Cautious Solutions, by ChalkWalk

Recently I’ve been finding that the music I make has been feeling a little “samey”. In particular it’s easy for me to pick the same keys, modes, tempos and time signatures. To mitigate this I did two things.

First of all, I made a little tool to randomly generate a prompt to use when making an album (Available on github here, with a simple demo here).

Secondly I discovered an interesting machine learning image generation tool known as Art Breeder. It can be used to generate images of almost anything from realistic and photographic, to “concept art” and abstract. In any case these two elements seemed to be a good combination.

I therefore decided to spend the Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday to Sunday) making an album. On Thursday morning I ran my random album generator (I did it a few times and cherry picked a bit) then for each track, I used artbreeder to create corresponding title art (there is a cover image for each track, not just for the album). I broadly tried to keep the cover art aligned with the track titles and use both as a stylistic guide to the music.

Over the subsequent days I wrote tracks to the prompts trying to keep things approximately aligned with the titles and cover art. I wrapped up with mastering and getting ready for release on Sunday and clicked publish on Monday.

It was quite a lot of work but an enjoyable project and it pushed me to do some things I don’t ordinarily (e.g improvise lines in 7/8). I’d love to hear what any of you think of the outcome, and any approaches you all use for keeping yourself inspired and moving in new directions.

For those interested, I used a relatively small set of devices as follows:

  • MPC Live (Standalone) - Samples, internal synths and driving MIDI
  • Bass Station - Some sounds (can’t remember which)
  • Peak - Some pads and accents
  • Microfreak - Speech in track one and a few bell tones
  • Volca FM - A pad and an accent IIRC
  • Boss RV & DD 500 - Reverb and Delay Sends
  • Ardour - Mastering on Linux