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  • Abbie Howard

Sonic Arts & Electronica (S2): Expanding Concepts.


Further Conceptualisation + Influences:


Within this summative assessment, I aim to explore a variety of artist's and their musical and techniques to achieve a subset of ideas that I have chosen to expand upon from the previous assignment. These ideas I wish to learn and grow from include: Developing ideas from VCV Rack to create 'sound design'-like elements; expanding the length of a track; growing free from the boundaries of grids.


Last Bloom - Floating Points

Crush ℗ 2019. Ninja Tune. Released on 2019-08-18.


Throughout the composition and production of this summative assessment, I used 'Last Bloom' as a reference track; aiming for a similar tonality and structure. This allowed me to have a professional goal to fixate on, mimicking certain elements such as the short staccato synth as the hook, and the heavy reverberation that was bussed to a low-pass filter to create a soundscape that enhanced it's sonic depth. This allowed me to have a widened perceived space of the originally dry and plucked synth; now being more washed out instead of leaving gaps of silence between notes.

I later gave a direct nod to the Yamaha CS70 synthesiser which Sam Shepherd uses throughout the album 'Crush', in which he explains in an interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD8krBROiqk, Resident Adivsor) how he 'changes the pitches of the oscillators' to create the glide sounding effect by having an offset with a slight portamento; this was achieved through using the Retro Synth to create a similar square tooth synth whilst using pitch automation. The pitch bending element was something I really wanted to explore, which you can occasionally hear throughout my track.

Throughout this album, there is also the combination of electronic and lustrous organic instrumentation, drawing similarities from Philip Glass, such as in the Floating Point's track titled 'Falaise'. This later brought on the idea to record violin phrases and swells into my piece to create the same effect.


'Cue' - Scott Walker

The Drift ℗ 2006. 4AD Ltd. Released on 2006-05-08.

Now that I was interested in recording violin into my piece, I decided to look into more orchestral based pieces and how I could integrate and merge this style together. An example I really adore is Scott Walker's 'The Drift', particularly in 'Cue'; with strange opening call of ostinati from a trumpet against a really tonally clashing and dissonant acoustic guitar- reminding me of Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' with the weird offset of bassoon as the first melodic phrase. In the distance, you can hear a tremolo shrill of strings that somewhat work as a tension pad, layering the contrast between the other darkened instrumentals. These movements would later influence my decision to pitch down the ending on the song to create a more unresolved finish. Additionally, I wanted to create a similar effect by using a granular synth.


The swells inspiration also illuminated from Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool' *, specifically in the song 'Glass Eyes' (1m:28s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzK5kbNL2Ak), amplifying the harmonics and pushing a more emotive/expressive articulation.


*A Moon Shaped Pool ℗ 2016. XL Recordings. Released on 05-08-2016.

 

Methodology/Feedforward:


The overall aim was to create something that was more gradual and progressive in nature instead of implementing something that was incredibly structured and throwing everything at a listener at once as I did in Summative 1. This allowed me to experiment with time and pitch shifting, whilst expanding the length of the track (having a tempo that increased by 15bpm throughout the intro to the main segment); allowing the listener to slowly adjust to the new sounds as opposed to being jarring.


The chord progression was introduced as a gradual soft pad as: B > Bb m7, > Db no 3 5/7, B > G#m > ↵∞, used as an ambient and less intrusive element, as other smaller and intricate parts would dance around on top of this to create a variety of artificial phrases. I used the Zoom H5 to record bicycle gears, clicks that were pitched up, as well as creating my own VCV rack patches to create motor sounds with oscillators that would rise.


Once I was finished with the composition, I decided to try out the vari-speed function on Logic Pro X to slow/pitch down the whole track by -16bpm, which initially made it less chaotic, making it more functional to understand the layers and not become overwhelmed with giddiness. This function allowed me to try out different tempos without doing any destruction audio processing. Overall the Logic project looks very simplistic in the number of layers I have used compared to other projects, with more of a minimalistic approach- yet I focused more on the production side to achieve a dynamically diverse pallet of sounds.


 

Result:


Logic overview:

Project overview of an alternative version where the pitch shift is elongated further toward the beginning of the strings, as opposed to the finished piece which only the tail of the piece is pitch-shifted descending.




MIDI Roll - Arpeggiations overview:



Each integer would gradually repeat in an octave above after each bar, making a progressive thicker texture as time passed, as well as a brighter passage from beginning to end; starting with lower and warmer timbre and expanding its frequency range toward the finale.


 

Critical Reflection:


Overall, I think there are certain factors that I would like to develop in the future assessments, the tonality being a big indecisive factor of mine. I enjoy creating tracks with bright and major melodies but really want to explore in a darker field of electronica and make something that's harsher, dissonant, but still satisfying to listen to and not completely unlistenable; essentially finding the balance between the salty and sweet; having that bliss point that isn't too happy or too left-field. I could potentially do this by several means; exploring different keys, further pitch modulations, or concentrating less on a melodic field and more in a rhythmic scape, focusing on a specific genre or having a suitable reference track.


'Camera Obscura' - Nico (:Camera Obscura)

Camera Obscura ℗ 1985. Beggars Banquet. Released on 1985-06-15.


This record has distinct ascending and descending pitches, which is something that I could explore in the future further, such as in Summative 3, such as using tuned percussion to create a quirky rhythmical beat.


I think that I successfully developed several ideas from the first summative, such as exploring other software such as VCV rack to create 'sound design-like elements'; something I'm becoming more comfortable and confident with, producing a track with a longer length and experimenting with tempo fluctuation.

One of the points I that previously mentioned and chose to dismiss was the storytelling element, as I thought it would take away from the detail of the synthesis and wasn't applicable for the nature of this piece.



 

Bibliography:


Floating Points. Last Bloom. Crush ℗ 2019. Ninja Tune. Released on 2019-08-18.


Shepherd, Sam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD8krBROiqk. Interviewed by Resident Advisor. Published 02-01-2019.


Scott Walker. Cue. The Drift ℗ 2006. 4AD Ltd. Released on 2006-05-08.


Radiohead. Glass Eyes. A Moon Shaped Pool ℗ 2016. XL Recordings. Released on 2016-05-08 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzK5kbNL2Ak.


Nico. Camera Obscura. Camera Obscura ℗ 1985. Beggars Banquet. Released on 1985-06-15.



 

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