Trash Music Update: Pitched Gongs

note: the terms for using the samples and music in this page (entirely royalty free) are laid out in this document.

The batch of samples in my previous post (the “Trash Music” link on the top of this page) contains a series of pitched notes, all derived from one single beat on the litter bin with an egg beater. I used the free audio editing software Audacity to create the different pitches. While it is possible to play tunes with those sounds, the harmonics are very complex – they don’t always match the natural overtones of a conventional musical instrument – which makes it difficult to determine the actual key.

Fixing this is a job for Metasynth, which I sometimes call my Electroacoustic Microscope. It is sort of pricy, but I can recommend it highly to anybody who makes experimental music. It is a completely self contained Digital Audio Workstation, without any plugins or MIDI features. It has allowed me to get rid of almost all of my continuously growing collection of little utilities programmed with “Patchers”: cSound, PD, Max/MSP, etc…

It has a feature called Spectrum Synth, which lets me analyze and manipulate the harmonics of individual grains of sound (Fast Fourier Transformation), recombine and blend the grains in any order (Granular Synthesis) and stretch them at the same time. I can also combine characteristics of different instruments (and voices!) with each other to create sounds nobody has heard before.

This “Gong” sound was almost embarrassingly simple to create. I stretched a single beat and filtered out some of the complex harmonics, but not all of them – they give the sound its metallic character – just enough to be able to tune it reasonably well to an unambiguous pitch. Then I instructed Metasynth to create a sequence of notes at minor third intervals, and I used Audacity to fill in the Gaps. As I am typing this, I can think of an even quicker and easier method: create three interlocking sequences using Metasynth… ah, well, next time…

Here is the result: Litter Bin Gongs (MPEG 4 audio in the iPod / iTunes format, 1.4 MB, opens in a new window). The root note of this chromatic sequence is a definite A sharp.
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