Roberto’s Amigatized Tunes

That’s what I called my music back then… so that way when they were sold in “public domain” disk collections, they could be called “RAT” disks. I’m not sure how much they ended up spreading, but I know they ended up in at least three catalogs back then – when you still had to get things like this by ordering and receiving physical floppy disks in the mail. 😏

The videos that I uploaded to YouTube yesterday show my original tracker songs being played by Modizer, an app for the iPhone. But if you view the videos full screen, you’ll still be able to see how the whole thing works. You’ll see which track is playing the drums, which one does the vocal, etc… and that’s what got me interested in creating music this way in the first place. πŸ€“ When I can see how something works, I can almost always then use it for my own means.

Okay, so let’s pick my favorites from the songs I’ve done…

  • Keep Feelin’ Fascination – I’m probably biased towards this song because it was one of my favorite songs from the time back then. That and it’s fairly simple, so it didn’t require much extra work to get it to sound similar to the original song.
  • Pyro! – This was a song that I created for the guy who ran the Pyro! BBS in Canal Winchester. It uses samples from other songs, to go with the pyro theme, plus it was basically just a “jam” song where I sat and came up with a few different beats, a few stolen bits of songs that I recreated… I dunno… I guess I like that it allowed me four or five musical varieties in a single songs. No rules.
  • Howard the Duck – I’m one of the few dozen people who actually liked this movie back then, and still like it today. You might have read here in the blog a few entries ago about how I gave props to Lea Thompson (on Twitter) for her musical performance in that movie and she actually replied and thanked me.
  • Obsession – This is another track that I did because is was rather simple and easy to emulate, plus it was one of my mom’s favorite bands of the moment back then – Army of Lovers. A very visual band, but the music was still good as well.
  • Mu – This is another “jam” song, where I didn’t have an idea when I started, but just sat down and started banging things out and ripping off bits of other songs to throw into this amalgamation. Experimenting with songs like this was as much about learning the software and methods as it was about creating a song.
  • Man on The Corner – Since Phil Collins and Genesis were two of my favorite artists back then, of course I had to make some attempts at covering their music. I think I actually did four of their songs in total… and I think this is my favorite mostly because of the odd beats and percussion sounds. (See also: I Don’t Care Anymore)
  • Myself – This was a track that I did after I bought my own sampling device for the Amiga 500. I wish I could remember the name of it… but imagine, back then, being able to sample my own voice and then use it to create a song. It was almost unheard of… heh… but yeah, every sample you hear in this one was created with my mouf.
  • The Best is Yet to Come – Samantha Fox was another artist I loved back then (and still do) so I actually did covers of a few of her songs. This one was simple, but it had some harmonies and I hadn’t done any slow songs, so I gave it a shot. (See also: True Devotion)

You can click here if you wanna see the entire playlist of 21 songs that I uploaded. I probably have about ten more that I didn’t upload, as they were basically my earliest practice songs or almost exclusively looped samples. But yeah, working on these songs back then, it actually helped my ear become more trained to isolate individual instruments in every song that I hear to this day. To build a song you lay down the drums, then sit and listen to just the bass in the original, then just the melody, etc. You literally dissect the original and reassemble it via the program, unintentionally learning how to identify and recreate chords, “slide” bass notes up and down, etc. In one way it could seem like a pointless exercise, but I’m glad that I did it.

I’ve got a Windows 10 tracker program, which I think can have up to 64 tracks to use, and there have been times when I’ve thought about trying to build a few more songs… but man is it hard to jump back in to something that you haven’t done for decades, and having to learn a different program to do it on top of that. (Despite the basics still being quite similar to how it was done back in the day.) Never say never, I guess.

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Building Songs

In the early 90s I had a pretty decent phase where I created music on my Amiga 500 computer. I can’t say that I wrote music… because I didn’t. What I did was more akin to “building” songs, using audio samples placed on a vertical digital conveyor belt. (Think “player piano”) Each sample on each position can also be played as a different note, with individual options for volume, echo, vibrato, portamento, arpeggio, etc… so even though you don’t have to be able to read or write sheet music, you do kinda have to “have the music in you” to create tracker songs.

The tracker that I used was called OctaMED, and even though it could do 8 tracks (using software tricks) I almost always used the better sounding 4 track mode. One track for drums/percussion, one track for bass, one for “vocals”, and the last track for whatever else was needed… guitar, piano, horns, etc. That’s the simplest way of thinking about it anyway. But since it is a sample based format, you could use complete drum fill samples, samples of piano chords, horn flares… so even though it was technically “only four notes at a time” you could fake it for a fuller sound. I barely touched on this in my creations, but some people really pushed this for some amazing sounding songs. (Making me and my songs look like chumps… heh)

This will seem silly, but sometimes I sit around and wonder what effect I’ve had on the world… what I’ll be leaving behind when I die. With over 28 million photo views on Flickr, I can safely say my work there has had an impact – and then I remembered these songs that I made. Like, there are certain SID songsΒ (C64)Β that I still play now and it takes me back to my childhood… and one of my favorite musicians in that format passed away years ago. Yet here I am, still listening to his music and keeping his name alive in my thoughts. I guess that’s what prompted me to throw my songs up on YouTube… so I’ll know that at least a few times a month, someone will probably click, view, and have me in their thoughts. Like I said, kinda silly…

I’m going to make a separate post here in a bit, so I can pick out some of my favorites from the songs that I created and give a little more insight into each of them. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll have to write about them, but I’m sure it’ll come to me as I’m typing.

The Future Is Now

It’s been a long time coming, but all of the public service agencies in my area have finally switched out their radios, and are now using digital transmitting/receiving rather than the old analog systems that had been in place and unchanged ever since I was a teenager. πŸ‘΄πŸ» So the old police scanners that nearly everyone in Lancaster has… they’re essentially worthless now, at least when it comes to monitoring all of the action in town.

I’m not sure if it was a financial or transparency-based decision, but while they’ve upgraded to a fully digital system, they’ve decided against using encryption. The easiest thing to compare it to is the way that television broadcasts have changed over the past 10 or 20 years. No more analog signals, but if you have a digital cable box or digital tuner you can easily pick up the new transmissions. It’s the same thing with the public service radios… it’s just a different means of broadcasting. πŸ€“ If they went with encrypted systems though, it would be similar to how wireless phones use digital signals, but they’re also encrypted so that nobody but the caller and recipient are able to hear what’s being said. 🀨

The bad news? While you used to be able to buy a $40 scanner to listen to police, fire, and rescue… digital scanners are significantly more expensive. So much so that many people can’t or won’t want to make the upgrade to continue following the activity. πŸ™ And, at least here in Lancaster, an always-running police scanner has been about as common in homes as a stove, fridge, or washing machine. 😏

I had actually been considering getting a new scanner myself, going so far as to have “shopped them out” online so that I knew what I would get if the cost didn’t make me cringe so hard… and while I made the decision then that it was too expensive, hitting that little jackpot at Hollywood the other day has changed my tune. πŸ€— Oh, I still cringed when I loaded up the page of the one I wanted, but I went ahead and ordered it anyway.

The Homepatrol-1 units are basically “Digital Scanners for Dummies.” Where most other next-gen scanners are more computer than radio (with endless programming options and tweaks accordingly) the Homepatrol-1 is more about an easy listening/monitoring experience. It has built-in memory with a database that covers the entire United States, and it is updated weekly by the manufacturer – based off of frequency information provided by the users and staff at RadioReference.com

So, with the way our local departments are still going through changes, as the current frequency information is discovered and updated on the site – all I’ll have to do (in theory) is punch up my zip code in the scanner… and all of the agencies and radio options will automagically appear before my eyes. πŸ˜€ So, along with it being one of the cheaper scanners,Β that’sΒ what actually sold me on it. The ability to start using it as soon as I get it, without having to spend hours figuring it out and programming it. It does have many advanced options though, especially through the included Sentinel software that is used for easier/quicker programming… so yeah, it’ll still be something to challenge my nerd brain as well.

I’m sure it probably seems like a frivolous purchase to a lot of people… but living by myself, outside of the city limits, away from the humans… having a scanner running gives me the sense of “staying connected” with a community that I still consider to be home, even if I’m not in the heart of it. (Plus there’s all kinds of other stuff to search for and listen to on top of that…)

Latest Animation Rendering

Well, here’s the finished product. I’m pleased with it… all of the added touches are there to be seen – it’s just a shame that animation is sort of an afterthought with this modeling program, so the camera movements are a bit jerky and unnatural looking. But for anyone who had visited this house prior to me moving in, I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty faithful to the original… particularly the living room. πŸ™‚

These are the things that I believe I’ve improved since I made the first animation:

  • Fixed paint colors, correcting walls and making the ceilings white
  • Adjusted color and texture of all the doors
  • Updated the textures of the floors for more natural hardwood look
  • Changed sizes (particularly in the bedroom) of furniture for more accurate scale
  • Added lamp, clock, and ceiling fan w/light in bedroom
  • Added lighting, shower curtain, curtain, and changed bathtub/fixtures in bathroom
  • Also added more accurate texture for vinyl flooring and shower tiles in the bathroom
  • Picture window changed to wood w/more accurate sheer curtains in living room
  • Changed lamp on round table and square coffee table changed to oval in living room
  • End table lamps changed / now functioning, cuckoo clock now present in living room
  • Console record player under big mirror changed, vase/flower and newspaper added

In each room I also tweaked all sorts of things when it comes to object shading, colors, levels of reflection (matte/glossy), and lighting levels (spot/ambient)Β in a way that I think makes the whole thing look slightly closer to realistic and accurate to the way things were here in the past. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things that I changed or adjusted, but yeah… there ya go. 😏

Oh, and I know – both times that I’ve created one of these animations, it’s been done where the house is assumed to be lit by dawn / pre-dawn light. I do that because I prefer to see how the internal man-made illumination sources and shadows are handled by the program, although I suppose one day I could render it out in broad daylight with fake ceiling lights (just a source light w/no visible fixtures) being activated in every room. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Progression

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Four renders… quick, quick/good, slow/better, slow/best. It’s a bit difficult to see the differences between 1 and 2, and then 3 and 4, at this image size – but the larger the render, the more subtle details and changes you will notice. (Shadows, reflections, translucency, etc.) I’m going to work on a plug-in to see how close I can get it to photo-realistic.