Gordon's Progress Part 2

Posted: 10/26/2007 4:21:38 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

As warned, not pretty, but here it is in all its glory nonetheless.

Picture of articulation regulator ( http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=1756172850&size=o).

(Also illustrated - my default waveform and brightness settings for the etherwave.)
Posted: 10/26/2007 4:36:58 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

oh dear lord that thing looks scary.
thank you for saying bleep.
please let us know when you post recordings using it.
Posted: 10/26/2007 9:56:28 PM

From: Toledo, Ohio United States of America

Joined: 2/22/2006

Thanks, for the photo! "'Utility' is the name of an ugly child birthed by a practical midwife without enough coffee."
However, I have a question: Do you hear any sonic 'pops' or 'puffs' when you depress the button of your "articulation regulator"?

Good Luck!

Posted: 10/27/2007 10:29:32 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

That'll be [i]scary[/i] in the sense that "if you don't like it I believe you know what you can do with it?"

More espresso, nurse, stat!

Google isn't helping me figure out what a [i]sonic puff[/i] is, but if The Sonic Puffs were a band I imagine they would be like Sonic Youth meets The Powerpuff Girls. There's a hint of a click, like a light scratch on vinyl, but not enough to to make the needle skip.

When I record something, I'll mention it.
Posted: 10/31/2007 6:11:30 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I went to see Pamelia Kurstin at the Vortex last night. Oli from Hands Off was there, also on a return visit. Which was nice.

As previously at the Vortex, she played two sets - one theremin and loopers, and one free jazz quartet with piano, drums and sax.

It seemed to me there was more stylistic variety in the looping set than before. Last time she showed me her staccato technique, and I have been adapting and expanding it and lo and behold, she used tremelo. Ha, I thought, I figured that out too. Afterwards I mentioned that you can double the speed by moving above and below the loop rather than towards and away from it. But, as Pamelia pointed out, the vibrations can throw the pitch arm off.

On the subject of pitch I have to report I did not hear a note all evening that was evidently not where it was supposed to be. Whether they all aligned nicely with the notes on a piano or not I have no idea, and absolutely of no importance. It worked, and it was extraordinary.

Last time, I had no idea how she does what she does - this time I could see the cogs going round - well, more likely I was projecting my experience of improvising on to her. Nonetheless, I was aware of decision points in the music, where you decide - do I ease back on this and take it somewhere else, or do I bring it on! Seems to me, that more than last time Pamelia was deciding to bring it on. There was a section in one of the looped pieces where she went very deep, and stayed there, layering it up until the PA was starting to show a few signs of stress, then she dropped down a register and oh my goodness I didn't realise there were notes that deep. In Regent's Park Zoo, six miles away, an elephant turned its head to listen, and nodded approvingly. The PA complained heartily.

Also there was more aggressive use of her effects box to change the timbre of her instrument - including some screaming guitar feedback - not like a guitar, any more than her "walking bass" (which also appeared in the looping set, and walked right up to the higher notes) sounds like a double bass - but as an electric guitar would sound if it was a theremin - if that makes any sense.

This broadening of the palette also extended to the jazz set, which included some looping, and some very impressive repeated playing. (Apparently this is one of the criteria of good classical playing, that you can play a phrase the exact same way several times - (who needs loopers?) So Pamelia would play a phrase enough times to fill a loop and then leave it running long enough that even someone with tin ears would start to hear the differences between phrases. Even when the phrase in question was a single note. She stood statue still for that - and for most of the rest of the time as well - she is the least mobile player I have seen play, either live or on youTube. Something I hadn't noticed before. I also note she has perfect theremin face. Unchanging and totally inscrutable. I get the impression she is very aware of the pitch field - as aware as one can be of something invisible and intangible (but not inaudible.)

Also I have witnessed a completely new playing technique.

The "Angel and Naked Glove Puppet" technique with added trill.

This requires the player to crouch down below the volume loop, so that it hovers above ones head like a halo, whilst extending the pitch arm up so that the hand peeks over the top of your ePro's pitch arm and slides back and forth along it whilst forming different knuckle extensions. The now redundant volume hand can now be used to operate various pedals or, as I suspect in this case, to tap rapidly on some part of the casing, or another earthed conductor, to produce a very precise trill (the odds of the interval being an exact number of semitones is very small - but as mentioned before, in this context it mattered not the slightest.)

So. Lots of fun. If I recall any other bits I'll post more.

Posted: 11/7/2007 4:53:40 AM

From: Blaricum, The Netherlands

Joined: 10/24/2007

I would like to make a 'RensD progress'....
But who would be intrested in MY progress. :-)
Posted: 11/10/2007 5:17:38 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I would. Progresses are encouraging for readers, and writing mine has been helpful for me to get my thoughts in order and to be able to see my own progress more clearly. Progress on the theremin can be slow at times with lots of rather dismal plateaus - at times like that it's good to be able to look back and see that you actually are getting somewhere.

The somewhere that I was at yesterday was Sonic Weekender II. Here's a cross-post from the WLM forum about it.


It was fun!

When I got home I sorely missed the peace and quiet of the Sonic Weekender. This is probably a unique perspective, and stems from the builders earnestly removing major structural elements of my house with pneumatic drills this afternoon. Currently half a dozen slender iron poles appear to be the difference between a home and a pile of rubble, although I am sure they are merely precautionary.

I will never think of Barry White the same way again. That is one of twenty reasons to want Sonic Weekender II, the album. Yup, 20. On Sunday evening we sat and listened to an hour's worth of truly excellent music.

Not that that was the only music made in the house. While Pierre and Ann were busy in post-production people continued making more. Some was recorded, some just for the fun of it. I worked on a miniature, 52 seconds long, with my little toy theremin and GarageBand.

Soon after I was hauled into Matt's conspiracy to set up a second studio, a rat's nest of whatever was to hand, Arthur's Mungolator, Kiki's AirFX, a Kaos Pad, keyboards, computers, wires, wires, wires. The first piece went on for ages - musically it felt like being pursued - I added a theremin track, all good stuff but no time wasted mixing down, on to the next piece, then

a long time

spent getting the sounds just right, and keeping the seriously overworked mixing board in line, and we're good to go. And eight minutes later there is an amazing, raw industrial piece in the bag - but it needs something extra - Banjo! So we have the Abattoir Hoedown, and for the finishing touch, Guitar Gordon (me Theremin Gordon) does his thing - his thing requiring the ability to coax a broad variety of unexpected sounds from a poor, unsuspecting electric guitar with, at times, an electric fan. A damn fine track - constantly inventive - and, as I was playing mini-Pierre, I get to listen to it while I type this. Shivers down the back.

But this is just what I was up to - the place buzzed with activity. Working backwards, in the morning Arthur, Marc and I improvised a three theremin piece - the highlight of the event for me - just a simple idea, and it worked from the get-go - I love the sound of multiple theremins and it's a real dream to work with musically like-minded people too.

The day before was just as good, but it's a bit of a blur at the moment, so I'm signing off.

Happy Camper, Gordon.

Oh, Arthur's meal was another highlight. Very good.


OK, cross-post over. Now let's revisit the theremin bits with a bit more detail.

The Gakken mini-theremin piece. Done the same way as The Housefly's Lament remix (http://youtube.com/watch?v=OKN5y49mijs) - one track, heavily modified in post-processing. Working title - Gakken Monster - which later mutated to Kraken - afterwards I discovered that the Kraken was a giant squid, and the piece is not very squidy but the sound of the word is right, so Kraken it is. My last few etherwave recordings have avoided post-processing - I've been working on what can be performed live by a single player - me - so it was fun to play with effects in GarageBand for a while and, I only recorded the one track, then duplicated and time-shifted it in GB, applying different effects to each copy. So this is a track which can [i]theoretically[/i] be played live solo - given sufficient outboard effects boxes.

The trio. Title currently
Posted: 11/10/2007 6:06:24 AM

From: Blaricum, The Netherlands

Joined: 10/24/2007

>> I would like to make a 'RensD progress'....
>> But who would be intrested in MY progress. :-)

> I would. Progresses are encouraging for readers, and writing mine has been helpful for me to get my thoughts
> in order and to be able to see my own progress more clearly.
> Progress on the theremin can be slow at times with lots of rather dismal plateaus - at times like that it's good
> to be able to look back and see that you actually are getting somewhere.

And so it has been done. :-)
Thanks for the encouragement Gordon
Posted: 11/11/2007 5:25:33 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005


[b]kraken[/b] ---> http://youtube.com/watch?v=b_SWL_MV5SA

Posted: 11/19/2007 7:36:09 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Couple more things from SW2.

The Nag's Head! Wow. I remember being frustrated at not being able to get to High Wycombe to see the Sex Pistols at the Nag's Head because public transport was rubbish.

So really great to see Wire Mother, Electromungo and Gat Stevens jamming there the night before SW2. And equally great to be dragged up on stage to play Arthur's Kees while he operated the Mungolator - a circuit bent keyboard. My first totally unplanned improv in public. It seemed to go OK.

The Articulation Regulator. As anticipated any clickiness was buried amongst other instruments. Also it probably helped that I figured out how best to press the button - straight down with no sideways movement - and let go smartly - faster than the button's spring returns it to the closed state. Oddly, I realised this whilst flushing our push-button toilet - the flush has similar mechanics and jams occasionally. It was on one of the tracks that may not appear in the finished album - Pursued - so we will have to wait and see.

Back home, building work has spread into the kitchen - soon the place that was the kitchen will be part living room, part lavatory and part new kitchen. So my studio is currently a tiny corner in the living room. Just enough room for a minimum set-up, which for me means one effects pedal - the echohead.

I've been following more links on wikipedia, and listening to my back-catalogue. I have to say that I'm now far enough away from most of it to listen dispassionately and I like what I hear! So that's a good thing. Either I'm on the right track, or I'm completely delusional. I think its the former. :-)

Void Ship in particular. It's actually very consonant, which came as a little surprise because of all my pieces that's the one where I pay least attention to intonation. But now I know why, and once again it's all down to echoes. Previously I decided that music was all about waves. Now I'm extending that to it being all about waves and how they interact with their environment. They bounce off stuff.

Rule 1 about looking at diagrams illustrating sound waves. Don't forget they are longitudinal waves - pressure pulses - not transverse waves - pond ripples - even though they are drawn as sine waves. Then they start to make more sense. In particular you can see how they might well be reflected at the end of an open pipe, where there's a pressure difference, and go back down the pipe, constructively or destructively interfering with themselves on the way, according to the length of the pipe and the frequency of the sound. Just like in my Lasso d'Amores.

From the wikipedia page on standing waves...

[i]Standing waves are also observed in physical media such as strings and columns of air. Any waves travelling along the medium will reflect back when they reach the end. This effect is most noticeable in musical instruments where, at various multiples of a vibrating string or air column's natural frequency, a standing wave is created, allowing harmonics to be identified. Nodes occur at fixed ends and antinodes at open ends. If fixed at only one end, only odd-numbered harmonics are available.[/i]

Just like in a delay box with a duration that corresponds to an audible frequency. In Void Ship I used a 20ms delay. 20ms = 50Hz. G1 = 48.999Hz

At such a short duration the delay box is a crude feedback comb filter with positive feedback. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comb_filter Don't worry about the maths, just check out the diagrams. Basically it resonates on the fundamental frequency - 50Hz (UK mains frequency, as it happens) and even harmonics. - i.e twice the frequency, four times the frequency, six times the frequency and so on.

The intervals between these harmonics: 1:1 - 2:1 - 4:1 - 6:1 - 8:1 - 10:1 - 12:1 - 14:1 - 16:1 - 18:1 - 20:1 - 22:1 - 24:1 - ...
are: 2:1 (octave) 2:1 (octave) 3:2 (perfect fifth) 4:3 (perfect fourth) 5:4 (major third) 6:5 (minor th

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