Aphex Twin Turns on the #Learning Spout

Will his latest user18081971 be a black hole or a rabbit hole?

Aphex Twin’s user18081971 account was once home to some 250 or so tracks of artifact audio, partial takes and rough sketches from a quarter century or so of music making. It felt like a snowstorm at first, a thick, heavy blanket of material. But it was more like one of those tropical rainstorms that comes on heavy, reduces to a trickle, fakes you out with a blue sky, and then rains down again. He’d put up all or most of the tracks, and then take them down, teasing and pleasing his audience in turns. (Given that the upload dates are retained, it’s more like he turned them on and off.)

It’s been blue sky — which is to say, blank or virtually blank — on the user18081971 account for many months. As of yesterday there were just six tracks up, all many months old. But then today, just two hours ago as of this typing, three seconds arrived of new audio arrived, under the title “Inventions & ideas” and tagged #Learning. It’s a warbling, speedy sample of what sounds like computer speech synthesis. If the spoken message is garbled, the accompanying text is notably clear in its intent:

This is a place to share hardware and software inventions, I was going to publish a book of my own but im going to start slowly putting them up here instead, it’s too much work hassling people to do these things, so putting them here will hopefully reach the right people. Will start with the more simple ideas first. If you want to work with me on any of the ideas PM me with IDEAS in the subject, no person or company too big or small. If you want to make it a commercial product then talk to me but im just as happy to work on it together and release it for free. If it’s someone elses idea just PM them, no need to tell me about that if you don’t want to , although be interesting to know if I helped a hookup along the way. Discussion and refinement of all ideas very welcome, in fact thats the main idea of this space. Bring it on!

It looks like after flooding SoundCloud with archival material, largely leaving annotation up to his fans (here’s a communal spreadsheet of track details), he’s now going to be posting details about how he gets the sounds he gets.

This three-second track includes detailed, time-coded information about its creation, like this:

[[[REsonant Tuning table EQ/vocoder]]] Import of Scala tuning tables to EQ frequency amounts, so each EQ frequency band would correspond to an entry in the imported tuning table. User definable number of EQ bands. Each band should have varying resonance options AND separate built in variable delay with adjustable feedback. Live input of either fundamental with slew/portamento or chord entry for immediate multiple band selection, so you can play in your resonances in real time. Sequence mode, allows cycling through the resonant bands, amount of bands active selectable, syncable, backwards/forwards/random etc, slew/lag/transition adjustment, wraparound. Create custom tuning table from audio analysis, whereby the amount of prominent resonances of the input audio can utilised to create a custom tuning table which can then be used within the EQ and also exported to a Scala file, use audio to create tuning tables!

And when a given comment isn’t detailed enough, Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, replies to himself in greater detail:

@user18081971: Order of tuning table should be selectable, so pitches don’t always have to ascend or descend, they can be arranged/sequenced in any order. Pitch shifter must have user definable delay with sync within the feedback loop.

We’ll see what comes of Aphex Twin’s latest foray into self-publishing of his sonic experiments. It could be the beginning of his own Well-Tempered Synthesizer … or it could all disappear into the same void where the earlier 250+ tracks went. Rabbit hole or black hole, it promises to be interesting.

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