Robert’s New Year Report
by on January 23, 2009 in Recent Activity

New music, concert downloads, other news:

My friends can attest that I often think I have been lazy and slow. Well, of course I do. Life is short and new ideas are waiting. I try to enjoy each moment of life; then I torture myself and imagine all the other more productive things I could be doing right now. WASP work-guilt mediated by failed attempts at living in the moment. So here’s a chance for me to redeem myself (to myself at least) and let you now what I’ve been up to.

After the release of Zerkalo and subsequent shipping activities, I mixed some 5.1 surround trailers for Vudu, who make a set-top box for viewing high definition movies. The previous month, I created some music for Hewlitt Packard to play at the release of their new TouchSmart computer, and I mixed the ad for that computer including my own foley and sound design, which has been showing on TV (using the Joan Jett song “Do You Want to Touch.”) It’s all a bit ironic considering I’m a Mac geek. I guess I never mentioned that I also did a bunch of sound design for a horror film called “Dead Girl,” although I don’t tend brag about such things. I’m also helping my friend Roberto Miller get the sound together so he can work on his new film.

I tested a bunch of new sounds at concerts in Latvia and Wisconsin in early September, using a portable rig that I put together to allow me to fly to gigs rather than driving. Yes, it centers on a laptop, with the ubiquitous Ableton Live. It’s a great program with enough flexibility to let me improvise, allowing me to avoid the beat-synchronized clichés of techno.

As soon as I got back from those concerts, we bottled 74 cases of homemade wine, with much-appreciated help from our friends. 2008 harvest season came in early October, so after picking, crushing, fermenting and pressing we now have a new batch of Syrah and Cabernet soaking in barrels for this year’s bottling in September.

From August until mid-December I taught a college course on Audio Mastering, which helped me clarify many of my festering ideas about sound quality and the music business, and also convinced me that I wanted to upgrade my surround speakers. I found two used pairs of Dunlavey SCII audiophile speakers to replace my small surround monitors. These integrate well with the Duntech Sovereigns that I use for main L+R, since they come from the same designer, John Dunlavey. I am extremely happy with the results, and I finally feel that I have a room where I can mix and master in surround when needed.

My first test with the new surround speakers came in December, when I spent most of the month mixing a massive new work by Markus Reuter in 5.1 surround (and in stereo for back-up.) Markus’ piece “Todmorden 513” lasts an hour, and includes about 80 tracks of audio, ranging from string sections, woodwinds, organ, synths and multiple guitars. It’s a massive undertaking, with the gravity of Messiaen crossed with postmodern timbres. I’m very proud to be involved.

I also created two short solo tracks for compilations, experimenting with the Spectral Filter plug-ins that I used heavily during “Zerkalo.” One of these pieces “One Year of Sound” actually blurs togther granular fragments of every chunk of sound design I made last year in a perverse abstract retrospective, due out on vinyl this year in France on the Hangars Liquid label. The other piece “Spectral Canyon” remixes whale recordings by David Rothenberg using similar mangling technology, and should appear on his remix CD later this year.

Apart from the mastering jobs that come in every week or so, I am now working on a preset library for the astounding new synth plug-in from Camel Audio called Alchemy. They started shipping this in November with a bunch of my samples bundled in, but I never found the time to build a full library of patches before it shipped. So after meeting with the brilliant Scottish software designer Ben Gillett at NAMM last week I felt inspired to carry through with my promises and make sounds that I would use (and I will use!) for others to hear how cool and powerful this new resynthesis engine really can be. My friends Ian Boddy and Richard Devine have aready contributed, so I feel like I flaked out a bit. One other project I did manage to deliver involved making presets for Izotope Ozone 4, a mastering plug-in that I use and respect.

These days my main obsession involves my new solo album, working title “Ylang”. It’s a tough project to start, as I want to use a certain rhythmic feel that I don’t really know how to get at the moment. I’m starting with acoustic sources. It might not be ready for a while, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m planning to release some old concert recordings, perhaps for download only, some of which may surprise you.

Much love, with hopes for peace and prosperity in this new era. – Robert

17 Responses to Robert’s New Year Report

  1. Sergio says:

    Good to know you are working on new stuff, looking forward to listen to these concerts as well, best wishes Robert.

  2. steve coe (united kingdom) says:

    Cant wait for the new album to arrive later this year .

    all the best robert.

  3. Robert Rich’s New Year Report | Avant Music News

  4. wasili says:

    well,you’re absolutely right about Camel Audio’s Alchemy:it can do stuff that is truly amazing.the resynthesis is really good.this is my main go-to whatever its name is…..
    also,Robert,have you ever tried Sonalksis?they’re a Liverpool-based software company that make extremely good dynamics/eq-plugins.i’m using the fantastic sv-315,517&dq-1 on everything from mixing and mastering(together with Ozone 3’s limiter(most musical-sounding and transparent limiter in my ears.i hate the word loudness maximizer….music is supposed to have dynamics)
    if people want their music loud,turn up the volume instead of yanking down that threshold on the limiter.

  5. royvis says:

    “actually blurs togther granular fragments of every chunk of sound design I made last year in a perverse abstract retrospective”

    thats’s hot.

  6. Joe says:

    Where can you preview/purchase Markus Reuter’s “Todmorden 513″?

  7. Nick says:

    Glad to hear that you’re doing well, sir…I certainly am looking forward to whatever endeavors you put your mind to here in 2009.

  8. Alexandre Boudreau says:

    Je suis content d’apprendre que de nouvelles idées s’opèrent! L’important c’est d’avoir cet ÉLAN. L’accomplissement ou le non-accomplissement est accessoire. J’espère bien acquérir du nouveau matériel incessamment – pour l’instant je me réjouis de mon DVD Atlas dei. Il est important aussi de faire du recul sur notre oeuvre et de laisser vivre ce qui a été fait ! Mes amitiés en français !

  9. admin says:

    Thanks for the encouraging comments! As for Joe’s question about Markus Reuter’s “Todmorden 513” I think you’ll have to ask Markus what he’s planning. At the moment I’m not sure he even knows how to distribute the surround version. I wish someone would create a cross-platform standard for digital distribution of surround audio. I doubt there’s much demand for such thing, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Pour Alexandre, Mercí. Tu es très généreux. – RR

  10. Joe says:

    Things like Diatonis’ Dark Edges surroundsound album are available on with both a regular video dvd & cd in the same package.

  11. Tyler says:

    As far as a cross-platform format for surround sound, what about FLAC? That is certainly capable of 6 discrete channels (even 8), and there’s no loss of quality. Only drawback is that an album worth of material requires about a gigabyte of space…give or take a couple hundred megabytes.

  12. admin says:

    I agree that FLAC is a great format for file transfers to computers, but I think the problem of formats goes beyond computer platform. It’s more behavioral. When do people listen to surround? When they watch movies. How do we get people to listen to surround music when they are not watching a movie? Who actually has surround audio outputs enabled on their computer and integrated to a home theater or gaming system? Once a person downloads – let’s say a FLAC file – and then decompresses it, what output format will the computer use to seemlessly integrate with the listening experience? These are the types of questions that someone will have to solve in a product that connects several parts of the food chain, from delivery to consumer experience, perhaps in a similar way to what Apple did with iTunes and the iPod. I doubt that mainstream demand for such a product will drive such a development. Perhaps we should start a grass-roots campaign to encourage tech-savvy audiophiles to start using computers in their home theaters and connect multichannel sound. These ideas could even start a new thread. I’ll ask my friend Jon Iverson at Stereophile what he thinks. – RR

  13. admin says:

    Hi all. Jon Iverson replied:

    Surround is a tough one. The marketplace has pretty much rejected it top to bottom. There are some surround SACDs still sneaking out.

    Yes, computers have taken a large foothold in the home audio market – and then there are the Sonos and Slim Devices stuff along with iTunes – all 2 channel. You’re probably aware of the specific codecs that you can run multichannel on your computer.

    So I don’t know what will happen with it – there are some companies talking about putting surround audio on blu-ray disc in high-rez – I’m supposed to be getting a demo of one soon – but for the online market ???


    I’ll give this some thought and start a thread here and perhaps elsewhere, to ponder this question in public. You with me? – RR

  14. Tyler says:

    Steven Wilson is a perfect example of a producer who is continually putting out his albums in surround sound. Whether it’s his rock bands Porcupine Tree/No-Man (7 surround albums) or his dark ambient project Bass Communion (2 surround albums. He gives people the option by including both a regular CD as well as a DVD-A. Not to mention he’s currently re-mixing the entire King Crimson back catalog to surround. If he can be successful at it, why shouldn’t others?

    I think the type of people who listen to this style of music are inherently audiophiles and strive to get the best product possible. I know authoring DVD-Audio’s/SACD’s can be expensive, but people will eat it up regardless.

    Then again, I’m just a biased fan who ACHES to hear some of your older albums in 5.1. 😉 You could always give me the multi-tracks and I’d do it for you…

  15. Jeff Kowal says:

    You are one of the busiest people i know. 🙂

  16. Audra Barbknecht says:

    Will there be any live concerts soon? I am a new fan of ambient music and would love to attend a concert of yours.

  17. admin says:

    Thanks, Audra. I don’t have any concerts planned this year. I’m trying to finish a new album and doing work on the house. I do hope to go on tour in 2010, however, perhaps even in Europe. We’ll see if there’s enough interest. – RR

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2014 JamSession © All rights reserved.