On Mastering Audio

So today I learned the value of Mastering Audio. I feel so embarrassed. You know I started this music thing in 1988 for my love of sound and I never expected to want to do this for money or anything. I used really sub-par recording devices and techniques so Mastering was never even possible really until I got my first computer in 1998. Then I was so interested in just exploring the possibilities of manipulating noise with the computer that refining for popular consumption wasn’t really a goal at the time. But since then I have developed this notion that my music is every bit as good as other peoples music… that my originality and style and sense of humor stands on it’s own.

That might be true of me, it might be true of you. And that’s fine as composition goes. But there might have been something missing.

We treat each track or stem with whatever it takes. We produce it. We go onto the next. We make it fit with the proceeding track until we are done. Then we make sure all the levels are just right with all the drop-offs and effects we want. And when all of these are assembled together, we make sure the sound reaches a desired level.

What I never really understood well, and I really still don’t, is that now this assembled collection of tracks or stems now needs to be treated as one sound. Producing this is Mastering. That is a simple step I never really considered. It includes Expansion, EQ, Compression and adding other effects.

So I just released 3 albums and a long single that are minimally line level without any real compression or expansion. This is going to have to be the case I think. I’ll have to let my naive instincts just speak for me.

Mainstream Music has, however, GONE TOO FAR with production techniques to the point where highly saturated canned music vocally tortures us like a 33.3rpm at 72rpm cartoon character beating an amped bass drum. I like my unheard lows and highs sort of scrambling the stuff you can hear. You can modify waves with the sub audible. You might like this. But modern music production teaches us to remove these influences to create a truer sound. That’s never been a focus for me. I like artifacts.

So in the future I will keep Mastering in mind. It’s best I get a handle on this anyway. And yes, it is beneficial.

Blind Congress. TL Goodwin’s musical Alter-ego since 1988.

In 1988 TL Goodwin was mostly focused on Oil Painting and other forms of mostly two dimensional art, save for the poetry that issued from him, and the numerous attacks of story starting and social commentary that no one would read.

He grew up listening to what is now considered Classic Rock. The Rolling Stones, The Who, Genesis and Sir Paul McCartney pretty much dominated his listening along with Classical and New Age Space Music. But as the ’80s started, things started to change. Blondie, The Pretenders, The Cars, The Ramones, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Jim Carroll, Joe Jackson, and The Boomtown Rats, affronted TL’s view of what music could be. And then came New Wave. Synths could be orchestras.

Fun Boy Three, Ultravox, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Spandau Ballet, Adam and the Ants, The Jam, The Specials, XTC, X, Japan, Yazoo, Culture Club and The Tom Tom Club and most importantly New Order and Shriekback , The Human League represented a wide range of pre-influences. This lead to a further departure from and a rejection of Classic Rock.

And Along Came Skinny Puppy! His friend said, “you gotta hear this.” Skinny Puppy wasn’t like really any of that other stuff. It’s Horror put to music. Danceable Horror Music, at times just beautiful. Driving. Hallucinogenic.

The music that TL was listening to mostly was college radio. so it was all over the musical landscape. He liked strange stuff. Laibach, an industrial band from Yugoslavia, now Slovenia, known for dressing in Slovenian World War Two uniforms and growling locals while banging on things. They recently were responsible for the music in the cult hit movie “Iron Sky” . Back in 1988 it was all about “MacBeth”. and scaring the apartment neighbors by blaring “Life is Life”. TL still enjoys listening to Liabach from time to time.

TL was particularly taken by Edward KaSpell and The Legendary Pink Dots. KaSpells humor and ingenuity weaves a masterful orchestration of all things fringy.

And still as in his youth he continued to listen to Classical Music and Easy Listening.

TL noticed in his quiet time, and in his dreams, he was listening to music in his head.

So TL spent $89 on a Yamaha PortaSound PSS-480 keyboard, $39 on a Casio SK-1, and purchased a used Teac upright cassette deck with line level fader style control and added inputs. He placed this behind another tape deck, used as a preamp and capable of playing into the Teac from his home stereo. This allowed him to play the right side while recording to the left and this recording could be played again into the Teac just by switching tapes over which new sounds could be added. Each successive layer degraded the original layer. The consequence is a blurred and subdued mutation. All of this was only ever recorded on cassette, until recently. Unfortunately, some of it is lost.

TL made music like this from 1988 to 1994 as Blind Congress. He thought of it as Art. He discovered this recording technique independently. Later he found out that the technique he used is called “ghosting”.

In 1998 TL received his first computer, a Gateway 2000 266 Pentium II. He’s been playing around with music creation ever since using what was ModPlug Tracker and is now OpenMPT. It’s a great program but he has discovered Digital Audio Workstations which are a bit easier to work compared to a tracker style program even if it’s fully VST capable. Both of these types of programs are much more expressive than layering cassette tapes.

The Computer presents a miraculous opportunity for Strange Artists like TL to contribute to the World of Music.

Blind Congress is now signed to Distrokid. TL is ready to share his music with the world.

Thoughts on Recycled Acrylic Jewelry

Acrylic Jewelry made from Recycled Window Material by TL Goodwin.

When I was in my early twenties I went through a period where I frequented garage sales looking for books, records, and vintage clothing and I always checked out the jewelry. At that point I was interested in restructuring pieces, but I was not thinking of trying to make a career out of jewelry making. I found an orange colored acrylic watch and it was really cool. I loved that thing. I wore it out.

When I decided to become a self taught metalsmith and art jeweler I, or rather “we” (includes my wife and partner, Heather), decided not to use glues, plastics or anything dyed or irradiated in our work. And, this stood until recently. Mind you, I am still hesitant about using plastics, but I came by some Plexiglas. One piece was from a broken ferring, from maybe a riding lawn mower or something, and another came from a stupid window replacement someone had made on the front of our house. One day last year in June, I had an idea to make some jewelry out of it for a Recycled Art Show. I made three acrylic bracelets and five pendants to test the market. I ended up selling one of each. I would have sold more bracelets, but I only had those three. Each were different sizes, and the largest one was too large and the smallest was too small. The pendants all sold in less than 6 months. They were never displayed online. So I decided to make some more pieces.

The technique I used to form the acrylic

Since these pieces were in sheet form, I used a circular saw and a fine saw blade. I found that pulsing the saw’s power was the best way to do this. I cut the material into strips from one half an inch to one-and-a-half inch wide. From there a hacksaw was used to cut the pieces into bracelet lengths. Any excess was then cut into pendant sizes.

To form the bracelets, I used a torch to heat the plastic to pliable. The acrylic will bubble before it starts to flow, so if it bubbles it’s gone too far. It never really reaches a molten state, just a pliable state. You need a heat that is better controlled. I had a toaster oven kicking around that we didn’t use so I decided to try that. I found that 340° F was the best temp for my oven and a soak time of about 5 min. Now I’m not sure what the exact temperature is, but most sources say 275° F for 15 min. I played around until I was comfortable. You can easily handle this hot material with cheap leather work gloves and you can actually mold the bracelets by hand this way. You have a pretty limited work time, but if you aren’t satisfied, you can always heat it up again.

One thing that happens when you heat up a piece you have already bent is that it will unbend itself. Similarly, if you impress a line into it with a tool and heat it up, it will do much to remove the line. This material cools very rapidly. You must act quickly. I would have liked to have been able to impress a design into a strip, reheat and shape, but there isn’t enough time for both actions. It’s one or the other. I see a way you can do this, but it requires manufacturing bracelet forms out of steel or wood, and that’s just not something I want to do. The process would be to soften the strip, form it around the steel, bind it to the steel, most likely by the ends, heat again till pliable, then impress. I don’t plan to do this.

Once the piece will no longer deform you can drop it in water to cool. You can also do this to end the deformation process.

Quick note on heat sources

A toaster oven or household oven is not the best choice for a heat source. The reason being is that they heat in cycles, not consistently. The best choice is an oven with a constant heat source. You might find a regulator out there to mitigate this. I’m not sure if anything like that is made for toaster ovens.

Back to Working

Once the object is formed I use my 100 grit diamond utility disk to round off the ends and edges, but you can easily use files and sandpaper. You can polish with red rouge but you must do it slowly. Friction from a buffing wheel will heat up the surface and imbed the red rouge into the surface and that’s not good. I find that cerium oxide or Zam™ running slow produces satisfactory polishing results. Abrasive style toothpaste should be fine too.

Embellishing

You can impress a mold into heat softened acrylic. Because the temperature is so low, you can use wood to carve designs into and quickly impress into the heated acrylic. Keep in mind that fine detail must be omitted. You can’t really impress fine lines into acrylic by hand. You might have better results if you can use a press. However you can easily cold work fine details with bits in a flex shaft. I haven’t, as of yet, tried etching with a graver (engraving tool), but I imagine I’ll try it today. This should work. As mentioned above, files are also fine to use.

If you choose to drill the material, don’t force the bit

This reminds me, don’t try to force the bending process either. It can snap or crack easily. Too much force on a drill and the piece is broken. Too much force on a bend can snap it in half.

Health and Environmental Concerns

Working with this material is potentially harming yourself and your planet. Be responsible! Avoid breathing any fumes directly or breathing in any dust. Our planet uses far too much plastic and the ramifications have yet to be fully felt. I feel a certain amount of guilt using this material, but I am partially consoled by the notion that the damage was already done when the acrylic was manufactured. The bad part is that I know I’m creating acrylic dust. But overall it isn’t much different than cutting gemstone material, and something might be said for recycling or repurposing the material. Be Cautious. Be Responsible!

So Why The Heck Do I Even Like The Stuff?

It is clear as crystal. It’s hard. You can deform it. It is easy to polish. It won’t tarnish your skin. It can be carved. It is versatile.

Ditch Adobe CSx for Windows Desktop

Many of you out there in the world would like the power and use of Adobe Creative Suite or Creative Cloud Software without having to pay the price. Well, it can be done, either less expensively and even for free. And I’m going to tell you how you can do that.

I want to start off with DaVinci Resolve. I’ve tried a lot of the free video editors out there. I found nothing to compare to Premiere Pro. I used VSDC Free for a bit. Thought I had the answer with the Update of Hitfilm Express. You might enjoy these great and useful programs. And I would use them, that is, if DaVinci Resolve didn’t exist. It is a free “Hollywood Quality” solution. I thought I was going to have a problem using Focusrite ASIO drivers, but that’s not the case.

I cannot stress enough just how robust Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve is. Adobe users all over the world are switching. It’s truly an amazing gift. Really, check it out.

Davinci Resolve will replace

Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Speedgrade
Adobe After Effects

I’m choosing to replace Dreamweaver with Notepad++.

Notepad++ has been around for a long while (2003). I was a big fan of HTML kit but it’s been abandoned. I recently tried it out but it just wasn’t responsive enough. I gave up. I tried a bunch of others but nothing stuck. I’m surprised I didn’t try Notepad++ sooner. I like editing directly from my site. It was a prerequisite. This does the trick, plus it’s still actively supported and it is Free. There are community created addons. It’s a great program.

Notepad++ will replace Adobe Dreamweaver

Now, about replacing Photoshop

I chose to replace Photoshop with GIMP. I’ve used GIMP before and I have to admit I never liked it. In the early days I used Paint Shop Pro. Back then GIMP didn’t compare. I shoot with a Nikon D5100 in RAW format so I need a photo editor that handles NEF files (Nikon’s version of RAW). Gimp does not do this, but Darktable does and it’s available as a free addon to GIMP. You can simply drag a RAW or NEF file into GIMP and it will open in Darktable. When you close the image in Darktable it opens in GIMP and from there you can do whatever you want. One thing I don’t like about GIMP is that exporting to JPG isn’t very automatic. You actually have to name the file *.jpg instead of selecting the extension type from a dropdown menu. It’s easy to forget this step having used dropdown menus for this in every other program for 20 years. There is a workaround for this but it requires editing the program itself.

Other than this, and some occasional instability issues, I like it. It works and works well. It’s maintained by an active community. It’s come a long way and does much, but not all, of what Photoshop is capable of.

GIMP is not really good for Animating.

But there are other programs out there that are fine for animating such as Krita and OpenToonz.

Gimp plus addons will replace

Adobe Photoshop

But What about Sound?

You would be amazed at what DaVinci Resolve can handle with the included Fairlight Engine. It can handle VSTs. If you need it for film/video it’s right there. If you are composing music you have a lot of other choices other than Adobe Audition. I actually purchased Reaper for this. Reaper is a very nice choice for a DAW (digital audio workstation). I recommend it.

So if you are Stuck in the Adobe Cloud.

Remember, you don’t have to be. And you just might try some of the alternatives out there. You might find better programs. I cannot say that GIMP is better than Photoshop, but I do believe DaVinci Resolve beats Premiere Pro and related Adobe video editing titles combined. And Notepad++ is just as good, if not better, than Dreamweaver.

There are alternatives.

When Thinking, Make Sure It’s Likely.

I went to Facebook this morning to see if anything interesting might be posted. Instead I found myself lit up. So what sparked me? Headline reads “Are Atheists Genetically Damaged?”. Not only is this title absurd, but it is in a “scientific paper” in a scientific paper website (evidently not very). I don’t have access to the paper but I read the synopsis. It likewise posits that left handed people are genetically damaged as well and that overly smart people are depressed citing this too to be the result of genetic damage. In the end it seemed like the writer was trying to prove how perfect he is for having a mediocre mind and no understanding of how genetics work or the effects of socialization. I thought I would read the comments. And OH LORD! Now you would think I might find stuff like “Oh this guy is and idiot” or “oh this guy is correct”, but instead I found this which beforehand I had no idea was a thing. Someone, somehow, responded to a comment with “Obama’s children were adopted”.


So I had to look it up. It turns out the story goes like this: Michelle Obama was Born Michael Robinson, met Barack at university, fell in love, got a sex change and adopted their children. Variants of the story claim that Barack is also gay (as if anyone cares other than someone who is homophobic) and that the actual father of the girls are suing the former first family. One nonsensical variation has the girls adopted under contract for six years and sees the real parents suing the Obamas for the return of their children.


A person I know, on Saturday, actually told me that the Obamas, the Clintons, and the Bushes are being held at Guantanamo facing a military tribunal and that’s why you don’t hear from them and that the entire country is undermined by a huge expanse of underground tunnels. I should have asked him if he is a” flat-Earther” “ancient alien theorist” or whether “chemtrails” are a thing. I’m not knocking you really if you do believe any of this, but I am saying don’t just adhere to an idea because some part of it appears possible. Make sure it’s likely.


Errors like this are social, not genetic. It’s difficult to separate in the self. I consider myself non-christian because it’s too tough to weed out the effects of Socialization. In other words do I turn to the existence of God and Angels because they exist, because I hallucinate, because I need a bigger daddy, or because most of the people around me since I was born have managed to pierce me with their inherited rhetoric?


In epilogue: I’m still bothered by the “FB friend” who posted a thing about how Socialists want to destroy America unfriended me for responding with just how wrong this CPAC meme is. And on a side-note I once argued with this guy 27 years ago that no one has the right to enact violence on another for mere words not connected to threats of violence until he busted my lip and broke a few ribs. I guess I lost that argument.