𝐀𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫

𝐀𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫

06-08-2019

12:02

Welcome to this week's #TuesdayAesthetics! This week I'll be covering the Network Production Music demo CD from 1993.

From what I can find, Network was a San Diego-based label specialising in music for various sources such as news stations, cable TV, corporate clients and so on. There's not much information out there on them past this.

Their slogan billed them as 'the sound of America!' which I find pretty rad. The earliest release of theirs that I know of is from 1977. After listening to it I was struck by how simulatenously authentic and manufactured it sounded.

Much of the information couldn't have been found if not for YouTube user jcj83429, so go subscribe to them. They made scans of the booklets included with the two CDs that I'll be making reference to in this thread.

When I was planning this week's thread, I was a little hesitant on where to begin. I wasn't sure as to whether I'd start by defining library music and going from there, then decided I was approaching it too academically. After all, it's only Twitter.

I'd like to start by talking about what these two demo CDs mean to me and how they intersect musically with my idea for Blue Wave Wonder. When I came up with the idea for Blue Wave Wonder, I conceptualised it in broad strokes and simple terms.

It would be the soundtrack to a fictional racing game from the 1990's, and I'd figure out the rest while I wrote the music. This backfired when I realised I'd need to elaborate on what I meant by music from the 1990's, so I had already run into a roadblock.

I began with jazz fusion, because it was a genre I knew had a lot of influence on many video games from many genres. It was around this time that I started to understand that in order for me to realise this in a cohesive way, I'd have to understand what a concept album was.

In my opinion, it's a good thing to ground yourself and give your art some direction, whatever form this takes. It may seem like you're somehow debasing your imagination's work by doing this, as if by attempting to set boundaries, you've corrupted the beautiful work in your head.

I understand the appeal of having a beautifully embellished grand plan in your brain and enjoying the unreality of your perfect imaginary creation. In your brain, whatever you say goes and you have free rein over every single detail of whatevr it is that you're making.

I totally get it. What's not to love? The issue here is attempting to then translate that work into reality, to let other people see what you've been up to. Replicating that beauty will then seem like a Herculean task. This is what I realised after a few months of writing.

I had to be more concrete and unambiguous with what I wanted this album to sound like. The tracks I had sounded hollow and dry, and whatever I was doing to give them my idea of a 90's 'flair', or 'flavour', was not working.

Then I discovered these two demos, and the simple power of keywords. Of course there's a huge discussion to be had about how the interpretation of these keywords are affected by context and whatnot, but I'll not get into that here.

Rather, I'd like to talk about how this demo, unassuming though it may be, provides a really valuable starting point to talking about direction in music.

The particular demo that sonically impacted me the most was from 1993. I say this because it took me a while to understand how I could put words to the sounds I heard in my head, while also matching them with the visual aesthetic influences I talked about last week.

This is the Korg M1. It was released in 1988, and by the early 90's had racked up a ton of major hits. It was, in my opinion, the DX7 of the early 1990's.

My 2017 EP 'the Sunset Club' took many influences from the sounds of the mid to late 1980's. I was growing a little weary of the growling analog synths and wanted something different. Something smoother and more in line with what I wanted to hear.

I was obsessed with the DX7 electric piano patch, and that whole album I chased the sound that was developing in my head. Glassy, pure, smooth. FM synthesis scratched that itch for a while, but I wasn't finished.

As much as FM synth appealed to me through music I liked from the SEGA Genesis and other sources, I found that they had a boundary that I didn't feel fit the sounds of Blue Wave Wonder. I scaled that wall and then found the Korg M1.

Its unique patches and PCM tone were the answer to what I was looking for, and they were exactly the sounds I was hearing in my head. They matched my memories of mid-90's PC games (especially edutainment titles) and I knew I had to use it in Blue Wave Wonder.

Which leads right back to the Network Production Music demo from 1993.

So now that I had a foundation for how I would construct part of the sound design for the album, how could I translate the images I saw in my head to someone else's? How could I make them see as vividly as I could? The narrator had the answer.

Whoever did the marketing copy for the CD needed a raise, because they singlehandedly forced a sea-change in my way of thinking about the album.

And it seems like such a simple thing. I'm sure people do it all the time, assigning keywords to a sound they hear either in their head or in real life. But I'd never really thought to do that. My head was filled with the terminology I'd learned after 15 years of playing music.

So I remained frustrated until I realised I had to go back to the basics of what sound design was. At least, in my understanding. And that was make a list of keywords that I associated with the album and its sound, just to give me a head start of some sort.

I'd like to invite you to take a listen to the demo, just to see if you can identify what exactly makes it so special. Listen carefully to what the narrator says and see if you can see what he's trying to show you.

Ultimately, that became my goal. Make a list of keywords related to racing games from the 1990's, similar to what was set out in the demo CD.

I think that'll be all for this week. Next week though...



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