Toronto, Ontario, Canada

tag "music"

Fat sounds and thick pads

From time to time we hear people claim that one synthesizer sounds more "fat" than another. For the sound to be fat is supposed to be a good thing. This is often cited as an advantage of analog synths over digital; or of one analog synth over another. Somehow it always seems to be the most expensive equipment that sounds fattest. READ MORE

Aconcagua

Every so often I come back to the idea of generating self-similar or "fractal" chord progressions by recursively applying grammar rules, as in my 2015 composition Dharmapala. I like the general method described in that article, but one thing I don't like so much about the finished piece is that it sounds the same all the way through. There's a little bit of "development" or shift in texture over the course of the piece, largely driven just by my performance-time changes to the synthesizer settings and the fact that I allow the notes to be chosen from a wider range toward the end. READ MORE

Vexations

Erik Satie was a French composer who lived around the turn of the 20th Century and did a number of bizarre things, including the creation of a piece of music called Vexations which was not published during his lifetime but which has fascinated people subsequently. It's a single page of music, written with strange notation, containing an instruction that has been translated as "In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." Although what that's really intended to mean is not clear, it's often interpreted as saying that the music on the page should be repeated 840 times, which makes a performance of the complete piece on the order of 24 hours long. READ MORE

What's Euclid got to do with it?

There's a lot of talk in modular synthesis circles about what people call "Euclidean" rhythms, which are claimed to exist in most kinds of traditional music around the world. Unfortunately, this concept is often oversold, and presented in a way that makes it sound much more complicated than it is. READ MORE

Ambient chord progressions

I get a lot of questions about ambient chord progressions. Actually, I don't get any questions about ambient chord progressions. What I get is search engine traffic from people who were looking for that on the Net, and end up reading my old article about fractal chord progressions, which may or may not be much help to them. READ MORE

More music of the dwarves

I've written before about the music of Dwarf Fortress - not just music to listen to while playing (which is the main thing you can find if you search the Web for this topic) but the music described in-game. The game simulates a procedurally-generated fantasy world full of different species of intelligent creatures (dwarves, elves, humans, etc.); game characters sometimes are described as playing music; and for each simulated culture, the game software generates a description of that culture's music. READ MORE

Walking the hypercube

Here is the skeleton of a four-dimensional hypercube, or tesseract, with the vertices labelled by musical note names. READ MORE

Modular synthesis intro, part 13: Envelope generators

This is Part 13 of a series that started with Part 1. READ MORE

Alternate harmony with additive synthesis

Much of musical harmony comes down to combining notes that share harmonics. Sounds produced by (some...) physical objects typically have consistent waveforms, where each wave is the same shape as the last. That is also typical of modular-synth oscillators; and its consequence is that the spectrum always consists of a sum of sine waves all at integer multiples called harmonics of one frequency called the fundamental. The proportions and phases of the different harmonics determine the shape of the waves, and those can vary a lot, but the general pattern of integer multiples is fixed. If you play a note like D with a fundamental frequency of 293.7 Hz, it will have its harmonics at 293.7 Hz, 587.4 Hz, 881.1 Hz, 1174.8 Hz, 1468.5 Hz, 1762.2 Hz, and so on. READ MORE

The Music of the Dwarves

Orid Oru, "The Universes of Forever": a world not much different from many others, whose most notable feature is a huge inland ocean connected to the outer waters that surround the world only through a small channel in the northwest. The western dwarves of Goden Tarmid "The Rope of Blades" have long followed a complicated prophecy requiring them to send an adventurer around the world, circling the ocean. It was they who built the bridge of Merchantwinds across the strait, making possible, in theory at least, an entirely land-based passage around the world. So far, nobody has actually completed the journey, because there are many dangers along the way. READ MORE

Maximizing inharmonicity

As I've said before, I'm interested in slow ambient drones - sounds that smoothly change their texture over a period of time without any sharp boundaries or beats. If you have something like this playing in the background, I want for it to never grab your attention, but when you occasionally do focus on it, you notice something different each time. In my " Totally tubular" posting last month, I talked a bit about making inharmonic bell sounds using a hardware modular synth. This week I've been playing with additive synthesis in the Csound software modular. READ MORE

Totally tubular

It's just one thing after another with the Leapfrog. I'd been hoping to have them for sale by now, and I am getting close to that point. I actually have the stock of the first batch on hand and ready to sell now. But there's still a fair bit of writing to do on the manual, final checks to make sure all the drawings are up to date, a press release to write, and so on. I'm working on an ambitious demo track with about 20 multitracks of different instrument sounds all made with the Leapfrog, and that's taking longer than I had planned, but I'm learning a lot both about the Leapfrog and about synthesis in general doing it, so I thought it would be fun to go through one of the patches I'm using. The score calls for (General MIDI) "tubular bells"; here's my take on a sound something like tubular bells made with the Leapfrog, and some notes on making bell sounds in general. READ MORE

Nucleosynthesis

Here's a diagram of something called the CNO process, encompassing many of the nuclear reactions by which stars shine. READ MORE

Notes on notes on the plane

For this week's Web log entry, I'm digging into my back catalogue again to look at some of the geometry behind the Black Swan Suite. This is all written up in a PDF file with some musical notation and stuff that doesn't work well in HTML; read that if you want details, but I'll give a taste of the construction here. READ MORE

Fun with fractal chord progressions

I make a lot of music that is intended to be "ambient": something you can put on in the background and have it create a mood without demanding conscious attention in the foreground all the time. I'm also interested in automatic generation: I'd like to define some kind of pattern or structure and then have machines expand that into a complete composition, and have it be interesting all the way through, without too much human supervision. In this week's entry I'm going to go through a piece called Dharmapala which I wrote a couple years ago using a fractal chord progression. I've used this same technique in several other works, with varying success; I even built a mode for it into one of my homemade modules for realtime performance. But so far I've gotten the best results applying it in offline composition with a lot of careful planning and experiment. READ MORE

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