The sine wave is arguably the most rudimentary building block of electronic music. It is the source for various forms of synthesis: a simple sonic object that can be tweaked, prodded, processed, and layered to create new sounds. Simple as its sonic makeup is, that undulating up and down cycle, it can be, in the hands of some musicians, an object of intense aural attention unto itself. C. Reider has made a prolific habit of using constraints as a means toward creative ends, perhaps most notably in the employment of early drum machines in the production of music for which rhythm is not the main point. On his recent freely downloadable album Formerly Sine Drones, released by the Modisti netlabel, Reider makes several different sine waves do marvelous things.
The tracks range from wildly active to deeply sedate. The latter is the case with the album’s final cut (MP3), titled “777 Hz.” All the tracks are named for the frequency of the sine wave from which they are built, ranging between “12 Hz” to “3456 Hz,” as chosen by followers of his twitter.com/vuzhmusic account when he put a call out for random numbers.
The processing of each frequency uses the most basic of tools: “The sine waves were altered only by changing equalization (EQ changes, and/or low & hi pass filtration), and dynamics (volume, panning and compression),” the Modisti site reports.
After listening to the album, I asked Reider to describe what he was up to with the sine waves, and he provided the above spectrum analysis of the “777 Hz” track and this description of the process that led to it:
As with all of the tracks, the original sine wave went through many passes of high- and low-pass filtration and equalization, just pushing the original frequency out of the way more and more with each filtration pass until it’s barely noticable, but still there. The new dominant frequencies are 97 Hz & 334 Hz. You can see the two new peaks there, but the tiny little bump off to the right is the remains of the original 777 Hz frequency. The final filtration pass was a low-pass filter and I manually sweeped the control around to get the bass tone surges you can hear in the piece.
In other words, that tiny little bump about midway between 500 Hz and 1000 Hz is what is left of the original sine wave from which the towering peaks to the left were derived during the course of Reider’s production.