I can’t hear anything; let’s play with sound

For the last week I have had some kind of ear infection. According to people with degrees in identifying this sort of thing, I have a case of Swimmer’s Ear, ironic because I don’t remember the last time I swam anywhere. For most of the week I was basically deaf on the left side. I could hear some low frequencies, but many of them were the sort of thing that my brain can’t localize anyway, and so everything sounded like it was coming from the right, or wasn’t making any sound at all.

Since I’m all about doing things that make sense, I’ve spent much of the week playing with audio apps. I would really like to find a suitable replacement for my old standby Garageband 2, which came with my little Mac and has served as a suitable ground for trying out musical ideas quickly and painlessly, and learning the basics of DAW style programs. I’ve made some silly little tunes with it, nothing special at all, but I’m starting to want something with more features. More signal routing, things like effect automation, and Not Slowing Down the Computer With Freaking Animations that Don’t Need to Be There. I mean they’re fun and all, but I could use the power elsewhere.

I’ve checked into several apps, and I think the real killer features for me are effect automation, cross platform support (I use both a PC and a Mac and would much prefer to be able to go back and forth when one side gets a better plugin or something), and a good interface. So far Ableton Live, Aodix, and REAPER are looking like good candidates. Live is by far the most expensive but it’s just so fun to use.

Especially when you have some kind of MIDI controller. Not wanting to drop the money on something official, I spent all day today and most of last night writing a Pure Data patch to translate joystick inputs into MIDI signals. It even works too. It’s not fast, as there is significant enough latency to make me unable to play MIDI drums with it, but for triggering loops in Live, it works fantastically when I plug in my eight-dollar Beatmania controller.

Maybe someday I’ll even have good musical ideas to use it on.