Kyma meets Buchla

 Broadcast / Webcast, Event, Sound Recording  Comments Off on Kyma meets Buchla
Feb 112015
 

Roland_Kuit_Buchla_200_EMS_Stockholm_7On February 25, composer/synthesis-researcher Roland Kuit will be broadcasting live and in stereo from EMS in Stockholm for the Dutch Concertzender Radio, demonstrating his work with Kyma and the Buchla 200 interacting with each other in EMS Studio 4.

At the heart of these compositions are the Kyma algorithms that Kuit uses to frequency-modulate the Buchla Complex Waveform Generator Model 259 which, in turn, is used as trigger function for the Sequential Voltage Source Model 243, thus exploring the intriguing area that lies between note triggers and wavetables. This sequential control voltage is controlling a second Complex Waveform Generator Model 259. And the audio of this Waveform Generator is used as the carrier for the 285e Frequency Shifter / Balanced Modulator. The 266e Source of Uncertainty modulates a third Complex Waveform Generator Model 259 and is used as modulation signal for the Balanced Modulator which is fed through 296e Spectral Processor for filtering. Finally the loop is closed by routing these algorithmic audio ‘sentences’ back to Kyma for Ring Modulation and quadraphonic placement.

Kuit is a frequent guest on the Concertzender where he’s often called in as a modular synthesis expert to explain various synthesis algorithms or to discuss music by some of the pioneers of electronic music.

EMS#1 will stream live on 25 February after which it will be available as a podcast from the Concertzender archive.

Moved by magnets

 Album, Event, Release, Sound Recording  Comments Off on Moved by magnets
Jul 282014
 

SGR^CAV is a collaboration between composers Cristian Vogel and SØS Gunver Ryberg, exploring a phase space of possible musics, where phantasmagorical sound objects emerge from transient combinations of multi-dimensional parameters.

In January 2014 the duo SGR^CAV released their debut recording MOVED BY MAGNETS on the cassette label Tapeworm.

These works for cassette were composed from the precise arrangement of a number of elements—such as field recordings of coal  mining machinery in the arctic mountains, and the creaking of ancient trees in Denmark—combined with digital processing—such as self-similar additive synthesis and granulations—all developed in Kyma. Many of the other characteristic timbres were created using vintage studio technology. An awareness of the sonic qualities of the compact cassette medium was also an important factor in the composition.

Listening to the album feels like exploring a mysterious world with its own, alien yet self-consistent, laws of physics with faint echoes from the Columbia-Princeton Music Center of the 1960s.

What if the stars made music

 Concert, Data-driven sound, Event, Installation, Science  Comments Off on What if the stars made music
Jan 282014
 

Outdoor Culture presents Sounds of the Night Sky featuring Robert Jarvis‘ sound installation: aroundNorth, opening Thursday 20 February 2014 6.30-9.30 pm at the National Trust Stowe New Inn Farm Buckingham MK18 5EQ

This outdoor event will showcase the premier of Robert Jarvis’ new sound art installation, aroundNorth, a piece that was shortlisted for the 2010 PRS New Music Award.  A multi-speaker sound map of the stars driven by the turning of the Earth, aroundNorth uses Kyma to transform the night sky into a celestial music box rotating around Polaris, the North Star. As each star passes a virtual line in the sky, it triggers a musical note whose qualities are determined by the star’s spectrum, mass, brightness and distance from earth, creating a mesmerising sound map of the universe as viewed from our rotating planet.

Visitors will be accompanied down Bell Gate Drive on foot and into the gardens of Stowe after dark, before entering the semi-wilderness of the newly-opened Lamport Garden where the sounds of moving stars will be created like a giant celestial music box! Dress for the outdoors and bring a flashlight!  Click here for more information and tickets.

A script shaped more by sound than words

 Film, Release, Sound Design, Sound for picture, Sound Recording  Comments Off on A script shaped more by sound than words
Oct 142013
 

“Working from a script shaped more by sound than words, insight comes at us in primal waves. The heart-wrenching sobs, the gut-churning nausea, the keening and, perhaps most profound of all, the silence. It all carries specific meaning.”

This is how Betsy Sharkey, film critic LA Times, describes Hamilton Sterling‘s sound for Morning, a film by Leland Orser with his wife Jeanne Tripplehorn, Laura Linney, Elliot Gould, Kyle Chandler, and Jason Ritter.

Sterling, who is credited as sound designer/re-recording mixer/supervising sound editor on the film, used Kyma to process the transitions to the characters’ memory flashbacks of their child in this tough and unsentimental exploration of a couple’s grief over the loss of their child.

The film opened in LA, New York, and select cities this month and will be available through VOD and DVD for those of us who do not live in “select cities”.

Welcome to This New World

 Album, Broadcast / Webcast, Concert, Event, Release, Sound Recording  Comments Off on Welcome to This New World
Jul 082013
 

For the better part of a decade, jazz pianist/composer Stanley Cowell has become increasingly intrigued with the challenge of incorporating live electronics into the context of acoustic jazz — not electronics for its own sake — but electronics that add something meaningful to the music. In Cowell’s latest album, Welcome to This New World (SteepleChase SCCD 31757) he fully embraces the use of real-time signal processing and synthesis; Kyma has subtly infiltrated nearly every track “in ways that excite and disorient and offer a new dimension to improvisation,” to quote Chicago-based jazz reviewer Neil Tesser.

Welcome to This New World is a live album, no overdubbing, no post-production magic; every performance you hear on the album can be replicated on stage in real time… and will be this July 15 2013 at 7:30 pm in Hartford’s Bushnell Park at a free outdoor concert sponsored by the Hartford Jazz society and simulcast live on WWUH FM.

Cowell’s Empathlectrik Quartet features Vic Juris (guitar) and includes Tom DiCarlo (bass) and Chris Brown (drums), both of whom studied with Cowell at Rutgers. According to Cowell, Kyma acts as the fifth member of the Empathlectric Quartet.

Welcome to This New World

AN OVERSEAS MEMORY eases you gently into the new world, with subtle, theremin-esque touches over jazz guitar, bass, piano. Relaxed yet precise, the music puts you by the water’s edge at sunset, with smooth dissolves through interesting rhythmic disintegrations and repeating downward major thirds.

By the time we arrive at track 2, TINGED, the coddling is officially over and we’re thrust into the brave new world, harmonically, rhythmically and timbrally. Each note is distorted by ragged amplitude modulation. The piano emits showers of particles and distorted accents in an easy BPM 90 with tricky beat displacements and slightly disorienting live pitch bending.

VICTIM is fun, fast and boppish (16th notes at BPM 60?), the piano processing takes on a vocal quality that sounds like spectral voices. Some of the solos venture into territory heard only at electro-acoustic music concerts. A guitar solo is doubled by a delayed, ghost guitar, and the piano stabs sounds, at times, completely electronic. The abrupt ending sizzles into a noise decay.

Jazz critic Neil Tesser describes describes VICTIM as “instantly traversing the gulf between post-boppish improvisation and post-post-modernism”. Yeah! With another “post” thrown in for good measure!

The exquisite DUO IMPROVISATION I is just piano and guitar processed through Kyma. The entire track is filtered through a time-stretched vocoder/RE on the spoken phrase: “We pray for peace”, repeating and elaborated through metric and harmonic modulations. On this track, Kyma functions as a third performer: a prism through which you hear the other two performers! Fluid and ever-changing, the phrase morphs into an insistent invocation for peace, before easing back into a contemplative ending. Reflective, haunting and beautiful, this track bears repeated listening to appreciate just how musically innovative it really is.

EMPATHLECTRIK is a Cowell neologism derived from “Empathy + Electric”. In this track, Kyma sounds are incorporated into the theme itself and, as Tesser observes, Kyma “enhances the improvisation without overwhelming it.” The piano moves in and out of subtle modulation, there are theremin-like touches on the guitar, arpeggiated piano clusters pitch-shifted up. It sounds like it’s been multi-tracked and processed, but it’s all live! The New World has arrived.

Live spectral analysis and resynthesis of the piano through the Kyma CloudBank provides shimmery prolongations of the guitar and piano pitches in INVERTISEMENT. A sudden shift to the dry piano sounds sounds so focused and new; it makes you realize that hearing the processed piano lets you hear the dry piano with new ears; you no longer take any sound for granted.

During the unprocessed interludes, you have a chance to reflect on and appreciate the economy and precision of Cowell’s playing. Complex and masterful, his playing remains disciplined and focused, even when veering off into timbral new worlds. There’s never an extraneous note or gratuitous ornament. Similarly, the seeming ease with which Juris’ fingers fly over the fingerboard evidences a calm serenity that can only come from years of practice and total mastery.

This track, like the others, is formally solid, notwithstanding the wild timbral excursions.

After the solos, a reprise of the shimmery clouds. The reason these electronics feel so organic is precisely because they emerge entirely from the acoustic performance. They’re not played on a sequencer or a synthesizer, they are played on a real acoustic piano and subtly processed through the electronics. Thus, the resulting sound feels totally different from a synthesized track.

Picking up the pace and the mood again is SUN BURN which Neil Tesser describes as “shades of Weather Report”. The piano resynthesis has a decidedly vocal flavor, suggesting a female vocalist doubling the piano. This would be a good one to listen to while cruising down the highway and includes a rock-worthy drum solo.

In DUO IMPROVISATION II, you are suspended, drifting through space, with gentle electronics and atmospheric processing. Washes of quick arpeggios and Debussy-esque scales are held together by a subtle G pedal drone.

ST CROIX opens with cheery island percussion and ostinati. Bubbly, liquid processing alternates with straightforward sections and the metallic overtones of an acoustic thumb piano, this is one to listen to through ear buds while strolling down summer streets downtown.

With WINTER REFLECTIONS, the desolation of winter returns. Dry snow swirling like dust across dark streets, and shivery scraping on piano strings and cymbals coalesce into the theme stated in guitar and conversationally commented on by the piano. A slightly melancholic piano solo w/ tremolo, recovers with a strong bass line leading into the next chorus. There’s a delightfully high-pitched, fast bass solo with some light touches from electronics, a reprise of solo in guitar with piano commentary, and it ends with piano string-scraping and thermin sounds.

WELCOME TO THIS NEW WORLD features octave doubling, unisons, swinging syncopations, subtly warped resynthesis and disorienting non-sinusoidal resynthesis that gives the piano a harpsichord-like quality. The Theremins and piano wire scrapes return. By now we are solidly in the new world.

Stanley Cowell and Kyma

Cowell’s fascination with electronic music was first ignited when, as a sophomore at Oberlin College, he heard a lecture by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Cowell was struck by Stockhausen’s observation that once any music is recorded, it becomes electro-acoustic music. Cowell kept coming back to that idea, throughout the 1960s as a jazz performer and into the 1980s as he turned more toward composition. It wasn’t until 1997 when, as a professor at Lehman College in New York, he had an opportunity to write a grant to purchase one of the early Kyma systems.

He’s been using Kyma in his music ever since, but it wasn’t until the new, more portable, Paca was released that he began taking it on the road. “It’s a sound design workstation,” Cowell says of Kyma, differentiating it from other computer programs or electronic keyboard instruments, “basically, if you look at every real-time device that does something to sound, Kyma does all of that.”

 

During the recordings (and in live performances) Cowell sends the guitar signal to the left Kyma input and piano signal to the right input. Juris has his own foot controllers, while Cowell controls and initiates Kyma Sounds from his MacBook Pro. (Bass and drums are not processed). The result is like nothing you have heard before. Yet it never loses its grounding in acoustic jazz. Welcome to This New World is new music that sounds like nothing you’ve heard before.

Zul Zelub: Ultimaton

 Release, Sound Recording, Web site  Comments Off on Zul Zelub: Ultimaton
Feb 092013
 

Ultimaton, an experimental electro-acoustic album featuring prepared piano and Kyma X processing, was released in December 2012 by Jorge Lima Barreto (piano & percussion) and Jonas Runa (Kyma X).

Zul Zelub (zul = luz or light, zelub = Boulez) is described as unrealized musical energy, the unexpressed, the force which does not generate matter, a virtual formulation as in a dream or a cyber journey.

Barreto’s piano performance is an experimentalist improvised flow, unfolding in various concepts and dynamics of time (slowed-down or accelerated, asynchronous and synchronous) creating new sound spaces. Digital musician and composer João Marques Carrilho (aka Jonas Runa) captures, interferes, superimposes timbres, and participates in a real-time musical conversation with the piano.

The duo explores the questions: What lies behind an act of musical creation?  What precedes it?  What enables its actualization in sound?

To Barreto and Runa, musical improvisation is a living force that induces an action and maintains a momentary state of the body.  “Improvisation lives in the unknown, at the mercy of the Creative Energy and Open Form; in it’s aesthetic stance, improvisation is possibility and performance (corporal action) – it is an ephemeral state pointing to the unrealized.”

Ultimaton is available as an immediate download or in a limited edition cardboard double-sleeve wallet that includes photographs and background on the project and its creators. Listen to a preview of the complex, delicate and shimmering textures on bandcamp.com where you can also order the full album.

The Book of Sarth

 Books, Release, Sound for picture, Sound Recording  Comments Off on The Book of Sarth
Nov 262012
 

Is it a graphic novel? A concept album? An animation? An App? A book?

The Book of Sarth is all of these things plus a narrative about an ear worm that is, itself, an ear worm! The Book of Sarth is the first example of an entirely new art form for the early 21st century.  The initial offering of the Gralbum Collective, a self-described group of musicians, artists, and programmers working to establish new forms for creative expression, The Book of Sarth is available now in the App Store and has to be experienced, more than described, but an attempt at a verbal description follows:

Imagine discovering an ornate leather-bound book abandoned in an attic; when you pick it up, a voice says “Open the Book”.  Cradling the iPad in your lap like an old tome, flipping through parchment pages with colorful watercolors, it really does feel as if you’ve discovered a magical story book, one where the drawings come alive and music fills the stereo field (headphone listening is strongly recommended for the experimental, Kyma-drenched score by Sarth Calhoun).

Like the tracks on the album, the animated paintings come in “chapters”, each having its own style and character: the storybook water colors of “Discovery”, the ink-on-glass Japanese photo/drawing colorized loops of “Transmission”, the stark black and white ink images of Occupy-like mass protests for “Awakening”, psychedelic pattern loops for “Access”, symbolic poker-hands and other cryptic numbers (4 X 7), beautiful iridescent ghostly animations on black-inked stark background images of the police state, and so on, concluding with an Epilogue of beautiful geometric patterns, sometimes occluded by human silhouettes.

Born into an angular world with no color, two children discover a sound-generating device that enraptures the world, introducing color, movement and shapes; the epilogue hints at ancient technologies that were known to resonate with sounds of a healing nature and reveal hidden order and patterns.  The rest of the narrative is a struggle between the black-and-white (or “the brown and grey”) police state who shut down the transmissions, and the rioting crowds who learn to make their own underground sound-generating devices.

The musical narrative can accompany the visual or not and is an uncompromisingly experimental mix of vocoding, heavily processed poetry, ear-worm inducing loops, exquisitely glitchy electronics, and Euclidean rhythms.  It ends, not with an ecstatic out-of-body experience, but with a warning: “the black days are coming.”

 

Walking the road that only you can see

 Controllers & Instruments, Sound Recording  Comments Off on Walking the road that only you can see
Oct 052012
 

Sarth Calhoun’s introspective piece for a rainy Brooklyn evening (in a similar vein to the Metal Machine Trio tour he did with Lou Reed and Ulrich Krieger). Performed entirely on Continuum fingerboard using Kyma and Ableton Live amp modelers, it evokes the sense of conflict that can arise when you feel you need to walk a road that only you can see. Recorded as a single take, with no edits.

Higgs’ Encomium

 Data-driven sound, Sound Recording  Comments Off on Higgs’ Encomium
Jul 032012
 

In Praise of Inference is a 60″ Kyma-generated sound bite celebrating the subtle and sophisticated thought process that goes into inferring the existence of a short-lived particle based only on the traces it leaves behind. Every sound you hear in the example is controlled or ‘modulated’ by data generated by computer models of the proton collisions expected to produce Higgs bosons in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

The sound bite works its way backwards in time, starting with the evidence and then gradually inferring the probable cause. At the beginning you hear two distributions, one on the left and one on the right, each with 500 gamma energy values (each gamma distribution is mapped to a 500-partial filterbank); over time, each gamma distribution morphs to a distribution of Higgs masses, all 500 center frequencies converging on the single high energy/mass value mapped to the high pitch at the end. In the middle, the (static) dR and pTt distributions (also represented by 500-partial spectra controlling filterbanks) fade in and out. Over this backdrop you hear some of the explosive and shivery mappings of jet data (see below).

At the very very end, you may hear a hint of an inference of the voice of the Higgs…

Please play it as loud as your speakers can handle (it sounds best with a subwoofer if you have one). The original is in surround sound but a stereo version was easier to post.

Where did this come from?
Experimental and theoretical particle physicists Lily Asquith and Michael Krämer, in addition to their regular research and teaching duties, have been collaborating with musicians this year on a special project to take the data from some of the quadrillions of proton collisions going on in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and mapping those data sets to sound. Not only are the researchers hoping to hear patterns in the data; they also want to share their passion for exploration and discovery with creative individuals outside of physics.

The project got started last year, when Asquith and composer Richard Dobson created the LHC Sound project, posting sounds and simulated data on the web and inviting musicians to sample the sounds and map the data. Asquith called one of the sets the Jet Game, the object of which was to be able to identify (using only your ears) which of the jets contained evidence of the Higgs boson. Carla Scaletti decided to map several of the jets to sound using Kyma, and the results ended up in the musical score she and Cristian Vogel composed for choreographer Gilles Jobin‘s Spider Galaxies.

At the beginning of this year, Asquith teamed up with Krämer and Scaletti to explore even more ways of mapping data to sound. So far, all the sounds have been generated using simulated data (the real data are top secret), but the trio look forward to having a listen to actual LHC data soon.

A force of pure imagination

 Release, Sound Recording  Comments Off on A force of pure imagination
Jan 092012
 

Electronica: Zlatko Tanodi, the new album of Croatian composer Zlatko Tanodi‘s highly imaginative electo-acoustic music has just been released under the Cantus label. Tanodi is a true musical eclectic; as adept at writing orchestral and chamber music as jazz and pop arrangements and scoring films, he tours internationally, performing keyboards with his jazz ensemble Opus X and also serves as the Head of the Department of Composition and Theory at the Zagreb Academy of Music. All of these experiences are evident in the music on this disc which slips easily from the classical avant-garde to a cinematic dramaturgy worthy of a Hollywood space fantasy and even includes brief snatches of DnB. Throughout, Tanodi has woven a surprising and delightful thread of pure sound design and a fascination with the human voice (both speaking and singing). Even more impressive than Tanodi’s masterful command of an astonishing variety of musical styles, though, is the force of his unspoiled, almost child-like imagination. Sounds transform themselves in a seemingly inevitable way from operatic diva to demonic baby; string quartets, frogs, and abstract sine wave modulations receive equal amounts of loving attention to detail and craftsmanship.

For a little foretaste of the sonic delights you’ll enjoy in the full album, check out Tanodi’s introduction to his contributions to the Recombinant Art compilation, produced by Edmund EaganElectronica is a must-hear for anyone who enjoys the pure physical pleasure of being immersed in sound and music and is eager to be transported to another world, at least for the duration of this CD. You can order the full album from the Cantus web site (100 HRK is approximately USD17).

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