My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: studio journal

“Gain Entrance (Test)”

A third week in the Weekly Beats series

This is the third Weekly Beats of 2018 — the third week of the biennial series wherein people upload tracks they’ve recorded as part of a communal challenge. It’s a bit like one of those largely non-competitive marathons where the majority of the people are just there to run alongside each other, and the only person anyone is gauging their performance against is themselves. (Which is to say, it’s like the Disquiet Junto to some degree.) For this week, I continued my efforts to combine electric guitar and modular, to run my guitar through my modular synthesizer in a manner that is, in essence, a very large effects pedal. My main goal this week was to incorporate a third element into the guitar + modular combination. The third element is piece of software called Rack, available for free from vcvrack.com. It’s a virtual modular, for which at this stage well over a hundred different modules have been created, most of the available, like the software itself, for free download. I have a physical module in my rig that lets me send and receive both audio and CV (control voltage) signals, and so I hooked that up to Rack and used Rack-based modules to augment the sounds being processed by my physical modular synth. Last week I ran the full guitar line through a looper, whereas this week I experimented with just sending two bands of the audio spectrum. It’s still very much a test case, but I thought it more important to get something up this week, to maintain the Weekly Beats cadence, than to skip a week out of self-editing. There’s some overdub toward the end, where I layered in material from an alternate take. That latter material involves no live playing. It’s all the circuit afterglow of the recording, where the guitar fragments caught in the system cycle through, morphing a tiny bit as they go. I didn’t upload this piece to SoundCloud, but you can give it a listen on the Weekly Beats website at weeklybeats.com/disquiet.

This is what the virtual modular setup looked like:

And this is what my modular synthesizer looked like:

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Building on “Fever Pitch”

Joseph Branciforte has created a duet by adding to a track I recorded.

The Disquiet Junto has been going on since the first week of January 2012, and though I have moderated the Junto from the start, and we’re currently on the 316th consecutive weekly project, and the mailing list has over 1,200 subscribers from around the world, I myself have participated less than a handful of times, most recently this past week, for project 0315.

I hadn’t recorded the piece of music, “Fever Pitch,” as part of Junto 0315 initially. I recorded “Fever Pitch,” in fact, for an entirely different weekly music project series, one called Weekly Beats. When I subsequently recognized that the simple track, just a guitar line filtered by a modular synthesizer, fit the constraints of Junto project 0315, I posted it for that as well. There is a lot of cross-pollination among only compositional series. For example, I wrote a poem for the great Naviar Haiku series on the occasion of its 40th weekly project, and some people have cross-posted pieces of music between Naviar and Junto, which share a bit of the same roster in general, and we have collaborated once or twice.

In any case, the point of project 0315, “First Chair,” was for musicians to make short pieces of music that would serve as one third of a trio, with the idea that in the following weeks other musicians would, in turn, flesh out the trio. It’s an exercise in asynchronous collaboration, which is a central theme of all Junto projects. The sequence originating with Junto 0315 is simply a reinforcement through emphais of that concept.

Well, as part of Junto 0316, which is currently ongoing and will close at 11:59pm on Monday night, a Brooklyn-based musician named Joseph Branciforte did me a great honor. He added a second part to “Fever Pitch,” which he simply titled after the day he recorded it, “January 18, 2018.” It’s a marvel of simpatico consideration, his Fender Rhodes, coaxed by some effects pedals, filling in the blanks left by my guitar. I’ve been fiddling with a modular synthesizer since 2014, when I started to assemble one after marveling at a performance by Marcus Fischer at Powell’s Books in Portland at an event for my then just published book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, part of the Bloomsbury 33 1/3 series. Since last July, when I started taking guitar lessons weekly, my synthesizer has gotten less attention, but I recently got into using the synth as an oversized effects pedal, which is how this piece came about.

All of which is to say, I’m writing this evening to thank Branciforte for the great pleasure his piece — that is, his piece and my piece in tandem — has brought me. There is a misunderstanding that music critics are frustrated musicians. I’m in no way a frustrated musician. I have such low expectations for what I might accomplish musically, that learning guitar and synthesizer is just as sequence of pleasurable discoveries fed by curiosity and reinforced by the steady pace of practice.

As I write this, there are already 21 tracks by almost as many musicians in the 0316 Junto, “El Segundo,” some others of which have also built on my “Fever Pitch.” I’m just beginning to work my way through the accumulating duets, and listening for the space they leave for what will soon be trios.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/joseph-branciforte. More from Joseph Branciforte, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, at josephbranciforte.com, twitter.com/josbranciforte, YouTube, and instagram.com/josephbranciforte.

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“Fever Pitch”

A guitar + modular track I recorded today for Weekly Beats and the Disquiet Junto

For the second week in a row, I’ve participated in Weekly Beats. Whether I make it the remaining 50 is yet to be seen, but I’ve enjoyed it so far. Unlike the Disquiet Junto, the weekly music composition prompt series I’ve moderated since 2012, there is no set theme in Weekly Beats. There are optional themes, but the main idea is simply to encourage making music as a way to learn to make music, along with the support that comes from other people doing so at the same time, and commenting on each other’s work. (I also submitted it to the Disquiet Junto for this week’s project, which is to produce something that will become part of a trio co-composed asynchronously by other participants.)

My second Weekly Beats track is, like the first, an attempt to combine electric guitar and modular synthesizer. The glitchy under beat is a bit of trigger sequencer, along with the byproduct glitches inherent in the looper. The main guitar line is heard with various aspects of the audio spectrum being modulated by medium-paced LFOs, and being sent through the looper for additional effects, all echoes and stutter. And then at the end a snippet of a chord is sent through a different looper, providing a simulated tape-loop fade-out. There’s more going on, like the primary guitar line being put through a filter, but that’s the gist of it.

And here is a photo of the synthesizer patch employed in this piece:

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“Four Strings Patch”

A little after-hours experiment

A little after-hours experiment, running my electric guitar through my modular synthesizer. There is small looper picking up elements of what’s being played live on the guitar and then replaying them, warping the tune a bit as it goes. The percussion is simply a side effect of all the signals being sent to the looper. There’s also some high end and low end being cut off, thanks to a filter bank, and somewhere in the middle of the audio spectrum a slow triangle wave is manipulating a narrow frequency band.

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“HVAC Cosplay”

Where the duct ley lines create a confluence of overtones

I’ve come to recognize that the sounds I aspire to make on my modular synthesizer are, often as not, the sounds that I hear in public transportation and HVAC systems. I had several titles planned for this, but in the end it is HVAC cosplay. It is a synthesizer disguising itself as a semi-industrial drone, the drone the product of the infrastructure of some imagined generic place, an office building, a hotel, a school, that works very hard to disguise the presence of its infrastructure. The drone is the evidence of infrastructure that seeps into view — into hearing view, that is, into earshot — when your elevator is stuck between floors, or you find yourself in a subbasement because of poor wayfinding signage in the staircase, or most opportunely at a particular spot in a hall where the duct ley lines create a confluence of overtones. The sound may not even be present in the world; it may be specific to how your ear receives and contorts the sound. You alone may be witness to a particular signal.

More practically, the overtones here are the result of three different oscillators on my modular synthesizer being heard in unison, impacting each other, and being impacted by a handful of low frequency oscillators. Some frequency bands within those main oscillators themselves are being impacted by variations on the low frequency oscillations, and then amid it all one of those three main oscillators occasionally is triggered to move up and down an octave, at times suggesting a tonal center, at others testing the contours of the system’s comfort zone.

More specifically, for those playing along at home, the three oscillators are: an Intellijel Dixie II, a Hikari Sine, and a Pittsburgh Oscillator. The LFOs are all courtesy of a single module, the Xaoc Batumi (I just installed it last night; this is my first patch with it). The filter bank is an ADDAC 601. There’s a Doepfer A-121 and a Circuit Abbey Invy in the mix, too, as well as a 2hp Filt. They keyboard is a QuNexus, doing its thing on the Dixie II. I’ve long fiddled with oscillators to try to engender dense, rich tones, and this is closer to what I’ve been trying for than anything I’ve done until now.

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