Delayed Gratification

This experiment takes the standard Full Concert Grand piano sound from a Yamaha MOXF8 keyboard and sends it to the Aux input of the Korg Monotron Delay, with the headphone out routed to a portable mono speaker.

The content is mostly some basic improvisations in major keys. Holding down the sustain pedal allows for some random knob twirling on the Monotron to ramp up the weirdness.

Note: Mentions of specific software or other products do not imply endorsement. I receive no compensation for any such mentions. These are just the tools I use.

Nova Carinae

“Oxygen in the Great Carina Nebula” — Original photo by Dylan O’Donnell,; derivative work by Tobias Frei / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 1.0. See Oxygen in the Great Carina Nebula ( for more info on the image.

Ambient, meditative electronic space music for relaxing, study, or contemplation.

Harmonically, this piece is essentially static, based on an A minor drone with occasional use of other tonalities for contrast or development. Created with a MIDI keyboard played into Logic Pro X, the instrument sounds rely on various Native Instruments plugins, including Reaktor, FM8, Kontakt Orchestral string ensemble, and Massive X.

Note: Mentions of specific software or other products do not imply endorsement. I receive no compensation for any such mentions. These are just the tools I use.

Lake of Clouds

Photo by Tom Campbell — Dahlonega, Georgia, Jan. 31, 2016

“Lake of Clouds” started as an attempt to emulate Ulrich Schnauss’s cinematic-sounding ambient electronic music, specifically “Monday Paracetamol.” But it ended up morphing into something different, which is OK since I didn’t want to be a copycat.

The track has three sections or “scenes,” linked by overlapping synth pad chord patterns and variations on recurring riffs and rhythms.

Harmonically, the piece is based mainly on shifting patterns of major and minor chords such as a 6sus2, a major 7th with 11th and 13th added, and a major 7 with sharp 11 added to give it an edge. The middle section is sort of a round based primarily on an evolving series of minor 7 and major 6 chords, never quite resolving to the tonic. The melodies were improvised (and edited) to be consonant with the underlying chords.

Notes were input with MIDI keyboards and, in some cases, the cursor in Piano Roll view or, for some of the drum beats, the Step Sequencer. A couple of parts originated with Logic’s arpeggiator or drum beat making engines and were then transposed and heavily edited.

Tools used to create the piece include Logic Pro X + associated software instruments (Alchemy, Drum Machine Designer) and several Native Instruments plugins: Reaktor, Hybrid Keys, Session Guitarist, DrumLab, Massive, Prism, Ethereal Earth, TRK-01, and Scarbee Rickenbacker Bass, plus Raum reverb and other effects.

Note: Mentions of specific software or other products do not imply endorsement. I receive no compensation for any such mentions. These are just the tools I use.

Ocean – Cumberland Island

Play 1. Ocean

I made this recording by resting my trusty MiniDisc recorder (with T-mic attached) on my cap near the ocean’s edge. Each wave crashed softly on the long, flat Cumberland beach and died away in millions of sizzling bubbles as the next wave approached. This is just a few minutes excerpted from a longer recording of this mesmerizing sound.

Recording Notes: MiniDisc recorder, T-microphone

San Francisco Fog Horns

On the same trip that I made the Wave Organ recordings, I woke up in the middle of the night to hear fog horns off the coast. Even in a North Beach hotel room, the sound was clear.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Bay Bridge, San Francisco
Photo by Tom Campbell

In the first recording, you’ll hear some vehicles on the street, and also the constant low-pitched rumble of the climate control system in the building next door:

Play 1. Foghorns

The second recording is an odd, warbly version of the same file with a noise removal filter applied — my attempt to remove the ambient machine noise:

Play 2. Foghorns - Noise Filter Oddness

This serves as a cautionary example of what can happen when you get carried away trying to “fix” recordings with software. (In this case I was using Audacity’s noise removal capability — not the fault of Audacity, just a user with an itchy slider finger.) File this one under Happy Accidents.

Garden Stake

Recently I recorded a sound I’ve wanted to capture for a long time: a metal garden stake reverberating when bounced on concrete. To get the microphones close enough to get a decent recording, I clipped some small cardiods to an inverted tomato cage, pointing inwards, and bounced the stake on a concrete floor between the mics.

As an added bonus, when I bumped the cage, the mics picked up the vibrations, causing some startling booms and scraping noises.

I’m going to explore these sounds later in another post or two, but for now here are the raw, unadorned sounds of the garden stake and tomato cage, as captured on a hot summer day.

Play 1. Stake and Cage

Recording Notes: MicroTrack II CF recorder, clip-on stereo cardioid microphones

Gentle Rain + Train

Oak Tree Reflected in Rainy Deck Boards

One afternoon in October a couple of years ago, as a slow, steady rain fell outside, I opened a window and set my recorder there to capture the sounds of raindrops and a train.

Play 1. Gentle Rain with Train

Recording Notes: MicroTrack II CF recorder, stereo T-microphone

Delta State Fighting Okra: My New Favorite Sports Team

Fighting Okra vs. Statesman Mascots

Statesmen or Fighting Okra:
Which Would You Pick?

In Cleveland, Mississippi, just west of Highway 61, is Delta State University, home of the Fighting Okra. I know there are a number of eccentric sports mascots these days, but really, could anything be cooler than the Fighting Okra? In my personal pantheon of athletic whimsy, they’ve now replaced my former co-favorite college sports mascots, the Oglethorpe Stormy Petrels and the Richmond Spiders.

The Fighting Okra mascot

Fear the Okra!

Their official nickname is The Statesmen, which is woefully short on panache. So in 1985, a group of DSU students came up with the idea for the Fighting Okra as the school’s (unofficial) mascot. There’s even a Fighting Okra Records student-run record label at Delta State now, with three releases under its belt. This school has obviously got a great attitude.

Well, this is an audio blog, not an okra blog, so let’s have a taste of the Marching Okra Band from 2009:

The Singing Well

A few years ago, in Highlands, NC, near a beautiful spot called Cliffside Lake, I had the pleasure of discovering a hand-pumped well that made a singing sound. There was a little iron pipe coming up out of the ground with a handle. I decided to record the sound of the well as I pumped.

After the first pump, the pipe spat out a little gush of water, and then to my astonishment, as the column of water receded back down the pipe into the ground, I heard an eerie, ascending tone — kind of like a whistle, a hum, and a ghostly moan all at the same time. I wanted more. With each pump there was another spurt of water followed by wonderful “singing” sounds from the well.

Play 1. Singing Well (Discovery)

Play 2. Singing Well (More)

Not Quite All Blues

To see just how much one of my favorite iPhone apps can change audio input in real time, I played “All Blues” by Miles Davis* on the piano, recording it with Loopordist, an RjDj scene by Christian Haudej.

It was quite odd, trying to play the tune correctly while listening in my earbuds to this wacky alternate version as it was generated on the fly by Loopordist. Probably not a practice method too many piano teachers would endorse!

Play 1. All Blues (Loopordist)

* Note: If you don’t own a recording of Miles Davis playing this song, treat yourself to a copy of Kind of Blue, the timeless 1959 album by this great jazz master and his sextet.

Recording Notes: iPhone, RJDJ with Loopordist scene