Skyypilot Posts

Gladys Knight, Conservatives Concede Culture War

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight is one of the greatest singers of all time. Period. I don’t care about the Super Bowl. Never have. Bread and circuses stuff. The only part I watched was the glorious Ms. Knight render the best version of “The Star Spangled Banner” I’ve had the good fortune to hear. Tearing-up from the start of her wonderful voice I still get the same reaction thinking about it the next day, and beyond! She stood up to the haters, and did what she felt was right. It was.

Now we have so-called “journalists” trying to bully her into their agenda. She is a proud American who clearly loves this country and won’t apologize for it.

America first heard Gladys Knight in 1952 when (at 7 years old) she won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. Along with her brother, sister, and two cousins, Gladys Knight and the Pips were formed. They were highly successful, and Ms. Knight went on to a fantastic solo career as well.

I moved to Atlanta, Georgia (Ms. Knight’s home town) almost 35 years ago. Never have I been so proud to be a resident as I am today. I love America, Atlanta, and Gladys Knight! Thank you, Ms. Knight!

Conservatives Concede the Culture War

Conservatives conceded the culture war. It’s pathetic, but it’s hard to win a fight when you aren’t even engaged. It gets tedious to think that if you want to hear something from a conservative, it is some guy with a cowboy hat offering a safe, homogenized version of “country/pop” ooze.

In an article by Jasper Hamill-“Millennials Prefer Music From 20th Century Golden Age to the Pop of Today, Research Suggests”, he says: “Scientists tested a group of millennials on their ability to recognise hit records from different decades. The 643 participants, typically aged 18 to 25, maintained a steady memory of top tunes that came out between 1960 and 1999. In contrast, their memory of 21st-century songs from 2000 to 2015 – while higher overall – diminished rapidly over time. Lead researcher Dr Pascal Wallisch, from New York University in the US, said: ‘The 1960s to 1990s was a special time in music, reflected by a steady recognition of pieces of that era-even by today’s millennials.’ During this period songs reaching the top of the US Billboard charts were significantly more varied than they were between 2000 to 2015, or the 1940s and 1950s, said the scientists.” (Jasper Hamill).

Era of Annoying

In the era of annoying “millennial whoop“s, (I addressed this crap in a previous post), people are starving for new ideas of what a song should (or could) be. The golden age named in Mr. Hamill’s article (60’s-90’s) was far more adventurous than the superficial squeeze thrust upon the listener today. Perhaps that’s why people don’t listen. There’s nothing to challenge them or make them think. Why bother?

Conservatives seem to narrow their choices (it’s narrowed for them, thank you very much) to country/pop formulaic-red-neck y-sound-a-like fluff. There are a lot of us that like to think about what we listen to. That’s why you usually go back to hear something you can actually hold on to for more than just the time spent listening to it (if you make it that far).

It’s past time for conservatives to be given serious music choices. I don’t identify with that dude in a cowboy hat. Come on, let’s have some serious choices. I’m going to keep offering them, like it or not!

© 2019 J. Mark Witters

Being Social, etc.

It’s all about being social, being popular, being politically correct, etc.- right? It’s not for me. I learned that social media is a scam, a massive sales funnel, and a censorship/behavioral tool. It’s quite an effective one, too. All they want is to sell all your data and control all aspects of your life. They can throttle your views up or down on a whim. They can let certain people attack certain other people. They can demonetize you whenever. No free speech there. Think-speak. Spying. Theft.

They program their political views into AI, and you’re under their thumb. Well it’s all phony. It’s one-sided. It’s un-freedom. We think we have choices. You have their choices, and that’s it. From there, they scheme and manipulate away. If it’s your thing, have at it. I won’t re-enter their time-wasting vortex. Rigged. No participation trophy for me!

On the Brighter Side…

On the brighter side, I’m working on a new album- “Winter Soldier”. Music’s always an adventure, because I’m never sure where any of this is going. Take the title song-it’s spread out over eight and a half minutes (so far). It starts with an Artiphon Instrument 1 midi controller

Artiphon Instrument 1

triggering a Waves Flow Motion Synth. It’s turning into a composition for us short-attention span listeners, for sure, but you’ll never be bored!

Flow Motion FM Synth
Waves Flow Motion Synth

I took the same midi I recorded with the Instrument 1 and used it to trigger several different sounds through the Flow Motion (some pretty wild presets included). Then, I rendered them into individual wav files before I changed each setting. After doing this maybe 15-20 times, I started editing. Not all those wav files made the final cut.

Then, I chose drum sounds. I use a combination of wav and midi loops. Also, I like to layer contrasting midi kits for something different. I then rendered a wav file mix bypassing the mix bus effects plugins so that signal would not go through them a second time when mixing down. That’s the first movement’s construction (as it now stands, anyway).

Finale Time

Next, I went into my Finale notation program, chose my first bank of 16 instruments from Sample Tank , and started orchestration for the next section. I’ve used Sample Tank 3 so far on this composition, but noted the link for the soon-to-be released Sample Tank 4. Sample Tank has been my go-to instrument for years. The Max upgrade I’m getting will increase that by FIVE times with exponentially better editing and functionality of an already awesome product. It also comes in a USB drive to make more accessible as well as portable. The release is imminent, so I’m sitting here vibrating in anticipation!

Finale allows the use of instrument plugins such as Sample Tank, as well as audio plugins for compression, equalization, etc. When I got everything sounding where I wanted it, I rendered a midi file of the orchestration.

Into Waveform

Then, I imported the orchestration midi file into Waveform, and put Sample Tank in each track by using racks (see Waveform 9 user guide-download here) with the same sound bank (multi) I used in Finale. I made sure I selected separate output pairs (1-32) for each channel (1-16) to get maximum control when mixing down.

I then rendered a wav file and tacked it on the first Flow Motion-based movement (in a separate track, of course). Then, ran it through the mix bus plugins and rendered what I call a “scratch track”. This gives me something resembling the composition’s structure, although things are open to change. I will listen this track and see what happens next!

© 2019 J. Mark Witters

Klondike (A Tale of the Gold Rush)


The beginnings of Klondike (A Tale of the Gold Rush) occurred back in the mid 1990’s. My wife Beth is a travel agent who had been to Alaska before we met. Our first trip there was in 1992 and we have taken four additional trips there together over the years. I was inspired to write the story after the very first trip. Our 1997 trip consisted of flying to Seattle, relocating an RV from there to Anchorage, AK, renting a jeep, driving to Seward, AK (on the tip of the Kenai peninsula), and cruise back on this three-week extravaganza. We actually saw where the first gold was found in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada!

Klondike (A Tale of the Gold Rush) is a story of two headstrong brothers (Edwin and Samuel) who struck out from Seattle to find gold in 1898’s famous Klondike Gold Rush.

I had just learned Finale notation software that (back in the 90’s, mind you) was a new way for me to express music. I decided to score the newly-minted story with my Cyrix-based (instead of Intel chip-based) computer. The experience was a real teacher of patience, for sure. I was just getting started using midi to trigger the Alesis HR-16 Drum Machine I used. The Cyrix was a nightmare that continually crashed no matter what I did, so I spent hours rebooting and waiting. Not only did it teach me patience, but I learned a lot about problem-solving. Whoever said “Necessity is the mother of invention” (Zappa? 🙂 was certainly correct!

File:Alesis HR-16 circuit bent 07.jpg
Alesis HR-16 Drum Machine (modified)

Also, I employed the Alesis MMT-8 Midi Recorder to sequence the drum/percussion parts and sync them with the score. It was detailed and maddening, but such is life, right?

Next Phase (And Beyond)

The next phase was the writing of the songs that would tell the story. I wrote a total of thirteen songs for the album. I really don’t have a particular style, so I just start thrashing things out and see what happens. In those days, my songwriting usually started with the lyrics and the music was worked out on acoustic guitar.

After writing the songs, I then started scoring with Finale, a program I’ve used for twenty-five years. It has really evolved over the years, and I love it! I start the process by choosing instruments (limited in the 90’s), adding the staves, and start plugging in notes.

Next, came programming the the drums and percussion with the a fore-mentioned Alesis HR-16. Every note had to be step-edited, then sequenced.

Kawai K4R sou

to Sounds then were triggered by Finale through midi into the Kawai K4R rack-mounted sound module. My main sounds came from this module at the time, in addition my computer (with an old Turtle Beach Pinnacle sound card).

Turtle Beach Pinnacle Sound Card

(Yes, I also remember recording on 4-track reel-to-reel -I’m old as dirt!)

Anyway, I’m not quite sure exactly how all this was meshed together with patch cords and midi cables, but I continued stubbornly along with this project and working my day job.

Digital World

Now, I entered the digital world with the acquiring a Roland VS-1680 16-track stand-alone digital workstation.

Roland VS-1680 digital audio workstation. (I used this handy 16-track recorder to record seven Spiral Rhythm albums, three Skyypilot albums, and one for Heather Jinmaku.)

There were few choices (compared to today) of multi-effects processors to use on the recorded digital wave files, but it was still a step ahead, so… I ran my audio into the recorder synced with midi. Then, I added the bass, guitar, and vocals.

Since each song was prefaced by relevant story line, I needed a great narrator. Fortunately, I’m married to the best-Beth! She has almost 10 years experience (part-time) on commercial radio (back in the day), so she was a natural and did a fantastic job.

Rolling On…

Rolling on, I produced the first seven albums for Spiral Rhythm, the first three Skyypilot albums, and Heather Jimaku’s album on the Roland VS-1680 while continuing the day job and looking to make my next move.

Then I got a new computer, and I got free software for Tracktion with my (then) new ESI [email protected] sound card. This was around 2007. I instantly bonded with this Tracktion (now called Waveform) and have used it ever since. You can get a totally free copy of T7 on their website (linked earlier). I recommend this highly.

Next, I synced the digital recorder with the computer and dumped everything on the computer where I added drums, percussion, and chose updated instruments using a VST pluginIKMultimedia ‘s Sample Tank (Free version of that and more here). Free versions of AmpliTube and T-RackS is on that web page, as well. AmpliTube allows you to modify your recorded wave files of guitar (or anything, really) into completely different sounds; even go from acoustic to electric and back! T-RackS are plugins for signal processing such as compressors, limiters, equalizers, etc.-essential steps for polishing the mix.

Beth added her narrative magic touch, and the recording was completed.

I finally released “Klondike” on January 1, 2009.

Years Later…

Years later, in 2017, I discovered Waves plugins, game-changing tools in signal processing. It gave me instant access to legendary analogue-modeled studio gear I could never before afford. Now, I can virtually “change studios” after the fact. I released an updated remaster in Oct., 2017.

Enter 2018 and I finally retired from the day job and giving music, video, blogging, and Skyypilot website, my full attention. By August, I was convinced to go through all the files one-by-one, completely remixing, then remastering for the final time.

Skyypilot’s- “Klondike (A Tale of the Gold Rush)” was proudly released 1-18-19. Download or stream anywhere you get your music.

© 2019 J. Mark Witters