↬ Twenty-three – 02: Coding, Tuning, Listening, Reading

Hi, I’m Rudiger Meyer and this is my monthly newsletter covering what I’ve been up to and what’s been catching my attention.

I haven’t manged my time well enough to churn out the usual 1800 – 2000 words that my newsletters have been filling lately, so this will be a short(ish) one. Probably for the best.

Robin Sloan shared a link to In the Stacks (Maisie’s Tune), a short story that he wrote for Brand New Box, an agency that “makes digital products for the web”. (I haven’t had a chance to investigate fully, but was intrigued by Nueumz, their Gregorian Chant app – a “15th Century music manual for the 21st”.) In the Stacks is about a modular synth in a public library, and the web version opens with a delightful working synthesizer, created straight in the browser using Web Audio APIs, as a header for the story. You can make your adjustments and listen to the synth chugging away as you read. That’s how I got to know it, but there’s an equally charming print version as well. Some pictures and little background on the project can be found in Robin’s newsletter.

It was in fact back in 2016 that Robin shared the original inspiration for this story in one of his ‘Primes’ newsletters which consisted of a series of emails sent out on dates of the month that were prime numbers – a nice idea. On 23 October 2016 he shared some info on the modular synthesizer in the Lawrence Public Library – the ‘Big Red Synthesizer’ that was the inspiration for ‘Maisie’s Tune’. Here’s a video of it in action. There’s also a little video clip by Robin himself in the newsletter linked to above.

'Big Red' modular synthesizer in the Lawrence Public Library

* * *

Speaking of synthesizers, one of the reasons why I’ve haven’t found much time to write is that many of my available minutes have been swallowed by having gotten sucked into Audulus once again. Zilch42 created an Audulus version of the Moog Subharmonicon (a little history on the origins/inspiration behind that instrument can be found here) and noticing that there were some issues with the implementation of the Just Intonation quantizer in the Audulus version, I got involved with modifying the Quantizer tile in the Audulus library, and after fiddling around with that for a bit realized that it made better sense to divide it into separate ‘Scales’ and ‘Tunings’ tiles. Distinguishing scales from tunings opens up for some exploration of how a particular scale identity can be shaped in different ways by passing it through various tunings. Alongside the basics of Equal Temperament, Just, and Pythagorean tunings, I included the division of the octave into 5 or 7 equal steps (nice for more pattern based music with timbres that perhaps include irregular non-harmonic overtones) as well as a range of historical ‘Temperaments’ – Werckmeister, Kirnberger, and Valotti & Young.

The temperaments have been interesting to play around with. One can get nicer major and minor harmonies than with Equal Temperament, but the question is also to what extent modulating from one key to another is something there’s much need for, especially in a ‘modular’ context with something like Audulus where one is often moving around pitch space with LFOs or (step)sequencers rather than a keyboard. Nevertheless there are many interesting colours to explore with the all the slightly uneven steps. One might view them as ‘found objects’ of a kind. My various considerations and thoughts along the way can be found on the Audulus Forum and Discord.

* * *

Brushing up my knowledge of scales, temperaments, and tuning systems has involved a lot of time on Wikipedia, and in that regard I can highly recommend Frank Rausch’s V for Wiki (iPhone/iPad) app. Beautiful typography making for a much better reading experience, and with very useful search history and bookmarking tabs. Here he is giving a very nice talk about typography, if you’re into that kind of thing.

(Just discovered while including the link that the app has unfortunately been retired – what a pity!)

* * *

Following up on last months Melodica Duets, here’s Air Born Of Light, a drone piece for modified melodica by Kaori Suzuki.

And since tomorrow marks a year of Russia causing a lot of pain and suffering in Ukraine, here’s some delightful Ukrainian electronic exotica: Nostalgia Por Mesozóica.

Nostalgia Por Mesozóica Album Artwork

All the best,
↬ Rudiger

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Hi, I’m <a rel="me" class="p-name u-url" href="https://rudigermeyer.com">Rudiger Meyer</a>, a composer interested in the play between music, sound, and&nbsp;media.