One Knob Wonders in Ableton

Once again I find myself back with Ableton Live. A couple of posts ago, my sounding board was set and I was starting to put some things together in Elektron: Model Samples along with Ableton and the Neutron. Then a couple of the trigger keys on the Model Samples started sticking. This is comparable to a sticking piano key. At first, I was OK with having this be another random possibility within my workflow, but more triggers got in on the act, and I couldn’t tell which keys were sticking, and that random possibility became a more fixed probability. So for now the Model Samples is boxed up waiting to go to the technicians at Sweetwater whenever they get Elektron techs back at the shop. This is my last purchase from Sweetwater! I am miffed that this is taking months to resolve and I am left with several ideas in early development within the Model Samples that are now on hold. Instead of wasting energy being miffed, I am turning to some new ways to play in Ableton.

Under the Audio Effects subfolder DJ and Performance within Ableton Live, there are One Knob effects racks capable of creating dramatic changes to any sound when the One Knob is turned. The changes are achieved by placing several different audio effects in a rack and then using midi map to attach a variety of parameter changes from each effect onto the One Knob. The parameter ranges can even be adjusted as to how big a change the knob sweep brings. After working with Audio Animation Clips/Envelope Generators, this seems like a promising new direction to explore.

My favorite One Knob Rack is Fade to Gray, which houses a three band EQ and a Ping Pong Delay. Here are pictures of each of these effects:

Turning the One Knob lowers the mid frequency band of the EQ Three by 6dB while the low frequency and high frequencies sweep toward the midrange as the wet signal and feedback swoop up to 95%. Now a tiny slice of mid-range frequencies feeding back on itself goes into the Ping Pong Delay, where the signal and feedback go to 95%. All of these changes are happening over time and in relation to each other. While the end result is a thin and distant decaying echo of the completely subdued orginal signal, every stop along the One Knob sweep renders new sonic terrain. So cool!

Now I am inspired! What sorts of changes can be wrought in this environment? I want to make One Knob Racks that sculpt the sound in interesting ways! Start simple: made a few changes in the Fade to Gray letting in some lower range frequencies on the EQ3 and bringing the crossing frequencies together at a lower bandwidth. So this Fades to Throb rather than Gray. I suppose I should have picked a color- it would be Blue, Fade to Blue. Throb describes the end result more clearly, so that is the name!

For several weeks now, I have been making, testing, throwing away and saving One Knob Racks. My project contains an audio track with sound samples from Ableton and from Library dejacusse. That track is routed into another audio track which contains the One Knob Racks and is routed to the Master output track. With this setup, the original audio track signal goes directly to the One Knob track, so the original audio is heard through that track. When I close all the One Knob Racks (there are seven so far but I forsee hundreds) no sound comes out the Master track. All the frequencies have been gathered and are being held within the racks. One type of improvisation might be to slowly unveil the original audio by opening the One Knob Racks a bit at a time. When they are all completely at 0, the original signal and all its frequencies are now sounding through the One Knob track and out to the Master. So much potential here!

But wait, there is more! There are a couple of tracks hanging around over beside the Master Track. These are Return Tracks. The original audio track and the One Knob track both have two Sends knobs that send signal to the return tracks. This is another way to add some effects processing to a signal and also have it be available for all the tracks. As it turns out, the send knob on the original audio track can bring that signal forward through the return track even when all the One Knob racks are closed! This is sooooo cool, because as the One Knobs are opening, some of the original sound can be brought up into the mix to give listening ears some direction and excitation. The return tracks can also have effects on them. WoW!

This is exciting for me because it aligns with everything I am creating right now. I seek methods for including all frequencies in the sonic pallette, for rendering frequencies in as many dimensions as I can tune into, for conveying information/data/quanta via sound, and for creating diffuse, diverse sonic delights. I tune into joy and delight in many strange waveforms.

I am drawn to the idea of unFolding, uncovering, and revealing which this method opens up to. Also, the idea of integration and disintegration, which I started exploring over 10 years ago with Unhinged Melody (which later became Circuslocution with iBoD). The idea was an 8 bar upbeat riff that started as individual random sounding notes and slowly came together. Every note has its place and it eventually gets there with some extra notes for good measure! Each One Knob Rack will shape the sound into particular forms, then as one Rack feeds into another, the various level settings create new sonic relationships within the original audio.

Creating these One Knob Racks is teaching me so much about each audio effect in Ableton and what it does. The other part of this will be the sounds that pass through the Racks, what will they be? And then there is the order that the Racks are placed in to maximize the interplay of the Racks as they pass the sound around and through themselves.

Here is a quick journey through some of the sonic territory these knobs can uncover! The original audio is Eleanor Mills playing harmonica and me talking and playing uke. Listen for those times when the original sound is hard to distinguish.

Today I worked with a 8 second clip of Jim Kellough’s digital horn and here is the result:

Tracks Music Library: A Sampling of Local Sounds

David Byrne’s record label Luaka Bop released one of my favorite albums – Cuisine Non-Stop – which featured popular local bands from all around the country of France. The album is a delightful pastiche of people lovingly creating their music wherever they find themselves! I felt a kinship with this merry band of troubadours, and thought it would be so wonderful to be included in such a sampling.

In January 2020, I saw an advertisement on Facebook from Chapel Hill Library and Community Arts and Culture seeking album submissions for a curated collection of music by local artists. The requirements for submission were residence in Orange and neighboring counties, and a published album. The submission process was pain free and user friendly. I submitted dejacusse’ album Audiorigami:Meditations on The Fold (released 11/11/18) and wished her the very best!

A month in Florida, a Coronavirus lockdown and a National Water Dance later, an email arrives telling me that Audiorigami would be included in the inaugural Tracks Music Library. I am thrilled and encouraged by this development! Although it may not be Luaka Bop, this fits my work perfectly! “The grass roots of the grass roots” as one friend said! Tracks Music Library was launched June 9, 2020 with 80 albums to stream and plans to grow the library by 25 albums a year. You can listen at tracksmusiclibrary.org.

Tracks Music Library is the result of Chapel Hill Library staff meeting the Rabble Musicat staff at a library conference several years ago. Rabble is a private company with a mission to equip libraries with the very best software for presenting media to the world, which is a primary mission of libraries. Rabble believes libraries are “forces for good” and wants them to have access to excellent media resources! (I think they are quite successful, and I will tell you why later.) Musicat is a facet of Rabble that focuses on curating local music into library collections. These local music libraries have been established in Nashville, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Austin to name a few, and now Chapel Hill. Here is a link to more on Rabble Musicat: https://musicat.co/libraries

Melissa Bartoletta, Communications Coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts and Culture, said of this first round:     

We received 176 submissions in our first open call for submissions. We were thrilled by that number as well as by the quality and diversity of the work submitted. Because our first year of this project was funded through a grant from the State Library, we were able to invite 80 artists into the collection.

Melissa emphasized that Chapel Hill Library and Community Arts and Culture have made a committment to grow the library with an annual call for submissions, continued funding and staying responsive to the ever-changing Triangle music scene. One of the ways they will stay responsive is by calling on folks from the local music scene to curate the collection. This year’s curators were Lois DeLoatch, Kevin “Kaze” Thomas, Elinor Walker, Bill Smith, Kat Harding, Glenn Boothe, Steve Weiss, and Steve Wright. The curators come to music from a wide range of perspectives, but all listen “with an ear for quality, diversity and connection” to the local music community.

While the on-line library is free for music listeners, all of the artists were paid a meaningful stipend for our work. I think of it as a kind of permanent license to stream purchased by the Chapel Hill Library. In addition, each artist has their own page with a PayPal donation button – if a listener is so moved they can donate to the artist. From my perspective it is a perfect platform. Part of this perfect platform is the media player created by Rabble. As I listened through each track on Audiorigami, I heard so much detail and depth, as if I was listening through headphones, but it was actually through iPad speakers at 75% amplitude. The quality of this listen really impressed me.

Go to Tracks Music Library and tune in. You can search by album, artist and genre. To get you started here is a playlist of Black and Brown artists featured in the Tracks Music Library: https://tracksmusiclibrary.org/featured/playlist-1591669567455

National Water Dance 2020

TODAY, April 18th, iBoD is taking Durham to the National Water Dance! At 4 pm today, Jody Cassell will dance with the trees, the breeze, the sunlight and the water to iBoD’s Carnatic Water Music. The original plan was to create a watery container of sound, projections and flora through which Jody Cassell would lead the movement. Several other dancers including some of Jody’s young dance students were excited to perform this event at PS 137 in downtown Durham. Well, you know what happened! With so many cancellations, NWD leaders decided to go ahead with the dance as a streaming event. We will have Jody dancing to iBoD’s Carnatic Water Music at 4 pm this Saturday on Instagram Live from the safety of her home.

Here is some background on National Water Dance drom their website:

National Water Dance is a catalyst that encourages ongoing engagement between dance and the environment. Beginning in 2011 as a statewide project in Florida, it now boasts 65 locations across the United States—in 2018 including Puerto Rico for the first time. With each event National Water Dance recommits itself to the effort of increasing purposeful awareness to drive action on environmental issues, specifically climate change. Supporting the work of participants beyond our bi-annual event, National Water Dance spreads the word on the environmental issues they are tackling through monthly newsletters and social media. Our goal is to realize the power of dance as an engine of social change.

In the spirit of this mission, Jody suggests, through her movement choices, elements of this “engine” that are not as visible as issues. Stillness, slowness, wonder, and (dare we say it!) JOY in being right here and right now and moving! The soundscape Carnatic Water Music articulates and ensounds a few of the ways that water can move! To hear the entire piece go to Bandcamp/dejacusse.

As this large group of dancers in 65 locations across the country create a wave of healing energy directed toward Earth and Water, your attention will amplify the energy beyond all possibilities.

Join us for a five minute healing prayer on Instagram (@movinggrace) or through the National Water Dance Website. If you cannot join us at 4, please bear witness to the dance on Instagram TV. Now, more than ever, it is important to mind what we ourselves are giving our precious time and attention to!

Amplify the healing wave!

Sounding Board

My curiosity about sound is completely engaged by exploring modular synthesis. So far my understanding is often inarticulate and mystified! But thanks to Suzanne Ciani, True Cuckoo, Andrew Huang, Ultrabillions, Hark Madley, Lisa Belladonna, Caterina Barbieri, Moogfest, Bram Bos, and Kim Bjorn’s book Patch and Tweak, I am evolving a different way of creating soundscapes and perceiving the world. This is the stuff of life! Waveforms modulating waveforms, waveforms shaping waveforms, waveforms reflecting, refracting and bouncing around and through us. Energetic matter begins and ends on a wave.

I am focusing my Artists Residency here at home on improving my mixing skills and building a sounding board. The mixing skills are put to the test making the recording of Carnatic Water Music that iBoD will release in the next week. As I mixed this recording I received helpful suggestions from tutorials by Jason Moss, HarkMadley, Mathew Weiss. These skills are a forever work in progress. As for the sounding board, there are currently three main ingredients: Elektron:Model Samples as main sequencer providing beats/patterns and midi triggers to the Behringer Neutron. Audio out from both of these units into Audio Tracks in Ableton Live. Ableton will provide drones, loops, and AAC/EG clips which can process audio from either unit. I can do Master recordings in Ableton as well.

Even though I want a modular system, I will work with what I have now, and learn, and be ready when my modular system appears. (Make Noise modules are the ones that I want- doo doo do do)

The Model Samples and I are getting on fairly well. I am learning the architecture of the menus, watching people perform with it to see what key combos they use, and setting up some patterns. The samples available “in the box” are very cool and I am curating my own samples as well. Every sound is potential material so it is daunting.

The past few days, I experimented with some patch ideas in the Behringer Neutron. I have gotten alot of growling out of the synth, but no sound that I liked. There is one simple patch I use: the Sample and Hold into Delay Time. When the Delay Mix knob is raised and the S&H knob is turned up, there are lots of odd, random pitch artifacts that I enjoy hearing. Today I patched the Osc Mix into a Mult, then ran Mult 1 to the OD(overdrive)IN, and Mult 2 to Pulse Width 2. Tuned the oscillators to consonant pitches. Slowly turning the Osc Mix Knob opens a whole realm of timbres. When the OM knob was all the way to one side the tone could be made clear and bell-like. With the Oscillator shapes in the square or tone mod shape, the Pulse Width knob seems to act as a filter.The Mod Depth and Envelope Depth can be brought in. This is where I am not sure what is happening – there are changes in the timbre of the tone from the synth. And what exactly is depth? There is alot to play with depending on where the Osc Mix dial is tuned in.

The third part of this is creating Audio Animation Clips/Envelope Generators within Ableton. Envelopes shape the amplitude and modulate the pitch of the sound. Audio Animation allows the Envelope parameters to move over time. Here is the post on how audio animation can be created in Ableton: https://wp.me/p5yJTY-vL I use filters to sculpt out harmonics and add texture to the sound of the Model Samples or the Neutron. So far, I am experimenting with banks of filters to sculpt out or boost particular harmonics then perform a finer tuning with some EQ. I am listening for a diverse sonic spread, then tuning it in, then spreading, and finally fine tuning.

The adventure continues!!

National Water Dance – NOT Cancelled

With all of the rescheduling of public events local, national and global, there is one event that will go on next month. National Water Dance 2020 will happen as scheduled on April 18th 2020 at 4 pm EST. This biannual movement choir in honor and healing of water will take place across the country all at the same time and streaming across the web. This announcement came from NWD last week:

WE ARE STILL DANCING! Wherever you are on April 18 at 4:00PM EST, alone or self-quarantining or with a small group in an open space, we will begin with the shared gesture and end with the shared gesture and your personal movement will fill in the middle.

We are fortunate to be living in the digital age – as we are asked to observe *“physical distancing,” we are able to close that distance by linking together through social media.

This challenge is forcing us to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it. Let’s find that deeper meaning in our dance, whether in a group or alone. We can dance wherever we are and livestream it on Instagram and Facebook. 

More than ever the world needs our hope and energy. Let’s move forward together and flood the social media networks with our dances on April 18th.

My crew at the idiosyncratic Beats of Dejacusse (iBoD) had big plans to create a watery like container at PS 137 with live plants and flowers by Lee Moore Crawford, and space for movers and viewers. Now we have constrained as we must, so will feature Jody Cassell as Durham’s National Water Dancer streaming live from her home. Jody will move to a recording of Carnatic Water Music, which will be released by iBoD on Bandcamp in April a week before the event. We will keep you posted as to how to link to the performance and pre-order the digital EP.

Mark your calendars for Durham’s National Water Dance April 18th at 4 pm.

Covid-19 DNA Remix

In the midst of everything going viral all around us, my friend @abstracta.audio pointed me toward Eric Drass’ sonification of the DNA sequence of the Corona virus. The National Institute of Health has released the transcript of the sequence, which can be found on their website https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore/MN908947.3 Eric, who makes all kinda wild art at Shardcore.com, assigned note combinations to each letter of the genome sequence (ATCG in various iterations) and you can listen to it (and upload the midi file) here: http://www.shardcore.org/shardpress2019/2020/02/28/the-sounds-of-covid-19/

I am fascinated by his process and hope he will give me an idea of how he did it. I am very interested in using notes/pitches/frequencies to sound out data. Eric created a 16 note scale. The top four notes and the bottom four notes are the same notes one octave apart. The eight notes in the middle do not repeat. Each measure of the midi file has 4 beats, the first beat has 2-3 notes stacked, then these notes repeat singularly over the 2,3,4 beats. How this relates to the DNA sequence I have not figured out.

Anyway, my remix begins in the middle of the midi file. There are five voices assigned to voice the midi notes. Percussion, pizzicato strings, and some other odds and ends of sonic dross. I slowed the bpm way down to 100. The piece sounds mincing, impish, serious and ominous in places. AND, you want it to end before it actually does!

Have a listen – it runs a bit over 6 minutes.

Covid 19 Remix Eric Drass

Listen to Your Gut: Engaging the Public with Science and Sound

On Friday, March 20th, Dr. Erin McKenney and I will present our work on sounding the data from her doctoral dissertation, which focuses on changes in Lemur baby gut microbiomes as their diet changes from birth to weaning. (See this post for further information: https://wp.me/p5yJTY-tD ) We will also preview some of the findings and sounds from the Sourdough Project through the Rob Dunn Lab at NC State.

Our presentation is sponsored by Duke University Science and Society, and is one of a number of talks and presentations presented by this department. The program is open to the public and a pizza lunch is served. You can register at this link: https://scienceandsociety.duke.edu/engage/events/upcoming-events/ Scroll down the March calender to our event, click on it, scroll down and register.

I hope to see you there!

No Moogfest 2020

Just found out that Moogfest 2020 has been cancelled, so am feeling a little disappointed. However, that disappointment is tiny compared to the gifts that four years of Moogfest attending gave to me and countless others. Even if the festival never happens again, it left its vibratory mark on two North Carolina towns and neither of them will ever be the same.

The fest moved to Asheville NC in 2010 after four years in New York City. Moog has been a presence in Asheville since Bob Moog settled there in 1978, and opened the Moog factory. Moogfest Asheville ran from 2010 -12, culminating in appearances by Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, DEVO and many other big name electronic acts. Eventually, they got a better deal in Durham, so the fest came East. Asheville remains a hub of synthesizer activity with the Moog Factory and recently opened Moog Museum. Plus modular modules crafters Make Noise have called Asheville home since 2008. And there is an active and prolific community of synth players there to this day. Synthesis leaves a vibrational mark!

The first year Moogfest hit Durham, it was big time razzle-dazzle!! Every theatre and bar venue booked with performances. Laurie Anderson, Jason Lanier, Silver Apples, a three day residency with Gary Numan, a huge outdoor stage, a sleep concert, signage all over downtown – it was amazing! Working the ticketing table the very first year was incredible fun. Everyone was so pumped and joyful! All my co-volunteers were music producers as well, which was exciting! The subsequent years were just as much fun, although seemingly scaled down each year. In 2019, I was impressed by the presence of a number of local acts.

And, to be honest, that is what I would love to hear! More local players, low key venues, meetups, parties, jams! This is something the synth community in the Triangle/Triad area can do! I have very little nostalgia for “the great ones” of the past! I appreciate the ground they broke, but, damn, lets walk on that ground. To truly honor them, lets dance on that ground. So many people out there making so much beautiful noise!! I do not hear the need to import acts.

I would love the local synth community to take the weekend that was to be Moogfest 2020 and do something with it. One idea is a 24 – 48 hour synth concert – players could sign up for times in increments from 20 minutes to an hour. It would be fun to have each player or group leave a loop or drone running so the next player can take off from there. All woven together! Another idea would be to book several venues for 2-3 nights and offer evenings of sounds all around. The coolest thing would be to have whatever we do benefit Jill Christenson’s Day One Disaster Relief Organization!

Anybody want to do this???

Carnatic Water Music

Susanne, Eleanor, Jim and I have been soundscaping together for 5 years now. During that time, we have all grown as deep listeners and sound painters. I am grateful to play with people who can tune into the sonic environment, their own voices and play the waveforms. We are soundpainters not musicians. Sometimes even we get confused.

The first time we played together publicly was at the Won Buddhist Temple Bazaar in October of 2014. And the first piece we played was Carnatic Water Music. (This soundscape is based on a Carnatic Indian scale that is included in Michael Hewitt’s book, Musical Scales of the World.) We played over and around what is now the first section of Carnatic Water Music while the rains poured down! We were actually in a tent, but the Zoom recorder was out in the rain with a raincoat over it. The recording has rain patter on it, which sounds like scratches on a vinyl record. I really like this recording! (We appreciated the company of Linda Carmichael singing/playing ukelele at this event.) Here is an excerpt:

Carnatic Water Music Nested

After this performance, we played CWM frequently at public events. This is a long-form soundscape that we play for 20 to 40 minutes. As time went on, I added some new sections to the piece so the players and listeners would have greater variety of the sonic spectrum, and to vary the pace a bit. Now when I listen to Carnatic Water Music I hear different energetic aspects of bodies of water, from lolling rivers to waving oceans.

The next stop for CWM will be as the main theme for The Space ReSounds of Water, a pop-up dance installation to be performed on April 18th. The performance is Durham’s offering for National Water Dance 2020. Here is a write-up about the event:

Since 2016, National Waterdance has brought attention to water issues through synchronized dance performances in multiple locations. iBoD and dejacusse want 2020 to be the year the Triangle joins the dance.

The Place ReSounds of Water is a sound, dance and visual art performance piece conceived and performed by iBoD in 2019. We would like to expand on the piece by creating The Space ReSounds of Water, a space/container with video projections, and with healing flowerscapes by Hana Lee, a soundscape by dejacusse and iBoD, and dance movement by Jody Cassell. The performance will take place as a part of the National Waterdance event on April 18 2020 at 4 pm.

The performance will run from from 4-6 in a space where the audience can come and go. This is a meditative performance that can be engaged with on many levels. While some of the movement may be choreographed, most will be free flowing improvisation the audience can participate with. Outside the venue, we will invite local water and environmental organizations to offer education and actions we can take to protect our waters.

To prepare for this event, we are making a really good recording of Carnatic Water Music. We have played this piece so many times, as soon as it begins we fall into a lovely sync with the soundscape. We are recording in the SunRa Room, which is a lively, if not acoustically perfect, space. As of now we are playing through the soundscape and recording on a separate track each time. Afterward, I mix the recording and put it out dor feedback from the group.

Last week, I recorded one runthrough into a track in Ableton and the second runthrough into a track on the H6n. The Ableton track had the most presence and was easy to work with in the mixing process. The trick is to get the right balance between our live playing and the looping soundscape. Today I discovered several recordings we made through the H6n- might be able to tuck some of those in the mix somewhere. We did our final two takes last week, so now I go to work in earnest!

One of the several works-in-progress happening as Winter sets in. Come Spring, iBoD will release Carnatic Water Music as our first extended play download!