Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So you can play a violin sound, piano, or fantasy!
Where do we draw the line between our imagination and the limitation of the equipment, instruments, and our ability to play them? Is it possible to transcend these limitations.

I recently read an article on synthesizers where someone was asked if ANY sound was possible in synthesis.  The reply was yes. I admit - there are times when I come up with a sound that fully beats all expectations that I had in creating that sound.  In other words, it is beyond my imagination or fantasy.  But then again, there are times when hours of fine tuning and adjustment leads to a sound that falls short of everything I had hoped for. 

I approach synthesis in a very practical, logical, and strategic way.  Maybe it is the engineer in me.  I don't subscribe to the point of view that randomly plugging in things and turning knobs will get you this "wacky" sound.  Each and every patch has a purpose and method and objective.  This is not to say that I don't experiment or try new ideas... but the ideas have an objective and purpose. 

Most all of my experiments start with a question: Sometimes my experiments are things like: "What if I made a through-zero oscillator out of these 2 VCO's into a four-quadrant multiplier out of this VCA and VCF, then modulated a 3rd VCO?" or "What if I take the output of this VCF, run it through a Big Muff, then feed it back into the 2nd input of the VCF and control the phase and gain of the feedback loop" or "What if I build a stringed instrument that uses chimes for sympathetic vibration, but the main pickup is closer to the chimes than to the strings?"  Maybe with this kind of logical experimentation, there is not room for a "fantasy" sound.  Maybe the search is on, and I need to determine what I fanasize about. 

My current fantasy, musically, is not a sound, but a keyboard controller...  one that looks like a piano keyboard with maybe a couple octaves of keys that move up and down, but also slightly side to side and forward and backward.  Each key would spring back to a stable central position when not touched.  This keyboard would respond not only to velocity and note on/note off but also wiggle movement side to side, wiggle movement backwards and forwards, aftertouch/pressure, finger surface area, and finger position along the length of the key!  This is very posible with the technology available with modern accelerometers and cap-sensative switching, but is a mechanical engineering nightmare and would require a lot of planning, clever layout, and coding of multiple microprocessors.

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