Archive for the ‘generative music’ Category

“Watermachine” Sound Installation at LeMieux Galleries

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

WatermachineI currently have a sound piece playing at LeMieux Galleries as part of the group show “Water, Water, Everywhere” curated by Christy Wood.

The “Watermachine” plays  a predetermined, but constantly evolving mix of three long (around 5 minutes each) field recordings I made: a waterfall in North Carolina, the surf in Alabama, and a thunderstorm in New Orleans.

It was created with Max/MSP (a “visual programming language for media“), some free sound editing software and a mobile recorder (Zoom H2). Two of the sound sources have their volume controlled by a very slow oscillator (LFO), each on cycles of a prime number of seconds so that the volume curves don’t realign at the same places for a very long time—and when they do, they are each referencing a different part of the sample. Though subtle, the sound mix would not repeat itself exactly for many years. The third sound source, the waterfall, is brought in algorithmically when the sum of the other two sources has dropped below a certain threshold, and fades out again when one or both are audible again.

Staggered Lab’s “Aleator”: A 24/7 Generative Music Stream

Friday, April 4th, 2014

I got an email from Kwame at Staggered Laboratories asking me to check out The Aleator (as in “aleatoric”) their generative music stream which composes pretty listenable “post-rock” styled music 24/7.

It’s pretty interesting. Give it a listen

Audiobiography (for Disquiet Junto)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

My third (or fourth?) entry to the Disquiet Junto is a 2-minute narration that was uncomfortable to do. I initially resisted doing this “audiobiography”, as I generally dislike the self-consciousness that arises from talking about myself or hearing my voice, but as so many others in the Disquiet Junto have done it, I felt like I was cheating by skipping it. By the time I was finished, there were many things I didn’t talk about that contributed to the whole picture that didn’t make the cut : Indian music, analog synths, field recordings, Autechre, My Bloody Valentine…. but I was already several minutes over the allotted time when I started editing.

I also created a new SoundCloud account to post works from this site. I’ll be retroactively posting all the tracks from this blog soon.

background music: Chef Menteur – “Io” (edits)

More on this #60th Disquiet Junto project at:disquiet.com/2013/02/21/disquiet0060-audiobio

More details on the Disquiet Junto at: Groups – Disquiet-junto

More details on the SoundCloud “audiobiography” project at: blog.soundcloud.com/2013/02/06/audiobiography/

Disquiet Junto: Morsebeat

Friday, January 4th, 2013

this is a track I composed for the 50th disquiet junto project.

my grandfather was a big time ham radio operator who had talked to every country in the world, and he convinced me to get my novice license as a young kid, where i learned morse code. he passed away about 10 years ago but i am always thankful for his interest in electronics and tinkering that he passed on to me. the call CQ or “seek you” is what ham operators use to initiate conversation, that is the foundation of the pulse of this piece. the other signal incorporates a simple message from my (expired) call sign to my grandfather’s, whom his friends called Wallace and we called “Pops”. his call sign was K4TJL.

K4TJL

i used max/msp to generate the morse code messages, (a little rusty to do it manually) and i ended with a sample of the Radio Tirana (from communist Albania) interval signal that I could pick up on my Heathkit ham radio, and was magical to me as a kid.

more on this 50th Disquiet Junto project
more details on the Disquiet Junto

Note: I first found out about disquiet and its founder/former NOLA resident Marc Weidenbaum when he reviewed my band Chef Menteur’s earliest mp3s and wrote about New Orleans’ burgeoning electronic music scene in the early 2000’s (See this 2005 piece he wrote right after Katrina). He’s only gotten more involved in the electronic music community since moving to San Francisco, keeping regular dispatches up and engaging via his twitter account @disquiet. His Disquiet Junto project on SoundCloud is now one year old; and this is my first entry, posted near the end of year one…. Congrats & thanks Marc!

Interview on My Spilt Milk

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Former Offbeat magazine editor Alex Rawls was kind enough to sit outside in the heat and talk to me for an hour about psychedelic music, krautrock, Terry Riley, generative music, Murmur, and what’s going on with Chef Menteur.

Listen to the podcast interview on his new music site My Split Milk.

Psychic Summit iPhone app

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Psychic Summit Aquarium 2 iPhone appMy day job for the past year or so has been writing software for iOS. Not nearly as often as I’d like, but occasionally my interest in making music intersects with my work, and in this particular case I don’t think it’s ever intersected better. (The only time making music for work even came close to being this fun was perhaps when I made sound effects for a CD-ROM game in the mid-90’s, or made music loops for kids’ games in the early 2000’s).

For this app, however, I got to be an active part in the design process from the drawing board to the implementation. My interest in ambient music, generative systems, pseduorandom patterns, etc, all played into both the visual and aural aspects of the Aquarium 2 app. We make no secret of being inspired by devices like the Buddha Machine, apps like Brian Eno and Peter Chivers’ Bloom, or even those 1970’s new age ambient record series called Environments that you could pick up for 99 cents in bargain bins.

What resulted I think is a great app for constructing ideal ambient soundscapes to match your taste and mood. Each color wheel is a set of samples that you swap out with the next one by swiping across the screen; the background plasma colors change as well. You call up samples by pressing a colored wedge; the sample fades in after your touch. Touch it again and it gently fades out. The samples are mellow synthesizer loops constructed by ambient soundsmith Morgan Kuhli, or field recordings of natural sounds of the forest and ocean that you can blend. Whether you are looking for some soothing sounds for baby (c.f., Raymond Scott), something to read, meditate, or fall asleep to,  you can probably build a sound with this app that will work for you.

Read about it more at the Juggleware Developer’s Blog.

Or, check out the app on the App Store.

Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I’ve recently (as in, over the past few years or more) been fascinated with the concept of generative music, something that Terry Riley first brought to my attention (see my blog entry and version of his aleatoric/generative composition “in C”) and that of course Brian Eno has championed. Eno has found success with many different generative systems, most recently and notably a series of iPhone apps including Bloom which compose random ambient music based on a handful of parameters the user defines.


Wanting to tackle something like that myself, but wanting to start simple, I found that I can do this with Ableton Live and the sample devices that come with the Max for Live package… without even opening Max itself.

Max For Live's MIDIgran effect

The Follow Action feature with 8:1 odds of repeating vs stepping back to the previous clip.

Using the randomized sequencing trick I used in “In C”, plus the Max for Live MIDI effect “Max MidiGran” I was able to take a simple 2-note passage (that forms the main drone) — playing only very long notes of C and F alternating which you can here, below — then separately for each of 2 additional “solo” synths, repitches randomly and remaps to a note on the C major pentatonic scale. These come and go randomly based on probabilities I set up and on multiples of 8 bars.

Then I added a drum machine loop, which also comes in based on random probabilities.

Finally, I added another Max effect that brings up some random feedback to the main drone and the drum machine at unexpected moments. Might be too jarring for the effect I was originally going for though.

It’s also number sixteen in the ridiculously optomistic “song of the week” project, but better late than never…

DOWNLOAD:

#16 Opalize (mp3, 24MB)

UPDATE: Here is another mp3 generated by the same setup. Very similar of course, but different!

#17 Opalize (reprise) (mp3, 24MB)


In C.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I’ve  been working on this one for awhile, but I finally got it to a point where I can post it.

It’s an adaptation of Terry Riley’s famous 1964 composition In C, which instead of having a completely static arrangement is a score sheet of 53 looping phrases that each musician plays one-by-one, at her own pace, until she feels like progressing to the next phrase.

"In C" score by Terry Riley

"In C" score by Terry Riley

A few years ago when version 6 of Ableton Live came out, I read about the new “Follow Action” feature which allows for the user to introduce a certain amount of randomness to the arrangement. I immediately thought of In C and that if I could each phrase into a separate MIDI clip, I could arrange it so that it would play much as Riley directed. The only problem was that my music-reading skills were pretty limited, my last formal music lesson having been in 4th grade. A short book called Learn To Read Music (of all things) and the Wikipedia entry on modern musical symbols got me over that hurdle.

I decided to make 8 instruments, even though Riley suggests more, because the amount of synchronicity that occurs with human players is less likely to happen with a computer. Each of the 8 computer instruments isn’t listening to the other 7, so there’s no natural temptation to fall into sync with the others. In addition there’s the pulse on the eighth notes as Riley suggests.

I have set it up so that each instrument will play each phrase 4 times, then after the 4th time there is a 1:3 (or 25%) chance it will play the next phrase; otherwise it will loop once more on the current phrase. At the end of each phrase, the computer throws the dice again. There may be better ways to experiment with the probabilities to get it to play closer to Riley’s very general direction that players not get more than 3 or 4 phrases ahead or behind of each other; the computer does not take this into account. (It would be feasible with Max but not Ableton Live).

Each time the piece is played by the computer, it should be a completely different arrangement (although computer random numbers are really pseudo-random, and I don’t know how Live picks random numbers), but contain all the patterns and polyrhythms of patterns intersecting that is the hallmark of In C.

 

Ableton Live playing "In C" by Terry Riley
Ableton Live playing “In C” by Terry Riley

Chances are good you don’t have Ableton Live 6 (or later), but if you are interested in the Live set, let me know and I will send it to you or post it here. However, below I have posted several mp3s representing performances of the piece:

Performance #1: In C #1 (23:09, 31.8MB)

Performance #2: In C #2 (19:30, 26.8MB)

UPDATE: I added one more. Skipped #3, it wasn’t interesting enough. This might be the best so far. It’s also the shortest.

Performance #4*: In C (#4) (16:35, 23.4 Mb)

UPDATE (27 mar 2012): By popular demand, I am including the Ableton project file.

Ableton Live Set:  InC v2-alec.als