Gordon's Progress Part 2

Posted: 2/29/2008 6:51:43 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

[i]controlling only two parameters...[/i]

That was my thought too. I'd like to see a space-controlled EtchASketch made with a theremin and Max/MSP or similar.

This was a first attempt, so there are bits I'm not happy about, and having some previous drawing experience might help too. :-)

Try searching for EtchASketch images (http://images.google.com/images?client=safari&rls=en&q=etchasketch&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&um=1) to see what precision etchasketchists can achieve.

Posted: 3/4/2008 4:09:37 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Back on page 20 of Gordon's Progress I hypothesised a relative keyboard, where keys represented intervals rather than notes.


Guess what I found today? The [i]Samchilian[/i] keyboard. Not the same as mine. But same idea of a relative keyboard.

Here's a paper about it.


Here's a demo.


And I also see that occasional poster to these forums, and Hands Off Attendee, Theremind - aka Robert Hofmann of The Negative And The Uninspired is a Samchilian user.

Posted: 3/5/2008 10:07:21 AM

From: Blaricum, The Netherlands

Joined: 10/24/2007

Great Gordon.

That is thinking out of the box!
I like the instrument(s) very much.

Thank you for this links.

Posted: 3/10/2008 8:32:46 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

No worries.

The third Sonic Weekend is approaching, and I'm looking forward to multiple theremins with electromungo and PhilMT of these forums, as well as Marc of Large number. And there'll be a gig afterwards. It is currently Venue TBA, but apparently that is in hand.

So I'll be doing a solo set, amongst other things. I have had it in mind to do a totally improvised set, but as I'll be improvising with electromungo and as part of a theremin quartet I've decided to do some of my repertoire. Still a fair amount of improvisation, but within predefined parameters. A key part of which is having the knobs and switches on my theremin, effects and amp in just the right places. So I'm spending a while working out just what they should be, figuring out what I'm going to play and in what order and such.

I'm down for a fifteen minute set, which is about three pieces, so I'm preparing five so that I have options on the night.

Hadal Zone to open - it's a nice slow piece with easy to find notes for warming up. Then Articulator and then Void Ship. That should be the fifteen minutes.

But in case it isn't, or the fifteen minutes stretches on the night (everything is very loosely arranged) then

Unlit Airraids - the marching boots on the original was treated voice, but since then I've figured out how to do it with the theremin. (Set up a delay at half the right tempo, then punch rhythmically into the prelock zone - the bit of the pitch field where you get Geiger counter clicks until you have a whole battalion of boots - turn off the delay so it ignores any new sounds but keeps repeating, and crank the feedback up to 100% so it loops forever. Then play over it.

And a new piece I'm working on, working title Flying Dream, because I had a flying dream recently. I enjoy flying dreams, they're lucid, and my memories of flying dreams from my youth are so clear that I cannot distinguish them from memories of real events, except of course that I can't actually fly. Which is odd - it feels like the easiest thing to do. I can remember running along Ivy House Road, where I lived, leaning further and further forward, taking longer and longer strides, my toes touching the ground more and more lightly until they were superfluous and I moved in slow motion into the blue sky. And then another time just standing in a crowd and moving directly upwards, unnoticed, and away. Or not having any shoes, so moving lightly over the ground and banking effortlessly round bends.

But before I sleep, and after I wake, I feel the pressure on the soles of my feet and up my legs, the inescapable attraction of mass. To fly you must be light; ethereal; a creature of light; an angel. There is the structure, from plodding reality to floaty lightness and back again, achieved with a two second delay and plod plod plod on the bass, slowly increasing in complexity until I fade in the two second reverb and smudge everything into a glowing luminous mesh then long long overlapping notes into the stratosphere, then, hidden by the blur, increasingly simple plodding, revealed finally by fading out the reverb.

Angels, eh? Oh, not those pretty, demure ladies clad in white with dove wings, harps and halos on fluffy white clouds. That's a child's fantasy. Angels are awesome and terrible and beautiful, burning with the [i]light[/i] of GOD, fearsome to look upon, men cower in their sight. Lucifer, the light giver; Lahatiel, the flaming one; Noriel, the fire of God; Gradiel, the might of God; Rogziel, God's Wrath; Gabriel, the strength of God; Islington, who would storm the kingdom of Heaven.

full size image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Guido_Reni_031.jpg)

Recall the array of Angels and Devils in Franz Kafka's Amerika, all blowing their horns in a glorious, dissonant, pulsating, eternal chord, a dynamic equilibrium of glory. That'
Posted: 3/10/2008 1:02:01 PM

From: Dublin, Ireland

Joined: 7/25/2007

First thing I thought of when looking at the picture was "The Big Lebowski".. How about calling it "The Dude" (Or "El Duderino, if you're not into the brevity thing...")
Posted: 3/10/2008 2:52:33 PM

From: Blaricum, The Netherlands

Joined: 10/24/2007

Posted: 3/10/2008 8:07:46 PM

From: Toledo, Ohio United States of America

Joined: 2/22/2006

I bet the Theremin World server loves that bit of memory sapping religion! Ha!

Good Luck!

Posted: 3/10/2008 8:30:22 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Navrag - :-) I think I'll stay with the angels.

Thereminator - Who? What?

Teslatheremin - nah, it's a hot link.

OK, Flying Dream is mutating. No more fiddling with the reverb knob - it stays full on. Because - bells! We can do bells.

Well... bells in a theremin style, kinda like Pamelia's "double bass in a theremin style" - even if you hadn't heard in advance that it was reminiscent of a double bass, you'd still say "it doesn't actually sound like a double bass."

Here's the recipe for a peal of etherwave bells, with that caveat.

First you need a darned good pluck, so turn your amp up, move your hand to the side of the loop and slightly above it, so the sound is just muted, then bring your fingers down and towards yourself smartly. Recover the start position more slowly. Be careful to keep the pitch stationary during the pluck - the tiniest pitch bend and you'll get double bass, not bells. Keeping your volume elbow at a right angle helps.

Now as sinewavey a tone as the etherwave can produce. Check this chart here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/8666613@N04/2199492524/sizes/o/). Waveform turned to the extreme left, brightness centred is about as close as you'll get. It's a little asymmetrical, so there'll be at least one even harmonic, giving it a slightly brassy tone, but it's close.

OK, now lets add a lot of reverb. My Reflector maxes at about two seconds with some nice resonance on the pure digital setting, no filtering.

Now what we really need for bells is some harmonics that are not in simple ratio - a bit of dissonance. And the way to do that is with overlapping notes. Easy with all that reverb, but to avoid playing very rapidly and getting pitch shake, we'll use a long echo - two seconds with a lot of repeats to construct a peal of bells one note at a time, playing a new note once every two and a half seconds, jumping about within a limited pitch range and from the fifth note onwards, playing over the top of previous notes and getting more bell-like. It's important not to play in tune. That will remove the dissonance we're aiming for.

And just to give the sound a bit more variety, applying the Echohead's mod filter setting so that the timbre of the repeats varies a bit. Exact repeats can sound a bit "samey" if you're not careful.

One last point. These clang, not tinkle. Low notes.

There you are, a peal of out of tune bells in a theremin style.

How this applies to Flying Dreams and angels is for the next posting. I'm off to bed.
Posted: 3/11/2008 6:33:16 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

OK I'm back, and stuffed full of hot cross buns. Which is marginally relevant, as it was whilst munching on a bun (as Beckett noted in Watt, "bun is such a sad word, is it not?") and reading the latest edition of New Scientist (a music special) that it occurred to me that I was in the process of making sacred sounds - in a side bar on a bit about the science of music it notes:

[i]In a Sardinian style of a cappella singing studied by Bernard Lortat-Jacob at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, a fifth female voice called the quintina (literally “fifth one” in Sardinian) emerges from four male voices when their harmony and timbres are just right. The voice is said to be that of the Virgin Mary coming to reward the singers for their piety, but in fact it is simply a misperception of the chord and its harmonics.[/i]

From the wikipedia article on gamelan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gamelan) music:

[i]Balinese gamelan instruments are commonly played in pairs which are tuned slightly apart to produce interference beats, ideally at a consistent speed for all pairs of notes in all registers. It is thought that this contributes to the very "busy" and "shimmering" sound of gamelan ensembles. In the religious ceremonies that contain gamelan, these interference beats are meant to give the listener a feeling of a god's presence or a stepping stone to a meditative state.[/i]

Fly dreams are one form of out of body experience. Related things include astral projection, near death experiences, and, of course, actual death experiences (one hopes!)

So, we start with a tolling bell (Ask not!) that develops into a peal of church bells - there's that religious connotation again, church bells signify an event - birth, marriage, death - and from that we elongate a single note until it becomes the steady tone of a failed life support machine. Now we ascend, very, very slowly to allow the repeats to form a rising cluster chord with a hint of phasing - a psychedelic sound - right up to the soprano range where the angels can give voice, and even beyond that to long overlapping tones, very close together for the pure, blinding white light, and interspersed with a deep tolling bell, for contrast and to keep the sounds of heaven harmonious. (Consider the harmonic scale - as featured slightly in Void Ship via the Echohead used as a comb filter - the high notes are very close together, meaning that pretty much any pitch will be a multiple, or very nearly, of any bass note you choose to play - so pluck any bass note and the listener will perceive it as a fundamental of any note with a high enough pitch, a harmonious arrangement.) And fade out very slowly to imply that this could go on forever - the eternal being another property of divinity - ending on a tolling bell just like the start for resolution and circularity - another reference to the eternal.

So, with hot cross buns in mind, the title is [i]Ascension[/i].

Posted: 3/24/2008 7:43:36 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

So, I'm back from Sonic Weekend 3 (summary - 1 big house in the countryside, 3 days, 20 electronica and acoustic musicians + one producer + lots of chaos = one album to be released on iTunes in due course. Sonic Weekend 1 already there, Sonic Weekend 2 + Sonic Weekender 2 The Kitchen Cuts to appear soon. Fun.)

The musical highlight for me was playing with Arthur (electromungo) and Phil (The Mirlitrons) both occasionally of these forums. I played on several tracks, but the most interesting one for me was Soup - because it's something of a change in direction. A twisted pop song. (And when I say twisted, I mean positively sprained.)

So, as another track is being laid down, it occurred to me that a fretless bass would sound good on it. By the time it dawned on me that I could offer a Pamelia style theremin bass line the moment had passed and the track had gone in a different direction, leaving me wondering what to do with a bass line.

(My idea was to have a fairly fast single repeat on my delay box, so that every note - dum - became a double note - dumdum - and then do little runs of them of varying lengths.)

The conversation turned to soup. Soup was a major feature of Sonic Weekend 3 - a big cauldron was permanently on the stove. And suddenly I was writing a poetic homage to soup. And it fell into a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse structure. Phil tried a few settings on his most excellent home made weird sounds box and came up with the sound of mad chefs sharpening knives on steels, with chemistry laboratory bubbling akin to the soundtrack of the classic Ealing comedy The Man In The White Suit (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044876/). Add Arthur with some classic 50's spookiness on his Kees Enkelaar theremin and there you go.

I have never sung before. Not since hymns at school assembly. So I started by speaking the first two lines, then echoing the theremin bass line for the rest of the lyrics. It turns out that my voice is about as out of tune as my theremin playing, so they work together!

It's going to be a while until the Sonic Weekend 3 recordings are mastered and make it to iTunes, so in the meantime, here are the lyrics...


in the soup of my vacuity
I hazard paralysis
entrails dragging
through the soupbowl of my life

ooooooohhhhhh soup
ooooooohhhhhh soup

biscuits dripping
saucers cracking
advancing downwards
bloody minded with a knife

ooooooohhhhhh soup
ooooooohhhhhh soup

each congealing morsel
treacled crawling
soft wet sighing
across the soupbowl of my life

ooooooohhhhhh soup
ooooooohhhhhh soup

asparagus soup


We played it live at the party/gig in a small local pub afterwards, and it seemed to go down well - people called out the names of their favourite soups and brands afterwards.

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