Duet for Synthesizer and Robotic Vehicles

In May 2009 I toured a newspaper facility with a group of students and a field recorder. Recently I decided to revisit the recordings and found that one of them was laden with the varied-pitched warning beeps of several robotic paper transporters moving about the printing facility. Here’s a duet study that combines the use of the Pro-One with the recording in a similar fashion to the last two examples.

Duet for Synthesizer and Freight Train

This is the second study in a series of duet recordings that I am working on. In this example I made a recording of a freight train passing from about fifteen feet away using my Sony PCM-D50. On a side note the train recording was made in December of 2008, and I had no Idea until recently that I would be using it as a test layer for this project. Next I performed along with the recording while attempting to listen and react the same way I would when improvising with a human performer. The synthesizer I used (and may use for all of these) is my Sequencial Circuits Pro-One running through the Memory Man delay. There’s quite a bit of low end in the synth for the first two thirds of the piece, so I recommend listening on a good system, or set of headphones, turned up as loud as you can manage!

Listen to the original, uncompressed train recording from December, 2008:
Winter Freight

Duet for Synthesizer and the Washing

This piece is a test recording for an upcoming project. I recorded nine minutes of sound while doing the washing. Both the dryer and the washing machine were going at once. Several of the laundry cycles were captured including the fill cycle and the spin cycle. Accidentally some coins got into the dryer (I swear it was an accident) creating some nice high-frequency, stumbling rhythms.

Afterward I tried a few sessions of Pro-One along side the laundry sounds. I wasn’t satisfied with the first few attempts that I made where I was purposefully avoiding musical results. The effects were interesting, but seemed disjointed from the ambiance. For the last attempt I decided to try a drone in fifths developing into a simple sequence in six that finally degrades into filter effects and textures. Toward the end there’s a section where it’s difficult to tell what is an environmental sound and what is the synthesizer, which signifies a success of sorts for me.

I processed the washing sounds with a little bit of compression. The Pro-One was going through the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man analog delay that I manipulated throughout the recording. I recorded the synth and delay onto separate tracks. This made it possible to run the delay through an auto-pan effect while keeping the dry synth track in mono. This produced a nice sweeping stereo effect on the synth while maintaining a thick dry synth sound in the center, something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time.

BS3X Driven Broken Arpeggio

I recorded this arpeggio recently that I created using the Roland MKS-80 and the Bitstream 3X MIDI controller. Every once in a while it’s nice to leave the computer out of the equation and this was one of those times. As I have outlined before, the arpeggiator on the BS3X has a distinct collection of features that allow for an interesting mix of possibilities. For this example I put it into the keyboard mode, disabling the built in melodies in favor of using a keyboard to choose the notes.

BS3X Driven Broken Arpeggio

Midnight Playground

Midnight Playground is an interactive, kinetic, installation by Peng Wu, Jack Pavlik, John Keston, and Analaura Juarez. Peng initiated and directed the idea, Jack built the jump rope robot, and Annalaura helped refine the concept and promote the piece. My role was to produce the music and track it to the still images that Peng had selected. I ended up making a one hour video with thirty minutes of the image from the moon followed by a four second transition into another thirty minutes with an image of Mars. To produce the sound I gave Peng a list of audio excerpts that had all been previously posted on AudioCookbook in One Synthesizer Sound Every Day. He picked the two that he thought would work the best and I went back to my original recordings and processed them specifically for the piece by adding some reverb and delay to enhance the spacial properties of the music. The piece will be on display in Gallery 148 at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design through January 29, 2012.

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