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Re: [microsound] Using PD for microsound (newbie)

Hi Derek,

This was a helpful post.  I guess it's number 3 that I'm most
interested in, events over time.  The effects processing would really
need to fit in with this, as I already have the ability to do a huge
variety of effects processing in other programs.  For that matter, I can
work with microsound easily in sound editor programs (Sound Forge/
Cubase/ Audacity etc), it's just that I can't do it in real time - I
can't improvise with it!

What I'm most interested in is turning PD into an "instrument,"
something that I can play and feel inspired in the same way I enjoy
improvising on a piano or synth.  I want something that I could use to
improvise with next to a live saxophonist, and not feel I've exhausted
my possibilities in, say, ten minutes.  One problem is perhaps that
although I can "hear" things in my head, logically programming them is a
bit beyond me.  Perhaps my background in jazz has me relying on
intuition too much - and honestly, I wouldn't really be that keen on
having to build my own piano, I'm glad that instruments already exist to
some degree.  But obviously, going deeper in performance/composition is
going to require custom interfaces.

I think I'm obviously going to have to master the wavetable aspects to
really get something exciting this way, as there's no need to replicate
a synthesizer.  I also think that I may actually need to figure out how
to interface PD and Python, since coding certain things in Python might
be more logical, especially for certain aleatoric tasks.  What is most
clear to me is that I have to design the interface compositionally, to
allow for a variety of nuanced expressions, from dense to minimal, from
music to noise, with the same range of expression that I would have if I
were writing a piece for string quartet.  This seems like the real trick
- to come up with one neat sound effect is fine, but to have enough
processes built into the interface to respond to every kind of improv
situation seems quite daunting!


>>> derek@xxxxxxx 04/03/05 06:52AM >>>
Hi David,

David Powers wrote:
>  What I'm wondering is, conceptually, what kinds of patches have
people designed using PD? 

Frank Barknecht's RRADical patches, Roads' "Microsound" book and my 
Particle Chamber patch are all good places to start looking, as Frank 
and Charles both noted.

I usually start my workshops by showing the big white blank of the PD 
interface, and then explaining that alhough you can run part of a 
webserver, do a VJ set or make your own version of Reason with the
same software, the best part is that the interface doesn't tell you to

do any of that. You really have to bring your own ideas, and your 
knowledge about how to execute those ideas, to PD or else it won't do 
anything for you at all.

For any kind of performance patch, there's a few areas to concentrate 
on, and these are the things I think about for all my work in PD:

1) Live signal processing: take sound from the soundcard or another 
sound app in realtime and do something to it. Something like building 
your own VST plugins. Many effects are possible from the creative 
application of time delay: echoes, reverb, phasing, comb-filtering, 
pitch-shifting, granulation, etc etc. The rest are mostly done with 
filter algorithms (themselves sometimes based on delays). Understanding

not only how those effects work in the analog world, but also how the 
computer actually handles sound (as samples) is essential to building 
any kind of Digital Sound Processing effects. Look at Roads' "Computer

Music Tutorial" or Charles Dodge's "Computer Music" for basic computer

audio know-how. The Roads book is for math nerds, the Dodge book is not

2) Static soundfile processing: take a soundfile from the harddrive and

do something to it, a sampler or loop-player being the most primitive 
example. My Particle Chamber patch takes a soundfile and granulates it,

with an XY table to determine what part of the soundfile is being 
chopped up and how fast or slow the files gest "scanned" through. 
(Incidentally, this is the exact same method Live uses to time-synch
the loops you put in it, but the granulation is hidden from the user).

Much of what you can do with static soundfiles can also be done with 
realtime delay lines. Essentially, all you are doing is locating
points within a table, and telling PD to start and stop playback at 
those various points.

3) Events over time: this is another way of talking about such things
sequencers and envelope generators--they are simply a description of an

event over a duration (i.e. play a note, start a loop, turn the volume

up and down, change the pitch, lengthen the delay...). There's an 
interesting thread about sequencers on the PD list right now, with 
people discussing everything from the traditional piano roll and bar 
staff to using data structures. Generative or algorithmic event
also falls into this area, i.e. things like neural networks and so on.

My patches generally combine all three of these things, and I find that

the most challenging part is the last one. Making and using one effect

in PD does not constitute a "performance" (a filter sweep does not a 
techno track make). Finding creative ways of controlling that one
brings you a lot closer to making art with it.

good luck!

derek holzer ::: http://www.umatic.nl 
---Oblique Strategy # 189:
"You are an engineer"

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