RPM2016 : Berlin 7679

Since 2012 Ive been participating in The RPMChallenge, which is in informal challenge to make an albums worth of material in the days of February. The minimum limit is 10 songs or 35 minutes of music- I like these sorts of challenges, they help one think outside of box/ comfort zones because there isn’t the time to over think and its always a good excuse to try something different. There is a thing that I strongly believe in and thats to practice ones art, even if its not for release, even if one comes up with embarrassing rubbish (you dont have to release it!). The very business of going through the motions makes it much easier to come up with stuff rather than procrastinating,  which I’ve noticed to be mostly a negative effect on artists, producing a downward spiral of doing less/thinking less. Musical practice is much the same thing in my experience. I also avoid artificial things such as Pomodoro Technique and the like- too contrived, like much new-agey BS. The best means is get on with it- this might mean a structure such as jam something (record it)- analyse- compose (cut out the crap and replace with better; structures and content).

If you’re unfortunate enough to become completely blocked one way is to re-recreate a piece of music you feel very strongly about, this means get inside it, de-construct into essential components then build it, as your own. What this means is somewhere during the process you might discover something critical about how this music affects you- one can also do the same which something that you really hate, then see if you can find out where it pushes your buttons; go on to make your own improved version or understand more about your own listening.

So in the allotted time I managed 9 pieces and 62 minutes of music, 3 pieces were too weak to be developed beyond a certain point, once piece I dropped because it did not fit the narrative, another I abandoned due to developing a cold in the last week which bunged up my ears and pretty much halted all audio work, and that piece is not written down anywhere, its just in my head. Fortunately before the cold set it I had a fairly couple of intense sessions over a few long evenings and got all the corner pieces done, so by the third week I was only left with the shorter ones to finish off.

Before the gunging up of my ears, one track Potzdamn was done by playing my electric guitar directly into the external signal processor of the MS20 then using the famous pitch to CV converter, which is noted for generating some interesting results, whilst also using the original sound for processing- thus generating two signals, the processed guitar and the synthesizer pitch being derived from the same signal.

Other pieces make use of some of my spectralisation sounds from the EMU Virtuoso- in particular the modified Bass Clarinet sounds and chamber organ. I did a post about this here 


This is a concept album with a narrative driving all the content from the beginning to end, and there is a compositional aim in each of the pieces to express transformation, which is again part of the overall narrative of being on a journey and perhaps part of a process.












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CSMA album and interview


In January this year, myself and Chrissie signed our synth duo CSMA  to Altitude Records- here is our first release.


There is an accompanying interview here, which contains a spontaneous improvisation




We will be performing next on 11th June at St Lawrence Church Catford, As part of the new season of Electromatronic concerts. Other dates planned include Oxford, Leeds and Margate




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Winter synth jam, Boxing day 2015

Last piece of 2015, this was an improv, with some pre-prepared sound design that Id done just before the Christmas holiday, specifically for this improvisation.


There is a rough resemblance to Berlin-school electronic music here.

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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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