My newest album, OMNIVERSE, drops today! This is my first full VOCALOID album, and features twelve original works and one cover song. Over the next month or two I plan to share more background information, release a few more single versions, and create more promotional materials like lyric videos. For now, let’s just get directly to the music!
So, obviously I want to get this music into as many ears as possible, so please like and share, but also let’s get some conversations going. Comment on the things you like, and even things you don’t like! Ask me questions so I know what you’re interested in learning about. I realize that Vocaloid is new for a lot of people, and I’m more than happy to share what I’ve experienced in my limited time working with this fascinating technology.
Also, subscribe to things! Especially YouTube and Bandcamp. The numbers help, but also, these are usually the places things will show up first. Videos go up on YouTube hours before I start announcing them or blogging about them, and Bandcamp has actually had the album live and available for sale since Friday, because I upload directly to them, instead of going through a distribution service like I do for the more popular services.
And while I’m on the subject, sometimes people ask me if I have a preference regarding which service they purchase/stream from, and that’s an easy answer: Bandcamp. They give me the biggest share of the profits, deliver that money to me the fastest, and give you the best quality product (or at least the choice, since you can stream or get MP3s from them if you want to) of any service. I’m thrilled to have you listen wherever is convenient, cost effective, or just preferential to you, but if it doesn’t make any difference to you, please consider giving Bandcamp a try!
I’m in the middle of unpacking from my recent move, and I’m pretty sure I developed a hernia in the process, so I’m going to have to keep this brief so I can get back to dealing with all of that. I just want to drop some quick updates to let y’all know that I have released the first single, “Repress For Success”, featuring Megurine Luka & Dex, from my upcoming album, OMNIVERSE. You can check out my hand lettered lyric video now!
I wrote this track shortly after graduating with a B.S. in business administration, and feeling very lost. Despite having done well and accomplishing a lot, I felt like I really hadn’t learned what I set out to learn, and it definitely had nothing to do with who I am as a person, or my long-term goals. I was also struggling a lot with some very deep identity issues. I felt like I was presenting a different face to the world than the person I actually am inside. I still feel that way sometimes, and I think maybe that’s just something people feel from time to time, and I hope this song captures it well.
I feel like Luka lives in two worlds, being a primarily Japanese VOCALOID who also must sing in English when needed. She is probably embraced more by the English VOCALOID producers than most other Japanese VOCALOIDs, and so it seemed quite appropriate to me that she sing this song.
I’d like to give a quick shout out to all of the people who helped make this (and the soon-to-be-released album) happen: Space Robinhood for his awesome art, The Human @ Human Studios in Portland, Oregon, for his outstanding production work, support from Nathan Miller, Andrew & Michelle Haws, Stephen & Elizabeth Pate, my mom & brother, the folks on various Vocaloid groups and the Vocaloid Amino, and my local support team, Ann & her parents. Oh, and also Kirby, without whom I would still be able to find socks.
Not a lot of time to write this up because we are in the middle of painting the studio in preparation for moving stuff in, which is slated to happen at the end of the month:
But in the meantime, I am nearly done composing my next album, tentatively titled ‘OMNIVERSE’. Not only that, we have pretty close to finished tracks (mostly waiting on final tuned vocal tracks from me) on well over half of the album! The album will feature Luka, of course, as well as Avanna and Dex from Zero-G. At this point I am shooting for a roughly late June or early July release, which seems totally doable unless ‘life’ happens, heh…
Here is some awesome cover art by Space Robinhood, which I commissioned. He is also working on art for several single releases, so everything is on track (ha!) for releasing when the music is finished.
So, some updates regarding my previous post: I am no longer streaming Final Fantasy. It was a fun test, but ultimately off brand. A lot of my Vocaloid community colleagues have indicated that they would love to see streams of me tuning the Vocaloids, so if I can figure out an effective way to set that up I will!
I may also give up on Trello for organizing albums. I’m not 100% sure what I will ultimately use to manage my music projects and share that process, but Trello isn’t cutting it for me, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve taken to using a physical white board and/or scraps of paper again instead. I will find a shareable digital solution eventually, but Trello doesn’t seem to be it.
That’s all the updates for now. Should be able to do more updates more regularly once moving is complete and the new studio is set up properly. In the meantime, rest assured that I am constantly working on stuff, I just don’t always have time to post about it 🤓
UPDATE: I am no longer streaming Final Fantasy on Twitch, nor am I actively using Trello for music organization. Check out my newer post for details!
As many are aware, I am an avid player of Final Fantasy XIV online. I have been experimenting with streaming on Twitch, both FFXIV and emulations of earlier Final Fantasy games. I have put together a schedule I will follow so you can watch. Below is a calendar of my intended streaming to which you can subscribe. For the moment it’s just a repeating schedule of nights I know I will be able to play and stream. I will likely revise this a lot based on scheduling changes and interest, but this should be consistent for a little while, and I’ll try not to change things that are less than a week away.
By the way, I don’t stream voice through the PS4, so if you want to chat during the stream, I have a personal Discord server set up. Higher level permissions for the Discord will eventually be a perk for my patrons on Patreon, but I am happy to invite you in to chat. Comment below or get in touch with me in whatever way is convenient and I can link you in.
I also have a calendar related to specific music related scheduling, and I am now making it public. For the moment, most of what is on it is my mix sessions, but I will start adding more details and expected release dates over the next few weeks as I more firmly establish my new schedule. This is primarily intended, along with my a Trello board, to allow me to remain organized and transparent with my process so that my patrons on Patreon can see what I’m working on and what they can expect from me.
So this is one more step toward getting Patreon launched. I am struggling a bit with the intro video (mostly technical issues related to the room in which I am trying to record audio), but I should get that sorted out soon and then y’all can sign up and we can have an amazing musical journey together! Enjoy the Twitch streaming, and I’ll have new music available ASAP.
P.S. I’m totally new to most of these things so if there are more relevant tools I should be using to share this kind of info, let me know and I’ll look into it!
You may be wondering what happened to me. It’s been months since I last posted. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing:
Moving back to the Oregon Coast.
Replacing my nearly dead computer system with a new one.
Working on an album. And a bunch of singles (lots more on that to come…)
Preparing to launch a Patreon page.
Learning Adobe After Effects and developing a new visualizer style for my videos.
Learning to tune two new VOCALOIDs (Avanna & Dex from Zero-G).
Playing my TTRPGs as schedules have allowed (more on that to come as well…)
Playing Final Fantasy XIV (yes, I still do that…)
Experimenting with streaming FF XIV on Twitch (that part is relatively new…)
Learning to make a cheesesteak (this town doesn’t have a proper cheesesteak shop).
Training Kirby to shake hands.
Oh, and finally got a proper domain name for this site, so update your links!
Probably other stuff.
But really, the move and the computer system revamp is what really threw me off. I’m just not in the habit of posting stuff when I don’t have music to release, and those events threw my schedule way off, so I’m just now really starting to get my feet back under me. And on that note, I should mention…
I’m not actually done moving yet! I am here, but a lot of my stuff is still back in Washington, so I may have to “go dark” at least once more this year, depending on how things go. Plans are up in the air right now.
I am ramping up to be much more efficient. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months.
You can actually watch my progress on my upcoming album and single projects here on Trello. Hopefully it’s pretty self explanatory, but I may do a walk-through video at some point soon to show people how I will be staying organized (and transparent) going forward.
Oh yeah, and this is Kirby….
Okay, so there’s a quick update. Enjoy the revamped website, let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see on here, anything broken that needs fixing, etc. I will be starting to push out releases, my Patreon, more YouTube content, etc., in the coming months as life allows. Things should be more or less stable again well before the end of the year, so bear with me in the meantime.
It’s here! My holiday EP, the first project I’ve created using the Megurine Luka vocal synth plugin by Crypton Future Media, Inc. I’m not going to say a lot about it right now. Instead, I invite you to give it a listen and let me know what you think! I will likely give a bit more behind-the-scenes depending on feedback over the next couple of months. Would you like to know how I tune the vocal synth plug-in? What kinds of synths were used? How I came to certain arrangements? Let me know what you’d like to hear more about and I’ll put together some blog posts and/or videos to cover the topics you want to know! And without further ado, here’s the EP via Bandcamp*!
*The tracks have been submitted for release on other streaming and download services, and will be available over the next week or two. I will provide links to the most popular services as they become available to me.
So this is just another quick update, really. I spent a little bit of time updating the rest of this site, so the RePulse track pages are more up to date. I may still add more to them but I think they’re pretty consistent now and it should be easy enough for y’all to find tracks if you want to stream or purchase them. I’ve added pages for my upcoming holiday EP featuring vocals by Vocaloid Megurine Luka (巡音ルカ). There isn’t really anything on them at the moment, but the placeholders are there, so as I start rolling out tracks and/or promos, info, etc., they will have a home.
Quick Shameless Plug
At least for the foreseeable future, my plan is to keep certain ‘add-ons’ exclusive to Bandcamp. If you want the full RePulse experience, including full resolution download options (like FLAC or ALAC), the video version of the full album (including all of the YouTube promo videos plus three otherwise unreleased videos) and the 24-page uncensored digital booklet featuring art, lyrics, etc. to accompany the album, you’ll need to purchase it from Bandcamp. Furthermore, there is a second version of the album ‘RePulse: Stripped‘ which features the tracks without samples (i.e. instrumental versions), and it comes with a 36-page exclusive ‘archive’ digital booklet with even more uncensored art and design work, behind the scenes notes and unused materials, etc., for the true die hard fans. You know who you are.
So, About Luka
I’m a little over halfway done crafting tracks for the upcoming holiday EP featuring Luka, and I am so happy with her performance so far. She has managed to learn the original Ukrainian words to a popular Christmas song, the original French version of O Holy Night, “Cantique de Noël”, and several fairly complex jazz-style vocal arrangements, without blinking an eye. She has a huge range, never misses a beat, never sings off pitch, and is perfectly content to spend hours experimenting with weird ideas for harmonies and styles. Of course, she also never really has any ideas of her own. I have to literally teach her every note, every inflection, every word in every language I want her to sing. So I guess she’s far from perfect. But does that make her less, or more human? Probably less. I’m going to go with less. Anyway, I love her. Not in a creepy ‘gotta buy a body pillow of her and cuddle with it at night’ sort of way (glares at friends who have suggested such things…) but in the same way I love my Moog synthesizer and my Mac Pro*. They are amazing tools that let me express myself musically in ways I never thought I could. Luka may be the best of them yet, and she is just the start. I will definitely be delving deeper into this, possibly moving on to Cyber Diva and/or Cyber Songman next, since they are apparently based on American voices and therefore perform with less of an accent. (Secretly I kinda like Luka’s accent though, it makes her feel more like she has a real personality than if she had, for example, a broadcaster-style American accent.)
So that’s it for now. I’m going to be super busy the next couple of weeks but then hopefully I’ll get back to updating things more regularly. Let me know what you think about Luka and the upcoming Holiday EP project, check out RePulse because it’s amazing, and generally keep in touch because I like hearing from y’all!
*Okay, fine… I ‘might’ have occasionally thought about cuddling with my Moog and my Mac Pro…
Life got busy. Most of what has been keeping me busy has been very positive. I’m getting ready for another long visit to the Oregon Coast, and I’ve re-joined my raid team on Final Fantasy XIV after taking a long hiatus (mostly due to the fact that I didn’t like the raids in Heavensward, though that’s really a subject for my gaming blog…) The latter has lead to a few hours of extra work in game ‘gearing up’, studying a few raid videos, etc., while the former is really what this quick update is all about.
Normally, when someone drops a new album, like I just did with RePulse, they would promote like crazy. I’ve done some advertising, dropping links on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s been pretty limited. A lack of marketing budget means that all promotion has to be clever and/or time consuming. Since I am not particularly clever, that time factor is huge. Every piece of content I write to promote the album is time I’m not spending working on the next album, which really bring us directly to the point: Much as I love RePulse, and hope it finds its way to as big an audience as possible, I am taking the next few weeks before my next trip to get as much work done on the next project as I possibly can. I will be bringing all of my tools with me this time (my full computer, speakers, analog synth, etc.) so that I will be able to work as efficiently there as I do here, but I also know there will be downtime. Gear has to be set up and tested. Travel will happen. Gremlins will eat the most important cables. Because life. Also, my work with mixing/mastering maestro The Human is likely to be more efficient in person, so I’m hoping to cram as much of that in as possible before I go. Finally, there is a sort of ‘seasonal deadline’ for the next project anyway. Even if things hadn’t gotten busy for me, I might still feel the need to cram for this next project because it’s, shall we say, a time specific release.
So, if you haven’t listened to RePulse yet, go check it out! It’s in all the usual places: iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Groove, and my personal favorite: Bandcamp (where you can get exclusive extras like a 24-page digital booklet and a link to an album-length video for a complete audi0-visual experience!) If you love it, go ahead and share it with.. y’know… everyone! Y’all are basically my promotion team at this point. Nothing I say about it will mean half as much to your friends as what you say, so I greatly appreciate any and all efforts you guys can make!
And then stay tuned, because the next project is going to be (cue the ‘dad pun’ voice…) very merry!
This is a fairly long post, with a lot of personal history about my relationship with music and technology. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I do, but if you’d rather just skip down to the bottom, there are some great examples of what this whole Vocaloid thing is all about under the “Vocaloid: Examples” header. Either way, enjoy!
New Musical Frontiers
Much of my favorite music is the result of composers and artists experimenting with new technology. Apparently Beethoven pushed the limits of the pianos of the time when he composed his 14th sonata, the “Moonlight”, using the full keyboard and taking advantage of the variety of sounds that were inherent in its construction. Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita pushed the limits of the Moog Synthesizer and the recording technology of the time to create otherworldly versions of classical pieces, with Carlos in particular working directly with Bob Moog to develop new modules and controllers to allow for more stable and interesting sounds and better musical expression. Brian Wilson was reputedly so far ahead of his time attempting to construct complex, layered, multipart music that his 1967 SMiLE record couldn’t be properly finished until digital technology allowed Mark Linett to piece it together for a 2011 release. Although some of the details of these examples may be debatable, and this is hardly a scholarly exploration, these are just a few pieces off the top of my head that I have obsessed over at various times in my life. All represent artists pushing the envelope and exploring new technological frontiers.
And that is exactly the kind of artist I’ve always wanted to be. I want to push myself and the tools I use to create music. When I first started writing songs, I wanted to explore genres and try writing in different styles. This lead me to move from writing on guitar to using notation software to compose MIDI arrangements. Once I had pushed the limits of the built in samples, I started experimenting with creating my own samples, and then started using synthesizers. Later, as I discovered alternate tunings, I began experimenting with them in Logic, composing music that relied on tunings based in non-western music in order to sound right. For the Pulse Depravity project, I went out of my way to write in every western ‘mode’ and in less common time signatures with odd numbers of beats per measure.
Vocaloid: My Next Frontier
I now feel that the next step for me is Vocaloid. The Vocaloid software is a plugin platform that allows a composer to use one or more voice banks to create virtual singers for their music. Each voice bank is associated with a specific character, with the most famous being Hatsune Miku, primarily due to her popularity in Japan. It probably seems like I’ve gone full ‘weeaboo‘ at this point, and I don’t really know enough about it to argue one way or the other. The fact is, I was watching an interview with Isao Tomita, and he mentioned Miku as being a musical frontier that was impressive to him. That got my attention. I had been looking into vocal synthesis for a while, especially some German software reportedly used by Kraftwerk, but it was nearly impossible to get in the United States, and it honestly didn’t sound that great (enunciation is very tricky for pure synthesizer). Within a few minutes of hearing of Miku, a quick YouTube search revealed tons of amazing vocal synth parts (and a lot of terrible ones, but that’s another story). I actually became interested more in anime, J-pop, and Japanese culture in general because of Miku, for whatever that’s worth. But, alas, my interest in Miku has waned slightly, in favor of another character…
I will be using Megurine Luka, because her voice is a bit less ‘cute anime style’ and a bit more ‘adult woman’ sounding. When ‘tuned’ properly, such that her voice is used well, and the enunciation is fairly accurate, Luka’s vocals can be as beautiful as those sung by the greatest pop stars I’ve ever heard. At times, she even sounds ‘human’ (though I have discovered that, as with pop vocals tweaked and ‘effected’ in the studio, ‘human’ isn’t always the most desirable sound). I am very excited to start working with the software and have Luka sing some of my music.
There are many examples of great Luka vocals, but a lot of the best ones are in Japanese (most of the best composers of Vocaloid music are Japanese, and her primary voice banks, like those of Miku and the other Vocaloids, are in the Japanese language). Here is an English version of one of her most popular songs, as performed at a Miku Expo in New York City in 2014:
This is a fairly well tuned R&B style version of “Fly Me to the Moon” (a classic hit for Frank Sinatra, among others), and it really showcases how flexible her voice can be when compared to the other examples here:
But I think finding this track really sold me on Luka. The content is seriously ‘messed up’ in the same way some of my music and lyrics get (like… WTF?) It has a little bit of a classic Depeche Mode feel in the synth work, and the vocals make great use of effects to sell it as a cohesive piece, while still allowing the samples to sound properly enunciated:
My Big Plan… sorta…
In order to purchase the software, I decided to take advantage of my impending birthday to crowd fund both that and a solid-state drive upgrade for my computer. At this point it’s about 2/3rds funded, and I’m still holding out hope that it will eventually get in front of enough eyeballs to finish funding. But I couldn’t wait. Amazon was down to the last copy, and, as a Japanese import, it’s hard to say for sure if they will get new copies, when it will happen, and what the price will be. So fingers crossed for the SSD to finish funding. If you can help contribute or share, I will greatly appreciate it. Either way, new music featuring Luka will be coming as soon as I overcome the reputedly steep learning curve. As Yoshi-P* would say, ‘please look forward to it’.
*Producer and Director of Final Fantasy XIV, my obsession with which might actually be a reason why I can’t argue with anyone who calls me a weeaboo, heh….
Tomorrow (today by the time this releases) we will have a memorial service for my dad. My mom asked my brother and me to put together a compilation of music that my dad liked for after the service. Going through my collection, I realized how much of my musical taste and influences are a direct result of the music I grew up with. Even in cases where I discovered something later in life and shared it with my dad, our tastes were so similar in some areas that it was easy to predict what he would like. Here are most of the songs I chose (some aren’t available to share) and some brief context for each one:
My dad was a fan of big band swing music, especially Benny Goodman. Not sure if Benny Goodman was my dad’s inspiration for learning to play the clarinet, or if he liked Benny Goodman because he happened to also play the clarinet, but there was definitely some sort of connection there.
Dave Brubeck popularized odd time signatures in jazz and is a huge inspiration to me in terms of my rhythm choices in Pulse Depravity and other projects. A lot of my respect for and enjoyment of such ‘theory based’ musical choices comes from my dad’s near constant analysis of Brubeck and other more experimental artists.
My dad was a fan of Oscar Peterson, but had apparently never heard of The Singers Unlimited. When I discovered this album and played some for him he was really impressed (and who wouldn’t be!) This piece in particular was a stand out favorite for both of us.
I am a huge Beach Boys fanatic, and I would play their hits and the ‘weird stuff’ in more or less equal proportions as I discovered them in high school. My dad liked a lot of it, being a vocalist and vocal enthusiast himself, but he always said this was his favorite by far, I think because of the chord structure.
My dad had this on vinyl and I listened to it dozens of times growing up. To this day, for me, this and Wendy Carlos’ “Switched-On Brandenburgs” (also one of my dad’s records) are the quintessential Brandenburg recordings for me.
Simon and Garfunkel were among my dad’s favorite musical duos, and even though I don’t remember hearing this song much, something about the choir-like nature of it makes me think of my dad more than a lot of what we actually did listen to. Sort of a weird thing, but it makes sense in my head.
My dad loved the technical side of music, and did a lot of live recording as a side business throughout his life. He would often talk about the technical achievements of Les Paul and how much he loved these recordings.
Shortly before my dad passed away we watched a live performance of Fleet Foxes and he was really impressed, but he never got much out of the studio recordings they made. He talked about singing a variation of the Pentatonix version of this song in choir, however, and seemed like he was really impressed with them as an a cappella group. So to me this sorta represents my dad and I enjoying some newer acts together in different ways.
When I was little I would play this album constantly. I called it “The Rain Record” because of the rain sounds on the second side. My dad loved the way the sounds were used in the stereo field, and would always say that if you want to test your stereo setup you should put on Soolaimon.
Finding great clarinet music can be a challenge. A lot of composers seemed to avoid it as a lead instrument. I recall my dad saying he really loved this particular one by Mozart.
This reminds me of some of the smaller a cappella groups I heard my dad sing with. He did a lot of choir music, but it’s the smaller groups that I always preferred.
My dad loved the things Paul Simon did with lyrics, and he always got a little grin on his face during the opening line of this song. Maybe not the cleverest lyric Simon ever wrote, but the impact was palpable, and apparently resulted in the song being edited or not played in some regions, so the fact that my dad seemed to get a kick out of it amuses my dark sense of humor.
Another Benny Goodman tune because I know it was among his favorites.
Since I don’t listen to a lot of choir music, preferring small groups with tight harmonies, this is about as close as I get to appreciating the types of harmonies my dad usually sang. I don’t know if this is something a full choir could easily sing, as TSU are known for featuring incredibly difficult arrangements, but this sounds similar to the kinds of harmonies I would hear in the choirs my dad sang in as I was growing up and it reminds me of that.
How could this not be one of my dad’s favorite pieces of orchestral music. Not only is it Gershwin, who my dad loved, it featured the most famous clarinet solo of all time. As an added bonus, my dad was a huge Bernstein fan, so this recording is like a trifecta of dadliness. (Dibs on the band name “Trifecta of Dadliness”.)
My family listened to a lot of 70’s pop while I was growing up, as is to be expected, and I heard the big hits like “Windy” and “Cherish”, but this was a song I remember discovering as a teenager, and when I talked to my dad about it he said it was one of his favorites as well. The vocal arrangement changes a lot throughout the song and features some really big, emotional swells and other not-very-poppy stuff.
As a sort of combination of a cappella and sudo-bebop this recording is another that feels like it strikes multiple chords for me with regard to my dad. He and I listened to this album a few times after it was introduced to me by a professor when I took a jazz appreciation class in college. We both really enjoyed the way the voices seem to emulate instruments in a way that is rarely used outside of scat singing.
Peter, Paul and Mary were among several folk groups my dad listened to, and they were a big influence on my early songwriting and performances. This song pokes fun at rock and roll in a very loving way and reminds me of my dad’s playful sense of humor.
Not sure how much my dad liked the Four Freshmen, to be honest. I started listening to them because of their influence on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and I played them a bit with my dad around, but I didn’t really get strongly into them until I’d moved away, so we never really discussed it. I’m pretty sure he liked or would have liked them, however, because they really fit everything he loved about music; big band arrangements, tight vocal harmonies, and classic well-written songs. For some reason, the almost palpable sarcasm in this song seems like it would be right up his alley.