2 min read

The Path to A Branch in the Path

I recently revisited one of the first patches I started piecing together on discovering Audulus a little over two years ago. The ease of experimenting with tuning systems and the simplicity of creating feedback loops, along with Nicky Case’s XOXO talk on game structures and his interactive Neurons explanation, got me started on the piece that was to become A Branch in the Path.

The main idea of A Branch in the Path is that the audience navigate a network of interrelated tones via a website that they visit on their smartphones. Each page on the site contains a sound file, the pitch of which corresponds to the position in the overtone series they happen to be on. One can move up or down a series, or shift from one series to another at points that share the same frequency – a little like changing lines on a subway system.

Since each member of the audience navigates their own particular path through the network, a spatial cloud of tones emerges through the spread-out smartphone loudspeakers. Texts also appear along the way. Some have their origins in dreams written down over the years, while others were generated online with metaphorpsum.com – all in all a poetic mix that blurs the lines between what is dreamt, real, and artificial.

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The original patch was not so much intended as a patch in itself, but rather as a means of developing material for the piece. It’s basically two overtone multiplexers, with nodes from the first providing the root for the other, and the durations derived by dividing the overtone frequencies. I originally added a simple probability switch to climb up or down the overtone series with the output feeding back to the input so that the thing could run by itself, along with a Euclidean sequencer to divide up the pulses.

I originally didn’t manage to find a way of successfully programming all the possibile shifts from one series (or ‘line’) to another and gave up on getting it fully automated in Audulus. However taking a look at JJThrash’s Audulus version of Conway’s Game of Life last year made me realize that I needn’t be shy of stringing together a large number of micro-modules, and gave me the courage to make another attempt at programming all the possible choices in the overall overtone grid.

My solution consists of a little probablility module for each overtone node. For the simplest nodes the module chooses between remaining on a note, moving up, or moving down within the same series. Other nodes include the possbility of shifting left or right to another overtone series. Letting Audulus navigate paths through the network sounds something like this:

PathSong – Example 1
PathSong – Example 2

The patch can be downloaded from the Aululus forum.

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Rudiger Meyer is a composer interested in the play between traditional concert music and new media.