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Dark Days

Dark Days is the result of a seemingly simple community challenge from Free Beat — use a provided sample and create a song. Beyond that, there were no real rules or limitations imposed.

This music video is not what I set out to create, and I struggled with the project for a while before finally letting the sample tell me what it needed for me to make it into.

The sample provided was a very quiet raw recording made with a cell phone.

Since there were no rules other than to use the sample, I decided to impose a couple of limitations on myself. First, use only the sample as the source of all of the sounds. And second, use only Ableton Live instruments and effects — no third-party plug-ins allowed. The only work done outside of Ableton Live was prepping the sample, for which I used Audacity (but only because I’m really familiar with Audacity and I’ve not used the audio editing tools that exist within Ableton yet).

Here’s the raw sample after volume normalization (no other work done):

I broke the normalized sample into a few key parts, and utilized three primary tools in Live to create the sounds: the Wavetable instrument, the Vector Grain instrument, and the Sampler instrument. Effects were limited to the stock Ableton Echo delay and Convolution Pro reverb. And, I swear that’s it!

As the music came together, I quickly realized that it wanted to be supported by a visual component, and for that I initially turned to to create a series of still images that I had planned to simply string together over the music. But like the music, the images had a mind of their own. The video clips are a series of free-to-use stock footage clips that are included with the version of Microsoft Clipchamp that I use for “quick” editing projects. The visual effects are also from Clipchamp.

I created more images at Nightcafe than I had time for in the video. These are some of the most successful images I’ve yet to create using the platform, and to me, this is further proof that AI won’t replace artists on its own, but rather will be another tool for creatives to use. The AI works on a series for prompts, and the output is only as good as the prompts. Learning the AI’s language is a skill, just as using a paintbrush is a skill. Seventeen subtly different prompts were used to create the images. Here are all of them, including about 15 images that do not appear in the video.

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