New Podcast: Perseid-inspired electronic imrpovisation

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Tonight's podcast is a relatively short improvisation using the DSI Evolver. The initial section was inspired, at a vague conceptual level, by going out to see the Perseid meteor shower tonight (August 12-13, 2007), and then unfolds from there with the usual tweaking of knobs and parameters while listening.

Although this is a fairly short recording, it might become part of a larger piece to add to the upcoming album 2 1/2, with a fast techno/electronica beat section to follow. I'm not working on that tonight because I actually am trying catch a little bit of the meteor shower.

For subscription and listening options, click the “CatSynth Channel” icon in the upper right or the subscription link at the top of this post. And as always, enjoy!

New Podcast: Performance at 7th Annual Skronkathon

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Tonight we feature the much-discussed performance from the 7th Annual Skronkathon two weeks ago. I did a solo electronic set featuring myself playing laptop (running []Open Sund World[/url]), the Indian ektar and gopichand string instruments, a toy piano, the DSI Evolver, and of course my quacking toy duck (everyone loves the duck).

This recording was done my Matt Ingalls for the sfSound Radio broadcast. I edited it a bit, mostly cutting out the empty bits or embarrassing errors.

You can see a photograph from the performance here and more info about the technical preparations here.

For subscription and listening options, click the “CatSynth Channel” icon in the upper right or the subscription link at the top of this post. And as always, enjoy!

RPM update: Trieste 116

Yes, this is the second RPM post in a row, but the project has been dominating my outside-of-work life the last few days, at least the parts not taken up with eating, drinking, sleeping and playing with Luna.

Even though I didn't spend a huge amount of time this evening, I think I produced my best track to date, as I described earlier on my RPM blog:

Well, this is the first recording I have made for this project that felt truly inspired – even as I was working on it, I had the feeling “this is going to be really good.” So even if I never release the RPM album to the public as a whole, this piece will be released in some form no matter what.

It is called Trieste 116, and splices together an improvisation done with my favorite custom patch “116” on the DSI Evolver, with excerpts from a live recording of a jazz combo with pennywhistle at Cafe Trieste in San Francisco (yes, that's the famous Beatnik hangout). The Evolver patch features non-linear feedback and filtering only (i.e., no traditional oscillators), and has an unstable flute-like quality that I attempt to blend with the pennywhistle in the Cafe Trieste clips. It all works together, at least for me. Additionally, the track opens with a quiet recording of a Dixieland band, an element I wanted to use somewhere in the album as a New Orleans tribute.

The Cafe Trieste recording as well as the Dixieland band were obtained from the freesound project and released on the Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.

Once again, a demo track is available to RPM participants (do any RPM participants read this forum?) via the Sample Engine, just look for “Amar” in the Author column. One can also get a pretty good idea by listening to the October 14, 2006 podcast, which also featured an improvisation using my Evolver patch “116.”

UPDATE: Trieste 116 is up on the front page of RPM today!

I also recommend checking out “Angie Fights Crime”, I had coincidentally looked at them yesterday, too.

New Podcast Entry: Oct 14 evolver improv

I have uploaded a new podcast entry: a guided improvisation I did last night using my DSI Evolver synth. The idea was to focus on soft, high-pitched timbres but with unstable states that can easily produce more chaotic signals. This of course lots of fun, and I was quite pleased with the results except for a couple of loud “thumpy” sounds around two minutes into the piece. I am considering this an actual piece, even a composition of sorts, but I am still looking for a good title. Feel free to suggest you own in the “Comments” section.

As always, click here to subscribe to the podcast, or contact me if you have trouble with it. Enjoy!

getting ready for tomorrow's performance, part 1

Well, it's time to stop fooling around with pictures and get back to using Open Sound World for what is was intendend, making sound. In preparation for my performance tomorrow at the Skronkathon, I have selected a couple of patches that have worked well for me in the past. They are quite robust, and provide a variety of musical gestures and timbres that complement the sound generated by Ron Lettuce on his PVC wind instrument.

First there is my sinusoidal timbre space based on bifurcation diagrams from classic chaotic functions, controlled using my Wacom graphics tablet. If that sounds really complicated and weird, just accept for the moment that it sounds really cool, and that I will post a more in-depth article about it along with sound clips in the near future. The second patch uses a WX7 wind controller to control a set of resonance models and the excitations used to drive them – essentially, a metallic chamber that one plays like a wind instrument (clarinet, saxophone, etc.). Both of these programs were used in my performances with ELSA Productions last year.

Before today, I had been a bit worried about using my Dell laptop for the performance, as it had a tendency to start running the fan at full blast and slowing to a crawl, especially when running a CPU-intensive program like OSW or Emulator X2. Things would get even worse running a program like Poser or Bryce that is both CPU and graphics intensive. I installed the fan control software and cleaned out the internal fans and heat sink as described in this article and others, and while this has helped, it hasn't cured the problem, particularly with respect to graphics. I fear the root cause of the problem is simply that the laptop, which is nearly three years old, is simply nearing retirement.

In any case, I am also the planning to use the Evolver and the feedback+filter technique I described in a previous article. I generally have both a hardware synth and computer running simultaneously during live performances, so that if the computer and software crash I still have something to play. This has paid off on numerous occasions.

And that's pretty much it. It doesn't sound like a lot, a couple of very focused synthesis techniques, but by listening and playing them like traditional instruments, I expect to get a ful musical performance – I often advise such a “simple” approach to live electronic performance when asked by other musicians.

So that's it for now. I'm off to San Francisco for my one “rehearsal,” taking a leisurely trip up Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay and then cutting over to get to the city. More later.

DSI Evolver legal again in Kansas public schools

After the recent electoral defeats of Creationists on the Kansas school board, students are now free again to use the Evolver synthesizer from Dave Smith Instruments. Was the Evolver an unintended victim of the continuing assault on the theory of evolution and scientific reason, or part of an orchestrated effort to eliminate all electronic music in Kansas except for the DX7 electric piano patch used by wedding and bar-mitzvah bands?

Speaking of music spawned by the devil, I have been experimenting a lot lately with the use of feedback as the primary sound source for the filters instead of the starndard oscillators. The instability combined with the filters and multiple conversions between analog and digital in the signal path make for some very interesting results. I have posted an example here for your listening pleasure. Be forwarned, there are a lot of harsh high frequencies in this example, though the MP3 compression does help soften them a bit. Enjoy!