Designing Sound: Artificial Sounds – Max patches

I enjoyed reading Andy Farnell’s excellent Designing Sound book a few years ago. While working through the Practical Series examples he provides, I decided they would be more useful for me as Max patches. When it comes to coding and algorithms, I also know that I learn better by going slowly and working step-by-step, so I decided to port the patches from Pd to Max.

A few disclaimers and caveats:

  • Many of these patches rely on abstractions that Farnell or I created. Download the Sound Design Practical Series helper files
  • Some of these patches require gen~, particularly to realize the rzero and rpole filters.
  • Filter topologies differ between the programs. My goal was to get something working in Max, not necessarily to exactly match Parnell’s Pd patch. Therefore, some patches could benefit from a close comparison with the Pd version and from tuning by ear.
  • Not everything initializes properly. Consult the text for reasonable starting values, or experiment to find your own.

Download the Sound Design Practical Series – Artificial Sounds

Cage Variations III

I’ll be performing John Cage’s Variations III tomorrow night as part of a small group appearing on Tim Feeney’s concert honoring Lou Cohen. Cage’s score calls for dropping 42 sheets of transparent paper, each with a circle drawn on it. The performer finds the largest clump of overlapping circles and then counts the intersections. Above is a small Processing sketch I wrote to drop the circles for me. Reload the page to generate a new random placement of the circles.

Tuesday September 10 7:30pm
Tim Feeney Faculty Recital
University of Alabama Moody Music Building, Concert Hall
Tuscaloosa AL

 

Sun Survey Time Lapse

I’m getting ready to do some landscaping and wanted to get an idea about how much sun shines on different parts of the yard. Today’s weather prediction was mostly sunny, so I fired up a webcam, gaff taped it to the window and hacked a quick intervalometer Max patch. I grabbed a frame every 30 seconds capturing a total of 1133 frames during the day. This video shows them at 30 frames per second.

Thanks to Day of the New Dan’s Time Lapse Assembler for coming through when ImageMagick choked.

Tracktion Lives Again

I loved working with Julian Storer’s Tracktion–the single-screen DAW–when it was released in the early 2000’s. I thought it was the easiest DAW to get into and had the most productive workflow for me. I often recommended it to students who were interested in working with audio as an easy way to try out ideas. I eventually stopped using it sometime after Mackie purchased it in 2003 and then sadly stopped supporting the product. Julian and a few team members have left Mackie and are releasing a new version, Tracktion 4, next week. I think I’ll take it for a spin again.

Zicarelli Shout-Out for Post & Beam

David Zicarelli (the main man behind Max) just wrote about Post & Beam on his Cycling ’74 blog.

Holland Hopson’s Post and Beam was released last year, but I stupidly didn’t fall in love with it until recently. I guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it — beautifully performed original and traditional folk songs set against an electronic dreamworld. I can’t think of a recording that provides a more powerful study in contrasts — heartfelt and alienating most of all. Check it out and see if you don’t think the Maxified banjo is not the up-and-coming instrument of the decade!

Cage/Gould

Cage’s Inlets will be performed using his original shells

Saturday’s Cage/Gould concert at RPI’s EMPAC in Troy NY is the next in a long line of John Cage centenary tributes happening this year. Featuring the Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble directed by Michael Century, the program includes works by John Cage juxtaposed with a recreation of part of Glenn Gould’s final piano concert.

Saturday, November 17 8pm
EMPAC Theater
Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble
Cage Gould
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy NY

The french philosopher Elie During knits it all together in a pre-performance lecture (5pm) with the help of a vacuum cleaner (no kidding!) or at least the metaphor of a vacuum cleaner or the memory of the sound of a vacuum cleaner or the memory of the experience of the obliteration of all other sounds thanks to a vacuum cleaner… I guess we’ll have to go to the lecture to find out for sure.

I’ll be providing some electronic dialogues in the concert between Cage and Gould using recordings of their voices. I put together a Max patch to trigger the cues and quickly found that my old-school use of Max’s “coll” object wasn’t quite cutting it. I looked into Max’s new “dict” object as a replacement but hit a limit recalling nested hierarchical statements. So I delved into SQLite and Javascript to put together a relational database of cues and associated tags. Now I’m able to query and sort the cues at will. I can also change the content of the database (add cues, edit tags, etc.) without munging up the patch itself. Lovely!

Wind Whistling in Overhead Wires: Soundtrack Companion to The Observers

Wind Whistling in Overhead Wires is a collection of field recordings and outtakes from my work on Jacqueline Goss’s film The Observers.

This is a pay-what-you-wish (starting at free!), digital download release on Bandcamp. I made the field recordings during our two amazing shoots at the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (see these previous posts). I processed some of the sounds using custom effects developed with Cycling 74’s Max software and added a few instruments in the studio. I chose my favorite sounds and sketches that didn’t make it into the final film and sequenced them to create a continuous 20-minute piece (though some of the tracks work well on their own, particularly Downslope Flow). Enjoy!

Music for Folding Chair

I made these 4 short pieces to celebrate the new folding chairs ASAC has provided for the UAG. One folding chair, two contact mics, a superball mallet, a cheap cello bow and Max–the pieces practically made themselves.

51 3rd Recordings – Everyone Looks to a Sumatran, Virginian Curlew

Here are live recordings of my set from November’s show at 51 3rd Street that also included performances by Keir Neuringer and Rambutan (Eric Hardiman). It’s an eclectic set beginning with a slightly dysfunctional performance of

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Everyone Looks to the Sky

No one but me would know that the computer is responding to my playing differently than anticipated. Such is the fun of interactive computer music: you just have to work with it, ride with it, fight it, respond to the moment, change your plans. In this case, the conception of the piece is already so circumscribed that the content of the work is hardly changed, though the form is clearly different–and maybe more dramatic as a result.

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Batak Batak

A recent binge of Indonesian music led me to dust off this piece. I never felt I had worked out the sax part enough when the piece was new, which might account for why I shelved it. Revisiting the piece, I discovered very few indications of what I had intended for the sax part–little more than a scribbled microtonal scale. There’s clearly still work to do here, but I’m less bothered than I might have been in the past by the elliptical playing.

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East Virginia

This has become one of my go-to banjo pieces; a surefire way to find my place on the instrument.

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Curlew

A brand-new piece getting its first public airing. I learn so much by performing new material and can’t wait to revise this tune as a result. Yet another song with bird imagery (YASWBI).