Show Me the Way to Go Home

Show Me the Way to Go Home

Welcome. This is to be a home to musings, rants and rambles too unwieldy for short-form social media. Plus experiments with applying open source principles to music making. But more on that another day.

Today I’d like to navel-gaze for a few paragraphs about Show Me the Way to Go Home , released one year ago to this day. It’s a monumental release to no one but myself and its anniversary will be rightfully ignored by all but the few that will stare at these words long enough to realize they’ve made a huge mistake.

The iPad made me a musician

This is only a slight exaggeration. I could trace it all the way back to when I inherited a Yamaha keyboard from my dead father. Or when, inspired by watching a 2008 documentary on chip music , I spent way too much money on not one but TWO modded Gameboys, link cable, flash cartridge loaded with LSDJ and mixer. Then proceeded to not make much at all with any of those things. Or, I could mention being in one or two bands that never got beyond a single or two , if that much…

I tiptoed around being a musician for a lot of my life. Always something I wanted to do but never went for wholeheartedly. The iPad though, that really did it for me. Just something about its whole ecosystem of interconnected, creative, mostly cheap apps.

Korg Gadget was the gateway drug. That app is tailor-made to get people making music as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Sounds pretty decent, you can get started and have a loop going in a minute. The very first Life Patterns release, EP001 , was made almost entirely on it.

Then I found the following video:

Inside are 30 minutes that blew my mind. A complete setup for live performance of ambient music, citing Susumu Yokota’s sublime (and one of my favorite albums of all time) Sakura as a major inspiration.

At the heart of the setup are two apps: AUM and Xynthesizr . AUM is a mixer. That sounds really boring, but to have an app that can handle MIDI and audio from any other app, Plus FX, EQ, plus playing samples. Plus recording it all. It’s magic. Xynthesizr is a step sequencer with a dead simple but deceptively powerful interface and a nice little synth engine.

Between those two apps, my creativity was lit up. I could grab my phone and work out a pattern in 5 minutes. Then later, play around with that pattern until a sort of performance emerged. Adding drums through Gadget or another app. Find an appropriate sample on YouTube, pull it in. All of a sudden, it’s a track.

Forget mixing and mastering. Akai Ringo Ni came together in less than an hour, in a single evening. Hit record, start the sequencer, do it live, stop, trim the result a little, there’s a track.

Those sessions brought me a feeling of purpose and joy that I’d never felt in my previous attempts at making music. It came pouring out of me and I accepted it with all its imperfections and limitations. And then, I fell sick. In the middle of a pandemic, isolated from the world, always wearing a mask and washing my hands so often they turned red, I managed to have the worst case of tonsilitis of my life. Took three rounds of antibiotics to get better. By then, I had completely lost the creative momentum I had gained. It was gone.

I put together the tracks I had completed and released them. The album title comes one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies . The cover art is a photo taken in Tokyo back in 2019, a lifetime ago. Before the pandemic. Before the wedding. Before fatherhood.

With this release I finally gained the courage to step out of the shadows, as it were, getting on Twitter and starting a wild journey of meeting musicians and all-around excellent people, sharing stories, ideas, experiences. Though the album was and remains largely unheard, it’ll always feel like the first time I stood up in front of the world and let myself by heard.

Since then, I’ve moved away from the iPad completely. Nowadays I’m making music in Ableton Live. We actually sold the iPad on which Show Me the Way to Go Home was recorded. So it goes.

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