January 31, 2006 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Self-organization leads to swarm synthesis
posted by Rothko (10 comments total)
Woah, cool.

But I want downloads. Argh, no, not music! Programs! Plugins? VST modules? Stand alone executables? Windows or Linux.
posted by loquacious at 7:43 PM on January 31, 2006

I second what loquacious said. It always somehow frustrates me when someone comes up with some new sound synthesis idea that I can't immediately play with.

Also, warning website requires squinting.
posted by Jimbob at 7:50 PM on January 31, 2006

Synthesis? Is the swarm used as a tone generator? Does it control the waveform, frequency, filter or resonance like a subtractive synthesis system? Is it additive or interference based like an FM system. Or is this being used as a composition technique?
posted by sourwookie at 8:18 PM on January 31, 2006

sourwookie: I think it depends on what your definition of grain or graintable synthesis is.

So, yes, no, sort of, maybe, and I don't really know.

Apologies if I sound like some sort of FruityLoops using n00b, but all I know is that grain synths and modules make some really neato sounds. (And a bunch of now-overplayed and rather predictable and trite ones, for sure.)

I don't know how grain synths work. Some sort of magic ju-ju about spreading/manipulating waveforms or samples across a time domain and another domain parameter. I'm probably totally wrong. I would be totally edified if someone more qualified would step in and explain granulators.

I'm assuming that the "swarming" as discussed in this link applied to "swarm granulation" is applying swarming algorithms to the way the granulation parameters are being dynamically adjusted by the swarm algorithms.

Yeah, that is indeed English, but futzy and non-specific. Err, and kind of redundant.

Anyways, synthesis these days isn't always about pure waveform creation and manipulation from analog or digital oscillators - but still doesn't have to resort to patches or samples. Perhaps to the purist it still is pure waveform creation, and that's fine, but there's a lot of bizarre tools and toys out there now.

What about circuit bending? Is that synthesis? Modular or patch pay circuit bending? What if the circuit-bent device relies on samples, but the samples are irrevocably obscured by the glitching and circuit bending?

Is catting random stuff to /dev/audio in unix/linux/bsd synthesis? What if it's just playing back a bitwise stream of my HD? What about the bitstream from my mouse? From the kernel?

*shrug*. Don't care. Make it sound cool, make it playful and playable and live and living. I'll twiddle the knobs and make many happy-scary noises.
posted by loquacious at 8:39 PM on January 31, 2006

Synthesis has a much broader meaning than you're giving it credit for, sourwookie. It doesn't even have to be music related. You could read it as "swarm combination" or "swarm composition" and it would make sense.

This is pretty cool. I'm fascinated by this stuff.
posted by teece at 9:20 PM on January 31, 2006

I think maybe, perhaps, we've read too much into the tone of sourwookie's questions.

On second reading at home, away from work, it looks more like curiosity and exhuberance rather then what I saw at first glance as a smidge of haughty analog synth purism.

Not that I jumped down their throat or anything, but I did assume the digital audio creation apologist's role.

And that isn't to say at all that analog or analog-digital hybrid synths, modulars and sequencers don't totally just own the universe. Humina humina.

I've been doing stuff in Traktor DJ studio that's more akin to synthesis than DJing lately. Taking very small loops of various songs or sounds, pitch bending them way down into the -60% to -95% range, running it through some filters, EQs, cuts and sweeps and listening to how the digital sample noise and MP3 compression artifacts become music in and of itself, with complex tones and strange rhythms arising by layering loops and tracks.

Even in my mind as a DJ it's made me think a lot about those deep questions like "What is music?" and "Am I just ripping off some other (obscure) electronic music artist by chopping their tunes up into little slivers and distorting the hell out of them? And if so, what's wrong with that?" and so on.
posted by loquacious at 11:13 PM on January 31, 2006

Self-organization is a process where the organization (constraint, redundancy) of a system spontaneously increases, i.e. without this increase being controlled by the environment or an encompassing or otherwise external system

Good read.
posted by semmi at 11:25 PM on January 31, 2006

loquacious - granular synth works like this. Imagine a wave form - say, a long violin note.

Now, take random samples from within that wave form - each sample only lasting a fraction of a second.

Now, play back those samples, randomly layered over each other, so one mini-sample is still playing while another mini sample starts. Also, fade-in and out each sample so they blend nicely, instead of getting nasty clicks as each mini-sample starts and end.

You end up with a continuous sound again - a sound made up of lots of tiny random slices of another sound. Now, you can then do interesting things with this - apply different filters to all the "granules", or stretch the granules to different pitches as they are played back, or skew their waveforms, or control the "density" of the granules - whether 20 of the granules are being played back at once, or only one granule is being played back at a time, with gaps inbetween, or change the size of the granules, down to the point of each granule only being a few wave cycles long, so you lose the original sound completely.

It's a fun technique - you can take any sound you want and run it through granular synthesis to create interesting, new, unrecognizable tones. And then, based on recent developments in copyright laws as they relate to sampling, get sued anyway.

Oh and, loquacious, have you ever tried Audiomulch? I think you'd like it.
posted by Jimbob at 11:39 PM on January 31, 2006

I'm disappointed this FPP had nothing to do with Al Gore's solo recording career.
posted by Eideteker at 3:14 AM on February 1, 2006

Thanks a ton, Jimbob. I was up until just before dawn and nearly overslept to the point I totally had to scramble to make it to work. :)
posted by loquacious at 4:28 PM on February 1, 2006

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