OMNIVERSE Album Drops Today!

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!

Enjoy the album, let me know what you think!

Love & Music,

-David

My Vocaloid Future

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.

Vocaloid: Examples

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….

New Release: Others 2017

Starting this week, in part because I’m still dealing with the fallout from, and emotional impact of, a recent personal tragedy, and in part because I realized it’s a better way to do things, I am releasing just the music and visualization video for the new version of “Others”, with the official video slated to come out next week. Since I release a track every two weeks, this will mean that something new is coming out every week. That’s better, right? I think it will be. Also, it means that you will get a chance to enjoy the music, and then the video will add context a week later, allowing you to delve deeper into it at that time. It should reduce confusion (mostly for me) about which video to share when and how often, since they will each effectively be their own release. That said, if you can think of a good reason for me to continue with the simultaneous releases like I did for “Because” and “Exists” please let me know!

I think this track is pretty self-explanatory, so I’m just going to link to some places you can listen and watch and leave you to it. Also, over the next week or so this track will join the others on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, and other popular download and streaming services. Enjoy ^_^

Free MP3 Download: https://theartistunion.com/tracks/224243

Buy full quality (FLAC/ALAC) download: https://davidsprinkle.bandcamp.com

Stream now:

Listen/watch the visualization:

Depravity 2017

“Depravity 2017” released today! I’m going to hold off on doing an official video until I can figure out how to better crowdsource video clips for it, but I didn’t want that to stop y’all from hearing it because it’s a fantastic track with a lot of deep, heavy thumpyness and ear-shattering FM transients.

I should mention a few things in case anyone is curious, so y’all have some idea where I’m headed with all of this:

  1. You may have noticed that I’m not releasing on iTunes, Spotify, or other popular download/streaming services, and that may seem like a big mistake. I have every intention of releasing on those platforms, but I will do so once the album is complete. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to try out Bandcamp, which I find to be an amazing service both as an artist and customer, or grab a download via The Artist Union, which brings me to my next point…
  2. Apparently The Artist Union asks for a lot of control of various accounts (Facebook, YouTube, and especially SoundCloud) depending upon the settings the artist (me) chooses. Unfortunately it is not always clear which settings require what information or agreement. I just want to get y’all signed up to follow me so you don’t miss anything I release. I’m not trying to get you to share your blood type and financial histories with a bunch of random companies. So, please let me know if you try to download a track and it wants something you find unreasonable. I will look into the settings and adjust them until it’s behaving the way that benefits the kind of musician-to-music-lover relationship we are trying to develop here.
  3. Finally, I really am intending to catch a unicorn here. I want to make music-centric art for a living, and I want to do so in as uncompromising a way as possible. To that end, I will definitely be relying on you to tell me what, if anything, I can do to create and share these projects in a way that would be valuable to you. What might make you want to pay to download, or subscribe to stream, or join a Patreon, or otherwise contribute money to keep me from ultimately starving in a gutter in pursuit of this dream?

On that happy thought, here’s a visualization video to match the one I did for “Because 2017”, as well as a bunch of ways you can stream or download the track:

YouTube

SoundCloud

Free Download (MP3) on The Artist Union: https://theartistunion.com/tracks/a1fef4

Or pay a buck (or more if you’re feeling generous) on Bandcamp for a high quality lossless download:

Because (2017 Version)

A few years ago I released an album called ‘Pulse Depravity’. It is a collection of 10 instrumental electronic works, and it was a lot of fun to make. As it turns out, I wasn’t quite finished with it. As much as I enjoyed the work I did, my production skills, gear, and a certain amount of creative roadblock led to me putting out an album that was suited, really, to pretty much just me and a few close friends and family. For people who are into words, or visuals (like a music video), or other experiences besides interesting compositions, I didn’t really deliver. The seeds were there, and in my mind all of those things existed, but I failed to really drive home the project on those levels, and that’s a real shame, because these compositions deserve a full multimedia experience. So now I’ve had several years to think about the best elements and sounds in those recordings, and the areas where things could be improved, and I am re-delivering them to you with all of the elements in place.

So I now present the first updated track, “Because (2017 Version)”. Instead of trying to do everything myself, I have left the mixing and mastering to The Human @ Human Studios in Portland, OR. He has done a fantastic job of bringing my ideas to the finest level of polish, and I’m glad to be working with him on this project.

I have also released a music video for this track (well, two, sorta). The first one is not necessarily appropriate for all audiences and venues, so some viewer discretion is advised. The second one is a visualization video which looks pretty, but doesn’t tell the whole story the way the official video does. You can find both videos embedded on my music portfolio page. Enjoy!