“77_GS” – a granular sampler/synthesizer
The 77_GS started as a pet project, turned into a solution to a particular task, and then became a performance instrument.
The instrument is based on granular synthesis, which is a technique that can be explored and utilized in many different ways, yielding a great many different results. The defining characteristics of this particular instrument are the simultaneous use of two source samples, and the “morph control”. The latter lets you save different settings of the instrument’s parameters to four different “states”, and then interpolate (or morph) from one state to the next using the modwheel of a MIDI-keyboard. In practice, this means that it’s possible to create fluent transformations from one source sample to the other. However, while this was the originally intended use of the instrument, it is but one of many possibilities that come with the implementation of granular synthesis.
The files are free and entirely open for study and modification (but not resale). Download can be found in the “Sound Design” section of my website.
The synth is built and run in Max 6 (+ Gen).
Do you remember the first Max patch you ever made? What was it?
I learned Max at university, and I'm pretty sure our first assignment (besides the obligatory "make a sine tone") was to create a drum machine that played polyrhythms. Our professor was a drummer, needless to say.
How did you come up with this project idea?
The idea for my granular synth patch came about as a means to create gradual sound transformations (in the vein of Trevor Wishart) from one source sample to another, as this was a central element in a rather off-beat short film that I was working on at the time. The possibilities of granular synthesis are incredibly deep, and I had enough previous experience with really complex, parameter-laden granular synths to know that it could achieve the results I wanted. However, none of them offered exactly what I was looking for with regards to using two sampled sound sources and simultaneously changing several parameters. I wanted to make an instrument that was tailored specifically to my needs, and also pare it down to only the necessary controls so that it would be more inviting and fun to play around with (to me at least).
What sorts of problems did you have to solve?
There were a few challenges that were new to me -- which is how I like it when I work with Max. Making sure that the frequency of the signal that controls sample playback only updates at the beginning of a cycle was one. I came up with a couple of different solutions to this; the one I settled on actually happens to be one of my first practical uses of gen~ in a Max patch. Another problem was the MIDI mapping/learn function, which required a somewhat roundabout solution that I won't mind getting rid of entirely if I end up making a M4L version of the synth.
If there were one person who you would want to see your project, who would it be?
That's a tricky one -- I can't really think of any one person in particular. Anyone who might find some inspiration in the patch, I guess, whether in the form of creating sounds and music with it, or just picking up some ideas for their own project.
At the conclusion of this project were you:
b) ready to do a new one
c) thinking of ways to expand it
d) [other, please describe]
C, definitely. Much like making music, I never feel quite finished with a project like this. In this case I'd say refine is probably a more accurate word than expand, though. If I can find the time, I'd like to make a M4L version of this now that Max 6 features are available in Live, and I'd also want to put together some documentation to make it more accessible for others to use and modify.