Spheres

Completed: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 (Download)

Composing an ambient track is a very soothing experience for me. There’s complexity, experimentation, and simplicity, and I find that my mood is sharpened, made clearer, in the writing.

This is how I’m feeling.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Nightfall

Composed: Monday, August 18, 2008 (Download)

A companion piece to “Drifting”. Also in 7/8, with many of the same stylistic elements. It’s much more brooding, however, and simpler in its execution.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Drifting

Composed: Sunday, May 11, 2008 (Download)

Dawn. Another day at sea. He’s lost count how many days it’s been. Fifteen? Sixteen? Not much water left now.

He lies on his back in the lifeboat, listening to the rhythm of the boat: the splash of the waves, the idle flapping of the hastily rigged sail, the ropes on the mast.

The sun climbs higher.

His vacant eyes stare up at the harsh blue sky, the angry white of the sun burning his pupils unnoticed. An albatross hangs in the air in the distance, turns towards him, circles his boat.

The hours pass, and the albatross is gone. Just him, the sun, and the rhythm of the boat.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Energy

A musical project.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is atonal. I did initially work with a fixed key (E minor, in fact), and experimented with a variety of other keys, too; everything from simple triads to pentatonics, seventeen tone equal temperaments, and even a completely random set of frequencies, but overall, I think that a three octave span of twelve tone equal temperament frequencies is the most effective.

The sounds are generated on-the-fly; they are simple sine waves with a decay. Internally, the x-coordinates of the particles are broken into a series of ‘frequency bars’. Particles move along, building up energy, and eventually release this energy as a musical tone; the frequency is determined by the bar they are in. The frequencies are randomised.

Left clicking will create a ‘beat-particle’ for the frequency bar under the cursor. These particles will emit a tone every 2, 4, or 8 quantisations. Right clicking creates a ‘pulse-particle’, which emits a tone every x quantisations, where x is randomly determined.

Also in the code, but not enabled in the applet, are ‘orbit particles’ – these are the same as normal particles, but they choose a normal particle to follow as quickly as their current energy level will allow them to. They have a 5% chance of changing their target every tick.

If you run the applet, you will probably notice that the audio and the visuals are not perfectly in sync; unfortunately, this is a drawback of the Java sound API in conjunction with all of the maths and rendering going on every drawing cycle (at around 60 frames per second).

Download a post-processed MP3 created using this applet

View the minimal atonal applet (and source)

View the full applet (in E minor, no source)