My earliest published lyrics (1999)

Written for esoteric rock band “Lefty’s Head”, who had insisted on naming this song after my (then current) website for some reason. The title was originally my email address, but I was able to talk them out of that much.  The SPAM quotient would have been horrifying.

These lyrics replaced their own for the song, which were originally about an insurrection of moustaches who had broken free of men’s faces and violently taken over the world. For better or worse, I don’t have a copy of that version to share.

Anyway, I felt invested because of the website tie-in, and wanted the song to represent the themes I’d been going for in naming that site. The following is what resulted, and what ended up on their 1999 album “50 Years of Lefty’s Head”.


Fallensky.com
Lyrics by Aaron Levitz
Music by Lefty’s Head

Remember when they said the sky was falling,
and we were sure it couldn’t be true?
‘cause we were list’ning to the future calling
with out hopes all planned out — if we only knew!

Remember noticing the edges sagging,
and our stomachs twisting into a knot?
In that one moment, our fears went from nagging
to a full fledged panic, right there on the spot.

The world was covered in a cloudy blanket
and the buildings crumbled under its weight.
The water flooded in and people drank it,
filling up their lungs, and going to their fate.

Held down and smothered by the thing we trusted,
there was comfort still within its folds.
But looking up, we saw the skyline busted,
like some eerie sign of what the future holds.

Each day we get up and go through the motions.
Each night we watch the stars burn where they fell.
They melt the ice caps and dry the oceans.
Where heaven meets the earth, we enter hell.

But we’re adapting and a new sky’s forming.
The old ones fading, along with the pain.
Our strength is thawed and I hope it’s warming,
but we’re still afraid it could fall again.


*(I’m not sure whether “our strength is thawed” is accurate or not.  It’s the most sense I can make of the recorded vocals, with no printed record in front of me.  It’s an awkward turn of phrase, but I can’t think of a better one offhand.  I honestly can’t remember what I was thinking.)

ongoing project: The Velveteen Band

I suppose I should mention that I play keyboards and melodica in The Velveteen Band.

This would be us:

(most of our songs are not about Doctor Who.)

Our lead singer’s a puppet. Our other lead singer is also a puppet. There’s a six foot rabbit on guitar and trumpet.  We took “2016 Artist of the Year” at the Ventura County Music Awards.

We’re currently working on our second album. You can listen to the first one here:

pushCCs app

This app creates virtual MIDI ports for mapping in Ableton, and provides individual pressure values for each button.

I’ve added an optional latching mechanism. When that is active, you can press any of the corners to hold the other buttons in place. You can then safely remove your hand from those buttons without zeroing out their parameters.

Additionally, if you press three of the corners simultaneously, that will zero out all of the buttons and their associated values.

If you’ve got a foot pedal plugged in (slot 1), you can use that for latching instead of the corners.

Note: This one is Mac only. It relies on some services from the operating system, as well as the friendlier device sharing nature of things in general. At this time, there are no plans to create an equivalent PC workflow. The editable .maxpat file is included, should you like to attempt a port yourself.

v1.2:

v1.1:

  • …had all kinds of problems. you don’t want it.

v1.0:

  • DOWNLOAD
    (note: the compiled version included here was not in fact standalone. I’ve since learned how to make those correctly)

Josh Spoon did a video writeup of v1.0 here:

as part of his excellent “30 Days of Ableton Push” exploration.


early prototype / previous max for live version

I’ll write up a proper explanation later, but here.

requires Ableton Live 9, Push, and Max For Live. if you don’t have those things, this probably won’t interest you.

partially based on this:
 http://4live.me/post/51020217777/momentary8-pro

or rather, the old version:
 http://4live.me/post/48177590939/momentary8

(This is missing nearly every feature you’d possibly care about, but it doesn’t require the max runtime. I may add some of the functionality from the runtime version back into this later, when v2 is fleshed out a bit more, but there’s no point with this version. m4l will never support poly aftertouch, so it’s strictly a matter of whether the other features add enough without that. They don’t yet.)

earlier experiments in generative music

These are the demos I made for an Ableton device contest before realizing we weren’t meant to produce demos.

What you’ll hear here are snapshots of a dynamic system. The real versions come out differently each time they’re played, much as the repeating sections here aren’t really repeating. These will be longer clips than usual, to demonstrate that variation.

The idea, of course, is not to create endless loops like this, but to build a framework where the overly simple source material used here is replaced by live input from a real musician.

Again, they’re just experiments. Details are provided below each music player.

* * *

  • The various pitched instruments are randomly selecting notes (within the same scale).
  • The drum part is one short loop, with many hits removed at random, and some of the remaining ones repeated as ghost notes.
  • The lower bell sounds are using the same tricks as the drums, with different settings (and a sync'd delay to fill in gaps and give them some groove). They're inspired by javanese gamelan
  • The brighter bell sounds ring longer and play less often, as a melodic element to tie things together

* * *

  • Rhythms are broken up with similar tricks as before
  • The bass part is actually a stream of long steady notes, gated against the drums to create the illusion that a live bass player and drummer have played a lot of shows together.
  • The scribbly notes (for lack of a better term) only plays within that same rhythm, but delayed by a beat.
  • The organ part follows similar rules to the bass, but sidechained against unheard elements

* * *

  • The pitches of a repeating pattern are randomized on the piano.
  • Drums and piano both drop notes at random, to vary the rhythm.
  • I might have overdone it on the fx
  • Heavy reverb fills the space where no drums are playing
  • The piano swaps between two audio chains when the drums are not playing. One version is recognizable as the piano. The other becomes the repeating flute sounds you hear.

generative nonsense in C Major

Here’s a bunch of random notes. I established some rules for the virtual ensemble to follow, pressed play, and recorded the results. Parts of it sound decent, but it isn’t very natural.


Here, I’ve mapped some effects controls, as well as the velocity values of each note, to a motion sensor. As I rotate it around, parameters adjust accordingly. When I lunge at the screen, stabby accents occur. It’s very satisfying.

Things sound more human, until they don’t.


And here, I forego the wacky repeat effects in favor of tempo control. Same basic control paradigm, but the results should be more subtle.


EDIT: Just noticed my “thin out incoming notes” routines weren’t working on most of the instruments. Fixed now.


More to come, surely. But I’m happy with the progress.