Monthly Archives: April 2007

Shorts: #21 Anarchy and Rapture

[play]Shorts: #21 Anarchy and Rapture (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Polly Moller in memory of Leigh Ann Hussey, who died tragically in a motorcycle accident on May 16, 2006.

I didn’t ever meet Leigh Ann, but I typed her name into google and found a memorial. It was clear right away that I would have liked her. Polly said, “she was like a pillar of fire,” the god of Moses. I’ve been reading a deconstruction of the Left Behind books from an evangelical who is as appalled by them as I am. The series is essentially about death, which comes for us all. A mystery we fear and around which we grope for meaning. In How We Die, Sherwin B. Nuland argues that death is what gives life meaning. We feel urgency to act and to create because we know it’s not forever.

But despite the meaning that death gives our lives, despite the necessity of entropy in the creation of life and it’s inherent implication of destruction, despite the beautiful simplicity, it still feels like a theft. I never knew Leigh Ann, but I’ve known many who have passed. Every time, I ask the same question. I know the answer, but I don’t feel it.

To create this piece, I recorded myself screaming and then convolved it with some impulses generated by SuperCollider. (The code is below.) I used Audacity to pitch shift some of the versions of this file and mixed them with sounds from my synthesizer.

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Shorts: #20 Poodleface Birthday

[play]Shorts: #20 Poodleface Birthday (2007)

Commissioned by Graham Coleman in honor of Rob’s birthday. Happy Birthday Rob!

I made this piece in BEA 5 in Sonology in the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. I was hung over (after playing tuba the night before) and up at an extremely early hour because my dog had an early dress rehearsal for a concert that evening. I walked by BEA 5 and it was empty! I had one of those rare moments of clarity where a patch is entirely clear. I knew exactly how to tune the oscillators and where to route them. I love chaos patches, but their over-use can be cheesy. But Rob just recorded an album with a casio keyboard. So no worries there. I used all 16 oscillators, cascading them into chaos and then sent the output of them to the control inputs of the VOSIM. I sent the output of that to the third octave filter, which I used to damp the highs and also because it adds a nice character to everything it touches. It was too early to be awake, I’d slept too few hours and I was hung over, so despite my clarity, I misplugged a bunch of wires, accidentally sending the sine output and the square output of the same oscillator to two different inputs of the VOSIM, when I’d meant to take sine outputs of two different oscillators. It didn’t matter. It sounded great. Maybe better. I recorded everything in less than half an hour and then came home and mixed it quickly, like a romantic poet inspired by a tree.


Shorts: #19 Spin cycles

[play]Shorts: #19 Spin cycles (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Nick Fox-Gieg.

I made this piece with idea of making it ballet-like, but it ended up a different kind of dance-y. I controlled the rhythm with an LFO pulse wave, controlled by another LFO pulse wave. In the last section, there is also an envelope on the filter, which becomes more important than the envelope on the amplitude. This piece reminded me of playing bass guitar. Also, it was fun sliding the tracks around to get the beats to match up. The MOTM has very, very stable oscillators, which kept the beats in synch across over an hour, while I fiddled with other knobs and recorded tracks.

Nick is constantly amazed that the kids today listen to music via their cellphones – not with the headphones, but with the internal speaker, so this piece has low frequencies which distort on tiny speakers.

Nick is working on a film to go with this music. It will be posted to his video cast, which is at


Shorts: #17 linea punteggiata

[play]Shorts: #17 linea punteggiata (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Alan Anzalone.

This piece was made using a morse code translator from the internet. Some of the sounds come from a file format conversion that failed to work correctly. The rest are from my MOTM analog synthesizer.

I was inspired to make a piece using morse code from the loss of my previous cell phone. When I received an SMS on it, it would spell out SMS in Morse code. I thought it would be nice if it could also spell out the name of the message sender or even the message. However, the phone went much, much slower than standard morse goes. I still think this is a good idea, though, at least for names.


Shorts: #16 Delaware Covered in Red Velvet

[play] Shorts: #16 Delaware Covered in Red Velvet (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Matt Davignon.

This piece was created with my MOTM synthesizer. I took a couple of the oscillators and ring modulated them and AM modulated them. I sent the ring modulation to a high pass filter, the AM to a low pass filter and mixed them together with a notch filter. This has a very analog synthesizer sound, also the brittleness (for lack of better terminology) is a characteristic sound of the MOTM 420 filter, which I used for the high pass and for notch.


Shorts: #15 Space Corridor

[play] Shorts: #15 Space Corridor (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Graham Coleman.

I made this pieace in the BEA 5 lab at Sonology at the Royal Conservaory in The Hague, Netherlands. This uses MIDI-controlled analog oscillators and the primary sound source. My friend Nick Fox-Gieg set up the MIDI control from his laptop and helped me with a MAX patch. The oscillators went out to the plate reverb – which is an actual 200 kilo plate hanging in the attic someplace. The output of that was ring modulated and sent back to the plate. A lot of the signal also went through the lovely third octave filter in the lab.

The one drawback of the plate is that there’s a lot of hiss in the connection to it. I used the TAP de-Esser and some EQ to lessen the hiss. It also took some of the ‘pop’ out of some of the notes, which makes the whole piece smoother.

Graham is planning on remixing this piece.


Shorts: #14 Exodus

[play] Shorts: #14 Exodus (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Sean Johnson.

This was created with a MOTM modular synthesizer. The tones were created with three pulse wave oscillators, all of which were pulse wave modulating each other. Their output was fed through a low pass filter and bandpass filter. the output of those filters plus the unfiltered pulse waves were send through a notch filter. My short pieces tend to not have gaps in them nor much dynamic range, so I tried to put both those things into the final mix.

This piece was commissioned via eBay.


Shorts: #13 Contact

[play] Shorts: #13 Contact (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Sean Johnson.

It was created in the BEA 5 lab in Sonology at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. That lab is a room full of a giant voltage controlled synthesizer. The basis for all the sounds in this piece came from a comparitor. Two triangle waves, one frequency modulated, were fed into a comparitor. This comparitor generated a pulse whenever the traingle waves crossed each other. These pulses form part of the piece, as does some clicking generated by a VOSIM module which was controlled also by the comparitor and the triangle waves themselves. I also mixed in a bit of mixer-generated noise.

This piece was commissioned via eBay.