Chain of Ponds

by Ben Harper

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about

Chain of Ponds was inspired by a wish to create complex sounds and musical structures in live performance, using the principle of feedback oscillation, with only a laptop computer.

I've previously made several pieces using analogue equipment connected into circuits to generate audio feedback. The advantage of analogue electronic components is that they have a richness and complexity that is usually lacking from their digital counterparts. The disadvantage is that they are bulky to carry around and complicated to set up. I wanted to emulate the same principles of feedback in software, in a way that would yield similarly interesting results.

I buillt a large complex of feedback loops in Ross Bencina's programme AudioMulch. None of the components in the patch generate signals by themselves; all sound is created by repeated amplification through the feedback circuits and modified by the components they pass through. No sampling is used.

To fully exploit the potential range of detail in this setup and to avoid lapsing into any habitual performance gestures, I decided that all aspects of the circuit complex should be controlled by the computer. I wrote a script to generate sequences of MIDI commands for some 800 parameters within the circuit. The script determines when the circuit switches on and off, settings and adjustments to each of the components of the circuit, density of events and overall structure. All of these aspects are determined by chance, within a broad range of boundaries chosen by the user when the script is first run.

These recordings were all made from the same script running with the same set of boundaries. The script was set so that only minimal changes were made to the circuit during each performance. The output was recorded directly to a digital file, in 2-track stereo. None of these tracks were edited or remixed, however some compression was added in post-production.

All the components used in the feedback come standard with AudioMulch, except for a signal modelling device at the very end of the output chain (Dominion by digitalfishphones). The script was written in CAL on version 9 of Cakewalk Audio Pro.

© Ben Harper, London, December 2015

credits

released December 5, 2015

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