Synthesizing in Ableton Live: Envelope Generators

My first pass at working with Ableton as a modular synth was to explore “dummy” clips. These are tracks that contain an audio clip with the actual content muted. The clip is then transformed into a container for audio effects automation that can be applied to any audio routed through whatever audio track the clip is in. The clip becomes an Envelope template that can be pulled into other projects.

Ableton Live allows the sound designer to see and manipulate many parameters within each individual clip. This is most amazing, and something I have not paid enough attention to. Here is a picture of the clip console from the Ableton Manual:

For Audio Animation Clips, the focus is on the Sample box and the Envelopes box. The slider in the sample box is used to mute the audio by simply turning it completely down. Now the clip is ready to be shaped into an envelope. (That is how Audio Animation Clips will function in my Abeju Synth Station – as Envelope Generators (AAC/EG). The two drop down windows in the Envelope box give the sound designer access to all the effects and mix processing available on the track for this clip only. So whatever I draw onto the audio clip itself only happens when that particular clip is playing. In the case of AAC/EG, the clip will play the animation of the envelope and the envelope will be applied to any audio routed through the track.

In order to create an AAC/EG, we need an audio track and an audio clip. The length of the clip doesn’t seem to matter cause it loops. (Currently, I am sticking with 8-12-24 bars and I hear potential for longer clips with more complex movement in the automation in the future). Use the volume slider to mute the audio within the clip. Then assemble a rack of audio effects you want to use to shape sound and insert them on the track. In the orginal audio clip, use the drop down box in the clip to access each effect, and turn them all to Device Off by moving the red line in the clip box to the off position. Now you have an open audio sleeve with no effects enabled. When source audio is routed through this clip, the audio will sound as is, with no effects present. Next, duplicate the clip. This will be the first AAC/EG. Go to the drop down box and turn on the devices you want to use. The top box takes you to the main effect, and the second will bring up every adjustable parameter within the effect. When you identify a parameter that you want to change, go to the red line in the audio clip window (on the right above) and draw in the animation you want.

Once I finally understood all this, I began to design AAC/EG Modules. Each module is a track with 2 to 4 different envelope template clips. Each instance of the clip can be shaped by adjusting the automation (I am calling animation) of the effects that are on the track. One technique I like is layering three effects over three clips. The track contains three effects (a delay, an EQ and a reverb), so the first clip has one effect on, the second has two, the third has three. Initially, I tried linking several modules (tracks containing the clips) together but found this too cumbersome. The option to layer modules is in the routing in each particular set.

To use the modules, insert another audio track that will hold the samples you are using. I label this track Source. Now there are several routing options, but the main idea is that the AAC/EG modules need sound coursing through them in order to perform. On the In/Out tab on the track, audio can be routed from someplace and routed to some place. The best mixing option so far is to have the AAC/EG modules receive audio from source and then everybody sends audio to the Master Volume. This allows the faders to act as dry/wet attenuators. The Source can be heard as is or through the AAC/EG Modules and Clip Templates.

So far, I have created four modules. Combed, Mangled, Stutter Delay and Harmonics Flinger will be useful when iBoD plays at The Bells on April 14th for SITES. More on that event very soon

Monthly Human Origami Jam

Glenna Batson is back in town and we have started a monthly Human Origami Jam at ADF Studios on Broad Street in Durham. Join us this Friday, February 15th for an exploration guided by the foldings of cells – the building blocks of nature. While Glenna guides you through a macroscopic to microscopic sense of the cell, dejacusse will sculpt sonic forms in the atomosphere of the room. The soundscape will swath you in harmonics, whispers, bounce and back to the ambient sound of the room. Sound as water is my theme, and since cells are mostly made of water…

Human Origami Jam

TODAY! Friday February 15th

4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

ADF Studios Broad St. Durham NC

Donations accepted

I would love to see you there!!

Human Origami Soundscape Dec 7 2018

Today at 3 pm, Glenna Batson will lead an exploration of folds and resistances. In her words:

What happens when awareness meets a curved line, a folding surface, a deepening crevice within the body’s interior and the surround? Is the quality of this first contact fixed or free? Is the conversation open or resistant? Is there a clear beginning and ending? It’s at this junction between folding and unfolding where new possibilities for negotiation arise – where a boundary can become more porous and transparent. In this session, movers will uncover the rub of resistance within themselves and open the conversation to new movement possibilities.

The soundscape for today’s playshop will be a piece from Audiorigami (Meditations on the Fold) interspersed with modular synthesis play in formless to form and back again. The Audiorigami track is called 11th Harmonic and consists of overlapping 11th harmonic intervals. This harmonic at extremely high frequencies has been shown to break up tumor cells! The Law of Octave allows us to bring the high frequency into the audible range, and benefit from the entangled resonance with the higher frequencies.

11th Harmonic is a kind of smudge soundscape. It has the capacity to clear stuck energy in a space, in a body, so is perfect for the suggested intentions Glenna has put forth. This piece has five or six movements, and the parts are layered in and shimmered over each other. This is an example of how I have created audiorigami to this point. Now there is new direction in the form of Ripplemaker – even the name suggests the Fold!

Ripplemaker is an iOs semi-modular synthesizer. Synthesizers play electrical signals or control voltages. These voltage-based signals are shaped by waveforms, oscillators, envelopes, filters and effects into sound sculptures. Modular synthesizers can illustrate the journey from the formless into form in amazingly beautiful ways! And the journey is accomplished through folds. The basic structure of this sound material is the waveform, and each waveform highlights the harmonic overtones in different ways. The waveshape is then propogated, expanded, attenuated, filtered, timbrally-morphed through oscillators, envelopes and filters. The journey is amazing and intense, so each mod synth excursion will be followed by a bit of room resonance and breath. Then 11th Harmonic will return.

Very excited to give this voice today at 3pm at ADF Studios. Please come and play with us!

Sounding the Future

Sunday SITES December 2017 photo by Stephanie Leathers
stephaniepleathers.com

First and foremost, my deep appreciations to you the reader of this sentence. That you take the time to read about and listen to my world means more than I can express. It is my root intention to express my love and appreciation through sound offerings. Every message needs receivers. I am grateful my message has landed with you!

So many ideas for adventures in 2018. Having found my peeps at Moogfest and 919Noise, I intend to show up, be present and listen at more events. There are folks performing sonic works of art out there: Spookstina, Senator Jaiz, 80lb Test, Incidental Exercise and Ty Lake to name a few local sound artists whose work I have enjoyed this year. When the weather warms up, I’ll be out there! Maybe sooner as I want to hear 80lb Test on January 7 at Arcana in Durham. Oh, yes – need some love for the venues that feature sound performances: Nightlight Club, The Cave in Chapel Hill, Arcana in Durham, and Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

One adventure that will kick off the year is a drone piece I created as part of an exhibit at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. I am part of a multi-producer team under the guidance of Eban Crawford (Senator Jaiz). Eban is the Audio Engineer for the museum and will mix our drones together for an hour long looping soundtrack for the exhibit. More on this soon!

Justin Tornow’s Company is starting up PROMPTS again on January 27, 2018. dejacusse will perform with Jody Cassell, and possibly solo as well. Looking forward to the return of this performance series to Durham. The prompt is experiment redux. Jody and I have A LOT of material for that PROMPT!

February 16, 2017 Third Friday Durham will feature all 2017 SITES performers at The Durham Hotel. Jody Cassell and I will collaborate and improvise with other dancers and musicians to shine a light on the SITES project. Stephanie Leathers -dancer, photographer and SITES Producer- encourages artists to stage dances and music in unusual locations throughout Durham. The idea is to bring eyes to, and consciously engage with the morphing Durham terrain. SITES is an Independent Weekly dance pick for 2017( https://m.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-top-five-dance-performances-of-2017/Content?oid=10468933).

Human Origami/Audio Origami- movement/sound explorations into the fold as the smallest unit of matter continues. (http://humanorigami.com) Glenna Batson, Susan Halpern and I have been workshopping this project for over two years. I now have some sound pieces for a portfolio of Audio Origami: meditations on the fold, which I will release in 2018 on Bandcamp. I am thrilled that Trudie Kiliru has agreed to create the cover art for the portfolio. I hope you will buy the album when it becomes available.

iBoD is on hiatus as we figure out what we want to do next. We are ditching public performance for now and just gathering to play together in the SunRa Room. We all enjoy this activity. It is sufficient! I hope we will play at Central Park School the Sunday after Moogfest to feature Eleanor Mills on the bells, Susanne Romey on Native American Flute and Jim Kellough on digital horn. Otherwise we will continue to stir up harmonic vibrations in north Durham.

TRIC Questions is still on the table. The idea is to treat the individual patterns of Terry Riley’s In C (TRIC) as rhythmic/melodic samples that can be voiced and placed in a variety of relationships to each other. For me, TRIC is but one way these patterns can be strung together. I want to structure improvisational workshops and create soundscapes using these samples. Terry Riley has listened to my work on this project and given me the go ahead. However, his management has not been responsive. To be continued…

Bill and Susanne Romey are working on a short film highlighting NC waterfalls. Here is a link to (Celestial) Signal Sailors, a fun musical romp with an intergallactic romance, which many local artists worked on a few years ago:

I am privileged to work with them on the soundtrack for the new film.

Novation Launchpad app for IOS has my attention of late. After using the app for SITES, I am working on creating sound clips in Ableton, importing them to Launchpad and sculpting sound. The FX are fantastic for really taking many snippets of sound and spread it, repeat it, echo and really swing and shimmer the harmonics. So my setup for performance is in transition at this time. Another possible addition will be an electroacoustic conversion of my Nanan’s autoharp. I plan to take the chording apparatus off, tune the strings in interesting intervals and apply contact mics. Laaraji who performed the sleep concert at Moogfest last year had two autoharps set up that way to a sweet effect.

From the sounds of it, 2018 may be even more amazing than 2017!

Obladi oblada to all!

Keep listening.

You cannot fold a Flood- And put it in a Drawer

bottom over top                                                                                                                                    reaching for the other side                                                                                                                              a fold will occur

the fold will happen                                                                                                                                          the containment – unlikely                                                                                                                    Emily, you know!

Glenna Batson put forth this idea of exploring the fold as it pertains to moving bodies. I was intrigued by the various qualities of a fold and how these qualities could be rendered in sound. Sound is a wave, which has the movement of folding, the curving back toward self that starts a fold. The rising and falling in an arc, that is the trajectory of a fold, can be rendered in the rising and falling of pitches. Voices and phrases can overlap just as half the sheet lays over the other half when folding laundry. This can be sonically rendered with staggered phrases or long reverb tails. Then there are types of audio filters that pull frequencies out of the spectra, creating folds. And the acoustics of the room create patterns of sound wave reflections that interfer with each other to create “comb filtering” – literal, periodic folds in the frequency spectra. I explored all of these sound folding techniques during the first three Human Origami workshops that Glenna and I offered.

This is what I have learned so far.

While “comb filtering” is considered less desirable by audio engineers, as a sound folding technique, it works. I measured the effect in the first workshop at The Carrack Modern Art Gallery. Positioning a speaker directly at the windows created strong early reflections, which generated visible comb-filtering in the recording. The workshop participants might not identify the phenomenon, but they did come in contact with it. Given the behavior of sound waves, I trust that comb-filtering will happen and do not worry about creating it.

Rising and falling, overlapping, and reaching back (all actions associated with folds) can be orchestrated musically. One technique used to create “reaching back” is to feature overtone harmonics. By this I mean, playing the interval notes to a fundamental tone in the octave in which they naturally occur in the harmonic overtone series for that tone. For example, the first harmonic in a series is the octave above the fundamental, now we are in the second octave above the fundamental where we hear a fifth then the next octave tone. In the third octave we hear the third, fifth and flatted seventh. The fourth octave layers in the second and the raised fourth and the sixth. Normally when these intervals are played over one or two octaves they are heard as chords. Articulating them in their natural harmonic series “home” octave creates a harmonic reach over multiple octaves, and a fold back in reference to the fundamental tone. An example of this technique from the Folding/Unfolding Soundscape:

Here is an illustration of the harmonic series for the fundamental tone C – you can follow the notes up to see that the familiar intervals of the Solfege scale mostly play out over the four octaves above the fundamental note.

image

As you can hear in the example, stretching across multiple octaves creates a spacious reach into very high frequencies which refer back to the fundamental tone, thus creating a sonic fold.

Rising and falling is orchestrated through pitch relationships moving up and down a scale. To my ear, the feeling of the fold is greater in less resolved intervals – thus using the fourth or sixth interval as the turn around note in the rising and falling line has a stronger sense of folding. Duration of tones in the run and their rhythmic relationships allow for a vast pool of material to be used in a folding soundscape. Stagger these lines in relation to each other and you have overlap – another aspect of a fold. Using these orchestration concepts, the folding soundscape was born.

After creating and playing folds in a soundscape for many months, I noticed two fold forms emerging from the mix. One was an echo, where the sound comes back on itself like two halves of a folded sheet. (The echo is heard in both audio examples in this post) Another fold form is the spiral, where the feeling of the sonic movement is this perpetual reaching towards the fold, but never completing it. This fold is clearly illustrated in the TRIC* samples used in the last Human Origami workshop. You will hear a spinning quality in the music that comes from a pulse rather than a downbeat. Here is an example with many layers of spiral folds. This is rather long (nearly nine minutes), and I think you will benefit from listening to the entire movement. Be sure to listen from 7:30 to the end. Great example of the spiral fold:


As we’ve continued on this investigative journey into Human and Audio Origami, each workshop participant has engaged with the soundscape, with Glenna’s keen guidance, with paper/fabric, with the cells of their own bodies in wholly different ways. All our relations are brought to the table, as bodies wrest back control from the mind in order to create space for being. Folding requires an inward turning that is a missing link in the lives of many. I invite you all to join us. I will keep you posted as to our next offering.

In the meantime, feel free to download the soundscape for free. Listen as much as you like! With great love and joyous affection at this turning of the year.

*Terry Riley’s In C as a package of notated samples.

Experiments in Audio Origami # 3: Sampling Terry Riley’s “In C”

image

Once again, my attention is drawn to this amazing piece of music as a palette for my own sound creations. Terry Riley’s In C is a sonic Universe to be explored, and even though I spent a year studying the work, it continues to beckon me saying “There is more here than meets the ear!” I am re-reading analyses of the piece to help me appreciate the harmonic, rhythmic and tonal shape of Terry Riley’s In C even as I seek other ways to play with it.

In 1964, Terry Riley came up with these 53 patterns or phrases while riding to work on the bus. He arranged them in a particular order that, when played in the overlapping format described in his performing instructions, manifests a rich and flowing harmonic structure with density, space and shifting pulses. While Riley’s performing instructions are clear, they read more like guidelines than absolutes. Robert Carl, in his book Terry Riley’s In C, notes that the language of the instructions is qualified in a way that invites interpretive freedom and individual expression. The performing instructions themselves elicit interesting questions:

  • While the piece is usually played with all the voices within 2 – 3 patterns of each other, can patterns that are further apart be layered to interesting effect?
  • Riley recommends “not to hurry from pattern to pattern”; what would happen if each voice played each pattern a few times and then moved on? Could we play a Minute In C?
  • The 8th note pulse has become a sonic character of In C performances, but is it necessary when performing with midi loops? It loses its functional necessity; is there an aesthetic, acoustical necessity for it?
  • Can In C be played in reverse? inside out?
  • What happens when In C is played at very slow tempos?

When I look at the score of Terry Riley’s In C (hereafter known as TRIC) each of these patterns stands as a clearly articulated moment that, when looped, carries momentum. As such, they appear to me like notated samples to be mixed down into soundscapes. By calling them samples, I release them from the authority of “the score” and invite them to “talk among themselves.”  At one point, Robert Carl calls TRIC a “matrix of possibilities.” In the context of 21st Century electronic music and the age of sampling, In C offers a bounty of material for building soundscapes.

When the patterns in TRIC are viewed as electronic music samples, a whole new world opens up. The patterns become Lego blocks, to be held up against each other, pushed and pulled apart. They are sonic colors to be tweaked and mixed into new shades and hues. All the while, retaining the DNA of the “Mother.” Here is an example I have been playing with called Blended Edges – this spiraling loop consists of three TRIC patterns, all of which stay true to their internal rhythmic structure with some harmonic alterations. Pattern 10 is two 16th notes (equivalent to one 8th note pulse) which serves as a steady background flutter. Patterns 18 and 20 bring a polyrhythmic two against three into the mix. Pattern 18 covers two quarter note beats, while Pattern 20 covers three quarter note beats. Both patterns have a longer tone on the second quarter note beat, and the remaining notes are 16th notes, so there is this flutter and drag that create the spin and momentum of the soundscape. The notes as written in P18 and P20 have an F# that gave the scape an ominous aura.The F# was transposed to a G and an E. To my ear, the spinning pulse is more upbeat and hopeful with this change. Here is the excerpt with some piano improv:


The impetus for this next wave of exploration into TRIC is the Folding/Unfolding Series that Glenna Batson and I have been engaged in for the past six months. We meet to play with ideas on a regular basis, and we have presented three workshops around the idea of the body folding and unfolding in relation to itself and to paper, cloth, and sound. Rhythmic figures, melodic patterns, reverb, echo, and overtone series/harmonics render sound as a fold (and unfold) around and in the body. The participants in previous workshops noted that the soundscape sometimes lead and sometimes followed their movement – a sort of “meta-fold” in the scape itself.

The first two iterations of the Folding/Unfolding soundscape have been modified and streamlined to create oceanic waves of sound moved more by pulsations than pulse. When playing the soundscape live for movers, I improvise on a grand piano midi-voice to illustrate ways to relate to the swirling pulse. In melody as in movement, patterns can be imitated, contrasted, paralleled, resisted, reconstructed, etc. The piano improvisation provides aural feedback in the moment to the movements I observe from the movers. So the soundscape, like a river, is never exactly the same in any given moment in time.

To further shape this soundscape, I will mix in patterns from TRIC. Here is an example of a quartet of samples from In C, all from far-flung regions of the orginal score. I call this groove “elegant.” The tempo is ultra-slow.  This is heart music to me!

Come enfold with us this Saturday, December 3 from 4 – 6 at The Joy of Movement Studio in Pittsboro. We will explore echo and spiral as folds in action.

(image is of “from your heart to God’s ear” – a pocket installation by Jude Casseday)

Experiments in Audio Origami 2: The 11th Harmonic

This experiment began with a rather dubious YouTube video about the “11th harmonic” and its power in breaking up cancer cells. The video is about the Rife Machine, which was an invention from the 1930s purporting to cure many diseases. Royal Rife was the scientist and inventor who “discovered” frequencies that could interfer with the frequencies of diseased cells. The narrator of the YouTube video, stated that the 11th harmonic was the frequency that disrupted cancer cells. About a week after I started this post, I found a TED Talk along this same line:

What we are learning from quantum physics about how the Universe is put together lends quite a bit of credence to the idea that frequencies can disrupt disease. Oscillating frequencies make up the entire spectrum of “all that is.” When these frequencies interact with consciousness – “being” happens. Our singular awarenesses collapse the waveforms into the many points of existence – the mix of all our singularities creates what we call “reality”. The famous physicist Erwin Schrodinger put this idea in another way when he said, “The total number of minds in the Universe is one: In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.” Oscillating frequencies engage with each other through constructive (in phase) and destructive (out of phase) interference (or, as I like to call them – engagement) patterns. Thus the fabric of reality is an oscillating organism of frequencies engaging, changing and disengaging with each other. Our brains stabilize the whole thing so that we can navigate and participate in our lived experience.

Both of these videos assert that a harmonic relationship created by a low tone and a higher tone is necessary to disrupt diseased cells. In both cases, the necessary frequencies equate to an extreme number of oscillations. Dr. Holland said that frequencies needed to be around 300,000 to 400,000 hertz in order to destroy cancer cells. While these frequencies are waaaay outside of the audio spectrum, there is an organizing principle that allows for the possibility that lower audio frequencies might influence healing. And that organizing principal is – the octave. Whatever frequency you start with will always return “home” when it doubles. It is itself again. For example, middle C on a piano is about 262 hz, double that to 524 hz and you are at C again. This creates a resonating fractal that repeats on and on into infinity.

The harmonic overtone series, which is the basis for most everything we hear musically, is built around this doubling principal. As we add more iterations of the fundamental frequency, we create more overtone relationships. Using the middle C example again, adding 262 hz to 524 hz gives us 786 hz, which is G or a fifth above C. Add 262 hz to 786 hz and we get 1048 hz which returns us to C again. Now we are two octaves above our fundamental frequency Middle C, AND we are at the 3rd harmonic. By adding 262 hz eight more times we reach the 11th harmonic, which is 3114 hz – G in the fourth octave above middle C.  (For more on harmonic overtones and their impact on our cosmic existence check out Hans Cousto’s book The Cosmic Octave.) Now I can create an audible 11th harmonic by combining a fundamental frequency and the fifth degree of that frequency in the fourth octave above that frequency. So I decided to make a leap of faith into the realm of the cosmic octave, and create a soundscape that hinges on an 11th harmonic and the healing secrets that it may hold.

Folding/Unfolding: The 11th Harmonic is built on a tetrachord of fundamental tones – CEGB accompanied by their 11th harmonic companions  – GBDF#. The tones are 4 octaves apart, so this is not an interval you are accustomed to hearing. I chose 6 instruments and created patterns with these unusual intervals. As I thought about how to voice this harmonic, I identified three choices :1. alternate between the fundamental and harmonic in a variety of rhythmic patterns all on one voice, 2. have one voice sounding just the fundamental and a different voice sounding the harmonic, 3. since the 11th harmonic is a fifth in the fourth octave and the two octaves below the fourth octave also contain fifths (according to the overtone series), then I could vary the patterns with some fifth reinforcements in those lower octave. The second choice was very monotonous and weakened the presence of the 11th harmonic, so I went with the other two as my basic structure.

This soundscape will be performed tomorrow, May 15th from 2 to 4 pm as accompaniment for Glenna Batson’s latest Human Origami workshop. This workshop is subtitled Partnering with Paper, Exploring the Muse. Joy of Movement Studio in Chatham Mills is hosting the event. In addition, to the featured 11th harmonic, I will use the audio folding techniques I discovered during the previous Human Origami workshop.(See blog post – http://wp.me/p5yJTY-c9)

We hope to see YOU there!