Colin Marston

Groove-o-noiseics Seminar I

This is my first serious attempt to write music using JSyn and JMSL. I started by creating 5 synth note patches in Wire.

The two percussive sounds (NoiseDrum1 and 2) were constructed using similar methods. NoiseDrum1 is made up of a band-limited pulse oscillator (whose input frequency is lowered by two octaves) mixed with red noise. The amplitude of both the oscillator and noise generator are controlled with quickly decaying, percussive-sounding volume envelopes. The oscillator’s envelope decays slightly slower, giving the “drum” a ringing quality. NoiseDrum2 only differs in that instead of using one oscillator, it uses two band-limited pulse oscillators, ring modulated with each other. Also, there is a set difference of 500 Hz input frequency between these two oscillators. And finally, the frequency of the red noise that is mixed with the output of the oscillators is set almost twice as high to give this drum a brighter, more piercing tone.

The biting, trebly patch (ColinPatch1) consists of two sine wave oscillators ring modulated with each other, run through an erratic volume envelope. One oscillator’s amplitude is set to 1000 and the other’s to .5 ( a value of 1 being full volume without clipping) to create excessive distortion. The frequencies of the two oscillators are set to the ratio of 15336.575712558362 Hz to 164.8142518719232 Hz so as not to allow for any consonant intervals to be produced as a product of ring modulation. The output is sent through a low pass filter, whose amplitude and bandwidth are controlled by relatively inverted envelopes (the amplitude of the filter gradually fading out, while the bandwidth fades up).

The two WahSynth sounds are constructed from a square wave oscillator, whose frequency is modulated by a sine wave oscillator. The intensity of the frequency modulation is affected by way of an envelope controlling the amplitude of the sine oscillator (the modulator). This envelope fades the sine oscillator in and then out, causing the tone to start simple, get more complex, and then return to a pure square wave upon the release of a given note. This fading in and out of the modulator results in a “wah”-like sound. WahSynthPitch only differs form Wah Synth in that the modulator’s volume envelope is also fed to the frequency input on the modulator, making its frequency rise and fall based on the same envelope--contour that controls the oscillator’s volume.

Once I had created all these sounds, my goal was to compose an off-kilter, yet grooving, drum part that would serve as the foundation of the piece. With the two drum parts finished, I used the three other synth sounds mainly to add color to the rhythmic foundation. These instruments double or play off of the rhythms of the NoiseDrums, and sometimes hold long notes to add texture. The pitches were chosen mostly by sampling different notes on the staff and choosing by ear the ones that seemed to fit the idea of a given measure. I used this somewhat haphazard method of choosing pitches because the sounds I was dealing with all involved some type of non-harmonic modulation, so that a major third on the staff would not necessarily sound like a major third. Some twelve-tone rows were used occasionally to add an element of assured non-repetition. I altered certain parameters of ColinPatch1 to add contrast to different sections of the piece, making it grating and piercing in certain parts and dull and bassy in others.

Groove-o-noiseics Seminar II

For part two in the ludicrously titled Groove-o-noiseics series, I started by editing three of the Jsyn patches I’d created for part one. For NoiseDrums 1 and 2 I added more flexibility and control by creating input ports for red noise frequency and amplitude. For NoiseDrum1 I also added a width input port for the oscillator. For NoiseDrum2 I added frequency input ports for the two oscillators. All this was done so that I could tweak the tone of these sounds more extensively in JMSLscore. I rewired WahSynth a bit to make it sound more erratic. I disconnected the envelope that controlled the modulating sine wave oscillator’s amplitude, and reconnected it to control that oscillator’s frequency. Then I took the output of the addition of the modulating oscillator and the input port frequency and used that to control the modulating oscillator’s amplitude (as well as the square wave oscillator’s frequency, like it was before). This causes the pitch to quickly rise when a note is triggered and then undergo chaotic pitch fluctuations when released.
These three edited patches along with a patch I did not make called OneOscFeedback (a patch which uses the output of a sine oscillator to drive its own frequency). Seminar II is less motivic than the first, although some ideas recur, such as the opening phrase of 16 64th notes, each of which has a successively lower red noise frequency. The goal of this piece was approach the sometimes called “power electronics” genre from an atypical angle. Normally this type of noise music is completely improvised live with effects and feedback. Much of the time the sounds that are produced are somewhat accidental due to the nature of using equipment in this unconventional way. My goal was to achieve a similar sonic palette but make the music structured rather than exploratory. Approaching the music in this way allowed me to get very specific and detailed with the timbres and more complex with the interplay between different voices.

Colin Marston (b. 9/13/82)
Colin currently splits his time living in New York City and Philadelphia. He plays in an electro/acoustic experimental duo called Infidel? / Castro! ( who have two full length albums and a bunch of new releases on the way. He also plays an extended range tap guitar (known as the Warr in a newly formed hyper-compositional technical metal band that is yet to choose a name. He is currently studying music technology at New York University.

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