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Circlejourney

An introduction to my music

It's fun to document your journey of learning and growth as an artist. The first half of this page was written in 2017, and the second half was written in 2022. I will probably continue extending it as I make more music.

I started making digital music in 2006 (at the age of 12). My first arrangement programme was the MIDI sequencer Noteworthy Composer - it was designed for scoring and lacked some crucial tools (like real automation), but I continued to use till 2017, because I had never cared enough about this hobby to make any sort of change.

Fuchsia Moonrise in Noteworthy Composer

As you may know, MIDIs are just note data containers, so my first tracks were all created with a QWERTY keyboard, rendered through Microsoft's default synth and recorded into MP3 files via a physical - and then a virtual - audio cable. I eventually discovered soundfonts, exported tracks into WAVs and reassembled them in Audacity.

In 2017, when I joined the Homestuck fan music community in earnest, is when I started to get a lot of eyes on my music. That's around when I became aware that production was a thing people cared about, and I got enough criticism for my "bad production" (what production?) to finally think about making the gradual shift to FL Studio. That's the programme I still use as of 2022. 2017 me's thoughts:

Music-making never really stopped being one of my lesser hobbies. But I'm finding more time for it these days, and learning more about the finer details of the process.

2006: Sunrise

Sunrise was my first digital pieces of music, ever. This right here is history! Before then, I was already writing piano music, and I'm pretty sure I did record it, though I've lost those files to the sands of time. But that didn't fulfill my itch - I was inspired by the MapleStory soundtrack to test the waters in the digital realm.

A comment I wrote about this in 2017:

To this day, a lot of my music still sounds pretty MapleStory-esque.

Unclear if the above is still true, but I think there's a definite influence represented in my style. I knew nothing about music production - my process was governed by my preferences for harmonies, melodies and instruments (in that order). MIDIs did give me the option to compose for instruments that weren't the piano - a dream come true.


2007: Forests, Plains and Seas

Forests, Plains and Seas is the next oldest thing I still have the files for - I made it a few months into my MIDI explorations. It quickly became my favourite original piece of music. I do still enjoy some of the melodic/instrumentation ideas. Man, I sure had a predilection for major chords, huh?


2008: Of the Dragon, of the Stars theme

A year later, I began writing a novel called Of the Dragon, of the Stars, and naturally, I made some "theme music" to go with it. It has a way more mature sound than the last two - was also doing my ABRSM Grade 8 in piano, and I started submitting to the monthly MIDI contest Composition Contest (run by Lavio Pareschi), so exposure could be the reason.


2009: Lost Road to Heaven

MIDI version (Microsoft GS Wavetable):

Soundfont version (Merlin Symphony):

One of the last things I composed for Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth, Lost Road to Heaven kind of emerged naturally from my style, and probably marks the time I began to feel really comfortable composing digitally - this thing has strums and everything (I had to input the note intervals for those individually). I then discovered Soundfonts and samplers through Composition Contest, and the second file is the same track rendered in Merlin Symphony.

This one has lyrics, but they're mostly nonsensical - lines include, "And this is our road to heaven, lost forever, our only chance to catch a fleeing swan"


2010: The Long Road Home

I got really excited about Merlin Symphony because the instruments sounded much realer (to my younger self, who had become accustomed to the GS Wavetable sound). I'm still fond of this track despite it having so many production issues. It's the sort of music I first set out to make and I think it represents my tastes pretty well. I'm pretty sure the piano riff in this one was inspired by A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton.

2010: Firebird's Fury

With the new instrument set, I felt like I had a lot more room to play around with the instruments, and my interest in making music was renewed - I made a lot of it in 2010. I quickly went to the logical extreme and piled on all the orchestral instruments (I'd always wanted to compose something like this). Younger me loved this track - now I can hear that it's got a lot of clipping issues, but it was the first time I'd made something that sounded properly "epic".


2011: From a Windchime to Its Long-Lost Owner

It was a slow two years because of exams. I wrote this in my head in school, and composed it a year later. It has lyrics - a sung version is on my album A Memory Finds Its Name. Actually, I'm gonna do a versioning post for tracks with multiple versions - that sounds like it'd be super fun.


2012: Dreamt

I'm still kind of astounded at how well Dreamt has borne out the test of time. Composed during a time when I was otherwise extremely stressed, when music was an escape rather than a pursuit, this track exploded on my Facebook and it's still my most-played Soundcloud track. My friend actually did a cover of it where she played violin over the track and I loved it.


Here's the comment from 2017 that used to reside here:

"I consider everything that I made from 2013 onward fairly recent. This is all the stuff I made before I started releasing albums/taking it more seriously."

So, the front half of this document was written in 2017, and it's now 2022. I've since grown even more as a musician, so I'm gonna extend it with music that I've made since, up till the point where I no longer consider it "history". Will I keep extending this page hereafter? Probably...


2013: Guiding Light

Guiding Light is the second oldest track still on my SoundCloud as of 2022, and for good reason - it really stands up. I started writing Revolving Door (my still-ongoing novel) in 2013, and I wrote this as a theme for two of its characters, Felix and Adelaide, as they explore the city. You can hear me getting way more confident with the flourishes and scales, and it's honestly still quite exciting to listen to this, knowing I made it 9 years ago.


2014: Rose in Light

2014 was a really bad year for me, and I kinda fell out of the habit of making music, but this is the one track surviving from that year that I still like. As a side note - in hindsight, it's really nice seeing this throughline of orchestral music that slowly takes on non-orchestral qualities over time...


2015: The Horizon

And back to my orchestral obsession. Considering how much music I made that was themed around my story Compass, I'm surprised this is the first Compass track on this page. The Horizon was always intended as a climactic theme for Compass - so with my hindsight, it's cool to know it did eventually become the track that plays in the final chapter of the comic.


2016: Fuchsia Moonrise

Ah yes, here comes the Homestuck music. Fuchsia Moonrise was my first Homestuck track - made for the Beforus album, it was meant to be a once-off. I didn't realise Homestuck fan music was a whole thing. I just thought the idea of an album for characters who weren't as represented in the discography was cool as hell, and with the freedom of theme I decided to make a really indulgent track about pink evenings on Beforus, and Meenah when she escaped to the Pink Moon.

This is the first track where I think I gave a shit about production - not that I knew much about it. I exported the instrument tracks as WAVs one by one through Spider Player, imported them to Audacity, and applied effects to each one...destructively. It's better than the original straight MIDI export, to be fair:

Anyway, surprising no-one, joining Homestuck fan music turned out to be a decision that utterly changed my life. Because uh I met my ex Skip/SerialSymphony through it.

2016: JUST1C3 R41NS FROM 4BOV3

Final version:

First (compositional) pass:

Yeah, Neophyte Redglare's typing quirk, I'm sorry. I made this in collaboration with SerialSymphony - they're a really good producer, an aspect of music-making which at the time I knew nothing about - so really I can't take credit for the final version of the track (my original first pass is on the right).

This was, I think, the first collaborative music piece I ever did where the work was evenly split. Working on this was also probably also the reason I fell for them.


2017: The Hyaline

So, 2017 is definitely the year when it becomes really hard to choose just one or two tracks to highlight, because I made SO much music. Following my Beforus track, the admin of the Land of Fans and Music series asked me if I'd like to join the next release. There were now a lot more eyes on my music, which was very motivating - having a consistent, ready audience made me want to make more music, surprise surprise.

But I think The Hyaline was my favourite track that I released that year. It was, yeah, Homestuck - specifically for the release Xenoplanetarium. It was also really ambitious for my style at the time, and I don't think I've ever made anything quite as compositionally interesting since.

2017: Ice Horologue / Timekeeper

Oh yeah - this was also the year I started using FL Studio, after Skip introduced it to me. Left: the original version with Crisis (a different soundfont). Right: The new version made with FL Studio synths.

2017: A Garden of Galaxies

My transformation into electronic music producer has begun.


2018: Chariot

Chariot is basically better than the stuff I make even now. I was super comfortable making electronic music at this point. 2018 is probably the point when I think my music starts to be basically as good as what I'm making now. I think. Ask again in 5 years' time.


2019: The Moon in the Afterglow

This is the best track I've ever made. I peaked here. I'm biased.