[chuck-users] [livecode] granular music recommendations?

Kassen signal.automatique at gmail.com
Mon May 19 18:59:24 EDT 2008

2008/5/20 Peter Todd <chuck at xinaesthetic.net>:

> Hello,


> I'll add my voice to the chorus (cloud? swarm?) recommending Roads'
> Microsound.  Although I must admit that I've never really managed to
> properly listen to and enjoy any of his compositions, finding them a bit on
> the cold academic side, but that may reflect a lack of time and effort on my
> part more than anything.  Hey, who said music had to be about 'feeling',
> anyway? ;-)

To be clear; I too recommended Microsound last evening (my time) in response
to Algo mentioning Gabor (off list). Road's compositions are indeed very
abstract but I love the book in how it adresses many of the issues I had
with grains in how they were commonly used and the book is pleasantly
personal, I feel.

> Also, Tim Blackwell has done some good work with swarms / flocking
> behaviour simulations mapped to granular synthesis:
> http://www.timblackwell.com/
> Actually, I've done some similar things too FWIW, but nothing online etc at
> the moment.  I think it's an interesting approach as one has lots of data
> that might otherwise be generated randomly / stochastically that can be
> mapped quite naturally to granular synthesis.  At the same time, it is
> possible to interact with the system quite intuitively using a device with a
> few degrees of freedom (like analysis of a normal acoustic instrument, in
> Tim's case).  To me, that kind of interaction is more interesting than total
> 'control'; that may be getting off-topic in a way, but given the sheer
> volume of numbers that are required to drive granular synthesis, the mapping
> and interaction tends to be particularly important.

Yes, I agree. I used to work a lot with "chorus" type sounds, not the
popular effect but the way a actual chorus (of people) works; I'd use a few
paralel tone generators to build up a single sound. At the start of a not
they'd play at the set pitch + some random offset and over the cource of the
note the scaling of that offset would decrease, leading to a single pitch,
like singers tuning to eachother. Here it's quite natural to map the amount
of randomness at the start to the note's velocity as real instruments tend
to be harder to controll at higher volumes. These particular tones probably
wouldn't be called "granular" but that's one example of how I look at
randomness and controller mappings where some randomness makes a lot of

What really changed the way I look at mappings and what I'd recomend in
adition to Road's notes on controller mappings for grains is Stephen Beck's
article "Designing Acoustically Viable Instruments in Csound" which can be
found in the Csound Handbook. This article contains some examples in Csound
but it's very readable for ChucKists that may not read Csound. Recomended.

> Even straight randomness can be have its place, though and often,
> 'randomness' is stochastic in a way that is informed by physics equations
> etc; I think that was the case with Riverrun, for example.  I suppose that
> may be where one starts getting into chin-stroking territory...

Yes, of course. Sounds like rain or the ocean can be beautiful and indeed
touch one emotionally without any need for a composer to get involved... and
those are purely random (at least for practical purposes).

I also have to say that concepts are great, but what gets to me is pieces
where the concept seems to have been turned into sound directly without the
composer keeping a ear on the end result (some schools of composition
actively encourage that at times) or without relating it back to a listener.
I still go to concerts like this at times and while these pieces are often
interesting on a technical level they tend not to touch me emotionally
which, to return to your point above, I would dare say is a nice property
for art to have. Call me old-fashioned but all of my favourite works of art
(some of which are *also* quite abstract) touch me emotionally.

I don't feel this is a inherent issue of grains but more one of mappings
which just happen to be very hard to do well for grains.

On a entirely personal note; I used to spend most of my time for a given
piece on sound-design yet lately I've been most happy with relatively simple
sounds with very carefull mappings. Right now I'm working on a instrument
that sound-wise is (at the moment) just a PulseOsc with a LPF, ADSR and a
(custom) overdrive. Extremely simple stuff yet with good mappings (I'm using
a tilt-sensing joypad) even something simple like that can be very evocative
as a instrument. I plan to develop the sound generating bits further later
but first I want to get my mappings right.

> p.s. there is another list called microsound; might be of interest.
> http://microsound.org/

Yes, I used to be on it years ago. I had to unsubscribe when it became
swamped with politics and increasingly abstract language. IMHO grains are
already hard enough to controll without using language seemingly meant to
obfuscate what's actually being said. I thought I'd leave those debates to
those who enjoy them and try to have fun with music on my own instead (Which
is not to say there weren't people sharing interesting ideas as well and in
the time since it may have changed!).


PS; IMHO, IMHO & IMHO. No offence intended at all to others with different
tastes and experiences.
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