…fast forward to week 5 of ‘scaping’…

I am in week 5 of scaping now, and I have just completed scape 785 in my latest session (much to my amazement – I mean, come on, how many other tools would let you capture 785 unique generative ambient compositions in under six weeks?).  it’s one of six variants, saved in six different moods, of a really interesting scape – no background, and, a set of randomly thrown out “E” shaped yellow note elements – this is a note that bends very strangely, and with about 30 of them in the mix, you get this wonderful, very fripp like dissonant cloud of bendy notes all blended together, arriving in dense, frippy-clusters of sound, and it’s so beautiful I could just listen to it forever.

fantastic notes…so bendy (up, down, sideways, every which way), so quizzical, so odd – so questioning.  never really resolving, just wandering in and out of the musical landscape in beautifully random clusters…

this is the single strangest scape I’ve ever made, it’s so dissonant, so random, the pitch is all over the place, yet, it’s so incredibly beautiful, too – I can’t quite come to terms with scape 785 !  at times, it fades out as the note clusters continue to collide and wander…fading almost to silence, then suddenly waking back up again, coming up to full volume one more time.

listening to this scape is kind of like drifting in and out of consciousness, it comes and goes, like a beautiful but strange dream that you are dreaming, which then goes away; – comes back – almost disappears; then re-appears, meanwhile, the note clusters get really strange, appearing at the oddest intervals, landing on top of each other, large spaces in between….it’s just one of the most unusual, and oddest, experiences I’ve ever had – and it took about five seconds to create.

I literally open the yellow note element area, grabbed the “E” shaped note, and dragged about 30 of them out into the workspace; randomly, onto the screen, totally at random – creating a jumble of notes filling most of the screen. no sense of order whatsoever, just randomly dispersed notes – but the overall effect, the sound of the resulting piece – is just wonderful.  sigh.

I am extremely pleased with this piece, although because of my backlog, and because this tool is so incredibly prolific, it may be a while before you hear this piece…I hope not too long.

lately, scapes have tended to be much more complex – although, sometimes I will still really strip things back and create some very sparse, minimalist scapes, because I now have so many tools, so many new backgrounds, new elements, I am always wanting to add in my favourites – a new descending arrowhead, the “quiet sun” bell, the buzzing two sided triangle/mountain, the new orange/blue mood – so quite a few of the last couple hundred or so have been very, very active pieces indeed.

I really wish there was a way I could instantly publish all 785 of my scapes onto the internet – I really do, because, having so far managed to put up just six of them, I feel very frustrated that you can’t hear the work I am doing right now – and, I am frustrated too that you can’t hear all the new sounds and sound combinations that I am coming up with, too.  all in good time as they say…

I began by publishing my first few scapes onto soundcloud, but of course with their two hour time limit, I am only maybe going to get 20 or so up there…so I decided, rather than add endless channels on soundcloud, to switch to youtube (leaving the soundcloud scapes up, of course!!!) – so for a while, there will be a parallel process – scapes will go up as audio to soundcloud, and as audio with some kind of “video” to you tube at the same time – but eventually, soundcloud will fill up, where as you tube will continue.

at this moment in time, scapes 1 through 7 are up on soundcloud; number 8 should go up tonight – while on youtube, since I started that project a bit later, just the first three are up; number four is ready to go up later today – and, I am working on the next three already as well, so I hope to get “caught up” soon….and I do just plan to continue as time permits – I will make very simple videos for the pieces (nothing fancy) and I will just keep uploading them to the purescapes channel on you tube – although other projects may mean that I have to take breaks from uploading scapes – but if I am able, I will always persist with this – this is one of the most remarkable collections of music I have ever recorded, but it’s also very frustrating, in less than five weeks, I have almost 800 pieces of music!!! it arrives so, so quickly, and so much of it is so, so lovely – but the quantity is staggering, and almost unmanageable in terms of recording and/or uploading the tracks – how long will it take me to make 785 scape videos, and then upload them?

and by the time I do – I will then have another 800 scapes recorded…and the cycle will never end!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever had an instrument that could create beautifully complete pieces of music, finished songs, at this incredible rate – it takes far longer to record them then it does to actually create them!

another thing that intrigues me about the app, something about scape that I am…unsure of…is the effect of visual symmetry on the sound output.  it does seem, that if I take a lot of time, and line up my objects into really beautiful symmetrical patterns, that the resulting sound of the scape is…more organised, more musical – than if I randomly disperse various elements without ANY sense of order or symmetry.  maybe.

but then something like scape 785 comes along, and knocks this theory on it’s head – a completely at-random, very hastily-assembled set of elements – with a beautiful output, as beautiful or more beautiful than the output of scapes that I spent far more time on, with lots of symmetry…so I just can’t tell – both very tidy, very carefully created scapes, and almost randomly created scapes – sound good!

so that theory is obviously no good, although I might say, that if you order your elements with precision symmetry, that this may make your scape sound particularly orderly and beautiful – possibly!   that’s about all I can say so far…

the other thing that really fascinates me about scape are the hidden, secret, internal “rules” – which for the life of me, I can’t really figure out any of!!!  events are triggered by events, actions taken based on how you set things up – but we really don’t understand much of it.

I’ve learned that you can create a scape that you like, and then save copies of it in “each” of the available moods. So for example, scape 785 is in the new orange/blue mood, however, I also saved it in several other moods, and, my ear can somewhat discern what those other moods “do” to the piece.

if I then shift to the “green” mood version of the same piece, scape 783, there is a different reverb, there is a short delay with several repeats, and the pitch of the notes is a few steps at least, lower.  so the same piece sounds quite “different” in green mood, but also it’s still recognisably the same piece.

if I then shift to the “pink/violet” mood version of the piece, scape 784, there is a much larger room reverb and a different short delay with a longer repeat – and the pitch is somewhere in between the pitch of the “orange/blue” and “green” moods.

but as far as the other “rules”, how instruments interact, what happens when you add a second bass note in, what happens when you “chain together” eight bells – I just don’t know.  and in a way, it doesn’t matter – because it works !! – they sound like pieces of music, as if composed by a human – but, they are in fact, generative – so only guided by a human.  I am, however, happy to be one of those human, to herd eno and chilvers’ samples into ever more sophisticated musical forms, in a seemingly endless variety of beautiful sound working with beautiful sound…

I can’t believe the intelligence and sophistication built into this instrument, it’s only the second generative tool I’ve tried over the years (I did work briefly with an early version of koan, but it was very, very primitive compared to scape), but I don’t know that I would want any other – until they come out with the frippertronics version, that is.  in the meantime…

happy scaping….


10 responses to “…fast forward to week 5 of ‘scaping’…

  1. Weird, my question disappeared. Was it deleted?!

    I’m crazy about scape too & wanted to know the best way to record them for soundscape. How do you do it? Also, I suggested the Mixtikl app only because its also an interesting generative sound app. I have no interest in the app other than a user who likes it.

      • Hi Skip,

        It wasn’t word press, but something did go wrong when I tried to approve your comment! Hopefully they are all restored now.

        As far as how I am recording them, it’s simple. I have an “apple to RCA stereo” cable – i.e. a 19 pin apple connector to stereo RCA plugs – costs about six pounds – and I plug one end into the ipad’s 19 pin connector, and the RCA stereo pair into my sound card. I then set up a session in SONAR 8.5, my main audio app (although you could use anything that will record stereo) with 24 blank tracks of audio; I arm the first track to record, then, on the iPad, I call up Scape 1, I push RECORD in SONAR, and then PLAY on the iPad – and I record it via the cable, just playing back on the ipad, but – and this is the important bit – through the high quality 19 pin connector, NOT through the headphone out.

        You COULD record with the headphone out, but it tends to be quite noisy, at idle, it sends out spitting noises (this is shameful, it’s a headphone out – it should be dead silent – come on, APPLE!) so I do recommend getting the cable.

        That’s the only way I know of recording a scape, it’s incredibly primitive, but what I end up with is a 24 bit 48 Khz wav file, which I can then trim and use as the sound track of the video.

        I’ve been considering getting Mixtikl for a long, long time, but I am waiting – I am sure it will be great, but if truth be told, I already have more music apps than I have time to work with, it’s really out of hand, because there are so many amazing music apps for the iPad – so I am simultaneously learning and recording in [insert long, long list of apps here] and if I get Mixtikl, I will have even less time to do things like…play the guitar or keyboards.

        I will get it eventually, my friend Michael Dawson uses it, and now you’ve recommended it as well, I will absolutely get it – once I get a little bit “caught up”…

        Anyway, sorry about the disappearing comments, I don’t really know what went wrong. I hope we can continue to chat about scapes, tell me what you are doing with it – hope the above helps you get to recording them – you could use just about anything, Sony Sound Forge or any basic recording app – you don’t need SONAR.

        All the best


        • Thanks! I figured that about what you were doing, but just checking if there was a hidden record feature built into the app. 🙂

          There are things about Mixtikl’s interface that I find frustrating, but I’ve had it for a couple years & I can attest the devs are regularly updating, improving & evolving it.

          • Thanks for this Skip, I actually just picked up Mixtikl, but I have not even had time to try a test recording with it – but I am really looking forward to it, it looks good! I am sure I will enjoy as a very different experience from scape…

  2. Loving & amazed with Scape as well. How are you recording your scapes to put on soundcloud? Also, check out The Mixtikl app. Looks simple but fairly powerful generative tool as well.

  3. Hi

    I see. I think I would prefer some sort of sliding tool bar – the system as is does shuffle them about, and with some of them it is harder to differentiate between them by the icon alone – though once you drag them out no problem.

    Have you noticed any impact of the size of the element on the ‘playing area’ and its sound or volume?

    Also, for those who can’t wait – in the preferences you can unlock all the elements (though it is not recommended) but could be useful if you have to reload it at a later date or want to show someone who has it what the final evolution will offer


    • The slow unfolding of the instruments is part of the fun…I wouldnt want them all exposed from day one, Peter Chilvers explained why they dole them out the way they do…to give you time to learn each one.

      Size doesnt seem to affect volume, however, I HAVE learned that if you add too many elements to a scape, that it starts to remove shapes starting with the oldest.

      I assume this is a safety valve to prevent distortion or volume overload….because I decided to put thirty-five basses into a scape!!

      Which sounds AMAZING by the way….


  4. Hi
    Keeping the conversation going in time. A small mystery – why do you think there is the ‘shuffle’ on the white background/drone? (Whoa, it’s just arrived on the pyramids too). I could sort of understand if it changed the choice – you picked number 3, shuffle, and your element changes to the new number 3. And it isn’t as if it is to disorient you, as you decide to shuffle rather than it being random.
    A mysterious tool!
    I’m looking forward to more blue machine sticks – and am assuming that 9 is the max tool number

    • Hi Jeremy

      Actually, those shuffle marks aren’t “shuffles” – what has happened is that you have more icons than can be displayed – so it just displays a random number of them – when you hit the shuffle button – it gives you the ones that are not shown – and that ties in with your other question – no, 9 is not the maximum – you can see the maximum for each area when it gives you a new tool – it will say “new element 9/11” meaning – this is the ninth of eleven. different areas have different maximums, and, that “shuffle” button just gives you whatever “fits” on the visible bars – it gives you the ones that are NOT currently displayed.

      It only appears when you have more than enough icons to fit comfortably.

      It took me quite a while to figure this out, but I think that’s what is going on…

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Clearing up the mysteries…

      all the best

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