Noise, sounds, and other things that could be considered music
DigInt is an online netlabel which releases Creative Commons-licensed music available for free download. DigInt primarily releases the music of David Kibrick, the author of this site. It has also provided recording and limited music release for the Fiat Musica choral ensemble, a women’s interest group of the University of California, Santa Cruz. It may feature music from other artists in the future.
(If you’re looking for the Fiat Musica recordings, you can find them here.)
I’ve been interested in music from early childhood, when I was introduced to music via my father’s vast collection of classical music on vinyl LPs. Growing up, I had some piano lessons here and there, and an FM/cassette boombox where I listened to various stations (pop, jazz, and eventually KZSC, where I would eventually have my own music show), and used the combination of the cassette recorder and the manual tuner dial to embark on my very first foray into experimental music.I didn’t get serious about recording music, though, until I was in my senior year of high school, when I was designing an audio documentary with a couple of college students. One of them, an exchange student from England, introduced me to the wide world of electronic music – which, unbeknownst to me, was flourishing in Europe, while keeping a decidedly low profile in the states (even in its heyday, trance music was a bit of an “underground” genre here, briefly peaking in popularity alongside rave culture, and going back underground when the new electronic genres of dubstep and other tepid excuses for “EDM” came onto the scene). Inspired, I began to listen to DJ sets off of the BBC’s Radio 1, as well as internet radio stations that carried similar material (foremost among them DJ Tornado’s mixed station, which is regrettably no longer online).
A few key points influenced my journey into musical composition. I had become proficient at picking out basic melodies on an old Yamaha keyboard, but had no real way to turn them into a permanent composition. Then, one day, I came across the program Melody Assistant, and discovered in it a powerful music-sequencing engine. True, the sound quality wasn’t on par with the likes of Rebirth or others, but it was a start.
The other key point was discovering mp3.com. I first heard about it, I believe, when the site made the news by being sued for copyright infringement. When I visited the site, though, I was amazed at the huge variety of independent artists exhibiting their tracks for all to listen. I quickly found a number of excellent electronic artists, and the thought began to simmer in the back of my own head – that I should become an artist on mp3.com.
Then, one day, it happened. I was working on creating station IDs for my then-intensive project of shoutcast-based internet radio (a while before I was on the actual radio), when I ended up with what became known as Project – Modified. On a whim, I decided to create an artist account and post this short bit of audio to mp3.com. That was the early starting point of what was then known as Digital Dissonance, which eventually morphed into the DigInt music project.
Since then, I’ve produced dozens of tracks of music spanning several albums, and progressed from Melody Assistant to Harmony Assistant with a higher-quality sound base; and from there to Logic Express, and then Logic Pro with a huge selection of digital instruments. I’ve been doing this as a hobby for quite a number of years now, and it’s been quite a lot of fun to experiment with electronic music, while at the same time creating some very unique and distinctive, something that I can listen to and immediately recognize “I made this.”
I think, ultimately, it’s about the incredibly varied capabilities you can get when working with a computer and digital music. Play a piano, and you get a piano sound. Play a keyboard, and you get more sounds, but there are still limits. With a computer digital audio workstation setup, you can synthesize and produce essentially any timbre that you can imagine, and do incredible manipulation of sound, including things that just weren’t possible even a decade or two ago. I also like the process that can come from it, of being able to program music as opposed to playing it live – both have their advantages, but it is cool to be able to sit down and just… play with different ideas, throw on different plug-ins, try different things, be unpredictable and see what happens. Sure, you can do that to an extent with a regular instrument, but with a computer workstation, in a matter of moments you can transform one idea into something radically new and different. Not to mention that with a mobile studio, you can make music, actual full sequences multi-track music, anywhere you go. You can come up with interesting little tracks while sitting in a waiting room or on the subway. And with new plugins and sounds and approaches becoming available all the time, the possibilities really are limitless.
Computer music is a brave new world, and I would encourage anyone with any aptitude for music whatsoever to give it a try. For no, or very little money, anyone with a PC (or heck, even a smartphone) can get their hands on an incredible array of technology, and create professional-quality sounds from the comfort of their own home. Just as digital photography has brought high-level technology to the masses, computer music setups bring the same thing to anyone who wants to create music, and once people really start taking advantage of it, I have a feeling that it has the potential to revolutionize both the music industry itself, as well as how we think of music and our relationship to it.
I originally named my “band” Digital Dissonance, as a sort of in-joke about my philosophy towards music. I’m the kind of person who loves experimenting with music, playing with the creation of weird and interesting sounds, and I invariably love listening to the results that I get, as they’re tailor-made to my musical taste (I created them, after all). However, I would not generally predict that the type of music I create has much in the way of mass-market popularity (and, honestly, I’m more than fine with that). In part, this has to do with a simple fact: if I want professionally-produced music in the genres that I like, I probably already have copious amounts of it in my music collection, and can acquire more cheaply and easily. While I could theoretically create similar tracks, it’s much easier to just listen to what I have. I’d much rather spend my time working on sounds that I’m not hearing most anywhere else, and while I’ll dabble in a genre track from time to time, I’d rather be out there playing with sound and seeing what happens.
As a result, I invariably take on the stance that I’m going to promote my music regardless of what anyone things of it. Perhaps that’s the stubbornness in me speaking, but I’m going to make music, sound, whatever in my own way, and I’m not going to compromise what I do to satisfy popular tastes or the whims of a random critic. If you like the stuff I come up with, great – I love working on these experiments with sound and music, and I’m glad that you are able to enjoy them along with me. And if you don’t like it – well, no one’s cramming it down your throat, and there’s a whole world of music out there that might better suit your taste. Overall, my philosophy is, if I create a track that I like and that is interesting for me to make and listen to, even if I’m the only person in the world who likes it, that’s good enough for me – and if other people listen and enjoy it as well, that’s icing on the cake.
I used to have most of my music on mp3.com – I liked the interface, the submission process was easy, and you could just, well, upload MP3s (unlike certain other sites, which require a full, uncompressed sound file, something that is a considerable challenge to do given my rather unimpressive internet speed). Since its demise, I haven’t really found a site I like enough to consider replacing it.
On my own site, I have a very streamlined and customizable workflow for getting my music online, and since I’ve got plenty of hosting capacity to support my current volume of downloads (and quite a lot more), there’s no real incentive aside from some redundancy. That being said, I have been experimenting with SoundCloud for a couple of my songs, and so you may occasionally see a widget on a song page that will allow to play directly from that service (however, given its storage limitations, I don’t anticipate using it all that much). Until a site comes along that is a paradigm-changing improvement over my current site, though, I anticipate primarily releasing my music here.
All production is done in a small-to-medium-sized room, with no acoustic treatment whatsoever. The music is primarily EQed on studio headphones, and later tested out on whatever sets of speakers I can get my hands on (my crappy mp3 player earbuds, my car stereo, people’s home stereo setups, etc.). While some songs have been “mastered” to an extent using various compressors/limiters, and while the technology I have now can take it a lot further towards a decent-sounding mix, I am a long way from being a mastering expert. So, that being said, be aware that the tracks are not all uniform, and are all produced differently, according to the way I hear them on my setup. As a result, some tracks may have different volume levels, or sound different on your own setup. Personally, I’ve had pretty good luck listening to my tracks on everything from the mostly shot speakers in a twenty-year-old car to a reasonable-quality home stereo system, so I would say that my music generally sounds okay on most setups – you just might have to adjust the volume a bit.
I've moved my studio setup to something that is fairly mobile, with the goal of allowing for more production work in various places and potential collaboration with others (and because they take up a lot less space and produce less waste heat). I do have some older Mac equipment running Logic, but I am working on switching over to more cross-platform production with the idea of moving the heavy lifting over to to my gaming laptop, which has a lot more horsepower to run instruments and effects. See below for a breakdown featuring some of the equipment I use:
- Mobile Laptop: MacBook Air from way back when with Logic Pro X
- Workstation Laptop: Lenovo Legion Y520 with Focusrite Scarlett Solo interface
- Headphones: Sennheiser HD 380 Pro, Audio Technica ATH-M50x, Mackie MC-150
- Keyboard: Midiplus X2
- Drum Pads: Arturia Beatstep
- Knob Tweaking: Evolution X-Session
- Field Recording: Zoom H4
- Mobile Music Making: iPad Mini, iPhone SE
- Plugins: Too many to list
- Effects: Seriously, too many to list!