Sunday, June 16, 2019


Saturday afternoon is the domain of the Flaneur.

I was sitting down at a pavement table drinking coffee and it was raining. The rain had mostly emptied the street of people and only the puddles and passing cars dared venture under the grey clouds. I, from my canopied vantage point, stared at the ripples in the shallow puddles with my thoughts heading elsewhere when it dawned on me that I was watching a show of random.
No two seconds or portions of a second were the same in the puddles. Drops hitting different places, ripples growing outward and colliding, the amount of drops. Everything was different from millisecond to millisecond. None of it  predictable and nothing had any relation to what had gone before. I was seeing something for the first time that was never going to be repeated.

Although it's obvious once one realises what one is looking at, the act of a rain shower into a puddle is a completely unique experience. Something simple and beautiful and so often overlooked. Rain is often seen as a bad thing. A type of weather event that spoils a day out or a barbecue with family and friends. In large doses it can of course change lives in a devastating way. We build structures to take ourselves away from it and our vehicles offer similar protection. As humans we are programmed to avoid getting wet during a shower. Waterproof clothing and umbrellas remind us that we can cheat a good soaking and yet as the creature we are, we are perfectly waterproof in our own skin. We walk briskly to avoid as much rain dropping on to us as possible. Not many hang around in the rain.
Maybe it's time we did.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Detail. More Detail

When I want something to be as good as it can be I really obsess about the detail.
To me, detail is where the control is. The more I know about something the more control I can have over it and therefore I know the end result is as good as it can be. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. To me it's very satisfying.
I have 2 projects on the go at the moment which I intend to give a lot of attention to. The first is a manual for a future generation. I want to give people a head start in pencil and paper cryptography. Nothing too challenging but enough to get a message to someone without the use of a computer. With current developments in government invasions of privacy it's looking like there will be a point in the not too distant future when all electronic communications, including end-to-end encrypted messages, will be seen as fair game for any agency and for any reason. There are ways around this, most of them old fashioned and time tested. Sometimes the simplest things like pencil and paper and a little ingenuity are all that is needed. My intention is to document a few of the best ideas and then make my publication accessible to anyone who may be interested.
I've chosen to write the document using LaTeX. It's a language for document preparation and has been around for ages. It can be used fairly simply but it is also complex to learn if you want to go deeper, and I do. Text books on the subject tend to read like manuals. I like manuals. The more I read the more fascinated I become with the possibilities of its options, and there are hundreds.
What's nice is that despite being an old thing it's actively developed. It's also used by countless people who want a professional document that can accurately convey things like mathematical equations.
I'm not sure how long it will take me but at least I'm enjoying the process.

My second project is a track I'm writing at the moment. It was born out of a jam with my Korg Liverpool synth last weekend. It's musically very simple but it'll be the production that makes it. I have lots of ideas for this track. As things pop into my head I add them in Bitwig Studio. The production tips and tricks I've learned over the years and stored in my head are now pouring out. I'm really enjoying the process.
I'm happy theses days to not put a time constraint on things I do. Having fun doing things and being happy with the result is all that matters. I have no interest in the number of people who may read the manual or to how many listen to my music. As usual it'll be out there, free to download and open to criticism, as has always been the case.
I've had no complaints yet.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Synth Inside

The Korg Liverpool is primarily sold as an arranger keyboard chock full of Beatles songs to play along to. It does that job very well.
But as I've explained on this blog before it's a repackaged MicroArranger and apart from missing a handful of styles it is the same machine. The missing styles can be loaded via an SD card so you're missing nothing.
The tutorials and other videos on YouTube go into some detail about arranging styles, recording songs and other keyboard features but I haven't seen any about the synth capabilities of this keyboard.
I've been promising myself a night to see what it can do and tonight was that night. What was I waiting for?
This thing is a beast! To start with it has 4 oscillators and more waveforms than I've seen on any synth. It's full of options for LFO's, tuning and envelopes. If you know your way around a synth you have as many options as you'll ever need. It's just vast!
I think I now have all the synths I'll ever need (apart from an RM1x). I'll be sampling the sounds on the Liverpool until the day I die. I think the 'arranger' packaging of this synth doesn't do the unit justice but I am glad that that was how it was sold.
I'm paying nearly as much for 20 year old sound modules.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Alan Touring

I rarely change my sleep routine.
I work at night and sleep during the day and changing that pattern is quite a lot of stress on ones body especially if the change over is only for a short period. For the first part of this bank holiday weekend I wanted to change the routine if only to enjoy some time actually doing something rather than catching up with everything else during the latter half of the day.
After finishing work on Friday morning I stayed awake and the Bear and I jumped into the car and headed to Cambridge. It's a good location for us. Not too far away and enough going on to amuse us for a few hours. I'd booked a room earlier in the week so we had a base to head out from. We were in the pub / hotel for about 12:30pm which was fine for an afternoon of exploration.
There were 2 places that I wanted to visit. Firstly was King's College which was where Alan Turing studied and then became a fellow. I took my obligatory tourist photo at the entrance to King's. I still have 3 more Alan Turing sites to visit to complete my pilgrimage. The second location was the Raspberry Pi shop in the Grand Arcade. I bought a few bits including a RPi embossed Moleskine notebook. It's satisfying to me to think that the Raspberry Pi store and Mr Turing and Cambridge are all inextricably linked.
After staying awake for a total of 31 hours I slept soundly.
This morning we stopped in St Neots on the way back home to raid the charity shops and get the morning fill of coffee. We were in and out in a couple of hours. I'd like to return one day to see what I missed.
Another stop in Market Harborough and then home for a local wonder and a spell of flaneuring on the Strip.
I'm back into my night routine but this time I only have to stay awake for 24 hours. There's still some weekend left and I intend to cram in as much as I can before my return to work on Monday evening.
I am grateful to the effects of caffeine.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Yamaha & Roland

I know, I know! I have too many sequencers already.
The Yamaha QY100 is no stranger to this blog, but the Roland PMA-5 is probably going to feature just as much from now on. So why another sequencer / sound module?
The answer is quite simple. I've had Yamaha and Korg covered so far but Roland has been missing from the setup. Not any more. The little PMA-5 has the TR-808 and TR-909 drum sounds as well as some lovely samples from the TB-303 and the SH-101. Who wouldn't want some of that? Before anyone reminds me that I can download numerous soundfonts with those samples included for free I'd like to remind you that one half of my studio is purely MIDI based. I don't know of any hardware soundfont players and I still need the sounds from the units mentioned above.
The QY100 is still probably the easiest to program along with the QY300 but while the QY300 has less distractions the QY100's distractions can be very useful at times. They both have there merits.
In the picture above I've re-voiced the QY100 with the PMA-5. It makes all the difference to have some really nice sounding 808 drums driving things along. The Roland will be used purely as a sound module.
There are a couple of other units I want before I'm done but they're a bit more expensive and so I'll have to be lucky to find a bargain. They're out there.
It's just a waiting game.