Improvisation #89 for Poly Evolver Keyboard

Since my last recording, I’ve made a few changes. I sold one Prophet ’08 Keyboard, the Evolver Desktop, and the Nanoverb 2. From now on, instead of the Evolver, a Prophet ’08 Module will be the sound source for the Hammond pedal board.

I recently bought a Tascam DR-100 MKIII portable digital recorder, which has a substantially better audio quality than the Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II I had been using for the last several years. The new unit is intuitive enough so that even I have been able to use it with little difficulty!  Still, I’m sure I’ll become more proficient with it over time.  This piece is my first posted experiment with it.

My previous recording arrangement left much to be desired. I was especially dissatisfied with the boominess created when soft deep dark tones were used, especially with square waveforms. This simple and slow improvisation was meant merely to test such tones. I believe the new Tascam is a definite improvement, and it opens up the all-important opportunity to reach the audio quality required for serious sites where music is posted and sold.

Last of all, I’ve changed the channel name from “Sacred Synthesis” to “The Musical Synthesizer,” to match the blog.  The old name carried some unwanted associations I wasn’t aware of when I first chose it.

Instrumentation:
DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
DSI Poly Evolver Rack

Effects:
Reverb from Lexicon MX300

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam DR-100 MKIII Linear PCM Recorder

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2019

Advertisements

Mystery

This improvisation was an attempt to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

At first, it sounds as if I’m using a standard soft string patch, but it’s actually something very different. There are no sustained notes in the piece, accept for the bass line. From beginning to end, I’m playing two-handed arpeggios on a Prophet ’08 patch having a very slow attack, a very long release, and a slow LFO-modulated 2-pole filter sweep that is allowed to overtake the music only when the notes are played more slowly. This, together with the constantly running together of notes, hopefully gives the music a rolling suspenseful quality. Consider listening to it at a low volume level. It adds to the mysteriousness.

Incidentally, for the first 1 1/2 minutes, there is a soft dull distortion. Presumably, this is the P’08’s VCA clicking, due to the long envelope settings and the rapid note-playing. Such are analog synthesizers!

The piece is all Prophet ’08, from top to bottom.

+T+

Instrumentation:
DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard
DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Macabre

Continuing with the same project, this piece is intended to express a mixture of fear, confusion, and confinement. I must admit that I don’t like the term “dark” and don’t want to devote myself on any level or to any degree to depicting darkness through music. I far prefer the Light. Then again, there are evils in the world that deserve nothing better than that miserable term, for they are, truly, from the darkness.

I’ve chosen the word “macabre” to better describe the present piece. It’s meant to musically depict the combination of an evil deed followed by deep remorse. This is what I find redeeming in the whole project – the twofold affirmation of moral evil and a guilty conscience.

The main patch is played on the Prophet ’08, and consists of a wide slowly twisting pulse width modulation, together with a small amount of slow filter modulation. The combined effect at times sounds like phase shifting; but no, it’s pure synthesizer programming. A second sound is played on another Prophet ’08, and provides only an occasional nerve-racking nasal pitch bend. The improvisation also makes use of the Poly Evolver’s wonderful choir patch, which I’ve tried to use more subtly than overtly.

The improvisation was a challenge to perform, since it required many changes to sounds while being played.

+T+

Instrumentation:
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Rack
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard (2)
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Melancholy II

This piece is intended merely to set a subdued atmosphere of wandering melancholy. It was restricted to soft tones primarily in a low register and with slow movement. The Poly Evolver Keyboard offers a soft swirling digital pad, and the Prophet ’08’s provide a string patch and a mellow solo brass tone.

+T+

Instrumentation:
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Rack
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard (2)
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Improvisation #87 for Prophet ’08

This is a second piece based on the same ideas as #86 below, only using an analog string patch, rather than a digital pad. All the music was played on a single Prophet ’08 Keyboard, supplemented by a P’08 Module. The bass was produced on a second P’08 Module. So, 100% Prophet ’08!

+T+

Instrumentation:
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Improvisation #86 for Poly Evolver Keyboard

For a particular project, I was asked to create several segments of music, including three approximately ten-minute soft, dark, and somber pieces. This improvisation is the first – a sort of warm-up – and the others will follow, using the same theme and others as well.

Because the patch is dull and slightly caustic, it sounds overly “boomy” when played through mediocre computer speakers. It does sound much cleaner through head phones or decent stereo speakers. Otherwise, it may sound best at a lower volume.

The single patch used in this piece came from the eight-voice Poly Evolver. It was played entirely on the one keyboard; no pedalboard was used for the bass.

+T+

Instrumentation:
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Rack

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Improvisation #85 for Poly Evolver Keyboard and Prophet ’08

This improvisation begins with a gentle digital pad from the Poly Evolver Keyboard that is occasionally broadened into a rather caustic timbre by opening the filter with the modulation wheel. The main melody is played on a Prophet ’08 having a bi-timbral sound; one layer is a dark square tone with a moderately slow attack, and the other is a bright high-pitched percussive tone like that of a triangle instrument. Contrasts often make for fine distinctive layered combinations, but you can easily spend hours searching for the right combinations. The second Prophet ’08 provides a soft square pad. And of course, the conclusion of the piece is played on the classic PWM brass patch of a Prophet ’08 Keyboard coupled with a Prophet ’08 Module. Nothing says “brass” like a P’08.

The music is obviously an undeveloped sketch – just the beginning of a piece of music. But I often use YouTube as a sort of musical notebook for making rough-draft recordings from which more mature pieces can later be developed. So, this is just a crude outline with a few experiments in timbral contrasts.

+T+

Instrumentation:
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
Sequential/DSI Poly Evolver Rack
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard (2)
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
Sequential/DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Improvisation #84 for Poly Evolver Keyboard and Prophet ’08

This improvisation uses a choir patch from the Poly Evolver Keyboard for both melodic and harmonic applications. It’s an opportunity to hear how well the patch serves for single lines, rather than only the typical immense triads.

The Prophet ’08’s accompany the PEK or play solo, using either a reed organ patch or a bi-timbral patch having a dark flute chorus on one layer and a mixture of swirling shrill tones on the other. The latter layer is processed with an abundance of reverb to soften its shrillness, and to make it sound more dreamy. This is one of the obvious advantages of using the Output B jacks – the layers can be differently panned and processed. In addition, the volume of the mixture layer is altered at the mixer while I play, so that the Layer B increases in volume as the piece progresses.

+T+

Instrumentation:
DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
DSI Poly Evolver Rack
DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard (2)
DSI Prophet ’08 Module

Bass:
DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Midsummer Meditation I

I composed this piece in three days, but it took at least a month of practicing before I could record it. The difficulty is that it requires a complete change of body position on the organ bench in the middle of the piece, just before the bass comes in. It’s not hard to play, but it’s a challenge while you’re moving around!

The main patch comes from the Poly Evolver. I’ve named it “CP 70 Piano,” and I hope it will be obvious why. It’s wonderful for solo playing, but the upper third of the keyboard range has such digital aliasing that it’s mostly unusable. The triangle-like and slow PWM patches both come from Prophet ’08s.

The only change in equipment in this piece is that I’ve used a Prophet ’08 Module for the bass, rather than the usual Evolver Desktop. The parameter-rich P’08 panel is so much easier to use than the Evolver’s matrix, and this is especially important for a somewhat elaborate patch, such as the one I’ve used in this piece.  The filter is set to slowly open and close by means of an LFO.

+T+

Instrumentation:
DSI Prophet ’08 Keyboard (2)
DSI Prophet ’08 Module (2)
DSI Poly Evolver Keyboard
DSI Poly Evolver Rack

Bass:
DSI Prophet ’08 Module
Hammond XPK 200L Pedalboard

Effects:
Lexicon MX300 for reverb

Performed live and recorded directly to a Tascam CD-RW900 Mk II.

ALL MUSIC PROPERTY OF SACRED SYNTHESIS 2018

Natural Synthesis

OrchestraOne objective that is common to perhaps every patch I design is to create a minimally electronic-sounding  character.  Failure consists of making a synthesizer scream, “I’m a synthesizer!”  Rather, my goal is to make the synthesizer sound similar to acoustic instruments, such as strings, brass, and reeds, or even better, lungs and throats.  I strive to achieve a heaving breathing effect, so that the synthesizer has a living and organically dynamic personality, much like an orchestra or a choir.  This effect obviously wouldn’t suit organ, harpsichord, chime, or piano patches, but it’s something I consistently strive for, even when a particular patch has no relation to a traditional instrument or ensemble.

First, there’s one challenge.  Because most often both my hands and feet are occupied playing keyboards and the pedalboard all at once, I don’t have the luxury of easily manipulating parameters to achieve the effect.  The one exception is in awkwardly stretching a finger of my left hand to move the modulation wheel, which is often programmed to open the filter cut off frequency.  This allows me to make dynamic changes, but only with some difficulty, since the other fingers of the left hand are probably busy playing a musical line or sustaining chords.

The solution to achieving a natural heaving breathing quality comes through two-fold modulation.  In designing, for example, a string patch or even an icy digital pad with a living character, I will add just a touch of filter modulation to the envelope.  The attack phase will slightly and slowly open the filter, and then slowly close it with the decay all the way down to the sustain level.  That method is common enough, but more importantly, I use an LFO as well.  The heaving effect comes by setting an LFO to very slowly open and close the filter a moderate amount.  On the Poly Evolver Keyboard and Prophet ’08, this means setting the LFO rate to 8-12 and the amount/depth to 10-20, depending on the needs of the piece of music.  The LFO also has to be set to retrigger all the voices with each key strike using the “Key Sync” button.  Thus, when you sustain a chord for several seconds, the voices will “heave,” giving a living breathing effect.  This constant but gentle swelling of the filter gives a piece of music a beautifully subtle modulating dynamic that can be controlled by playing technique.  If you want the swell, then simply sustain a note or chord; if you don’t want it, then keep retriggering the note or chord.  This will prevent the filter from having enough time to open.

What is so useful about this method is that it allows you to have dynamic changes throughout a piece of music, even when your hands and feet are constantly engaged and, therefore, unable to manipulate a wheel, parameter, or pedal.  So, it’s essential for the one-man-ensemble arrangement.

I use this sound design method in nearly every polyphonic patch, and many of the monophonic ones as well.  The fact is, acoustic instruments and the human voice are not static sound sources; they have natural fluctuations, and also interact with other acoustic influences.  My objective with this technique is to imitate this complexity in order to eliminate, as best I can, the inherently sterile electronic qualities of the synthesizer.