Gordon's Progress

Posted: 2/7/2006 8:15:15 PM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Yup, horrendous, but you failed to mention the immense comedic value, Charlie D. Perhaps the presence of Alex (14) who shares much of my sense of humour altered the equation, but that was hilarious. Particularly since, having set up my template it was pretty easy to sample other stuff. My rendition of the Worm Song (http://www.theboys.co.uk/lwormsong.htm) was er, ... sound of file hitting the trash can and a few megabytes of data ascending to hexadecimal heaven

Actually, horrendous is an imprecise description. OK, so with the theremin we got many mumbling mice, no doubt about that, but mice on mescaline would be about right. and not especially harmonious, shall we say.

This was more nightmare than sweet dream. But it would sustain a melody line of sorts. So one for when I am tempted to go all out for a nightmare soundscape. And I have to admit it sounds like a very tempting challenge. See if I can scare myself!

So how to proceed having not immediately achieved my goal? Apparently "apace" is the answer. I plunged ahead and simplified my convoluted scheme, losing the fourth voice and trying just a straight-forward equal temperament 3 note chord. I found a nice one on the keyboard with the right sort of mood. This worked a little better. Especially when I superimposed the three voices and reduced the volume of the two modified voices. This had more harmony. It's not there yet, but it's a step in the right direction. And it gives a broad non-italic stroke in my little system of classification. But - big downside - not realtime - this is post-processing with progress bars, so harder to learn what effects different gestures and different chords have on the mood it evokes.

Or perhaps, it occurred to me, I could approach it from a different angle and consider harmonics. In effect what I was doing was adding higher frequency copies, so perhaps I should revisit the waveform. So I recorded a couple of slow traversals and looked at them up close. This was after only a minute or so's warm-up time - I'm going to try again tomorrow but let it warm up properly. Also found a real-time spectrum viewer in Amadeus. This time I found I could read a lot more from it. I see what you mean about the bass tones Charlie D - that's pretty square-wavey - real nasty shark's tooth of a spectrum, and up in the high range is a bit triangular and sharp, the mid-tones gave nice sinusoidal curves, but not sine waves, as the spectrum revealed a nice compact little diamond of frequencies with a couple of evenly spaced - on a logarithmic scale, so in a fixed ratio to one another - smaller copies above them with the distance varying smoothly with pitch. Fascinating. Just what I was doing with the pitch shifted voices. (fx: Raises a Vulcan eyebrow.) Also, I spotted some heterodyne birdies! Wow! I'm a heterodyne bird-spotter. Where's my thermos flask?

Seriously, this has helped my ear, no doubt of it. I have a much clearer idea of what I am listening to. Also I found out that I have been recording too loud - apparently it's not enough to just avoid red-lining the onscreen meter, I should record at lower levels and have more confidence in Amadeus's ability to remove noise and normalize my recording. Also I should not have given up on the mike on my headset so soon, it was doing the right thing in insisting on giving me lower levels than I thought I needed.

So, some good outcomes. An excellent failure. :-)

Gordon
Posted: 2/8/2006 5:57:31 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

OK, examined the waveform after plenty warming up.

Similar, but much tighter diamond-shaped spread of frequencies around the note - almost a pure sine wave in the mid and upper frequencies with muchly diminished harmonics - the smaller extra diamonds - and a slight improvement in the bass, but still pretty ugly and occupying big chunks of the spectrum. Now I understand the point of warming up.

Also, over in the fx units (http://www.thereminworld.com/forum.asp?cmd=p&T=1690&F=557&p=2) thread unclechristo mentioned the Digitech Workstation EX harmonizer - which does what I have been trying to do, it seems. I googled it, heard some audio clips and saw in the list of presets was "barbershop." So, not such a silly idea after all (Ha! Vindicated! Thank you!) - what I lacked was the correct vocabulary - not harmon[i]ies[/i] or harmon[i]ics[/i], the word I wanted was harmon[i]izer[/i].

They exceed my current budget, and I can't seem to find a software equivalent. If you know of a piece of shareware for Mac OS X that does this, preferably as an Audio Unit so I can plug it into garageband please let me know.

I think until then "mighty nice" is going to be put on indefinite hold and in the meantime I'll see if I can't scare myself silly with some mescaline mice. It's going to be a challenge - I have a pretty high threshold. :-)

Gordon
Posted: 2/9/2006 5:43:30 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Ah, finished. Woo. That was one convoluted journey. What finally clinched it was three things - kkissinger, your syncopated delay sample gave me the idea of looping samples, thank you, - once I shifted my focus away from the mice I finally noticed the moonlight - I was looking back over this thread and noticed I used the wrong word - I didn't mean hallucinogenic, I meant hallucinatory - and yes, there is a magic to silvery moonlight twinkling through trembling leaves in a wooded glade that perhaps would cause mice to sing.

So, having filled my head with no end of thoughts surrounding the subject I almost felt myself click into the creative zone, all the peripheral nonsense fell away leaving three words - midnight, mescaline, moonlight - and I just let my hands play.

Weird - I have a theory about the theremin - it is significant that there is no delay in its response to gestures - other instruments give a slight delay between moving your finger (for instance) and sounding the note. There is equally a slight delay between the subconscious decision to move a finger, which causes the finger to move, and the conscious awareness of that decision (if something goes wrong and the awareness does not happen then you have alien hand syndrome). With an other instrument this delay gives just time to think better of it if needs be - just time to dither - but the theremin's instant response catches that brief uncertainty and makes it audible. So I try not to question my subconscious but to trust it and let my hands express what is in my head directly - I gave this my best silvery moonbeams falling like the glowing, trailing snowflakes in the resurrection scene of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

And then, while I was still in the zone, quickly to the laptop and just go with the flow...

Like I said, weird - I was watching it happen, just keeping a broad managerial overview, consciously tweaking here and there but mostly just letting my hands get on with it. Perhaps it was the subject matter. (Certainly not mescaline! Never taken it. Have read Doors of Perception and loads of W S Burroughs. It's just an alliterative codeword for hallucinatory.)

And, still in this flurry of activity that I have been building up to, playing lucky dip at the Prellinger Collection at archive.org (http://archive.org) turned out just the right imagery on the second download - a lunar eclipse (..and everything under the moon is in tune...) a moonlit lake and a man "getting high," so to speak. Ho-ho-ho.

Check it out! Here (http://appserver.veoh.com/mediaDetails.html?permalinkId=e34668).

Or if you prefer to let the sound generate it's own imagery, the mp3 is here (http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=475314).

Gosh. Tired now. I think I've drained my imagination gland. Time to let it recharge. Good. I'm a bit daunted by the idea of a nightmare piece, best to let it simmer away on the back burner for a while. I'll know when I'm ready. Right now I'm going to bask in the catharsis provided by making my triptych of miniatures.

Gordon
Posted: 2/11/2006 7:21:08 PM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

A brief note.

Still trying to understand what I am doing. Realised why it sounds naturalistic - it's atonal (or micro-tonal, not sure of terminology) and, (not wanting to sound all woolly-headed and new-age, but...) so is naturally occurring music - birdsong, whale song, whispering sands, you name it - ditto the sounds of humanity; rhythm of the streets and all that.

Good, say I. If it's good enough for nature it's good enough for me. Enough of the theorizing - call it naive or primitive or whatever, but I'm going with what I like.

And, you know what, I've been listening to what I have done, and I really think it doesn't suck.

So... I investigated an option I had pushed right to the back of my mind, I'm going to use my three little samplers in the camera club annual show - I have enough recent images to suit all three, and even to follow the narrative in My House Resounds. So my stuff will be played to a paying audience of about 100 souls, mostly from the nearby old people's home. That should be interesting. :-)

To help them I wrote a brief description of the three tunes for the show notes. That turned up something interesting too...

My House Resounds - 1950's cinematic; unlit airraids - 1970's industrial; midnight mescaline moonlight - 1990's ambient.

How about that - theremin music through the decades.

Gordon
Posted: 2/11/2006 9:36:37 PM
PLANETRADIO

From: Kansas City USA

Joined: 2/4/2006

Gordon-
You're spot on...your songs don't suck. :-) Any musical creation (leaving all judgement aside about what IS music and what ISN'T, for it is all relative to each person's tastes and previous experiences) that comes from the heart of its creator (in this case, you!) is a grand display of creativity and inspiration that provides the soundtrack to one's imagination.

The "theatre of the mind", as a friend of mine said just this afternoon, is indeed a wonderful thing!

I enjoy reading your thoughts and discoveries here, as I am often asked to describe the hows and whats of bringing a musical creation to completion, and more often than not, I am at a loss for the right grammatical descriptors.

In fact, I'm inspired through your writings to the point that I am wanting a theremin of my own. Any good leads or suggestions that you can offer on what to look for and where?

I have seen "budget" models at a couple of pages...maybe you can offer your opinions on the following link: http://pages.prodigy.net/chuckcollins/order.html

Many thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

terry in Kansas City USA
http://www.planetradio.libsyn.com
Posted: 2/12/2006 8:39:20 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi again Terry. :-)

The three things to look at are - the number of antenna (two or you have no volume control!) the quality of the sound in the low, mid and high ranges and playability, which means the various notes available should be evenly spaced - if the notes get closer together in the high range that adds an avoidable complexity.

My research, which assumed buying a ready-made theremin, not a kit, suggested that for the budget conscious but serious amateur the Kees Enkelaar (here (http://people.aapt.net.au/~fwhite/theremin/)) was a good choice, and for the tentative professional and better heeled amateur the Moog Etherwave was a good choice. (If you go here (http://www.thereminworld.com/shop_theremins.asp) to buy it you'll made Jason happy.)

I know what you mean about finding people who talk about the creative process. I was lucky - three of my favourite creative people; Brian Eno, William Burroughs and Salvador Dali have written very lucidly about it. (In More Dark Than Shark, The Third Mind and Diary of a Genius respectively.) Mostly people go all woolly-headed and arty-farty when you broach the subject. (It's a turn off for a lot of folk - using the right words is important - perhaps you mean "karma" but if you say "comeuppance" or "what goes around..." you might not scare away your audience.)

Incidentally, best creative tool I have found is Eno and Schmidt's Oblique Strategies. The fifth edition is the best - you can buy it here. (http://www.recordstore.co.uk/brianeno/) (Actually it's not much different from the previous editions. I see you have a mac - good lad - there are a couple of good implementations as dashboard widgets here (http://searchcgi.apple.com/cgi-bin/sp/nph-sptlt?access=p&lr=lang_en&oe=utf8&site=osx_downloads_dashboard&filter=0&client=osx_downloads_frontend&getfields=Description&q=oblique).)

It appears to me the creative process for music is no different to any other area I have explored - maths, programming, writing, social engineering, photography. I start by being open to ideas. One or two are sure to come along if you are looking for them - once I have that, start to map and explore related territory, then evaluate my findings and sort the worthwhile ones into a cohesive structure, polish it until it's shiny and then present it to an unsuspecting world.

What you almost never see is people willing to talk about the false trails and dead ends, as if somehow you can't learn from their mistakes. I first noted this in primary school, in maths text books - the explanations proceed cleanly from a to b to c - they show you their shiny structure to learn from and marvel at, but no clues as to how to find your own path through the woods, and yes, it's a messy, human process - and once you get that it's like that for everyone then you start to see that everyone can do it!

Not being in awe of the process or its practitioners is the start of confidence - and augmenting confidence with good old fashioned bravado, and even a dash of arrogance, when needs be, appears to work too. :-)

Gordon
Posted: 2/12/2006 5:59:34 PM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Addendum - the creative mindset. The other half of the process is being in the right mindset - and this is where I suspect the hifalutin vague-speak so often associated with describing creativity stems. The mindset is paradoxical, contradictory - one should be open to and excited by the unlikeliest of ideas, but disciplined enough to evaluate them dispassionately, playing should be fluid and easy yet alert and focussed and so on - in short, to deal with sand-kicking beach bullies you want dynamic tension, but to play with the musical heavyweights I suggest dynamic relaxation!

(Here I am minded of David Bowie, "I was stone and he was wax so we could scream and still relax," and Pere Ubu, "One man drives while the other man screams.")

And while I'm on the subject of learning from my mistakes - some avenues that felt promising but required extensive expertise beyond my scope or that I may well return to. Or, what I would ask a music theorist, an electrical engineer, a thereminist and a zoomusicologist over a pint or three.

"Much of what you do seems to be vulgar fractions - kindergarden maths - there's a lot more to rational numbers than that for a start (i.e. Farey sequences), and look what dipping your toes into real numbers got you - even tempering, that's pretty clever. Tones, yes, semi-tones, micro-tones, yes, dividing the continuum into smaller pieces - well the end result of that progression is calculus, isn't it?"

"Those harmonics while warming up: they are adding fullness to the note, can you harness those, control the interval between them or their relative amplitude, even allow the player to control them - give him or her a third aerial, at right angles to the other two, and adjacent to the volume antenna so that the player can control both the timbre of the sound and the volume with one hand, increasing the expressive range of the instrument in a way that is inherent in the heterodyning circuitry?"

"Knuckle extensions, yes, you're really nailed minimising the transitions between notes - vibrato, yes, even the occasional even paced gliss, all precision techniques - are you interested in precision control not only of the length and velocity of a gliss but also the acceleration, using nothing more complicated than geometry?"

"Human based music occupies the land of platonic ideals, right there near to maths and geometry. Now the ancient Greeks knew there were shapes that lay conceptually in between the regular shapes, but that part of the map was flagged "here be monsters" and avoided like a plague of clich├ęs. Likewise the maths that led to those monstrous geometries was unsuitable for investigation. More recently we tamed the monsters and called them fractal geometry and chaos theory - only to discover that they weren't monsters after all but part of the mathematics of nature. Are you by any chance finding Fibonacci sequences, period doubling and fractals in your research?"
Posted: 2/12/2006 7:58:16 PM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Oh, and, sorry - forgot - the theremaniacs theremin you asked about, Terry. Didn't really consider it, but you might find this thread (http://www.thereminworld.com/forum.asp?cmd=p&T=1162&F=1) interesting.

Gordon
Posted: 2/21/2006 5:07:22 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Brief note - I'm busy with something at the moment.

The Soup Dragon has appeared on a third podcast - The Schwagcast (http://www.schwagcast.com/).

So chalk another one up for world thereminisation, and guys, you got to help me out here; I'm starting to feel like the sole theremin ambassador to the podosphere and it's just not right - the listening public deserves variety. So go on, stick something on the Podsafe Music Network (http://music.podshow.com/) and see what happens. :-)

Gordon
Posted: 2/21/2006 2:45:24 PM
PLANETRADIO

From: Kansas City USA

Joined: 2/4/2006

Many thanks, Gordon!

I'm seriously considering the Kees Enkelaar theremin. I haven't made the final decision, but based upon what you have provided, as well as some other feedback I've read on the site, it looks like a great place to start.

I've been a professional musician all my life, and always appreciate and welcome a new challenge! I play most stringed instruments (including those of the orchestral variety when I can) never really ventured much into woodwinds, but percussion, brass and electric instruments have been the majority of my experience.

The theremin is one instrument that I find intriguing for much the same reason you posted earlier, in that it does not require any physical "touch" to operate.

I will be using "unlit airraids" for a background piece, most likely in show #13 (scheduled for Friday, March 3rd). In fact, due to the topic of the show (Superstitions, #13, etc.) I may be using more of your material to add that "supernatural, eerie" feeling to the show.

Thanks again for your additional info on the Theremaniacs theremin. I did find it helpful.

Best regards-
Terry - The PLANET RADIO PodCast
http://www.planetradio.libsyn.com

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