit it to a song contest on a whim and, to my surprise, was honored as a top 5 song finalist in the Songwriter Universe Magazine Best Song Contest!

Not bad for a song initially written as an experiment to test a new piece of software!

IS IT DONE YET?

Nope… not quite. One of the cool – yet challenging – things about songwriting that I have encountered is my music often works well in totally different genres and styles. As I mentioned above, I had a totally different initial concept for Sea of Silence than the style I chose for the initial release. (I actually have an EDM track I created for it, then switched to the bluesy vibe.) I’ve also experimented with it in other genres – some heavier, some lighter – and really liked the results.
SO… the short answer is… I’m not done with it yet :)

The moral of my story:

Be open to exploring and experimenting if something catches your fancy. You never know what may come of it… at the very least, you’ll learn something. And you just might create something cool!

Sea of Silence by Luna Jade - now on Amazon MP3, iTunes, Google Play and more ~ LunaJade.com