Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Europa Subsurface

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

I originally started thinking about making an ambient track to be a soundtrack for Dave Eckblad’s Kerbal Space Program stream ( This is what came of out of that.

The name is in reference to the recent discovery of Geysers on Jupiter’s moon Europa, caused by immense pressure in the water trapped under the frozen moon’s icy surface.

In order evoke this feeling of cold movement, I combined samples of recordings made under the ice of Antarctica with audio data (of solar plasma in interstellar space) from the Voyager 1 probe, and plasma wave data from the Van Allen space probes. The rest of the sounds are samples of the Kurzweil K2000R, Arturia Minibrute, Ensoniq SQR+ 32 voice, and Yamaha DX7s synthesizers. All of the production, sequencing and effects are from Caustic 3.

After the production was done, I sent the song to Dave and he was kind enough to mix and master it for me in his own environment.

I hope you enjoy the result, or at least find it interesting.

Every Inside

Monday, October 7th, 2013

So a while ago I got a Kurzweil K2000R on ebay, after trading my RM1x for a Tascam MM-1 mixer. It was a good trade, but i do miss the RM1x. Anyway, the K2000 is really quite a lot more capable (even if the RM1x has a more intuitive interface!), and as a test of its “mettle”, i tried creating an entire track just using the K2000. “Every Inside” is the result. All sequences, sounds and samples are coming from the K2000R.

More soon.

New musical direction?

Monday, December 19th, 2011

As many who know me are aware, I spent much of 2011 focusing the limited time I get for making music on my band Kether.  In that time Kether has released two singles, played three very-well-received shows and been featured on the excellent TC Electropunk volume 6 compilation. Definitely time well spent!

But what of my other music? By this I refer to 17hex, which is my “solo” project and the namesake of this blog.  The plan had always (or at least since 2005 or so) been to finish and release an EP called “the Roots of Coincidence” (after the Arthur Koestler book of the same name), and that is still the plan.

So what is changed?  Well, for starters, it is almost 7 years later and I still haven’t managed to release even a 7 song EP.  Even going slowly, that is one song per year! Secondly, what has (ironically) changed is that Kether has done well, but more specifically, we have defined a set of working parameters using Reaper (and the DX7s) over the scope of two years that has helped us “get our sound”.

The net result is that if I want 17hex to not just sound like “kether without guitar”, I need to do something differently. After playing shows using a fairly “state of the art” computer setup, it has become apparent that:

1. Regardless of.. some peoples’ opinions.. computers can be used to a great effect in a live setting. We have (*knock on wood*) has ZERO issues with freezing, crashing, or any of the reasons that people can actually come up with when you press them for why they don’t think computers are fit for live use, save for…

2. Having said all that, if you are going to use a computer for live performance, you have to make sure there is actually a performance involved, and not just someone standing behind a laptop.   There is a LOT of room for creativity here, and it is definitely not so black and white as “so no laptops on stage”.  Have it onstage off to the side doing something while your band plays.  People will see the band not the computer, and it will work just fine.   Or, if you in one way or another “play the computer” live (as in, not from a MIDI controller, but from the computer keyboard/mouse/trackpad/touchscreen), maybe you should have a camera aimed at it so people can see what you are doing, or maybe just run a copy of the computer’s video out to a projector so people can see that there’s more going on than just a backing track playing on the screen.

It’s this second point that prompted me to change.  The computer works live for kether because we are a BAND, in which we play instruments and dance around on stage and perform as a band.  Even though all of our music is synthesized live (no iPod backing tracks for us!  iPods are computers too, anyway!), as far as anyone seeing the computer sitting onstage is concerned, there’s no difference, so we keep the computer off to the side. 

The Yamaha RM1x

But for 17hex, it would just be me.  There’s no whiz-bang guitar player to watch.  Just me doing my best to run a sequencer live and make it interesting.  For this scenario, I decided to not use a computer for 17hex at all anymore.  Instead, I got a Yamaha RM1x.  It is an amazing sequencer/synth/drum machine with LOTS of potential for live use.

Basically the songs will all be cut up into loops and then triggered and mangled from this box, which will also send MIDI to outboard synths (and possibly a circuit bent Alesis HR16B if I can get it working).  It will be more gear to carry to live shows, and likely my music will end up sounding a lot “grittier”, but I hope the result is more interesting live…

Kether playing the TC Electropunk Volume 6 Release show!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

My band Kether is playing a really fun show this Saturday, Dec 3rd 2011. We were asked by the very awesome Todd from Avenpitch to be on his TC Electropunk compilation! Along with that, we get the opportunity to play at Club Underground for the release show with some of my favorite local (or otherwise!) bands!

How cool is that?!

To top things off, since the comp is FREE, you can download the whole TC Electropunk Volume 6 as a .ZIP file, or stream or

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download it right here (via Bandcamp):

New 17hex track: H. A.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

I have emerged from the murky realm of non-blogging to share a new track I made, called “H. A.”. H. A. by

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17hex H. A. = High Availability. This simple term can mean many things. Instruments

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Used: Moog Opus3 Ensoniq SQR+32 Voice E-mu ProteusFX Yamaha DX7s TAL NoiseMaker VSTi Majken Grizzly VSTi All recording, sequencing, production and mastering done in Cockos Reaper.

An Electronic Must-Have List

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Recently I had someone ask me for some

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“must have” electronic records. Now, this is a rather tall request as the genre “Electronic” covers a very wide variety of musical styles, from Industrial to Hardcore to Techno and on and on. Because of that, I thought that instead of creating a “Top 10 list” (this isn’t Digg, after all), I’d try to create a list of records that I feel “speak to me” in some way and convey something about not only the musicians who made it, but something deeper about what that style of music has to say. I’ll just list them (un-numbered) and in no particular order with no descriptions, but I’ll include Amazon links for more info.

I know there are tons I am leaving off, and this is by no means a complete list, especially considering just how many disparate genres and countercultures it cuts across. Not all the music on this list is especially easy to listen to, but then again, one commonality amongst all the artists who made this list is a need to create something which is more than a genre-influenced “sum of its parts”.

Looking back at this list, it leans heavily toward 90’s era electronica, but considering how electronic music has always (for very practical reasons) followed the development of electronic equipment and modes of communication, and the explosion of both of these things in the 1990’s, it is not really much of a surprise. Also worth noting is that for every album on this list, there are several more “if you like it you’ll like this..” records in the same genre which perhaps could have/should have made the list too.

But hopefully, for someone who is new to the boundless expression which electronic

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music offers, this is a good place to start…

A few small changes

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

There have been a few small changes since I posted here last… Let’s see.. there’s the new job, new computer, holidays, Lily turning 2, musical progress, progress on my book.. Although I can’t even begin to discuss everything here (or at least have no desire to), I’ll try to cover the basics.

New Job: In December I left my job (of 4 years) at Hopkins and went to work (doing Systems Integration) for Community Action. It is a good organization with a great mission (to fight poverty) and a lot of things going on. They (like most such non-profit organizations) have never had an IT department at all up until recently, so there is a lot of work to be done! But it is rewarding and fulfilling and pays more than my last job (just with a slightly longer commute), so I can’t complain.

New Computer: I finally broke down and bought myself a music computer. It is an HP dv6-1361SB. For those who care about such things, it runs Windows 7 Professional and gets an Experience Index of 5.9. This new computer has made a huge difference in my music making productivity, and it is really nice to finally have my own computer to do personal things (like blog posts and web design and music production and writing) on.

Holidays: We had some crazy holidays this year running around and visiting everyone, but it went well and was nice. Read all about it on the other blog.

Lily turning 2: In December our daughter Lily turned 2. That has been a fun adventure for all of us. Again, see for all the details.

Musical progress: My band Kether has

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made quite a lot of progress. Check out our site for more details.

Progress on my book: I’ve done a little bit more on my book. In case you didn’t know what that is about, check out the Mythos site. Note that most of the work I’ve done hasn’t been published there yet, but the story line has progressed quite far now, and sometime soon (after I finish the web design project I’m entrenched in) I’ll try to write a draft of all of it online.

As you can see, I’ve been very

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busy, just not on this blog. Hopefully I’ll have more to post here soon…

Don’t fear the Reaper

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Sorry. What a terrible (and overused in this context) post title. Anyway, I realized I hadn’t posted in well over a month, so I thought I’d post about the (technology) thing that’s been eating a lot of my time: Reaper. I’ve posted about Reaper here in the past, but it is worth mentioning

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that they’ve recently released version 3 of this great DAW, and with that, brought tons of features that are huge, and better than I have seen in any other music software. You can read the Big Picture Changelog to see everything they’ve done in v3, but I wanted to highlight a few specific features that I personally use a LOT:

1. Multiple Tabbed Projects. This means you can have multiple projects open at the same time. There is a great amount of flexibility here, allowing you to either layer multiple projects playing simultaneously, or set “background” projects/media to “Offline” and use tabs as a “playlist”. The latter method is the one I use, loading up a show’s worth of projects in set-list order, and then stepping through them using a button on my Axiom49 controller. This means I can run an entire live show without having to touch the PC and without having to worry about songs playing before I am ready. Cool.

2. FX parameter controls on track and mixer control panels. In english, this means that you can make a button show up for any plugin parameter (like Filter Cutoff on a softsynth) right on the track panel, so you can tweak the things you tweak a lot on your plugins without having to have the plugin GUI open and taking up screen space. Especially on laptops, this can be a HUGE productivity boost. This also covers the fact that there is a “MIDI learn” button that shows up on any assignable envelope’s “lane” (more on lanes momentarily), so you can assign any plugin parameter to any hardware controller in 2 clicks now. Reaper is definitely not the only DAW to attempt to tackle the “why is MIDI learn a pain to use?” problem, but I think that Cockos’ implementation is quite nice, and feels very well integrated into the program.

3. Automation lanes. This addition alone would have warranted a new version release of the software, as it so radically altered how it is used. Automation lanes mean that each parameter you want to automate (like the aforementioned Filter Cutoff) has its own “row” on the track screen, so that you can easily create envelopes that span multiple clips and drag/rearrange/add/delete/alter envelope points right from the “main screen” of reaper. The behavior of automation lanes is quite intelligently constructed, and greatly extends the capabilities of the program. You can even (as of v3.01) click a button to control whether envelopes follow clips as you drag them around, or stay where they are (in case, for example, you want to swap in a different vocal take, but want to preserve the timing of your vocal effects on the track).

4. Track MIDI controls. While the majority of studio engineers (recording “traditional” instruments with microphones and line inputs) likely will not ever care about or use this feature, those of us who rely on MIDI for our synthesizer and effect hardware love what Cockos has done here. There is now a whole separate Track MIDI settings window that lets you define custom track lists for your synths, send FULL SYSEX to/from them, and define custom interface knobs to control parameters (effectively levelling the playing field between MIDI hardware and VST/VSTi plugins). This has made my life a lot simpler, and for that I am grateful.

While this is just a sampling (pun intended) of the new features, I hope this prompts someone out there to check out this software. The “demo” of the software is completely uncrippled unexpiring shareware. This means you can use it forever for free with full functionality, but that after 30 days they do expect/hope you will pay the $60 for a noncommercial license or $225 for a commercial (which they define as making more than $20,000/year) license. I paid for my license (a rarity for someone who loves Open Source software for its freedom) because I greatly respect the developers (only 3 of them AFAIK) at Cockos and the community of respectful and helpful users they encourage by such an open usage/licensing policy on their software.

Pretty soon I hope to have time to actually post some of the music I’m making in Reaper, but in the meantime, you can go to Kether’s page and see some music I did post (made in Ableton Live before I used/knew about Reaper).

Monolake on Mastering

Monday, October 27th, 2008

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article interview by Robert Henke (aka Monolake, aka “the guy who invented the Operator synth in Ableton Live”) with

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Rashad Becker, a very noted mastering engineer. If you are even remotely interested in audio production/mixing/mastering, I highly recommend reading this:

Robert Henke talks with Rashad Becker about Mastering

behind, between and forward

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

So over the last weekend, I built a deck behind my house, with the help of my two brothers in law and my father in law. It’s been really nice to do some work with my hands again, after quite a long time of investing my brainpower totally in technology issues and SQL programming. Doing all this work outside also gave me a great opportunity to reorganize my workshop (shed) to be functional for such a project, which is a very gratifying task to complete. I just hope I can keep it organized…

Otherwise I’ve been working on music steadily, and last week Dave and Tomtom and I had Kether practice as a band, which went very well. Tomtom had to leave early (to practice with one of the other bands he plays in) and Dave and I took the time to fix a slew of technical problems we’d been having, which was also gratifying. I’ve very firmly switched to using Reaper as my main (and pretty much only) music composition/editing software. The cheap price (free until you decide to pay for it, then $50 for a noncommercial license), ease of use, regular (sometimes quite significant) improvements/bugfixes, and huge amount of interoperability (supports VST and DX plugins, MIDI, ReWire, and more) make it pretty compelling. Oh yeah, and it’s rather fun to play in ;-) My wife could definitely attest to the amount of time Reaper has sucked away from my life..

Speaking of sucking time away, work is insanely busy right now, as the new school year just started on Tuesday, and now is the time of year when everyone wants their data RIGHT NOW. Overall this year has started much smoother than previous years, and between moving our server infrastructure to VMWare and moving our Website (to Drupal) and Moodle to being hosted offsite, I think we have plenty to look

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That, at least, is a nice change.

Common Themes, an update

Friday, July 11th, 2008

A common theme on this blog seems to be me complaining about how time has flown since i posted last. I want to do that again, because I haven’t posted since MAY and it’s now July 12th. Seriously.

Having gotten that out of my system, I’ll move on to another common theme: music. I’ve been trying to scrape together free time to work on the

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Kether live show, and with mixed results. On one hand, I really don’t have very much free time for music. I mean like maybe a few hours maybe every few days. I’ve been trying to set a “band practice” schedule of one day a week so that I can justify spending a little more time on it, but so far the Summer Craziness (and raising a child) has thwarted my plans. On the other hand, setting up band

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practice involves having a band to practice with, and I have managed to convince three of my musically inclined friends to heed my call to musical action and play keyboards (and in Tom’s case, guitar) with me. Now we just need to all get together at the same time, which hasn’t happened yet.

I have also managed to get a new MIDI controller for my studio: an M-Audio Axiom 49. SInce you can click links and read pages for yourself, I won’t write an ad here for the Axiom 49, but suffice it to say that this controller is a wonderful addition to my studio, and undoubtedly will greatly help with future production and live recording. Aside from that, its a lot of fun to play on!

Maybe soon (at this rate, “soon” means “before October”) I will share some pictures I have taken and post about something other than my self and my life. Until that time, peace.

DX7 patches, from Brian Eno

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

So now that my Yamaha DX7s is working, I once again, like MANY before me, get to be totally amazed at the sounds you can make on that synthesizer.  I spent like 10 minutes on it and made two different sounds that would have been flat out impossible to make on just about any other piece of equipment (hardware or software) that I’ve seen (except maybe the Kurzweil K2x00 series synths, but that’s another story entirely). (more…)

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 3

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

[Note: this is Part 3 of our saga. You may want to start with Part 1]

Well, it’s all done. It’s actually all been done for most of the week, but I haven’t had time to post about it. My DX7s is totally working, and everything tests OK. And it was the pitch wheel. Sort of. (more…)

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 2

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

[Note: this is Part 2 of our saga.  You may want to start with Part 1]

So I finally had time tonight to look at the DX7s.  I was planning on spending a bunch of time tonight working with my new Presonus Firepod, but that didn’t work out as I had hoped.  Presonus sent me the unit, but no power adapter (even though there was even a tag on the box from the factory that said “include power adapter before shipping”)!  I’ve emailed Presonus customer support about it, and based on my dealings with them so far, I expect we’ll be able to work something out.   It just means I have to wait even longer to use it.


Power Trip

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I still haven’t had time to work on the DX7 more, but I have gotten slightly farther on my music studio. Today after work I dropped Jill off at her parents’ house and then went home. There I boxed up my old Nady CL-5000 (mk I) Compressor and got it ready to sell. I then went to Uptown (Minneapolis) and got my friend (and Kether’s guitar player) Tom, and from there we went to the St Paul Music Go Round, where I traded the CL-5000 and some cash for a Furman PL-8 Power Conditioner. I’ve wanted a (more…)

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 1

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Yamaha DX7s

I wish I had been taking pictures of this whole process. In case you haven’t been following along, I have a Yamaha DX7s which, since it’s “inception” in the late 80’s, has seen many owners and a lot of disregard. Two keys were broken, along with the pitch wheel being “wobbly” and the battery needing to be replaced (considering the amount of leaked acid on the battery, I’d guess for several years). Since I know the value of the DX7 (a really impressive partial list of users can be found here) I took it upon myself to “revive” this one.


yet another new look, and some arrivals

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

So i’m trying this theme i made. Like I said in the previous post, I was going for something brighter and more “fluid”. This theme (which i’ve dubbed “Hydrostatic”) is totally fluid-width, with really simple layout. I’m sure I’ll change it a

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ton more times before I finally submit it to the WordPress themes codex, but I do plan to submit..

In other news, two of my packages finally arrived.. apparently a few days ago! The delivery man just put them by the side door (which we don’t use during the winter) last week, and I never noticed till today. Thankfully the boxes were sealed shut and they seemed ok, but I figured I’d let them sit at room temperature for the rest of the day before I plugged them in. Nothing for several hundred dollars worth of 14 year old electronics like sitting outside for several days during a Minnesota winter…

At least they came. I also got a notice from Presonus that my Firepod (an FP-10, technically) shipped last week, and should arrive on Tuesday! Then I’m just waiting for the replacement keys for the DX7s, and I can finish putting my studio back together. I really do plan to post pictures.