Why no autographs?
If truth be told there are myriads of people possessing a signature of me: my employer, the guy at the cashier’s desk, my health insurance company, the communist party, the credit card company -- my signature is so bloody widespread amongst all those authorities, companies and institutions that it cannot possibly be considered as something special.
But what all these aforementioned institutions and authorities assumedly don’t have is one of my songs: unlike my signature these songs are part of my personality, they contain a great deal of my spirit and soul, my creativity and my feelings. They are so much more personal than any autograph; actually they are something really special.
Just two things to think about: in the past painters didn’t sign their artworks. Why the heck should they? A signature out of the blue would have spoiled the whole painting, and besides it was more important that the painting spoke for itself than its creatorship. Try to spot an autograph on one of Rembrandt’s portraits and you’ll see what I mean -- in fact that’s the reason why it’s sometimes so difficult for art historians to allocate certain pictures to certain artists.
And here’s another one: I once had the chance to attend one of Terry Pratchett’s excellent readings, and I’ll have to admit that even I was tempted to get a signature of my favourite author at the end of the event -- but then I saw the mind-bogglingly long queue of fans waiting for him to sign their books, and a considerable amount of them was not only handing over just one paperback to sign but their complete collection of discworld novels instead.
I really admired Terry for his braveness and friendliness, although one could easily see that he had severe pains in his right hand (mind you, the poor chap was doing lots of readings in these days). So I thought it would suit him better if he would not have to sign my book, too, and went off without an autograph -- because his spirit and his genius is in his novels, not in his signature.
First I should confess that building sounds from scratch isn't exactly my cup of tea: I love to have a proper library of inspiring sounds that I can tweak and work with, and in these terms Alchemy is simply gorgeous even if not as packed and well-assorted as Omnisphere, but then Alchemy doesn't require 40 GB of free space on your hard drive like Omnisphere does, instead it just asks for reasonable 2 GB.
Alchemy is equiped with over 300 presets sorted in categories like Arpeggiated, Bass, Brass, Drums, Guitars, Keys, Leads, Loops, Mallets, Organs, Pads, Sound Effects, Soundscapes, Strings, Synth, Vocals and Woodwinds, but don't expect any "traditional" sounds: that's definitely not what Alchemy is all about, moreover it aims to create new and outstanding sounds - no wonder, because it allows you to tweak and manipulate every aspect of any given sound, and best of all it also allows you to import your own audio files and put them through its additive, spectral or granular grinder... only the sky is the limit of what you can do to any sound snippet loitering on your hard drive! To find out more about Alchemy's numerous possibilities take a look at Camel Audio's tutorial videos here.
I was most impressed by Alchemy's arpeggiated sounds, its drums, pads, loops and strings: these sounds are so unique and inspiring that I could hardly stop myself from fiddling about with them for hours and hours - really great stuff! I only wished the guys at Camel Audio would have equiped Alchemy with more than just 10 drum sets, because each of them is a case of sui generis and high musical quality.
Alchemy's sound effects and soundscapes on the other hand are the categories that I won't have much use for, but then it's a bit unfair to judge strange sounds like these after I've worked my way through Omnisphere's sound library just a few weeks ago: Sure Alchemy's soundscapes and sound effects do sound interesting and vivid, and there's also a lot of morphing going on, but I think Omnisphere remains simply unexcelled concerning weird and eerie atmospheres and sounds - but keep in mind that someone else might see (or hear) things different, because these categories are of much more use for composers & producers of movie scores and computer game tracks than for your average and humble musician.
All in all Alchemy is an extraordinary and wonderful softsynth offering myriads of editing possibilities that even Omnisphere can't provide. It works like a charm, contains hundreds of unique and inspiring sounds, is expandable (CamelAudio are currently offering 2 expansion sets on their website and there will be more to come) and put up for sale at more than reasonable price. It only took me just one hour until I had to realise that Alchemy will become one of my favourite softsynths!
And as this is the end of the year, here are my favourite songs of 2008:
Bruce Springsteen - Dream Baby Dream
Duffy - Rockferry
Tindersticks - Boobar Come Back To Me
Kings of Leon: Sex On Fire
Silver Jews - Suffering Jukebox
Santogold - You'll Find A Way
The Ting Tings - That’s Not My Name
The Raveonettes - Yound And Beautiful
Vampire Weekend - M79
Glasvegas - Geraldine
Moby - Disco Lies
Bloc Party - Mercury
Dido - Grafton Street
Anne Clark - Full Moon
Amy MacDonald - This Is The Life
The Walkmen - In The New Year
Portishead - The Rip
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Home
Soko - I'll Kill Her
Omnisphere is here
Omnisphere comes with a vast core library of over 40 GB with thousands of sounds that can be tweaked, combined and manipulated in any way you want. The sounds are not just your average workstation core library sounds, instead some of them are entering spectacular new territories like f. e. the burning piano, which is - as you might have guessed - the sound of a piano being set on fire (which is exactly what those weirdos at Spectrasonics did to achive that special sound). Also the integrated arpeggiator is just brilliant and very easy to handle, the FX-Rack contains everyt bloody effect section you ever wanted and Omnisphere’s sound browser is simply one of a kind because it allows you to actually tag, sort and find the sounds that you’re looking for, which is something that no other virtual instrument has come up with so far.
You see, I’m really excited about Omnisphere and so I can only recommend it to every songwriter, producer or musician around. Check out Spectrasonics’ website for more information here.
By the way: G-Force have released a new version of their famous M-Tron, which is a very great and useful virtual instrument, too. It is my favourite “secret weapon“ for those moments, when most digital sounds are sounding a bit too clean: those old Mellotron soundbanks add exactly the kind of vintage dirt that will make your songs breathe!
Next thing I’m looking forward too is Camel Audio’s new synthesizer Alchemy: it’s not released yet, but the teasers on their website do sound amazing.
Serves them jolly well right
And year after year, something like this happens:
"Several men have been badly hurt in the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona, northern Spain. The men are in hospital suffering from concussion and bruising after being trampled on Friday. Doctors said all casualties were in a serious condition in hospital; festival officials said they were injured when they fell under the hooves of stampeding bulls while running with the herd during a nine-minute dash through city streets to the Pamplona bullring.Each year thousands of people flee bulls and steers in the nine-day festival."
In my opinion: Well done, bulls!
Sid: Let's have a look at good old Douglas Adams, for he has always a lot to offer concerning life, the universe and politics:
"One of the major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: People are a problem."
(taken from "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", Chapter 28, by Douglas Adams).
There's not much to add to this...I deeply distrust every politician, because I do distrust everyone who thinks that governing people is their vocation — in many cases they turn out to be just a bunch of power-hungry villains. As Bob Dylan once put it: "Don't follow leaders — watch the parking meters"; or even more radical with the words of Kevin Rowland of Dexy's Midnight Runners: "The only way to change things: Shoot people who arrange things!".
God and Goddess
Sid: A hoity-toity nincompoop who should be voted out of office straight away as he does obviously a lousy job!
Sid: The promising opposition candidate I'd be voting for!
Sid: Christianity means nothing to me but a religious fraud: Though it is pretending to be about love, it sows the seed of hate and intolerance — and a damn lethal seed it is as one can tell by the track of blood christendom has left in history!
That doesn't mean that I'd disdain any person who's a christian believer — nope, because everyone's free to believe what he/she likes as long as they're not harming any other living being; and if they think christianity's their cup of tea then good luck to them: It certainly isn't mine!
Love or Hate
Sid: I think love and hate cannot be put on the same level with each other, because while both being undoubtedly powerful emotions they are nevertheless of completely different derivations: You have to have a reason for hating someone, but you don't have to have a reason for love!
On the other hand, love can easily turn into hate sometimes, as I've tried to explain in "Trying not to breathe" with the line "I hate you and I love you for what you've done to me": If the one you love leaves you, then two strong emotions are fighting against each other within yourself, and this is nothing but a horrible outburst of devastation!
Being torn apart between love and hate is a most dangerous process, because it can easily end in self-destruction: Someone broke your heart, but you still love her/him because of the good times you've shared, and at the same time you hate that person because she/he has the power to make you feel so tremendously bad — it's like being a small iron particle in the centre between two strong magnets: Unable to move and unable to escape...
Nevertheless I think it's much easier to love than to hate, although I don't deny the fact that hate is a very vigorous and vital force in human life; but love with its ability to strike you sometimes out of the blue is definitely a spiritual force. Hate can only be an ulterior motive for a certain time, it has to find its end at some stage, at the latest when it's achieved its object; otherwise it'll burn you out and leave you all barren, whereas love can go on forever and ever without doing any harm at all: There is no end to unconditional love because it is the divine impetus of life itself: The more you love, the more you'll obtain!
Sid : I do hope not — but this male dominated society is a rather sick system, and there's already enough abominable pornographic stuff in the internet and on TV right now. The fact that not only a few men are turned on by pornography and prostitution shows that a majority of the male gender is neither able to develop a healthy sexual self-awareness nor to perceive women as autonomous human beings.
Sid: Yes, you are: I'm interested in matriarchal cultures all over the world, especially in those of Northern-European, pre-Celtic origin.
I do also admire Celtic Art: I remember having seen photographs of early Celtic Art when I was about 14 years old, and from that very moment I've been fascinated by the rich symbolism and the beauty of that artistic school; and so I tried to go deeper into Celtic Culture, reading every available book that I could lay my hands on. I spent about 10 or 12 years on reading and learning until I began actually understanding the spirit of all I've read about, which goes far beyond plain knowledge - spiritual awareness cannot be learned, it has to be experienced.
Of course it was of great importance to me to gain knowledge through literature, but really experiencing the Celtic Spirit happened when I visited some of the ancient quoits in England and Ireland and listened to the old ballads not only with my ears, but with my heart!
The Meaning of Love
Sid: Love is pure magic, and like every magical power it contains both creative and destructive energies. Come to think about it, the most miserable periods in my life were always caused by the negative outcomes of love (i. e. broken relationships), but at the same time I'm aware that the most beautiful moments were also because of love. If wanting to experience love, one has to be strong enough to face both heaven and hell: The higher one rises, the deeper one falls! In order to avoid all that trouble, you'd have to stay mediocre — but despite of all that I've gone through, this would not be my cup of tea, anyway!
There's a wonderful song by Hazel O'Connor that goes: "If I had another chance, I would have the same romance with you and life, the happiness and the knife. If I had that time again I'd change it not another way..." — and I guess the same goes for me: I'll never regret to have loved, even if it always ended in tears. But there's no price to high for love, and if you do love, you have to accept the fact that it makes you very vulnerable, that it might even kill you. It's a question of all or nothing, I'm afraid. Edna St. Vincent Millay once wrote about this: "My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night; but, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light". Or, with Tennyson's words: "Tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all".
To me, love is the most sincere and honest feeling, a divine power that can make us goddesses and gods, a feeling that is associated with closeness, truth, respect and unconditional faith. I don't know if this is just an ideal that'll never become reality, but even if the quest for true love should be bound to fail: Wouldn't life be rather poor without this dream?
Sid: That's difficult to explain: To me, love is like the most beautiful song ever heard, like dissolving in an endless sea of light and passion, having found what you've been looking for all your life, drowning in your lover's eyes, a blissful dream without end — but also being there whenever you're needed, always standing by your lover's side whatever may come, always being sincere and true to the one you're with. There are too many facets to true love than can be mentioned, I'm afraid.
Erotic Literature and Pornography
Sid: As the term "pornography" has derived from the Greek term for "presentation of whores", it's quite obvious that pornography doesn't deal with respect for women. Pornography doesn't intend to show women as individuals or subjects, but as sexual objects of men.
Pornography is unable to portray the female body in a positive way, even in cases when it tries to hide its true aim under the cloak of "fine arts", because the standards defining the female body are made up by men: They define what or who is to be called "sexy", "beautiful" or "erotic" (although men talking 'bout eroticism is always a bit like a blind talking about colours!); and after all men have decided that women always look best when being victims: Either victims of male fantasies of rape and violation, or "just" victimised by the way they have to expose and exhibit themselves in front of a camera.
Referring to sexuality itself, the majority of men are a bunch of ignorant creeps. Their only sensual interest seems to be reduced to some mindbogglingly obscure movements of their naughty bits, while their sexual stimulation seems to consist of goggling randy at some gynaecologically exposed parts of the female body. They don't see that sexuality is some kind of erotic "culture", which is much more than quick movements of the pelvis.
Pornography is nothing more than the product of the sick minds of those scruffy wallies we call "men", and it's jolly obvious that it was never meant to be for the sake of appreciation or adoration of women, but for degrading, abusing and exploiting them.
Sid: Death belongs to the natural cycle of love and life, whereas war is a destructive force made up by sick human minds. According to my point of view, death is not the end, but the transition to another level of existence. Love is the ultimate source of everything, a power that brings growth, splendidness and fruitfulness. As long as love exists, there is always hope and faith and beauty.
Of course there's also a dark side of love, but this aspect only arises from disappointment and betrayal by humans; i. e. the lack of the pure energy of love — but I guess I've said enough about that darker side in some songs like "The Sea" or "The Farewell".
Näx: I like love more than war and death. Death is a part of the big game and I don't fear it. Just trying to be prepared.
Sid: Just another fake teenage rebellion by predominantly male middle-class nitwits going through puberty, obviously taking pulp literature, b-movies and themselves much too seriously.
Heaven and Hell
Sid: I don't think that there's something like heaven or hell according to Christian mythology: Damnation or salvation are not being granted or caused by some weird deity, but lie within us.
I don't consider this world we're living in as some kind of hellish place, although some people are trying very hard to make it exactly like that: Of course there's injustice, malevolence and cruelty — but there's also beauty, love and magnificence, and maybe it's one of the most confusing experiences to realize that both heaven and hell seem to exist on the same planet at the same time, It's up to us to a certain extent whether we do open our hearts and souls to misery or to happiness, which isn't always easy but I know too many people who love to play the part of the "poor miserable bugger" instead of opening themselves to the beauty and the kindness that's also on this life's menu: It seems much easier to arrange oneself with being perpetually victimized instead of taking responsibility for one's destiny!
If we really wanted to create heaven on Earth, we could do that easily — but that goes also for hell!
Sid : It makes me sad to see that most people don't give a damn about environmental problems! We're consequently destroying what we depend on, and sooner or later we will be running out of resources completely.
We have lost our respect for Mother Earth; instead of venerating and honouring her for being our source of life, we're exploiting her until the bitter end. But we do depend on her, not she on us; we are weak children needing HER nourishment, HER shelter and HER fertility, but we have lost this awareness because of our mindbogglingly stupid presumption.
I don't know what the future might bring, but I think quite soon the Earth might just get rid off us like from some insignificant cosmic pneumonia: Earth will bloom and flourish again long after humankind has fallen into oblivion.
Christian Definition of Love
Sid: The Christian definition of love is a contradiction in itself because one simply can't love everyone! You may forgive your enemies if you're able to (which in my book is saintly enough), but you'll never love them for what they've done to you (given that we're talking about real enemies (fiendish ones!) and not just some daft dorks you accidentally happen to have a slight grudge against!).
Really loving someone however is divine in all its aspects, which includes sexuality as well — there's nothing unholy or immoral about it: if love is of divine origin, then our bodies are like temples and making love becomes some kind of prayer.
Sid: Definitely one of my favourite characters in Terry Pratchett's Discworld-novels. Speaks in capital letters most of the time.
The Sense of Life and Death
Sid: The sense of life? To love and to be loved. The sense of death? To learn, to grow and to let go.
To live is like being a drop of rain that falls down to earth, and to die is like floating back into the ocean again.
Sid: Quite useful device as it helps to save daylight.