today’s mixtikl composition – “adagio…largo…slow” – a very, very ambient piece this time.
after the last few “mixtikls”, besides being left reeling with a slightly punch-drunk feeling of “anything is possible with this application” I’ve also settled into an odd pattern of working: I work on loud, active music for a couple of days; and then I create one ambient piece, then I work on more loud, active music, then I create…one ambient piece.
today’s one ambient piece, however, has surprised me. a few days ago, when I was working on the mixes of an active track called “sandpiper calls”, I made a note to myself on a post-it note, that says:
“take the drone-only element (which is, “3 note low-ks” from GenMix7) from “sandpiper calls” and build a new mixtikl with just that, in many iterations, slow tempo, low pitch”.
so today, when it came to composition time, I followed this instruction, and within seconds, had the most beautiful mixtikl ambient piece yet, forming in front of my eyes (and ears!).
and the key to it – is not the successful blending of various elements (although, in the past, that has “worked” when creating ambient mixtikl pieces) but instead, the “less is more” principle, well, to be more exact:
fewer different elements, instead:
- many of the same element placed at various different points in time
- many of the same element placed at different levels
- many of the same element placed at different places in the stereo field (left, partially left, centre, partially right, right, etc).
as the note (my note to myself) instructed me, I lowered the tempo, down to 64 bpm – I also experimented with some very low tempos, but 64 seems to give me just the right amount of “movement” – lower bpm settings gave me too little movement, believe it or not!
I also lowered the pitch as far as it would go, down to Ab (A flat – as in “I bought a flat guitar tutor”), which sounds lovely.
but it’s the simple fact, I noticed that the one single ambient element of “sandpiper calls” was really beautiful, and that it varied in a really lovely way, so I thought right, this one element MIGHT make a really good ambient piece. boy, was I ever right about that.
it’s simplicity itself, really – I did the whole “many iterations” and “many levels” and “many stereo placements” all in about one minute or so – that was that. the end result, well, I will try to describe it:
>>>>>>>>>>>>Track Pan Level Cells Rule>>>>>>>>>>>>
3 note low-ks 1 Hard Left 7 1, 2 and 4 –>
3 note low-ks 2 Hard Right 7 1, 2 and 4 –>
3 note gentle-ks 3 70 % Left 3 1 –>
3 note gentle-ks 4 70 % Right 3 1 –>
3 note low-ks 3 70 % Left 3 3 –>
3 note low-ks 4 70 % Right 3 3 –>
3 note low-ks 5 Hard Left 6 2 and 4 –>
3 note low-ks 6 Hard Right 6 2 and 4 –>
3 note low-ks 7 Hard Left 6 1 and 3 –>
3 note low-ks 8 Hard Right 6 1 and 3 –>
3 note gentle-ks 9 Hard Right 4 2 –>
3 note gentle-ks 10 Hard Left 4 2 –>
3 note low-ks 9 Hard Right 4 4 –>
3 note low-ks 10 Hard Left 4 4 –>
soft melody-ks 11 Hard Left 6 1 –>
3 note low-ks 12 Hard Right 8 1 –>
3 note low-ks 11 Hard Left 6 3 –>
3 note low-ks 12 Hard Right 8 3 –>
(apologies for the poor formatting above – best I can do free-form)
it looks complicated, maybe, but it literally arranged itself, it took one minute to do – because it’s really a LOT of iterations of “3 note low-ks” – I believe, 21 in all, with four iterations of “3 note gentle-ks” and one lonely iteration of “soft melody-ks” – that’s it.
it’s very, very nearly two dozen iterations of one voice, with nothing else – and I would imagine, it would probably sound just about as good if it WAS 24 iterations of the one voice – because the different volumes, cell placements, and panning create a sort of never-ending ambient “motion” that’s hard to explain – you just have to hear it.
something else I’ve noticed – at first, I would use many different rules, some would be looped, some would be sequential, and so on – but, lately, I’ve just been keeping them all sequential – that seems to work better for me at the moment. I will use loops again, of course – no worries there…but right now, it’s all about samples playing in order!
regardless of the process…the piece just sounds so, so peaceful, it has a wonderful motion that seems very natural and organic, and the end result is maybe the best ambient piece I’ve done with “mixtikl”; certainly, the best piece since “I always glid before” – although this new track is a close cousin, of a perhaps “more ambient” nature – although the concept of “less” or “more” ambient is a very difficult one to describe with mere words.
in this case, less (fewer) elements, results in a “more” ambient track – and I don’t think that’s really any kind of axiom, it may be coincidental, it maybe be that in actual fact, less IS more, because when we say “ambient”, much of the time, we mean, to some degree, “minimal” – and some of our favourite ambient pieces have very few elements indeed – for example, the title track of brian eno’s “discreet music” album. that’s a supremely ambient track, and, it contains one instrument, one melody – just played back at different levels and times (hmmm, that sounds familiar…) – or, even the mighty “the heavenly music corporation” – while not springing to mind as a super “ambient” track, fripp and eno’s first public loop composition contains just two elements: guitar and synthesizer – again, with repetition and at different levels – so with forebears like that, who needs 40 different sounds in their ambient piece – I am quite happy with just three.
of course, in the current piece, there are 21 of one of those three elements, but, who’s counting? I’m really not, I just arrange however many come to hand – if it sounds good, it’s done, if it sounds cluttered, I remove some until it sounds uncluttered – and it’s then done…
in this case, 21 went in, 21 sounded good, so – 21 stay. why not?
but I love that voice – 3 note low-ks, and I am so happy I took the time to design a piece of music around it – it has worked out really, really well 🙂