Upload: Three Pure(ish) Tone Studies in Audiomulch

I’ve been playing around with Audiomulch for a couple of months now, to the point where it has managed to replace my aging copy of Ableton Live (v5.2.2… get off my lawn!!!) as my go-to environment for electronic noodling.

I like the ‘level’ Audiomulch inhabits– it’s not the ubiquitous high-level, strip-chart style DAW– it’s not really a DAW at all, and it doesn’t want to be. But on the other hand, it’s nowhere near as low-level, deep-down-in-the-details as Pure Data or cSound, so one can get productive quickly. AM has ‘just enough’ limitations to keep me focused (ie undistracted), so I can generally make a piece of music with it in just a few hours. It’s the closest thing to the good old days of guitars, tapes, pedals and patch chords that I’ve been able to find in the digital world (thus far).

A few weeks ago, Disquiet project #62 asked us to create a piece using pure sine tones. I had never worked with pure sine tones before, but this was easy enough to accomplish with Audiomulch. The result is here, and the full project for the group is here (looks like 44 of us participated in that one– go listen, right now… it’s good stuff).

After that project was done, I found myself still playing with sine waves, and then some. In particular, I wanted to find ways to mix these sine tones with other sounds, derived from those tones, using a controllerist approach to make “live” pieces that were interesting to me. Eventually, I came up with this patch:

AudioMulchPatch

The “10Harmonics” contraption generates harmonics for a given root tone (additive synthesis). Harmonics 2 through 9 are attached to the eight sliders on a Korg nanoKontroller, so the timbre of the core drone can be manipulated in real time. Ring Modulator #1 is programmed with 4 possible tones, also made selectable by a knob on the controller. RM #2 is set to a fixed (and, by compositional convention, dissonant) tone of its own.

The DLGranulator (a simple but flexible granular synth, in this case processing the output of the 10Harmonics contraption) has been programmed with 6 interesting Presets, selectable by a knob on the nanoKontroller. Each of these signals can be faded in and out of the overall scene in real-time, using additional knobs as volume controls. Two knobs were left over, so I assigned those to the min/max delay times in the DLGranulator, making the grain delays for any given preset alterable in real time.

So, even though this patch is pretty straightforward (perhaps even simplistic by AM standards), It has a total of 16 control points: 8 knobs, 8 sliders. Which is not only the physical limit of the nanoKontroller, but probably close to the upper bound for the number of control points a live musician can reasonably handle (at least this one). The delays are set to ping-pong with interesting delay times, so that a single action by the “performer” results in several seconds of movement in the piece.

Having arrived at this setup last weekend, I then spent some time learning how to use this “instrument” to create pieces of music “live”. (Note how I can’t resist using scare quotes around “live” and “performer”– there was no audience, but these pieces were indeed made in real time, each following an unofficial Score that I had scribbled down).

To define a particular piece, a root tone (ie the 10Harmonics primary frequency), was chosen, as well as several subordinate tones for the first Ring Modulator, and one oddball ‘dissonance’ tone for RM #2. The idea being that this ‘oddball tone’ could be brought into the mix from time to time, to serve as a kind of lietmotif.

I stuck with “standard” (Western) musical tones for now– not quite ready to start playing with microtones and/or exotic scales at this point (though I’ll confess to being fond of detuning a note or two, as I like the way that sounds when you push it through a delay).

And so, the result: Three Studies.

The first study/etude is based on {A, C, E} with a slightly-detuned D as the dissonance tone:

The second of this series is based on {E-flat, B-flat, G}, with E-natural as the dissonance tone:

The third and final of this series is loosely based on an Fminor chord, with some detuning (hence the title, “Fminor-ish”):

I’ll post this set-of-three on the bandcamp site for download later this weekend, as well.

In other music news, I somehow managed to close a car door on my own left hand. Through some miracle, no knuckles or fingertips got crushed– just some nasty bruises on the middle phalanges of the middle and ring fingers of that hand. I apparently hit it ‘just right’. Most of the function has already returned…

I’ll consider that Luck.

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