• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 28

Topic: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

Share/Bookmark
  1. #1

    Exclamation "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    artwork by Melissa Turner


    Frank D
    and I had fun recently talking about the old days of producing music with hardware synths. Here's the link to that thread, and if you haven't listened to Frank's music posted there - you just gotta!--

    "Festival Fun: A Brief Animation Score"

    Those posts inspired me to choose a track from one of my biggest projects from my pre-soft synth era.

    "Metropolis" is a cult-musical by J. Brooks and D. Hughes. It's based on the great silent sci-fi film by Fritz Lang. The musical played in London in the mid-80's, but extravagant production costs, and heavy competition from other big hit musicals of the time, like "Les Mis," caused it to close early. It hasn't had a major pro production since, and was never officially published or handled by any publishing house.

    In 2002, I directed a production of the show here in Salem, featuring music tracks I produced. It was a gigantic undertaking - producing the music as well as putting the show on stage. I worked closely with Joseph Brooks, the show's composer, communicating every day by email and telephone for 6 months. I had to do a lot of my music production work by picking things out by ear from the London cast CD. Brooks had bits and pieces of badly scribbled scores for me to work with also. What emerged was a unique version of the show, with some new songs, re-writes and variations. People still contact me about the production, because "Metropolis" has its fervent followers all over the globe. The show's fairly obscure, but its fans are still many, and fiercely loyal to it.

    Here's my instrumental track to Act Two's opening. I worked with a hardware sequencer and a bank of hardware synths. A guitarist friend added guitar bits throughout the show's tracks, sometimes playing duet with my synth guitar tracks.

    As you'll hear, it's pop rock, with a heavy emphasis on retro-disco in this Act Two opener which is actually a medley of two songs. There are passages in the first song which are in the odd time signature of 7/8. The second half is a disco reprise of a major theme from Act One. Both sections are dance numbers featuring the full cast as the decadent "Elitists" who live above ground in the glistening Metropolis while the city is kept going by over worked, under privileged slaves who languish underground.

    METROPOLIS- Opening of Act Two

    And here's the same music with my cast singing. I've cut this down to just the sung sections which start at 1:00 and 2:55 in the full length instrumental track:

    METROPOLIS - Vocal sections from the opening of Act Two

    If there's interest, I'd enjoy posting another track or two from this great cult musical.

    Randy

  2. #2

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    All I can say my friend, in my retro vocab, is that sound is rad, phat, and absolutely the bomb Randy! It was a treat for the ears. Thank you for sharing. I am sure that it was a blast working with the composer and the cast. Bring on sum mo' tracks kool kat!
    ~Rod

  3. #3

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Quote Originally Posted by composingatnight View Post
    All I can say my friend, in my retro vocab, is that sound is rad, phat, and absolutely the bomb Randy! It was a treat for the ears. Thank you for sharing. I am sure that it was a blast working with the composer and the cast. Bring on sum mo' tracks kool kat!
    ~Rod
    Ha! Big round of Laughing Out Loud while reading your post, Rodney. Thanks very much for it. It's heartening to know that at least some of my posts are still being looked at and listened to!

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Randy my man!

    I kid you not, just last night I was listening to the Herbie Hancock song "Chameleon" and it left me craving some more funky sounds. I almost squealed with delight when I clicked on "Metropolis". After producing a few tracks of my own , I appreciate not only the music, but the fantastic production of both the pieces. Awesome, awesome job. I know there are other places to ask a production question, but I have one about "Metropolis - Opening of Act Two" specifically. I was wondering how you got such a cohesive, well-blended sound particularly at a part like 0:35 to 1:12 where it starts with close to a single instrument (the bass) and then several instruments join in. Was getting that perfect "blend" all about adjusting the track volumes, panning, EQ, and reverb or were you doing lots of other nuanced things that I'm not even thinking about? Again, wonderful job and thanks for posting,

    Jake

  5. #5

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Wonderful stuff, Randy.

    Takes me back years. I bought Walter (now Wendy) Carlos's Switched on Bach back in the late 60s .
    Was it really 1968? This is the original cover which Carlos deplored. It was later replaced.
    Has it become a collector's item I wonder?



    And all the later LPs. More recently the re-issues on CDs.

    I'm still lucky enough to have kept a couple of Yamaha sound modules, both MU1000s.
    In one I have:
    a DX plugin card - a quiet DX7 (+) on a card.
    an AN plugin card - in effect a stable Prophet 5 on a card
    and a VL synth.

    In the other piano module (PF) and a harmoniser (VH) cards.
    I also have kept a Roland SC8850 sound module.

    The 2 MUs and the SC are all USB, and the MUs are optical digital audio out, so there is an almighty lash up with cables to a mixer going back to an SP/DIF to USB convertor, so MIDI can be routed out and audio back again.

    I keep meaning to go back and play with it all again. (the synths!)
    Maybe I will.

    Thanks for the reminder.
    Kind regards,
    John.

  6. #6

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    All I can add is a big WOW!

    I loved franks' animation score, very polished and so much fun. I have a soft spot for animations and would live inside comic books as a kid. Still love anything to do with it.

    Really enjoyed Metropolis as well. What a lot of fun music. I for one would like to hear more from the show.

    Hardware synths were a bit of a nightmare to MIDI up but I enjoyed the hands on feel to it all. I still have my gear from my Atari days all hooked up and ready to go but haven't as yet. I've gone all "in the box" now. I still love my D50 synth though and the DX7 that's under the bed needing a repair job.

    Thanks for posting this. Inspires me to keep learning.
    yjoh

    Music... A Joy For Life.

  7. #7

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Yeah, its really sounds good, whenever I even think to listen about the Franks animation score. So definitely going to listen this one with a great excitement. thanks for sharing this special one.

  8. #8

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Wow, Randy. I share MrMarker's curiosity, and I'm also taken with the stereo separation and clarity. I can hear all the parts--all of them! And the highs aren't shrill or squeaky and the bass isn't too, well, "bass-y." This is power-packed!
    Arthur J. Michaels
    https://www.facebook.com/composerarthurjmichaels

    Finale 2000 through Finales 25.4 (currently using Finale 25.4)
    Garritan COMB2, GPO4, GPO5, Audacity 2.1.3
    Core i7 860 @ 2.80 GHz, 8.0 GB RAM, Windows 10 Home Premium x64
    Dell 2408 WFP, 1920x1200
    M-Audio Delta Audiophile 2496
    M-Audio AV-40 monitors

  9. #9

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Well Randy, that was a unbelievable surprise to me. I enjoyed every second of it. How well it is done and how incredibly varied in instrumentation, colours and rhythms. I certainly appreciate the old style way of working with external midi modules, since I started the same way in the nineties. It brings back good memories, but of a much higher quality!

    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Max

  10. #10

    Re: "METROPOLIS" - hardware synth track 2002

    Quote Originally Posted by MrMarker View Post
    Randy my man!

    I kid you not, just last night I was listening to the Herbie Hancock song "Chameleon" and it left me craving some more funky sounds. I almost squealed with delight when I clicked on "Metropolis". After producing a few tracks of my own , I appreciate not only the music, but the fantastic production of both the pieces. Awesome, awesome job.

    I know there are other places to ask a production question, but I have one about "Metropolis - Opening of Act Two" specifically. I was wondering how you got such a cohesive, well-blended sound particularly at a part like 0:35 to 1:12 where it starts with close to a single instrument (the bass) and then several instruments join in. Was getting that perfect "blend" all about adjusting the track volumes, panning, EQ, and reverb or were you doing lots of other nuanced things that I'm not even thinking about? Again, wonderful job and thanks for posting,
    Jake
    Wow, I'm sure glad the idea of posting some "Metropolis" stuff has gone over so well. I was digging through older stuff to help someone who contacted me via PM, and when I ran into Metro documents, it hit me that posting some hardware synth tracks could be fun in our newly expanded Listening Room.

    Even when I did this show in 2002, there was already a period feel to some of the music, a funkiness especially prominent in this track I've posted, since much of it is disco. The show was already 15 years old in 2002, and we considered updating the feel and sound of some of the numbers, but decided it was more fun to keep it in the period when it was written.

    The tracks were put together in an unorthodox, and less than ideal way. I had to get to work on them before I knew if I'd be able to get any real guitar tracks mixed in, so I produced all the music in my little home studio, with the Korg X5DR module as the primary sound source. That's one of the best modules ever made, and I used its built in reverb with settings customized for each instrument. Other synths were layered in, like my Yamaha FB-01, my Symphony module from Korg with a P3 piano card (my sole digital piano for many years), and my beloved old CZ-1000. They were all roped in together via the 360 MIDI Patcher which still sits in my studio. The hip little Alesis Microverb added excellent reverberation to the synths that didn't have built in reverb, via the Send knobs on my Kawai MX-8R line mixer.


    I recorded from my Akai-X7000 keyboard (adding sampled instruments from the library of samples I had for that sampler) - into my Alesis MMT-8 hardware sampler which I loved working with so much.


    Even after I finally broke down and bought a computer, I had a very hard time transitioning from the MMT-8 sequencer to Cakewalk. Somehow, its tiny 64 KB memory served me just fine back then, and it was so easy and fast to use.

    I had my fully produced 2 track masters "in the can" before a guitar playing friend, Frank Fullerton, volunteered to add guitar tracks. Ideally, we would have worked all the tracks up at the same time - my synth tracks, and his guitar tracks. But what he had to do was import my mixed 2 track masters into the then-current version of Cakewalk Sonar he had, and record his guitar tracks along side them. When his tracks were finished, then the whole shebang had to be mixed down again. He focused on getting his tracks to blend with what I had, and I'm really not sure what all he did to get the final results that we used for the show. My tracks remained the same, but he did an excellent job of re-mastering so the results sounded cohesive. I know a tad more reverb was added on the master bus, along with some brightening EQ.

    Panning was already widely spread out in my produced tracks, and Frank doubled his guitar tracks and spread those out, in classic pop engineering style.

    So, Jake "MrMarker," it's not possible for me to be totally precise in answering questions about these tracks' technical aspects, since the mixing and mastering was a collaborative effort, as described here in this reply. But I can answer you in a more general way - You asked, "...was getting that perfect blend all about adjusting the track volumes, panning, EQ...etc..." - and the answer is, Yes - those moments you point out, and the entire track as you hear it was a matter of doing everything we could back then to put together a mix. Describing a bit more of how I worked on the Metro tracks will give you an even better picture:

    Once I'd recorded all the layers in the hardware sequencer, and done some editing in the limited way that was possible on the MMT-8, then that MIDI data would go through the MIDI Patcher where it was spat out in multiple streams to the various synths. Their audio outs were all connected to my line mixer, and the mixer's outputs were connected to a CD recorder. The synths were being triggered by the sequencer in real time. I'd rehearse over and over, adding more MIDI volume control commands where needed in the sequences, and deciding how and when to move the hardware mixer's sliders during playback. When I was ready, the music was recorded directly to CD, as many takes as it took.

    In the MMT-8, you worked with discrete chunks, phrases that were then strung together and triggered in sequence during playback. Super tight timing, like those entrances you mention, were made possible by the way the sequencer worked. And working so long with the MMT-8 set my way of working up until this day. I record with Sonar now, and have for quite a few years, but I still work in very small sections at a time, perfecting phrases which are then strung together. My projects always consist of hundreds of individual MIDI clips.

    Since Frank was already using a computer at that time, he had a much more flexible set up than I did. He used volume envelopes and all of Sonar's virtual mixer controls to produce his guitar tracks.

    NOTE that something that works so well in this representative Metro track I've posted is the blend of the synth sounds with the organic sounds of the guitar. That blend of natural sound with synth sound really makes it all come to life, and gives it such a solid pop sound. That rhythm guitar "whack-a-whacka" track is essential for the disco style you hear.

    Thanks much for your post, Jake - Hope you enjoy this mini-novel of a response I've written!

    Randy

Go Back to forum
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •