Making Generative Music With Eurorack Synths

Eurorack users often find that their patches can take on a life of their own, and this is actually one of the goals in the creation of generative patches. Generative patches, or generative music, is the concept of connecting your modules in such a way that they basically play themselves with little or no interaction from the user, yet the music evolves and changes without repeating itself. This is sometimes also referred to as Procedurally Generated Music, and it is something that modular synthesizers and computer programs are uniquely qualified to do. In fact, the term was originally coined (not surprisingly) by Brian Eno while working with software. He used this term to describe “any music that is ever-different and changing, created by a system”. The approaches to generative music can be almost as varied as the results, but there are a few ingredients and techniques that are essential. Continue reading “Making Generative Music With Eurorack Synths”

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The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 9 – Xibalba

tikal53.jpgWhile staying at Caves Branch Lodge, we took a tour into Guatemala to visit Tikal, the former Mayan capital. While there, our informative guide told us stories of Mayan history and legends, as well as the efforts being conducted to uncover and restore this ancient site. It is his voice that you hear at the start of this song, telling the story of the twins that managed to trick their way out of Xibalba, and the lethal authority of the Mayan priests. The Mayan priests installed themselves as a necessary conduit for the people to be able to communicate with the gods. They were considered divine, and the people weren’t even permitted to look up at them. They would have to approach them and depart with bowed heads, or risk having their heads chopped off. To make matters worse, decapitation was an even less attractive option then because the obsidian axes they used were fairly dull, and the executioners had poor aim because they were often tripping out on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Xibalba (pronounced She-ball-ba) is the name for the Mayan underworld. Stylistically this song was largely influenced by my discovery of Chicha and Cumbia music. A sort of South American surf rock from the 60s. If you’re not familiar with it I’d highly recommend giving this album a listen. It’s quite fun.

tikal-201.jpgXibalba is by far the most ambitious one on the album as it features me playing more acoustic instruments than any of the others. I played a few tracks of trumpet and trombone, as well as something called Xaphoon, which is sort of like a recorder with a saxophone reed. I also played a number of percussion instruments like shakers and hand drums. I even made a cabasa out of an old tin and some bottle caps. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I played a few chords and some slower sustained notes with an electric. The rest came from my poly evolver and sample libraries. I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. I feel like it provides a nice contrast to the other songs without being too much of a departure stylistically.

This brings us to the end of the making of Belizean Heat. I hope you found this interesting and that it helped to deepen your enjoyment of the music. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the album I would be happy to hear it.

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The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch

I was able to borrow a GoPro camera for my trip to Belize, so I actually have a lot of video footage. Eventually I hope to use that footage to make videos for at least a few of the songs. This song is actually more based on video footage than field recordings, and it spent a lot of time in limbo before I figured out a direction for it. Once I did settle on a direction it was actually completed quite quickly (by my standards). It was one of the last songs finished on the album along with Stowaway, which I talked about in the last making of post. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch”

The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 6 & 7 – Hideaway & Stowaway

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I’m grouping Hideaway and Stowaway together in this post because in a way, they are two sides of the same coin. By that I mean that they both use the same processed cricket recordings as their source.

Hideaway Caye is a tiny peaceful mangrove island and is home solely to the family that runs a guesthouse and boat access restaurant, their two dogs, along with many crabs, seabirds, iguanas, and lots of crickets. The island is so small that rather than taking their big Rottweiler out for walks, they go out in a kayak and he paddles along behind them. Our host Dustin explained to me that before they built the houses there were no crickets or iguanas. While bringing over the thatch for the roofs these little stowaways hitched a ride and then decided to call the island home. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 6 & 7 – Hideaway & Stowaway”

Eurorack Synthesis: Exploring The Obvious & Less Obvious Uses of VCAs

If you’ve spent any time investigating the world of eurorack, reading through threads on the muffwiggler forum, watching videos from Richard Divine, Mylar Melodies, DivKid and the growing roster of eurorack YouTubers out there, chances are high that you have come across the sentiment that you can never have too many (or enough) VCAs. Depending on your experience with synthesizers, this may seem like either an odd or completely self evident statement. In any event, it’s worth taking a look at what VCAs are, what they do, and why they are so important to any eurorack system. Continue reading “Eurorack Synthesis: Exploring The Obvious & Less Obvious Uses of VCAs”