To anyone who takes a moment out of their day to listen to this, thank you.
Crap, this was a complicated piece, but it felt so good I didn't want to stop. I made it for fun, but the project consumed me. Anyway, welcome to what it sounds like inside my head.
I like to think that if you're going to create something within the field of electronic music, you should offer an experience that can't be achieved though other means. For example, Pixar makes movies about talking fish, robots in love, and a rat that cooks in a restaurant kitchen. Arguably, they're telling stories that almost have to be realized with computer animation. So, this is music that, I believe, has to be realized synthetically.
Calculus by stretta
(yes! you can download the lossless version here)
Calculus by Escape Philosophy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at stretta.com.
Everything below this point is for people who enjoy reading about process.
The drums are MOTU BPM and Audio Damage Tattoo, processed and edited inside Digital Performer. The hi-hats were critical to pulling off the feel of the piece, but early on I felt they were monotonous timberally. This is where Tatoo's modulation features came in handy. I used the function that seeds a new set of random modulations each measure, so the sound is constantly changing. The kick and snare from Tattoo were largely unprocessed and appear fairly consistently throughout the piece.I worked on the drums first to firmly establish the feel of the piece. Later, I was able to remove some of these parts that were implied by the subsequent synth lines. I suspect working with a modular has changed my method somewhat, even when I'm not actually using the modular. Making music in this fashion is somewhat like animation and you need to have a very clear idea what the final product will be before proceeding to the next step.
Most of the synth work was realized on the modular, controlled by Volta. I did use a touch of Circle, for one part. The Prophet 5 produced polyphonic parts, which was processed through the modular. I used My Plan B low pass gates with control voltages supplied by the Make Noise Maths module for a lot of the rhythmic filtered effects. I found the vactrols in the LPGs responded very favorably to the Maths, which isn't surprising since it was designed to pair with the QMMG.
One technique I used involved creating eight Volta trigger sequencers all running at different related beat divisions, flowed into a Doepfer A-152 shift register. After playing with this setup with a joystick, I automated the selection with ramp automation from the DAW. I did the same thing with eight Volta beat-synced LFOs at various beat divisions feeding a VCA. Other filters used include the Cwejman MMF-1 and RES-4. Oscillators used were three TipTop audio Z3000s and one Livewire AFG.
One thing I wanted to do was feed four control voltages into a specific module (the AFG waveform animation inputs and, separately, the frequency inputs of each band on the RES-4). Each voltage would hold steady, but change at the onset of a new note, producing a unique timbre for the duration of that note. I only have a pair of sample & hold functions (curses!), so I ended up using my two Doepfer A-155s. I guess I could have accomplished the same thing by carefully animating four ramp outputs from Volta, but that wouldn't allow me to 'play' the patch in real time.
I feel like I'm comfortably commanding the modular to execute ideas. Really, it has been this way since Volta, but one night I patched up a complex idea, set the knobs, but on the headphones, pressed play and the exact sound I had in mind came out. This is the modular equivalent of a hole-in-one and there was no one around to witness this. Actually, my wife was there, but all she saw was me put on the headphones and start giggling.
At this point, I'm starting to lose my perspective about the piece due to my familiarity. Often it is difficult to make hard edit decisions that remove sections of the piece. What I'm left with clocks in at three minutes and change, but it is a fairly dense three minutes. There was some final bits I wanted to add with the new Synthesis Technology e340 and e350 modules. I wrote some parts for these modules then waited for the modules to arrive. While I was waiting, there was still some clean up work to do in the DAW, so I set about fixing some problems and continued wrestling with the mix until it finally came into focus on Sunday night. During this time I debated releasing the work in progress or just wait until the piece was finished. I opted for the latter.
The modules arrived on Monday, so I was able to work with them Monday night. I modulated the timbre of the e350 with Volta in sync with the project, so the tonal shifts reinforce the slippery pulse of the project. If you're curious what these sound like, they're providing a bulk of the digital-soudning textures at 1:40. The e340 can also be heard producing some 'super saw'-like stabs sprinkled around the piece, like at 1:04 and 2:29. That sort of thing.
Overall, I recorded a ton of material for this, including one serious false start before abandoning the idea, generating nearly 7GB of audio in the process. Much of this is scrapped, or heard only for a small moment.
Thanks for listening, and I appreciate your comments.