Marten Jansen Rock Music

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Feel Alive

I’m learning this as I go. Some songs are available on iTunes and Spotify, one is available on iTunes only, some earlier songs are on a host of download and streaming sites. The current song, dear reader, will be on the following sites:

Amazon MP3

I sent the song to the distributor today and it should be available on iTunes within a couple of days. Spotify needs up to 6 weeks, which is their problem, right?

Hopefully there will be no ****up on the song’s pricing on iTunes as with the previous song, in which case you should try another site from the list above.






He Was A Middle Aged Caucasian

Holy Smoke!….for the lack of stronger language….

I asked the music distributor to fix the typo in the song title, but it’s still present in the album title. Never mind about that. That middle aged caucasians can’t spell is well known.

A slightly bigger problem is that the song is listed at iTunes as costing $8.99. This is not something I did and I asked the distributor to fix it (by email, that is…by phone their “wait time is longer than average”).

The only download option for $1.99 now, is , which is…….the distributor…..

Just another day in the music business…..




Time Goes On

My new song is titled Time Goes On. I drew upon similar resources as in Your Dreams and You Said with the difference that Time Goes On is 9 minutes long. Previously I didn’t have the confidence to move beyond 4 or 5 minutes and would end a song at the first opportunity.
Time Goes On is an “open ended” song. It doesn’t go out with a bang but ends in a kind of ambiguous way. I don’t quite understand the ending myself, so an update may follow. Don’t download at random, in anticipation of an update, because I will mention any updates in this post.

Now, with Time Goes On finished, I will have the opportunity to work with the new virtual instruments I bought. Hopefully my laptop has enough RAM to support that, because RAM is really the bottleneck in computer based music production. The problem is that I will have to buy a whole new computer just to double my RAM, because it seems to me, correct me if I’m wrong, that computer manufacturers now articifially limit RAM capacity and RAM expandability. A correct business decision undoubtedly, but a major headache to me.

The thing to watch with Time Goes On is that it’s a 13 MB download. This is just the consequence of home recording, because in order to get a decent sound quality you can do little compression to reduce the file size and even then some parts sound a little scrappy, especially the electric guitars with all their overtones.

In this song I used:

  • Vocaloid Miriam
  • Pro Tools loops and sounds
  • Vocal Foundry
  • Voices of Africa
  • Nu Metal City 2
  • Dubstep Plates 2
  • Symphonic Manoeuvres
  • 80’s Punk & New Wave
  • Superior Drummer Avatar, Twisted Kit & Electronic
  • Ableton Live Suite 8

You Said

You Said is an ode to guitar rock. During the 1980s I was a fan of guitar bands like Dire Straits, U2, Simple Minds and The Stones, but then, at some point, guitar rock became so predictable and retro that I switched to House music, until in pure desperation I switched to classical music, mid-90s.
Now, as a song writer, I feel strangly attracted to styles of guitar rock which I wouldn’t touch as a listener, such as Nu Metal. I have realized that EZDrummer (and Superior Drummer) complements my style in that its makers seem to originate from Hard Rock. You Said makes ample use of EZDrummer’s Expansion Kit called Twisted Kit which was put together by renowned drummer Michael Blair and consists of things like cake pans, drawers and other unorthodox drum items.
Like in Come and Your Dreams I make use of the Vocal Foundry sample DVD, for vocals.

Your Dreams

Ok, so this track is a little unorthodox, as I always try to push my envelope. In my opinion it’s an artist’s obligation to be unorthodox (while making art, that is) because art is, or can be, escapism. In the visual arts you can work towards realism, but even there art is only interesting, in my opnion, when reality becomes the artist’s creation, as it were, as opposed to art being a mere copy of reality.
As for pushing one’s envelope, I worked myself into a lower back pain on this track and even then it’s never finished. It’s got some weird hamonics, but please listen to the track several times to get a feel for it, before you dismiss it as weird. The vocals you hear consist of English language vocal samples, but reversed. So it’s English, but the other way around. I did that to get the vocals to be a little more interesting, because it’s very difficult to find interesting vocal samples.
I renamed the track to Your Dreams, which is from the lyrics of one of the vocal samples. Prozaic, but self-evident.

Expect at least one update to this song, because I’ve detected an harmonic mishap and a mixing issue. As for the harmonics, the part between 1:15 and 1:32 min. is experimental. It’s a pivotal part of the song, but I don’t really know what I’m doing there. If it were “wrong”, as so to speak, the song wouldn’t be able to continue in the way it does, but it isn’t entirely “right” either. I put right and wrong between quotes, because music isn’t exact science (in practice, exact science isn’t exact). Near the end of Requiem for Batman there are some chords that sound “off”, but without them the ending would be dull and only the very attentive listener will detect the offness. So, what to choose, the smooth version or the more dramatic version, that’s an artistic choice, which transcends musical rules. (The same applies to the intro (00:02 – 00:27) of Your Dreams.)
As for the mixing (this is geek stuff), the penultimate part of Your Dreams, where the Vocaloid begins, sounds unstable. This may have something to do with the compressor’s reaction to the bass sound and I spent a week trying to fix that, only partially successfully. Oddly enough, it appears neither in the sequencer, nor in the .wav file it produces, only in the .mp3 file. It will take a better geek than myself to get to the bottom of this.

On Nov 24th I updated My Dreams. Check out the intro and the 1:15 – 1:32 part. Also, the piece now has a 96 kHz sampling rate (instead of 48), which gives the piece a better overall sound quality. And the above-mentioned unstable sounding part got through the MP3 converter better this time. No idea as to why.
Which sampling rate produces the best result is an art to me (if not coincidence), rather than science. Of course I tried higher sampling rates the previous times, but then it didn’t improve the musical value.
The human ear is not supposed the be able to hear an improvement of sound quality above 44.1 kHz, but if a file conversion from the lossless .WAV to the compressed .MP3 is required, then there’s no doubt that increasing the sampling rate makes a big difference.
However, a more realistic sound doesn’t always produces a more musical result. I learn as I go.

Nov 25 (v2): Another update. The intro is always the last part of the song I write, because it serves as a kind of blueprint for the rest of the song. Its purpose is to set the song up. “The meat” of the song is often three part counterpoint, or more, with which you can’t start a song, because that would leave the listener confused from the first moment on. The maximum number of melody lines that a listener can hear simultaneously is two. If there are more, then you still hear two and regard the rest as harmony. You assume the additional lines are there, based on what you expect from what you heard previously. So a convenient way to start an intro is with two part counterpoint, although there may be expections: as long as the listener can grasp the music without prior knowledge.
The difficulty with My Dreams is that the intro must set up an unorthodox harmonic structure (I think, I’m not a musicologist) to a simple melodic theme. So the intro contains the theme, which suggests straightforward harmony, but at the same time it must have notes that are external to this simple harmony to set up the more complex harmony that follows. The “external notes” make the intro sound illogical, so the two have to be balanced: the intro must make sense in its own right and at the same time set up the unorthodox harmony that follows.

Nov 26 (v2.2): Another update: I changed the strings following the intro. This blog’s MP3 files have “tags”, some of which show up on your player’s display, such as the song’s title and an image. The MP3 files also have a “comment” tag, which isn’t generally displayed on your player, but I use it to add some technical information, such as the song’s version. Today’s version is 2.2, hence the (v2.2) next to Nov 26. Just in case you feel the urge, if you download a tag editor, then you can access the comment tag and see which version you’re dealing with.

Dec 3: Update v2.3.
I changed the 1:15 – 1:32 part on Nov 24th, which necessitated a change to the strings of the part following. The objective is not necessarily to make the part in question sound better, rather than to improve the flow of the song overall. If all these updates piss you off, I am sorry, but when these changes occur to me I feel the need to implement them. This song is just a lot more complicated than the previous ones and I learn better to understand it as time passes.

Requiem for Batman

Abstract art by Marten Jansen, abstract artist and musician

Requiem for Batman is a hommage to Batman (March 6 2000 – April 21 2006).

I’ve made a habit out of alternating songs with drums and pop vocals with songs that are based on Vocaloid and result in a mix of classical music and jazz. The classical angle is due to listening to classical music a lot and the jazz to studying jazz on guitar.
As it turns out, when I use Vocaloid (Prima, I can’t get the hang of Miriam yet), the ideal instruments to combine with Prima are a bass guitar multi-sample and a keyboard synthesizer sound. That’s what Tell Me is all about, and much of Batman’s Requiem. The keyboard synth sound is warmer and more direct and compelling than a piano.

Tell Me was inspired by Satie, who showed how to mix old European music with modern styles, and by Bach, the arch-counterpointillist. The way I use vocals is inspired by Wagner, and also some general composition issues, so I was beginning to wonder where Mahler had gone. These days I’ve become a little disenchanted with Mahler, because he lacks a certain authenticity and the raw musical talent that folks like Bach and Satie have. However, his First Symphony is still a marvel of originality (not to be confused with authenticity) and fresh innovation.
It would be wrong to assume that this Requiem for Batman or Tell Me are exclusively European music. I’ve heard Pygmees in the African rain forrests play melodies quite similar to mine, but very short, one or two bars. The difference is not one of cultural refinement, but of technological advancement.

On Oct 16th a new version of Requiem for Batman was uploaded, which has some minor changes.

Come Home

My new song is called Come Home and is based on a sample DVD that has many short clips of vocals. So if the vocals sound familiar, it’s because many people have used them, but the song as a whole is still what the composer makes it.
All in all, using vocal samples is much like a collage. It’s about arranging the clips such that they don’t sound like a radio commercial.

Tell Me

I told you I’m into Vocaloid, the singing computer.  Today’s track is a song based on Vocaloid, in the sense that it inspired me to write some music I would never write without it, even if I had a real singer.

It’s  a simple song, in that it consists of a bass, keyboard and a singing voice. The voice is computer generated, as said, so don’t expect too much from a performance point of view. The power of Vocaloid is in its compositional usefulness. There’s only so much you can ask from a real singer, but with Vocaloid you can experiment endlessly.

The song consists of two and three part counterpoint (counterpoint is several melody lines sounding together) and I know that if I want to be Bach, I will have to write five or six part counterpoint. I tried four parts, but that obscured my melodic intentions and I find two and three parts more effective for my style.

Because I tend towards a melodic way of writing, I assume that my melodies have more movement in pitch, per unit time, leading to the harmony being more defined. Writing more than three parts would then over-define the harmony, because there has to be an aspect of suggestion, as opposed to using every note in the chord.  The latter would be too unambiguous and therefore uninteresting, but I’m not a musicologist.

The voice you hear on the track is that of an opera singer, and it’s evident that many classical singers nowadays are familiar with modern styles such as jazz. The song isn’t jazz, but it does have a jazzy flavour, perhaps because of the bass (I’ve always been interested in the jazz bass) or because it has some dissonants that may be more proper to jazz than to classical music.

For the keyboard part I used a synthesizer sound, but an acoustic or electric piano will do just as well. For the keyboard part all that is required is a one-armed pianist, because the part has no chords, just melodies.

The song has a few bars that require a background singer.

A couple of months ago I wrote on my art blog about a former music teacher who complained about the weird harmony I wrote (at 17), because it conflicted with my desire to reach the mainstream audience. All popular music consists of I-IV-V chord schemes, but I interjected that the composer can arrange his music such that the mainstream audience can understand unorthodox harmony. On my blog I conceded, but now I’m on the offence.

It appears that my music is better liked than I anticipated, which can only mean people understand it. In fact, the same situation exist on the painting part of the equation.

The song I’m talking about is called “Tell Me”. It’s essentially lyricless, because I’m not into that. I just keyed in some words to make Prima sing. Prima is a the name of the computer voice. The voice is that of a real person, but it seems she wants to be anonymous as a vocaloid.

The song, at long last, can be downloaded here:

Tell Me

….and always from the sidebar on the right of each page of this music blog.

Your speakers or ear phones HAVE to HAVE a strong enough bass sound, or else half of my music will elude you.

Mi Fortuna

Mi Fortuna is the title of my new track. I’m not sure what it means, but I don’t think it’s dirty. I downloaded a sample CD and on it someone kept saying “mi fortuna” (I think) and I incorporated that sound clip into my song. It’s got four more samples from that CD, all vocals, so this track has been an opportunity for me to learn how to use samples, using Ableton’s wonderful Sampler application.

So let’s get down to it:

The track can be down loaded from

By NO means use your lap top (even if it’s a “home theater” or something) or mobile phone to play this music.

As you can hear, Mi Fortuna is quite different from Compostion One, my previous track. Mi Fortuna is much simpler harmonically, because from the outset I used the track to test my marvelous new drum software, Toontrack’s EZdrummer. With the drum part adequately taking care of the rhythm, I tend to write a rhythmically simple bass part, which then leads to simple harmonics, because that’s how my way of writing counterpoint works. Now thanks to EZdrummer I’m finally beginning to understand drums as an instrument. It really determines the character of a song. For instance, of the four different drum kits I used, one sounds big (the rock/pop kit) and one sounds tight, the Claustrophobia kit, such named because it was recorded in a small room, with no reverb. Even though I put a lot of reverb on Claustrophobia’s snare drum, all parts of Mi Fortuna that use Claustrophobia still have that low-oxygen feel to them. The two kits combine excellently, because the pop/rock kit spurs the music on and Claustrophobia puts the breaks on.
EZdrummer also made me realize how important Charly Watts has been for the sound of the Rolling Stones, because I always thought that he was some kind of musical shoulder padding and that Jagger/Richard were doing all the hard stuff. Now I know that a drummer can really leave his imprint on a band’s sound.
Putting Mi Fortuna together has been tremendous fun (and ball breaking hard work) and for a bedroom production I don’t think it’s too shabby.
The only thing that limits me down now are the vocals. I’m down with the drums, but adding vocal samples to a piece of music is like a collage, because you’re creatively limited to someone else’s idea. I tested Yamaha’s Vocaloid 1, which is something like a singing robot. You enter the text and the notes and the software will sing it. The idea may sound silly, but after a second try I was able to get encouraging results. The difference with a real voice is clearly audible, but still, it does the same thing to a piece of music that a real voice does. Which shows that music is all about association.
Kudos to Yamaha, as no electronic task seems too daunting or (seemingly) farfetched for Japanese engineers.