Monday, February 27, 2012

Post Industrial Soundscapes and Electronica

I have often been interested in the concept of a Soundscape which is really just the constant flood of sounds that we hear everyday. Where we live can have a big influence on this. I live in a city with a highway overpass nearby. At the moment I hear the muffled sound of cars and trucks from the overpass and the local roads, the sound of the furnace, the sounds of the office, someone coming upstairs, the doorbell (very irritating) and even the sound of my typing on the IPad.

As a continuation of my last blog, I realize how much of what we hear is mechanical and industrial. This must have an impact on our music. Perhaps the sound set of house, techno, hip hop, dubstep and the whole host of evolving genres is just a reflection of the industrial Soundscape we live in.

I wonder if those who live in Montana listen to different music than those like me who live in a city? Would Vivaldi have written about the 4 seasons if he lived in a modern city?

This is more of a question than an answer. I am wondering what others think and hoping to get some comments.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Sound Walk

Every once and a while I decide to make a conscious effort to listen to everything I hear. Today, i parked my car on the roof if a garage. I live and work in a city so pretty much everything I heard was mechanical. But what I observed was how sound tells a story.

First, the change from the many conversations inside the building to outside. The conversations were replaced by cars some distant and some near. The filtering and reverb was multifaceted. Music, even electronic, usually only applies reverb at one distance.

Then the garage elevator closes and you get a change from the vast collection of sounds to the motor of the elevator. As I watched the world outside, the silence was so noticeable.

Then the door opens and the city sounds return but the are muffled by the height. Not just softener but the more distant sounds increased.

Then I got in by car. Door closing and immediately silence except for the intimate environment inside and the slight but muffled engine sound. It was distinct from the elevator.

The the slight phasing of sound as the car moved through the enclosed garage. Then the window opens so I can swipe my card. The sounds of the city return but still muffled and then as I moved outside the sounds were similar to walking to the car but also different. Then I closed the window but since I was not in the garage the city sounds remained but muffled.

What amazed me was that filtering and reverb told as much of a story as did the sounds. I have to record this. It was an interesting sound walk.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Impressions of Blade

I decided to make a blog of my first impressions of Rob Pappen's Blade. I have a long history with Virsyn's Cube which had a rather unfortunate parting of the ways between me and it's designer but for anyone who wants my reflections on Cube and additive synthesis you will find some pretty in depth posts on Virsyn's Cube bulletin board. I am "Ex Member".

At the time I started to get into additive synthesis I was very intrigued. Having an extensive background in mathematics made the prospect of additive synthesis seemed like the holy grail of synthesis. By drawing partials one could create any sound or so I thought. Understanding what a Fourier Transform is and what it is not I should have know better but that is a complex topic. Reading my posts (ex member) will provide a whole library of my thoughts on that.

What I tried to communicate to Harry Gohs was that drawing harmonics gives someone very little idea of what a waveform is going to sound like. Not only that but waveforms are static as is the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform). Cube (and Alchemy's additive morphing) both use a concept called windowing. This idea is also used in granular synthesis as well. Without going into the details (which is where the devil of spectral morphing is), windowing allows one sound to be morphed into another (not cross faded - long explanation with frightening math). It also allows for the morphing of time (slowing down and speeding up without the dreaded chipmunk effect)

So Cube (and Alchemy's older brother Chameleon) both use spectral morphing. Cube and Chameleon both used an XY pad to graphically represent this. Each point of the Cube was a spectral model.

If you ever see a demo of Cube you will see the dancing dots you see in Blade. However, the XY pads only controlled the morph in both Cube and Chameleon and there are no LFOs and envelopes to control other parameters.

The path on the XY pads of both cube and Chameleon are line segments. Blade records the motion of the musician making it far more flexible and natural. I am sure this was a bit influenced by Korg's M3 and Kaos pads.

One of the features wanted to see added to Cube was a way to tame the spectral displays of partials. This is in fact what Blade is doing. It is taming an almost unintelligible series of partials and translating them into something musical. Native Instrument's. Razor also does this and to some extent their Reaktor Synth Prism. I do see a bit or borrowing from Alchemy's "symmetry" and also Absynth's multiple voices per oscillator. Virsyn's Cube and Poseidon also have a similar feature.

What I also see is what I would call one of the 1st West Coast synths. What I am referring to is Donald Buchla. If you look at a 200e music box you will find a highly complex oscillator. Buchla placed for focus on the oscillator than the filter by creating dynamic waveforms. This is what Blade is doing.

I buy very few new synths. When I do it's for a reason. When I first started making electronic music I was a neophyte but now I can look at the specs and demos of a synth and get a pretty good idea of what it's about. When Blade is released I will buy it because it's breaking away from old additive and subtractive models. It's leaving familiar but boring standards and defining it's own ground and for that I very much approve.