Tesserae — a mosaic soundscape machine

Tesserae are the tiles which make up a mosaic; Tesserae, the patch, creates little snapshots of your sound, using alternating looper tracks, to pitch them, shorten them, reverse them, while a complement of effects process and shape the input and output, creating everything from from reverse delays to bizarre modulations and pans to collages of sound and noise. It can be melodic or chaotic, a subtle accompaniment or the centerpiece of a composition.

The attached video walks through the controls, but I did some more sound examples here: https://youtu.be/7HB9o9ykbKg

The signal passes through a number of distinct blocks: first, a plate reverb, to smear the sound; then, a pair of alternating loopers–track is always playing, while the other is always recording–which play the sound back once, with options to change the speed (and pitch) of each track, as well as a probabilistic forward/reverse option. Modulation can be applied to the loops, from tape-like warbles to random fluctuations in pitch, subtle or intense.

After the loopers, there is a panning stage, allowing you to pan each track hard left and right, or more subtle degrees in between, which gives a shifting stereo image as the patch switches from track to track. A low-pass filter acts as a tone control before the sound is either sent to the output mix or through a stereo delay, which can be set to feedback between the delay lines, allowing ping-ponging. The send amount can be modulated, to produce pseudo-tremolo sounds.

The signal path is stereo, although the panning and cross-feedback elements can disrupt the “true” stereo image.

A special thanks to my patrons on Patreon for their support: Rob Flax, Stepan Grammatik, brockstar, Mats Unnerholm, D Sing, Will Scott, drew batchelor, Miguel, Steve Bragg, Joab Eastley, Tomi Kokki, Mitch Lantz, Ben Norland, Daniel Morris, Roman Jakobej, Mark Crosbie, Steve Codling, Timothy Cleary, and Soren Made!

If you would like to support my work on ZOIA, please visit patreon.com/chmjacques


Left, latching — turns on the looper modulation; think of this as a chorus or vibrato

Middle, latching — turns on hard panning; you can achieve hard panning from the pan control as well, but if you want to quickly switch to hard panning this stompswitch is very useful

Right, latching — turns on the delay send modulation; since the modulation–which uses a triangle wave–switches between sending the effect to the output mix and the delay, this functions somewhat like a tremolo, although since it is also affecting the input of the delay, which is heard later, it is not quite the same… in a good way

Front panel:

The controls are color-coded by blocks:

Reverb controls are magenta:

Reverb mix — controls the mix of the plate reverb prior to the looper stage

Reverb decay — controls the decay of the reverb, but also the density of sound; as decay is increased, the output of the patch takes on… it is a little hard to describe, but it is more like a “tape” sound, especially when reversed by the looper stage

The controls for the loopers’ behavior are aqua:

Reverse chance — governs the chance that the loop plays back forward or reverse; 0 will always be forward, 1 will always be reverse; points in between represent probabilistic likelihoods of forward or reverse (e.g., .5 means there is a 50% chance it is reversed, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily alternate from forward ro reverse each time)

Loop rate — this determines the rate by which the loopers alternate; at 0 it is ~10s; at 1, it is ~25 ms. Note: as you push the loopers to faster rates, they _can_ become unstable (~.5 or so); it doesn’t always happen, and I’m not entirely sure why it does (loopers are generally nuts; I’m astonished each time I get one to work).

A pixel blow the loop rate flashes in time with it.

The controls for the loopers’ speed-pitch are in red:

Speed-pitch 1 & 2 — control the left and right tracks when hard panned (respectively); since the loops are only set to play once, faster speeds will produce shorter loops with periods of silence and slower speeds will produce longer loops that can be cut off

I was going to do a fancy thing with UI buttons to pick pitches, but it was a CPU casualty. Instead, you have two bipolar (+ or -) controls. If you need a handy guide to pitch values in ZOIA:

.000 .008 .017 .025 .033 .042 .050 .058 .067 .075 .083 .092 .100
0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10 +11 +12 (an octave)

So, if you want to raise the pitch a fifth, adjust it to .058; if you want to lower it an octave and a minor 7th, -.183, etc.

But you can also try speeds that don’t correspond to notes; the UIs look cooler and are convenient, but this control is far more flexible

The controls for the loopers’ modulation are in yellow:

Mod rate and depth — familiar ideas, I’m guessing; both go from so subtle/almost unnoticeable to extreme and very noticeable

Sine or random (pushbutton) — determines if the speed-pitch modulation is a sine (off) or random (on)

A light below this will become bright when the left footswitch, engaging the modulation, is on.

The controls for the “post-looper” effects are in magenta:

Pan — determines the degree of panning; 0 will maintain the true stereo image; as the control is increased, panning will cause the looper tracks to favor sides; at 1, the tracks are hard-panned and alternate from left to right

Tone — a low-pass filter, useful for dialing back some of the highs and creating a murkier/warmer sound

A light below this row will become bright when the middle footswitch, engaging hard-panning, is on.

The controls for the delay send are in red:

Delay send — the amount of the signal sent to the delay; this functions much like a mix control

Send mod rate — the send control can be bypassed in favor of a modulated send amount (using the right stompswitch); the modulation is performed by a triangle LFO and this controls its rate

There is a pixel below this that blinks in time with the mod rate.

A light below this will become bright when the right stompswitch, enabling the delay send modulation, is on.

The controls for the delay are in aqua:

Time — from 30 ms (faux reverb) to 4 s; because of how delay lines are modulated, the first half of the control covers far less time than the second half; you may also notice, as you adjust delay times, that some clicks are heard; as a CPU-saving measure, this patch uses non-interpolated delay lines

Feedback — controls the amount of repeats

Cross-feedback — this controls how much of the right delay is fed into the left delay and vice versa; at 0, the delays aren’t cross-fed at all; at 1, they ping pong back and forth, from one side to another (this becomes more interesting the more the voices are panned)

The mix control is in yellow:

Mix — wet/dry mix for the patch

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