Pierre Fontaine (New York, USA)

Pierre Fontaine is probably better known for his illustration, animation and paper-models. He has shared some instrumental pieces which date back to 1991-93.  Check his site because Pierre is still making music. I’m particularly impressed with the softsynth work he has created using his iPod Touch. I worked with Pierre at a company ‘Music Pen Inc’ in New York in the early 1990s (hence the reference to the party below).

In his own words:

All the pieces I’m submitting were done on bargain basement synths and consumer keyboards.  Specifically, everything you hear was done using a combination of the following:

Casio CZ-101: This was my first “pro” synthesizer.  Sadly this keyboard is long gone.  This was used to generate a pretty decent electric piano sound and a surprisingly good growling Hammond organ.
Kawai PH-50 Pop Keyboard:  This had some wonderful orchestral sounds and responded to pressure info over MIDI.  I still have this keyboard and continue to use it for some of these irreplaceable sounds.
Korg piano module:  This had two sampled pianos and I bought a RAM cart that included a nicely sampled sax and percussion.
Yamaha YS-200 FM synth:  This was my master keyboard because it had a pressure sensitive keyboard.  It was a 4 op FM synth which sounded pretty terrible except for some harp-like sounds as well as a pretty decent Hammond organ sound that I would get layer with my Casio CZ-101.
Yamaha QX21 two track sequencer (although the two tracks could be assigned to any of the 16 midi tracks).

Alesis MicroVerb

I essentially played each part live into the sequencer and usually quantized the parts to get all the parts to line up nicely.  Each song was done over a single day.  There was no backup on the QX21 sequencer so when I shut that sequencer off all the information was lost!

I had all the synths plugged into a few audio cables through a bunch of Y audio connectors feeding into my home stereo.  When I was ready to record, I hit play on the sequencer and rode the volume sliders on each keyboard to produce a mix.

Crystal Bells” was an attempt at doing something orchestral.  I was inspired by the beautiful bell and orchestral sounds on the Kawai PH-50.  The harp sounds came from the Yamaha YS-200.  Once I had the basic structure, I kept layering parts to create a lovely, full sound that didn’t give away the fact that everything was done with keyboards that probably cost me no more than $200 each.

Divine Madness“.  This was my attempt at Prog Rock.  I always been a big fan of Prog rock and really loved that combination of orchestra, choir and rock music, kind of like Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry XIII.  The piano sound came from the Korg piano module, most likely doubled with another sound from the Kawai keyboard.  The choir and muted guitar sounds, as well as the marching drums came from the Kawai.  The lead synth sound that comes in halfway through was from the Casio CZ-101.  The Alesis MicroVerb created this wash that tied everything together.

Garbageman In The Rain” Here’s the one and only song I’ve ever written lyrics to.  Thankfully, I don’t try and sing them here…this is another instrumental.

I love honky-tonk piano and I’ve written a few pieces in that style.  The title for this song came from an incident where a I was helping a friend move some furniture.  It was an unusually muggy spring day and I was sweating like a complete fool.  I casually told my friend that I felt miserable, kind of like a garbage man in the rain.  We both looked at each other and said at the same time, “that would make an awesome song title”.  I went home and this song literally just came out within a few hours time.
The rhythm track is a preset rhythm from the Kawai PH-50 and the piano sound is a the Korg piano sound layered with a slightly out of tune acoustic guitar sound from the Kawai, which gave it this wonderful tacky piano sound that I love.  The next song also uses that same sound, which I’ve never quite been able to reproduce.

Happy Dance”  Another Honky-Tonk piano piece, recorded in almost exactly the same manner as Garbage Man in the Rain.  In fact, I think I’m using the same rhythm preset on the Kawai keyboard and definitely the same layered piano sound.

This is perhaps one of my favorite pieces, which I actually performed at my very first Music Pen Christmas parties.  One of the sound guys (whose name sadly escapes me) asked if he could use the melody in “Lenny’s Time Machine” during a sequence that takes place in a wild-west saloon.  I went to the sound studio later that week and re-recorded the piano part and it made it into the game!  I was pretty proud of that since I also did the animation for that game.  It was a completely self-indulgent love fest!

Hackett Two Pieces” Being a big fan of Genesis, I’ve also followed Steve Hackett’s career.  As much as I love his rock music, I’ve always been very fond of the acoustic guitar and flute pieces that he would do with his brother John Hackett.  I wanted to try and do something similar, so this is another attempt at doing something orchestral.  I think the melody is uncomfortably close to the theme music to the “Incredible Hulk” TV series of the 1970’s, but it’s definitely been transformed into something else.

The harp sound about half-way through the piece was from the Yamaha keyboard with a bit of slap-back reverb from the Alesis.  The flute most likely was from the Kawai PH-50. Sadly, the sound on this has really degraded.  I think the original cassettes sound pretty good and I should make an effort to transfer these properly  before they become entirely unplayable.

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