These Ideas Are Free

So take as you please.


… a poor conductor often does not know what to do after the third rehearsal, he has nothing more to say, he is more easily satisfied, because he does not have the capacity for further discrimination, and because nothing in him imposes higher requirements. And this is the cause: the productive man conceives within himself a complete image of what he wishes to reproduce; the performance, like every else he brings forth, must not be less perfect than the image. Such re-creation is only slightly different from creation; virtually, only the approach is different.

Schoenberg discusses Mahler’s brilliance as a conductor. (Sourced from The Composer as Listener, edited by Irving Kolodin, but also available in Style and Idea: Selected Writings)

Recursive Dream Environment

A system that allows different game worlds to be stitched together, procedurally. It would essentially be open-source, meaning that anyone could commit a game, which once past a simple moderation process would be added to the pool of worlds. A game engine like Unity would be used, streaming in a couple of worlds at a time and then storing them in a buffer. I don’t know if this is technically feasible at this point. Probably not. Regardless…

The players experience would be of exploring an unfolding, unending set of abstract landscapes, each linked to the next, a fractal dream narrative.

Each submitted world allows for its own physics and mechanics, the only stipulation being that there are portals. These act at gateways into other environments. These would include obvious features such as doors, where upon stepping through the door you enter into another world. They are one way, so turning back in an attempt to re-enter the previous world has no effect. All worlds would need an entry point in the sky somewhere and if needs be, exit points at the bottom of the map. This would allow for some pretty interesting scenarios, for example, you fall out of a floating castle and after falling for some amount of time see the ground rushing up at you. However, this is a new world, with a new creator and new rules. The engine has seamlessly transferred you during the fall from one environment to the next.

I would be compelled to have a set of standards so far as shaders and audio are concerned. Whether you could even combine different shaders in this fashion, I don’t know, I’m not a code guy (can you tell?). Having a standard audio framework would give a consistency to the experience that would bind the worlds together a little better. There should still be scope within this for different environmental sounds, but avatar sounds should be the same throughout.

Here’s a couple of nice Unity games that I’ve played recently and influenced my idea (alongside the work of Escher, Dali, Bosch, at al):

IRC Tea Maid

So, after making more than my share of tea-rounds at work (I’m an addict) I decided to task one of our interns with making an IRC bot to determine who’s round it is. I just thought I’d share the instructions I gave him:

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make an IRC bot to help distribute the tea rounds evenly. The rules for the bot are as follows:

1) Someone types the text *I NEED TEA!* or *I NEED COFFEE!*.
2) This starts an invisible timer going.
3) Other people then have 30 seconds to type *I NEED TEA!* or *I NEED COFFEE!*.
4) At the end of the 30 seconds a list of who wants what is compiled and the bot then types it out. It also randomly picks someone from the list to make the round. For example:

Humans! Time is up! Dave, Valentin and Tom want tea. Nick wants a coffee. The round is to be made by….

5) If only a total of 2 people (including the tea-round instigator) are in then the rules are such that the instigator has to make the round for himself and the other person. Only if it’s 3 or more people is a random tea-round-maker generated. Bot text readout example:

Humans! Time is up! Only Dave and Nick wanted drinks, but because Nick instigated the round it is HIM who must make it.

Other things to look out for:

  • make sure it only parses the correct text, but don’t worry about case-sensitivity.
  • give it a name and a personality. Colin or Edith or something.
  • perhaps thinking about adding a high-score system so if someone types a command like “Edith, what are the scores?”. It then lists how many tea-rounds everyone has made in descending. Again, make it funny and feel free to add text to this process.

Game Design Cards

I’m currently enjoying Jesse Schell’s excellent ‘The Art of Game Design’. A brilliant book that covers a huge range of topics. However, one of the most interesting additions to the 400+ pages of text is a set of one-hundred cards that Schell calls ‘lenses’. These offer a number of considerations pertaining to the various aspects of the games conception. Everything from handling client expectations, to pacing and aesthetic coherence. All in all, they seem like a practical and invigorating set of tools to ensure your game stays on track.

Which leads me onto the thought of designing a similar set of cards for music production. The cards could be split into groups for composition, arrangement, mixing, album sequencing, pacing etc.

Guess I better get on it then aye… more to follow… at some point.

There is a free app for the Game Design Cards available for iPhone and Android. Available here: 

A well-balanced melody progresses in waves, i.e. each elevation is countered by a depression. It approaches a high point or climax through a series of intermediate lesser high points, interrupted by recessions. Upward movements are balanced by downward movements; large intervals are compensated for by conjunct movement in the opposite direction. A good melody generally remains within a reasonable compass, not straying too far from a central range.

Arnold Scheonberg - Fundamentals of Music Composition

Sound Painting Notation

After watching an MIT lecture on sound painting by Walter Thompson I have begun working on a iconographic notation system to implement in Reaper (or other tools). Hopefully this should act as a way to sketch out forms and structures in a slightly more creative manner than simply writing notes (non-musical) on tracks. Perhaps the art of trying to interpret these symbolic instructions within the wider remit of aesthetic and meaning will prove a fun incentive during the composition process.

I’ll add more posts as I work on this. Currently I’m just filling pages of a notebook with sketches and attempts to dig into the syntax of the existing sound painting system (being as it is geared towards live performance and conducting ensembles).

Course, I’d probably be better off just finishing some damn tunes… 

Tool Hire

Upon borrowing a friends drill yesterday it struck me (us, as he has credit in this too) that there should be a system for letting and hiring domestic tools between individuals.

Most DIY tools spend 99% of their lives unused. Bought to put together a bed and knock up a couple of shelves. Beyond that initial burst they sit in cupboards and sheds. A massive waste of resources considering their financial and material cost. I’m reluctant to purchase the tools I sometimes need for this very reason - I cannot entirely justify the expense and subsequent hassle of finding storage.

However, if there was a website/app where individuals could list their inventory of tools and the price at which they would lend them out then I would definitely find myself using that. For instance, if I knew I could get a staple gun for £3 per day with a £20 deposit from the guy who lives four doors down the road, why would I go to the effort of a trip into town to spend £30 on a staple gun I’d use once?

Multi-device Multi-player Squad RPG

Just a quick post as I’m currently on lunch.

Someone needs to make a squad-based puzzle/shooter RPG that allows co-op play using multiple devices. Something along the lines of Hired Guns or Space Hulk on the Amiga. A mixture of exploration, shooting and puzzle solving where having multiple players is a necessity (depending on the game-mode/level). Also, you should be able to assign free devices to additional roles as game aids. For instance, if you had a spare laptop, iPad or smart phone then it could be as an auto-map tool, showing player positions and mapping the environment as they move through it. There should be an emphasis on working together, sharing resources and being cautious.

A level-editor would allow for people to design their own maps and puzzles and possibly string them together into campaigns, with text-written narrative in-between levels.

Someone go and make it happen please.

The Litany Of Looping

Recently a good friend was asking me how to stop Reaper from scrolling the screen to the start of the timeline when you hit the rewind-to-start button. I assumed that the normal method of setting the view to not follow the play-position or cursor should do the trick, but it seemed not to be the case. It was a strange request anyhow, I mean how often do you actually rewind to the start of a project? Often enough for this to be a problem? I doubt it. If you’re anything like me then you’ll constantly find yourself working within the boundaries of your loop/cycle, listening to the same 4/8/16 bar passage over and over again.

Turns out the reason he wanted to be able to do this was to use the sequencer more like a tape machine. He’s denounced grid lines and tempo and although he’s using electronic instruments (including a Cwejman S1 - yum), he wants to keep everything loose and musical.

Now I’m not quite ready to get rid of grid-lines just yet and I’d enter a tempo map after a live take if I wanted that loose feel. However, losing the loop record/playback does sound like an escape. There are many pitfalls of working this way - off the top of my head:

  • Burnout. Listening to the same short sequence over and over is a sure way to lose interest in your track.
  • Gridding. That’s a word I just made-up, but what I’m getting at is that music shouldn’t fall into such chunks whereby everything is nicely wrapped up at the end of every four bars. Acid house, which you might (wrongly) consider monotonous, uses plenty of live filter tweaking to overcome the limitations of the sequencers used to write it.
  • Short phrasing and motifs. The inclination when working like this is to neglect the possibility of writing longer melodic or rhythmic passages.
  • Loss of energy. I struggle horribly at converting what is a really strong eight bar section into something that works as a longer track. This is actually (for me at least) an incredibly difficult art and it just feels wrong. To me it seems that the act of constructing and arranging a track should be additive rather than subtractive. I think I should try to incorporate ideas and sounds as needed rather than starting at the singularity and working backwards, muting parts to try to create form. The more I’ve struggled with this over the past few years the more I think that there’s a book waiting to be written (contact me if you know of any good sources on this)

So from now on I’m going to do as my friend suggests and try to work without loop points. At all. Reaper has a great marker system that should be enough, allowing me to drop into any bar or section on the beat by using keyboard shortcuts. We’ll see how it goes…