Saturday, January 18, 2020

New Video Posted - my 8 discrete voice polyphonic synthesizer


Here is the short video that I made where I use 8 discrete mono synths together to make an 8 voice polyphonic synth  - Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tCa1d-RLXg


Monday, January 6, 2020

The Darwin Grosse interview

Darwin Grosse's interview with me is now live on his podcast.  You can find the interview here:

http://artmusictech.libsyn.com/podcast-308-jon-sonnenberg

Thanks for reading this and thanks for listening!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

music is like cooking

I equate recording and producing songs to a good recipe.  Not everyone is going to love the flavors, but some things are basics - rhythm, chord, melodies: these ideas are the basic elements.   Ingredients and spices make up the details in the formula - like types of instruments used, how they are recorded, cut/edited or looped or taken as organic, etc, etc...

Sounds and music are not necessarily songs.  I hear a lot of released music that is really captivating and interesting, but I would not really call the piece a "song"

I still stand by the definition that a song is something that can be covered on a different instrument than was written for and still be recognized as the same piece of music. 

Something that is also kind of a nice thought:  just like part of the flavor is the way you smell the food before it hits your mouth - the scents are tied into taste;  I believe that the sense of touch and feel are also tied into sound.  Your ears hear and translate the vibrations, but there are many times when your body feels certain frequencies - especially in loud concerts.  I heard about deaf people hearing music through balloons once.  In fact, the thought inspired me to think of all the exhibits that I would show if I were to create a concert for the deaf or an art gallery for the blind. 

Influences

What are my influences?  I often forget to site these.

I am just as influenced by books or movies or tV or people as I am by other bands.

Favorite Bands (in no particular order)
Howard Jones, Human League, Portion Control, Bjork, Ulrich Schnauss, Trentemoller, Fad Gadget, The Cure, Bombay Bicycle Club, Legendary Pink Dots, Grandaddy, Severed Heads, Tear Garden, And Also the Trees, Clan of Xymox, Boards of Canada, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, These New Puritans, Grizzly Bear, Radical Face, the Innocence Mission, Nick Drake, The Beatles, The Zombies, Drab Majesty, David Bowie, Anything Box, any early electronic music records - especially the ones from universities       to name a few...

Favorite Books:
anything by Kurt Vonnegut, all Conan Doyle books related to Sherlock Holmes, anything by Daniel Pinkwater (loved him as a kid - especially 'Alan Mendelson, the Boy from Mars' - and still love him as an adult), The Bible, any synthesizer book or book on electronic or computer music (believe it or not, I have a huge collection of these types of books)

Favorite Movies:
Brazil may be my favorite movie of all time, Tekkonkinkreet, Time Bandits, City of the Lost Children, The Fisher King, Kafka, Casablanca, Planet of the Apes (original 5 movies), John Paizs Crime Wave, Logan's Run (great books too), The Man who would be King, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars

Favorite TV Shows:
Though I love film when it is dark, artistic, and sending a message(most of the above), I love a good comedy when it comes to TV.  My favorite is The Bob Newhart Show, but I like Newhart as well.  Also Mary Tyler Moore, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Extras, Taxi, Pete and Pete, The Good Life.

and of course I also listen to my own music.  I have been asked a few times if I listen to my own music.  My CD's are some of the few constants that I have in my car glove box.  I make music that I am happy with and enjoy listening to.  I think that this is an important detail.  I don't consider a song 'completed' until I find that I enjoy listening to it myself and want to hear it again.  This means that sometimes mixes can take a long time to get right.  In my interview with Darwin Grosse, I talk about some autochord chimes that took a long time to get the sound to match what I wanted to hear in my head.  I will say this: once it was achieved and recorded and mixed, it was exactly my vision.


Darwin Grosse

I want to thank Darwin Grosse and the listener who referred me to him for having me on his podcast.

The interview was a load of fun and I guess I have a lot more to say than what a 50 minute time constraint allowed.

There is bonus material for those who are supporters of Darwin's efforts - which if you haven't checked out his podcast, you really should. 

In my interview - I was so caught up in the musical background side of things that I failed to mention anything about going to college and getting an electrical engineering degree.  The difference between my path and a lot of other engineering paths is that I actually thought that I WOULD go into synthesizer building with my background and knowledge of electronic music.   Every class that I took, I paid attention to ways that I could apply it to electronic music.  For example, when we studied FM transmission, I realized that the same theory applied to FM synthesis and paid close attention to the math involved with Bessel functions and how they relate to the spectrum in the frequency domain when you modulate a waveform by another.  The problem was that when I finally graduated, I had already decided to move from California to NE Ohio.  The move was because of a long distance relationship that had started a few years before.  When I got to Ohio, I started working in the musical instrument repair business and covered a small chain of 6 music stores for a couple of years with all of their repairs.  I not only learned how to build up my soldering and troubleshooting skills, but I also learned that musicians are notoriously broke and perhaps I would look for a job in another area.  

As luck would have it, or divine intervention (which seems more likely the case), I was referred to a job where I could use my engineering skills to help troubleshoot, build, design, and test all sorts of electronics for industries such as defense, medical, aerospace, commercial, and eventually got back into some audio as well.  I also really got involved with RF and antennas and have done consulting work with major companies involving some antenna designs in various applications.  

As I said in the interview, I work for a contract manufacturer, but one that also offers engineering design and some higher-end testing (antenna chamber, various test labs, etc).  When I get home to work on my own instruments, I fall away from the world of quantity manufacturing and just want to design and build something with my hands that is 1) going to do something that I can't already do, 2) be built to last and hopefully become a staple in my studio/equipment arsenal, and 3) often are based on concepts and research of things that I don't believe exist - not that there isn't anyone in this huge world that would be doing similar things, but regardless - my designs will still be unique by design because of all the hand work and hand assembly and figuring out-along-the-way that I do.  To me, it makes the things that I build that much more special.  

I would never, for instance, build another VCO or VCF in the traditional sense.  I believe that there are far too many of these available and fairly inexpensive to try and re-engineer.  I am more interested in building new ways to make sound.

Also, even though I like to use alternate controllers in my music or live shows, there must always be a sonic direct reason for using these devices.  As an example, I would never use drum pad triggers to trigger samples because I would get the same sound using a sequencer or keyboard, but I would use solenoid triggers to connect sequencers to acoustic drums so I can obtain new sonic textures-  simulating drum rolls by adding sample and hold to modulate a low frequency pulse wave trigger might be a good example of this.  It also makes products like Buchla's Lightning completely uninteresting to me, where the Seaboard Rise from Roli is very fascinating and useful.  Hopefully that makes sense.

anyway, be on the lookout for the published interview from Darwin Grosse.  

Thanks for reading this post.

Friday, October 18, 2019

What’s in a name.


I am constantly second guessing the name Travelogue even though I have been recording and releasing material under this name for nearly 20 years.  The dilemma is that I often hear from people that it is hard to find information about me or that I don’t have an ‘internet presence’, when in fact, I have quite a bit of information and material available, both free and for sale, on the internet. 

Part of me likes the idea of the hunt – in a world where everything is constantly in-your-face and readily available, it might water down the contents if it is so easy to find.  The psychology of finding something rare or hard to find does automatically make it more special.  In a way, I don’t mind that my material is a bit on the hard to find side of the spectrum.  

On the other hand, there is the idea that there are a lot of people out there that might like what I do if only they could hear it or discover it.  If it is harder to find, they may never have a chance to find out what I am about.  

There are bands out there that misspell names on purpose, putting in double characters or putting v’s for u’s, things like that.  While I could change the spelling to Travl log, or something like that, I think that it would be more annoying than helpful – even though it would make searchable sense.  I find a lot of ‘misspelled’ band names problematic and frustrating, rather than interesting or useful. 

A friend suggested that I go back to Pivot Clowj, which is really my favorite band name that I have ever had – because of its originality and uniqueness.  There is no mistaking Clowj for any other word in any language, and searches always lead to my pages – unless the engine thinks that you were trying to type C l o w n.  There are a couple of problems with moving back to this name though – first off, the band Pivot Clowj was a band and not my solo project.  Robert Gutschow was a big part of this, still is a great friend, and we still talk about future albums together and share audio files back and forth.  The other problem with this is I think that stylistically, there is a distinction between the sound of my solo material and Pivot Clowj, though one could argue it all sounds like me.  

I am curious if you, the reader of this blog, have thoughts or comments on this subject.  If so, please comment below.

Thanks,
Jon S.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Knobcon in Chicago

Again, this year was a blast.  It was great to see old friends and meet new faces.

I presented a concept this year called 'Sample Proof'.  It has to do with my philosophy and ideas behind some of the musical instruments that I build.  

I have been working on several instrument concepts and the one that I presented was what I am calling 'Sample Restraint #1'.

Sample Restraint #1 (AKA Sample Proof Instrument #1) is a one-off instrument that I have been developing for a few years, working on it as I have time or inspiration.  It is loosely based on the Hammond tonewheel concept, but uses fast spinning BB's  to generate the waveforms.  Because the BB's can group in arbitrary clusters, the resultant waveform is arbitrary and each note of the scale has this arbitrary timbre.  The control keyboard works on displacement, rather than velocity or aftertouch, and has a feature that will change volume and tone depending on the amount the key is displaced.  One of the many 'Sample Proof' concepts about this instrument is that every time it is turned on and goes into motion, there is a completely new set of waveforms and therefore can't be easily sampled because of its mechanical complexity and arbitrary nature.