As a FloVerse Artist Scientist, Alexis Douglas loves researching and developing music technology. She has spent the last decade as a professional sound engineer and playing multiple instruments, such as cello, sousaphone, and all things MIDI.
In this episode we interview FloVerse Artist Scientist Michael Fraser, a Producer, Gypsy Violinist and DJ who is passionate about helping artists find their own unique sound. In this Podcast, Michael shares his personal experience on the importance of using emotion when playing and creating music. He also provides suggestions on how to tap into your ‘flow state’ (aka ‘creative zone’) using your imagination and internal imagery. Finally, Michael provides his thoughts on the next generation of music creators and how sampling has evolved the creative process.
“We are seeing right now how decades of dj’ing and sampling has turned into a creative outlet to be music creators. I am excited to see what the children of the next generation come up with in ways to express themselves. Both in musical ways where you start with the notes but also where you’re starting with samples and not necessarily a theoretical thing” – Michael Fraser, DJ Gypsy Violinist
In this conversation: 01:40-Putting your emotional self into music production 03:28-Finding your ‘Flow State’ through imagination and internal imagery 06:39-The future of music and sampling, the blurring of the line between DJs & music creators 09:58-Michaels’s lifelong quest to help other artists find their authenticate sound and flow state
Check out the full episode on all major podcast channels (Apple, Spotify, Anchor, Soundcloud) and our YouTube.
In this episode, we interview FloVerse Artist Scientist DJ Denise Fraser, a radio, music and event production producer from Vancouver, BC. She is the Radio Host for Canada’s longest running LGBTQ+ show called QueerFM on CiTR and serves up a weekly dose of Hip-Hop on the Urban Renewal Project on Co-Op Radio. In the podcast, Denise provides advice for the next generation of DJs by comparing the analog and digital learning approach. She explains her process for getting into the zone aka the DJ ‘flow state’, which allows her to “paint music on dance floors” by being in tune with the vibe of the room. Lastly, she explains the potential of using motion for music creation on the dance floor.
In this conversation: 01:17 – 1999 How DJ Denise first started rocking the crowds 03:35 – Leaning new gear: tinkering and making it work 05:43 – The next generation of music will be digital and easier to learn online 07:31 – Tips for becoming a DJ: listen 08:14 – The DJ flow state = being in the zone 08:55 – How DJs are like painters 11:10 – Using motion for music creation on a dance floor
About DJ Denise Fraser Denise has been DJing in Vancouver since 1999. Her beginnings were just collecting music on cassette tapes from the radio and finding undiscovered artists before they became popular. Friends would keep asking for copies of music before she had any idea she was destined to be a DJ. After her first successful event she was hooked and the story of DJ Denise began. Now, Denise is a pillar of Vancouver’s hip-hop community and has produced many hip-hop events in the city. She has supported artists such as The Rascalz, Concise, Swollen Members, Tre Nyce and Wu-tang Clan among others.
Denise’s experience using FloVerse’s iOS App ‘Midimo‘ (MIDI + Motion) “I like Midimo. I connected the App on my iPhone 11 to FL Studios (Fruity Loops, a digital audio workstation for making beats) on my Macbook Pro via Bluetooth. Connecting Midimo was very straightforward, everything just worked for me. Nice and easy!”
Our first FloVerse Artist Scientist Podcast is an interview with DJ Dain, a.k.a. Andrew Bowers, a composer, producer, DJ and musicologist from Vancouver, British Columbia.
We talk about finding your creative voice, tips for entering the ‘flow state’ (the creative zone) and his cautious optimism about the emergence of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).
DJ Dain also offers up these three tips on finding your creative voice:
Address your imposter syndrome
The imposter syndrome is a feeling similar to anxiety where you feel like a fraud because you doubt your personal capabilities to achieve success (Cox, 2018). DJ Dain’s starting point was saying yes to opportunities outside his comfort zone and taking reassurance from multiple friends that these were things that he could do. This initial support and validation that he was competent at something, was the beginning of his confidence in a skill, “if nothing else, believe in your friends who believe in you”.
Be silly or use a stage persona
After creating a silly stage persona, DJ Dain freed himself to have more fun. He fashioned a costume by putting on a motorcycle jacket and sunglasses and then practiced his best Michael Buffer impersonation (Michael Buffer is a famous ringside MC/announcer who coined the phrase, “Let’s get ready to Rumble!”). Together with his costume and MC impersonation, he gave himself creative permission which helped him to overcome his inner judgement.
Trust that you have great taste
A turning point for DJ Dain came after hearing the inspirational interview “The Gap“, with Ira Glass (see quote below). Ira spoke about the distance between your taste and your skill ‘the gap’, and how you need to recognize how much you have before you can achieve the same level of skill that you admire. So many people give up before they come to this understanding and it’s the first big hill that you have to climb as a creative. Once you understand this creative process and are able to cross over, this is when you are liberated and start making your best work.
Quote by Ira Glass, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” (Glass, 2014)
So what will you do to close the creative gap and find your creative voice?
Podcast Timestamp: 01:21 – Andrew’s personal story about finding his creative voice 02:56 – Addressing your imposter syndrome 03:38 – Making things silly and using a stage persona to overcome inner judgement 04:50 – Trust that you have great taste 06:56 – Getting and staying in the zone (flow state) 13:07 – The future of music tech and Andrew’s thoughts on NFTs 15:30 – The need for accessible technology
At FloVerse we are celebrating MIDI Month by paying homage to our Artist Scientist predecessors. Before the invention of synthesizers, MIDI, and electricity, the Banu Musa brothers created the first musical sequencer in 850 AD. The Banu Musa collective were three Muslim brothers. There was Jafar the Astronomer, al-Hasan the mathematician, and Ahmad the mechanical engineer. At a young age, the brothers were recognized for their aptitude in science and philosophy and were invited to study at the House of Wisdom. Located in the city of Baghdad, the House of Wisdom was built by the Harun al-Rashid the ruler of the Islam empire in the 9th century. Harun invited all cultures and intellectual disciplines to his court to exchange ideas and further the studies of science and philosophy. At the House of Wisdom, the Banu Musa brothers translated books from around the world into Arabic and they would also conduct their own experiments. This led to the brothers inventing over 100 mechanical devices that are well documented in their Book of Ingenious Devices.
The First Programmable Musical Sequencer – The Automated Flute
One of the Banu Musa inventions was the automated flute, which is the first programmable musical sequencer. This mechanical device has a drive wheel which operates a rotating drum that is powered by water. The rotating drum lifts levellers and mimics fingers by going up and down on the flute tone holes. The airflow came from a steady stream of steam power. After you finished adjusting the levellers for the tone holes and turned on the steam power, you had an automated flute that played music to entertain your party guests.
1980-1983 The invention of MIDI
The concept of notes being on or off from the mechanical musical sequencer eventually led to the binary version where 1’s equalled on and 0’s equalled off. So we went from human fingers to mechanical levellers, and eventually digital fingers. The digital synthesizers of the early 80s were rad, but they had a compatibility problem because each manufacturer had different connectors. The solution was the creation of an Universal Synthesizer Interface. In 1983, Dave Smith, founder of Sequential Circuits and Ikutaru Kakehashi, founder of Roland Corporation unveiled the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) at the Los Angeles NAMM show. This 5-pin MIDI connector standardized manufacturing by having one common connector on all MIDI devices.
The Evolution of MIDI
The first common MIDI language allowed programmers to send basic instructions to synthesizers, such as what notes to play and the output volume. Eventually, new messages emerged to enable greater control of synthesizers, other recording gear, and even stage lighting. During the 90s, the 5-pin MIDI connector evolved to include USB, FireWire, and WIFI. This opened more avenues for MIDI to be incorporated into additional musical instruments, video games, like the Nintendo Wii, and mobile phone Apps, such as Midimo.
FloVerse thanks our MIDI predecessors for their curiosity and paving the way for new MIDI inventions.
To celebrate MIDI month, enjoy our free Mobile App ‘Midimo’ (MIDI + Motion) from the Apple Store.
FloVerse Artist Scientist Michael Fraser makes musical alchemy by melding house beats infused with gypsy violin melodies. He is a producer, DJ, and violinist, who embraces the weird and the danceable to get the crowds going wild on dance floors such as the Shambhala Music Festival. You can also hear his musical storytelling in his original film compositions. One of his film scores premiered at TIFF in the animated short film by Ben Affleck called “Ben Affleck on the Meaning of Life.” The animated short film is about an NGO called the Eastern Congo Initiative. They provide grants and advocacy that support meaningful work being done by community groups in the Congo, and the film has a simple message, “Get involved with something and help improve the fabric of the universe.”
Feel your stress sail away by listening to the soothing sounds of the EWI, performed by FloVerse Artist Scientist Sam Davidson. The EWI (pronounced EE-wee) stands for Electronic Wind Instrument, a wind synthesizer that uses breath to control MIDI. In the words of Sam’s idol, Michael Brecker, the EWI Master describes the EWI as being capable of “playing every part of a symphony from Venus”. You simply use your breath and fingers like a saxophone. But you connect your electric saxophone to a computer program like Ableton to build the sonic layers with MIDI patch sounds. To hear the EWI, hop on this inter-galactic spaceship know as Brasstronaut. The critically acclaimed indie-rock band that Sam Davidson is a member of. Or take a listen to his solo project, Skim Milk, which is rooted in the love of exploring old music and mixing it with a unique brand of instrumental hip-hop.
March 14 is Pi day. It occurs on the 14 day of the 3rd month, which is equal to Pi’s approximation 3.14. On Pi day, we appreciate the number and eat a slice of delicious pie. Pi is the mathematical constant defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The circle of fifths in music theory is the geometric shape of a circle. The circumference of a circle is equal to C = 2𝜋r. In the Stephon Alexander book called The Jazz of Physics: The Link between Music and the Structure of the Universe. Alexander explains how the jazz master saxophonist John Coltrane developed a more advanced version of the circle of fifths, called ‘The Coltrane Circle’. The Coltrane Circle diagram is the same geometric pattern that inspired Albert Einstein’s quantum theory. Today is also the 142nd birthday of the famous artist-scientist Albert Einstein, who was born March 14, 1879.