Dedicated to Jerome M. Cohen, AKA Pop Pop (1925-2011)
My grandfather was born on this day 86 years ago. He wasn't a musician, but he loved music (especially jazz music). He is the reason my dad became a musician, who in turn is the reason I became a musician. If he were still alive, Pop Pop wouldn't necessarily have liked or understood this music, but he would have been proud all the same - proud and confused...
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
~ many different clever people in different ways at different times
That said, I couldn't stop myself from writing a rambling series of thoughts and observations connected to the work on this album. Some of it is designed to explain. Some of it is designed to educate. Some of it is designed to stimulate. All of it, like the music, is designed to entertain. I hope to give the reader/listener some insight into my creative process as well as some food for thought while listening to and digesting this music.
= Epilogue: Wreck It Rob =
The creative process necessarily involves a combination of deliberate and arbitrary decisions - some of these decided consciously and others decided unwittingly (and still others, happy accidents that may be rationalized and explained afterwards). The primary decision that unites this album is the pallet of sounds employed. With the exception of the first track, all of the sounds on this album consist of simple waveforms and percussive blasts of "white noise". These are the sounds producible by primitive computer chips that many associate with the bygone Nintendo Entertainment System.
In recent years, a music community has risen up around the harsh limitations imposed by this technology. While I have appreciated some of that work, I approach this community largely as an outsider. I have broken many of the rules (such as my use of more than 4 voices at a time). All the same, this album has a place somewhere within that community.
The choice of lo-fi "8-bit" sounds served me in a few ways. Long before the concept for this album had occurred to me, I had already composed or begun to compose much of this material. The choice of sounds, in and of itself, served to unite otherwise unrelated compositions.
Prior to my reimagining it with 8-bit sounds, the musical material on this album existed mainly as MIDI sequences or music scores on my computer. Most of it was written to be played by myself with some imagined group of people in the future.
Aside: the problem with original music
(Assembling groups of musicians to play original music is an incredibly time-consuming and emotionally exhaustive process. It doesn't help matters that a lot of this music would be at least slightly difficult and counter-intuitive to most musicians. We're talking about scheduling hours upon hours of rehearsals between several people full of different commitments. When all of that hard work stands to offer no money and limited performance opportunities, the proposition becomes all the more unattractive. That said, an enormous number of musicians still participate in these kinds of ventures... Musicians are strange creatures. It's too bad the 21st century hardly lets us work anymore.)
Anyway... having sunk a lot of time and energy into music that was sitting dormant on my hard drive began to eat at me. At the same time, I had made these sequences more as blueprints for people to play rather than as finished instructions for a computer to play. They sounded very harsh, nonmusical, and unfinished. Translating these sequences into 8-bit sounds all of a sudden produced something that at least to my ear was fulfilling as an end-product (if a little silly and quirky).
Aside from liberating a bunch of sketches or blueprints for eventual songs into foreseeable finished products, the choice of 8-bit sounds reinvigorated all of the compositions (or composition ideas) with a new purpose. Reimagining my compositions as at least somewhat connected to video game music allowed me to lighten up a bit and take them less seriously. It gave me a fresh and playful approach to the material.
I see this album as an introduction to my work over the past few years as a composer. Ultimately, my interests still lie more in composing music for people rather than for computers to play, but this process gave me the reassurance that if need be I can still showcase my work independently of the unreliable machines called humans.
~ RoCo signing off!
released January 31, 2013
more info at:
~ written, conceived, and produced by Rob E. Cohen
~ cover art by Rob E. Cohen
~ text by Rob E. Cohen
Special thanks to the developers of Gashisoft's GXSCCC software for allowing me to produce the 8bit sounds.
Thanks to all my friends and family (and boo) who gave me input, feedback, and support.
Further thanks to the makers of:
Nuendo, Sonar, Sound Forge, Photoshop, Bandcamp, the Internet, computers in general, and Nintendo