February Harmonitronica

Introducing … harmonitronica. As some of you may remember, I was experimenting with some electronica approaches last year, and I’ll be going much farther in that direction this year. I started writing this song and programming the drum loop last night, then recorded a synth drone today (more about that in a moment). After that, it was all harmonica and vocals. I spent much more time on it than I’d planned, but I like it, although it’s not what I’d call musical.

The lyrics are somewhat incidental, but more prosaic in origin than they might sound. The jam I run on Sundays is in a bar with a fireplace, and on many Sunday nights, I am, in fact, smelling like smoke. And I was waiting up for a phone call last night … from my main consulting client, to let me know whether or not to launch a new web site.

Oh, and the synthesizer part … that’s my Droid. Yes, I’m playing my phone. It’s got an interesting little synth application, which lets you program some parameters to follow the physical motion of the phone. So I basically built a weird patch, then recorded it playing a single note, while waving it around like a nut case. That track runs through almost the entire song, alongside the higher-pitched weird thing which is actually a small piece of the opening harmonica wail, looped. You’ll probably hear more from the Droid as well as my iPod Touch and, of course, the vintage analog synthesizer I bought in Tucson at Christmas.

Above is a photo of my music setup for FAWM this year, right by the window. I’ll talk more about the effects rig on the floor, but that’s where most of the harmonitronicking happens. I’m using the Zoom H4N as an audio interface for the laptop (it doubles as a room mic, which is useful, although not for this stuff).

More songs to come. But now, sleep.

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7 Responses to February Harmonitronica

  1. doodlegoat says:

    I was thinking about making music by waving around like a nutcase, which Lev Theremin explored eighty years ago. Apparently there are no Theremin apps for Android yet. Depending on how nutty or aleatoric you want to get, you might look at these:


    • ken says:

      You know, I own a theremin. I took it out and set it up a few weeks ago and it will probably find its way into a February song. But let me tell you, you can’t wave your arms like a nutcase with it. It’s very sensitive; if you watch his wife playing it, you’ll see how carefully controlled her movements are. My biggest problem with it is making musical, as opposed to weird, noises.

      There’s no theremin app for the iPod or Droid, by the way, because they don’t have the necessary sensors. The theremin senses proxmity, not motion, and it’s very physical in a sense, even though it’s the only instrument meant to be played without touching it. So those apps aren’t theremins, just various methods of using haptics to change sound. Which isn’t to say some of them might not be fun and I will definitely try out The Voice.

      And for aleatoric music (yes, Chris, you’re one of the few people who can send me to the dictionary regularly), I’ve been spending a lot of time with Noatikl and Lua. There’s also a very interesting synth for the iPod, Jasuto Pro, which lets you assign any parameter to the haptic sensor. It’s vastly more powerful than the Droid app, but takes longer to program. Noatikl and iDrum (which I used to program the drum loops) also have iPod apps which means I can compose on the subway. I’ve also been using the Droid app uLoops for that. which is basically a sequencer.

  2. trishalynn says:

    Confused… is there a second song yet or are you teasing us with the notion of one?

  3. Which link do I click on to actually hear the song?

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