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Your "live" or acoustic processing hits.

Mar 20 2006 | 9:00 am

Hi All,

For a long time I’ve been drawn to the processing of acoustic material, or "live" instrumental sounds (samples/recordings), as a method for generating sonic material. I personally find that acoustic recordings/sounds have a temporal complexity that’s hard to match with "ground-up" synthesis, and also prefer the timbral continuity that comes from developing variety from unity (i.e., using a relatively small set of "source sounds" to develop a larger pallette of compositional colours). However, apart from having my few favorite processing "hits" (granular synthesis and cross-synthesis are the two big ones…), I’m often a little disappointed with my own lack of knowledge/experience/imagination in this area, and find myself twiddling around with techniques that have surprisingly little effect on the actual sound (and thus ultimately limping back to my "old standards"). Since it’s seldom the case in this world that one is truly, completely alone, there are likely others in the same boat.

So, I thought it might be interesting to start a list of people’s favorite live/acoustic processing "hits", that might act as a sort of resource for composers and sound designers, while also developing a dialogue on the subject from which new ideas might be proposed and/or developed.

This list could include the posting of patches, but could also be limited to a simple description. I just think it would be great to have a thread that could serve as a sort of jump-start for the timbral imagination — kind of like the way in which scanning over scores can trigger new musical ideas, or searching around can trigger new approaches to programming.

Since I’ve already exposed my two "go to" techniques, I’ll start by mentioning a couple of things I’ve been thinking about:

1) using recordings of natural processes (water, wind, fire, etc.) to modulate controller info — e.g., build a simple envelope follower, then use its output to control synthesis or mix parameters.
2) combining filtering with additive synthesis to "knock-out and replace" certain spectral components of a sound, thus "nesting" an additive synth inside a sampled sound (???) The idea would be to give a different type of flexibilty only to certain components of a sound… this could be nonsense, but if it were possible to smoothly transition the additive part to and from a point of fusion with the sampled part, it could provide a musically interesting effect.

Anyway, those are a couple of my thoughts, so if you feel like you’ve got something to give, please post away!



Mar 21 2006 | 8:16 am

well… too bad about the thunderous silence.

I did find an interesting resynthesis approach in my Google travels:

Pretty clever way around some of the basic limitations of FFT-based resynthesis, as I understand it.


Mar 21 2006 | 8:56 am

> well… too bad about the thunderous silence.

Asking for such a question, you have to be patient… my answers
within one month, I swear.


Mar 21 2006 | 11:50 am

i’m interested as well, just very busy at the time…. reading the article about FFT this momment, thnx for that one… speak/contribute later ;)

Mar 21 2006 | 3:05 pm

hehe… sorry folks.

I guess I’ve had this question in mind for a couple of months, so to me it’s an old post! ;-)

I’ll be patient now.


Mar 22 2006 | 1:16 pm

A few techniques I use for processing live sound. Simple but effective.
1. simple resynthesis, often with transposition or harmonic transformation. fiddle~ makes this relatively easy since it gives you frequency and amplitude for each partial.
2. divide the the sound into various frequency bands using a crossover-style filter. Treat each band separately.
3. Background radiation. This is an old standby for creating an ever-changing wishy-washy background. Run the sound through a filter (a moving bandpass works great), into a reverb, into a delay line, then feed the output of the delay back into the filter.

Mar 23 2006 | 11:36 am

Like the sound of 1) and 2) — which isn’t to say that I don’t like 3), but it seems a bit more specific to your aesthetic.

I’ve played around with the fft-based crossover, and messed about with individual bands that way, which was pretty handy. But I’ve never done anything in-depth that way. I should also take another look at fiddle~. I’ve spoken with a number of people using it lately, but it’s one of those objects I seem to repeatedly forget… Strange.


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