Game-Changer of the Year

In July this year Channel 4 launched an advert for their coverage of the Paralympic Games. I’m calling this advert Game-Changer of the Year because no other event, no other piece of media had as profound an impact as this did. Gangnam Style may have gone viral and conquered the world, but it couldn’t match this for impact.

I’m not writing this because I’d only just noticed the existence of the Paralympic Games – many years ago I’d worked in an area concerning mobility issues, and had the great pleasure of briefly meeting Dame Tammi Grey Thompson. But because these Games, and this advert lead the way, they totally smashed public preconceptions of disability.

Set to the thunderous track Harder Than You Think from rap legends Public Enemy this 90 second advert was the biggest, boldest piece of advertising I can remember seeing. This advert showed people – some with what some would normally consider life-ending disabilities – engaged in cutting competetive sport: brutal wheelchair rugby crashes, 100m sprints, amazing basketball shots.

In the midst of the sport, there were three rapid fire glimpses of human tragedies – a car crash, an army squad being blown up and a pregnant mother being braced for a shock. At a time when the Government was slashing disability benefits, and tabloid newspapers were labelling them “scroungers”, this was not just welcome relief, it was a two-fingered salute to all small-minded bigots.

This advert didn’t just advertise a sporting event, it redefined disability. It said these athletes are not to be pitied, because they are better than you.

Watch it now on YouTube (embedding disabled)

Welcome to the New Fwonk*

Hello and Welcome to the latest, newest Fwonk*!

As of Friday 13th April 2012, now redirects to and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, we have moved our entire back catalogue and blog into one single WordPress installation. We could have done that easily at the original URL, but this was even easier, and it effectively merges the netlabel content with the blog content which were separate before.. Secondly, we have moved to the cloud! This site is now distributed to you via content delivery network, which will allow for faster access to the site and all it’s goodness. And lastly, the most important reason we’ve moved is that after we had a DOS-attack several regular users of the site (myself included) found it impossible to access. Obviously, this was not ideal and a new URL should easily solve those problems. We apologise for the inconvenience in resetting RSS feeds and bookmarks and so on, but we hope that the improved quality of service will make these changes worth while.

Merry Christmas!

Apologies, but there is no Netlabel Music this week… but Merry Christmas from all us synth-vikings at Fwonk*! We hope you have a really good time over Christmas and New Year – we’ll be back with some great new netlabel releases, some great new tutorial blog posts, podcasts and even more of everything*. In the meantime, help yourself to one of our many Creative Commons music downloads, enjoy a podcast or mix, vote for your favourite Fwonk* release of 2011, nestle down with a mince pie and a sweet sherry and have a Merry Christmas!

*And when we say everything, we mean everything**.

**Or at least the sort of stuff we already do.

Uncertain Form

Uncertain Form is a new Netlabel / Creative Commons centric blog, which takes the unusual step of featuring no music whatsoever. Instead, it features essays discussing issues surrounding the Netlabel culture, including things to consider when establishing a netlabel, the copyright industry, the culture of sharing and more.

Each essay is thought provoking, incisive and helps to promote and position the world of netlabels, Creative Commons music and internet freedoms in the context of the wider music publishing industry.

David Nemeth, curator of the Uncertain Form blog is also responsible for the other excelllent music blogs Acts of Silence and The Easy Pace.

Going Straight: Week 4 – Going Native

FM8, Massive, Absynth, Spektral Delay, Reaktor, Guitar Rig, Battery.

Native Instruments (NI) have probably the best line up of software of all the big players in my own humble opinion and all of them (via the joys of Pirate Bay) have graced my hard drive at some point.

It’s so easy when stuff is free though to overlook what you have in your possession. There is a reason why these thing cost what they cost. They work flawlessly (at least in my own experience), they look good, it usually fairly obvious what does what in the UIs and by God they sound great!

The trap that one can fall into however is that you just preset browse away and don’t really try and get to know your softsynth. Too much choice, too easily gained breeds laziness.

I’d love to have the time to make spending £150 on one synth a sensible proposition because I could spend a few hours a day for weeks getting to know it intimately but that’s not the life I find myself living. There must be an argument that really all you need is one synth if you know it well enough to know how to make that sound you are thinking of. Diversity is a nice thing and how diverse you want your ‘sonic palette’ to be is very much down to the individual, but it isn’t an absolute must to make good music I don’t think.

This said, we all want more toys, more new shiny things to fiddle with. And because of that there are the vast array of choices that we find available to us today.

With all this I mind I wanted to make things right between me and the peeps at NI, I’ve used their stuff for ages and it was about time they saw some return for it. Again the ‘try before you buy’ ethos (partially) working.

I say ‘partially’ because all of their leading synths come in at roughly £150 and I don’t really have that to spend on one synth so the first thing I nabbed from them was the Komplete Elements package.

At about 40 quid this really is a steal. You get the Reaktor, Kontakt and Guitar Rig player in it (which are also all freely downloadable from the site)

But you also get some goodies above and beyond the standard freebie stuff which has all kept me entertained for well over a week now. The Kontakt player especially is awesome, “Lookameeee! Ima 50 strong string section of an orchestra!!” much fun and beautiful sounding. Oh and Reaktor.. wow.

Just wow.

On top of all this, you also get a £20 voucher against you next NI purchase.

So tempted as I was by all this loveliness and my previous dabblings with their stuff, yet with this enthusiasm tempered by lack of a lottery win I went back to our old friend eBay. I have heard said that NI are particularly good with their licence transfers and all second hand stuff should be good to go, hot to trot etc. The results are a mixed bag… and still ongoing…

Before I picked up ‘Elements’ I had gotten Guitar Rig 3 XE for £16 which is I suspect largely redundant because of the content of the ‘Elements’ package.

I got a copy of Absynth 3 for £50 and subsequently an upgrade box from version three to version four for £2.50. Yep.. £2.50!! However after 10 days of waiting it turns out the Absyth 3 guy actually double listed the item. Twit. So I am back in the bidding for A3 (once he returns my money of course). The more (but still not totally) successful purchase is a real find: Kore Electronic Experience. £59 + postage so not the cheapest but:

“Native Instruments KORE Electronic Experience consists of KORE PLAYER and seven KORE SOUNDPACKS. The library contains a vast arsenal of synthesizer and drum sounds generated by the integrated REAKTOR, MASSIVE, ABSYNTH, FM8 and KONTAKT sound engines as well as an unconventional effects pack for drastic sonic transformation of any kind of audio signal.”

Original value £170 but now discontinued. Only thing is, he is having trouble unregistering it because blah blah blah… should only be a delay not a deal breaker though so fingers crossed.

The fourth of my NI items is a possibly grey area but I think I’ll allow it withing my going straight ‘rules’: Spektral Delay, I’ve loved this for years, a really unique delay that split up the signal to many many eq bands (I think) and then messes with the bands in different ways. I used to run it ‘cracked’ or whatever but I’m now running it in demo mode which introduced noise into the signal after half an hour. I rarely spend half and hour on one single element so hurrah. The NI Service Centre doesn’t seem to have a problem with it running as a demo so… (I did still have to get the demo from PirateBay mind you, because the product is discontinued now.

So all in all, second hand software? Be prepared for some frustration but also be prepared I think to find some bargains and as long as you don’t mind a dented product box then the products itself is always going to be ‘as new’.

Buying The Dark Side of the Moon (again)

So, here it is again, Pink Floyd’s veritable cash cow. Released again in new packaging, newly remastered and sold to the public yet again. I must confess that this is the fourth time I’ve bought the album – the first was a cassette in the late 80s, followed by the unremastered CD, then my long-since destroyed vinyl and now again in it’s newly remastered form.

Why do I keep coming back to this album? Why do I, and clearly so many others buy it time and time again? The answer is obvious – cos many people think it’s brilliant! And, in it’s own way, on it’s own terms, it is.

More to the point, why am I buying it again? I was drawn for two reasons. Firstly, and less importantly, I wanted a remastered CD of it, and a quick A-B with my old unremastered CD (the only previous copy I still have) is a revelation. It’s crisper, cleaner and just better. It’s like having an old friend round. Lovely.

The main reason I wanted it was because it comes in a 2xCD edition with a live version of the album from 1974. Now, I will confess that I have many Pink Floyd bootlegs from throughout their career, and their 1971-1974 period sees them at the peak of their powers. I note that the packaging doesn’t say which of the Empire Pool shows from Wembley this is – it’s probably an amalgamation, certainly Roger’s clanging bum-note from Us And Them on the BBC live broadcast gig is missing in this latest version.

There are things I miss in the official non-bootleg, polished version of the live show(s) – guitars and bass are too loud in “rockers” Time and Money, at the cost of some exquisite keyboard work. I’m not particularly keen with the mixing and EQing of the bass sound on many tracks to give it a deeper/”sub-ier” sound – I love the classic Fender Precision wooden plank sound on the bootlegs and Live at Pompeii concert.

But these are the petty whinges of an absolute Floyd nerd. Let me say that the live concert is stunning – On The Run particularly benefits from official studio time and extended frequency range, synths throbbing in the basement, stereo squeals and more. It is probably the first official Pink Floyd release that lets you hear just what a good bass player Roger Waters can be.

And, as The Great Gig in the Sky finishes with jazz noodling, the cash-till clanking on Money begins to fade in, you realise something not accomplished on the actual record. You realise that The Dark Side of the Moon is not a collection of songs, it is one piece of music – much in the way the Atom Heart Mother and Echoes previously had various “scenes”, so each song is a “scene” in the entire piece. You understand why Pink Floyd sued EMI for selling individual tracks online – it’s that these aren’t individual tracks, they are sections of one 45 minute long song. And that is why I keep buying it: it reveals more and more on every listen.

Why Creative Commons?

Why does Fwonk* use a Creative Commons license? Hell, what even is a Creative Commons license?

Simply put, Creative Commons is a licensing format that – instead of the traditional copyrighting laws – is built for the modern, web based world. All Fwonk* releases are released under what is called the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. This means that the public (i.e. anyone) is free to share, re-use and – crucially – remix the work as they see fit, provided three conditions are met.

Firstly, the original artist of the work must be given credit for writing it. Secondly, the music must not be used for commercial purposes – this ensures that CC licensed music isn’t nicked by TV/film/music executives to be the cheap-skate soundtrack to the new series of CSI: Taunton, Z-Factor, or whatever tat they are peddling. Thirdly, all resultant products – remixes, DJ mixes, short films – created using these works must also be shared for free via the internet (and preferably licensed with a Creative Commons license). Other types of license are available via Creative Commons, but we feel that this best serves the interest of Fwonk* artists and listeners.

Unlike the recent changed to Copyright law across the EU, which permits Cliff Richard to sit on his bony arse, watching the tennis and continue to make money on 69 year old records, and sue mere mortals for copyright transgressions, the use of a Creative Commons license is a spur to creativity. Do you want to take apart my carefully constructed glitchcore masterpiece and make a blasting gabba version of it? Do you want to use that melancholy piano concerto in your new short film? Feel free, as long as you give credit, make no money from it, and share it on the web.

It is this difference that has allowed musicians – many of them amateurs, or based in their bedrooms – to make music that can be heard around the world, remixed, remastered and brought to audiences in new ways. A whole network of Creative Commons sites have sprung up (see the Netaudio Index for one), including each and every Netlabel, fostering unprecedented amounts of creativity. And Fwonk* is proud to be part of that.

For more netlabel music, see our Netlabel Index.