Making of nasin pona lon telo ike

May 4, 2024

As usual, a little bit of context, because this song is in toki pona: Toki Pona is a philosophical artistic constructed language created by Sonja Lang known for its small vocabulary, simplicity, and ease of acquisition.

Here’s a link to the Youtube video:

Click here!

This song is designed to be a minimum viable creation of Jacob Collier style Teto-only acapella music. Of course, with the awesome Jacob Collier song as the basis, nothing could go terribly wrong. I knew that this would sound okay, and everything should be fine if I knew what I was doing.

I came up with the line “nasin pona lon telo ike” in the shower, and everything just stemmed from there. Translating the song was sort of easy, because I know where I had to make compromises. I understand that nothing is perfect, and making something that is not perfect is certainly a lot easier (and faster) than making something that is perfect.

The piece of paper I used for the translation.

I started by purchasing the “essentials” plan of Bitwig. It was a recommendation from Tris’ blog, and I quite like the look and feel of it. I liked that I instinctively knew how to use it, and that it worked without needing to configure much on Linux. Not a lot of software are able to do Linux audio right.

The piano roll tool was really comfy to use.

I started by copying down the harmony part of this transcription made by the awesome Jason Fieler. Everything was easy except for the fact that I haven’t read sheet music for a long time. I made some mistakes, but I was able to correct them later. Then, I split the harmony into 9 voices, and tuned them separately using OpenUTAU. The hard part is getting a synthesizer to sound like a choir, because variation needs to be added by hand. After this, I did some mixing on the harmony part, and this part could be considered done.

That is a lot of Teto!

The melody part was even easier, apart from having to stretch some parts of the harmony out because the mistakes I made. I didn’t like the tuning of the melody, and I think more work could be done. I didn’t know how to improve this as of right now, but I will study more and hopefully, one day, understand how to tune UTAU voicebanks properly.

So… It’s done! I don’t like this creation too much, but I think if I do something like this again, I will be able to complete everything faster and maybe even better. I would do the melody before the harmony, and make sure everything was correct before I go to the next stage. I would perhaps use different voicebanks for different parts too, just to make the lower parts sound better. The big mystery is solved: Jacob Collier style Teto-only acapella is possible.

Who knows what will be the next step? More toki pona songs? More acapella songs? Maybe even totally original creations? I am planning more small-scale tests like this, and I am planning to get a digital keyboard maybe in the next few months, so stay tuned!

Making of nasin pona lon telo ike - May 4, 2024 - Kai Wang