I've spent most of the weekend hacking away at the detection grid project for creating generative ambient music from video input. As is usual in these kinds of experiments the end result is quite a long way from my expectations, fortunately pleasingly so.
Snap To Grid
My first challenge was one of granularity. To create pleasing tonal compositions I needed to restrict the number of possible active notes. After a bit of trial and error I figured that around 16 notes was optimal. However using only a 4x4 grid across the video didn't provide enough granularity for detection. Increasing the size of the matrix really slows down the frame rate however and quickly adds too many notes into the mix.
Short And Snappy
Next issue was that the notes themselves were very short and often repeated very quickly. This is great for quick glitchy noises but not so great for the ambient soundscape I was trying to create. I tried making patches that had a very short (zero) attack phase with a long release and these worked well for sparse hits, the repeating notes however still didn't sound right.
Messing around a bit more I fired up my favorite Ableton arpeggiators and tried feeding the notes into a held pattern. This has the effect of negating the displeasing rapid repeating notes but leads to a continually sounding arpeggio.
Less Is More
At some point in the proceedings I ended up with an arpeggio and scale that produced a repeating composition with the period equal to that of the video clip. It's sound and mood was immediately reminiscent of Steve Reich so I tweaked the hell out if it to make it more so. Unfortunately during recording it Quartz Composer crashed and I hadn't saved in ages! I managed to get most of the way back to where I was and decided that the whole point of this was to be generative so shouldn't sweat it too much.
Didcot Plays Reich from Rick Hawkins on Vimeo.
Although a long way off from being perfected I am very happy with the results of this weekend's hacking and am looking forward to working up my improvements.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Posted by Rick at 9:04 pm