E-Coltranius #3: Project "128"
My musical background, in four parts, with a fifth possibly growing on me:
Now, I really want incorporate these tools and my musical background into my composition. Cue the video above. Not a full piece - probably barely a snippet, mostly just a proof of concept that I can work some of this stuff. I spent a little time improvising with this track, and it was fun, if a little self indulgent.
One of the challenges with synthesized music is that it sort of gravitates to 80's film soundtrack and hair band sounds - great if that's the aesthetic for which you are shooting, but frustrating if you're not. I suppose that may be my own 80's and 90's childhood experience creeping in, too. This snippet definitely fits into that groove, but I am filled with inspiration. Next step: I want to get some more complex chords going with more dynamic contrast. I might tweak this piece, or I might just move it to the shoe box of unfinished ideas and experiments.
Texture really is the attraction I have with EDM sounds. I think the reason I enjoy music from the late-Romantic period is largely because these composers were such masters of orchestration. They used so many timbres to convey emotion, stories, philosophies, etc., and I find it captivating. I think synthesized music presents a vast set of possibilities, and they can be used in much the same way as orchestral textures - and, in fact, many of the sounds of EDM were derived directly from acoustic orchestral sounds. The question is: can I, Brandon Dorris, with my decidedly non-electric musical background, pull off something influenced by this genre, in such a fashion that my bebop heart will be happy playing it? It remains to be seen!
Whatever I do next, I am having fun with music, and next to making money with music, that's about the best thing in the world, right? Just kidding, of course...obviously having fun while making money with music is the best thing.
It has been a long weekend...which brings me to Sunday Jams. On the way home from a concert (my day job is being Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Marketing Director) I sometimes stop for a 30 minute to 2 hour wind-down, depending on how much I need to unwind. I often set up some portion of my synth rig, and I sit down with no rules and no plan to make some spontaneous music. Sometimes I jam to a playalong track, sometimes I patch something up and noodle, sometimes I write and arrange a tune from scratch...like I said, no rules.
This Sunday I set up my Behringer Neutron with a t.c. electronics M350 effects processor for some killer spaced-out reverb and just noodled around. I accidentally connected the bipolar LFO to the envelope 1 gate, and was pleasantly surprised...BAM...modular synthesis in a nutshell, I think. After some tweaking to get the right sound, and right pulse from the LFO, I soaked it in some dark reverb from the M350 and explored for a while. Since I was digging it, I made a short, room miked video. Enjoy - or don't, and let me know why not. - BD
My first EWI exploration with VCV Rack, an Open-source virtual modular synthesizer. As VCV Rack approaches version 1.0, things are getting interesting, and the upcoming stability is getting me excited about the sound possibilities for EWI!
All modules used in this video are free, and they are POWERFUL. Wrapping my head around the work flow for designing a dynamic, expressive synth voice with breath control has been less formidable than I thought. One of the custom modules (Dual MIDI to CV) makes it easy with dedicated CC #02 routing! Of course, a much simpler voice could be made with a simple oscillator, a low pass filter, a VCA and an ADSR filter. Routing CV gates and breath through a multiplier to trigger/control everything, and a slew-rate limiter/inverter to smooth the translation of MIDI to control voltage should go in the category of "minimum" needs, too.
Now, for some short educational programming...
When I first started using a breath controller I was very much in the dark about how breath control worked. It took reverse engineering several patches made by other people to figure out the basics. In its most basic form, you are modulating some parameter (usually volume or the cutoff frequency of a low pass filter) with data from your breath sensor. Note data is pretty straight forward: your controller says "start playing C4 now, and stop playing now."
Now, to turn the electronic sounds into something more organic we need to smoothly adjust a parameter and cause a change in perceived loudness. This change can be achieved by gradually increasing the amplifier volume as you blow harder, but if you want to create a sound with more "living" characteristics you can instead gradually increase the cutoff frequency on a low pass filter from 0 (completely closed, and there for blocking all frequencies). As the filter opens, more harmonics are allowed through, causing the perceived sound to get louder AND brighter. I have heard this setup (breath sensor routed to a closed low pass filter cutoff frequency parameter) on a pure saw wave called the "heart and soul of wind synthesis."
If you experiment with Eurorack (or any other kind of synthesis) and breath control, let me know - I love this stuff! - BD
I play saxophone.*