The Story Behind the Music: Before (Cymatics Remix Contest)

Before (Cymatics Remix Contest)

Cymatics is a group I’ve been following for over year now.

Cymatics is a group I’ve been following for over year now, and I honestly can say that I really like what they’ve done with their brand, their products, and the music community they’ve been able to created surrounding all of that. So when I heard they were hosting a remix contest, I figured, heck yes. I hadn’t been able to do their previous contest because I was too busy preparing my senior composition recital and slacking and some term papers but now with summer, I was free to make something interesting.

Side note, it didn’t help that the contest deadline was the week after Game of Thrones’ season finale, my unhealthy obsession for the show made sure that I didn’t get anything done before last Sunday. It also didn’t help that Copa America and Euros were going on at the same time (I feel for Messi).

I immediately had a vision for the music.

After re-watching the last GoT episode this past Monday just for good measure, that ended up leaving me with about 4 days to finish the remix but as soon as I heard the stems, I immediately had a vision for the music. The contest called for uniqueness and creativity, so I definitely wanted to explore different musical territories while avoiding some of the cliches of mainstream electronic music. I immediately thought I could do this with rhythm and texture.

One of the first things that really caught my ear was the profile of the melody and harmonic progression. I really thought the chord extensions were colorful and I could definitely use that harmonic language to my advantage when building the form of the track. The melody also suggested some other chord progressions. I ended experimenting with several but I wanted an epic and dramatic harmonic progression to contrast with the existing one provided in the stems.

I would contrast the i-bIII-bVII-iv with bVI-bVII-v-i, not yet taking into consideration the possible chord extensions. I created a couple of variations of the latter and ended up cycling between bVI-bVII-v-i and bVI-bVII-#viidim-i. I knew I wanted the melody and the harmony to be the driving force of this track and those two progressions really gave a fresh, new context to the existing melody every time I switched between them.

As I re-listened to the material, I could hear the potential for IDM textures a la Aphex Twin or Evol Intent. Two tracks that came to mind were ‘I Saw the Sky‘ by The Flashbulb and ‘Flim‘ by Aphex Twin. These two tracks do a great job at balancing some really expressive melodic and harmonic ideas with more chaotic drum and percussion backdrops. I ended up using those two tracks, among others, as guides for my own remix.

References

Some of my reference tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With time running out, I knew I had to specify some limitations to save time. I didn’t want my plug-in list to create any distractions so I made a list of a handful of plug-ins that would fulfill specific tasks that I needed and I stuck to these plug-ins for better or worse.

Plug-ins I worked with:

  • Native Instruments Massive
  • Native Instruments Battery 4
  • Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5
  • Native Instruments Reflektor
  • Twisted Tools Vortex
  • dblue Stretcher
  • Celemony Melodyne 4
  • Soundtoys Little AlterBoy
  • Soundtoys Decapitator
  • Soundtoys Microshift
  • Soundtoys Echoboy
  • iZotope Alloy 2
  • iZotope Ozone 7

Reaktor Vortex is a great tool for creating drum sounds for the type of track I was going, just turn the tempo up to 170 BPM and let it run to see exactly what I’m talking about. I created some Sample Maps using sounds from a Future Bass sample pack I had recently purchased and voila, awesome glitched Future Bass drums. Once I had a collection of samples, I chose some of the more interesting ones from the group. Battery 4, Guitar Rig 5, and dblue Stretcher also helped some of the drum sound design. All that was left for me was to start arranging my loops. Granular synthesis is one of my absolute favorite ways to mangling drums and dblue Stretcher and Traktor 12’s Transpose Stretch can yield some pretty convincing sounds, especially when you go crazy with automating the plug-in parameters. I knew this level of musical activity would give me a lot of mileage in terms of creating intensity and variation in the track. The constantly changing drum patterns take a lot of the weight off of the other elements in the track, but that didn’t stop me from looking for ways of creating interesting in other levels of musical activity, such as the harmony and the melody.

Displacing the bar line is a simple yet effective way of creating a looped chord progression.

I used rhythm as my approach to creating variation in both the melody and the harmony. One technique I really like using in my harmonic progressions is displacing the bar line. It’s a simple yet effective way of creating interest in a chord progression that repeats itself throughout a track.

Displacing the Bar Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

First Post Evar!

So this is my first post ever on the site. I’ve figured WordPress for the most part but I I want to see how blogging works on the platform, so here it is. I’ll probably bury this deep in the archives so that no one will ever find it. If anyone wants to help a WordPress-challenged user out, feel free to get in touch.