This piece is a praise on things and events that are beyond my comprehension and control. Effect of subtle sonic changes on my mind, body, and soul is an example of such things.
Hardware Setup and Instruments
- One vibraphone with a working motor
- Soft mallets and a bow
- A computer with SuperCollider : Setup the computer near the vibraphone so that you may see the screen. A Macintosh is preferred but not necessary. The SuperCollider application can be downloaded for free at www.audiosynth.com
- Hallelujah.scd file: The file can be downloaded from here
- One audio interface and one microphone : Connect a condenser microphone into the input 1 of the interface. Connect the interface to the computer. Alternatively, you can use a USB microphone and no interface.
- A sound reinforcement system: connect the stereo output of the interface to the speaker(s). The speakers should be located in close distance to the vibraphone. Putting the speaker right behind the performer should work in small-medium sized venue.
- Volume : The overall volume of the piece should not be loud. The computer part should be just loud enough to hear the pulsing between the vibraphone and the sine tone parts.
- Pedal : Pedal is always on. Muffle notes with the mallet on mm 51 (notated with ‘x’ ).
- Motor : Set to slow. Motor is on from mm 53 to 79.
- Bowing : There are three notes in the vibraphone part that needs to be bowed (mm 65, 74, and 76).
- Pedal : Setup the vibraphone so that the pedal is always on.
- Count-In : Measure 1 starts after four beats of count in. Refer to the Visual Click Track window on the computer screen. The performer may interpret the timing of the notes.
- Notation of Computer Part : The computer part has three odd-shaped note heads. The rectangle represents a sine tone that changes its frequency when a vibraphone notes are played. The triangle represents a wobbly tone with rhythmic variation. And the diamond represents a note with rich overtones. All computer parts are long and gradual. You may start to notice the computer part about a measure or two after they are triggered at the notated measures. For example. the rectangular note in measure 5 will start to have a audible volume at around measure 6.
How to Run the Computer Part
- Make sure that your audio interface is set as the default input and output device for the computer.
- Open Haellelujah.scd file in SuperCollider
- Go to Menu and select Language->Evaluate File.
- Measure 1 starts after four beats count in.
- Press command+period (.) or select Language->Stop to stop the computer part
- Repeat steps 2-5 for rehearsal and practice.
I taught Digital Signal Processing Theory class in the last Spring. I have never studied this hard to teach a course. As a result, I learned (or relearned) about DSP quite a bit. More specifically, I learned to appreciate elegance of “classic” techniques, such as AM, FM, sample-and-hold, and delays. I think I can explain them in digital terms. Most importantly, I learned that digital signal processing is all about (good) math.
The best way to wrap up the semester and summarize what I have learned is to make a piece using the new techniques I have learned.
1. To start the piece, I begin with a sinusoid generated with very slow Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) on its pitch. The LFO’s shape is made with a wave shaping function using polynomials. The result is an unusual curve pitch pattern.
2. On this polynomial curve, I add sample and hold. The smooth line gets “steps” in terms of pitch. I change the S&H rate to create different rhythms
3. As the piece progresses, I would like to have some frequency modulation gradually fading in.
4. This should sound fun if I have more of them. Here is an example of all the techniques with four sinusoids. The rate of S&H, the shape of polynomial curve, and the modulation rate of FM are randomly selected for each line.
The resulting sound sounded like a good accompaniment for a noisy electronic piece. So I played a no-input mixer and custom synthesizer over the polynomial pads. I also continued the piece with algorithmically drum part that I have developed for Snake and Ox track in my latest album (more about this track later).
Here’s the final result, Snake Extension. I think I’ll add this to my solo repertoire.
Visceral Media Records will be releasing my new album in few weeks. The album is titled 120V, and it is a “best of” album that contains my works composed in the past 10+ years. It also has a new track for no-input mixer and computer (marked with * in the track listing).
The album has quite a variety in terms of electronic music style. I feel very happy to share an album that contains pieces that reflects who I was and who I am. My life and music has changed immensely since I started to make electronic after plugging things into 120V outlets in the US.
- Sound Mobile – I. Forward
- Fireflies and Cicadas
- Sound Mobile – II. Backward
- Reed Bed
- Sound Mobile – III. All Together
I’ll be teaching a course in algorithmic composition in Fall 2014. To prepare for this course and other projects, I decided to reread books on the subject during the summer. The first book I am revisiting is Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture by Reas, McWilliams, and LUST.
I learned about the aesthetics of generative and code-based art from this book. I enjoyed applying the ideas and concepts I have learned to my music. The book taught me how to think about composition in numbers and codes.
I am thinking about requiring students to read at least the first chapter of the book. The summary of the chapter includes some great sentences:
“Learning to program and to engage the computer more directly with code opens the possibility of not only creating tools, but also systems, environments, and entirely new modes of expression. It is here that the computer ceases to be a tool and instead becomes a medium.” (p25)
The chapter also mentions that using a computer in art reduces the production time, so the artists can use the extra time and energy to explore the procedure and structure. Coding in art also enables a person to customize and “hack” the tool. These ideas are easily applied to computer music.
I also like the chapter because it gives succinct definitions on algorithm and code. Algorithm is a specific instruction to do a task (p13). Code is an algorithm written in a programming language (p15). Thus, an algorithmic composition is a process of making music with specific instructions written for computer.
Here’s a simple example of such algorithmic compositions. Introvert has algorithmically generated computer accompaniment for live melodica player. The computer part generates same chord progression, but the timing, volume, and octave position of each notes are chosen by the computer. This makes the computer part somewhat unpredictable, and makes the part unique for each performance.