Today I’ve made a Bandcamp artist page and rereleased my 2010 EP Mood of the leopard. It took some time for me to make the jump from sharing my music on free sites to making a proper bandcamp page and asking actual money. I’m not too sure about whether people are interested, but I’m trying not to be held back by too much humility.
I have made music for quite a while now and when I was a teenager I even considered making a career out of it. In the mid 90s I got into making tunes in Fast Tracker II in MS-DOS and liked it a lot. I also started playing on a Casio keyboard when I was about 12 years old. When going to my high school in 1996 I noticed that most of my class mates already knew how to play a musical instrument. I quickly ran into problems during the school’s music lessons having no prior experience at all. My dad bought a cheap Casio keyboard for me so I could practice and my love for music grew from there. One of my class mates was really into Fast Tracker II and I learned how to use that program to make my own stuff. I was completely oblivious of any music theory and just did whatever I could to get some sound out of that program.
I continued playing the Casio and started borrowing sheet music from the local library. I also began making my own tunes on the Casio and playing some classical music. I however quickly found out the limitations of my keyboard. When trying to play a Chopin prelude I noticed I didn’t have enough keys. However, I got an organ from a deceased relative and continued playing on that. But the organ also quickly began to show its limitations and what I really wanted was a piano. However, pianos are bloody expensive and I didn’t grow up in a rich household, so I had to work as a paperboy to afford one. Thanks to my best friends dad I got piano lessons at the music school. This wasn’t easy, since I was already 15 at the time, and there were long waiting lists. However, he wrote the people in charge of the music school, strings were pulled and there I went. I was really nervous for my first lesson and played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and some of my own music to my new piano teacher. She was pretty firm about how my technique sucked, but also extremely supportive. I really loved her. She reminded me of the sorceress Polgara from the Belgariad books by David and Leigh Eddings.
Anyway, I studied a lot and found out I also enjoyed making my own piano music. I actually liked that more than doing the scales, and often when having to practice pieces or scales I switched to improvising instead. I started to get better and people noticed that I had some musical talent. However as a late starter it was really out of the question I could become a professional with the piano. Aside from that all my piano playing friends were waaaay better than me. I didn’t believe I could ever reach their kind of level playing that instrument.
The composing side however was a different matter. I kept composing songs for the piano and also enjoyed making music with Fast Tracker II and later on started using Fruity Loops. I still have hours and hours of material I made in those days, but most of that isn’t worthy to be shared to a larger audience :-). A couple of years ago I made two mixes of Fast Tracker II tunes from the 90s and shared those on Soundcloud.
In my penultimate year of high school I went to the music conservatory in Enschede to see if it would be a viable road for me to get admitted after high school with a focus on composition. The piano teacher there told I had a nice sound, but my technique was lacking, but the composition teacher was very kind and offered that I could take a preliminary composition course for a year there. I however decided not to do that. I found it difficult to talk about my compositions in an analytical way. I still believed everything flowed through me, given by the muse or something :-). I wasn’t ready to have a intellectual debate about the choices of consonants versus dissonants I made in a piece for example. I still think it was the right decision at the time, although I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I did take that route with eventually going to the conservatory. I would have probably ended up a high school music teacher. If you would have asked the 18 year old me that would have sounded like a nightmare, but right now I think that would actually be great. I even went and studied to become a math teacher for a year in 2009-2010 and I still have plans to go into teaching some day.
I chose to go study computer science instead, but still kept making music. I kept playing the piano and I made electronic music in Propellerhead Reason. Mood of the Leopard was also made in Reason, a now ancient version of Reason 5 which I still have, but rarely use.
The thing I noticed about music software is that while they have become much more powerful in the 25 years that I’ve used them, I haven’t exactly become more productive. I can spend hours and hours tweaking sounds instead of finishing music. Regarding finishing songs I think Fruity Loops was the best thing ever. These days Fruity Loops is called FL Studio, but they still try to make actually finishing stuff their priority. Their motto is even “The fastest way from your brain to your speakers”.
Now, you might know me as a avid free software enthusiast and I do prefer free software. However regarding that “brain to ears” part free software does get in the way. Most of the time when using Ardour or LMMS I find the need to go through this typical Linux-like tweaking cycles of my tools and that seriously gets in the way of being productive. I have even become so unproductive with my music tools that I haven’t finished any new electronic songs the last years.
However, that has changed a bit and I’m hopeful I will also be able to release new electronic music. A couple of years I bought an electrical Kawaii CA-48 piano and seriously it was the best thing ever. I owned a Kawaii analogue piano before that and although it was super great and sounded really nice I also always felt a bit hampered by the fact that playing it meant that my whole house block would hear it, so I didn’t play it too much. Getting the Kawaii CA-48 with a nice headset really changed that and now I play regularly and even started recording my playing. I’m working on an EP with piano music and have already finished recording two songs. The Kawaii has a record button so recording is super easy and I can also use Midi via bluetooth to record directly on my phone or laptop.
Regarding my electronic music I also have hopes that I’ll be able to finish more music. I’ve made some music in Milkytracker, reliving my fondness of Fast Tracker II and I’m also starting to play around with the newest FL Studio. I know, FL Studio isn’t free software, but as proprietary software goes it’s pretty benign. They have life long free updates and don’t try to pull you into the typical capitalist schemes that you usually find with modern proprietary software.
So yeah, here’s me getting out there with my music again. Not ambitious, not trying to make it a career, but just in to search of good old gay and happy fun :-D