Being interested in ambient music and electronic means of creating it I have always been fascinated with generative music. When I took my first ever computer music class as CSUSM in the 90s I was fascinate with a seemingly archaic application simply called “M”. It was so old the computer lab kept intentionally outdated macs around just to run the app which I believe was less than 1 megabyte in total size. It is credited and contended that M is the very first piece of midi software for the home computer, regardless it was amazing. Amazing that in its limitations he allowed the user to explore music visually and in very non linear terms.
The very wise music software company Cycling 74 (makers of max/msp another of my loves) purchased the application a few years back, mostly for posterity from what i can tell. Even visually its totally gorgeous.
So anyways… M had me hooked on computer music and i made things with it for a few years, none of which i liked (as always) and im sure its all in dead hard drive land forever, resting bleep blooping itself to sleep. However, as M rests in its own hyper advanced grave, I was alerted to the existence of “Nodal”.
Nodal is a self described generative music application. It uses well… NODES to trigger notes in linera time based on parameter and connections you draw with the crude and charming interface. Nodal is dead simple. I had it sending singles to Ableton Live and generating sounds in seconds, and furthermore I was digging into the more “advanced” features within an hour. That is all to say Nodal is AWESOMELY POWERFUL. Being a visual person with little musical training nodal allows me to experiment with one of the fundamental building blocks of music… time. Time signatures have always eluded me, on of my close friend in school said that I secretly “loved waltzes” cause all the music i made resembled the waltz in timing. I would have never known there was a comparison to be made had I not know more percussively inclined individuals.
With nodal I have begin exploring generating beats that change constantly but are always “on time” something I can’t achieve personally.
Here’s an example of a structure that is a simple 4/4 time beat where the notes accross the x axis increase in distance exponentially.
here’s how it sounds:
Its pretty plain, but its sorta cool how you get a flam effect in the instances when the notes double up on each other.
Here’s the same experiment modified slightly just for interest.
heres how it sounds:
Whoa broooo, sorta instant idm. Ok that’s an exaggeration, in fact I hate myself for even thinking that.
The other thing that Nodal let’s you do, which is the truely interesting thing, is it let’s you think about time in a strictly spacial capacity. The above examples show you visually what 4/4 looks like. But what if “time” didn’t have to travel on the grid in perfect units of 1? What if it could take the shortest distance between A and B.
Here’s a standard 4/4 piece.
here’s what it sounds like:
Now heres the very same structure only I changed all the connections to be “direct” meaning they don’t follow musical timing laws… aka: DIAGONALS BITCHES!
here it be!
If everything up till now sounded samey to you then this probably sounds like a toddler banging on a cardboard box… well maybe a robotic todler. This is really interesting to me because it begs the question is the only thing that makes computer music inhuman sounding to some people the fact that it does exactly what we tell it to? We taught the computer how to make music OUR way, what if it doesnt give a shit about time (excuse the anthropomorphization), what if WE have made computers sound shitty not the other way around.
All this is to say I’m interested to see what weird poly rhythms I can come up with using nodal, and how I could potentially work them into a live situation, and what they can teach me about being spontaneous and intuitive with time.
More to come folks.