High Castle Conservatory
High Castle Conservatory (HCC) is a rareified, monthly subscription-based, low-cost, online music school curated by Tim Smolens (Estradasphere/High Castle Teleorkestra/I.S.S.) with help from his High Castle Teleorkestra cohorts, and specializing in the lesser explored recesses of music theory, music production/engineering, songwriting, the hidden scientific/mathematical basis of harmony (the harmonic series/just intonation/Pythagorean tuning/aka-musical science), interviews with luminaries from the world of such eccentric music, exclusive singles and remixes, pertinent individual instrument instruction where applicable, improvisation guidance, and lost relics of recording history from diverse reaches of the globe. HCC has something intriguing for musicians, songwriters, music producers/engineers, and curious non-musician fans of Smolens' projects alike.The courses will be well organized by subject matter and skill level, and delivered as many individual online video courses with accompanying PDF music sheets, downloadable music examples (where applicable), practical exercises, and even quizzes (not for pass/fail, but to ensure the lessons are absorbed). The unusual path that Smolens' music studies have taken him over nearly 40 years of work have yielded a curious skillset indeed. He is well versed in multi-layered, complex productions and arrangements, often containing hundreds of individual tracks. He has obsessively studied such diverse gold mines as Beach Boys vocal harmonies with the accompanying legendary 60's wall-of-sound production a la the wrecking crew, 5 part doo-wop vocal harmonies, the immaculate peaks of 60s/70s Italian film music pantheon, (Morricone, Piccioni, Umiliani, Nicolai, etc.), unorthodox polyrhythms, beginning/sub-intermediate/intermediate/advanced jazz-pop chord progressions, how to achieve low-fi analog sounding results in the digital realm in the vein of producers like Joe Meek, complex song arrangements using a wide-variety of time signatures, a high school obsession with Mr. Bungle (especially Disco Volante) that has never really faded, a knack for making analog sounding recordings in the digital realm, and much more. HCC offers that which they don't teach you in a traditional music education but probably should have.
HCC is not an all-encompassing music school as we will not be burdened with teaching basic western music fundamentals such as note names, intervals, basic scales, how to play beginner guitar (or any other beginning instruments), music reading (not required but VERY useful) and other basic fundamentals that can be learned in a variety of other places. We will hold your hand through everything beyond basic music fundamentals and offer lessons to musicians of all skill levels. For example, some of our deepest offerings will be in the realm of chord changes (the basis of all western music and the craft of songwriting itself), broken down into 4 levels of achievement. If you are learning the most basic universal chord change; C major to G7, you are level one. If you are looking for a way to incorporate F#7(#9#5) or Dmi7b5(add11)/G into your song you are level 4; and, of course, everything in between. We will use real songs to demonstrate hundreds of different ways chord changes and reharmonizations of existing chord changes that can add unceasing depth to your knowledge and songwriting.
These ongoing courses with many diverse branches will be unique in many ways. We will be able to use Tim's current recordings in progress and associated project files from High Castle Teleorkestra, as teaching points in the lessons. Imagine; a computer-based sampled farfisa organ part was just recorded, but it sounds too sterile and digital. Watch as an Fx plug in chain is dialed up to make it more gritty and tweaked like such.... Neve 1073 preamp emulation being slightly overdriven and eq'd, compressed with a 1960s German tube compressor, run through an emulation of a vintage consumer grade VHS deck and pushed a bit too hard, then kissed with an obscure spring reverb unit from the 70s. Finally it is sent out of the computer and smacked to a real world 70s consumer grade cassette deck, reimported into digital and manually spliced and adjusted to align in a few spots to account for the tape drift. To achieve a gritty analog recording aesthetic in the digital realm takes work, and we will show you countless tricks. But wait, HCT guitarist/co-producer Chris Bogen is asked to lay down a detailed surf rock guitar part that pushes the boundaries of what a classic surf tone even is. Hear Chris discuss and demonstrate his equipment chain, rife with vintage gear, and just the right touch of Fx and mic/preamp/compressor chain., and even his tasteful approach to playing and recording the part itself.
High Castle Teleorkestra (HCT) is a newly-formed remote music ensemble whose members have played in various ground-breaking bands such as Estradasphere, Mr. Bungle, Farmer's Market, Umlaut, Probosci, I.S.S., Don Salsa, Secret Chiefs 3 and more. Comprised of middle-aged collaborators scattered about the globe, HCT focuses on superbly-produced, pluridimensional, enigmatic recordings.
Our goal is keep things low cost so that many may partake in these lessons. Our hope is to not get involved in creating multiple $$ tiers which would require lots of headaches for content delivery to different tiers. We instead are choosing to put our faith in you and have a minimum of $5 per month, but ask you to voluntarily pay more according to the value you feel you are getting, while taking into account your current economic situation. Lets say you are a non-musician that is casually curious to check out the music appreciation and music production lessons (just to see behind the scenes) but are not going to be studying any of the songwriting etc, staying at $5 would be reasonable. Lets say you are a serious musician/songwriter/producer and these courses would serve to be more like your professional music instructor. Considering that a music instructor makes $60 an hour for weekly lessons, one might pay $240 per month for that service in the real world, but for us you may consider paying $20-$50 per month voluntarily depending on your personal financial considerations. We let you choose, and if that model works, we will go with that. We pledge that if anyone is suffering through financial hardships, they can email us and take the courses for free until things turn around. We would rather you be involved than to not participate because you can't afford it.