The Music of Momentum: Natural Science

Hey, first let me apologize, I’ve been trying to decide what format to use with these posts, but we’ll go with this for now.

This excerpt is from a song initially called “Natural Philosophy.” We changed it to “Natural Science,” because it just sounded better to us.

First, let me start by saying that I’m not going much into the composition, lest this end up like the other post, full of me waxing elegant. Suffice to say that I wanted make the song simple.

That being said, one of the compositional ideas in this piece (and the only one I’ll get into detail) is the idea of three measures of stuff, then one measure of nothing, with only the momentum of the previous measures to carry it through. I wanted this to replicate that kinda feeling while you’re on a swing set and you get to the top of your swing, then just… hang there for a moment, feeling weightless.

I really like that feeling.

But now on to instrumentation.

Piano–As noted before, I wanted this song to be simple, so the piano part isn’t complicated at all. It isn’t compressed or eq’d, and has a bunch of reverb on it.

In this excerpt, I only really have one synthy synth (every instrument was computer-generated, but this isn’t based off an acoustic instrument). It is the boop kinda noise–it has an arp function on it that makes it automatically repeat every xth note, as well as a filter on the signal which makes it change from a soft boop with a low cutoff to louder beep with a higher cutoff. Also, it has a cool little delay on it, which I often reinforced rhythmically (that is, I put the same notes at the place where the delay was going to hit). I also decided to use the same synth to make a quiet melody, by stopping the note before the filter changed it (the haunting sounds at :30).

Bass–I had initially composed nearly the entire thing without a bass part, just to make it so the melody/harmony didn’t suffer because of an awesome bass part (I’m looking at you, dubstep). I added in an acoustic bass partway through the song, then we decided to change it to be a more gnarly synthetic bass. Also, during part of the song, the piano doubles the bass part to make it just a bit thicker (listen to :24 ish).

Like the bass, I initially didn’t have any percussion in this song. But we did decide to add in a very light percussive part in later–just a couple high hats, a ride, a kick and a snare. I pretty much just sampled it all from a loop, then eq’d and compressed it to taste.

The snare though, took some work–I ended up processing its signal twice, in parallel. Each signal went through some seriously heavy eq and some careful distortion and bunch of other stuff. Both were heavily compressed and some solid reverb went into them as well.

Then, of course, there’s the sssSSHHT (:09). When it first went in, we liked it so much, that we kinda put it everywhere. It was the sshtiest song ever. After a week, we listened to it again and we both went “whut.” It took ages to figure out where it was appropriate, where to replace it with a different sound, and when to remove it all together.

Moving onto the other stuff.

The reverb. it’s is all long and… reverby. In this song, I had a couple different reverbs on the piano at the same time. I also had some on the other important instruments. One of the reverbs I used detunes the signal, which I kinda liked. It fit the mood, as well as making the reverb more… thick. I had to be careful with it though, lest bad stuff happen.

An oddity in this song, is that many of the instruments are panned to several places. What I did was I panned an instrument somewhere, then, in parallel, I swapped the stereo panning and turned down the signal, so they’re panned both to the one place, and also a bit more quietly opposite that. Normally, I would steer clear of stuff like that, but in this song, it worked.

Another oddity about this song is the kinda windy sound that goes through a majority of the song. I initially put it in because, at the time, so little in this song had a lot of high frequency content, and I felt that it sounded empty. For a time, I removed it when I put in the percussion, but found that I liked the song better with it in. I had tried putting it in a few other songs, but it felt wildly inappropriate.

Anyways, that’s all for now. More later.

–Isaac

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