My Version of Kadsagurongan Using a Sample Library

“Kadasagurongan” is a tradional Maranao kulintang piece that I learned how to play when I was taking my “Teaching Philippine Music” elective at the Philippine Women’s University School of Music. This recorded version was made possible through the use of “Philipperc”, a Philippine indigenous instrument sample library developed by Stephan Marche of Detunized.Com using my samples of kulintang and other Philippine instruments.

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Philipperc: New FREE Philippine Percussion Library from Detunized!

Hey folks! Before anything else, I want to greet everybody a happy New Year!

Now that we’ve got the 2015 greeting out of the way, I just would like to post about something I’m really excited about: It’s the new Philipperc Ableton Live and Kontakt percussion library from Detunized!

The story behind Philipperc is this: I’ve always wondered about how I can get Philppine indigenous instrument sounds into my compositions without actually owning those instruments. For one thing, instruments such as a Kulintang set are expensive. Just so you would have an idea, in cultures such as Maranao and Maguindanaon, Kulintang sets are properties of the wealthy, treasured heirlooms that can be used as dowry for weddings! To be frank, I don’t have the money to purchase a set of babendil, agung, gandingan, and kulintang for myself. But then I had the good fortune of being enrolled in the Philippine Women’s University School of Music where I’m finishing my master’s degree of music education. It just so happened that it had the perk (pun!) of getting access to the musical instrument museum where they have this awesome collection of Philippine indigenous instruments. I spent one Saturday afternoon sampling a set of agung, gandingan, dabakan, and a kulintang. I also recorded a number of tongatong samples for good measure.

I sent these samples over to my good friend, Stephan Marche, CEO of Detunized, and asked him the favor of developing the samples as a virtual instrument. He went on to do this and developed versions for Ableton Live and Native Instruments Kontakt. He then asked me to go write some demos. To cut the long story short, it was awesome!

What is Philipperc really? It’s a sample-based virtual instrument for Ableton Live and Kontakt that features samples of Dabakan, Agung, Gandingan, Kulintang, and Tongatong. This instrument is intended to be used by composers, music producers, and music students, especially those who are studying indigenous Philippine music. At this point, Philipperc is available at no cost whatsoever! Therefore, I would advise you to get a copy now as this is, I believe, the first Philippine percussion sample library ever developed in history. I’d love to say it’s sort of groundbreaking in a sense. Should Philipperc take off well, we could probably go on and make a more comprehensive library with more Philippine instrument samples like kudyapi, bungkaka, kubing, etc.

To download Philipperc, just go to http://detunized.com/free_live_packs/ and look for it. The prototype version I’m currently using is laid out as a drum rack, so if you have something like an Akai MPC or a Roland Octapad MIDI Controller, it will be great.

Now, what does it sound like? Here’s the demo I wrote for the release of Philipperc. It’s called “Where Coast and Mountaintops Meet.” Enjoy!

Lunch Break at the PWU School of Music Recital Hall

This is probably the first time I spent my lunch break on music rather than on food.

What’s happening here is actually a test of recording equipment. This is a video recording of myself and Jeepney Joyride trombonist Diamond Manuel performing a free improvisation jam. Everything here is completely improvised. The first piece is a 20th-century classical sounding ditty influenced by the likes of Bartok, Varese, Messiaen, Zappa, and maybe a bit of Debussy. The second piece is a pretty straightforward swing jazz in C minor.

Now, as to why I was testing recording equipment, I was checking recording levels on my Zoom H4n because I’m supposed to record Diamond’s trombone recital this coming Saturday morning. He will be performing his recital program on December 6, 2014 at the Philippine Women’s University School of Music Recital Hall. It’s free admission, and safe to say that I don’t think anybody’s going to hear this sort of jam session at the event.

The test did come out great on my Zoom H4n. I have to say, however, that the video posted here is from my crappy smartphone and so the audio quality is not so great. Since I usually have to take videos for my research, I suppose investing money on a real camcorder isn’t such a bad idea.

So, if any of you are in Manila on Saturday and happen to have some free time, please drop by and watch Diamond Manuel’s trombone recital. Cheers!

The EDM Hat: Still in the Process of Getting One for Myself

I will admit that I am no expert with regard to electronic dance music or EDM for short. I have some friends who are involved with that genre including my musical mentor from the early  ’90s who currently goes by the moniker “Silverfilter” and Albert (physical therapist by day, DJ by night) yet for some reason I cannot grasp the process of how to go about writing EDM. Perhaps it may not be my thing at all. But in the spirit of open-mindedness and in the effort to learn new things, I am in the process of trying to learn how to write stuff that sounds like EDM.

I do wonder if it involves similar processes as I do writing prog and jazz, you know, the muso-oriented stuff. Perhaps it may just be like writing disco with the exception that I use purely electronic instruments like loads and loads of synthesizers, drum machines, etc. Probably the closest I got to writing EDM was when I was trying to emulate Vangelis (who is NOT an EDM artist, although he was certainly influential). Is writing EDM just as simple as laying down a four-on-the-floor kick drum track with some minor-sounding synth bass on a Moog or something similar to that? I am of course familiar with the bells and whistles such as the creative use of compression like “ducking” and what not. The trouble is that I barely have an idea of how to go making things sound authentic.

I went back listening to examples of my electronic music, including my attempts to write EDM, and I would say that I don’t come close to sounding like I would shake up the walls of dance clubs and concert halls any time soon. I still have trouble figuring out the aesthetics of EDM. Maybe I should listen to more EDM so I can understand what the heck is going on because at this point I am not yet a fan of it. Perhaps if I achieve some level of fanaticism with it, then I could get the hang of EDM. Heck, prog-rock guitar heroes like Mike Oldfield and  Steve Hillage got the hang of EDM, so why couldn’t I? I probably don’t have to go the length of going to Ibiza for that like Mike Oldfield did.

Anyway, it would suffice to say for now that I’m trying to learn EDM. A composer has to wear many hats, and if I want to make progress, I should acquire the EDM hat soon. In the quest to learn and understand EDM, I stumbled across this Saturday Night Live clip. I find it funny.

Newbie Tries Live Looping Using Ableton Live

I am that newbie, and boy do I suck at this. How many times do I have to suck before getting it right just like those folks at the BOSS Loopstation Championships? Gotta shed some more wood on bass? Piano? Ableton? I guess that would be everything.

Christian Rock Apologetics

I am very tired of the hatred and bigotry that these so-called Christian Rock critics hurl at musicians and listeners who want to worship God through musical styles other than the Euro-centric traditional hymns. In a previous blog post, I have said my piece about this. In this new post, I’d like to share a more detailed site that covers a lot of ground about the topic of music in worship. Here it goes:

http://www.mindspring.com/~brucec/craindex.htm

This site has a wealth of information and presents a balanced viewpoint regarding how music should be in worship along with answers to common Christian Rock critic accusations.

Berocca Aluminum Tube Kazoo

It’s true: You can create musical instruments out of garbage. Being inspired by Frank Zappa as well as the Landfillharmonic, I decided to go create an improvised instrument and improvise some solo quasi-trumpet garbage jazz on it.

I’ve been taking Berocca (the fizzy vitamin tablets) for the past three weeks now as supplements. As a result, I have these leftover aluminum tubes. I thought that perhaps I can turn these tubes  into musical instruments so I made a kazoo with one of them. I cut out the other end of the tube, place some kind of wax paper membrane on the other end, secured it with a hair tie, and voila I got myself a kazoo. I wanted to know how it sounded like  so I filmed myself. It sounds okay to me and I think it would be useful in various musical creations. At the very least, I can grab the attention of my cats with it. It’s either the cats love it or it emits certain sound frequencies that they themselves can only hear so well that it’s annoying.