Notes for "Living With My Donkeys"

I adopted a pregnant mini-donkey years ago to help protect my pack goats from intruding, predator dogs.  The new baby was born, and so started an enchanting existence with two delightful burros, Blossom and her son Ouzal.


All the sounds are created from one call recorded from Ouzal.  When I started working with this sound, I was struck by how unusually high the call is, and how varied the sounds are within the call.  Since the donkey is rather hugely overweight, however, I have the psychological impression that his call is massive, deep and powerful.  So often when I worked with it, I lowered the tone a couple octaves.  (It is powerful in real life:  When the goats and I leave the pasture for a hike, I can easily hear the donkeys calling for us from a couple miles away.)


  • Donkeysauris and the Ferrier Have a Quiet Conversation


When you work on a donkey’s hoof, you know it’s anything but quiet. My gifted ferrier has trained my donkeys to remain still, and usually we’re successful.  His wife swipes the donkey’s nose with a bit of lilac scent, and we whisper or tell calm stories while he works.  Occasionally, however, the donkey will shift around or get tired or rare back or kick.  Oh dear, then it’s a bit of talking to get a calm mood again.  But underneath there’s always that threat of a rodeo...

The instruments I developed solely through HALion.  Long ago I purchased Infected Mushroom’s plugin FX, “Manipulator,” knowing someday I could use it on a donkey call.  Yup!  This opens with the original call, which merges into that Manipulator FX.  The other sounds throughout are obviously heavy on the FX, including Izotope’s Mobius Filter, Cableguy’s ShaperBox Pan for unpredictable panning and their FilterShaper for color changes, and SoundToy’s LittlePlate and Exponential Audio’s PhoenixVerb.  All this was then put under control by Steinberg’s Multiprocessor and EQ Frequency.


  • Donkeys Have Such Soft Noses


The donkeys are exceptionally docile, and eager to sniff out any extended hand (or hat on my head).  As rough as their hair is, and spikey as their manes are, their noses are extremely soft and sensitive.  

There are really just two different instruments in this:  The opening chords were developed by running the call through Izotope’s lovely Iris2, and processed with Cableguy’s FilterShaper and the PhoenixVerb.  The other sounds, the plonks midway through, were isolated sections of the call in HALion, run through Eventide’s Physion to pull out the transients, Soundtoy’s Crystallizer echo, the Filtershaper, and then the Polyverse Comet reverb.


  • The Donkeys are Slowly Eating Their Barn

Donkeys delight in eating wood--whether it’s the bark of my poor trees, fence posts, or their barn.  They have a fantastic pasture, plenty of things to chew, lots of stop-chew pellets, but they still nibble at anything woody that’s tasty.  Over the years I’ve noticed several parts of my barns are slowly changing shape by those pesky teeth.

This piece was totally developed through Padshop2, using one isolated part of the call and then run through the arpeggiator.   I set the original arp to 13 steps, and that 13/8 gives it that lopsided, awkward feel.  If I hold a note down at length, all 13 beats go through, but if I hit the keys with shorter notes, only a few of the steps have time to sound.  Occasionally I found myself automatically shutting out that last necessary 13th step, and the piece falls into a traditional rhythm.  I put in four different renditions of the instruments so I could change the pitches of the arp.  FX included Steinberg’s EnvelopShaper to get a sharper attack, the ever-present FilterShaper of Cableguys, and Steinberg’s EQ Frequency.


  • The Cat Naps on the Donkey’s Back


I had a lovely and wonderfully confident friendly white woolly cat who would voluntarily leap onto the mother donkey’s back for warmth and friendship.  

The initial sound is a long tone developed from the donkey call through Padshop, with a filtering from Eventide’s Tricerachorus, automating the mix.  The little boings that come in are also from Padshop, but now doubled with the call made from Iris2.  ShimmerVerb provides the moving reverb.


  • Donkeys Love Their Peanuts


The pack goats get shelled peanuts for treats, and the fat donkeys quickly learned that they can each have just one.  Imagine eating just one peanut.

The galloping sounds are created by snippets taken from the call using HALion.  The rhythm itself was developed through Steinberg’s Multitap, which was the devil for me ton control.  The Shaperbox Pan provides the chaotic shifting, and the Steinberg EQ Frequency was used again in a chain to help control the balance.

The tune is from using Padshop, doubled down an octave to help it mellow out a bit.  The Steinberg Undulator helps give it a tiny bit of motion. 


  • Mother and Son, They Share the Same Dream


Blossom came from a herd of other donkeys, and was pregnant when I got her.  She had her baby Ouzal here on my land, and so he has never known any other donkey but her.  The two are exceptionally close.

Most of this is based on the call developed through Padshop.   The main melody is doubled by a whispering sound which is the donkey call sampled through PhasePlant modulated with a very slight LFO.  That doubling is slightly delayed in the main mix by just a slight second, allowing the main melody to have the perception of a developing whisper.  The Polyverse Comet is the reverb.


  • They Stand Guard Over Their Friend Nook


This was taken a few weeks before Nook’s death.  It was unusual to suddenly see the donkeys constantly so close to him.

Nook was a gregarious young little  3 month old 4-H sheep that came to live with us rather than being slaughtered.  He was a bum lamb, and was given to his initial family in his first four hours of life. Only when he had the horrifying experience of going to the fair did he ever see other sheep, which terrified him.  So he came to us thinking he was either a human or a dog.  He then learned to live with pack goats and the donkeys, but was also at the bottom of the order, with the exception of the dogs, which he gently bossed around.  He lived a magnificent life, going on hikes with the goats, and generally being a thoughtful, endearing friend.  During the last few months of his 14 year life, I noticed that the donkeys would spend their time closer to him than usual, often sleeping next to him.  His final day came when his arthritic legs no longer could get him off the ground.  He wasn’t in pain, but it was upsetting to see him unable to rise, and I knew it would be a long hot day before the vet could come ease him into death that evening.

He had fallen in the barn, so I fixed a cattle panel to keep the other animals out, and put a tarp above to keep him in the shade.  And then we waited.  

The donkeys enjoy the entire acreage of the farm, wandering about munching and taking naps in their favorite spots.  But this day, they spent standing next to Nook, not moving to eat or drink the entire time.  

This music is more about love than death.

The initial long tones are created from the donkey call using Padshop and the Comet reverb with a 2 second pre-delay.  The melody line is created from Iris2 again, also using the Comet delay.  The knocks, both high and low, are from snippets of the call shaped in HALion, using Steinberg’s REVelation.  


  • They Graze As the Magpie Rides Along


There aren’t many magpie birds in my area, but enough to occasionally see them perch on top of a donkey back.  The magpie call I recorded here has a brief call of a meadowlark near the beginning, which is slightly audible.  This is the only time I add a sound other than the original donkey call.

There’s a strange wheeze, or scratchy inhale as part of a donkey brae, and I managed to isolate just that one part in HALion.  It’s filtered through Cableguy’s FilterShaper, with Shaperbox Pan and the PhoenixVerb.

The magpie call is put in as I recorded it (but clarified with RX8), filtered with Eventide’s Blackhole, automating the gravity, feedback and resonance.


  • The Donkeys Protect Their Friends


The donkeys were initially brought into my herd of pack goats to protect them from stray dogs, which had a bad history of killing two young kids.  One time I had a chance to see the donkeys in action.  A dog, new to the area, had wandered it, and all the goats immediately stood at attention, not moving.  The donkeys, however, quickly trotted over to the area, ears perked and legs dancing.  They started after the dog with their heads down, and efficiently chased the terrified dog from the land.  It was impressive to see.

This returns to the original donkey recording, with all the sounds developed through HALion.  Manipulator returns, along with Physion, the multitap delay, and Steinberg’s SoftClipper.  Reverbs were SoundToys Little Plate and PhoenixVerb.

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