Star City — generative patch from my July 10th livestream

Hard to pick where to begin with this one.

But let’s start with how the patch started: there are three voices that are loosely based upon a pinged filter design, with a single oscillator acting as an exciter for resonant filters, which are tuned to an A minor pentatonic scale. Unlike a traditional pinged filter design, the envelopes which control the amplitude at which the exciter is fed to the filters are modulated, sometimes providing the very brief bursts characteristic of that sound but sometimes with long attacks and/or decays which can saturate the filters. Additionally, because the oscillator is tuned to a fairly high frequency (A1), sometimes the resonances of the filters are reinforced by the exciter’s wave itself, producing more clipping and distortion.

This was, admittedly, not really my intention; I was just playing around with sound I’ve played around with a lot, and when it first started to produce clipping, I thought, well, let’s fix this. But then… I decided maybe not, and instead throw in some filtering (high-pass and low-pass) to shape it. It became a feature, not a bug.

After that I added some delay and reverb. And for a while, that was the patch.

Then, I decided, some loopers couldn’t hurt. So there are some alternating loopers that capture the output of the voices and speed them up an octave and play them in reverse. It was all a bit much, so I fed them through a modulated VCA before sending that back to the filters.

But it felt like I needed something more, so I added a kick/bass sound. This is a pretty simple modulated low-pass filter, using the same oscillator as the previous voices as its source. It uses a four-step sequencer to determine the probability that a kick will be produced on a given step, and its envelope is modulated, which means sometimes it sounds more like a kick and sometimes more like a bass.

And what good is a kick drum without some more metallic percussion, so I added a simple hats voice (noise into a bandpass filter). Then I decided to modulate its envelope, too, so sometimes the hats are open or closed or just a wash of noise.

Those two elements are also fed into the loopers (and delay and reverb). And that’s the patch. Oh, also, on occasion, the tempo slows down for a bit before speeding back up. (There’s a lot going on in this one. There usually is, but often they are a bunch of processes working toward one goal; here, there are a bunch of different processes doing their own thing.)

I have to admit, I didn’t really like this patch at first, and the more I added to it, the less I enjoyed it. I kept thinking, maybe I should go back and try to fix that clipping. But then maybe it brainwashed me or something; I’m not sure, but after listening for a while, I really rather liked it. It can be a little repetitive, but maybe in a good way?

Anyhow. So, when I grew up in Morgantown — home of the WVU Mountaineers –, Star City was literally a stone’s throw away. I mean, I’m pretty sure if I threw a stone hard enough from my backyard, it would land in Star City, because our house was right next to the city line, and Star City began where Morgantown ended, cascading down the hill toward the river. A glass town — there are many former glass towns in WV — it had once been, like many towns in West Virginia, run by socialists and labor rights activists, building community resources and championing the common citizen. Then, as WWII loomed and the USSR was seen more and more as an aggressor, socialism became less palatable. I mention this because, even though contemporary WV is a deep, deep red, when I think back on the history of my state, I think of the struggles of the coal miners and glass workers and teachers and others who shared their vision of a more equitable West Virginia for all.

My albums of generative patches: https://christopherhmjacques.bandcamp.com/releases

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.):

https://www.patreon.com/chmjacques

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  • Category: Composition Synthesizer
  • Revision: 1.0
  • License: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0
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  • Modified: 1 month ago
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