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Secret of Life (w/ bbarner)

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This virtual-live hybrid version of my tune, Secret of Life, marks my first collaboration with Bill Barner - a barn burner of a clarinetist and sax player. A study in key changes, this version of Secret of Life was originally recorded as a trio (piano, bass, drums) in a University music room using a portable digital recorder. I then edited a third of the piece out and FTP'd the result to Bill who added his clarinet and tenor saxes. I put in a virtual audience and canned cabaret ambience sounds in an effort to try and make the track seem live, like a real gig. Altho Bill has never met the acoustic bassist (Jeff Cox) or the pianist (Chris Mueller), he did know the drummer (Dane Richeson) from previous gigs. Small world. Thanks to Bill for some great playing. And Chris for a great arrangement.
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Instrumental. You may need to turn volume up (I didn't want to over-compress the file). Also, when played inside iTunes on my system, the song is too bassy and looses some of the solo edge, even tho it sounds just right on when played in other apps. Go figure.
Song Stats
Hits: 10511
Comments: 62
Fans: 28
Plays: 1686
Downloads: 478
Votes: 62
Uploaded: Oct 07, 2004 - 10:57:49 AM
Last Updated: Jul 02, 2007 - 04:20:37 PM Last Played: Jul 22, 2019 - 07:31:19 PM
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Mackie board; Tascam DA-P1; Mac G4; Steinway grand piano; Bill's reeds.
GB 1.1; Performer 4.1
said 5463 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Virtually flawless
Oh yeah. All 10s and high 5s.
Idébu said 5463 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Really Nice
It put me in the mind of some old Miles Davis. (Birth
of the Cool) This is very good stuff. I did not believe
the crowd was real though. I enjoyed the middle
break - can't say why though. On the second listen it
just seemed to add something to the experience that
I can't articulate.

Congratulations on a fine piece.
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TobinMueller said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Really Nice
One of the reasons I like the break is that the bass gets to play and be heard,
instead of doubling the melody under the first half of each phrase like he
does in the verse. And the openness of the sound at that point, along with
the ambient audience feel. I think the audience sounds gives the piece a live
recording feel, like recordings from the late 50s... until the final applause
which just didn't get picked up from those stage mics well enough - and then
the technician faded them too soon...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
chikoppi said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Classic Song
First, I love the songwriting here! This a very reminiscent of (what is in my head at least) jazz classics. Top notch performances! The recording and mixing are excellent...yeah, fantastic!

Ah! Great chaotic flourish section near the end! This is another high water mark on MJ for me to aspire to!

Excellent track! It will be one of the relatively few jazz songs in my iTunes playlist.

Regarding the faux audience...to my ears the background chatter sounds like a restaurant, while the applause sounds like a small concert hall. Changing one or the other might improve the effect. Also, given the "conversational" background volume it seems as though the applause should be louder. (10-8-9-9) (I think this is only the second "10" I've registered on MJ votes.)
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TobinMueller said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Classic Song
Thanks. Very appreciated. Regarding the crowd, you are right. The ambient
clips are from a restaurant; the applause from an ancient mono sound CD I
found in the closet (I layered 4 different applause tracks to try and fix them).
Most jazz gigs are in restaurants with a dark stage where they pack people in
knee to knee and no one ever shuts up, except in the Blue Note where they
throw you out if you make noise. Inappropriate laughing during lulls is
common, I just had to edit some in. Sort of cathertic. (I hate dropping the
crowd cuz I worked on them so long... and can you ever have enough

Also, you should know that Bill actually played clarinet and sax, in 4 different
takes, to the first verse only. He sent me the CD with the separate tracks by
mail. I had to cut and paste his performances into verse 2 and the ending,
allotting for a tempo increase (due to getting more excited as the end
approached). So the sense of a live ensemble required lots of CPU, edits,
snips, clips...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Good Gobs of Gravy...
this is a wonderful collaboration. Talent smothered like
gravy on grandma's biscuits. My only critique...lose the
crowd. Let me take this journey alone. Way to go Tobin.
Show us the way...
TobinMueller said 5381 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
Good Gobs of Gravy...
...but I worked so hard on those crowd sounds... and in all honesty, they
a few moments of slight saturation in the piano part. Plus, it makes more
fun, for me anyway. Thanks for the liking of the music!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
bloosman1 said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
That's good jazz!
pack o' 10's for ya!
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orangeproject said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Amazing sound.
You did a great job of making it sound live... but I agree,
lose it and let the listener make this trip solo.

Great work! All 10's from me.
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TalktoWind said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
A "professional" song, no doubt.
I like a lot the "live" performance.
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macapa said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
You know
It's really impossible for me not to love this song. It's
downloaded and, if it's like any of your others I have in
iTunes, I won't be able to get it out of my head.

Like others, I'm not thrilled by the crowd in general. I can't
say it hurts the song, but it doesn't really bring much to it
either, sorry...
TobinMueller said 5381 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
You know
You can tell this wasn't recorded at the Blue Note... they throw out people
who make so much noise during the show! But I wanted to add that noise
competition-and-synergy that a crowd lends.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
oldlibmike said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
More interesting than MLB :)
Entirely took my mind off baseball game - on as I type.
Wow. I should never listen to your stuff before working on
my own. Definately sets the bar very high. There's
something to be said for the blending of great live
performance with background sound.
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Mr. EI Oval said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Sitting here in Awe
and admiration of the fine playing and superb mixing
skills that you have employed on this.

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Joanna said 5462 days ago (October 7th, 2004)
Absoluely wonderful. I love the crowd sounds, and
thought the entire production was fresh and original.

-- Joanna
Check out my latest song called Baby, It's Cold Outside
_nderscore said 5462 days ago (October 8th, 2004)
such warm, full sound
really incredible work tobin. kudos to all involved. i really
enjoyed bill's lively additions
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Mcboy said 5462 days ago (October 8th, 2004)
real classic jazz....
classic jazz....i hear some mcoy tyner and some excursions into trane land...hmmmm just tasty......great work gentlemen.........
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Heidi_E said 5462 days ago (October 8th, 2004)
Great live show
I don't know about the picture,but I like the fact you made it like a live gig with background noise. It makes it quiet effective. Great Jazz!
Check out my latest song called Your love for me
TobinMueller said 5461 days ago (October 8th, 2004)
Great live show
I tweaked the song art a bit, adding other items that conjure a Secret of Life
search... including clarinet, sax and piano... Do you like this better? It is a
collage that is supposed to evoke musings on questions, answers, locks,
keys, passions, distraction...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
iG.STUDiO said 5462 days ago (October 8th, 2004)
So nice. I agree, though - the applause sounds a bit
foreign, given the initial ambience settings (bye-bye, my
plans for the final mix of my bossa, darn it - this is
exactly what I had in mind...)
Great job on all other accouns.
Check out my latest song called Spiral Samba
Del said 5461 days ago (October 9th, 2004)
All the keys of life
Yes, like Miles. Altho I wanted the reeed player to play the melody more, this is a great trio between piano, reeds and bass. I like how each gets his moment, how the pinao never becomes just an acompanying instrument but stays in the lead, and how the reeds are mixed just right. I liked the restaurant sound. Made me want to order ravioli and a vodka with lime. (How come you didn't put any food into the song art collage? Ain't that a secret of life?) Could have been at the Blue Note, guys. Better than great.
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Cameron said 5461 days ago (October 9th, 2004)
Wonderful tune, great playing!

I agree that the crowd noises were a bit intrusive and
didn't really fit; I would have liked to have heard this piece

This excellent composition was executed masterfully. The
mix was very good although I found the timbre of the
piano to be a bit "dead". I personally like a bit more
"highs" in the sound.

Great jazz tune overall!
Check out my latest song called Trio for Horn, Violin & Piano
said 5460 days ago (October 9th, 2004)
Peak performances
For what its worth, I like the ambient sounds. This is a
wonderful composition, with a flow of energy that is only
reenforced by the "crowd". Very well written and played.
My only concern was (through my headphones) things got
a little overpowering toward the end, almost losing some
of the reeds at times.

TobinMueller said 5460 days ago (October 10th, 2004)
Peak performances
Thanks for the agreement on the potential energy the crowd adds to the feel.
And good ears on the saturation of the frequencies during the big finish.
This is why I couldn't compress the song any further, since compression
made this even worse. The original trio was mixed down to a 2 track and the
master was saturated when the piano started playing its huge block chords at
the end. Actually, in the multi-track unmixed version (prior to bouncing to
disk, when I was adding in Bill's 4 reed tracks), the separation of instruments
is perfect, even tho the piano still saturates the frequencies. But becuz the
piano is playing the melody at the end of the forte section, I wanted it to be
dominant, and to have the neat chordal hits of the tenor saxes not get lost.
Thus, the liveliness of the solo reads wild improvs become almost subliminal
(but I hope their energy is not lost). But that was a mixing choice I made to
save the tenor chords from getting buried, as well as having the listener
wrongly conclude that the wild solo reeds were playing the melody at that
point (as opposed to the piano right hand, where the melody actually is
played.) My thought was that this set up the coda section better, when
everyone is in unison.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Momotamus said 5460 days ago (October 9th, 2004)
Ahhh, I'm a jazz fan and this is music to my MJ ears. So
well crafted. So far beyond my skill level. So beautifully
put together. Such great chord changes. So complex and
gently and truthfully played. Awesome, really. I love it.
Check out my latest song called Like A Wink
TobinMueller said 5381 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
Thanks. This song is totally arranged, from the chord progression point of
view, not an improvised structure, crafted to do just what you mentioned.
Thanks for noticing.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
ivanjs said 5459 days ago (October 10th, 2004)
Very cool
Can't understand why it sounds too bassy on your
system. The bass is just coming through on the 2
systems I played it on at home.

Did you turn on the EQ in itunes and bring
down the bass a bit? Might also explain the few
comments you got on the song I collaborated with
you on where folks thought the bass wasn't loud
enough. You probably compensated for it being too
bassy on your end, but elsewhere it's not.

Nice job.

Check out my latest song called Double Bass Collaboration
SlimGirlFat said 5457 days ago (October 12th, 2004)
I am as always, in awe of your talents Tobin, there is some
great piano playing in here,. I agree sadly with others
about the crowd sounds, (although applause it what we
are all striving for LOL!)

Outstanding, really outstanding.
You have a wonderful relaxed confidence in your playing
that just oozes out in this track....


StevoMac said 5457 days ago (October 12th, 2004)
Where I get by with brute force, you get by on grace and
elegance. Beautiful tune, expertly recorded. Bravo!
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mujigo said 5457 days ago (October 13th, 2004)
Very nice
Really nice, good feel, great drummer.
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Ringo said 5456 days ago (October 13th, 2004)
I actually think it gets a bit Weather Report-y when you all
go for it at the end. (To me that's a good thing..) Just
soooooo smooth other wise. Swings just right. Really like
the drumming. Tried to do a lot of similar stuff in music
rooms when I was at college years ago and got nowhere
near this. I'm voting for the crowd noise, it's what music is
all about, playing to people. Reminded me of all sorts of
jazz gigs I had been to/played in.

Excellent playing and composition. The meister returns..
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TobinMueller said 5381 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
Thanks Ringo. Yeah, if you've been in front of a crowd, you miss it, especially
in small group jazz recordings. Playing for a microphone and studio engineer
somehow loses the romance. Thanks for the comments. Hope you get those
mics around your drum soon!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
eleveneyes said 5455 days ago (October 14th, 2004)
wholistic medicine
just as every piece of a hologram contains the whole
hologram, this secret of life contains an entire beautiful
rich life within. I love motivic pieces and this one is crafted
wonderfully and performed exceptionally well.
TobinMueller reigns and knows all! (except when not to
use faux applause. liked it at first. not so much now.
however i didn't mind the glasses clinking/crowd chatter -
guess that sounded realistic. the canned applause
sounded like it was still in the can.) but the song is
keep making beutiful sounds!
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gudkarma said 5449 days ago (October 20th, 2004)
that opening piano is awesome.....
this is a good piece.

: )
picture that with my jersey accent.

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mulletsrock said 5444 days ago (October 26th, 2004)
virtually live
There is something very live about this, I am amazed you all weren't in the same club. The applause reminds me of the way applause sounds in old recordings, and the sound has a certain flatness of those first sterephonic discs. Authentic and hip. Wish I could have been there to appplaud with your virtual crowd. So I applaud now...
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cataloger1 said 5441 days ago (October 29th, 2004)
Bill is a work colleague and friend and he told me about this site...beautiful work, guys!

TobinMueller said 5434 days ago (November 5th, 2004)
Thanks. You guys should form an office band! Bill is virtually wonderful to
work with. I plan on several more collaborations with him soon. (So don't
keep him too busy!)
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
qthrul said 5440 days ago (October 29th, 2004)
smooth and slick...
I'm going through all your other songs now.

This one is getting bookmarked for sure.

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eDrew said 5419 days ago (November 19th, 2004)
Great Job!
Very nice indeed. Greet work on making the drums sound
so live.
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TobinMueller said 5381 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
Great Job!
The drums are live, played by Dane Richeson. We stuck him in the corner of
the room behind as much furniture as we could move to separate his sound
and then hoped for the best. He's a great player. And a great guy.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
g4macuser said 5419 days ago (November 19th, 2004)
a future jazz classic
This is really good stuff. I enjoyed it very much, indeed.
Only the sound of the crowd's clapping hands doesn't fit
into the club-atmosphere sound of the song itself. The
crowd sounds a bit as if they were on an open air festival.
Artificial somehow.
But that's the only thing for me to criticize.
The background-atmosphere bar-like "noise" fits very
The sound is fantastic, just like Jazz should sound.

Good work!!!

Michael :-)
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thetiler said 5380 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
What pro musicianship!
First I am thrilled that you stopped by my site and posted.
It means a lot to me that a person of your high caliber of
musical abilities would post. I need to be humbled
sometimes to get me back into reality. After hearing great
things on this piece maybe I can be a little more daring in
my compositions. Thanks for helping me break out of my

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thetiler said 5380 days ago (December 28th, 2004)
Forgot one thing: picture
I forgot to post in my previous one that I really loved the
great artwork. Wow!

Thanks for sharing

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TobinMueller said 5344 days ago (February 3rd, 2005)
Forgot one thing: picture
Thanks. I love taking the time to use appropriate art. This is a collage I did for
a series of poems posted at ArtsForge, Talismans of Passion. This version
added some reeds, to incorporate Bill's playing.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
mars said 5378 days ago (December 30th, 2004)
I feel like I'm in a jazz club somewhere in NY. : D
I love your jazz stuffs.
Thanx for sharing.

Rina (mars)
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jimid said 5346 days ago (January 31st, 2005)
I Bow
I am but a pretender. This is the real thing.

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Stun Nutz said 5321 days ago (February 26th, 2005)
how did I miss this one?
I used to play the clarinet, but nothing like this! This
totally felt live and the song sounded classic... simply
great jazz. Moody, dramatic... awe inspiring stuff.
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EdensEve said 5266 days ago (April 22nd, 2005)
Dynamic duo
I listened to this following the link to it from your other
collaboration, Let Me Play. I think clarinet has become my
new favorite soloing instrument. Why isn't it more
popular? Maybe more people need to play it like you! So
nice, such a sweet feeling from hearing you play. A great
duo, you.
John Stebbe said 5266 days ago (April 22nd, 2005)
great feel
I like the piano/bass tracking on the repeated theme.
Clarinet sounds great. This is definitely a CD-worthy

Applause in the middle sounds a little "not in the same
space." Small quibble.

When the sax comes in, the track really cooks.

A wonderful sound overall.
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said 5243 days ago (May 14th, 2005)
Absolutely fabulous
Between this music and my beyerdynamics you have
converted my office into a smokey lounge. I can't stand
the smoke but I'm staying for the music.
Critical feedback...could have used a few more clanking
beer glasses in the back ground.
kclements said 5028 days ago (December 16th, 2005)
great feel
I really like the feel of this piece. nice support for the clarinet, and the
piano takes its turn to shine, without dominating the other
instruments. Ncie voicings on the chords. I like the inter play between
the piano and the clarinet.

Drums and bass provide a very firm foundation and sounds like the trio
really comes together. I really like the live feel - takes me back to the
jazz clubs. Very nice piano solo, again understate, but appropriately

Nice switch to the sax after the piano solo.

I have to say I really enjoy the cross-talk between the two instruments.
Very nice -
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composerclark said 5017 days ago (December 27th, 2005)
Great Job!
Very nicely done. Am I correct in gathering from your description that the
music was all played by real musicians (albeit in different places), and the
"virtual" part was the audience sounds?

Beautiful playing, and great sound. Thanks.
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nuke said 4995 days ago (January 17th, 2006)
Really nice
That's wonderful. And most of all the clarinet and sax really fit in. From the description you wrote I understand that the clarinet and saxes are added after you have recorded it as a trio. Is that so?
The added atmosphere sounds quite natural and at first it made think i'm in a 60' jazz club.
Really nice
BassMule said 4910 days ago (April 12th, 2006)
Where'd that horn section come from? :-)
Seriously, this is quite nice. The modal unison lines remind me of Mulgrew Miller. Except for the sudden appearance of the horn section at the end, I would not have guessed that Barner's work was added later. Bravo!
mbehar said 4632 days ago (January 15th, 2007)
found this
well I guess I'm kinda late for this party. Just recently got into computers and then home recording and now I'm searching around to hear what's out there and I find this. Very nice work here mister!
Alot has already been said but here's an amusing story.

Back in the late 70's went to hear Bill Evans in the village NYC and I couldn't get a seat up close because all these business men types were crowded around the piano. Not listening mind you just talking and laughing real loud and Bill looking very frustrated. Despite that I still pursued a music career! Anyhow your audience sound brought this memory back to me.
Cheers and regards
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Norman Goodman said 4565 days ago (March 23rd, 2007)
Piano, bass and drums are excellentl. Bill Barner is tremendous. Beautifully phrased and articulate piano lines, displays an excellent example of polished musicianship. Again Bill Barner IS THE MAN!!!!!
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TobinMueller said 4464 days ago (July 2nd, 2007)
Bill Barner - The Man
Yes, Bill is fabulous, and plays these tunes without charts. We're collaborating on some stuff I'm planning using B3, and I've very excited.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
michael2 said 4526 days ago (May 1st, 2007)
really nice
this is a great "classic" jazz song.it sounds like the old-skool until you go with the big freak out at the end (which is nicely resolved with the little melody). You are such a great piano player, and everyone else on the track really does an amazing job. Such vibe (with or without the crowd sounds).
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Ibstrat said 4467 days ago (June 29th, 2007)
I continue to be impressed by your versatility and originality.Some parts remind me of Bill Evans.
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TobinMueller said 4464 days ago (July 2nd, 2007)
Bill Evans - Another Man
His lightness of being is a forever inspiration.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
said 4185 days ago (April 6th, 2008)
Lovely mellow chilled out kind a feeling
relaxing. Thanks for the listen and well done.
Peace Dee.
Nick_Flash said 4098 days ago (July 2nd, 2008)
Thanks for pointing this one out Tobin. This really reminds me of when I used to go see Jazz bands play at the Borders Cafe in Omaha. Everything sounds great.


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Artist Info
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Name: Tobin Mueller
Location: Rowayton CT USA
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I am a professional musician, composer, playwright and director. I've led a charmed life. I'm married to fellow MJer Suzanne and MJer Twonicus is my son, who currently sings and writes for rock bands in the NYC, D.C. and Cleveland areas. My second s... [see more]

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