A New Departure And A New Piece Of Music

In order to use my Cork City Gamelan sounds for live performance and improvisation, I started using Patcher software. This is an entirely new departure for me, and here is my first Cork City Gamelan piece I recorded on the “Maiden Voyage”:

Étude No. 3 (13:00 minutes of music in the iPod/iTunes MPEG4/AAC format, 14 MB, opens in a new window, may take a few moments to start playing)

Patchers are software for making music. When working with a patcher, the music maker starts by actually designing and building software instruments to realize a specific idea, a set of ideas, a sound effect… or a complete epic composition or a movie soundtrack.

This is the exceptionally simple patch for my Cork City Gamelan live performance instrument under development. Each of the nodes has its own set of on-screen controls, which can be operated via MIDI controllers. It will probably be under development forever, and grow to become a lot more complex.

I am slow at the moment, having to get used to “what is where”  – so, right now, my live improvisations are slowly evolving lengthy pieces – but hey,  that’s very much my favourite mood of music for listening to… and very emphatically calling myself an “enthusiastic amateur” music composer means: first and foremost, the music I make must please myself.

Some patchers are free open source programs: cSound, PD (for Pure Data), and Supercollider. They are used a lot by researchers and students at colleges. There is also Max/MSP, a top-of-the-range commercial application (at a top-of-the-range cost), which is widely used by experimental New Music composers and recording artists, and which comes with extensions for working with video. They allow complete control over interface design, and, important for many artists, they can be used to exploit any kind of data sets from any field of study or research for using them within music projects – say, to create structures, textures or melodies based on population statistics or weather charts… at a cost: they are very “low level” – which means using them requires some experience at Software Engineering.

I decided Audio Mulch would probably suit me best. The interface is almost identical to building shader trees in Computer Graphics – something I am thoroughly familiar with. I cannot design my own interface elements, but I am quite happy with the interface supplied by the programmer… and the ability to handle external non-music data is irrelevant to me.

This program suits me down to the ground. Unlike most of them, it isn’t free to use, but it costs a lot less than Max/MSP… and most importantly: the piece of music I am posting here… I made that after only three days of exploring the software! There is absolutely no way I could have achieved anything like it with any other patcher.

Thank you, Ross Bencina: I haven’t paid you for it yet, but I certainly will. Your software is instrumental for me, to get back into performing life after my long hiatus.

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