Pure Data Horrors (Generative Halloween Music in Pure Data)

Make a Pure Data patch that generates synth Halloween music–“dissonant music in odd time signatures.”

Horror music offers a great deal of creative license, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to spooky music. In this video I go through a few examples, then talk about how we can make a simple generative music system that creates pulsed, dissonant, repetitive music like John Carpenter’s score to Halloween (1978) or Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (which became the theme to The Exorcist 1973). We start by making a simple sequencer, and then randomize and automate different aspects of it (tempo, roots, sequences).

A quick disclaimer, in retrospect, I realize I played a little fast and loose with the order of how things are processed here (looking especially at how I’m adding things), and I might have done some things in a different way, but everything works for our purposes, and I’ll plan to talk about that more next time.

Lo-Fi Telephone Microphone

Watch me dissect and old phone and repurpose its carbon microphone.

Constructing a lo-fi microphone from an old telephone’s carbon microphone, and seeing what other parts we can make some sounds with.

I got this old phone at Goodwill for a couple bucks, interested in seeing if it had a carbon microphone that I could salvage. It turns out getting that microphone out was a breeze. Then I started seeing what other parts might be interesting–the keypad, the chip that makes DTMF tones. Finally, I put together the circuit for the carbon microphone, and got it back in the handset, adding a new specialty carbon microphone to my mic locker (such as it is).

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: