Supersonic | Electroacoustic Compositions

Transformation

For my transformation piece I wanted to create the entire track from a single sample. I drew inspiration from Artists such as “KOAN Sound” and “Johann Johannsson”, their works reflect the transformative and inventive qualities I wished to replicate within my own piece.

For the core element of my track, I created a wavetable within Ableton’s Sampler by looping a very short section of a water sample. This gave me a base to continue the many layers of automated filtering, distortion and compression used to craft an evolving and dynamic virtual instrument. A similar technique was used to create as close to a sine wave as possible for use in both the sub-bass and pseudo guitar elements. This was achieved by filtering all but the fundamental frequency, monitoring the shape of the waveform through an oscilloscope.

The pseudo-guitar was created using the sinewave as a base to be shaped into a transient resembling a guitar string using ADSR. Filtering this sound, boosting the harmonic frequencies found in a guitar string and processing with distortion and compression helped to emulate a guitar tone. This was then all cross-faded together with the original sample to create the transformative.

Texture

For my texture piece I wanted to create something very large and grand sounding. To achieve this, I used many layers of VST instruments including, staccato vocals, Rhode piano, and foley layers such as thunder and rain. I drew inspiration from experimental artists such as “Asa” and “Aether” as well as the works from the composer Tim Hecker. Their ambient and textural works inspired the depth and fullness I wanted to achieve in my own composition.

A sporadic and improvisational performance on a Rhodes piano created the core layer of my piece when processed with layers of granular delay and ring modulation. The textural qualities were created through resampling, time stretching with the “texture” warp algorithm and resampled, whilst automating the grain size and flux values. Further processing with additional granular delay, EQ automations and a large reverb in “Valhalla Supermassive” resulted a rich and evolving texture.

This instrumental core was then complemented by the addition of a vocal; Staccato chants were routed through the same final processing chain as the core layer to create cohesion and width. The MIDI for this instrument was created by resampling the core Rhodes layer to be converted using Ableton’s “Harmony to MIDI” function. Samples from VST instruments were used throughout, as well as foley recordings of thunder and weather, all of which were royalty free, heavily processed and resampled during composition

Gesture

For my gesture piece I wanted to create a track with a very high amount of micro variation, detail and dynamic movement. To achieve this, I used a combination of DAW’s including FMOD studio to create dynamic and randomized sequences for the percussive and tonal elements. I drew inspiration from Artists such as “Aphex Twin” and “Deep Forest”, their works reflect the highly gestural and dynamic qualities I wished to replicate within my own piece.

For the percussive element of the track, I used a randomized drum sequencer in Max for Live with many samples in a drum rack to create the micro-variations in the drum groove that keep it changing and unique sounding throughout the track. The drums were then further processed with randomized automation to create gestural phrases throughout.

A similar process was used for creating the bassline and more melodic phrases, which were created through the resynthesis of water foley using a similar process as my Transformation piece. These percussive and tonal phrases were then exported as loops to be arrange in FMOD Studio to provide randomization for each play through of the track. This result was then bounce and further processed In Ableton to re-enforce the gestural phrases created.

Final Composition

For my final composition I wanted to combine all previous techniques used in my three smaller compositions to create something that had strong textural qualities with constant transformation and gestural phrases to keep it unique and interesting throughout. I drew inspiration from Artists such as “KOAN Sound” and “Johann Johannsson”, aiming to emulate the textural and gestural characteristics prevalent in music by KOAN Sound, whilst combining that with the epic and transformative scores of Johann Johannsson.

My primary goal was to create a composition that was grounded in the relaxing and immersive sound of waves lapping a shoreline, which then seamlessly evolved into a cinematic and acousmatic piece with swells of tension and emotive phrases. A significant goal was to use transformative techniques to blend electronic elements into the push and pull of the waves to really immerse the listener, whilst changes the speed of the waves to create lulls and climaxes of tension.

This was achieved primarily through the granular resynthesis of a highly processed resample of a randomized Rhodes piano. The piano was processed using granulator 2, ring modulation, delays and various layers of effects and resampling. A portion of this was then stretched out using the “Texture” time warping mode in Ableton, the parameters of which were automated and resampled to create movement in the grain size of the texture. This was then further processed with a VST named “MORPH 2”, a combination of envelope follower and vocoder, to blend this primary element with the sound of the waves that is persistent throughout the track.

In addition to this, I used the “Harmony to MIDI” function inside of Ableton on the result of the above processing to create a MIDI approximation which was then randomly modified by deleting parts to be used as the midi for a synth bassline / harmony layer. This was then layered to give depth and create harmonic gestural phrases throughout the composition.

Finally, accent phrases were then added to reinforce points of interest and gestural swells through the track. These consisted of a high processed version of my own vocals, as well as granularly processed foley recordings.