Archive for Algorithmic

Kaban

I’m not sure why, but I wanted to make something both painfully chaotic and relatively synchronized.  Luckily, there happens to be an app for that, and it’s called BitWiz, a unusual program that essentially lets you program in a mathematical formula, and it will turn it into very intense digital-sounding noises.  The underlying sound in the track was generated from a modification to one of the preset sequences, further disassembled with some Sonic Charge effects, accompanied by some of my favorite Reaktor ensembles until I got the level of sound I was looking for.

The result is… marginally listenable, but for some reason I really like it.  Listening to it makes me feel… synchronized, somehow, especially when I put it on loop.  Although I can’t listen to it for too long because then my ears start to hurt…

Also, the title was originally going to be Kabang for some arbitrary reason, but then I removed the G for an even more arbitrary reason.  The removal, however, does not appear to objectively affect the sound quality.

Kaban

Father’s Day 2015

As you may have noticed from glancing through my catalog, my family has been an inspiration for my music in various ways.  Music has always been a large part of my family’s experience, and we’re all involved with it in one way or another: my father is an expert at manipulating song lyrics to create pitch-perfect parodies, my mother is an excellent vocalist who performs in multiple choirs, my brother is also a great vocalist and player of reed instruments (clarinet, saxophone, etc), and like me was also a radio DJ for a time.  And as for me…  well, I do all of this craziness that from time to time I like to call music.

My family has also been the driving force behind some of the music I actually create.  I may have mentioned it before, but some of my earliest tracks created to add a little bit of original flair to the mix CDs I created for family members (at the time, my computer was the only one with a CD burner).  Over time, that tradition continued, and for several Mother’s and Father’s Days, I used music to do something interesting.

For my mom, it was mainly about doing something unique and interesting, but for my dad, there was usually another layer involved.  Another hobby that the two of us share is that of cryptology: of making and breaking codes.  So, for Father’s Day, instead of just a card, I’d create something that had an encoded message in it for my father to decode.  Over the years, I’ve done all sorts of things for it, from abstract color patterns to choose-your-own-adventure games, to painstakingly hand-drawing my own particular adaptation of the classic Dancing Men cipher from Sherlock Holmes.  And, in several cases, it’s involved music and sound (in fact, there’s another coded musical message posted somewhere on this site, if you’re so inclined to track it down).

This particular one is the latest iteration, and thus far has remained uncracked, if for some reason you’re interested in trying your hand at it…  (this particular one contains a more generic rather than personal message, so I’m okay with posting it publicly).

Father’s Day 2015

Some More Mobile Noise

Another collection of continuing experimentations creating music on-the-go with my phone and other mobile devices.

I finally got around to installing Nodebeat, and created this little sequence:

Nodebeat Meditation 3

I’m still working on tweaking it to see if I can get some different sounds out of it.  I think it might be due to the blending effect of the delay, but when I was comparing it to another work I did in the program a while back, while the two pieces are different it does present a certain similarity in tone.  Perhaps some different processing is in order on subsequent works…

I also did a quick little sound clip/intro in a newish sequencer program called AUXY, which is a little limited but has some promising sequencers:

Auxyiliary

 

The Cosmic DJ “album”

I did eventually play through the entire game/program, and here is the entirety of the album output that resulted:

Cosmic Jam 1

Cosmic Jam 1B

Crunch Time

Ache Throb

Tone Drone

wut

If you’re curious as to just how much of a difference the user input actually makes, you can compare what I came up with to an album uploaded by another user of Cosmic DJ here.  The background “structure” of the song does sound similar, as you would expect, but the user input forms the core of the melody and produces a decidedly different sound from different styles of input.

On Cosmic DJ and the composition singularity

One of the things I’ve always wondered about since the advent of digital music composition is where the threshold is between music composed by a person, and music composed by a computer, algorithm, or other automatic or pre-recorded source.  What specific action is the essence of creating music?  If you assemble a track entirely of pre-recorded loops created by someone else, can you call that music your own – that is, can the mere arrangement of existing sound be considered music?  Or what if the entire track is made up of automatically generated MIDI or arpeggiated sequences?

It’s a question that I’ve occasionally considered as I’ve explored various programs that allow people to more easily play around with the building blocks of music and create music of their own, under the guise of games or as simplified musical tools.  Programs like this, to allow a novice to create something interesting that will also sound good more often than not, often do so by limiting the overall possibility space to ensure that the nascent musician has little opportunity to go off the rails, but by doing so it also places certain bounds on overall creativity.  Because of that, I sometimes wonder whether such programs do more harm or more good overall, as they simultaneously encourage and limit music creation, but overall I generally consider them to be a benefit, considering that if you can introduce someone into playing around with music and sound, you can subsequently move them towards more complex and open music-creation systems as their proficiency grows.

I’ve played around with several of these types of programs over the years, from Electroplankton to Isle of Tune to DJ Space.  The one I’ve been trying out now, though, is the recently released and similarly-named Cosmic DJ.  It markets itself as a sort of music “game,” but primarily revolves around tapping out beats and melodies.  It consists of several pre-built song elements, such as the intro, outro, and bridge sections, while letting the player compose most of the intervening segments using a simplified step sequencer where you can lay out the sounds from various four-part kits in whatever pattern you’d like (think a very simplified version of something like BeatWave).  Once you’ve put in each section, it then assembles the song from your inputs and its other background/bridge components to create the final track.  The end result, then, follows a very specific pattern, but with a considerable amount of melodic variation based on what you programmed in.  Because of that, the results really do feel like they’re right on the edge of that question about what it means to create music.  Take the output from Cosmic DJ: structurally, every song generated will be very much the same, but there’s also a tremendous amount of difference in how all of the main sections sound based on those different patterns.

The following track, I think, demonstrates some of that, as it is primarily based around two alternating versions of a Cosmic DJ track that I composed twice, with different ideas in mind each time (and bridging them together with some melodic rock loops and other stuff, because I’m weird like that).  Listening to them side by side, it’s clear that the songs are similar enough that they can go back to back fairly seamlessly, but at the same time manage to set a considerably different tone in each of their various parts.

Cosmic DJ, WHAT?

Oh, and just for fun, I also played around with using it as a source for various granular synthesis engines (which, right there, brings up another questions about what it is to create music, and creation by transformation).  Philosophy aside, though, I found one setup that converted the track into some weird-sounding synthesized wind noise, which despite its uncanny variations is now on its way to fast becoming a favored track in my white noise/nature sounds background audio playlist.

Grain Breeze

So, ultimately, when it comes down to the question of what it means to make music, and where that specific threshold lies, I really don’t know any more.  It is true that when it comes to creating music, the overall creative potential probably scales with the complexity of the music-creation system, increasing the attendant expertise necessary to operate it to that maximum level of creativity.  However, I do think that higher-level programs like this one do have their purpose, and even within the limitations of that framework, I think there is still plenty of variation and creativity that can be delivered from them if you have a mind to.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering about releasing tracks involving music created in Cosmic DJ, it is allowed by the developer.)