Here lies Martes Flavigula, eternally beneath the splintered earth.

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Overflowing with Colours
Thu, 13 Oct, 2022 09.02 UTC

The current Project Euler is going to force me to create a program that does manual division and that is quite ok, but it’s getting late and yes that’s an excuse, but fuck um. I shall write some hovno and then get on with my day, saving the manual division for tomorrow morning. Hopefully, my sodden brain will muse over it throughout the current day and my sprightly morning mood will conquer it’s flimsy heights with ease. But yes - tomorrow.

I’ve begun the second revision of Pony Ride. It gurgles and eructs as if it were galloping through the scented air of my studio. An issue I’m encountering, which is an issue entirely in my mind, is that of timbre variation. Rock bands have it easy. The basic timbres are established and beyond a bit of distortion or flange on the guitars and bass, they can concentrate on harmonic and melodic ideas.

Big bands are slightly more complex. Sure, the timbres are fixed, to a great extent, but their use and placement are more involved.

Orchestras are another step up. This much talked about concept of orchestration is in full play. All it means is having certain parts expressed in certain timbres and controlling the dynamics as those timbres express the parts. The woodwind timbre (or cluster of timbres) does this at this time whilst the strings timbre (or cluster of timbres) does something else on a potentially different volume curve.

Now synthesizers enter the arena. Instead of having a small, fixed array of timbres, suddenly the palette is overflowing with colours. Instead of just arranging (or, ahem, orchestrating) a jumble of known timbres into a musical mosaic, one can spend several epochs just coming up with the timbres one wants to use in the first place.

Usually, sound designers simplify this task by simulating (to an extent) instruments that exist. Narrowing the range of possibilities to something akin to a trumpet cuts the work of multitudinous epochs down to perhaps a few days. I’m not complaining. Distilling an infinite spectrum into a few familiar bands of light is sensible. It rescues several multitudes of epochs from potential fiddling. And especially, it creates an anchor, a sense of familiarity, when the remainder of timbres floating round it may not be easily aligned with traditional orchestral instruments.

I do something similar, though my anchors are not traditional orchestral instruments. I play off of sounds I discover by wild noodlings with oscillators, filters and wave folders. I catalogue timbres that flash out of these experiments in my mind and take them as starting points to create timbres for melodic, textural and harmonic structures. In this way, I hope my music has little footing in traditional instrumentation when it comes to synth tones. The truth is, though, that of course it does because 1. I am highly influenced, implicitly or explicitly, by a good deal of synth oriented music, and 2. The nature of the equipment I use forces (to an extent) semi-familiar timbres. In any block of unchiseled granite, the attempt to create an atmosphere that has little footing in traditional instrumentation is there, and in force.

So, when it comes to Pony Ride, which easily could be the most straightforward piece on the new album because of its form, I must choose timbres (not to mention accompaniments) that take it out of any grounded context. The pony, as it were, has to lurch at an angle into the void instead of galloping mundanely along its sendero.

Along with martens, goulish goats and the rippling fen -
these writings 1993-2023 by Bob Murry Shelton are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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