Precambrian Resonance

Remember those Precambrian rock noises from North Shore Rocks? Well for this piece I loaded the unprocessed recording of those rocks into a simple sampling plugin, then arpeggiated the sampler randomly within a scale. This created a cloud of stumbling chaotic rhythms that changes every time it is played back in the software.

I listened to this for a long while, fascinated by it, then decided to run it all through the Resonator in Ableton Live. This processor produces a chord of resonant pitches that react to the signal sent to the device; in this case, my falling rock sample. Since the rocks had no discernible pitches, this instantly created a musical bed of sound. I tuned the resonance to a C minor 9 chord and then automated the tuning of a fifth pitch to create a melody. A little bit more fussing about, and this is what I got.

Precambrian Resonance

Unity Status

Technically this post and the last have been more than one sound, so perhaps I should rename the category “one sound or more every day”. Anyway, I just made a rough mix of this musical sketch (not quite a complete piece yet) and thought it could serve as today’s sound.

The image is a partial screen grab of one of the virtual instruments I used. The chordal and melodic tones and the bass are all played and programmed by me, but the rest of it is sampled from an unnamed jazz recording, so although the samples are heavily manipulated this composition is unlikely to go much further than this.

Unity Status

Piano and Kalimba

Every so often I think it might be a good idea to record using acoustic instruments I have lying around my studio. This time I started with a little loop of syncopated piano. On top of that I added a very simple melody with a kalimba, or thumb piano. There’s no processing other than normalization to -3db to give the levels a little boost.

I have dozens of these tiny pieces, and once in a great while they actually get finished as tracks, but the vast majority of them, like this example, sit in dusty folders on backup hard drives. Most of the time that is exactly where they belong, but I do review them occasionally to get ideas or see if there’s anything worth producing.

Piano meets Kalimba

Bit Reduction

This drum loop has been processed by reducing the bit depth and down-sampling the clip until very little of it is reminiscent of it’s original state. As you can see in the image, the waveform has been reduced to a wide pulse that sounds very distorted (you might want to start at low volume). The top of the image represents a short section of the original audio, while the bottom is the processed version.

The bit depth was reduced to two, which allows for four possible positions for the amplitude of the waveform. Two above zero and two below zero. There are no zero crossings that aren’t straight lines, therefore the output sounds very similar to audio that has been badly clipped, but in my ears this sort of distortion has more charm than just clipping the waveform. The only other processing involved is automated pitch shifting from down four octaves up to its original pitch by about seven seconds into the audio. Here is where it sounds closest to it original form. Its stays there until about nine seconds in and then shifts back down minus forty eight semi-tones until it ends after almost twenty seconds.


Tearing Grains

Using the simple granular synth packaged with Pluggo I created this nasty tearing sound. Towards the middle it sounds like it’s causing speaker damage, but don’t worry your speakers are safe. The original waveform was a sawtooth before the grain table algorithms manipulated it as you can see in the image.

Granular synthesis involves separating a waveform into grains that can be rearranged either randomly or with various formulas resulting in dense or scattered clouds of sound particles. For more information about granular synthesis, check out this entry on Wikipedia.

Tearing Grains

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