Greetings, interweb. Here’s what I got up to in November 2017, starting with…
A secret project!
Can’t say much about this yet. It was a freebie album cover which I took on for the experience and to stretch my abilities beyond my comfort zone. I relied heavily on a certain Space VFX series and a classic thread on BlenderArtists for inspiration and techniques.
Once the associated project is out, I’ll show it off. 🙂
Animation and other Blendery stuff
The speedy green antics of AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA have been shelved for the foreseeable future. My heart’s not in it, but at least it yielded a great little cockatoo rig who also fits into the visual style of AMITS. Maybe he can hang out with Gronky and Pointy…
Does the cockatoo need big thick eyebrows as well? Answers in the comments.
Speaking of those two, I patched a nice zappy electricity arc sound for the robot in AMITS. This is a random five second excerpt from that session. (Warning: loud.)
Electronics and other beepbooping
Through the magic of soldering, I’ve added distortion, another audio mixer and another sequencer to DASYRAC’s arsenal of goodies. Here’s the distortion, featuring its quirky LED limiter section.
I also bought a drum machine because I got tired of patching together basic drum sounds every time I want a beat. I’ve started looking into Arduino to see what I can do to trigger it from the patchbay instead of needing to rely on MIDI.
I started doing write-ups on all the modules in DASYRAC too. There’s about fifty of them so I’ll still be doing write-ups a year from now if I can’t get through more than one per week.
Time for a new patch! This one is all about skippy electronic space bubbles.
The melody is a conversation between orderly euclidean rhythms (courtesy of my shiny new 2hp Euclid) and the chaotic randomised voltages from the ever-dependable Music Thing Modular Turing Machine. The random note pitches come out of the Turing Machine, and the basic shuffle rhythm comes from the Euclid, but the Turing Machine’s Pulses expander also throws in an extra pip from time to time which adds splashes of interest. Lovely.
The reverse delay is some sort of magic achieved by the Synthesis Technology E560 Deflector Shield patched into the feedback line of the Befaco Crush Delay. There’s this one knob on the Deflector Shield I normally leave at zero, and here it’s at five-ish. I don’t know what it’s doing exactly but it sounds quite nice.
It’s been 5 to 11 November 2017 and it’s been an extremely synthesiser-centric week!
Beepity boop boops
Sunday was showing a friend around my modular synth to show her Eurorack in the flesh and get her pumped for her upcoming electronic engineering degree. That seems to have set the tone for the whole week.
On Monday evening, I got my parcel of DIY kits from Thonk and soldered together a Horstronic Arcade Button…
…then on Wednesday evening, I spent time testing out said modules which I had no time left for on Tuesday, resulting in this strangely pleasant noise..
On Thursday evening I spent putting together a particularly big order to Thonk, and on Friday evening I was testing out sample playback on the Disting Mk 4 and creating lovely crunchy triplet beats.
And finally today (Saturday) I started mindmapping an overview of analogue vs digital voltage control sequencers to see if it’s worth following up. There’s a surprising amount to talk about for little circuits that just eat pips and spit out voltages.
What’s behind the dots? Wouldn’t you like to know…
So that’s pretty much been my week, which leads neatly into..
The last of the weeklies
After 3 1/2 years of weekly blogs (since May 2014 when I started “A moment in the sun”), I’m going back to a less frequent posting schedule again. Without a consistently active production to talk about, touching base every single week has begun to feel strange and perfunctory. There’ll be posts here in the future, but only when I have something worth saying. 🙂
It’s goodbye then to “see you next week” – so see you ’round! 🙂
It was a challenge to work with physical media for a bit, but I’m glad it got me learning how to work with the brush pen. I’ve carried around that pen with me every day for two years so it’s about time I got some use out of it.
It’s been good to pick up a slightly larger following on Instagram as well and see what people are up to over there. It’s definitely not just for selfies, though there are a lot of those too.
The return of AAAAAAAAAAAAAA
I’ve got a quick and dirty “mouth foley” soundtrack happening for AAAAAAAAAAAAAA, finally. Like many 1980s kids, I thought Michael Winslow’s character from Police Academy was awesome and tried to copy what he did.. and I’ve never really stopped making weird noises with my face since! 🙂 It’s certainly a helpful skill to have for stubbing out funny sound effects quickly…
The soundtrack is a little bare right now but I wanted to share it anyway because I really like how those monks sound. The pyramid shot’s working nicely now that it has sound.
Happy little beeps
To finish off this week, here’s a few happy little beepboops from DASYRAC. The rack is getting pretty close to full up now which means having to make decisions about how to use the space I’ve got, and whether I want to free up existing space to put something else in. There’s also a couple of misbehaving modules which could use some troubleshooting, but I don’t want to make too many more changes. They get kind of expensive!
Here’s a lovely sound I got out of DASYRAC last night. It uses the hard sync on the Befaco EvenVCO driven by another oscillator sitting at a constant pitch to turn a little pentatonic melody into an Underworldy drone. I like it. 🙂
Speaking of Blender Conference, I’ve entered RYGCBMKO into the Suzanne Awards which are voted on at the conference. The selection is narrowed down by internet polling so please go and vote!
Also this week, I’ve picked up an unpaid-but-going-to-give-it-a-shot-anyway-type commission as well. I can’t say too much about it except that it’s the polar opposite of the low key cute quirky stuff that I usually do. Should be quite the challenge!
I’ve been cutting back on Twitter this week too and it’s been like taking a big pointy stone out of my shoe. I’m still popping by once a day to skim through notifications and signal boost stuff about quolls and Blender, but it’s not on my mobile devices anymore and it’s honestly quite the relief!
The Mutable Instruments Clouds is one of the most popular Eurorack modules ever. It was intended to be a “texture synthesiser”, an instrument which uses granular synthesis in order to extract a texture from an incoming signal.
Granular synthesis is just the “default” mode, however. There’s other ways of extracting texture from sounds and sure enough, buried on secret firmware number 4 is a happy little phase vocoder! Rather than explaining how it does what it does, take my word for it that it can smear any dynamic sound into a static timbre using complicated maths which gives engineering students lifelong PTSD. I was using this trick to create drones back in 1999 by “misusing” the noise removal feature of Cool Edit Pro.
Anyway – sound goes in, drones or whooshes or wibbly noises or crackles come out. Here’s what it sounds like.
There is no actual synthesiser in this recording aside from Clouds – I played a D5 chord in on the electric mandola (2200 if anyone’s keeping score) and froze the timbre in place to create the drone. Then I played in some other notes live over the top. Add a bit of delay to smooth it out and that’s all there is to it!
Despite its popularity, the designer of Clouds discontinued it earlier this month, citing disappointment that “feedback and reverb got stuck to the maximum setting, resulting in a never-decaying smudgy howl of hype”. This is part of the reason I avoided it for so long, because I didn’t want to.
Reverb is an electronic effect which gives any sound signal the illusion of reverberation. Spring reverb does it by electromechanically vibrating one end of a set of springs in a tank, then recording the vibrating strings to create a pleasantly “wet” metallic ringing.
Behold my happy little Belton spring reverb tank, ready to be patted soothingly.
This short ambient piece was made using a spring reverb effect, but it’s not actually reverberating anything except itself. I sent its output back into the input to create a feedback loop. This made the springs ring uncontrollably after a few seconds, but I can mute the springs with my fingers to quieten them down.
There’s been a bit of reverb and delay added afterwards to space it up a bit. 🙂
This is a jam for anyone who enjoyed the harder house tracks like Rollin’ and Scratchin’ or Rock’n Roll on Daft Punk’s album Homework. It’s a spiky glitchy drone with some nice polyrhythmic percussion and that’s it – maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it. 🙂
I used two of my new modules for this! The Music Thing Modular Pulses mk 2 is outputting a randomly generated six note rhythm tapped at two points for the clap and the hi-hat. The modulation state of the drone is being sample-and-holded in sync with a Euclidean rhythm out of the Little Nerd. The drone is feeding into the Voltage Control Lab VCF-74 Mk 1 where it’s being frequency modulated; that’s fed into a Ladik Waveform Animator then on to the Eowave Fluctuations Magnetiques filter bank through a parallel low-pass and band-pass filter.
The drone is just sitting at one steady note. So why does it sound so lively? The experiment was to see what would happen if I put a pulse wave through a low pass filter and then put that through the waveform animator. The animator only works on waves with gradual transitions which means a pulse wave goes in and out unchanged, but a low pass filter can introduce those transitions into the pulse wave by filtering the sharper frequencies away to make it transition more like a sine wave. The texture of the drone comes from crazy chaotic interactions between the filter frequency modulation, the waveform animator and the pulsewidth of the original oscillator.