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Generative Music and Ambient Music - a good fit?

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  • Generative Music and Ambient Music - a good fit?

    I've seen a couple of references to generative music, in particular Noatikl, and I was thinking it would make a good subject for a thread. What are your thoughts? Is it 'cheating'? Is it tailor-made for Ambient?
    Speaking for myself I found the concept really interesting but I was pretty wary about using it. Of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I tried a demo of Nodal (http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~cema/nodal/) - I found there was plenty of scope for human intervention, so that it doesn't have to be some kind of automatic music generator. In fact the first track I made with Nodal I felt was good enough to post to Soundcloud (it's called 'O My Stars' but I won't link to it here, it's quite a long track) So, I'm an enthusiastic convert
    The new version of Noatikl (http://www.intermorphic.com/) has seen quite a big drop in price (particularly from it's daddy, Koan), so I now own that too...It's a steeper learning curve (if you want to get the most out of it) than Nodal because it's a less visual approach, and also because it's (IMO) more powerful in terms of there being more scope to 'steer' the generated music.
    My next album is going to be 100% Ambient, as I mentioned elsewhere, and I'm currently considering whether to make it 100% generative. The possibilities of using Nodal and Noatikl on the same track, possibly even interacting, have me stroking my chin and saying 'hmmmm' distractedly :D
    My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
    Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

  • #2
    I think it fits.

    If you can automate settings, all the better.

    it's not quite the same thing, but I've been planning on using DRONE-E for Reaktor on my next album, so I don't see it as a problem to use any interesting tool that you can for Ambient music.

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    • #3
      I don't think generative music is cheating. It's like a friend gives you some midifiles and challenges you to make a song out of it.

      Using generative tools isn't more cheating than using synth presets.
      http://silentfrill.bandcamp.com/

      https://manducator.bandcamp.com/

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      • #4
        I agree that it's not cheating, but something always made me ...suspicious...for lack of a better word, of generative music software.

        I messed about with the Koan player in the late 90's (or early 00's..I am getting old and the past all blends - lol) and something felt a bit unsatisfying about the process. To me it seemed to be taking the artist out of the process, in a way. Just my POV as a user of generative software, and I certainly don't feel as if people using it are being less creative or anything like that. It has been a while and things have probably changed a lot since then.

        It sounds like the stripped down version I messed with many years ago is different than what you are talking about, with much more input. I wasn't even able to construct my own seeds, just tweak a handful of parameters. It may be time to look back into this sort of tool.

        EDIT: looking at the site you referenced, it looks like a really neat tool, and much different than what I was demoing back in the last century. At $50 bucks, seems like something worth getting!
        Last edited by aoVI; 11-23-2012, 02:35 AM.

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        • #5
          I don't think it's cheating either but, like ontol, don't personally find it very satisfying. Playing around and grabbing odd phrases is fun but generating a whole piece generatively? Not for me. Maybe I'm a control freak who needs to be able to say 'I' composed a piece. ;)

          I guess there's some big discussion to be had about how any piece of music is created; some people decry arpeggiators on synths as cheating, other piano rolls and anything not performed manually. If you don't use generative tools but play (or construct on a piano roll) your melodies (or ambinet equivalent...) then where do they come from? Some mix of the theory you know against the 'inspiration' knocking around in your head? <shrug>

          We had the radio on last night and a Blues show came on and it struck me that virtually every song played, I could kind of hum along to even though I'd never heard any of them before. They were that predictable, same progressions and changes as a billion other tunes. Not necessarily a bad thing as that's what the blues is about (not the structure but the performance) but interesting to compare this to notions of generative music; rules governing the music you make whether 'internal' or in software.
          Latest release: never to be repeated

          Hearthis | Soundcloud

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          • #6
            Originally posted by GaryG View Post
            ...We had the radio on last night and a Blues show came on and it struck me that virtually every song played, I could kind of hum along to even though I'd never heard any of them before. They were that predictable, same progressions and changes as a billion other tunes. Not necessarily a bad thing as that's what the blues is about (not the structure but the performance) but interesting to compare this to notions of generative music; rules governing the music you make whether 'internal' or in software.
            That's a very interesting notion, and one of the things I like about Noatikl is the way you can limit the generation process, so that it will only operate within the rules which you specify. I suppose the acid test would be to see if you could tie down a generative composition to such an extent that it came out the same way every time you pressed 'Play'! If you could do that, the generative program is more like an instrument, so you could justify your claim to be the sole composer :D
            My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
            Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

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            • #7
              I think generative music can be good, but not the kind that is just a loop of something like GaryG is referring to above - if it's predictable and repetitive then it doesn't work for me.

              I like the kind of thing that can be done with granular tools that take something and twist it into something new.

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              • #8
                I think generative music tools are nothing suspicious in musician's worskhop. Think about that way: while creating electronic music in "classic way" you SELECT some presets, you SELECT some samples/soundfonts, them you manually SELECT detailed settings. After all, all you did is the selection from immense number of possible settings combinations in your instrument(s). This is something similar to sculptor's work in stone, who selects which piece of stone remains and which one will be removed.

                Now let some randomizer or randomness-driven generative rules do all selections for you. If you let this random patch survive, this is your choice driven by your intimate reaction to this output and this choice is projection of your internal life - finally this is YOUR piece, because in some way it was playing in your mind before it touched your ears... And the most beautiful in this is fact, that you can produce something "spiritually yours", which couldn't reach the surface of your mind during "manual" composition work. If you set all generative rules in advance, this will be your composition, without a doubt - "my rules, my music". Composer creates generative rules, being some kind of "boundary conditions" - this is the "soul" he put in composition - and random parameters or set of all possible parameter combinations are "filtered" by these generative rules - this is the "body".
                I see this process as "substractive composition"

                And I think it is rather rare for someone to use some kind "generate song" button and rush with output to put it on SoundCloud. Generative music requires additional processing to become fit with someone's idea. I can speak for myself, because many elements of my music comes from randomized/generative/automated sources and I always do a lot of subsequent processing to convert "ready-made" material and place it in final composition.

                And if we talk about algorithmic composition, there are tools dedicated to this approach:

                HG Fortune released three "soundmachines", which are kind of instruments dedicated both to ambient music and automated/generative music creation.
                They are GhostMachine, ScapesWizard2, and DreamMachine3. I've used DreamMachine3 to create deep backgrounds for few of my tracks. ScapesWizard2 is fine for ambient, too.

                M-RGT instruments have automation and randomization features as well.


                Thanks for interesting subject to think about
                SoundCloud // FreeSound // Twitter
                Get exposure for your electronic music through WEATNU.COM independent promotion network.
                "Shortwave" - collaboration album with Ager Sonus

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MetaDronos View Post
                  I think generative music tools are nothing suspicious in musician's worskhop.
                  Couldn't agree more!!!

                  Originally posted by MetaDronos View Post
                  And I think it is rather rare for someone to use some kind "generate song" button and rush with output to put it on SoundCloud. Generative music requires additional processing to become fit with someone's idea. I can speak for myself, because many elements of my music comes from randomized/generative/automated sources and I always do a lot of subsequent processing to convert "ready-made" material and place it in final composition.
                  Well said. I often use randomly generated harmonic scales/sequences in my tracks but they are always VERY specific to the composition.

                  Originally posted by MetaDronos View Post
                  M-RGT instruments have automation and randomization features as well.
                  And the developer is an ambient online member!!! :D Cheers Bobbotov!
                  Synphaera Records
                  Space | Time | Matter

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                  • #10
                    My views on these sorts of tools have changed being more exposed to them.

                    Although my Koan experience over a decade ago was unsatisfying, I have since purchased and worked with some newer generative tools like M-RGT's PsyGen and Ambitron, and produced results I felt I did have a substantial input in creating. It was this very thread that got me looking back into generative tools.


                    The problem I had with the first versions of Koan and other early generative tools was too little input or control--I felt like I was creating using something like this:


                    But times (and my own POV) have changed indeed.

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                    • #11
                      I just got the H.G. Fortune soundset for my Blofeld! Anyway... the H.G. Fortune synthesizers are great, as are the instruments from M-RGT. Noatikl is interesting too... and Nodal. I don't think any of them are 'cheating' at all. They're just tools like anything else. Perhaps slightly different tools than some of us might be used to, but tools nonetheless.

                      Sure you can shape what gets created with these and you can even choose your desired level of input... and what you do with the result. I think it can be fun to sometimes let something like Noatikl, for example, run and do its thing and then use that as a springboard to further manipulation, or as a foundation for something further.

                      Yeah, just repeating the same single loop over and over can be boring. But sequencers can potentially be boring as well for the same reason.

                      But not the the process of looping itself. Looping can be an art unto itself and I've heard some awesome music being created by people being super creative with their looping devices. Boss had that looping competition a couple years ago and people were doing some awesome things with looping, and a couple of my favorite ambient artists use looping as well. I mentioned in the other thread the other day things like Ambiloop on the software side and Looperlative on the hardware side. Looping is a phenomenal tool especially for live performance!

                      It's all good, imo. These are all things that are worthy of being in the ambient toolkit and are there to be used if you choose.
                      Last edited by Nemo; 02-27-2013, 12:47 AM.
                      My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sequent7

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                      • #12
                        I have both Mixtikl & Noatikl, and for the most part I find using them is fun I still feel a bit indifferent about putting out full works just with using them. Of course this might change for me since you really can get some very interesting stuff while using algorithmic stuff. Also I was thinking of maybe doing a 100% algorithmic Dark ambient / Glitch / Industrial album at some point too.

                        I have so many projects that I would like to do..
                        -=| (Youtube)|(Bandcamp)|(Ambient Online Forums)|=-

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                        • #13
                          This is a track I made using Noatikl -- https://soundcloud.com/toaster-1/we-...-dead-and-drew, it was about the fifth 'pass' I made with it; I think it's capable of doing some cool stuff.

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                          • #14
                            BUMP! - with interesting instruments and another interesting instruments

                            Disclaimer: I didn't tested those - I just give a coordinates ;)
                            SoundCloud // FreeSound // Twitter
                            Get exposure for your electronic music through WEATNU.COM independent promotion network.
                            "Shortwave" - collaboration album with Ager Sonus

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                            • #15
                              One can see use of generative techniques as use of building materials on construction site.
                              You are still architect, but with access to brick generator, marble generator, cement generator
                              and so on... You compose you construction from "generative bricks". Today you need dark
                              marble, so tune your generator and get it. Another day you need bricks and mortar - different
                              generator will supply it.
                              I never hesitate to use such materials in my tracks. And when I really really need to build some
                              sound starting from nothing, then I refer to SynthMaster (and I will refer to Alchemy, too).
                              SoundCloud // FreeSound // Twitter
                              Get exposure for your electronic music through WEATNU.COM independent promotion network.
                              "Shortwave" - collaboration album with Ager Sonus

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