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.
It’s been 24 to 30 September 2017. I’ve been sick all week. Again. Ugghh(cough-cough)gghhh! I’m back on antibiotics and bedrest again and hopefully that kills this stupid lurgi once and for all.
I want to apologise to all regular readers for being such a gloomy gus the last few weeks while I’ve been ill. It’s bad enough coughing constantly and feeling like hell, but not having the energy to work on stuff spirals me down into some pretty unhappy places on top of all of that. I lose the energy to work, then I don’t want to work, then I lose confidence in myself, then I get withdrawn and don’t want anything to do with anything – not even watching shorts which might pick my spirits up because I’m worried I’ll just feel bad that I haven’t worked on mine for a while.
Anyway. this week I’m less sure that abandoning all animation projects for crunching on portfolio stuffing makes a lot of sense right now. I put that decision down to the aforementioned withdrawnness. I want more characters and scenery to show off what I do, and AAAAAAAAAAAAAA will give me that, but I don’t want it to be a constraint on my creativity if I feel like doing something completely different…
…and this is all kind of moot for the next 31 days because I’m going to be trying my hand at Inktober for the first time. See you with drawing number one (Swift) tomorrow!
Preface: This post deserves some background. For the month leading up to this I’d been depressed, physically ill, getting switched around on projects at the day job and generally having a crappy time of things. My living routines were disrupted, the illness was making it hard to catch a whole night of sleep and things that were once possible seemed completely implausible. And through all this, I still had a journal to write…
It’s been 17 to 23 September 2017 but I’m posting this at dawn on Sunday the 24th. I can’t seem to shake this cough and I don’t think I’ve had a full night of sleep in a week. Tonight will probably be more of the same.
This would have been the weekend that AAAAAAAAAAA wrapped up, being as this is the Queens Birthday long weekend, but bouts of illness and dayjob stress all ground its precious momentum to a halt before it reached any kind of releasable state. There’s still no soundtrack and it’s still three shots long.
Truth is, I’m not inclined to pick it up and keep going with it, either. I’ve lost my taste for doing any animated film stuff, honestly. Doing the solo animated film thing isn’t viable for me right now anyway, so it makes sense to switch to something else.
Something like learning how to use all these nifty plug-ins I’ve bought (e.g. Retopoflow), or getting to grips with bits of Blender I avoid (e.g. hair system and physics), or just smashing through the model-rig-texture workflow over and over without trying to fit the result into an overall project. Something like honing skills and getting out there: entering competitions; drawing (or speedsculpting) during work breaks; identifying and filling skill gaps; generally keeping the juices flowing while banking a lot of short focussed work. I went through some of that process with music so I already know the value of it.
“I’m grinding” doesn’t sound as grandly impressive as “I’m making an animated film”, but I can live with that. My ambitions are more practical now.
Thanks for reading!
Afterword: Not much changed as a result of this resolution. I continued to cough and splutter my way through the week and feel out of sorts. Resolute blog posts change nothing.
It’s been 10 to 16 September 2017. I was down with a respiratory infection all week and I still haven’t shaken it completely. I’m tired of coughing. 😐
Submissions for the Suzanne Awards 2017 opened earlier this week. (The Suzannes are the Blender Conference’s little Blender-centric film competition.) I’ve entered RYGCBMK◯ with no expectations at all of it getting anywhere. It’s my first time entering anything into any kind of animation festival. Hopefully its fluffy good times lift the spirits of all who consider it for an award. 🙂
I’ve been listening to a ton of Belgian new beat and eurodance this week like a sad old bastard. Here’s a classic from the era and the very first CD single I ever bought: L.A Style’s “James Brown Is Dead”.
Lately I’ve been hit with a mixture of bad sleep, mid-project boredom, dayjob stress and general restlessness. AAAAAAAAAAAAAA has stalled and I’m even finding it hard to get my head together to write a blog entry. This mental fuzz is truly brutal.
So let’s forget about all that stuff this week. Here’s the long version of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” which I could happily listen to until the heat death of the universe.
I’ve also been watching a ton a YouTube puppet show called Glove and Boots. It’s a mix of comedy sketches, inept let’s plays and live streams. You may know them from their Vertical Video Syndrome PSA, their helpful product testing videos or their song parodies (from which I borrowed this week’s blog title). Lately they have also been doing a brisk trade in catchphrases:
I got super inspired by watching these jokers having too much fun, so I set up Open Broadcast Studio and figured out how to get my recording setup and modular synth streaming to YouTube. I also briefly fantasised about doing my own puppet show because I miss doing voice acting and animation is slow, but then I remembered I have too many hobbies as is.
Sorry for the abrupt ending but I’m about to be late for something and I’ve tried about thirty times to finish the blog properly. As promised, here’s an image of a potato which has nothing to do with anything other than the blog title. See you next week, hopefully with no need for a potato.
I hereby potato this blog entry for its own good. Potato potato.