Wednesday, August 5, 2009


One of the staples of truly ambient music is the drone.

For a while now I've been listening to ambient/drone music while I fall asleep. I was curious how a random drone would sound. I fired up Plogue's Bidule and got to hacking.

What I wound up with uses 3 notes (here A, D and F). I feed the frequencies of those three notes into sine wave generators. These sine wave generators each are then modulated by randomly triggered amplitude envelopes.

Because I wanted the ability to "play" some high frequency drones on top of the lower frequency bass line I added an overtone of each of the notes with its own random envelope and mixed these now 6 sound sources together. The performance aspect of this was just me moving sliders around on the mixer to select the random sources. (Bidule v. 0.9685UB file: threenote-sine-drone.bidule)

The result is "Randrone." Enjoy...

This leads me to a thought I had (which I'm sure is not novel)... much of music is hierarchical, whole notes, 1/2 notes, 1/4 notes, etc. At least in the time domain. I wonder if creating notes in a fractal sort of way is noticable?

Fire Op aka Pentatonic Scale Freestyling

This tune came from an quick exercise in freestyling with a pentatonic scale. I'm not good at playing multiple voices on the keyboard. So I captured the D-A bass line sequence then played on top. After a little re-arranging later I added the harp piece. Then the stretched out viola voice and staged in the sound effects tracks. Short and I think sweet.

I realize Fire Op is a pretty simple piece. But it makes me happy that I can arrange something halfway decent sounding.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sound Sketches: a little Harmony and Phrasing

After "multiwalk" I decided to think about harmonic progression early in any new works. Multiwalk didn't really have any, actually. There was some disharmony raised in counterpoint, but nothing resembling a "chord progression." At least not on purpose...

Yesterday I dug up an old melody sketch and began playing with it. Listen to the bare bones. Pretty simple: this phrase is ultimately rooted in C major (E and G in C,E,G) but by the third note it is leading toward F major (A in F,A,C). At the end it comes back to C after having shown the F and so technically this would be a form of I-IV-I chord progression. Well, close to one anyway, especially if you loop it.

After recognizing this progression I set about to both embellish the melody and also strengthen the perception of the progression. I really like the idea of layering in music so starting with that bare bones melody structure I began adding bits. The result is a "layered intro" sort of sound. This piece has 4 copies of the bare melody. To each new instance I've added something. In the second phrase I added two instances of C-maj chords to strengthen the I-ness at the beginning. The third adds a little rhythmic embellishment. The final phrase adds IV-ness (FAC chords) at the end. I suppose this ruins the I-IV-I and turns it into a hanging I-IV. Or maybe just mishmashed. But I think it sounds nice at the end... like the setup for something big!

One thing I also didn't like about Multiwalk was that each voice while having modes didn't really have very distinctive modes. By that I mean I didn't alter the rhythmic or note structure in any of the voices apart from the initial distinct phase it started out in. Given the "layered intro" bit above I decided to try to give it a rest/bridge to the fourth repeated phrase. So I set about to find a set of notes somewhat compatible and create a separate distinct melody with it. Using the circle of fifths and knowing that I was already using C and F it appeared that G would be a good fit. It turns out G is "V" and mixing I, IV, and V in a progression doesn't exactly suck. The result is a "bridged, layered intro." The bridge, as I'm calling it here is where the third phrase was in the previous example. Thinking about this some more I should probably drop the IV-ness at the end of the last phrase and make it I-ness to bring it back home. Maybe I'll update and add that later.