Granular Primer 3: Audiomulch and the Metasurface

The metasurface is the best shit ever.  Really.  I use it primarily for granular synthesis, but it has all kinds of uses.  Like I mentioned in my previous granular synthesis posts, the difficulty with granular sound is the large amount of control data necessary.  I’ve found great sounds with single settings, but using the metasurface to evolve all the parameters from one unified source is an amazing thing.  The picture below is a metasurface setup that I use for granular processing.

A granular metasurface setup.  I run this fullscreen when I play live.

A granular metasurface setup. I run this fullscreen when I play live.

The concept is that you can interpolate between sets of your chosen parameters.  For instance, you can make 15 oscillators, make 20 different chords with them, and then interpolate between these 20 different 15-note chords smoothly in two dimensions after placing them as points on the metasurface.  The fun part is finding all the chords that exist between the ones you first defined, and moving smoothly between them.  Set up properly, you could also hear what the approximate average of all 20 chords would sound like, or blend 3 of them together with different weightings for each.  Or, for example, by controlling the mix levels and muting on the 15 oscillators as well as the pitch, one could compose melodies and create voice leading and dynamic modulations.

Some other granular software that have similar, but less flexible approaches compared to the MS.

Some other granular software that have similar, but less flexible approaches, comparatively. 

This concept has been gaining traction in some software I’ve seen–for instance, a similar but more limited implementation of this idea can be seen in the Hadron granular synthesizer, or in Camel audio Alchemy, another granular synth, and in other software as well i’m sure.  But the mulch implementation is very flexible, and you can use it to control any of your vst/au plugins and for all the main parameters of audiomulch.  It can also be controlled by midi, one parameter for X and one for Y.  Mulch takes 14 bit control messages so with the right software you could send high resolution x/y messages to control it remotely.  Audiomulch badly needs OSC so it could interface better with the new generation of OSC based controller software available on mobile devices.

I use the metasurface to define a handful of different granular presets, and interpolate between them.  This allows me to make dramatic gestures between vastly different types of sounds.  This kind of sound was popular in modernist music of the 20th century, either acoustic or electronic.  After seeing Morton Subotnick play at Town Hall here in Seattle, I felt inspired to make an avant-style granular percussion track.  here is the recording: “Subotneeck” MP3 Download.  This track was made with the granular metasurface setup that I link to below.  It was simply a drum sequence I made with Sonic Charge Microtonic, run through those granular effects and recorded in realtime.

A Typical Signal flow I would use in mulch for granular stuff.

A Typical Signal flow I would use in mulch for granular stuff.

Here is the Audiomulch Patch I used to make the sounds linked above.  Above is the signal flow for the patch–there is a mixer for the input to the granulators (knob 1 is the bassline, knob 2 is the output of the grains, for feedback) and then an EQ after the grains, which I also control with the metasurface to fine-tune how the effects sound.  I have a “bassline” generator so there is a test-tone type sound to hear how the granular presets work.  But definitely try adding your own sounds to the patch, and running them through the granulators.  Also make sure to adjust the settings in the metasurface, so that only the granulators, and the grain EQ are the ones being controlled, unless you want to add more settings (which can be fun!).



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