“Rather Be With You” featuring Samantha Kenny

“Rather Be With You” featuring Samantha Kenny

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It must have been late December or early January this year when I received a text message from Samantha Kenny, one of my former students at Guitar Center Studios (Danbury, CT), where I taught piano, guitar and bass (and got amazing discounts!) from 2012-2018. Samantha stopped taking piano lessons with me after graduating high school and becoming a student at The New School in New York City. It was great to see her again when she came to hear me perform some unusual, experimental music in Brooklyn with Audible Abstraction in September 2018.

Anyway, as I was preparing my syllabi and course content for the Spring 2019 semester at Hostos Community College (Bronx, NY), Samantha reached out to say hello and let me know she was around if I needed help with anything. Perfect timing! For my Production 1 class at Hostos I needed to record a guest soloist for a mixing project at the very beginning of the semester, so I asked Samantha if she wanted to record something in the class for the students to mix. She is not only a pianist, but also a very talented singer/songwriter with a contemporary style. For the recording, she considered playing acoustic guitar and singing, as she does on her very popular Samantha Michelle YouTube channel, but instead, she sang to a prerecorded track that I created for her. We chose the song from three YouTube videos Samantha sent me. I never heard any of them before but my Production class was familiar with all of them! The one I thought was the most manageable for me to do was “Rather Be With You” by Sinead Harnett from her 2016 EP.

I got to work by quickly transcribing all of the parts I heard on the recording by ear, and writing everything down on a couple of sheets of blank manuscript paper. There were so many parts (drums, synthesizers, sound effects, background vocals, etc.) and I knew it would take way too long to recreate it exactly, so I decided to just capture the essence of what I heard while still being somewhat detailed.

When creating the track, to be sure students would have access to the tools I did, I decided to limit myself as much as possible to using the instruments that come with Pro Tools. After creating all of my parts, everything was recorded as audio tracks for the students to mix and the Instrument and MIDI tracks were hidden. For curious students, those tracks could be unhidden and analyzed inside the session. Normally I use a lot of third party instrument software within Pro Tools (or Digital Performer, Logic Pro, etc.) and rarely use the default Pro Tools instrument plug-ins, so this was an educational experience for me too. A couple of times during the semester, I opened up the session in class and showed how I created the sounds for each part.

I used Boom for the drums (kick, snare, rim, clap and hi hat; no toms or cymbals). I needed a shaker loop but couldn’t find one that I liked for this song in Xpand!2 or anywhere else in Pro Tools, so I found one in Spectrasonics Stylus RMX. However, in Xpand!2 I found very good bongo and triangle samples. I layered two sounds together to create the wind effect, and layered three sounds together to create the organ-ish electric piano sound. Toward the end of the song, right before the last chorus, I used iZotope Vinyl on the electric piano track to do the spin down. This incredibly cool plug-in does not come with ProTools but can be downloaded for free from the iZotope website. For the main bass part, I combined two sounds in Structure Free, and for the occasional short synth bass gesture, I created a buzzy sounding patch using Vacuum.

For my version, I had three synth pads. The first was created in Xpand!2 by layering two sounds, the second was created in Xpand!2 by layering three sounds, and the third was created in Structure Free by layering three sounds. Sometimes with all of the patch combining, to help design the final sounds I also modified various parameters (filter cutoff, resonance, etc.) and effects within the instruments.

Since I wasn’t sure if Samantha would be singing any background vocals, I decided to recreate two of the many background vocal parts with synthesizer sounds. I layered two sounds together in Xpand!2 for the repeating crescendo part (“then I realized, then I realized”), and for the main “You…” chorus hook I couldn’t find what I needed in Pro Tools, so I used a “female ooh” sound from Spectrasonics Omnisphere.

The Sinead Harnett track has an extremely vibey feel and I found this challenging to recreate quickly. If I spent more time and messed around with different quantize settings and got into nuanced velocity and duration details, I may have been able to pull it off. Instead of obsessing with any of that, I just opted to record the parts as I wrote them in my transcription and use basic quantize settings to tighten up the performance. Because of this, my track sounds a bit straighter and maybe stiffer in comparison to the original.

On February 5, 2019, Samantha came to Hostos! Oje Paloma (the ultimate lab assistant!) setup a number of microphones and I discussed their differences in frequency response and other features with the class. Samantha sang into all of them for a shootout – Neumann U87, Neumann TLM103 and AKG C414 XLS – except the Bock 195, which was having issues. By vote, the class chose the AKG, so that’s what we used, with a Grace Design m501 preamp and one side of a Universal Audio 2-1176 compressor. Samantha sang a few takes of the lead vocal to my track and she did a fantastic job! She didn’t get to record a lot of background vocal parts, so it was good that I had the synthesizer vocal parts in the track. All of the students made their own mixes and we listened to them in class the following week.

I wanted to make my own mix but I was only able to work on this sporadically at home in between client sessions. To finalize the arrangement, I recorded my super talented 14 year old daughter Maya singing a bunch of the background vocal parts. She doubled the synthesizer vocal parts and also sang some (not all – so many!) of the other parts that we heard on the Sinead Harnett recording. In less than an hour Maya added a number of very substantial harmony parts (Harmony is her middle name!) that made a big difference.

I didn’t limit myself to only Pro Tools plug-ins for my mixing and mastering. I also used my usual palette of effects from Focusrite, Native Instruments and Waves.

“Rather Be With You” (featuring Samantha Kenny)

 

 

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“Secrets” by Audible Abstraction

“Secrets” by Audible Abstraction

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Secrets grew from an unfinished flute melody, a dramatic life change and an unexpected pregnancy. The drama it unfolded from informed its mysterious tone and careful use of suspense. Audible Abstraction is a new music trio that looks to redefine the chamber music experience.

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One of the first pieces Audible Abstraction played as an ensemble in our workshopping phase was “Secrets,” a stirring composition by Barry. It was clear from the beginning that it held a good story. Barry revealed all the details eventually, but as a good story-teller should, he kept us in suspense. He started with its compositional origins:

“While producing Karin Marcello’s album Vision in 2010, I offered to compose a modern piece for flute and harp. The resulting composition, ‘Tarot,’ ended up on the album. Before I pinned down my ideas for ‘Tarot’, a number of incomplete starting points emerged. One of these became ‘Secrets’ a couple of years later.
Inspired by ‘The Garden of Adonis,’ a beautiful work for flute and harp by Alan Hovhaness, I created a 3 measure modal harp ostinato featuring mostly 5-note groupings of descending pitches; this idea now repeats throughout most of ‘Secrets.’ Still, there was only an incomplete flute line accompanying the harp, and as a whole the composition needed more. While rehearsing with a local composer’s collective quartet a few years later (with a flautist, harpist and percussionist), I decided to complete the composition and added a soprano sax part and a percussion part.”

Now, this is not yet the end of the story—compositionally or narratively. I am no harpist, and even though The Queen’s Cartoonists has him play an occasional auxiliary part, Greg is no percussionist. Barry then told us the tale that narrates this composition:

“At the time of writing ‘Secrets,’ a dear friend was persistently on my mind. She was dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and consequently her decision to move back to Italy. I was one of the only people who knew and was sworn to secrecy. Through this emotional experience, an extremely dramatic composition unfolded; through-composed flute and saxophone lines flow with and against the repetitive harp ostinato. Unfortunately, the original quartet never performed and eventually stopped meeting. However, several more years later, when Nicole Brancato asked me to join her new trio, I decided to resurrect ‘Secrets’ and orchestrate it for this project. The part for harp easily transitioned to piano, the optional percussion part was dropped, and I rearranged the flute part for trumpet, thinking this might be a more effective partner with the saxophone.”

I was thrilled that Barry reworked this impassioned piece for Audible Abstraction. It is a challenging work to put together as an ensemble—each performer must be in perfect sync with one another and listening with the utmost intention. However, it is an absolutely captivating piece to experience, both as a performer—working from within to express its depths— and as an audience member—following along in the remarkable journey.
-Nicole Brancato

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Two Minute Catharsis

Two Minute Catharsis

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“Two Minute Catharsis” is an exploration of how “outside” notes can fit naturally “into” a jazz composition. The listener, even without a formal understanding of jazz, should feel which phrases don’t fit in, and experience a renewed sense of balance when the harmonies return to stability. The saxophone “sings” a melody in haiku form.

 

 

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Two Minute Catharsis is a composition for Soprano Saxophone and Omnisphere drone.

The drone consists of two sounds from Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2: Dawning and Distant Dreams. I simply held a C for around two minutes. These sounds have more than one note though; an ethereal, suspended chord sounds from them.

The melodies are mostly in the C aeolian mode and since the soprano sax is a Bb instrument I had to play in D aeolian. For an emotional contrast, in certain spots I play notes very much outside of the aeolian mode, and this creates quite a bit of tension as the drone accompaniment underneath never changes. Returning back to aeolian provides some release. These melodies were all derived literally from a series of haiku (3 lines each with 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables). I tried to make the sax lines sing the words. However, if you were to ask me who wrote them and what the words are, I would not disclose… THIS will forever remain a secret… a mystery.

The soprano saxophone was recorded in my studio with an Avantone CV-12 (tube condenser microphone) through a Focusrite Clarett 8PreX into MOTU Digital Performer software. The sax performance was a complete, unedited take.

From vocabulary.com:
“Conceived by Aristotle as the cleansing effect of emotional release that tragic drama has on its audience, catharsis stems from a Greek verb meaning “to purify, purge.” Today, it can be used to describe any emotional release, including a good long laugh or cry that is followed by a sense of balance and freshness afterwards.”

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Resurgence (for Orchestra) – Barry Hartglass

Resurgence (for Orchestra) – Barry Hartglass

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“Resurgence” is a ten-minute master’s thesis compiled from a long list of unfinished ideas. Over the years, themes stacked up inspired by everyday events like a cat visiting, and running away. This post-tonal piece is currently a MIDI realization, and includes a score to follow along, if the listener chooses.

Score:
Resurgence (for Orchestra)

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Twenty five years after I graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Music in Music Engineering Technology, I decided it was time for another degree! In 2013, I started Graduate Studies in Composition at CUNY Hunter College and received a Master of Arts in Music (composition) in 2015. This was something I always wanted to do since graduating from University of Miami, but first I chose to take several years of private composition lessons in the 1990s with Angelo Musolino and Peter Robles, and then some composition classes (1998-1999) at the Juilliard School with Stanley Wolfe, and a film music class (2000) at NYU. It wasn’t until I started teaching Digital Music classes at CUNY Hostos Community College in 2012 that I decided to pursue graduate studies, thinking that this might help me with my composing, teaching and new academic career.

My master’s thesis, Resurgence, is a ten minute work for orchestra. All of the themes were from my “pile” of unfinished ideas that I organized and developed to form this larger work. Some of the themes go back to when I used to live in Greenlawn, NY (Long Island) in the 1990s. The atonal section at 7:35 was originally inspired by a cat that used to visit my house (in Greenlawn) all of the time but would always run away from me. I would put out food on the porch and he would eat it, but he would never go near me! I created some fearful sounding music inspired by this cat and wrote “Scaredy Cat” on the top of the page; it then went into the “pile” to be long forgotten until the writing of this piece around twenty years later. I was so excited to resurrect it and all of the other long lost ideas. However, it was the most fun to fully develop the “Scaredy Cat” theme in particular, especially because of its history; I tried to make it as scary and dissonant as possible. Anyone who knows me knows I love cats. There are three cats living with me right now…

At the time of writing and orchestrating Resurgence I created a MIDI realization so that I could play it for my composition teacher (and thesis sponsor), Shafer Mahoney, and my post-tonal music theory teacher (and second reader), Philip Ewell. After hearing my first completed version, Shafer Mahoney suggested I add some more music to the ending which I did, but I didn’t get around to updating the audio until now, two years later.

Eventually, I hope to have an actual orchestra record this music. I’ve had the experience of replacing MIDI realizations of my orchestral arrangements with live orchestra before for albums I’ve produced, with overseas companies in Prague and Macedonia, and it always sounds a zillion times more emotional, real and beautiful, as the music was intended to sound. But until that happens with this music (it could cost at least $5000), this is the only existing aural representation of the score for anyone who is interested in hearing it.

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"Vudu" by Batik

"Vudu" by Batik

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Batik is an eclectic jazz/world/fusion group featuring Dave Anthony, Tom Nazziola, Tim Ouimette, John Roggie and Barry Hartglass. “Vudu” features udu fills throughout the recording. This piece is an example of modal jazz, with six modes that repeat throughout, a 7/8 time signature and a very mysterious mood. “Vudu” was composed by Barry Hartglass.

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The sixth track on my SoundCloud Playlist is “Vudu” by Batik.

It can also be heard on YouTube:

As mentioned in my last blog about John Roggie’s “Lizarb,” Batik is an eclectic jazz/world/fusion group featuring Dave Anthony, Tom Nazziola, Tim Ouimette, John Roggie and myself.  “Vudu” was composed by me, and is the title track on Batik’s debut CD, “Vudu” released in 2009. “Vudu” is spelled the way it is, instead of “Voodoo,” because my original intention was to feature several udu drums on the recording.  This didn’t work out, but there are some featured udu fills throughout the recording.

“Vudu” was recorded live in my studio (Barry Hartglass Digital) with only a few overdubbed parts added later.  Instead of drums, Dave played a bass cajon with his foot as the bass drum part and a dumbek with his hands, creating a mysterious, tribal kind of sound to the rhythm.  Tom played rainstick, shaker, windchimes, finger cymbals, cymbal, congas, bongos, woodblock, and of course, udu.  Tom’s distinctive use of colorful percussion sounds like these is a significant part of the Batik sound.  The marimba sound is actually a sample that I played.  Tom re-recorded the same part on a real marimba, and I assumed that we would use that instead, but there was something about the sound of the sample that I used that worked better on this piece.  It sounded more primitive or tribal somehow.  It is a rare occasion when I prefer a sample to a real instrument!

I played fretless bass on this recording and it is a featured instrument playing the first melody statement and the first improvised solo.  Tim played trumpet with a harmon mute for the intro, interludes and the second melody statement.  We played the melody together after the solos.  John played a beautiful synthesizer pad sound from Spectrasonics Atmosphere and of course, piano throughout and for the second improvised solo.

“Vudu” was composed in 7/4 time but was actually written as 3/4 to 4/4 throughout.

“Vudu” is a modal jazz composition.  The 6 modes that repeat throughout include:

  • G aeolian (6th mode of Bb major) – This is the main “tonality” of the piece.
  • A phrygian b4 (3rd mode of F harmonic major)
  • Bb phrygian natural 6 (2nd mode of Ab melodic minor)
  • Eb lydian augmented (3rd mode of C melodic minor)
  • F phrygian (3rd mode of Db major)
  • Gb lydian #2 (6th mode of Bb harmonic minor)

For more info about composing with these kinds of modes, check out the book “Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony” by Ron Miller.

For more info about Batik, please visit our website: www.batikjazz.com

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"Lizarb" by Batik

"Lizarb" by Batik

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Batik is an eclectic jazz/world/fusion group featuring Dave Anthony, Tom Nazziola, Tim Ouimette, John Roggie and Barry Hartglass. “Lizarb,” Brazil spelled backwards, features a few Brazilian sounds and percussion instruments with some retro funk and electronic sounds. The form is interactive, improvised, and unconventional. “Lizarb” was composed by John Roggie.

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The fifth track on my SoundCloud Playlist is “Lizarb” by Batik.

Batik is an eclectic jazz/world/fusion group featuring Dave Anthony, Tom Nazziola, Tim Ouimette, John Roggie and myself. “Lizarb,” composed by John Roggie, is the first track on our debut CD, “Vudu” released in 2009. “Lizarb,” in case you haven’t figured it out, is actually Brazil spelled backwards. “Lizarb” features a few Brazilian sounds and percussion instruments in addition to some wild retro funk, electronic sounds, highly interactive improvising and an unconventional form.

Like much of the music on John’s “PumpDigSwirl” CDs, “Lizarb” was originally created as a very slick, all electronic music track with synthesizers and samples. When the composition was presented to Batik, we all learned parts from John’s recording and it evolved from there. The bulk of the Batik recording was recorded live in my studio (Barry Hartglass Digital), and then we overdubbed more parts later.

The introduction starts with an unusual sample of some women (Brazilian?) singing. I have no idea what they are singing or what language they are singing in. Portuguese? After the singing, Dave recorded some extra percussion (2 Kanjira parts, a Fish Drum, a Berimbau, and a Cuica), at his home studio (Beat Juice Studio). The rainstick and latin percussion from there on were played by Tom and the drums were played by Dave, all part of the initial live recording.

The main “theme” that happens from around 0:38 – 1:57 features a stack of trumpets in harmony. Tim played 3 (sometimes 4) trumpets with a harmon mute and 1 loud open trumpet. I doubled the main melody with a single soprano sax part and this helped to smooth out the tone of the trumpet stack. This melody and sound combination was a new addition to John’s original concept. All of the other parts (drums, percussion, wurly, synths and bass) were based on his original track.

After a short wurly interlude that includes sounds from the introduction, there is a trippy, “out” trumpet solo with a harmon mute over a new combination of parts and sounds heard earlier. This is followed by Tom’s vocal loop and John’s wurly solo, in a new key and with sort of a samba feel. There was a wild synth solo after this that was edited out in order to shorten the recording down to just over 8 minutes.

After the wurly solo, a 5 note riff is introduced (G# B C# E# F#) which was not part of John’s original version but spontaneously added during one of our first rehearsals. This section becomes the trumpet solo. Listen carefully to the interaction of the ensemble here. This is some of Batik’s best jamming on the CD and a great example of the unique chemistry of the group.

The unusual ending is another new combination of some of the previous sounds.

For more info about Batik, please visit our website: www.batikjazz.com

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