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.

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