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A Systematic Introduction To Making Generative Music With Modular Synths

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A Systematic Introduction to Making Generative Music With Modular Synths


Chapter 0: About This Course And Some Words About

What Generative Music Is 6

Chapter 1: Real Randomness vs. Complex Cycles (and the combination of both) 10

Chapter 1.1: LFOs 10

Chapter 1.2: Other Devices Generating Regular Cycles 59

Chapter 1.2.1: Looping Envelopes 59

Chapter 1.2.2: Sequencers 64

Chapter 1.2.3: Shift Registers With Feedback 65

Chapter 1.2.4: Sequential Switches 70

Chapter 1.2.5: The Turing Machine – Part 1 74

Chapter 1.2.6: Samples and Recordings 77

Chapter 1.3: Randomness, Probability and Stochastic 79

Chapter 1.3.1: Some Basic Definitions 79

Chapter 1.3.2: Sample & Hold 84

Chapter 1.3.3: A Short Glimpse at the Turing Machine And at Shift Registers Again 92

Chapter 1.3.4: Perfect Pseudo Randomness: Gray Code Modules 93

Chapter 1.3.5: Imperfect Pseudo Randomness: Euclidean Sequencers 99

Chapter 1.3.6: Random Trigger (Percussion) Sequencers with Different Amounts of Randomness 102

Chapter 1.3.7: Stochastic Sequencers 105

Chapter 1.3.8: Probability Gates (Random Clocked Gates) 108

Chapter 1.3.9: Bernoulli Gates 110


Chapter 2: What to Modulate And to Trigger 115

Chapter 2.1: Pitch 116

Chapter 2.2: Timbre 125

Chapter 2.2.1: Filter 125

Chapter 2.2.2: Shapers 127

Chapter 2.2.3: Partials (additive) 130

Chapter 2.2.4: FM/PM 131

Chapter 2.3: Voices 134

Chapter 2.4: Rhythm 137

Chapter 2.5: Effects 147

Chapter 2.6: Envelopes 149

Chapter 2.7: Quantizers 153

Chapter 2.8: Grains 155

Chapter 2.9: Sample (Player) 159

Chapter 2.10: Slew Limiter 160

Chapter 2.11: Comparators 161

Chapter 2:12: Pitch Shifter 163


Chapter 3: Compositional Aspects of Generative Music 165

Chapter 3.1: General Thoughts, Strategies And

Basic Compositional Decisions 166

Chapter 3.2: Basic Compositional Techniques 177

Chapter 3.2.1: Contrasting 178

Chapter 3.2.2: Repeating, Modifying and Inverting Relations 180

Chapter 3.2.3: Basic but Exclusively Generative Techniques 183

Chapter 3.3: Specific Compositional Techniques 190

Chapter 3.3.1: Pitch Dependency 190

Chapter 3.3.2: Rhythm 192

Chapter 3.3.3: Tension and Layers 195

Chapter 3.4: Certain Patch Techniques And Examples 197

Chapter 3.4.1: Switching Voices and Larger Parts of the Patch 197

Chapter 3.4.2: Sculpture Randomness and Setting Borders 200

Chapter 3.4.3: Jumping between certain BPM and Inverting Pitch Lines 200

Chapter 3.4.4: Mixing Stable and Random Elements 205


Chapter 4: Some Building Blocks of Generative Patching 207

Chapter 4.1: The Instrumentation of Envelopes 207

Chapter 4.2: 5 Faces of Randomness 217

Chapter 4.3: Random Harmonies 227


Chapter 5: Certain Modules with Generative Potential 233

Chapter 5.1: The Turing Machine 235

Chapter 5.2: Befaco´s “Rampage” 241

Chapter 5.3: Instruo “Céis” 247

Chapter 5.4: Mutable Instruments “Stages” 250

Chapter 5.5: Mutable Instruments “Grids” 255

Chapter 5.6: Intruo “tágh” 259

Chapter 5.7: Mutable Instruments “Marbles” 262

Chapter 5.8: Instruo “harmonàig” 276

Chapter 5.9: 4ms “Spectral Multiband Resonator” 285

Chapter 5.10: Mutable Instruments “Clouds” 290


Epilogue 294

Appendix A: Feedback Graphs (only 1 LFO) 299

Appendix B: Note Frequencies 316

Appendix C: “Rampage” Block Diagram 319

Appendix D: Your Personal Advantage 320

Appendix E: Copyright 322

Appendix F: Contact and Social Media 323


Chapter 0:

About This Course And Some

Words About What

Generative Music Is

Do you know this?

You see and hear somebody doing something

interesting, something beautiful, something

you would like to do too.

You try.

It´s not what you had expected it to be, it´s not

how you had expected it to be.

So you fiddle with your equipment.

You come upon something nice –


You come upon something –


But you feel:

there´s still something missing.

OK – it´s fun most of the times, but it could be

more than that.

It should be more than that.

You want to get better.

But how? How to start getting better?

Where to start?

Do you know this?

You need a system.

The matter you have been working on needs a

systematic approach.

You need it.

We all need it.

Here it is:

A systematic introduction to making generative music with modular synthesisers.

The term “Generative Music” is a quite new one, and the musician, composer and sound designer Brian Eno is said to have alerted a broader audience to this term.

Generative music is that kind of music, which is created – normally played - by any kind of analogue or digital machinery, while permanently changing in rhythm or pitch or timbre or number of voices etc.

The producing – playing – machine may be a computer, a modular synthesiser or any other kind of gear, which is able to produce audible events and able to accept and follow certain rules or algorithms.

In modular synthesis these “rules” are our patches, and these patches are what this book is about.

“Permanently changing” is movement, and every moving system needs a motor, an engine that drives it, that keeps the system going on moving. In the following chapter 1 I´m going to talk about the different kinds of engines, which keep our modular generative music system going.

And don´t worry: You´ll be able to reproduce everything, that is described in this book. You´ll be able to reproduce every single example and every single sonic experiment, which you´re going to meet on these pages. You can do so using hardware (if you have got the money to buy all the modules, which appear in this book), or software. You can even use the freeware “VCV Rack” to follow me here in a very practical way. All my examples are made with VCV rack to make it not only easy, but also inexpensive to follow this course. But I´ve always tried not to get too specific into VCV, so that you´ll be able to find corresponding modules in Voltage Modular, or even in Softube´s Modular and other software modular synth systems.

Let´s go for it then.

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