The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid)

Posted by: dcuny

The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 05:04 AM

The Gates of Babylon
You sit alone at the table
While I take my coffee in bed
Our happy home's just a no-man's land
Where even angels refuse to tread

Angry words fall silent
Now that we've said much too much
I hold back my hurt inside
You hold back your touch

Chorus
I could scale the Zagros mountains
Or be covered by salty sea
But I can't bridge this emptiness
Dividing you from me

Close your eyes and pray for sleep
But prayers fall on deaf ears
We hold our breath and count the hours
Until the morning sun reappears

Lost without direction
Unwilling to turn around
Falling apart together
Divided by common ground

So many bridges burned
Too many chances gone
Now that we've been turned away
At the gates of Babylon


RealTracks
364 - Guitar, Acoustic, Fingerpicking Ev065
366 - Bass, Electric, Country Ev 065
891 - Piano, Acoustic, Solo Accompaniment PopLiverpool Ev065
897 - Guitar, 12-String Acoustic, Rhythm FolkRock Ev16 065
908 - Bass, Electric, SmoothBallad Ev16 065
910 - Piano, Electric, Rhythm SmoothBallad Ev16 065
1074 - Piano, Electric, Soloist SmoothJazzBallad delay Ev16 065
1543 - SynthPad, PopBelieve Ev16 065
1676 - Guitar, Acoustic, Fingerpicking CountryBrent Ev 065

Vocaloids: Avanna and YOHIOloid

Yes, it's another Vocaloid performance. The original POV was a male singer, but I liked the "Avanna" Vocaloid when I tracked it, so I went ahead and altered the lyrics to fit a bit better.

This is a slightly different take on The Water Is Wide. More of "No, I'm not kidding - I really can't cross over."

Floyd Jane will (rightly) point out that the language is a bit too pretentious in places, and undercuts the lyrics. In my defense, I was trying to channel Al Stewart when I penned the lyrics, so the obscure references stayed in. The original version of the second verse used "maelstrom" in it, so the grandiloquent-o-meter rating was scaled back a tad during the rewrite.

At the last minute I noticed sloppy lyric writing:

Angry words fall silent
Now that we've said much too much
You hold back your anger
I hold back my touch


I was almost too lazy to change it, but a visit with Mr. Thesaurus cleared that up, and I got some alliteration to boot. (But does it count for silent letters?)

As usual, comments of all sorts are welcome.
Posted by: floyd jane

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 09:38 AM

David,

I really like this!

Wonderful opening! The e piano then the blend of the acoustic guitar... beautiful! Worth stealing that! (I will give you credit, of course..). The first couple lines of the vocal are so close to "real" that it makes you want that "girl" to turn into a real voice (like in a Disney movie) - it is nice!

An excellent piece of songwriting. I have no issues at all with anything wink ... It all seems quite natural - which is all that ever matters. Solid, solid writing. Opening with "furniture" and then moving later to emotion...very well done. I commend you, also, on avoiding the typical clich├ęs of the what-has-happened-to-us song. You captured the emotions in fresh ways...

One lyric suggestion... I may be misinterpreting this... in your chorus,
"I could scale the Zagros mountains
Or be covered by salty sea"
Should that be "Or cover the salty sea"? (I would write it as "I could cover the salty sea" - to give you that repetition)
Basically... I can climb mountains, I can span oceans... (I don't get "being underwater")...

Beautiful melody!

The lead instrument was a surprise (a nice one. You did not list it, so I did not want to give it away here..if that was your intent). In the first half of it, I feel that there were too many "quick phrases" - the opening is nice, but is followed by too many flourishes (if you know what I mean).. the second half has more held notes which fit the feel of the song better and I think the overall lead would benefit from more of that happening in the first half of it... (the ending works very well).

Did I say "I really like this!"???

Man! This is NICE!

floyd

oh.. forgot the mention - excellent production, excellent mix... (got so wrapped up in the song itself)
Posted by: Charlie Fogle

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 10:25 AM

David, this is definitely the song on the forum with the 'feel'. My favorite of yours so far. The feel is the song that just hearing it one time, you know it has mainstream appeal and potential. This is a winner as far as lyrics, melody and structure go. I think the changes you made for the song to fit Avanna were spot on and perfect for this song.

My only suggestion would be to find a way to entice Rob and Anne-Marie from here on the forum to collaborate on the vocals with you. Her vocals and their harmonies would really be icing on the cake.

Great Job All Around!!
Charlie
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 01:14 PM

Originally Posted By: floyd jane
I really like this!

Thanks, you made my morning! smile

Quote:
Wonderful opening!

I got lucky on that. I was trying to find something that would be simple, and when I tried the electric piano, it was the obvious choice (a continuing homage to Al Stewart, linking to "Time Passages"). I added some delay to it, brought in the guitar, and for once was sensible enough to leave it alone at that. grin


Quote:
An excellent piece of songwriting. I have no issues at all with anything wink

smile The initial idea focused on traveling through the desert until the arrival "at the gates of Babylon", and spent too much time on abstract language. The introduction came from trying to anchoring the lyric in reality before getting lost in my own metaphors.

Fortunately the rewrite jettisoned a lot of the meandering lyrics.

Quote:
One lyric suggestion... I may be misinterpreting this... in your chorus,
"I could scale the Zagros mountains
Or be covered by salty sea"

Should that be "Or cover the salty sea"?

It's like you've read my mind here. The line is basically a quote from "The Water Is Wide":

The water is wide, I can't cross over
And neither have I wings to fly


The original version of the lyric was:

I could scale the Zagros mountains
Or sail salty sea


It carries the metaphor better, and has the inner rhyme of scale/sail.

But I wanted to also capture that feeling of wanting to run to the heights or drown in the sea when a relationship goes bad. The result is (as you noted) a bit of a compromise that does neither.

There is a strong case for mangled metaphors in language. Check out Shakespeare's Genius is Nonsense - the article title is too clever for its own good, since it's also a double meaning.

But I don't think the line really works, and I'd been thinking about how it could be rewritten.

Quote:
The lead instrument was a surprise

I love that trumpet! I just forgot to list it.

This time I planned ahead, and included the RealTrack number in the exported .wav file name so I could list the instruments I'd used later. The solo comes so late in the track the I simply missed it.

You nailed my thoughts on the solo exactly. I'm got an aversion to silence during solos, and I think in this case "less is more" might be the solution.

I'm still wondering about the balance between the lyric and the instruments. My co-worker consistently has trouble understanding the vocals on my mixes (and not just the Vocaloids), so getting vocal clarity is something I'm still struggling with.

Thanks again!
Posted by: RnAM

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 02:01 PM

Hi David,

A beautiful song and the voice sounds almost like real. If you don't know it's a Vocaloid, you won't notice the difference. Only if you do know, you can hear the slight problems this "voice" has, while going from one word to another sometimes.
I like both the melody very much as well as the atmosphere.
Well done.

Anne-Marie
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 03:02 PM

Originally Posted By: c_fogle
My favorite of yours so far.

Thanks!

Quote:
My only suggestion would be to find a way to entice Rob and Anne-Marie from here on the forum to collaborate on the vocals with you.

I'm open to that! Whether they trust their vocals to my mixing is another matter. wink
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 03:29 PM

Originally Posted By: R & AM
A beautiful song and the voice sounds almost like real.

Hi, Anne-Marie.

Yes, it's amazing how much better an English-speaking Vocaloid can be when English is the voice supplier's native language. The other Vocaloid I've got is based on a Swedish singer, and even though he's trying to do an American (ooops... mid-Atlantic") accent, it's not entirely successful. There's been rumor of an native English speaking male Vocaloid for a while, and I'd love to have that.

There are still some interesting challenges with a "native" Vocaloid. For example, she sings "salty" as "shalty". A bit of cut and pasting took care of that. The words "at the" came out as "atuh" because the initial "t" sound was so strong.

I'm such a geek about this stuff. smile

Thanks!
Posted by: Icelander

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 03:38 PM

The words of the lyrics suffer for the artificial voice quite a bit here, but the "triple M's" - melody, music & mix - it's all very nice & smooth cool
Posted by: Dan45

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 05:34 PM

Very nice, and thought provoking!

I had no idea what to expect, as there is a song by the same name from the mid-70's band Rainbow (Ritchie Blackmore's band after Deep Purple). If you are familiar with that then this is.....ahh.....QUITE different!

Outstanding arrangement and I am fascinated by this whole idea of Vocaloid. I want to hear more of your stuff!
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 11:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Icelander
The words of the lyrics suffer for the artificial voice quite a bit here, but the "triple M's" - melody, music & mix - it's all very nice & smooth cool

Glad you liked it! If the Vocaloid folk don't come up with a better English-speaking male voice, I may be forced to finish up my own voice synthesis project... shocked
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/10/14 11:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Dan45
Very nice, and thought provoking!

I looked up the Rainbow version on YouTube. Fun song, but slightly different to it. smile

Thanks for the positive feedback!
Posted by: SpaceDog

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 08:46 AM

David,
Don't be so hard on yourself. This is beautiful song and arrangement. The vocaloid choice with just right. Thanks for sharing.
SD
Posted by: boehm

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 11:40 AM

Hi David,

as Charlie said "this is definitely the song on the forum with the 'feel'. My favorite of yours so far. The feel is the song that just hearing it one time, you know it has mainstream appeal and potential. This is a winner as far as lyrics, melody and structure go."
I'm just having my 5th listen. A beautiful piece.
I don't know if a "real" voice can make it better.

Guenter
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 12:03 PM

Originally Posted By: SpaceDog
Don't be so hard on yourself.

Don't worry, I'm fine - that's just the way I think about stuff.

Thanks!
Posted by: Jim Fogle

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 12:11 PM

David, I found the lyrics to be very emotional. Great job of matching the vocaloid to the song. Enjoyed the production. It's a nice listen. I liked the use of harmonies in this song. In many songs harmony is overused and too out front. You blended the harmony into the song in a very pleasing manner.
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 12:28 PM

Originally Posted By: boehm
My favorite of yours so far.

Thanks!

I've got a cluttered house full of noisy teenagers, and my computer is in the middle of it all. So it can be a challenge to find the space and quiet needed to record vocals! smile

I just wish there were a better male Vocaloid voice available. Working with this is getting me prepared to start working on my voice synthesis program again...
Posted by: Greg Johnson

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 03:51 PM

Really beautiful song!! I would love to hear a traditional vocal performance on it. Lyrics are excellent-really emotional and crafted well but not over crafted. Excellent!! Take care. Greg
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/11/14 09:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Greg Johnson
Really beautiful song!! I would love to hear a traditional vocal performance on it.

Thanks, Greg!

I asked a friend today if she would sing on it. She said she liked the lyrics, but I made the "classic mistake" of giving it a sweet melody. She suggested I speed up the tempo, and make the arrangement bluesy to match the lyric. Oh, well. (Not a bad suggestion, really, but not going to happen. But I now know someone to contact when I do write a bluesy song). laugh
Posted by: Noel96

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 06:13 AM

Hi David,

This is definitely a creation to be proud of. You've scaled and conquered songwriting mountains here. The melody and its arrangement are testimony to your fine ability with music. Couple these with such poignant lyrics and the creation is complete. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

All the best,
Noel
Posted by: Steve Young

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 12:29 PM

Absolutely beautiful, David! Very well written. Any nits that I would have with the lyrics would strictly be personality differences. I would like to hear this with a "real" singer. Nothing against the Vocaloid. It's a useful tool for "non-singers", but this song deserves to be heard right. I think it's that good. As an arranger, I always enjoy your work. Good use of instrumentation, and the music enhances, and never gets in the way of the emotions of the song.

Did I say I like this?

Looking forward to hearing more.

Steve
Posted by: Icelander

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 03:16 PM

Originally Posted By: dcuny
I just wish there were a better male Vocaloid voice available. Working with this is getting me prepared to start working on my voice synthesis program again...
Have you considered Vocalwriter as an alternative? I don't know what it's like on Pc's, but it's quite decent on Mac.
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 04:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Icelander
Have you considered Vocalwriter as an alternative? I don't know what it's like on Pc's, but it's quite decent on Mac.

There's no PC version, and I doubt there ever will be. The application only runs on the older Mac architecture. When I contacted the company in January, I got a reply from the widow of the developer, who let me know he had died in 2009 and she was trying to find someone to sell the company to. Currently, their website seems to have gone missing.

The only other program that I've seen that uses that sort of technology is Gnuspeech, which seems to be a dead project.

I've been in contact with SoftVoice, who have a program that uses formant-synthesis (along the lines of what I've been exploring). Unfortunately, recent changes broke the singing feature. The developer has been working on other things, so he hasn't been able fix it yet. When he does, he'll let me know - I believe that might be a nice fit for BiaB.

There's a program called Virtual Singer, but it's not very intelligible.

BiaB works with Sinsy, but it generates very small rests between all syllables, so Sinsy doesn't handle words properly. Plus, Sinsy currently has a strong accent.

There is a free Vocaloid program called UTAU, but it's Japanese, and you can judge how well it sings English at this point yourself: Let It Go.

Really, having more friends who are singers is a better approach. laugh
Posted by: ROG

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 06:56 PM

Hi David.

I was enthralled by this track from the very start.

Strangely, I found the vocaloid performance to be engaging, or possibly even bewitching. There was something haunting and addictive about it which drew me back time and time again. The fact that it wasn't quite human, but was still beautiful, put me in mind of the Sirens, particularly during the line "covered by the salty sea".

Production, arrangement and recording were very professional and the whole project was inspired.

Looking forward to more.

ROG.
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 07:45 PM

Originally Posted By: ROG
The fact that it wasn't quite human, but was still beautiful, put me in mind of the Sirens, particularly during the line "covered by the salty sea".

Thanks!

While there are things are are clearly not "human" about her singing, Avanna is my favorite Vocaloid. They've managed to keep something in the voice provider's performance that carried through, and it's very cool. I hope they continue to make progress with more realistic voices.
Posted by: PatrickH

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 10:00 PM

David, very nice production. I think the quality of the vocaloid blends with the tune wonderfully. The whole piece evokes fragility to me, which serves your story well.
Posted by: tommyad

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/12/14 11:32 PM

David, very well written. The arrangement is top notch and I love the sound of the trumpet on the leads. I also think longer more drawn out notes would be a better fit, but the sound of it is a perfect fit. I think the artificial voice is interesting but I would love to hear it sung by a human. Really nice song. Tom
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/13/14 01:51 PM

Originally Posted By: nobilis
David, very nice production.


Thanks!


Originally Posted By: tommyad
I also think longer more drawn out notes would be a better fit...

Yeah, if I fiddle with it, I'll try to correct that.

Thanks!
Posted by: Icelander

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/14/14 12:49 AM

Originally Posted By: dcuny

There is a free Vocaloid program called UTAU, but it's Japanese, and you can judge how well it sings English at this point yourself.
Really, having more friends who are singers is a better approach. laugh
Yikes! eek I see your point... but sometimes beggars can't be choosers, you know smile

p.s. And of course you knew Vocalwriter already, what was I thinking! grin
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/14/14 02:05 AM

I've posted a new version (same link), with a simplified the trumpet solo starting at 2:53. I played it live on an EWI using WIVI Band, but went back and hand-edited in some flourishes.

BiaB comes back in at 3:14, and then I crossfade back to the EWI on the last note. Once I'd tweaked the breath controller data, WIVI Band matched the timbre of the BiaB trumpet surprisingly well.

WIVI Band leaves something to be desired for woodwinds, but it certainly does nice brass. laugh
Posted by: Janice & Bud

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/14/14 10:28 AM

IMHO, this is a stellar presentation of
the power of today's technology in
the hands of a creative artist. All the
goodness of the production as already
been said. Suffice it to say that I have
several friends and family members
who are gonna here this.

Congrats on a fine and intriguing
production!

J&B
Posted by: Janice & Bud

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/19/14 10:09 AM

BTW, listening again and Janice said the lead vocal very much reminds her of the girl singer in Nickel Creek!

J&B

Pardon all the typos in previous post....
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/19/14 11:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Janice & Bud
Congrats on a fine and intriguing production!

Thanks! smile
Posted by: MarioD

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/19/14 08:09 PM

David, I will start out by saying that I am not a fan of computer generated voices. However your expertise is this area has made my head turn. You started out with super backing tracks, added Avanna the Vocaloid and if it wasn't for those computer artifacts between some of the words I would have thought this was an organic being singing! Super job on that!
Posted by: dcuny

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/20/14 02:57 AM

Thanks, Mario!

I don't think of this technology as replacing human performance. Rather, I think it gives people who might not have the ability to sing (or have access to singers) the ability to put together a demo that presents their ideas.
Posted by: Charlie Fogle

Re: The Gates of Babylon (Vocaloid) - 10/20/14 08:46 AM

Avanna. Realistic enough to fit in the song without being a distraction, artificial enough so the non-human voice, becomes a statement in a very human song. An artificial voice telling the angst of real human hurt.

I would be reluctant to ever take Ananna completely out of the song.