small things

I’ve started writing a bit of a guide to Mutable Instruments Beads. Granular synthesis can be unintuitive and fiddly, but there are a whole bunch of relatively simple uses for Beads. If I were the type to make video tutorials I’d do that, but I’m not, so I’m writing up some text and recording a few audio examples.

So far I have 16 patch ideas described that don’t even use grains at all.

I bought a used Dreadbox Antidote. This is an all-analog “Karplus-Strong Strings” module — a BBD with short delay times with a noise burst generator and 1V/OCT tracking, as well as a filter.

Karplus-Strong synthesis simulates a vibrating string by “exciting” a short delay line with an impulse (a click, a short noise burst, etc.), and then feeding the end of the line back to the beginning. The delay length and clock rate determine the frequency of vibration, while the feedback (and any filtering) determines string damping. With a very clean delay and careful parameter choices it’s a decent simulation, though it can potentially be a bit harsh and bright. With a rougher circuit like this BBD, it can be really gritty, not particularly string-like and not musically useful in a lot of contexts. But K-S is definitely not the only trick this module has up its sleeve.

  • Antidote can act as a resonator, fed with other audio signals — like a dirty version of Rings.
  • It can act as a comb filter by just keeping that super-short delay time and moderate amounts of feedback.
  • It can act as a flanger or chorus by modulating the delay time.
  • It can simply add dirt, noise and character to a signal by running it through that lo-fi BBD.
  • The filter has a nice “round” character to it, and with an envelope, can act as a lowpass gate.

I’m not 100% blown away by this module, but it’s not without its uses. Future demos of Klavis Grainity may convince me to replace it, or I might choose something else or just hold onto it for a while. I still plan to pick up Xaoc Koszalin when available, and perhaps the Hel expander for Odessa. I do feel pretty confident though in replacing Manis and EnOsc with non-oscillators at least.

The next album is about half recorded. The most recent track was an accidental triumph with the U-bass. I just could not get MIDI controller assignments working with Audio Damage Enso (looper plugin) but a spontaneously recorded loop turned out awesome anyway. A second part using the bass to control Rings fit extremely well. I used the same Bitwig LFO that drove the loop playback to trigger 0-Ctrl with an asymmetric rhythm and got Odessa sounding more like Rings than Rings did. Overall it just came together perfectly and I’m super pleased with it.

I missed an Ambient Online compilation this time, thrown off by the family emergency and then just kind of put it out of my mind, but that’s OK.

I’m about halfway through my expected wait time for the Miezo. I’m very much looking forward to that first encounter and hopefully a lot of joyful playing afterward.

I’m catching up on Linda Nagata’s far-future fiction. I’ve had Edges and Silver in the Inverted Frontier series on my list for quite some time, and finally bought them. This led me to discover Memories (a sort of prequel) and Needle (about to be released next week).

The series is the continuation of the Nanotech Succession, of which Vast is one of my favorite science fiction novels ever. Two surviving characters take the extremely long journey back generally Earthward to find out what happened to ancient humanity, and of course, they find some very strange things. It’s been the same sort of combination of huge and mind-bending ideas (and how people react to them emotionally) and compelling characters that made me love the Nanotech Succession books.

I kind of want to go back and reread the Stormlight Archive. But the first draft of first draft of Stormlight 5 is barely underway and it’ll be a while. This winter the next Wax & Wayne novel should be out, and next year some of the “Secret Project” books will drop, some of which are Stormlight-related but not a continuation of the epic. Maybe I should wait a few months at least, so when the big one is ready it’ll all be fresher in my mind.

I also want to rewatch all of Steven Universe again. It’s just so comforting.

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