The track starts out with a Rhodes loop that I played into the KP3+ with an LFO sweeping a resonant high pass filter. Next I start to bring in Euclidean patterns on each of the four Circuit drum parts. These are generated through individual tracks on the Pyramid. I have it setup with four Euclidean patterns per track bank for a total of sixteen. This way I can mix and match all sixteen patterns on the Pyramid and even swap them or combine them with patterns on the Circuit.
I also use Pyramid to sequence the bass and synth chords on the Circuit. In addition I have a track for the Sub 37 that I mute while soloing, and a track for the PreenFM2. The Sub 37 is in “local off” mode, so whichever track I have selected on Pyramid determines what instrument plays. I find the keybed and flexibility of the Sub 37 perfect as a controller and sound source. Thanks for listening and check out my new album Isosceles for more like it that’s actually mixed and mastered properly. ;-)
In my mind, sound design is at its best when it is a process of discovery. At its worst it can be an unfortunate exercise in mimicry. I am fascinated by the process of discovering sound through happy accidents. One of the techniques I have exploited frequently in this regard is synthesizer patch randomization. For example, the Yamaha TX81Z sounds great when randomized, or better yet, “degraded” with shuffled parameter values interpolated based on a time unit or clock division. The PreenFM2 has patch randomization built directly into the instrument!
So, it wasn’t long after picking up a Novation Circuit that I had the urge to use a similar shortcut to mine fantastic and otherworldly sounds from the unit. Full MIDI specification for the Circuit is available so that development of a standalone randomizer is possible, but Isotonik Studios published a free Max for Live editor in partnership with Novation. Max for Live patches are inherently editable so I decided to start there.
It took me a couple of hours to get into the guts of the editor and setup a drop down menu for randomization. The drop down has choices to either “randomize all” (not quite all parameters), or randomize one of seven sets of grouped parameters like the oscillator section, mod matrix, or LFOs. At his stage I haven’t included the EQ section, voice controls, or macro controls. I probably won’t add the EQ, but the macro controls might offer some interesting possibilities. The image above shows a simple subpatch I made that takes a bang and outputs the random values for the oscillator section. Unfortunately, I can not legally share my mods based on Isotonik’s and Novation’s EULAs. However, you’ll need little more than a basic understanding of Max to do this yourself. Checkout the video and let me know what you think in the comments.
Recently my wife, dog, and cat moved into a new house and downsized going from over 1400 square feet to 725. In this process I sold off and gave away a number of space hungry instruments including a chopped Hammond, one of my three Rhodes electric pianos, and my 1916 Wesley Raudenbusch & Sons farmhouse, upright-grand piano (see photo below). Sadly I had been neglecting acoustic piano in favor of Rhodes, synths, and an excellent Steinway Model D plugin from UVI. You can see this in the photo because I had allowed my wife to cover the top with the cat’s food and water, a cat bed, and decorations. Yikes! Continue reading →
The purpose of AudioCookbook is not to promote or review musical instruments, electronic hardware, or audio software. This site is a more personal (perhaps narcissistic) look at music composition and sound design techniques. “Recipes for Sound Design” is one part of that, but experimentation also plays a significant role. I understand that some my experiments are interesting for ACB readers. My approach has been, if it’s interesting to me then I’ll write about it here. In this case I’d like to highlight an extraordinary, boutique, FM synth that has been unfairly overshadowed by the Korg Volca FM. This amazing musical device for sound design and experimentation is the PreenFM2 designed by Xavier Hosxe.
This synth is by no means new. I first heard about it in August of 2013 on CreateDigitalMusic.com. At that time I was fully invested in the Yamaha FS1R and didn’t see a need for another FM synth in my setup. However, more recently I started researching it because I wanted a portable polyphonic synth for live performances. I’ve brought luggable rack synths to shows including the FS1R and Roland MKS-80, but it’s expensive, awkward, and risky to transport them. I love the Korg Volcas for their sound and portability, but both the Volca Keys and Volca FM have a mere three voices available for polyphony.
The low profile and compact PreenFM2 can be purchased pre-built or in kit form with either a sturdy metal case or an elegant plexiglass design that shows off the inner workings. Either option takes up little space and is effortlessly packed up and transported. Its looks belie its broad feature set and massive capacity for sound design and experimentation. But one of the main reasons I recruited it for polyphonic duties is just that: polyphony. Depending on the algorithm the polyphony ranges from eight to fourteen voices. In comparison the Volca FM has a maximum of three voices. Continue reading →
My eletroacoustic duet, Ostracon in collaboration with Graham O’Brien on drums, is performing at the Landmark to Lowertown series hosted by the American Composers Forum. Chris LeBlanc will be joining us with his modular, analog, video synthesis system running through a wall of vintage 22″ CRT monitors. Our performance starts at noon at the Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul.
The Forum is pleased to announce its second season of Landmark to Lowertown, a program where new music sees the light of day in downtown St. Paul. In starting a new tradition, this season’s composer/performers are awardees of the Minnesota Emerging Composer Award (MECA) from ACF and generously funded by the Jerome Foundation, an award that highlights artists in Jazz/Improvisation, Electronic, and World music.
Ostracon is in the process of finishing our 2nd album. There’s no scheduled release date as of yet, but the recordings have been made and editing is underway. Expect more announcements about the album within the next couple of months. For now we will be pleased to see you at the Bedlam on February 10, 2016!