Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #4

In this next experiment I added the Korg MS20 being driven by the SQ-1 Sequencer as loop material but also made 2 process changes


  1. Drum machine and SQ1 synchronized by Ableton master clock
  2. Quantise being used on the recording and playback of loops, with the quantise set to one bar- with 4/4 time

As before I used the same algorithm with the recording and playback of clips.

However I also added two further iterative processes

  1. Beats were sequentially added to drum machine as clips recorded
  2. 16 note sequence preprogrammed on sequencer is reveled one/ two notes at a time as clips recorded- then removed in similar fashion and where two notes adjacent, sequencer became set to slide between these notes


Here is the result:



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Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #3

Following on from yesterdays experiment with the Korg Ms20 and the launchpad algorithm I now subject the Korg volca beats drum machine to the same process- only with an addition that within each loop iteration (recording a new loop) one more percussion voice can be added. This is in order to make the sound fill out more.

Again it starts with one loop and a very sparse asymmetrical rhythm, with one voice addition per loop.


Here are the results



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Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #2

Following on from previous experiment, with this one I had streamlined the process and limited the input voices to one synthesizer the Korg MS20 (with effects)

Also I streamlined the looping system in Ableton to only turn on a resampling channel for record when being recorded into, hence cutting down the clutter from the other channels

The algorithm, however, is the same as in previous post.

Another feature here was also to make the 8 channels of resampling in an ambisonic mix- for 8 channel diffusion, which I thought appropriate since the concept is based on 8 channels. Should anyone wish to diffuse it, contact me on this site and I will provide the 8 channels.




In the next experiment I will use the same process only with a drum machine. That will then conclude this particular stage of a series of experiments






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Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #1

As a result of recently working with Steve Gisby on his “Four iterative pieces” album and really following on from my minimalist TGV album (see previous blog) I had an idea to develop a series of algorithmic experiments using Ableton and the Launchpad, using and looping audio material


Ableton allows for clips to be resampled into another clip- so my first algorithm was to have the 8 columns of the Launchpad set as resample channels then to arm each clip to record and then immediately playback whilst setting another one to record when I had something new to put in on top of the clips already recorded- so this is an additive process which runs across and down the launchpad as I go.

The big advantage with using Ableton and the launchpad is I can go back to previous stages in the algorithm- essentially taking off stuff Ive added in later loops, which allows alternative loops to be created.

In the first experiment I confined the input audio material to be long notes, and wind effects. I used 4 voices (4 synths- Blofeld, MS20,uBrute, Striechfett) all on record at the same time. Eventually I did put some very long phrases in, to add more musical texture.

The choice of material input is arbitrary, any instrument or audio input could be used.

The Algorithm

As we have our 8 channels of resampling; start at the left most channel, record a clip, toggle to instant playback, set the clip to right of previous clip, record more (with different voice to previous one), continue until all 8 clips across filled- then set the next one down to record, and turn one (or more) of the previous clips off, then continue in this way until all the clips in the row about are off, then gradually turn off the clips in the second row, whilst finally contriving an ending (algo by no means perfect)- and that ending is played in live and not looped.


The result can be heard here:


This first piece generated sounds I would not normally do- very abrupt changes where one loop trips over another, several times, whilst something new is being recorded over the top.

Also very different musical textures as unexpected voices collide- again stuff I would not consciously do.

For my next experiment in this particular phase I need to develop a cleaner looping system- I had a number of clicks where envelopes collide, which annoys me, so Im going to add an envelope follower.

Future experiments in this series will also extend the algorithm to try different order series of clips being recorded and played back.

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This album is the conclusion of the previous blogs about improvising with the SQ-1 (at least in part). There are some new tracks which extend the practice as a drum machine was added (easy to use the samples in Ableton live but in this case I liked working with the drum machines interface which allowed live input and therefore improvisation) also as the album progressed I wished to gradually move away from the impression of speed into a more richer landscape, thus providing a sense of journey though.


As with the blogs that lead up to this all the material has been sourced from improv sessions in my studio with this kit in real time, however being composer minded, improv isnt always enough in itself- what happened with several pieces is they start as improvisations, the material recorded, then they get composed (shaped) into specific pieces, still recorded live, just rehearsed! The later tracks became more traditional studio arrangements with overdubs.

Part of this project was to re-explore Berlin School electronic music, which is a genre that falls almost completely outside academically-noted mainstream history of electronic music (apart from music technologists, oddly) and minimalism/ pattern making, but having those patterns sequencer based allowing precision and complex layering but still allowing human intervention. Berlin school was my introduction to electronic music back in the 1980s so part of my thinking was to revisit this, but with my knowledge of composition as it is now.

It also follows on from music I had recently done as part of CMSA (tpe) and some awful concerts of electronic music I recently heard, which spurred me to get on, as it were.

There is a brief review of the album here

Patterning is something I wish to explore more, which there will be further blogs about

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Improvising with SQ-1 #6- More gated reverb drum machines and sequences

The next two pieces are developments of previous hardware set ups; the first one Sunday interlude uses the SQ-1’s duty cycle on Maximum, with slides between the notes, which are then fed into  very long reverb and delay. Harmony is provided by the Waldorf Streichfett, being played live to the sequences. Also here instead of using the beatstep to send the microbrute notes directly Im using it as a clock for the Microbutes own inbuilt 74- step sequencer. In this scenario Im using the beatstep to trigger melodies stored, with the beatstep clocking the tempo/sync. I also play the microbute live when the sequencer is not running for an added layer of harmony

The next piece, about a pompous Parisian waiter, the piece is basically about drums- I used the Volca beats in Live mode, which allowed me to again, build up an iterative pattern, only this time played against a kick drum from another synth (Waldorf Blofeld), and like the volca beats, gated reverb-ed. The kick is controlled by the beststep and I manually change the patterns. This time with the Microbrute, which again, I used the inbuilt step sequencer, only this time I used the gated reverb on that, with the drum machine as trigger- The bassline is generated by VCO1 on the MS20, VCO2 generates the riff over the top, both controlled by the SQ-1

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Improvising (and composing) with the SQ1#5 Gated reverb drums and the longer game

This latest piece comes from a CSMA jam last Sunday when Chrissie plugged my volca beats drum machine into a reverb patched and gated it, making the classic 80s gated reverb sound much used in that time. I had forgotten about the impact of this approach, pioneered by producer Steve Lillywhite, because its been out of fashion for some time. If you’ve not heard it, here’s a notable example:

In the new piece I thought of making the drums one of the main points to work towards in the drums as a compositional structure instead of just a rhythmic underpinning device. This time the piece is composed more than improvised with a specific pre conceived structure and aim, however much of the detail and execution is still improvised. This is important, especially as this piece is a deliberate longer format, which specifically builds by layers, and mutates- its very easy to loose focus. The piece is based on my impressions of the Atlantic ocean at Bordeaux, France, visible from the train

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