Commission Music

Commission Music
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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The vast emptiness of a blank page

I fire up my music software of choice, SuperCollider, and I open a new document and there's nothing in it. It's just a glowing rectangle of empty white, waiting for me to start typing.

Composing for SuperCollider is not like composing for a piano. First, you have to build the piano.

And you know, building a piano is hard. Maybe I don't even want that sound. Maybe something else? Maybe anything I can think of? What should I type into that white void?

In my past, I've found that I actually have trouble talking about musical ideas. I mean, they're slippery to talk about, obviously, but, I couldn't seem to talk about them at all. People would ask me about music and I would start talking about technology. What's my new musical idea? Well, I've got this P5 Glove, which I think I could use for gestural input. No, what's my musical idea? Ah well, I have an algorithm that can compute scales based on spectra and I'm thinking of modifying it to be able to take amplitude modulation parameters like frequency, offset, amplitude and wave shape (including sine, triangle and square) or an array of partials for each wave form and thus generate scale steps that way. No but what's my latest musical idea?

Ok, five years after discovering this disconnect, I think I can actually have musical ideas. Maybe. At least, the possibility is in my radar.

But, you know, if I'm thinking about technology, then at least it's going to possibly suggest something musical, arising from the material possibilities it presents. And I think that might be a lot easier than staring into the hopeless void of a blank page. I think this might be why an analog synth is both easier and more fun. It's not just the knobs, it's the inherent limitations.

. . . Anyway, I've got this formula, and I think I found the formula for the spectrum of AM (and RM) and I really like the first few bars of Four Walls Act 2 Scene 4 by John Cage, so maybe a percussive attack on RM triangle waves and then I could modify the offset over time towards AM and also slide my scale mapping to reflect that . . .

1 comment:

Dave Seidel said...

It's very often the same for me. Some idea appeals to me, I try it to see if I can find music in it. Maybe it sounds interesting, maybe I get completely led in a different direction. More and more, it seems to me that it doesn't matter how you start, it just matters that you start. And then keep going until it becomes something.