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The Madness of Clocks

Mr Sandbags

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This is a track I’ve been working on for quite a while so I am glad to finally have it out of my head.

I have a kind of love/hate relationship with time and its humble functionary, the clock. Ticking, in particular, is something I am ambivalent towards: I hate incessant ticking while, at the same time, finding something comforting about it.

After using a clock sample to good effect in a previous track I got it into my head to try and make a track entirely from clock samples and there followed several weeks of collecting samples of different kinds of clocks ticking.

Then I began a process of trying to assemble them into something beyond a cacophony and I found it rather difficult. My initial enthusiasm for the project waned and I shelved it for a while.

Last Friday I bought Ableton Live 8 and I’ve found the Live session view quite an invigorating way to work. This morning I decided to try and build The Madness of Clocks from scratch working in Live’s session view and the whole thing came together so much more easily.

I spent quite some time making my clips fit right and structuring the arrangement in terms of ticks, fast ticks, grandfather ticks, chimes and so on to create a definitive shape for the piece, even finding room for a cuckoo clock!

Once I had a basic arrangement I went back and added further ambience by adding subtle, but different, effects to each groups of sounds.

Then I recorded to into an arrangement and bounced the 22 individual tracks to audio before importing them into Logic.

Once in Logic I setup my usual mix environment. I had some help from MMI here in trying to get the reverb and panning right. I’m not sure I nailed it but the track definitely sounds better for the attempt.

I spent a lot more time on the basic mastering setup than usual and, in particular, on getting the limiting right. I think I often dial in the limiter too hot and, on successive passes, I brought the gain down.

This is quite a long track at over 8 minutes, but there is quite a lot in it and I think it will reward your attention. I hope you’ll be motivated to leave a comment and tell me how you felt about it.

My thanks to all those who helped me out with finding clock samples. It wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined!

I’ve written more about how I made this song on my blog

kavin.'s avatar
kavin. said

Extraordinary mix/soundfield on this. Sounded like the clocks were external to my headphones, several feet away.

Guest said

Wow this is making me insane. But I cant stop listening. This is really cool!

igor's avatar
igor said

...Far away across the field The tolling of the iron bell Calls the faithful to their knees To hear the softly spoken magic spells...

Guest said

I clicked on more so I started from the beg. again. As I am listening...with the idea of a video running through my mind: man in room. His face gradually becomes more frantic as the clocks increase. Images of his life flash before his eyes very rapidly to reflect the following spoken words; The clocks.....the clocks won't stop. They remind me of my brevity. As I approach the end of my time... The clocks...the clocks go faster and faster! Yelling in my ears....laughing and taunting me! I see everyone that's come and gone.. I see years and years if it were only minutes ago. Moments which made me smile and laugh now make me sad and cry... Time...time...ticking endlessly... Does it ever really stop? Time is now the wild beast which chases us through longer is it the tigers and bears. It's time which rips and tears. Images flow with the clocks...speeding up and slowing down. I wish I could animate a tiger-clock. lol..a clock shaped like a tiger chasing someone.

Guest said

Did you include that clock which was recently made to last for 10,000 years>? The most precise clock ever created? It's probably mostly silent....soo.. hehe. You should do a video for this one...

Guest said

Really interesting composition, very cleverly put together.

Guest said

I love this! It would be fabulous with dance choreographed. You are a very interesting thinker!

igor's avatar
igor said

...after listening at about 5:40 I detected I live inside a clock. No - many clocks. Going mad with it/them... P.S. Better to listen [tick] in headphones or - even better [tick-tack] - thru studio monitors, loudddddd.

Breaking Light's avatar
Breaking Light said

Very cool. Enjoyed reading the notes, it's obvious you put a lot of work into it.

Wildgeas Music's avatar
Wildgeas Music said

Time well spent.

kirklynch's avatar
kirklynch said

Great job. Who would have thought that eight minutes of clock sounds could be that interesting. Love the way it builds.

Guest said

Tick tock make it stop. This is just utterly creepy. Smashing job, Sir!

Johnny Stone's avatar
Johnny Stone said

That's madness for sure mate great track

Guest said

I have been waiting to hear this ever since you requested clock samples in the forums. Gotta love the creativity. Extremely well done.

mmi's avatar
mmi said

Bravo! I found myself startled by some of the clocks and looking to the side. Mission well executed.

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