Orchestra Hits and the Value of Play

I recently made a quirky little music web-app. You can check it out at orchestrahit.com (special thanks to Ed Platt for hosting the site!) and also read a bit about the process and some thoughts it has brought up for me below.

While working on this I found myself asking: what is this for? what am I gaining out of this time I’m spending creating this? Some of the answers I came up with included:

1 - A chance to practice some html, css, and javascript coding - something I find interesting but don’t always find much need for.

2 - A chance to explore the WebAudio API a bit (that’s what this code uses to actually load and trigger the samples). As a tool that let’s you make richer audio applications that run in web browsers, who knows - this could be useful some day for making something “real.” (I also discovered that the WebAudio API doesn’t work so great on Android browsers, which is a shame.)

3 - It’s kind of funny, so I guess that’s something.

And I realized that in all that, I was kind of dismissing, out-of-hand, the creation itself. The end product is actually fun to play with, even if there isn’t a specific goal in mind (I know I’ve had fun messing around with it). Which reminded me of the value of play as it’s own activity - no need for a reason or an end-game. And if play is important, then creating toys is valuable and worthy in and of itself. So, let me try this again:

Hey! I made this music toy - orchestrahit.com. I think it’s pretty fun and it makes me smile. Hope you enjoy it, too!

All Sketches and Experiments

Bamboo Whistle Invocation

I’m always seeing new instruments and thinking: “How cool! I’ve got to have one of those!” Of course, the more instruments I collect, the trickier it feels to find the time to learn and play them!


Earlier this year, I bought this beautiful bamboo low D whistle made by Nevsky Sun of Abedabun Flutes. Over the last few weeks, I wanted to make sure to find the time to start learning and exploring this super-cool instrument, so I made myself some motivation: to write and record something on it.

So here it is - written and performed by me:

I’m continuing to explore the instrument and discover all it can do. I love all the subtlety of voicing and pitch control that is possible and how humanly expressive it sounds.

Because the room I was recording in wasn’t the quietest, I went with a pretty close micing, which means you’ll get a nice close-up sonic perspective of all the breathy, tactile details.

And if anyone’s ever interested in getting a wooden flute or whistle, check out Nevsky’s store on Etsy here. In addition to fippled whistles like this one, he makes various styles of flutes as well!

All Sketches and Experiments

Composing with digital artifacts, courtesy of Goodhertz Lossy

A couple short vocal samples, thoroughly chopped up + some vigorous plugin automation (Goodhertz Lossy) + a dash of drums for flavor and pulse = this little sketch.

More info below, but for the TL;DR crowd, take a listen and watch the plugin parameters dance to the automation:

The rest of the story: Lossy is a digital distortion plugin by Goodhertz. I was charmed by their goal of doing digital distortion not in the oft-done 8-bit style, but instead in an early-2000s, bad-bit-rate, early-days-of-file-sharing flavor. They also offer a 50% discount if you do something fun with their plugins and post it online, so I couldn't resist!

Goodhertz prides themselves on how cleanly their plugins automate, so I figured I'd have a go at using that automate-ability as a central compositional tool - changing parameters in time to create the music. I originally planned to just rely on extremely fast rhythmic shifts in plugin settings, but upon hearing the sparkly, glitched out effects the plugin could create through ramped fades, I had to incorporate those as well.

Sure enough it handled all those automation changes gracefully, from extremely fast flutters to long ramps. Any clicks or pops you might here are from sudden audio edits I left untouched because I liked the scrappy edge they brought the track - I couldn't get the plugin to click even when I tried!

I went with a chain of two instances of Lossy (both in series on the vocal track) to have 2 flavors of distortion to play with. Other than that, the processing is pretty minimal - just a bit of reverb, dynamics processing, and frequency balancing.

Definitely adding this one to the toolbox for the future!

All Sketches and Experiments

Sketches and Experiments - An intro

What you'll find here are various bits of music or sound. My goal is to not restrict myself by a need of a polished end product so these won't generally be deeply mixed or carefully mastered. The focus is on exploration and trying things - exploring musical or sonic ideas, experimenting with new instruments or tools, prototyping a working approach, or just playing around. I'd like to avoid too much editing or over-working of material, instead giving a window into what I'm playing with at the moment.

In addition to the fun of sharing for it's own sake, I hope doing this will give me that little bit of extra motivation to have a go at some of those brief, ephemeral "what if?" thoughts and see what results can be teased out of them.

Some posts I may comment on, others I may post with little or no commentary. Maybe there will be some musings on technique or process ideas as well? Who knows? This is my first time doing this and my first attempt at a blog of any kind, so I'll be figuring it out as I go!

Requisite cool photo - Antigone Project at Emerson Stage as seen on the Stage Manager's (Alexis Ellis-Alvarez) old CRT monitor feed of the IR camera. Directed by David R. Gammons, scenic design by Jackson Lasseter, lighting design by Sydney Skora, costume design by Simone Bordage.

Requisite cool photo - Antigone Project at Emerson Stage as seen on the Stage Manager's (Alexis Ellis-Alvarez) old CRT monitor feed of the IR camera. Directed by David R. Gammons, scenic design by Jackson Lasseter, lighting design by Sydney Skora, costume design by Simone Bordage.

All Sketches and Experiments