The age of automated consumer content is nigh… Technologists propose the possibility of “functional” music, fully synthesized by algorithms that have integrated the silicon combinations of tonality to a standard of perfection. A.I hiveminds crunching our audio pleasure information into infinite automatic arrangements rendered on-demand… But like most glacial inevitables, coming to grips with, and understanding where the ideas come from and perhaps how to apply components of it to your approach can enhance what makes your work individualized, an expression of your intellect and character.

Generative Music was the brainchild of Brian Eno who cleverly dreamed up music created by a system. Embracing the concept of manufactured tones composed with asymmetrically played magnetic tape loops that never meet at the same points, the results caught in the record “2/1” are an ever-changing tone poem that would birth the possibilities imagined in what Eno called “Ambient Music”. Fast forward into the digital blur of the present where artists such as Holly Herndon utilize bespoke A.I to coproducer her brilliant collisions of multilayered folk futurism and legions of bedroom producers are programing music as much as they are arranging notes. Everything is dynamic and customizable to randomization, much like the present moment’s vibe itself a bit overwhelming with what is authentic to the artist or algorithm.

Chill out. This approach needn’t spiral into utter chaos. But observed as a hidden technique to enliven lifeless musical passages or lift the imagination out of a creative rut. Sometimes it’s refreshing to simply guide something automatic along and enjoy the spontaneous possibilities, a vast army of Modular Synth devotees will attest to this. An easy entry into this idea lies in LFO’s and creative modulation of note information or audio parameters, which can now be done with most DAW’s and of course the MOD system.

Here is one proposal for an environment that integrates an internal generative system along with external audio processing with the idea of making controlled spontaneously adjustable soundscapes. Ideal for creative sessions or bold performances and utilizes Mod Devices CV clock and parameter adjustments assigned to parameter controls to create an ever-shifting but guidable sonic manifold.

Pedalboard here

Here notes are generated by two step sequencers playing at adjustable rates separate from each other but on the same master clock. The main sequencer note positions have been set to a potentiometer for quick intuitive entering. The sequencers have switchable note randomization along with manual addressing which allows for quick note shifts and adjustments. In the spirit of Generative music, there are three CV clock utilities that are adjusting midi note information within the two sequencers to include randomization into the mix. An arpeggiator is included in the midi chain to generate more dynamic note movement along with a midi cord generator and a midi scale tool. Upon leaving the FM synth, three channels of audio are sent to three separate effects. These include a tape emulating delay, a pitch modulating reverb, and dual pitch modulating delays. They are fed into the 4 channel mixer along with a dry input from an external device and can also be patched to the effects easily. These are all programable from the Duo X hardware. One can think of it as a highly tweakable ambient soundscape generator.

Tips:

1. Select an intuitive signal flow that allows for quick adjustments. Being able to correct the course is necessary sometimes especially when dealing with randomized elements.

2. Utilize imaginative combinations of pitch modulation and modulation delay for a fuller sound spectrum.

3. Capture snapshots of your arrangement settings to step back to interesting moments in the generative chain.

4. Explore rich degradation of tone and spatial textures with tape delay emulation.

5. Apply adjustable randomization to note assignments and control parameters to encourage generative accidents with internal CV modulation.

6. Think of the pedalboard as an ecosystem that develops over time and remember to record each session to capture interesting moments.

7. Assign hardware controls over tempo and time signature that open up alternative combinations.

8. Experiment with multiple Midi tools in the note chain. Surprising results can occur from the random characteristics of note information being shifted and suppressed.

9. Don’t forget about note velocity and its effects on synth dynamics, as these are perfect parameters to adjust with modulation.

This arrangement is just one approach to the idea of spontaneous sound generation and control. The beauty of systematic music production is tweaking it to your individual needs or as a way of resetting your inspiration. Staying curious and open to new techniques is the best path to defining your sound. You never know when that could lead to discovering a new genre of music unique to you…

Written by Jesse Siminski