Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bundle of joy

My darling wife is pregnant with our fourth child. Over this last week the sickness has set in and I'm reminded of how much she willingly sacrifices herself for those she loves.

As we considered having another child and later discovered she had conceived, a lot of different feelings fight for attention in my head. Memory reminds me of Sarah's pain and discomfort in pregnancy and childbirth, the sleepless nights after the baby is born, and the many months of marathon parenting that babies require. At the same time it's amazing to be the first person that someone else meets in this world and for them to learn from you what love is; that there are important things beyond the needs of which our bodies constantly remind us. And babies do offer up occasional rewarding grins, gurgles, and cuddles. In the end, it seems that the discomfort is only temporary while the joy has no limit.

It pushed me to do something that I don't do often: write a song with actual lyrics. I tried to give voice to both sides of what I was feeling at the moment. This was mostly written and recorded in an evening before Sarah got very sick. It's my first tune to include ukelele. The needs of her and my children will probably put the music blog way on the back burner, so you may need to find a new source of bleepity-bloopity instrumental synth music to get you through the next months.


Make Room by are.kay.more

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A break from previously scheduled programming

...for some actual Christmas music!  Sarah and I played clarinet and bassoon in the orchestra of the Huntsville Christmas Festival, which our stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints organizes each year.  Nancy Law and Sarah Draughon do an amazing job selecting music, reworking parts for our orchestration, running practices, and leading the performances.  It's lots of fun to be able to still play real music from time to time.  All of the choir members and orchestra members are unpaid volunteers and only a couple are actual professional musicians or music educators.  We got to play 8 shows last weekend to Huntsville area community members.  Here are a couple of my favorite tunes from the performances, both arranged by Mack Wilberg:

Angels We Have Heard On High by are.kay.more

I Saw Three Ships by are.kay.more

Don't worry, everyone. I haven't forgotten about Good Lovin'. You will all get some more Good Lovin' very soon. I promise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


So, as we continue to stumble through the 12 Days of Good Lovin', our definition of a 'song cover' is broadening. You may have noticed from the very start that I've never actually posted a full version of the song, with all of the verses, etc. I even had the gall to fade several of the recordings out at the end as if to imply that I actually had recorded the entire song, but just didn't feel like posting the whole thing. Not so. Uncle Reeree is a lazy son-of-a-monkey's-Chief. After several hours I end up with one or two minutes worth of a song and I decide to call it good. Without the fades, each time you would hear the solo line wander from fun to annoying before finally ending up in the land of musical incoherence. Eventually the supporting chords would get tired of vamping and venture into an experimental modulation that leaves the bass synth still splatting back in the previous key. The drums would drop out altogether. The vocals would start fishing for potential harmonies or scolding children playing "catch the paint can" in the den.

Well, this time you get to hear a piece dissolve at the end. This next cover preserves the chords from the original Good Lovin', but fails to include any of the lyrics. Instead we have a short exchange between a British expert in something-or-other and a young student.

Good Lovin Dec 14 by are.kay.more

Thursday, December 9, 2010

4 something something, 3 something else, 2 blah blah blah...

It's late, people, but I decided I would finish a recording and post it tonight. So I'll upload the tune, write a witty post, and then I will crawl into bed for five hours.

Let's see...wit...

There was a young lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from their ride
with the lady inside

Why, you ask?

Well, my little padawan, it's quite simple.  It is a fundamental law of physics that if Uncle Reeree does not finish the 12 Days of Good Lovin' before Christmas Eve, Santa Claus will turn into a werewolf and eat all of the world's children.  I know, I know, you've never heard that before, but it's because I've shielded you from the harsh truth all these years.  It's a puppy-eat-puppy world out there and people need blog posts to frighten potentially ice-age-inducing asteroids away from the earth. 

So...this one doesn't fit into a genre as tidily as the last two.  I wanted to play with a vocoder, which is a device (or a program) that applies the shapes of my vowels and consonants to the sound of another instrument (an organ in this track).  The result is an organ that sounds like it's talking.  Neat, yeah?

Good Lovin Dec 9 by are.kay.more

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Latin Good Lovin'

Wow, we're already to post 3 of the Good Lovin' project, and it only feels like post 14 or 15! 

Sometime in the 60's someone decided that everyone should have an electric organ in their home.  This was much to the dismay of the American middle class family, who had only managed to cough up the $4000 for an upright piano a few years before.  But, advertisements made it clear that there was joy to be gained from the electric organ that the piano could never provide:

Look!  Even grandma and Old Yeller have joined the party!  Plus, the electric organ wasn't just for family gatherings; it was the ultimate social multi-tool.  It could provide music for any social gathering.  There were song books with heavily boiled-down versions of everything from American folk songs to official state songs.  Some of the later models even had built-in drum machines and chord players that would help you play marches, fox trots, bossa novas, swings, and waltzes in your living room.  In the present age of computers, we take for granted the luxury of instant music.  But long ago, many an under-privileged child had to march in their living room in utter silence.  It was a pitiful scene. 

So, clearly the point of all that was bossa nova.  International treaties declared that all organs with rhythm generating capabilities include a bossa nova setting.  Digging far too deep into music history, we find out that bossa nova began its existence not as an organ option, but as an actual musical genre.  Shortly after high school, I remember hearing a recording of Astrud Gilberto singing Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova tunes in Portuguese.  The songs were beautifully written and Astrud's voice was strikingly bare, with no vibrato.  There were elements of jazz, but it was so different from the hot and agitated American big band and bebop jazz.

As I was playing with the chords in "Good Lovin'", I decided to make the key minor, but preserve the chords otherwise.  After a bit of tinkering, some of the bossa nova influences surfaced, and I ended up with a nice Latin cover of the song.  I almost chickened out and just recorded an instrumental melody line, but Sarah insisted that I record vocals instead.  Sarah agreed to watch a movie with headphones on, so I could feel at easy trying out some Latin crooning in the music room.  I managed to translate the lyrics to Spanish (sorry, Antonio, I don't know Portuguese), but the translation's not great.  Instead of trying to translate it back, just be content to hear it and think "ooooh, it's foreign!"

Good Lovin Dec 5 by are.kay.more

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the second day of Good Lovin, my true love gave to me...

A lost Paul Simon B-side!

Okay, well, maybe just something that I recorded that sounds kinda like a couple of tracks from "Rhythm of the Saints" (to me).  Of course, Mr. Simon can afford to buy full African villages to provide him with backing vocalists, percussionists, and exotic instrumentalists.  I, on the other hand, can only afford to use my laptop and freshly sliced chunks of my self dignity to provide my backing vocals and instrumentation.

For anyone who's not familiar with the Rhythm of the Saints, here's an example.

Still, this was pretty fun to make.  About half of the percussion instruments are recordings of latin percussion instruments (cabasas, triangles, guirros, etc).  The other half are recordings of me tapping cups and pots in our bedroom with a digital recorder.  The plinky kalimba-ish sound came from my guitar, after I wove some nylon rope between the strings near the bridge.  I didn't take the time to clean up some of the lead guitar wanderings, but the 12 Days of Good Lovin isn't about polish, it's about output.

So here it is.  Put out, now, for you:

Good Lovin' December 1 by are.kay.more

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The twelve days of "Good Lovin'"

Alright, people.  The turkeys have begun their annual journey from the oven (where mommy magic makes them appear), to the refrigerator, and then eventually to the sewage system.  You find yourself eating leftover sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin, and other things that modern man does not ordinarily consume.  Each day the news paper contains about three times more glossy ad pages than dull new pages.  These things are all signs that Christmas time's a-comin', and you can count on Uncle Reeree to do his part to put you in the holiday spirit.

There are a few issues that keep OprahsFavoriteDeathMetal from being a conduit of Christmas cheer, though.  First of all, I generally don't like Christmas music.  Orchestral and choral stuff is very nice, but Nashville and LA have had to put their spin on the carols.  There are so very many popular recordings of old Christmas favorites, and the vast majority of them are suitable replacements for ipecac syrup. So, re-recording reeree-ized Christmas songs was on option, but the thought of "Silent Night" with a guitar solo makes even me cringe.

As an aside, I had been thinking about doing a series of themed posts.  When I was a kid, I remember a local radio station spent an entire weekend only playing different groups playing their own versions of "Louie, Louie" (originally by the Kingsmen).  It was fascinating to hear a simple pop song reinvented and reinterpreted dozens of different ways.  I thought it might be a fun project to find a simple and familiar song that I might be able to stretch a few different ways.

With these things in mind, I thought of a "Twelve Days of Christmas" posting series with a different cover of one pop song in each post.  Since 'good' and 'love' are words often associated with Christmas, "Good Lovin'" seems like a natural song to choose.  Come to think of it, it may even BE a secret Christmas song in disguise.  Let me ask google...

Hmmm.  Google had 71,600 responses to that question.  That's somewhat surprising.  I imagine that if Google had found only two answers, with one of them being "yes" and the other being "no," then they would be right one way or the other.  I'm clearly overlooking 71,598 other possibilities.

Secret Christmas song or not, it's what you will be getting for the next few weeks from Uncle Reeree.  This first one is a kind of electronic version.  I'm sure any old motown great would be thrilled to hear their tunes interpreted with drum machines, synthesizers, and delay boxes.  Enjoy:

Good Lovin Nov. 27 by are.kay.more

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A very sweet love song

Yes, I have a sensitive side.  I may be a former bounty hunter, with 2 Mr. Universe titles under my belt, and a currently perfect record in UFC, but deep in my rib cage there are soft bits.  Through an agonizing process, I convulse until these soft bits liquefy in my lungs, and are coughed out as my arms twitch uncontrollably in an event that I call "me singing in the garage so no one else can hear me."

Here are the fruits of such an introspective, touchy-feely evening.  Find a quiet spot, put on a pair of headphones, and bathe in the beauty:

Hey Aunt Jemima by are.kay.more

Friday, October 29, 2010

One Way Ticket

Ah graduate school.  Ask most any professional in the sciences about it and they will recount stories of living off of ramen, a painfully atrophied social life, tap-dancing to the ridiculous beat of a professor's expectations, and long hours in a lab stacking atoms with tweezers.

Luckily, my grad school experience was nothing like that.  My wife and kids were marvelous, classes and research were engaging, my major professor was a marvelous mentor, and I even got play in a rock cover band (I did eat more than my share of ramen, though).  Our band was called One Way Ticket, and we played at church dances and wedding receptions for a few years.  We had the distinction of being the only band (that I know of...) consisting of a lawyer, a graduate student, an engineer, a hotel executive, and a steel worker.  Here's the band roll:

David Stevenson - piano, keyboards, lead vocals, melodica virtuoso
Monte Hansen - drums, vocals, attitude
Jeff Beeler - guitar, vocals
Ruth Stevenson - vocals, keyboard
Lee Davies - vocals, tambourine
Jonathan Laman - guitar wizard
Richard Moore - bass guitar, keyboard, definitely no vocals

Everyone was pretty busy, but we managed to get together and practice every week or two.  Through Monte's hotel and DJ connections, we even had a rather elaborate PA system.  I don't have a picture, but it pretty much looked like this:

Except in blue sparkle.  With our band name airbrushed on the side.  Being carried by Mr. T (our roadie).

We didn't record much of our playing, and we never really played original stuff while I was in the group, but we did record out of the mixer at a couple of the dances that we played.  Recently I dusted off a couple of the recordings and found one to share.  This is us playing Coldplay's "Yellow" back in 2007 or so.

OneWayTicket-Yellow by are.kay.more

Monday, October 25, 2010


When I got my first digital multi-track recorder back in 2002, I discovered digital reverb. It was to me as ketchup is to a two-year-old. I slathered everything in great gooey gobs of it. It took the thinnest plinky guitar sound from my Peavey plugged into the mixer, and drew it out into giant juicy washes of sound. Best of all, the reverb made it seem as though everything I played were echoing through some ancient cathedral in France.

 (Logan, pictured above, is who Google decided was the "messy ketchup baby" that I requested.  You can find him generally being cute on his baby blog here.)

Alas, it was a cheap thrill. Now I grumble whenever I pull up something that I mixed from back then with too many heavy, muddled effects, and a lopsided equalization, owing to the bad headphones I used back then. Here is an artifact excavated from those days. Muddy as it is, it's got a couple of lines that still tickle me, so I decided to share it.

Reverbariffic by are.kay.more

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy memories

This is a piece that I recorded several years ago, before I had cool computer software (robots) to fix my rhythm and pitch mistakes.  It resurfaced when I was doing some audio excavation on my old digital recorder.  I put it together in a happy moment not too long after Hannah (our first daughter) was born.  Our drafty apartment, which was home to the cockroach equivalent of the Roman Empire, was still a wonderfully peaceful and joyful place.  I guess other people might express those emotions with soft strings or female voices.  I used synthesizer, electric guitar, and electronic drums.    As usual, it's short, and hopefully sweet:

Home by are.kay.more

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Evidence that the robots do my bidding

So, . . . robots.

 You mention the word and everybody's got an image that comes to mind.  For some it's C3PO, for others it's Al Gore, and for some people it's even an overgrown hockey puck that vacuums/wanders your room and scares the dog.  Mostly everyone wonders "Why don't I have a robot to <insert least favorite chore here> for me yet?"

Well, the fine folks at Toyota have gotten quite mixed up.  After seeing Transformers, they realized that making cars is pretty much the same as making robots, so they decided that they should dabble in it.  But instead of making a proof-of-concept robot that will clean the rain gutters, sand dry wall, or move dog poop over to my neighbor's yard, they have made a robot that plays the violin:

The only problem is: people LIKE playing the violin.  That's like making a robot to finish off the bag of potato chips for you, or watch the football game so that you can spend that time on dog poop patrol.  I have to admit, they nailed the cool robot look: storm trooper white, with eyes that look like they could definitely shoot laser beams, but the guys who programmed him for the demo need to be flogged.  I understand the eye-lasers are probably a Japanese military secret, but they still could have shown him wrestling a shark, or something.

In any case, it is becoming less and less important that an entity have mechanical arms and legs.  So much of the world can now be influenced in computers and networks.  And people have what is equivalent to fairly low-intelligence, very special purpose robots working for them much of the time, bringing them world news, delivering bills from service providers, checking your credit card purchases for atypical behavior, finding out if there's a decent Italian restaurant nearby.

Well, one of the things that my laptop-robot does for me is help play music.  I wanted to try to write part of a woodwind quintet.  I played in a woodwind quintet for a bit in high school, and it was lots of fun.  The problem is that I don't play in one now.  So, instead of waiting sadly with sheet music in hand for oboe, flute, and F horn players to appear, I have put Ortsy to work (Yes, my computer has a name.  Yes, you are embarrassed that you know me).  I used a program to write write the five different parts.  Another program has a database of lots of instrument samples (here samples are recordings of instruments playing individual notes for several seconds at a time).  The second program takes the music I wrote, and essentially cuts and pastes from the database of instrument samples to produce a file that sounds like people playing the instruments (more or less).

I tried to write a fugue, which is one of the old music forms.  It's kind of like a round ("Row, row, row your boat . . ."), but when other instruments come in they don't have to keep exactly repeating the theme.  They can start to play with the rhythm and harmony a bit, but there are still rules about what notes can be played simultaneously and where you can move from a given note.  I only got about a minute done, since I found it tricky to keep all of the parts moving, while avoiding repetition or harmonic conflict.  It was still fun, though, and the results are nice:

Woodwind Fugue by are.kay.more

Monday, October 4, 2010

...and now for something completely different:

Well, there have been lots of demands for more weird instrumental music with digital effects and driving drum beats.  I'm afraid that's not what you'll be getting from me today.  Instead I'm posting a cover of an Indigo Girls tune that I recorded a few months back.  If you're not familiar with them, they're a folk duo that do some marvelous song writing.  They're also one of the best live acts I've seen, so be sure to see them if you get the chance.  This song is from their album Rites of Passage, if you get curious and want to know what it's supposed to really sound like.  Unlike the other stuff that I've posted, this is not a multi-track recording.  A battery powered recorder sat a few feet away from me as I played and sang this one on my most recent craigslist guitar (I did use the laptop to cut a couple of mistakes out of the recording before posting, though). 

It tickles me that the kids (except Josh) like to dance around as I play guitar and sing.  They even have a couple of favorite tunes that they'll request that I play from time to time.  Josh, however sees the guitar as a threat.  It's just another distraction that keeps Dad from paying full attention to him, as he ignores me and plays with something else.  At first I thought that he wanted to play the guitar himself when he came up to me and grabbed at the strings.  I realize now that he's just trying to get it away from me.  Enjoy!

Ghost by are.kay.more

Thursday, September 30, 2010


At the end of the sixties Miles Davis, who had started playing second trumpet to Dizzy Gillespie, was pretty much the center of a new musical cult called fusion.  He used his musical clout to start mixing parts of jazz and rock with bizarre sounds produced by some of the newer recording techniques and equipment.  He later went on to collaborate with Michael Jackson, and then he apparently stole MJ's hair:

Somewhere along the way he hired and eastern European accordion player named Joe Zawinul, who went on to become my synthesizer hero.  Here he is playing "Birdland" with his band Weather Report in the 70's. 

I like instrumental music with melody lines wandering around between driving drums and bass.  Below is an attempt of mine at a fusion-ish track with drums, synth bass, electric piano, and an analog-sounding lead synthesizer.  As always, there are some incoherent bleepity-bloopity things in the background for good measure.

Monosodium Glutamate by are.kay.more

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pure Sacrilege

You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off the Ol' Lone Ranger, and you don't dub a midi Polka Band over a James Brown.

What we now know as "soul" came from James Brown's body in the "Soul Big Bang" sometime way before I was born (like maybe the seventies, or maybe even whatever came before the seventies). The instantaneous decompression of all soul looked like this when it happened:

 There are reports that babies also resulted as a rather odd secondary reaction.  As soul rushed forth from the singularity, some of it was captured on LPs (black musical pizzas, which you cannot eat).  Scientists have since converted said pizzas to mp3s.  Thankfully, the soul reamins unharmed by the transfer.

Now, back to me.  For years I've tried to make funky, soulful home recordings, but have generally ended up frustrated.  In a moment of genius (sleep deprivation?) I decided to start with a recording in which soul was present, and go about the process of removing it.  That would certainly make it easier to put back into tracks later, right?  At least, the whole disassembly-reassembly thing proved educational with clocks and phones growing up, why not with music?

With the stage now set, I submit for your approval:

Like a Math machine by are.kay.more

Thursday, September 23, 2010

quantum mechanics fixing tiny cars

Sometimes I like to play music. Sometimes I just like to make weird noises. Other times I like to do something in-between so that I can claim either.

Uncle Reeree:"Hey check, this out" [shoves headphones on unsuspecting passer-by]
UPB:"Whoa, strange. You know, I don't think that chord progression really works."
Uncle Reeree:"No, no, it's just noises. Just exploring some sonic space."
UPB:"Oh, I see, must be over my head."
Uncle Reeree:"Yes"

Uncle Reeree:"Listen to this"
UPB2:"With your earphones? Nasty!"
Uncle Reeree:"They're clean...-ish."
UPB2:"It looks like your sweat has worn off the vinyl cushion covering"
Uncle Reeree:"Just listen, it's like a minute and a half long is all"
UPB2:"Play it through the speakers"
Uncle Reeree:"The laptop speakers??!?!"
Uncle Reeree:"But I mastered it using the...No, the laptop speakers aren't an option."
Uncle Reeree:"OK, OK, here's five bucks"
UPB2:"Five dollars to risk contracting an ear-communicable disease?"
Uncle Reeree:"Fine. Ten. Now listen."
Uncle Reeree:"Well?"
UPB2:"It was nice, but the synths all sounded like VSTs. Hardware oscillators are needed to bring it alive."
Uncle Reeree:"There was a cracklebox in there..."
UPB2:"I know. I don't count that. And you're kind of heavy handed with the delay."
Uncle Reeree:"Well the instrumentation and mastering may not be there yet, but it's all about the melodic lines."
Uncle Reeree:"Yeah, I used a mixophrygialocrian mode with an altered temperment. Could you hear the was submediant pulled upward a few cents? It always makes me smell cinnamon."
UPB2:"No, I didn't catch that..."
Uncle Reeree:"And the phrases are shaped like Ives would have done if there had been microwave popcorn back then."
UPB2:"Sounds like you're playing to a different audience."
Uncle Reeree:"Most definitely."

With that, here is a track of me playing around in Ableton Live (recording software). The bass guitar and cracklebox cracklebox clone are real. Everything else is a software instrument or effect controlled by my keyboards. The dblue Glitch VST effect is used for the nutty piano processing. It's a kind of strange track, so I named it to refer to one of the entry level problems in quantum mechanics (a strange subject with even stranger math).

Particles In A Box by are.kay.more

Monday, September 20, 2010


Guitar is fun to play. I've acquired several over the years, which is silly, really, because I usually don't play more than two at a time anyway. This is a recording I made one evening a while back. On the computer I can record a "track" of me playing something, and then go back and layer another recording ("track") on top of it. This mp3 is just two guitar tracks, one rhythm, and one lead over an almost-certainly-not-original set of chord changes. I think that I was in an Alman Brothers-y kind of mood that day, wanting to hear a wandering guitar solo over some changes in a major key.

My Four Hands by are.kay.more

Pretty regularly I record things thinking they are original, only to realize later that it's the theme to a TV show my kids watch. Let's make a game out of it: If you can name the tune these chords come from, you get all of the money in my Swiss bank account!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stuttering Rhodes piano

This is a short piece that I put together a year or more ago.  The piano is a Rhodes electric piano, which was an attempt by Harold Rhodes to make a portable piano from aircraft parts in the 1940's.  Back then something counted as portable if it took fewer than four men to lift it.  Hammers attached to the keys hit large tuning forks next to modified guitar pickups, instead of real strings over a resonant sound board like in a real piano. 

The Rhodes piano sound is processed through a modulated delay software effect called Fire by Mdsp.  A link to the page with the free VST is here.  The results are rather pretty and ethereal.  Enjoy!

Stutterrhodes by are.kay.more

Greetings, beings of the cyber-universe

This is a blog.  A blog uses words to communicate thoughts, convey information about events, and maintain social contact with people you don't actually care to talk to.  Information on words can be found here.

This blog, however, will not be a funnel for words, primarily.  It will be a place for me to post music that I make, or original music from other people who permit that their work be posted.  For years I dreamed of planning, writing, recording, and producing an album - a coherent body of work with pieces that complement each other and flow.  I have learned that my "method" doesn't lend itself to such an effort.  I typically wander into my room of noise toys half an hour after the kids go to bed, search for cables that work properly, and piddle with drum machines and synthesizers until I have about 45 seconds worth of something I like.  The next time I get around to playing, I start over.  Still, I've found that I have fun and I enjoy listening to some of the pieces later. was not the first name choice, but was already taken, as was  Information on the brown note is worth looking up.  Should Oprah ever desire to make a blog to share with the world posts about her DethMet Favs, I'll gladly give up the URL.

The computer revolution has made it far easier to make and share music than it ever has been.  I hope that this proves to be an effective way to share music, instead of letting it all die on my hard drive.