Jewish Music Blog

October 14, 2005

Windows Vista Audio

Filed under: Music Tech — jewishmusic @ 11:44 am

As you may know, the next version of Windows, entitled Vista, is due late 2006. Right now Microsoft is in the early Beta testing stage, with Beta 2, a pre-release with most of the features of the release version, due at the end of 2005.

What does Vista mean for audio, both professional and user-end? The Windows team is totally rewriting the audio code to provide for less latency and more fidelity. The main point of this is to reduce glitches in audio – so, for example, if you’re playing music and you open an application, the audio will not skip (or will skip much less frequently). I’m not sure what this means for professional audio, but I would imagine that if the underlying audio core has less latency, professional audio drivers will be more stable and less processor intensive.

The other main audio feature in Vista will be per-application volume control. A picture of this is available here. What this means is that all open applications will be able to be individually controlled from one central location – the audio window. One common application of this feature is that you will be able to change the volume of system notifications, such as instant messaging notices, without having to change the overall volume. Changing volume in the upcoming Media Player 11 will be reflected in the audio window, but I’m not sure about other applications. For example, if I’m running Winamp and change the volume within Winamp, will this be reflected in the audio window’s representation of Winamp? If not, than all I can see is that having another level of volume control will just make things more difficult. Right now Windows (basically) has two levels of volume control – the main volume and the volume in applications. Adding a third level could just make things more confusing.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for Beta 2 to see how this turns out.


October 10, 2005

Sameach Music Podcast

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 8:11 pm

Check this out. This is Sameach Music’s podcast site. Other than the podcast, this site has many demos of not-yet-released albums. All I can say is that it’s about time we have a site with previews of albums – finally a preview of an album before buying it! I found the downloads to be pretty slow, but this could be due to heavy traffic.

October 8, 2005

BaRock Demo Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 11:14 pm

Jewish Blogmeister has a link to some demos songs from BaRock’s new album. Sameach music also has a sample here.

Although I’ve never actually heard BaRock live, I’ve heard that they are a very professional sounding band. BaRock’s slogan is “Jewish Music with an Edge”. Dooes this demo fit under that moniker?

It’s very hard to make a demo of a band which usually plays live for several reasons. First of all, the players hired to play on albums aren’t usually the same ones that play at actual weddings, and it’s also very hard to capture the feel of a live band in a studio setting. (Gershon Veroba notified me that the standard in the business in general and BaRock in particular is to use the same musicians at weddings as on the album). Having said this, if a band does make a demo album, I hold it to a higher standard of review because they are telling the listeners that you should hire us because of this demo album.

After listening to these select BaRock demo tracks, although there is usually nothing wrong with the recordings and it is very solid, stylistically I think things could be different.

The first track is the intro/fanfare track. This track is supposed to represent to us listeners what a typical BaRock fanfare is like at a wedding. The purpose of a fanfare – the tune that is played before the bride and groom come in for the first time – is to inject energy into the crowd. The fanfare itself does fulfill this role with its complicated horn lines and heavy rock feel, but the transition into freilach and the sound of start off freilach does not. The fill that the drummer uses on his not-very-moving snare just doesn’t sound energetic and the transition doesn’t sound smooth.

The freilach feel itself sounds very timid. I would have liked the drums and bass to be louder in the mix and eq-ed better to add more energy to the groove. Also, the guitar is barely noticeable. Additionally, it sounds like the BaRock people tried too hard when arranging the horn lines. The result is the horn lines sound overdone and excessive. If BaRock was aiming at a more yeshivish style, then that is clearly reflected in their performance of freilach.

Another freilach demo track contains the song Epstein’s. BaRock does a nice jazz interlude in this song with a great jazz trumpet solo backed by Daniel Falik’s tasty chords. The problem with this is that Neshoma Orchestra already put this idea on their wedding album, Nesohma @ Your Simcha. Although not noticeable on this particular demo, seconds later Neshoma goes into a jazz groove. The fact that BaRock copied this idea tells me that they have nothing original to offer (although I’m sure they do!). BaRock does add a piano solo and a fast jazz groove. I simply don’t understand why BaRock copied Neshoma’s idea and put it on their own demo album.

Ma’aminim as well as other rock songs don’t sound very moving. The most apparent cause of this is that the tempo is significantly too slow at 152. ( Rock songs are usually at least 160. Although the bass player and drummer both play the same groove, the groove doesn’t change much throughout the various rock songs. I feel that the drummer should have added more bass notes to change the effect and add drive to his groove.

BaRock’s slow songs sound very nice, mainly due to Daniel Falik’s piano playing. The low part to V’zakeinu sounds very nice. The vocals are reserved and are complimented by gentle piano and flute. The high part, although backed by the same gentle flute and piano, steps up the vocals. The vocalist adds what I feel is excessive vibrato and goes off pitch several times. As a mixing issue, I think that some of the highs should have been rolled off the vocals – they sound kind of shrill at times. The flute player also plays very simply and doesn’t add many typical flute embellishments which make a performance memorable.

All in all, this demo doesn’t show me why BaRock is “Music with an Edge”. The freilach feel is extremely timid and the rock groove is too slow. The best part of the demo in my opinion are the slow songs, but certainly slow songs aren’t supposed to sound edgy.

Update 10/9/05: Jewish Blogmeister directed me to a Mostly Music link which has 43(!) samples of tracks from this album. After listening to those, I am happy to say that I found the disco and hora tidbits more original and edgy than the freilach and rock.

Update 10/10/05: After speaking with someone who frequently works for BaRock, I discovered that BaRock made it a point to only have actual weddings musicians play on their album. Most wedding albums do not have actual wedding players playing on albums.

Update 10/11/05: BaRock’s website has several live recorded samples. After listening to these and finally listening to the entire album, I have a more definitive opinion to offer. Most of my gripes are with the rhythm section during freilach. Although the drummer kind of has the freilach feel, he doesn’t have it to the point where it adds the energy that freilach is supposed to add. He often accents 1 in stylistically wrong places. Danel Falik, the keyboard player, is a superb jazz player. But, his freilach feel also doesn’t add the requisite energy to the groove either. His rhythmic playing is generally exceedingly simple – he often holds chords for a number of beats and doesn’t play certain syncopated rhythms which are charateristic of freilach (listen to Yaron Gershovsky on the Project X albums – that’s syncopation!). Although Daniel often throws in tasty jazz chords, I feel that there is more he could do (a la Gaddi) to add more typical “Jewish Jazz” chords. BaRock’s disco and hora groove has more energy than their freilach groove, but I feel that the keyboard and bass players should vary the groove more.

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