All Lucas Gonze wanted to do was upload some cover songs to his blog. But he quickly realized that digital copyright law would make that impossibly expensive, if not illegal. Fired up to share music fairly, this open source enthusiast dug deeper and deeper into history until he finally came across the mother lode of public domain songs.

Listen as the creative programmer behind the Webjay playlist service explains how he waltzed around the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and why he thinks these heavy-handed restrictions on art could doom our culture. (DMI 07-27-2007: 26 minutes 23 seconds)

Production Notes

I reached Gonze at his home in Venice, California, by Skype. I spoke through my Logitech 250, a $30 USB headset that sounds remarkably nice and frees me from having to hunch over a full-size mic. Gonze used a Shure SM81 mic, speaking from about six inches away. It was sensitive enough to pick up the small propeller planes buzzing around the nearby Santa Monica airport. After a while, we decided to keep talking and let the planes harmonize our conversation.

As usual, I used the elegant Ecamm Call Recorder to record the conversation. The plan was for Gonze to record his part in parallel into Audacity at a higher resolution, and then send me the file to sync up with my side. This technique, called a "two-ender," is often used in radio to get higher quality than would be possible over the phone. It worked well in my interviews with the Fat Man and Paolo Di Nicolantonio, in which I'd had problems with the Skype signal distorting.

However, I neglected to confirm the two-ender plan with Gonze, and 45 minutes later realized that he hadn't been recording. Happily, I realized why my previous Call Recorder recordings had been distorting (more on that in a moment), and so ended up with a much cleaner file this time. I also appreciated not having to sync up two audio files.

Lucas Gonze

Programmer Lucas Gonze has a degree in music, but says most of his practical training was in indie rock bands. He currently works for Yahoo Music, which bought out his Webjay service in 2006.

I recorded my voiceover directly into BIAS Peak using an SE Electronics USB2200a mic, which I've been comparing with the Rode Podcaster I used in previous episodes. Both are high-quality units that plug directly into a computer via USB. The SE has a higher output level on the Mac, which had been one of my complaints about the Rode. I'll do a more detailed comparison of the two mics in a future article.

Editing and Assembly

Call Recorder produces an unusual QuickTime file with a mono track for the caller's voice and a dual-mono track for the recipient's. Ecamm provides five drag-and-drop programs to decode the file, but none do what I wanted, which was to generate a single AIFF or WAV file with my voice on the left and the interviewee's on the right. So I turned to QuickTime Pro for that.

Call Recorder Routing

The secret to avoiding distortion when converting Call Recorder's QuickTime files to two-channel AIFFs was to assign one side of the interviewee's dual-mono track to the Right output and to disable the other side. In the past, I'd assigned both sides to the Right output, which boosted the level so much it distorted.

After chopping the usual false starts, mouth noises, and offhand comments out of the interview with Peak, I exported the two sides of the conversation as mono WAV files. Next, I imported those files and the voiceover into Ableton Live 6, where I arranged them around Gonze's guitar recordings and the theme music. I cleaned, compressed, and enhanced the voices with Izotope Ozone and BIAS SoundSoap. Finally, I rendered the mix to an AIFF file, converted it to an MP3 in Peak, and then imported it into iTunes to clean up the ID3 tags and add artwork.

The Digital Media Insider theme music came together in Live as well. The opening sound effect is a compressed mouth noise spliced onto a tone cluster I generated in Native Instruments Reaktor. The main groove is from Steinberg Xphraze. (Jim Aikin turned me on to both virtual instruments in his article "My Five Favorite Soft Synths.") The piano is from the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which I discovered when we interviewed Gary Garritan. Then there are a few percussion samples dredged from my hard drive. Altogether, the theme took just six tracks. Effects processing was courtesy of Live's default plugins and Freeverb.

Ella Waltz Sheet Music

One of the songs Lucas Gonze found online and recorded for his blog, "Ella Waltz," came out in 1854. You can download it from the Library of Congress site as a 600ppi TIFF file.

Related O’Reilly Articles and Blogs

Lucas Gonze's O'Reilly Blog

Some oldies but goodies here.

BJ Leiderman: Rocking the Bottom of the Dial

The Emmy Award winning composer (Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, Car Talk, and more) shares his insights on NPR, podcasting, and making music with technology.

Killer Interviewing Tips for Podcasters, Part 1

Podcasting expert Jack Herrington reveals how to set up, conduct, and record an interview that will delight your listeners.

Killer Interviewing Tips for Podcasters, Part 2

In this hands-on tutorial, podcasting expert Jack Herrington shows you how to transform raw voice recordings into broadcast-ready audio. Grab the free waveform editor and follow along.

QuickStart: Digital Audio Editing

Want to clean up your recordings but not sure where to start? We walk you through some essential audio editing skills, from reading a waveform to crafting the perfect fade.

Links

The Wordpress of Lucas Gonze—Gonze's personal blog features his recordings of public domain music, provocative thoughts about online music, and links to his many open source projects. The three songs used in this podcast are Carrie Waltz, Ella Waltz, and Amy Waltz, in that order.

Yahoo Music—Where Gonze currently works.

Webjay Users' Group—A Yahoo discussion group for fans of Gonze's pioneering playlist community.

CC Mixter—A community music site "featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons, where you can listen to, sample, mash up, or interact with music in whatever way you want."


David Battino is the audio editor for O’Reilly’s Digital Media site, the co-author of The Art of Digital Music, and on the steering committee for the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG). He also writes, publishes, and performs Japanese kamishibai storycards.


Return to digitalmedia.oreilly.com.