Archive for the ‘audio’ Category

American Idol and the Birth of Hip Hop

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

A track I wrote called “Birth of Hip Hop” available on Firstcom’s Darkfly series (Universal Publishing Production Music) was used on American Idol Season 13 as background in a segment where the contestants are goofing on each other. The track has the spirit of early 80’s hip hop in its blending of 60’s and 70’s disco/funk/soul samples.

The production of hip hop of that time was interesting because a track could have samples from multiple records made in different studios with different producers using different equipment to create an interesting blend of sounds (and music production technique history!) in one track. Artits like Public Enemy took this to the extreme by mashing/layering together tons of samples to create one production “sound”.

“Birth of Hip Hop” mixes imaginary samples created using different “aging” techniques such as tape emulation/compression, tube saturation, vinyl crackle noise, and eq filtering to simulate the sonics that an early 80’s hip hop track might have had.

The drums and bass guitar are produced as if they might be a drum break from a 70’s record with typical tape saturation and no reverb or ambience. The piano hook is filtered and distorted along with vinyl crackle to emulate a 60’s Motown sample. The guitar riffs could also have been from the 60’s, maybe from a garage rock (or “freakbeat” as they might call it in England) record. The horns stabs could have been from an early 80’s disco record. All of this combines to create a lighthearted blend of samples and sonic colors.


“Birth of Hip Hop”:


Rebuilding The World Trade Center

Friday, July 18th, 2014

I was fortunate to have three tracks included in an incredible documentary film by Marcus Robinson called Rebuilding The World Trade Center. The film features amazing time-lapse footage of the construction process as well as drawings and paintings by the filmmaker created onsite. It’s truly a work of art and I am honored to have a small part in it. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 in September of 2013 and an eighty-eight minute version of the film will be broadcast September 2014 on the History Channel.

The first clip uses “Recurrent Act 3” from the Evil Designs release published by Immediate Music:


The second clip uses “Nihilist Tendencies” and “Cavernous Black” from Firstcom’s Darkfly published by Universal Music:


Beyond Ipanema becomes a series on Canal Brasil. “Percolating Bossa” used as the show theme.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Beyond Ipanema, the feature length documentary about Brazilian music that I contributed music to has been made into a 13-episode series that had its debut January 2013 on Canal Brasil. My tracks from the documentary were used in the new series and I have the honor of “Percolating Bossa” being used as the show theme.  

“Percolating Bossa” features a nylon string guitar hook that is transformed with modulated cutoff filters to create a playful electronic vibe on top of traditional samba percussion stylings. The second half introduces a flute/piano melody that takes the piece to the end:



Collaborating with Eddie Tadross Part 2

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Eddie and I finally finished writing and producing “As Long” as part of our three track project. The track ended up dark and moody in a cool cinematic way. We had an imaginary scene in mind while producing the track: a guy walking down a road while far behind him a city lay in ruins. Maybe a zombie apocalypse kind of thing. I’ve been seeing a lot of this kind of imagery in sci-fi/thriller/horror movie posters in the subway, specially ones using iconic New York City sites. I recently saw one showing a fallen Manhattan Bridge sitting on the bottom of a dried up East River. These ideas played into the feeling for this track.

The vocal production in “As Long” is interesting because the reverb and echo levels are constantly changing, almost word by word, for emphasis or embellishment. It’s something that you hear a lot these days in pop production, although in less extreme fashion. I also implemented a technique of using the main vocal to duck out the effects so that when the vocal is happening the effects are quiet but as soon as the vocal stops the effects jump to the foreground. This keeps the intelligibility of the words intact while filling the space between the vocal phrases with a deep ambience.

The track also has an interesting arrangement feature. The second chorus starts out with just vocals and mallets and then it slowly builds back up part by part with the guitar and bass being filtered in DJ mixer style.

“As Long”:



After re-listening to the three tracks I decided that maybe
“I Never Knew” was a little too clunky and too repetitive rhythmically and harmonically. We wrestled again with the issue of how minimal can a track be while still having enough material to carry the listener thru the end. Having listened to it so many times we were running the risk of having lost creative perspective. So we really considered the track carefully before deciding that it did make sense to revisit it.

I improvised some new chords on guitar over the verse and came up with better chord changes. Only some minor vocal melody tweaks were needed to fit the new chords. I also added electric bass guitar which rounded out the track sonically and allowed me to implement some more chord movement which was missing from the original choruses. Now in hindsight I see that the choruses were always a bit too long to stay in one place harmonically.

The last thing I added was reversed harmonic guitar notes on top of the mallets. The motivation being to make the mallets different from the ones in “As Long”.

Here’s the new version of “I Never Knew”:



Here’s the previous version:



Studio 54 minus the velvet rope: Sampling a faux 70’s disco recording.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Producing music based on pre-existing recordings can be inspiring and great fun. But it can also be legally complicated and expensive (look up the legal troubles of the Beastie Boys, Biz Markie, Negativland, MC Hammer, Notorious B.I.G., and The Verve to name a few). In order to sidestep the legal issues of sampling, one can produce homegrown faux recordings of songs/bands that never existed and use them as “samples” for producing new tracks.

On a collaboration with singer/recording artist Javier Bernard, a fictitious disco record was created to sample for the track “Situation”. It wasn’t necessary to create an entire track to sample, just a main section with some variations and instrumental breakouts. The main section contained string, guitar, and bass parts. Drums were not included in the fictitious sample so they wouldn’t conflict with the new track’s drums parts. This underscores a benefit of this technique: you can really control the material to fit what you are working on.

After the section was composed/programmed authentic EQ, compression, and effects were employed to achieve the correct sonic vibe. Check out the audio of the main “sampled” section and variations. Then hear how it was used in “Situation”.

the fake disco recordings:


as used in “Situation”: