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Saturday, 19 March 2016

SubVersion Stop 264: Creating DreamScenes

What is Dreamscenes?
DreamScenes is a ‘subset’ of Ambientblog.net (http://www.ambientblog.net ), but is was also the name of one of my first mixes.

Ambientblog features short ‘reviews’, but the true heart of it are the ambientblog mixes that you can find there (and which are also featured on the USB).
DreamScenes originally was a 4 hour mix that was created for Dutch National Radio in 2001 (can you believe they actually broadcasted a 4 hr mix uninterrupted on a Sunday Evening?)
Over the years between 2000 and 2009, I created this kind of mixes for Dutch public radio NPS/VPRO on a regular basis. When the radio shows were cancelled in 2009, I continued to publish mixes on Ambientblog.net, there are over 60 now.

(Of course Ambientblog also presents short reviews that I prefer to call recommendations, since I do not pretend to be a music journalist and do not write extensive analyses)

Ambientblog mixes characteristically are rather complex: they are not ‘mixtapes’ featuring full tracks, but a collage of mostly short fragments that are layered in such a way that the music may get a different connotation.
To me, they often feel like a movie soundtrack.

(Link to these mixes:
http://www.ambientmix.net )

Since these mixes take quite a lot of work to create, there are not many of them – about 4 a year on average.

But there is such a lot of great music released that I started to miss the radio shows that I was involved in. These shows simply presented the music, not in complex mixes but in ‘head-tail’ sequences, presenting full tracks in one continuous flow without spoken introduction inbetween. These are more like ‘mixtapes’ in the classic sense. They are much easier to create than the Ambientblog collages, though I still pay much attention to the sequencing of the tracks, which should feel natural from beginning to end while at the same time including different varieties of ambient/electronic/experimental music.

This became a monthly  Mixcloud series called
DreamScenes (http://www.mixcloud.com/dreamscenes).  

So… in fact it depends what exactly you are referring to with DreamScenes. Are you talking about the Ambientblog mixes (that are on the USB too), or about the Mixcloud series? They are quite different in nature, though they both cover the same kind of music.

(Short fact: Ambientblog was originally called DreamScenes, named after the original mix. But at the time it was also the name of some kind of animated video wallpapers and that was rather confusing in the Google search results.. So when I decided to intensify the blog in 2009, it was renamed to Ambientblog)

What working method do you use to create the sets? Dave Michuda who we both know at Low Light Mixes for example picks some tunes by their titles. Whereas me I'll usually go with a overarching working title?
For this, I assume you’re talking about the ambientblog mixes.
I don’t usually begin with a fixed idea. I start out with sorting a collection of tracks by their nature: dark, light, acoustic, electronic, effects, fieldrecs, and ‘anchors’ (I mean more melodic pieces which may bring you back to reality a bit, to avoid drifting too far off)

Then I search for an opening track that feels like a good start. From there, it is really like creating a ‘collage’, searching for fragments that match, or that bring some kind of tension, to build further on the preceding fragments. From there it seems the music selects itself even though that sounds a bit cheesy. I try to keep a certain kind of storytelling flow, balancing ‘light’ with ‘dark’.. I always feel there should be a kind of tension to keep it exciting enough, the mixes usually aren’t the kind of sounds you would use in a Reiki or Yoga of whatever kind of New Agelike session. I like it when some parts become almost frightening. But even though I don’t usually choose it on purpose, the mixes usually end with a hopeful – although often melancholic – note.

The title usually comes up when the mix is finished. Often it is inspired by one of the tracks included.

The human psyche tends to look for correlations, so when the title fits the music, the music will also fit the title….

There are exceptions, however: the ‘Hum in the Room’ trilogy was created around that theme, using the Philip Glass track ‘Changing Opinion’ as a starting point. So in that case there was a concept from the start.

What software have you used to create Dreamscenes sets in the past? For example, I've used Acoustica (Hydrogen Cafe) Mix craft  (Michuda) and Ableton (several).
I work with Adobe Audition. That’s it. The basic multitrack setting. Though I cut longer tracks to pieces and sometimes use only outrageous short fragments, I always use the original (stereo) mix and no extra effects are applied.
Apart from volume levelling to match the other tracks of course. (And L/R-C-Ls/Rs placement in the case of the surround versions). And a lot of long fades. 
Special thanks to PvC (Peter Van Cooten) for this introductory interview to what creates his dream scenes in sound and music. He has limited copies of the www.ambientblog.net USB stick, featuring over 30 tracks from commissioned producers from the ambient scene, and his collection of not-for-profit mixes on www.bandcamp.com. :)

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