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Audio software for sale

I just upgraded to Native Instruments Komplete 13 Ultimate, which means that I now have redundant licenses for a number of NI products which I’d bought individually while trying to justify not upgrading to Ultimate. Fortunately, NI makes license transfers really easy.

So, if anyone’s interested in any of the following pieces of software, let me know:

I also have a license for NI Akoustik Piano which takes some doing to get it to work in a modern environment, but is still pretty darn good. It’s basically the predecessor to the definitive piano collection. (Although honestly the Definitive Piano Collection is well worth the $100 if you’re looking for some virtual pianos, and is my go-to piano selection these days.)

Port Angeles day 3

Today the weather cleared up so I finally went hiking for an hour or so. Only one trailhead I could find was open from the Port Angeles side of the forest (most of the roads into the forest were closed due to snow), and when I got there the parking lot was filling up. I wandered around a bit and took a bunch of photos and audio recordings, but quickly found that my camera’s battery did not like the cold (or maybe it’s just getting old and needs to be replaced). According to the trail map I made it maybe a third of the way up before my legs were telling me that I was in no way fit enough to keep going, and then after I turned back I found that the parking lot was overflowing and a whole bunch of people were now on the trail. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Hopefully tomorrow I can go to a different trailhead but the weather report is saying it’s going to be raining again, so my last day here might be like all the others.

Also I really should have worn thicker socks, as my feet were pretty cold the whole time. If it isn’t raining I’ll definitely bring the thick pair I brought for this very reason.

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Song Fight! Live(stream)! Last night!

Hey y'all! Song Fight! Live(stream) has gone really well. A bunch of us learned a lot about live streaming online and I’ve picked up many more tricks for the future. And maybe we’ll be doing more of this stuff!

In the meantime: tonight is going to be the live fight (where people can vote in real time for their favorite new song), and I have a song in it. ANd it starts in about 20 minutes from the time of this post! Please show up and show your support.

I also had a lot of fun being background support on night 4, and it was also a thrill to be involved in the Seth Gibbs tribute and for my set to be so well-received on night 3.

It’s actually pretty cool how this whole thing is accessible to everyone in the world (who’s awake at this time, anyway) and not just being limited to people who could physically come, and I hope even post-pandemic we’ll keep doing online events like these.

But anyway. All that said I’m glad this event is soon to be over with: I need some heckin' sleep tonight. (And I start my new job tomorrow!)

Song Fight! Live: Social and Distanced 2020

Every year, Song Fight! does a live show where a bunch of folks come from all around the world to perform for a couple of nights. Of course, because of current events this year’s show had to get canceled.

But this was the 20th year, so we couldn’t let such an important milestone go. So instead we’re doing it online.

I didn’t perform on night 1 but I was interviewed by Glenn Case, which was a lot of fun.

On night 2, I produced the stream and video (and did a bunch of simple bumper animations, which was fun!) and also one of my music videos got played. And it was cool to see responses to it from people who hadn’t seen it before!

Anyway, I have recorded a live set along with most of the other members of Sockpuppet, and hopefully that’ll get broadcast this week on night 3. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Checking in

I’m still alive, I just haven’t had a lot to say I guess. At least not publicly.

Work is work. Lots of frustrations not worth getting into. I was at least managing to get some music done which felt good, and my pain was improving until it suddenly wasn’t, so it’ll still be some time before I can work on comics again. Which is a shame because I really want to work on both Lewi and Unity, gosh I have so much more story to tell on both of them…

I’ve been wanting to do an online concert in lieu of Song Fight! Live (which was canceled due to the pandemic) but I doubt I’ll be in any position to do that either, and my ideas for how to do an ersatz performance would take a lot more effort than I’m willing to put into it right now.

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Audio Hijack is good, actually

I’d bought pretty heavily into the iTunes ecosystem primarily because it gave me a good listening experience, but also because it had good interoperability with Apple’s AirPlay devices. But ever since upgrading to Catalina, AirPlay has refused to work for completely inscrutable reasons. I’d kind of given up on whole-home music streaming (and was thinking of getting a small FM transmitter and an analog tuner, like I did back in grad school) but then I remembered that I had a generic Bluetooth receiver that I’d bought for use in my previous car.

So, after a little bit of setup and verifying that my desktop could actually communicate to it from across my home, I was going to do the obvious thing and just set up a multi-audio output device to pipe Music.app through.

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Today’s Catalina iTunes Music gripe

iOS and watchOS have a great little remote control app for iTunes, which lets you control iTunes playback. It’s useful when I need to play or pause music during a typing break, or if I get a phone call while I’m in another room from my computer or whatever.

It’s supposed to work with Music.app.

It doesn’t.

I mean, it’ll pretend to connect just fine, but it never actually shows any of the playback information, and the controls do nothing.

Bonus fuckery: iTunes Match completely messed up the Fingertips suite on They Might Be Giants' Apollo 18. Tracks were out of order (yeah, yeah, I know it’s supposed to be shuffled but my brain has a thing) and half of them were glitched out and truncated.

The ongoing quagmire that is iTunes Catalina Music.app

So, the latest issue with iTunes is that for whatever reason it’s stopped letting me actually play in a shuffle-from-library way. Which is to say, they got rid of the view where you can just see your whole library as the library, and click a “play” or “shuffle” button from there. I don’t know when it disappeared, but I know it used to be there, and now it isn’t.

It used to be that if you just had your view set to “albums” and pressed play anyway, it’d go ahead and choose something at random to play. But today it just kept on doing the same album: The Bends by Radiohead. Which is, granted, a great album, but I don’t know why it was choosing that one and that one alone, and I only felt like listening to it once, you know?

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The end of two eras

Two things happened today of note:

  1. My new audio interface (affiliate link) arrived
  2. The demolition on my kitchen happened

Neither are things I really wanted to have to, y'know, spend this kind of money on right now, but they were both necessary. If badly-timed.

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iTunes Cloud Library seems better now

So, I don’t know if something changed in iOS or in iTunes Cloud Library or what, but now the cloud smart playlist thing is working a lot better now; at the very least, my cloud-synchronized smart playlist is at least doing the proper album shuffle on my phone.

It still doesn’t seem to be updating what’s in the playlist based on what’s been played/skipped recently, though. But it’s hard to tell if that just takes a while for the play stats to get updated and propagated or what. To be fair this is a hard problem.

Meanwhile, I also finally upgraded my laptop to Catalina. The new Music app is taking for-freaking-ever to sync over my library. But at least it claims to support it, after clicking “Please don’t sign me up for Apple Music” about a dozen times, and then once again saying “yes I’m sure” when I tell it to turn on syncing my actual library. But this also gave me an opportunity to see how much of my stuff is broken; the Native Instruments installer is working now, and while NI still doesn’t recommend upgrading, all of their software that I use seems to be supported.

Unfortunately, my desktop’s audio interface isn’t currently supported on Catalina, so I won’t be upgrading that any time soon. Presonus have said that they will be releasing a Catalina update for it after all (after years of saying they wouldn’t release any more updates) but there’s no timetable for it. If there’s no update in, say, 3 months, I might have to start looking into new audio hardware, and that’s expensive and I’ve yet to see another audio interface which supports (or at least advertises) the hardware submix functionality that I use on the FireStudio. I got used to that when I set up my Twitch setup but have found it to be genuinely useful for keeping my headphone and speaker mix separate regardless. It’s nice not having to deal with muting my connected microphones every time I switch to my speakers.

iTunes Match kinda sucks

So remember how I was using iTunes Match and a smart shuffle app to manage my music?

Well, that hasn’t ended up working all that well.

The smart shuffle app, in particular, is incredibly unreliable and slow, and also my iTunes Match-backed library has… Issues.

Like, a lot of songs won’t sync over because of an “unspecified error” (I assume label interference, because they’re all songs from a particular label as far as I can tell), and a lot of other songs won’t sync over because they appear as “duplicates” since like… sometimes I have more than one instance of a song across multiple albums. Best-of compilations and singles releases and so on. Sometimes it does legitimately find a duplicate I want to get rid of but most of the time it’s just… not. And even when it does, it’s a crapshoot as to which one it decides is the duplicate and which is the “real” one.

Like. My whole thing is listening to albums, not individual songs, and if a song appears in multiple albums, I want it to be played within all of those albums.

At least they seem to have figured out that there are sometimes multiple versions of a song by the same artist and on different albums (like, it never seems to show the various Past Masters versions of Beatles songs as duplicates of the album versions). (Oh I guess I talked about that last time too. Obviously this is important to me.)

I’ve also noticed that playing songs on the iPhone doesn’t update the play stats in my cloud library, and even with the enormity of my library I’m still hearing albums more frequently than I’d like.

I feel like there has got to be a better way than any of this.

Oh wait, there was one, and Apple stopped bothering to support it.

How the heck I can listen to music the way I want to

Okay, after posting my rant, someone on a Slack I’m on pointed me to Smart Shuffle, an alternate player for iOS which plays music the way I want to listen to it. (Thanks, Roman!)

I also signed up for iTunes Match, which provides the only part of Apple Music I care about (while also costing way less). And it seems to be doing a good job of pre-populating my device with music, and Smart Shuffle is able to play from iCloud while I’m on wifi and then automatically switch to stuff that’s locally cached when I’m not on it, so hopefully that makes for a reasonably seamless experience.

I guess with the vast quantity of music I have at this point I don’t really care about play stats for excluding stuff I’ve heard recently since I have so much of it that it’s less likely for duplication to happen like that.

The iPhone does have a setting for how much music to prefetch but as far as I can tell there’s no way to tell it which playlists/songs/whatever to prioritize; as far as I can tell it intends to focus on stuff that I listen to already, which is pretty much the opposite of what I want.

I suppose that if I care incredibly deeply about having proper randomness available on my phone I could just get a 512GB iPhone when I inevitably upgrade. I guess that’s a decision I can make next time I’m in Portland (which is in just two weeks).

One annoyance with iTunes Match so far is that it refuses to cloud-upload songs which it sees as duplicates. Fortunately its duplicate detection seems to be a lot better than in the bad old days of just matching artist and title, but unfortunately it still means that if you have an artist who has released multiple close-enough-to-each-other versions of the same song on different albums, or has released a best-of compilation, you’ll only get one rendition of it and it won’t appear in all the albums, and you can’t even choose which one is the canonical album placement. Kind of annoying. But less annoying than all the other things iTunes annoys me with, I guess.

How the heck can I listen to music the way I want to?

I collect music. Lots and lots of music. I have something like 250GB of the stuff. It’s across basically every genre known to man. Possibly a few unknown to man, too.

The way I’ve preferred to listen to music for the past 15 years or so is to have my player device of choice shuffle by album - which is to say, choose an album at random and then play it all the way through, in order. It works really well for my listening habits, because it ensures that I will, for example, get a complete opera (following all of its cadences), followed by a complete rock album (following all of its cadences), followed by a complete abstract electronica compilation, and so on. Sometimes I’ll get singles interspersed between them. That’s fine.

The main way I discover more music is if I come across something I like (from random YouTube exploration or adding the SXSW torrents to my library or whatever), I will just buy that artist’s entire discography all at once, with the hopes that those albums will eventually come up in my listening sometime in the future. It’s like a little present to my future self.

Unfortunately, the modern music app landscape makes this incredibly difficult to do. Back in the classic iPod era, this worked well enough - I’d make a smart iTunes playlist which just filtered out stuff I’d listened to recently, and then populated with random albums up to whatever storage limit the iPod had. (Once upon a time I could fit my entire library into a single iPod Classic but that hasn’t been the case for well over a decade now.) And I continued with this with the iPod Touch and iPhone and so on, because even though those devices didn’t support shuffle-by-album, the smart playlists still worked.

But now a few stupid things have all happened:

  • My iOS devices stopped being able to sync (and none of the “fixes” I’ve found work at all)
  • iTunes switched from being a “manage your library” thing to an “Apple Music frontend player”
  • I tried using iTunes Match to at least get the iCloud Music Library thing but now that’s made it so that even my smart playlists don’t work anymore – even after disabling iTunes Match! (In particular, they no longer shuffle by album and I’m no longer able to force it to re-select a new set of songs, which I used to be able to do by removing items from the playlist.)

For years I have stuck with iTunes and iPod/iOS because they were the only ecosystem I could manage to get to work right with my listening preferences. I haven’t found any other players, much less device synchronization systems, that allow for the shuffle-by-album thing. But now even that isn’t working anymore, and Apple is showing no interest in fixing it; I’ve had bug reports open for years on each of the individual issues I’ve mentioned above, and nobody I know seems to run into these problems but nobody I know wants to listen to their music in this way; they’re happy to just listen to random radio/Apple Music/Pandora/etc. stations, and don’t care about plumbing the depths of their gigantic, varied collection.

I keep hoping that someone will know of some alternate player and sync solution that lets me do what I want though. Every now and then someone will maybe mention that there might be a Foobar2000 plugin or something but I’ll look into it and not only is Foobar2000 Windows-only but it doesn’t actually do what I want, or it has no way of synchronizing with plays across devices or whatever.

I’m not even asking for anything that exotic or unknown. iTunes used to do this as its normal mode of operation. But it’s like everyone who makes music software and library managers has forgotten about everything, possibly because of the streaming services which are in turn patterned after radio, which never provided a listening experience I enjoyed.

I’m not about to start hand-managing my library either. My brain isn’t nearly large enough to keep track of what music I’ve listened to or make the decisions of what to listen to next. I want a simple unbiased random algorithm to do that for me!

Why is this so fucking hard?

EDIT: It looks like there are macOS and iOS versions of Foobar2000. The macOS version is outdated, abandoned, and doesn’t support album shuffle (or external device sync). The iOS version supports album sync but just uses the iTunes library on the device, which is great if you can sync music into it but I can’t. So frustrating. But it looks like maybe there’s a way that I can sorta bludgeon it into working? We’ll see.

EDIT 2: So of course right after I posted this, iTunes suddenly started behaving again. Let’s see how long it lasts this time.

Also someone on a Slack I’m on wrote:

Perhaps it’s time to concede that whatever you want from it is just not going to work reliably any longer, and adjust expectations and habits accordingly? It’s quite obvious that it’s not going to get fixed anytime soon.

Nah, fuck this attitude entirely. I’d have to completely change the way I listen to music, and all of the ways that are even feasible anymore are the ones which just so happen to help the record labels instead of actual musicians, for some reasonGee golly whillikers.

I am so sick of control being taken away from me, especially in a way which doesn’t benefit the musicians I want to support.

More iTunes/iPhone sync woes

So, I’m still having the iPhone sync issue, only now it’s gotten so bad that I can’t even sync my music after doing a full factory restore of my phone. Ridiculous.

As an attempt at just getting my dang music on my phone I decided to sign up for another Apple Music trial period, figuring I’d use the iCloud Music Library sync stuff instead.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t really work.

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Long transitions

Tonight, my set at Song Fight! Live went really well. There were some rough patches due to the usual nature of the beast but we managed to hold it together and afterwards everyone told me how great it sounded. I’m overall happy with that.

An “interesting” thing has been happening regarding how people deal with my gender stuff lately though.

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Song Fight! Live 2019

I forgot to mention it here, but I’m going to be in Madison, WI for Song Fight! Live this weekend! I’ll be performing my set sometime Friday night, and will also (probably) be playing drums for one or two other acts throughout the weekend, and (hopefully) debuting a new song (yet to be written, as I do not yet know the title) on Saturday!

Anyway if you’re in or near Madison and can make it to The Rigby and want to watch me flail in front of a crowd, now’s your chance.

(We’ll also try to have a live stream although right now there’s some logistics to work out on that front, so no guarantees.)

Anyway I’ll also be in Madison until Tuesday and don’t currently have plans for Sunday or Monday, so if I know anyone in the area it’d be fun to meet up and do something I guess? I mean, assuming I don’t get murdered for my anti-Trump song.

Full Course on Kickstarter

Oh yeah, back when I was trying to do music full-time I started working on a soundtrack for a visual novel, but put the work on hold pending funding for the game itself. It’s taken a bit, but the Full Course Kickstarter is finally live, and if this game gets funded I’ll be able to finish making the soundtrack.

Studio inventory

While making my streaming setup writeup it took a lot of self-control to not write up an exhaustive list of all the music-making gear I have in my studio. But I was morbidly curious enough that I’ve decided to write it up anyway. So here is a shrine to my history of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (and, I guess, my lack of self-control).

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