Sound Synthesis Videos

Since COVID-19 has pushed a great deal of teaching and learning online, I’ve been converting a lot of my synthesis lessons into “micro-lectures”, 5- to 10-minute videos, that can be integrated into online learning.

These videos are all software-agnostic, focusing on principles and fundamental ideas of sound synthesis over any particular synthesis environment.

More instructional playlists are available on my “Teaching” page.

Circuit-Bent, MIDI-Controlled-Glitch Genesis Explanation

I circuit bent a Sega Genesis for MIDI-controlled glitch visuals. I can hook it up to a DAW or MIDI sequencer and then glitch out a game in sync with music.

I put this together a few years ago, but had some questions about it, so I cracked open the game system to show how it works. All I’ve done is set up some places to short out the VRAM, where the Genesis stores the sprites for the graphics. Then I added an Arduino to control when it short them out (triggered by MIDI).

Keep in mind that not all Genesis systems are the same, they have different board revisions, so your Genesis might have things in different places.

Sample output:

Circuit Bending Walkthrough

I’ve put together a three-part series on getting started with circuit-bending, from the initial testing and opening up toys to completed alien instrument.

(Part 3 coming next week)

Circuit-bending is the creative customization of consumer electronics with the goal of inventing new unique devices for sound-making, visuals, or other expressive goals. I’m a composer and sound-designer, not an electrical engineer, so my goal is to find fun sounds that I can use in creative ways (rather than any kind of serious circuit design).

For more of my creative electronics projects, check out here:

What does “LoFi” mean?

What is “Lo-Fi Music”? What are the expressive goals of making stuff sound bad? Why are there so many “Lo-Fi beats to study to” videos on this site? Why do they all have 1990’s anime images and video?

In this video I talk about some of the possibilities of how “LoFi” music responds to the hyperreality and commercialism of “HiFi” (literally “high-fidelity”), and what our contemporary interest in LoFi might mean to some artists.

Pd for Airports (Ambient Music in Pure Data)

Brian Eno coined the term “ambient music” to describe music that is “intended to induce calm and a space to think,” and “as ignorable as it is interesting.” We can make a simple patch in Pd that recreates one of Eno’s techniques, creating a system that endlessly generates ambient music for us with the notes that we choose.

Give it a try and make your own interesting and ignorable music.

Check out Tero Parviainen’s introduction on “How Generative Music Works” for more demonstrations and ideas.

“Technological Disobedience”: Coloring Outside the Lines

What does it mean to “disobey” technology? Expanding on Ernesto Oroza‘s term “technological disobedience”, let’s think about how we can “think beyond the normal capacities of an object, and try to surpass the limitations that it imposes on itself”, working toward a more personal expression through technology using circuit-bending, hacking, creative coding, 3D printing, and glitch art.

Motherboard interview with Ernesto Oroza:

More circuit-bending:

Love Rollercoaster (Ohio Players Pure Data Glitch Cover)

Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster” glitch cover in Pure Data with text-to-speech vocals and databent drums.

The original “Love Rollercoaster” was released in 1975 by the funk/R&B group Ohio Players on the album, “Honey”. Two decades later, It was covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1996 for–get this–the soundtrack of the Beavis and Butthead movie. It’s a great song, and these are both fantastic versions.

Me? I’m just having some fun and messing around with realtime databending.

Ohio Players performing the original:

RHCP Version:

Remote Audio Tips for Online Meetings and Classes

Since it looks like we might be continuing to meet online for a while, I’ve put together a few tips to consider as you think about your audio setup for Zoom classes, Skype meetings, and the like:

To boil it down:
-Wear headphones
-Mute yourself when you’re not talking
-Consider getting an external microphone
-Don’t run too many programs in the background
-Think about your internet bandwidth
-If all else fails, stop your video

Of course, face-to-face meeting and learning is still preferable, but we may as well try our best to make online communication as effective as possible for now!

Data-Driven Instruments

Traditional instruments make sound by transforming the energy from our interaction with them–striking, scraping, blowing–into acoustic energy. When we perform on electronic instruments, though, our energy is transformed into data which is used to control the different dimensions of sound.

I touch my iPad, it reports the position of my finger (in X and Y), and the I can use those two numbers to control music–dynamically changing pitch, volume, timbre or any number of other dimensions.

In this video (and the rest of the playlist), I dig into “data-driven instruments”, thinking about how the different paradigm of using a digital interface to create numbers that we then use as control information for dimensions of music (with a little demo in Max/MSP)

Here are some examples of data-driven instrument performances from other artists: