Sunday, January 22, 2006

Electronic "Music": Just for the Sequenza 21 Guys ;^)

Well, to take my mind off of not having the Glissentar back, I decided to get my ProTools setup sorted out in preparation for recording my guitar pieces. In order to have some long audio files to work with that would allow me not to have to play while I was working with the new software, I decided to dig out the DAT tapes of some of my electronic music and record that first. The tapes are old and needed archiving anyway. It was an interesting experience.

I love ProTools 7: Very easy to learn, but there were some setup headaches. The Mbox audio interface hated my hubs, so I had to make sure it was plugged directly into the Mini, or else it would give me a CPU/USB overload error. Then, I had to get the buffer size right and make sure there was nothing running in the background, but once I had all of that figured out, the software turned out to be fairly straight forward and intuitive. Or at least, logical: I did spend a lot of time with the documentation. After my years with the Syncalvier, however, I have a virtual PhD in manual reading, so it wasn't too difficult. The docs are quite tidy and well laid out. The software's user interface is gorgeous.

ProTools seven allows you to Bounce to Disk and convert to MP3 format directly (With a trial period for the feature, which I'll use all the time, so I'm going to go ahead and buy it), which was a pleasant surprise. I thought I was going to have to burn audio CD's and rip the MP3's off of those with iTunes. Talk about a cool feature. No telling how much time that saved me. Plus the cost of the CD-R's, of course.

These three Synclavier pieces date from the early to mid 90's and have all of my "greatest hits" timbre programs on them. I must warn those of you with dialup connections that the file sizes range from 4MB to 8MB, so don't download them if you are in a hurry. They have been uploaded to my .Mac FileShare page as:

1) SYNCLAVIER/Electronic_Fractals.mp3

2) SYNCLAVIER/Electronic_Helix.mp3

3) SYNCLAVIER/Electronic_Nightmare.mp3

Nightmare is one of the demos I did for my Synclavier timbre and sequence programming skills, and it really goes back to the mid 80's in it's origins. It is based on two different sound sculptures and has a plethora of wild FX sounds in it. All of the timbre programs are mine, and there is nothing but Synclavier: No digital reverb or any other outboard effects. Not even any EQ. It's pure Synclavier through and through. I did it that way so I could just give the potential client a disk which he could put into any 32 voice stereo Synclavier an listen to it (Many of my clients owned their own Synclaviers back then). As such, it's really just intuitively composed: There is no particular agenda to it. See if you can name the tune it's based on.

Helix I first composed as a BASIC program that the user could enter growth and decay series into. The series were mapped onto pitch, rhythm, and velocity data. All of the data are raw except for the pitch data, which was filtered for equal temperament. I transferred the data through a MIDI interpreter and then into the Syncalvier as a single sequence track. Then I duplicated the track and slid it around and octave transposed it to make a three part canon. Under the canon is a pedal point that is another sound sculpture. I manually approximated the growth/decay series in the harmonic amplitudes and phase relationships of the timbre frames in the sculpture. Since the rhythmic data is unfiltered, the accelerating and decelerating rhythms are impossible for humans to perform. It's over eight minutes long, but it does not repeat: It actually takes that long for the entire three part canon to come full circle. And yes, the pitch data does actually make a big fractal helix. This piece was inspired by the Schillinger System, and there are no effects other than the Synclavier on this one either. There is a bad spot in the DAT tape near the beginning, so there is some digital noise for about three seconds. Sorry about that, but the tape is about ten years old. I'm kind of amazed that they payed at all after all they've been through.

Fractals is from another BASIC program I wrote that created fractal fugue subjects. I chose one that I liked, and constructed a modulation scheme based on the same fractal series. It's not really a fugue though; it's more like an invention. This is the last electronic piece I wrote. My next large piece was the Art of Fugue style string quartet, and that was the end of that, as they say.

One thing I must admit to is that I am from the generation of kids who were exposed to Walter Carlos' "Switched On Bach" when I was a pre-teen. I am not interested in writing for orchestra at all, but when the next good electronic instrument comes out (None of the current machines do anything for me), I fully intend to return to this idiom, as I enjoy it immensely.

BTW: If you are a sci-fi freak, like I am, you will probably recognize some of these sounds or variants of them from some 80's and 90's sci-fi shows.

I'm re-arranging my schedule this next week and am adding one or possibly two more weekly gigs (That will make four or five gigs per week), so it could be a couple of days before the next Taneiev post appears.


Yeah, that's kind of the reaction I had.


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