the future of generative music – beyond bloom, scape and mixtikl…

as one of our readers recently pointed out, the ios is a fantastic place for generative music to blossom and grow.  already, we have a surprisingly high number of generative music applications available, and I am sure that list will grow over the next couple of years.

I’ve expressed before that I am a late arriver onto the generative music scene, but as with every new music that I discover, I tend to jump in head first, and continue to dive in as time goes on.  my purescapes channel on youtube is one example of this ambition – to eventually, over a number of years, to publish all 1100 scapes (and counting) so that the world can hear what an amazing, ever-changing, ever-surprising generative application brian eno and peter chilvers‘ “scape” is.  I could sit here and wax profound for paragraph after paragraph, trying to describe what a beautiful, generative, ambient sound “scape” has, but I realised early on, that the ONLY way to describe “scape“, would be to simply capture and publish every scape I’ve ever created.

and across those 1100 plus scapes, there is such a huge variance in sound, composition, approach, ambience, melody, dissonance, mood, atmosphere – and I allowed scape to “grow” organically, so I started out with the minimum tools, and allowed the app to “reveal” new sounds as I went along, so for many, many months, every few days, I would “get” another new element, which I would then experiment with, on it’s own, in multiples, with existing elements, through different “mood filters” – until the next new sound arrived.

so the scapes in the 300 range, will have double or more the elements of the first 30, and those in the 700 range, more elements still, until now, in the 1000s, where I have all of the elements and backgrounds exposed and at my disposal.  I had deliberately set scape aside for a few weeks, until last night, when I picked it up, and within 10 minutes, another 30 scapes are added to the ever-growing catalogue, and – the sound of a completed scape, with carefully chosen backgrounds and elements, based on my now many-months of experience – still does not fail to UTTERLY delight me – the sound of scape is mesmerising, I can and do listen to scapes for hours; creating them is a joy, and my only regret is that I cannot produce the next 1090 videos fast enough – I would give anything to be able to push a button and upload all 1100 scapes to youtube, just so the whole world can HEAR this music – it’s like I’ve made 60 new eno albums over the past several months – which in an odd sense, I have, since I am merely assembling, re-assembling, breaking down and building up, a lot of sounds either found or created by eno, and chilvers – so of course, that does make most scapes sound a LOT like…the music of brian eno.

and that, my friends, is a good thing.  I would go out on a limb and say that in some regards, out of some hundred or so music apps I now have (that in itself is gobsmackingly astonishing!), some of them absolutely incredible – that scape is possibly, my single favourite music application, and the one I probably get the most enjoyment out of.  but – I tell you what REALLY excites me – the idea that within a few years, I will have uploaded hopefully at least the first few hundred scapes, so that you can hear this amazing music – I feel like I have this secret cache of eno music, that I really want everyone to hear – so – hence, the purescapes video page – slow going I am afraid, but in time, I hope it will become a point of reference for anyone interested in acquiring and using scape – which I unreservedly encourage and recommend most highly.  if you are even thinking about downloading scape – I urge you – do not hesitate, just do it – you will have hours of fun, and, you will create your own library of “new” eno compositions – to enjoy now and for always.

and scape, of course, led me to it’s predecessor, mixtikl – an application that I am just now becoming familiar with.  and what an application it is!  massive sound libraries of the most astonishing weird and wonderful sounds; create your own sounds (I am dreaming of recording many, many samples of long, long ebow guitar notes, and then assembling them into strange mixtikl creations…) – and then load them either by design, or by using the random generator, into wonderful pieces of generative music.

mixtikl, despite sharing a founding  father figure in mr. brian eno, is the polar opposite of scape in terms of elements being exposed and available.  scape is entirely hidden, the rules are hidden, control of volume, eq, effects is primitive or non-existent, but in mixtikl – well, you have almost TOO much control of what is going on.  every cell, every sound, every effect, can be adjusted, tweaked, and modified to your heart’s content.  while scape creates it’s pieces using a very tightly limited set of elements, mixtikl allows any sound imaginable – and yet, both apps, create wonderful, ambient, generative music.

it’s true, that in mixtikl, you can easily create very noisy, very active pieces, but I am not particularly attracted to that – although I have used it to create a great quasi-ambient drum-driven backing track for ebow guitar – I tend to steer mixtikl down the ambient path, because, to my mind, that is what it does the best.  I am sure active music creators might disagree, and I am sure it’s extremely capable of creating great active music – but that’s just not my interest.  but what mixtikl can achieve in the ambient realm – well, I am just getting started, and so far, the pieces I’ve created do not disappoint – you do have to tweak things quite a bit to get it to sound truly ambient, but it’s worth the effort.

in scape, it’s almost too easy to make a good sounding piece – the samples, and the rules, just automatically add up to a great sounding, eno-sounding, eno-soundalike – almost every time.  very rarely, I produce a scape that is not quite eno-like, but – that is rare indeed.  in mixtikl, it takes much, much longer to assemble and tweak a piece of ambient generative music, but it’s always worthwhile, because once you do get things sounding good (usually, by removing elements and turning elements volume DOWN…) – it sounds REALLY good.

I feel as if I’ve been short-changing bloom this entire time, but for some reason, I always felt like bloom was a prototype for scape (which in many ways, it was), and while bloom can make some really lovely sounds, it just doesn’t seem like an instrument to me – it plays back some really beautiful eno-esque sounds, but when scape came along, with it’s infinitely more varied sound palette, plus the ability to capture scapes very, very quickly as finished pieces of generative music…it kinda knocked poor old bloom off the charts.  which is a shame, because bloom is a really lovely app, well worth spending time with.

I tended to just create a track in bloom, and listen to it, rather than capture it – so even though I’ve created many, many bloom tracks – I’ve never recorded one – which is a real shame, as some of them were downright beautiful.  I think though that eno went back to the drawing board, and came up with scape – which is a million times more capable – I just like the sound of scape a little bit more than I like the sound of bloom.

even though I am singularly unqualified to say, since I really have only had experience with a few of the many, many generative music creation tools that have come along over the past decade or so, I really believe that the next few years may be a real game-changer for generative music.  if I just take the toolsets of  the two generative music applications that I am personally most familiar with, scape and mixtikl, and I think about the power and choice on offer to create beautiful, or dissonant, generative music, it’s difficult to imagine where things might go next.

the change from bloom to scape was like a quantam leap, and the strange, secret complexity of scape’s hidden “rules” is most impressive.  since it’s been expressed out loud that folk would like a version of scape where they are able to, a) load in their own samples and b) create their own not-hidden “rules”…to which chilvers basically replied that it was very unlikely that eno and chilvers would produce such a thing, simply down to the way the programming had to be done, it’s not readily adaptable to either the use of user-created samples OR users being permitted to set and manipulate “the rules”…so knowing that eno and chilvers won’t do it, it’s my hope that some other enterprising application writer will.

the future: imagine then, if you will, a sort of open-source app that is like scape in design, but with one staggeringly different difference – the samples are created entirely by the user; the rules are written and set by the user, the coloured filters/effects are set by the users – like scape with a mixtikl-like level of control.  that would really be something, and I would imagine too, that the visualisation, regardless if it mirrored the scape “screen” or the mixtikl “visualisation” screen – probably this new super-generative app would allow for either approach – and all the VISUAL content would be user-generated.

this would mean, for example, instead of assembling a scape using the “shapes” the eno and chilvers created and related to a musical event, that multi-media artist/musicians could create entirely unique, and utterly personal, multi-media artworks, where each musical background, and each musical element, relates to a user-created music sample, and all aspects, from the visual design of the artwork, to the relating of the artworks’ elements to sound events, to the final EQ, mixing and filtering – the application of effects – all completely controlled by the user.

sort of an amalgam of mixtikl, bloom and scape, but with complete user control.  maybe no one will build it, but, because somebody asked chilvers the question, and he said no, scape isn’t going that way – then maybe, just maybe someone will pick up the fallen standard and carry it forward to a brave new world of generative music that right now, I can barely imagine, but then, three years ago, I would never have dreamed I would have 100 amazing sound creation applications on a tiny tablet from which I can produce world-class music of not just ambient, but of any time, that I would be able to play my guitar through virtual amps, cabinets and effects in an application such as ampkit+, and that audiobus would revolutionise recording of synths and other sound sources in the ios.

so the whole thing is impossible, so a future with super-generative applications that are far, far, beyond koan, mixtikl (and all it’s “-tikl” brethren, too many to mention!), bloom and scape – is totally and entirely possible – and I will actually be surprised if it DOESN’T happen.

I am continually astonished by what happens in the ios – someone conceives and then invents audiobus – and suddenly, every music app creator worth it’s salt, immediately adds audiobus capability to their apps (the latest entrant, addictive synth – that make me so, so happy, because that is one of my top three favourite ipad synthesizers of all time!) meaning that a huge number of sound producing apps can now be used together under audiobus – which, if you have something like auria or cubasis installed, makes professional multi-track recording a reality, not just for synths and MIDI devices, but also for guitar apps – that is astonishing.  I would never have dreamed, a year ago, that something as clever as audiobus would free us to make recording on the iPad very simple indeed.

a few weeks ago, there were at most, a dozen apps on the input side of audiobus.  today – there are 25, and more being added every day. some music apps have taken audiobus support so seriously, that they have configured their sound-generating app to work in all three audiobus positions – input, effects, output.  that’s dedication!

so when I see growth like that, I can readily imagine that generative music apps might go through similar startling adaptations, and great leaps forward, audiobus-style, which might eventually make the very, very complex and capable mixtikl and scape, seem simple by comparison.  I do not know – I could be wrong – but the ipad’s ios is clearly the place where developers come up with startling, innovative concepts like audiobus, not to mention several miraculously life-like and sound-perfect recreations of classic hardware synthesizers, or incredibly high quality amplifier, speaker, microphone, and effects modelling in a product like ampkit+ or stomp box (my absolute two favourite ipad guitar apps – hands down).

to me, all of that is magic, magic of a high order – and what it’s done for me, since I never had the money to invest in a lot of music hardware, I never could afford a moog of any kind, or a korg, and I absolutely would never have had the money to buy a hardware fairlight! – yet now, I “own” all of those instruments in the incredibly low cost application version – and more importantly, I can now have the experience of creating music with those tools that were always beyond my reach – because I can afford to pay twenty quid for a fairlight, but twenty grand – no 🙂

I think that music making on the ios has already exceeded our collective expectations, but I shiver to think what the future might hold, not just for amazing, super-generative music apps, but for all music-making, not wanting to particularly paraphrase the carpenters here, but I have no choice: we’ve clearly, only just begun.

I can’t wait, I am so, so looking forward to the next five, ten years of music development on the ios.  the sky is the limit!

🙂

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Google, Google + & YouTube – thanks for NOTHING ! Impromptu contest: win a free copy of the “gone native” CD by Dave Stafford.

I am mighty, mighty unhappy with Google, Google Plus, and You Tube.

I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of YEARS, working on setting up seven or eight YouTube channels, each one dedicated to a particular instrument that I play.

So, for example, for the main body of my work, involving guitar, guitar synth, bass, keyboard, synthesizer, and drum machine – it’s my main YouTube channel “pureambientHD“.

For my work with applications, it’s “applicationHD

For my piano and vocal work, it’s “ablackboxHD

For my work with the korg kaossilator, it’s “kaossilatorHD

And so on – a channel for synthesizers –“synthesizerHD” (this is the channel that is damaged), a channel for my scapes – purescapes, a channel for my old band bindlestiff – bindlestiffHD

Each one bore it’s own unique name.  This was intentional, since each one is dedicated to a particular instrument.

Well, today, because I clicked the wrong button in one place, one time – at least one of my channels has lost it’s brand identity, and has been FORCIBLY changed to bear the name “Dave Stafford” INSTEAD OF “synthesizerHD” –  because YouTube has REMOVED the option for me to name my own channel the way I want it (!!!) surely – users should have the CHOICE, the program should NOT be allowed to decide how I name my channel!!!!!!!! that is RIDICULOUS!!!), and instead, inserted an uneditable link to your Google+ account.

I’ve been pushing the button “I don’t want to use my full name” for months when pestered by the GUI, as I try to open and edit my channels.  Today, I meant to press that button again, because, Dear Google, Dear Google+, Dear YouTube, Dear Gigantic Faceless Entity That Obviously Does Not Care – I DO NOT WANT TO USE MY FULL NAME – it makes no sense to have 8 channels all called DAVE STAFFORD !!! – if you don’t know the purpose of the channel.

By accident, I hit the wrong button, and to my everlasting horror, find that not only have you named the channel with the wrong name, but you have done so IRREVERSIBLY!

I like consistency, and now, I am forced into inconsistency and mayhem, thanks to Google making assumptions, and then FORCING a change onto me that I never, ever wanted and have been fighting to STOP for months.

Today, I lost the battle.  So – my apologies to my customers and listeners and subscribers, everywhere: you will no longer find clearly named pages with the exact instrument I play clearly named – instead, SOME of the channels will have their CORRECT names (because Google hasn’t figured out that they are related to the others – yet) and some will just say “Dave Stafford”.

And why is that?  Because once you push (even if accidentally!!!!!!!!!) that button that says “I want to use my full name” – they immediately destroy your two years of work, AND, there is NO WAY TO SWITCH it back, because they don’t give you the option to revert it back to it’s name (as they used to, a few months back).

I’ve seen some pretty big companies do some very, very stupid things, but to my mind – this takes the cake.  Have you ever heard of an inflexible program that doesn’t allow you to revert a change?  That’s poor, poor programming – I am sorry.  YouTube and Google a) should be ashamed of this shoddy level of presumptive programming, that is not considering what the USERS wants and needs, but instead, IMAGINING that for some bizarre reason, I want eight channels all named “Dave Stafford” !! The height of arrogant, blind, stupidity – assuming – and you know what happens when you “ass u me”.

Does anyone out there know of ANY way to sort this out?

I would happily trash/delete my Google plus account, if that would “free” the lock down Google + has put on the names of my YouTube channels, but I fear that it might delete the YouTube channels with it (now that they are linked) – so that may not be an option.

Anyone with any ideas on how I can revert these – please, please get in touch.  Beyond a solution – I suppose all I can do is apologise again, and ask your continued patience – if you search for “synthesizerHD”, you will find the channel, even if it does just say “Dave Stafford” at the top – read the description, and that will have to suffice – each description describes what instruments or types of music are featured on each channel.

I am so frustrated by this, I worked very, very hard on these channels, intentionally designing each one to have a unique musical identity – to give each one a very specific identity, very specific branding for each instrument or style represented, and stupid programming “assumptions” on YouTube/Google’s part, have DESTROYED MY HARD WORK, and RUINED the specific and very intentional branding of at least one of my many YouTube channels.

Any programmer who ASSUMES that every user would AUTOMATICALLY, always, want to overwrite seven or eight unique entities, with a single owner name – is clearly not thinking straight – or is slightly delusional.

ANNOUNCING – THE “SOLVE THE GOOGLE PROBLEM” contest:

OK – here we go – impromptu contest.  Whoever comes up with the first solution, that allows me to control the unique individual naming of every one of my YouTube sites – wins a free copy of my “gone native” CD.

Contest Rules: The first working suggestion sent to pureambient@yahoo.co.uk, specifically, a solution that will let me name my synthesizerHD channel “synthesizerHD”, and break the FORCED LINK to my Google plus account (and, giving ME control over what the name of MY YouTube page is, as a result) – will win a free copy of my “gone native” compact disc.  Entries will be read in order they are received, and each “fix” tried in that same sequence – and when I get one that works – that’s the winner!  One winner only, contest ends when the first working “fix” for the Google Problem is implemented, and “synthesizerHD” is named “synthesizerHD” as was always meant to be.

Good luck – and, thanks in advance for your help!

 

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CONTEST RULES:

It is permissible for Google and YouTube employees to assist me by directly, by fixing the problem, or providing me with a fix – no one is exempt from entering the contest.

Note: any “working solution” must not cause any damage to any of my related YouTube accounts, as that would defeat the purpose 🙂  So a working solution is defined as, any procedure that allows me to change the name of the channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/synthesizerHD without harming that YouTube page, any related YouTube page, or my related Google or Google+ accounts.

Note: contest ends May 1, 2013 even if there are no working suggestions submitted.

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all the best ~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Dave (in sheer frustration at the stupidity of some companies…)