My Father’s Sweater

Image from Mike + The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” (1988) music video.

This time, I chose to do the assignment “Old Poem Same Feeling” submitted by Lauren Wootten. The description is as follows: “For this assignment [sic] you must first pick a poem. Once you find this poem you mash it up (or sing it if you choose.) with the instrumental [sic] of a song. For my version I mashed up a beautiful instrumental of Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again with my attempt to sing Shakespeare’s [sic] sonnet 104 about an old friend. ” Which I wish I could find! It sounds very neat. For my assignment, I read Li-Young Lee’s 1986 poem “Mnemonic” to Mike + the Mechanics’ 1988 song “The Living Years”.

Above is a draft since I had a lot of difficulty with this one, and I want to show my process. First, however, I will explain my poetry and song choices. The poem I selected was called “Mnemonic,” though I could not quite figure out why. I do not see any mnemonic devices, though perhaps it is symbolic that smaller things can represent things larger and more complex. It is about a person who inherited a sweater that their father gave to them as a child, their feelings about their father, and how life has changed since their childhood. Please read it here.

The song I chose fits in very well with the poem: it is about someone who wishes that they could have told their father how they felt about him in “The Living Years.” In both works, the father is dead. Lee begins with fond memories, then bittersweet, and ends with the repeated line: “Once I was cold. So my father took off his blue sweater.” The Mechanics similarly ends with ambiguity, saying that “it’s too late when we die / to admit we don’t see eye to eye.” I am fortunate to have a great relationship with my father, but there was something that resonated with me regarding both works.

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Mike + The Mechanics, “The Living Years” (1988)

Next, I found the instrumental version: which of course, does not carry the same meaning as the song with lyrics. I recorded the poem in the HCC Vocal Booth and cleaned up the vocals before pitching them down slightly. I found that different parts of the song carried different verses of the poem. “It won’t last. Memory is sweet. / Even when it’s painful, memory is sweet” goes well with the more ‘hopeful’ and sentimental chorus. My favorite part is the introduction, for it sounds like one is entering a dream. The corresponding verse is as follows:

I was tired. So I lay down.
My lids grew heavy. So I slept.
Slender memory, stay with me.

Li-Young Lee, “Mnemonic” (1986)

When I spaced out the verses throughout the song, I found the poem difficult to follow and it read awkwardly. I tried to cut parts of the song so that I could bring the words closer together, but something about it was still off. I decided to edit it again. This time, I put most of it in the beginning of the song and just cropped out another part of the music that I knew I could match up with the previous section. I decided to keep what I did with the ending, which was cut off at a drumbeat. I added an echo with a delay time of 0.2 seconds and a decay factor of 0.5. The final version is below:

Ultimately, this was a good assignment that can be interpreted in many ways. I would be interested to see what other people try to do with it, and perhaps even write my own poem to be integrated into a specific song.

You Are Likely to be Eaten by a Grue.

Hello again! I’m back with a commercial that I intend to use in my radio show. For my product, I decided to highlight the Zork games: a series of text adventure games developed by Infocom, a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’ve expressed my interest in interactive fiction here and here, and I thought this was the perfect place to display it. The assignment is called 80’S Product Radio Commercial and was submitted by Kollin Carter. The description is as follows: “Create a 30-45 second radio commercial for a product from the 80’s. Add in some background music and/or sound effects to make it sound like a real radio commercial.”

You can see that I broke the time limit, though I felt as if the amount of time I took was best to carry my message. We can sit through back-to-back ads on YouTube, so I’m sure a somewhat-interesting minute-long advertisement is survivable. About the product: Zork I was released in 1980, and the final piece of the trilogy was released in 1982. One can type in commands such as ‘examine ___,’ ‘west,’ or ‘open ___’. Instead of choosing from a list of options, the player has to think of what to do next. There is a help option, but I find it neat how autonomous and ‘free’ one can be with their adventure. I like playing it in text, for it leaves a lot to the imagination. (Want to check it out? Play it here.)

About the company: Infocom and its interactive fiction stories were truly a part of the 80s, for it was started in 1979 and then was bought out by Activision in 1989. I couldn’t find a slogan or a jingle of theirs, so I ended up making a little tagline: “Come and embark on your own epic adventure and together, we’ll write your story.” I did a little bit more research and found that “all ten of its games were on the Softsel top 40 list of best-selling computer games for the week of December 12, 1983, with Zork in first place and two others in the top ten” (Wikipedia). I felt that was a perfect point to use in my script. The introduction of my script is a snippet of the game itself, and I found it through this really neat embroidery of Zork by Glenda Adams:

I recorded my vocals at the HCC Vocal Booth. Then, I cleaned them up before pitching them down. The narrative part was pitched down by around 15% and response voices by about 10%. I did my best to use a slightly-nasal voice for the advertisement part so that it sounded a little more normal when pitched as opposed to my usual inflections. I’m aware that I’m no Morgan Freeman, but the morning rasp served me well (when my voice didn’t crack). I made sure to amplify the bass as well as add echo and reverb to the narration to make it sound like a Dungeon Master (DnD anyone?).

Next, came the music. I wanted to make it sound like one was playing an 80s dungeon crawler, so I chose a 8-bit composition by Erang Dungeon Synth. This channel is totally worth the listen, check out the original work below. Doesn’t it give you a sense of dread and curiosity?

The other song I chose was the instrumental version of Tears for Fears’ song “Shout” (1985). Without the words, it completely gives me ‘dungeon’ and adventure vibes. Do you agree with me? It’s almost uncanny.

I couldn’t decide between the two, so I ended up using both. The only modifications I did to the songs was amplify the ‘click’ you hear in Erang’s music to emphasize the change in the narrative. It goes well with the idea of being trapped and in imminent danger. I also faded “Shout” in and out so that I could highlight this aforementioned ‘click’ (coupled with a bass drop that sounds like a video game dying noise). I made sure to time it so that the original melody comes in when the narrative ends, also removing the 8-bit music from the upbeat advertisement part. Other effects I used included a hall door closing to show the trapdoor slamming and the player being barred in. I also used a clip from the 2015 hit-indie video game Undertale by Toby Fox for the laughing sound effect. A little bit like Zork, one can end up on a different path from what they intended. The retro-themed music and art resembled my mental image of text adventure games.

Overall, I had a great time with this assignment: it was probably my favorite one this week. It could be cleaned up and transitioned into a bit better, though I’m certainly not upset with how this turned out. If I do end up editing it, I will likely focus on making the “Shout” and “The Dark Dungeon” instrumentals flow together better. Currently, they clash a little bit though I can’t bring myself to nix either. I’m adamant about the long crescendo of “Shout,” though perhaps that will change after a day. I hope this piqued your curiosity! (Play Zork!)

Around the World: 80’s Style

Howdy folk! Just thought I’d hype up my radio show and combine the logo design post with my week update. Since my description of my logo is kind of long, I thought I would start with the Week 1 update of my radio show – “Around the World: 80’s Style”.

Title likely inspired by Daft Punk’s 1997 hit “Around the World”.

I am in a group with Allison, Maeve, and Kaitlin (check them out!). It was a little difficult to decide on a topic at first because all of us were very ‘flexible,’ but we finally chose the theme I suggested: our show is based around a glimpse into the 80s around the world. We are examining South Africa, Japan, Australia, and Germany and how they were prevalent in culture and history. First, we started by completing bullet points suggested by Allison (for each of our countries, mine being South Africa): fashion, history, music, technology, film/television, and sports. South Africa was largely influenced by Apartheid at the time, so it has been hard to locate any kind of separation between politics and art. I managed to come up with things for all of my categories, though I feel like I have the least content. I was considering doing Peru instead, but I could still find more on South Africa. Morocco likely would’ve been a better option.

However, history is still important and part of what influences art. I intend to embrace that. Professor Bond commented that we need to find and establish our narrative to connect our content, which we are currently working on. It would be nice to finish our script sometime over the next week if possible. We have linked our commercials, bumpers, and radio show designs to the document. We are planning to reserve the HCC Vocal Booth to record collaborative parts early the week following Spring Break so that the only thing we have to do is splice our audio together and add effects!

Next, onto the design! As you saw from the featured image, I created a more modern and minimalistic design. I was inspired to use the colors from a concert t-shirt I have (which still remains to be one of my favorite shirts). I hope the colors are still reminiscent of 80s design choices, but it’s hard to tell. It will likely be a sticker design rather than one for a logo.

Definitely going to edit out those extra lines!

This design is not completely original, for what I did was edit the following two images together:

I used Pixlr E – a newer version of Pixlr Editor (which I miss dearly… I’m also still on Windows 7 if that means anything) – to layer the logos over each other. Then, I chose my palette of blue, purple, and yellow and used a ‘fill’ tool to color in each piece. Since the top of the radio tower and the big star on the left of the Earth are connected to the bigger pieces of the design, I had to make a duplicated, separate layer and erase the Earth around the star. I then used a paintbrush tool to replace the circle at the top of the radio tower.

I wonder if the lines indicate that I’m not supposed to use these…

Next, I used an online tool to generate text in a circular shape since I knew that I wanted to encompass the oddly-shaped logo neatly. The cite I used was TroyGram, which took me a few minutes to figure out but was easy to use. I’d like to try it again with a different, larger font. It was also hard to position it around the logo, though it worked out in the end. Similar to the other parts of the logo, I used the fill tool for each letter.

The text is here, though you can’t see it because Imgur likes to put pictures over black backgrounds.

After that, it was a matter of using the shape tool to create the background. If it weren’t for the fact that the fill tool doesn’t completely fill in the entirety of each piece of the logo, then I would consider overlaying it on top of a white background instead.

What do you think? Is it worth re-working it in white?

Overall, this assignment wasn’t too difficult since I had a clear idea in mind. Oftentimes I get carried away finding new ideas to incorporate into my editing while I am in the process of editing it like my Macbeth poster or my Alice project. This time, though, there was no lightning that struck me and I think that’s why I feel unfulfilled. I think that is also why I’m actually getting worried about copyright issues. Of course, intellectual and creative property matters but since this is being released to a small, non-monetary audience I figured I should just give credit where possible. I did some research on this in my Digital Studies course, and it is something I need to incorporate increasingly if I’m hoping to ever reach a wider audience.

Beautiful Dreamer, Awake Unto Me

Hello! Hope you’re well. This week, I decided to do an assignment I’d been eyeing for a while: Humming Away. Started by Elizabeth Byrd, the description is as follows: “I always have songs stuck in my head at the worst times and giving the song a little hum is always a good way to get it out of your head (or sometimes make it even more stuck!) For this assignment record yourself humming a song that is stuck in your head and upload it! For example I did FloRida’s Apple Bottom Jeans song because its been stuck in my head all week!” Do I have this song stuck in my head? Absolutely.

The song I chose to hum was “Beautiful Dreamer,” a parlor song created by Stephen Foster. Far from the 80s, it was released posthumously in 1864 (eighteen hundreds… still the ‘eighties’?). Since then, it has become a lullaby for children and has been covered by many popular artists like Sheryl Crowe. I was watching SyFy’s The Magicians – based on the book series by Lev Grossman – and the cast sang this song. I tend to get calmer songs stuck in my head since I’m often trying to reduce stress.

The cover that really drew me into this song, though, was Marty Robbins’ cover (which was also released posthumously in 1984). I ultimately modeled my ‘cover’ after his version. His is very somnolent and classic. I tried to replicate the timeless quality of his voice since I ended up singing part of the song. For me, when I idly voice a melody, I often shift between song and humming. It is done subconsciously because I’m not that good at remembering lyrics even though I hear them in my head. (Anyone else?) This song also sounds a lot like the covers by my grandfather in the Philippines. We have CDs of him that we put on the radio; I believe he still sings in airports.

Rest in peace, Marty Robbins

This assignment was originally supposed to be B-flat, where one pitches the vocals a half-step down so that they are slightly off-key. I wanted to transpose Robbins’ version into a minor key and add creepy sound effects instead, but transposing seems very time-consuming, and would require that I use a program I am less familiar with (it has been a while since I tuned things on Melodyne). To record the Humming Away assignment, I reserved the HCC Vocal Booth. To be honest, I had originally planned on either singing or humming it: not both. No matter how much I tried, however, I found myself being unable to hit certain notes or my voice cracked.

It didn’t have to be perfect, so I just took the better parts of both and found it reflective as I had mentioned before. I used a part of my range that isn’t as comfortable physically, but works better mentally with my identity. One might be able to tell that after I cleaned up my vocals in Audacity with my Noise Reduction > Equalize (+ Bass Boost) > Compress > Normalize process, I changed the pitch of my vocals to make them lower. I find lower voices to often be slightly more soothing. To do this while staying in-tune with Fingerstyle Ukulele Uke Channel’s instrumental, I pitched it up by about 10%, therefore going up by one key. I recorded it that way before pitching my vocals and the track back down 10%. Lastly, I added a slight echo and reverb to amplify the quality.

I was also an inch away from adding ocean wave sounds to this track, though that might have defeated the simplistic purpose of this assignment. Regardless, this was a fulfilling experience. I certainly deviated from the original assignment – which was likely less stressful – though I wanted to show the subconscious processes that go into humming. When we sing, we hear music, and when we start to hum it’s like we’re still singing. Nothing has changed other than the fact that we’ve materialized the melodies in our minds. Humming is often a sign of contentment, and I believe that “Beautiful Dreamer” and my intentionally-imperfect recording displays what it means to make sound.

Beautiful dreamer,
Wake unto me
Starlight and dewdrops
Are awaiting thee.
Sounds of the rude world
Heard in the day
Led by the moonlight
Have all passed away.
Beautiful dreamer,
Queen of my song
List’ while I woo thee
With soft melody.
Gone are the cares of
Life’s busy throng
Beautiful dreamer
Awake unto me
Beautiful dreamer,
Awake unto me.

Stephen Foster

Week 6

Insert more positive and technical prelude…

This week’s challenge was time and energy: I had to take the “L.” Being in two plays and involved in several clubs and projects has been eating my time. I’m getting exhausted thinking about my 9 AM – 11:30 PM day tomorrow with practically no breaks. My weekdays have felt like fever dreams and I’ve had an almost-constant headache. Eating a mere brownie somehow turned into a surreally-vulnerable and nostalgic moment that made me feel like I wanted to be a kid again (even though I’m still not really an adult). Thankfully, the last day of one of my plays is Sunday so I will finally be able to tie up some loose ends in my blog posts from the prior weeks. I had to narrow my assignments down and just take pride in what I could do, though it was a slight bummer because graphic design and editing is one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. I trust that I will do well and comment much more for the rest of the semester to accommodate any losses I may take tonight.

For those interested in working with me on the radio show, I promise that I am a diligent worker. I take group projects very seriously and I am familiar with graphic image editing and base audio editing. I like to think that I am creative and have quite a bit to offer, so please consider me. The past couple of rushed works were almost unavoidable and not reflective of my true work ethic. Please visit here to check out my audio samples!

Here are my Daily Creates – if the fact that making the last meal one made me a little sad is not reflective of how my week went, I’m not sure what else is haha: (Will link ASAP)

I don’t want to leave this post on a depressing note or anything, so I thought I’d let you all know that my roommate and co. are watching This is Spinal Tap (1984), which is a mockumentary of a heavy metal band trying to make it big. It is said to have defined the mockumentary genre, and has many similar zooms to the popular American version of The Office. It is very funny so far and I’m sure my friends who are more actively paying attention to it would highly recommend it! My roommate also cooked me some stir fry so I’m feeling pretty hopeful. It’s really nice to see people now, even if it is fleeting. : )

Menu and Valentine’s Placeholder

Here is my menu so far, scroll down for an original spin. Decided I would start off by listing my favorite foods:

Excited to edit this in the near future!

Planning on making some meme Valentine’s and 80s ones, too.

Ride Along Computer Cowboy

Title inspired by Neil Young’s “Computer Cowboy” (1983).

One of the assignments I chose to do was Laptop Lingo by Lauren Brumfield. The description is as follows: “I know some of us (myself included) are a bit particular about the looks/cleanliness of our technology. But if that didn’t matter, and you had all of the resources at your fingertips, without any fear of it hurting your technology, what would you make as your laptop cover?   Make your own collage or create your unique laptop skin on My Custom Skin, and then share your work flickr. When you blog about it, explain why you chose each image! Use it as a way to share a little about yourself with your classmates.”

I chose this assignment because I actually got a skin from DecalGirl for Christmas, the site Lauren Brumfield included in the description. I originally wanted to make a laptop one that interacted with the logo like this:

However, the only computer with a logo I think I would like to see is an Apple Macbook though I don’t see myself buying any Apple devices. Nothing against them; Android and other brands are just typically more economic in my experiences. One device I am considering purchasing is the Nintendo DS Lite since I still have my old games. Therefore, if I don’t get my hands on the Pokemon Limited Edition one, it would be neat to just make it my own.

But first, let me show you some of my other skins:

Here is the Nintendo Switch one I got for Christmas. The screen decal took forever to apply!
Here is the wooden one I got before coming to college for my Acer Chromebook.

I swear I chose the correct sizes upon ordering, but the measurements were wrong and I had to trim it. The blue forest sticker was ordered separately.

Can you guess my theme? In the interest of time, I opted to make a ‘collage,’ or display some of my images individually. That way I can edit it fully in the future. The editor page for the DS Lite looks like this:

Here are the images I would use on the ‘outer lid’ of the DS.

I would use the wood pattern as the background. The logo, which is shown on the left of the collage, is embossed and I would be sure to do the measurements to ensure that the logo aligns with the one that would be printed on the decal. On the lower right corner of the cover (so that it is right next to where the device folds), I would crop the sketched image of the two Pokemon sleeping to only include them and overlay it onto the background. It is a screenshot from the Pokemon 4Ever (2001) movie and is quite sentimental to me and my childhood.

I will certainly pretty this up later, but to incorporate the 80s theme, here are images from the original Street Fighter in 1987. This was one of my earliest console games and ties in with my martial arts. I’ll also be analyzing this assignment more in-depth.

Here are the two images I would choose from! I like the pixellated aesthetic.

“There Is But One Family”

Hello! Welcome back to another audio assignment. This assignment is called Quote With A New Feeling, submitted by Christopher Vasquez. The description is as follows: “Most people have a favorite quote or saying that they know, use that and record yourself speaking it using programs like (audacity, garage band, etc..). After that mash up your audio recording with a sounds, song, or instrumental in the background too better explain the feeling that this quote or saying has on you.”

I chose the following quote from an interview with Bruce Lee. This one in particular resonates with my experience as a Eurasian martial artist who wants to appear on screen. In American media, we make a big deal about racial identity when in the end, we’re all just human –

Interviewer: “You ever think of yourself as Chinese or do you think of yourself as North American?”

Lee: “You know what, I want to think of myself as a human being. Because, I mean, I don’t want to sound like you know, ‘as Confucius say.’ But under the sky, under the heavens man, there is but one family. It just so happens, man, that people are different.”

I then combined it to some music from one of my favorite TV shows, Avatar: the Last Airbender. To see these Asian influences growing up and to see something so different than standard cartoons was amazing. This show teaches major life lessons for all ages. I chose this soundtrack for this quote not only because it blends the ‘East’ and the ‘West,’ but it is called the “Avatar’s Love.” As people, we need to love each other and not mind our differences. In the show, four nations, each representing an element, are at war. The orchestration shifts from something tender into something strong: the unification of humanity.

I also incorporated a heartbeat sound effect to represent this unity. We all have a heartbeat; we are all human. Editing was minimal, for I only changed the volume of each clip, split the quote into two parts so I could separate the last statement, and increased the reverb of the interview. Please listen:

Good lord I love Bruce Lee! I have so many Bruce Lee books. This is how my friends decorated my framed posters for my birthday:

The Whispering Sea But You’re In Another Room…

… and It’s Raining Outside and Your Siblings Are Playing In It and Your Parents Are Making Dinner and You’re Playing Video Games. That’s the title. (Cover art by Matt Rockefeller!) Inspiration taken from the following (anyone else have a Minecraft phase?):

For this assignment, I decided to kind of combine two into one: the Sound Effect Story as well as the Played From Another Room assignment. For the Sound Effect Story (by Martha and Jim Groom), one is supposed to tell a “story using nothing but sound effects. There can be no verbal communication, only sound effects. Use at least five different sounds that you find online. The story can be no longer than 90 seconds.” As one can tell below, I have kind of broken the rule by implementing vocals, but I feel like I used enough sound effects simply accompanied by music to tell this story: I added rain, footsteps, sliding door sounds, button clicking, video game controller mashing, kitchen noises, pots/pans clinging, and some voice acting (from yours truly). I recommend you listen to the whole thing and read the following description since there are some surprises –

Honolulu, HI (August 1988) – You watch your dad come out at the sound of rain, his dark hair tousled with fatigue from working all day. It had been oddly dry recently for Hawaii, though Tropical Storm Gilma had finally arrived and had suddenly unleashed the heaviest of rains. Your two younger siblings cheered, jumping up from their NES controllers and hopping over to the glass window. Ian decided to run back and squeeze in one last punch, almost finishing off your character while you were distracted. “Hey!” you exclaim with a voice crack, though he was already off at the window. Your father told them that he would call them in for dinner and they ran outside, baring themselves to the elements. You turn back to your video game, a familiar hand ruffling your hair before Dad went to join your Mom – your Ina – in the kitchen. Listen to fill in the blanks of what happens next:

Before I go into the technicalities, I will include the description of Played From Another Room: “This media assignment has two parts. First, edit a song to sound like it is playing from another room. The audio should sound muffled and the bass should be prominent… The second part of this assignment is to write a weirdly specific description of your song.” I assume the narrative I wrote could be considered a weirdly specific description. This story was inspired by love since it is Valentine’s Day. I don’t really know what it’s like to be with family like that, but this is what I imagine it is like. Something comforting, surrounded by noise and family, yet also having enough space to be alone. Having a mom and dad and siblings – laughter and light – all at once.

Cough. ANYWAYS, I talked about this song a couple of weeks ago and the nostalgia it gives me. My first step was actually to find the cover art, which took a while since I had originally planned to just find a picture of someone using a laptop in bed with a light on in the hallway. I stumbled on this picture by Matt Rockefeller and used what I saw to choose which sounds went into this mix. I converted all the clips I wanted using a YouTube to MP3 converter and combined the auxiliary/one-time sound effects into one track. The music, rain, button-pushing, and other constant noises had their own tracks. I wrote a little script and recorded the lines with Audacity in the Vocal Booth at my university to have the best quality. After that, I cleaned them up with the Noise-Equalize-Normalize process in my last post, though I targeted more bass for the man’s voice and treble for the woman’s.

After that, it was a matter of timing the sounds and balancing them. I had to quiet the kitchen noises when the parents started speaking and increase the volume of the rain for when the sliding door opened. To make each sound distant, I lowered their ‘gain’ before increasing the reverb so they echo throughout their spaces (thus showing distance). Then, I made the sounds more muffled by applying a Low Limit Filter at about 600 Hz to shorten the frequencies and indicate that there is some kind of wall between you and your parents. I used a ‘Studio Fade Out’ (which sounds much fancier than the ‘Fade Out’ tool) to isolate the ambient sounds at the end. That way people can enjoy a brief moment of reflection and lose themselves to this new setting. I wanted to add more sounds like a cat purring and the kids cheering, but it was starting to get rather complex and could take away from the music. I hope you enjoyed it and let your imagination wander!