Ghosts of Mingo — generative patch from my July 22nd livestream

At the heart of this patch is a chord generator synth, made up of (up to) four oscillators. They are configured to cycle randomly between major chords, with the highest pitch alternating between a seventh, an octave, and a major second above the octave. The oscillator devoted to playing the fifth also sometimes plays an octave above the fifth.

The oscillators are — for long time fans of the patch notes, this will come as no surprise — self-FM’d sine wave oscillators. Although there are four voices making up the chords, not all four voices may sound on a given cycle; they are probabilistically determined to provide a little more variety.

The root moves in a semi-stepwise manner through (close to) two octaves. Sometimes it moves up, sometimes down, but never by more than a fifth. (And sometimes it doesn’t move at all.)

There is a “lead voice,” that sounds a bit like a horn (again a self-FM’d sine wave). It tracks the fundamental, but occasionally it plays an octave above.

Everything passes through a looper that records snippets of the output (pre-effects) and plays it back at twice the speed and backwards.

It all gets filtered, quite a bit, before heading into a reverb lite, then a Cosmos-style offset delay.

The “tape” qualities are added in a few ways: all of the VCAs are modulated by noise (random module), the filtering (high and low-pass) creates a band-limited audio range, and the output delay is modulated with a warbly combination of two cross-modulating and multiplied triangle waves (this is my preferred method of approaching “tape-style” modulation, although a third triangle LFO added to the combination — I didn’t have CPU for it — works even better).

“Bloody Mingo” was a period of union history in the southern West Virginia coalfields. Skirmishes between miners and union-busting agents hired by the mine owners (think much more violent than contemporary union-busters; guns for hire, basically) made headlines across the nation. These skirmishes culminated in the battle of Matewan, where Baldwin-Felts agents arrived to evict striking miners and were met by the Matewan police chief, Sid Hatfield, who objected to the evictions as unlawful. While the agents carried out their work, word spread and miners converged on Matewan, armed and ready. When the agents attempted to leave, Sid Hatfield met them an once more contested the evictions. They attempted to arrest Hatfield (Hatfield may have attempted to arrest them; reports vary), and a gun-fight ensued that left the Mayor of Matewan (who had stood with Hatfield), two miners and seven Baldwin-Felts agents dead.

The battle led to an even bigger conflict, the Battle of Blair Mountain, where 10,000 miners rose up, tired of the oppressive conditions of the coal mines, fought against 3,000 police (and eventually National Guard units). Sid Hatfield became a folk hero, both because the police often worked at the behest of the mine-owners while Hatfield sided with the miners, and because he was assassinated soon after on the steps of the McDowell County courthouse by Baldwin-Felts agents.

I mentioned in my last stream’s patch notes, for “Vandalia,” that I thought of Vandalia as a sort of alternate reality West Virginia (and greater Appalachia). Charlie Ysasi encouraged me to try to flesh out this narrative.

I decided the Battle of Blair Mountain would be my point of divergence, one where the miners prevailed, and their insurrection spread through the state (and the coal fields of adjacent states, mainly eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia). Eventually, a new nation, Vandalia, was established, one informed by the communal values of the unionists. I haven’t gotten too far in developing this project — the Vandalia Project — but I’m inspired by ideas drawn from post-colonialism (fun fact: outside of Appalachians, I’ve found I have a lot in common with Puerto Ricans, who hail from another insular colony of the United States), Afro-Futurism, and magical realism to imagine another Appalachia. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m beginning to think of these patches less as disparate pieces and more as music from an Appalachia that never was. If you are or know any Appalachia artists that you think might be interested in this project, get in touch!

My albums of generative patches:

Also, I restarted my Patreon, since people have asked a lot about that, if you want to support the stuff I do (overly long livestreams, videos of trees, etc.):

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  • Category: Composition Synthesizer
  • Revision: 1.0
  • License: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0
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  • Modified: 2 weeks ago
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