Silent Night

Merry Christmas! In honor of the 200th anniversary of the writing of the much beloved Christmas carol “Silent Night” I have created an arrangement of the song on the Buchla Synthesizer. To accomplish this I used Logic Pro X to record each individual part in a multi-track project. The noise at the beginning was synthesized using the 266 Source of Uncertainty’s noise generator filtered in sequence using both of the 291’s filter. The arpeggios were made using the 259e Twisted Waveform Generator and the 250 sequencer. The bass part was made using the 259 Complex Waveform Generator’s modulation oscillator filtered at the 291e Triple Morphing Filter using the all input. The melodic and harmonic voices were synthesized using the 259 principal oscillator and the 216 voltage controlled keyboard. The vibrato like effect was made by using the 259’s modulation oscillator as an LFO in the sub-audio range. Its signal output was patched to the FM input on the principal oscillator and only enough voltage was added to the principal oscillator to create a subtle vibrato. The major scale used in the song was tuned using fzero~ in Max/MSP to achieve (rather consonant) just-intonation intervals. Reverb and delays were all processed in Logic. Because this was a multi-track project which used many different variations of one patch I have not provided a picture as on many of my other Buchla pieces.
The ratios used for the scale are as follows: 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 5/3, 15/8, 2/1.

Ritual Dance in a Buchlidian Temple

Ritual Dance in a Buchlidian Temple is my first fully performable patch on the Buchla system without the aid of additional processes inside of Max/MSP (except for fzero~ for tuning and a bit of reverb). The piece is based on a drone and uses a sequence which is primarily built on the Dorian mode, a scale heard in many religious musics worldwide. It is not notated, but instead improvised on a basic formal structure which is predetermined. It begins slowly and gradually builds into a ritualistic dance. The term Buchlidian is one that I have borrowed from Todd Barton and Dr. Robert Coburn, which is used to describe the sonic realm of Buchla instruments. I performed the premiere of this piece during my senior recital at University of the Pacific on November 28th 2018. A screen shot of the simple Max patch used for tuning and reverb is available at the bottom of the post.

Recorded live at Faye Spanos Concert Hall
Produced by Kevin Swenson
Engineered by Professor Jeff Crawford

Sketches of Buchlidia

Sketches of Buchlidia is a piece made up of a series of sound fields performed in succession on the Buchla synthesizer. The general elements of each section were preconceived and rehearsed, but the piece’s performance is primarily the product of improvisation. Buchlidia is an adaptation of the word Buchlidian, used here in reference to an alien and imaginary world.


Notes on the Patch

Here I will describe the methods used to synthesize each of the sections in the piece. A picture of the patch is provided for reference.

  1. The first section begins with a low  A triangle wave on the 259’s Modulation oscillator which is triggered by the third pulse output from the 216 keyboard. By turning the second pot on the 257 Voltage Processor which is connected to the second Fluctuating Random Voltage output from the 266 the oscillator begins to randomly change frequency. This audio signal is the then sent to the 291e where the filter frequency and bandwidth are modulated using the same random voltage. This sound is paired with a pseudo-noise synthesized on the 259e with both wave form selectors set to 6 and CV from row B of the tunable portion of the 216 keyboard changing the frequency. The audio signal of 259e modulation oscillator whose frequency is being modulated using row A of the tunable keyboard is sent to the fm input on the principal oscillator. In addition, CV from the modulation oscillator is sent to three places. First it is sent to the 256 Voltage Adder and then used to modulate the attack time of the fourth envelope generator on the 281. Next it is sent to the second row on the 256 to change the spatial position of the 259e principal oscillators sound. Finally, it is sent to the pulse input for the fluctuating random voltage which is being used to modulate the frequency of the 259’s modulation oscillator as well as its filter settings on the 291e.
  2. The second section is announced by a droning A on the 259 principal oscillator  which is heavily frequency modulated by the 259 modulation oscillator. This is triggered by flipping the trigger switch all the way up on the 281’s second envelope generator.  The sound is made “stable” on A by removing the flow of random voltage used in the first section at the 257. The envelope of the 259 drone is also used as CV to attenuate the timbre modulation of the oscillator.  The 259e principal oscillator’s wave form selectors are then both switched to setting 2 so that the oscillator’s sound now delivers a definite pitch. The same tuning as before is used from row B of the 216 tunable keyboard, but now the pitches are far more obvious. The scale used is as follows in ascending order: A, D, Eb, E, A, Bb, C, E.
  3. The third section is dominated by the 250 Arbitrary Function Generator. The sequence is set to be a continuous seven stage loop. The 259 principal oscillator, now no longer using fm from the audio signal of the modulation oscillator, is now changing frequency according to CV output one from the sequencer. Pulses at each stage are sent to trigger output from the first envelope generator on the 281 producing the rhythm of the sequence. This means that the 259’s principal oscillator is now double gated as the second envelope generator is still set to continuously cycle. The effect is that the 250’s pulses create a continuous pulse which crescendo’s and decrescendo’s. The audio signal of the 259 is then sent to the first input on the 230 envelope follower (set to transient response) which triggers a noise source from the 266. This noise source is filtered at the 291 and it’s filter frequency and bandwidth are modulated using the first Fluctuating Random Voltage output on the  266 creating an interesting percussive effect. Eventually the 259’s modulation oscillator is switched to low mode and frequency modulation on the principal oscillator is reintroduced. After this, audio from the 259’s modulation oscillator as well as from 259e are triggered freely to fill some of the gaps between cycles of the sequence.
  4. The fourth and final section begins with the 259 principal oscillator changing pitch as the result of CV from the 250 sequencer but the sequence is now slowed down by turning the attenuator (receiving CV from the envelope follower) and the voltage offset on the 257 Voltage Processor all the way down. However, the flow of random voltage is reintroduced by turing the second pot on the 257 to the left so that not only is the principal oscillator changing pitch in time with the sequencer, but also being wildly frequency modulated by the audio signal of the 259’s modulation oscillator (still set to low mode) which is itself being frequency modulated by a fluctuating random voltage. Gradually the flow of random voltage is removed and the 259’s principal oscillator begins to once again drone on a very unstable A, going in and out of tune slowly and never really settling. The sensitivity of the envelope follower, which was turned to zero at the for the start of this section so that no noise is allowed to pass through it’s gate at the 292C, is turned up and the pulse response is set to sustained. This section is essentially a inversion of the first in terms of form as it begins with a randomly modulated voltage and ends with a drone.


Buchlidian Landscape no.2

This piece is a meditative drone based composition which features the Buchla analog synthesizer processed in Max/MSP. Individual sounds were layered on top of one another using the record~ object to store sounds in a buffer~. These musical objects were then looped using groove~ to form a psychedelic texture which envelops the listener. Below I will describe the process through which each sound was developed.

Buchla Patch for Buchlidian Landscape no. 2
  1. The first drone to enter on the note G was created using the principal oscillator on the Buchla’s 259 module. This sound was panned hard left and includes timbre modulation on the buchla itself as well as further filtering using the cascade~ object in Max/MSP.
  2. The second drone to enter on the note C was created with the modulation oscillator on the Buchla 259. This sound had minimal processing in Max, and instead it’s interest was generated using the Buchla’s 291E triple morphing filter.
  3. The third and fourth sounds to enter are sequences that were created using the Buchla 259E modules principal and modulation oscillators respectively and tuned to specific intervals from the C harmonic series using the 250 sequencer. Each step in the sequence was triggered using the 216 keyboard pulse function. The two sequences were then delayed in Max using the tapin~ and tapout~ objects, with the random object changing the set delay time so that each iteration of the sequence is different.
  4. The fifth and final sound to be recorded into Max was made using the 259’s principal oscillator tuned to the same pitch as the very first drone. However, the sound was modulated using the the 259 modulation oscillator via the hard-wired modulation switches for pitch and timbre and turning the modulation pot gradually over a period of time fixed by the buffer~ object in Max. Unlike the first sound, this sound was panned hard to both the left and right channels.

List of Intervals for 259E sequences:

Principal Oscillator – 2/1, 6/5,  11/8, 3/2, 6/5, 17/16

Modulation Oscillator – 3/2, 7/4, 2/1, 17/16, 9/8, 31/30


Dance with the Dawn

This piece, inspired in part by Terry Riley‘s Rainbow in Curved Air, consists of 4 continuous tracks layered on top of one another.

Track/Patch 1

The first patch, originally conceived as an attempt at Krell Patching which fell short, became a sort of blanket or foundation for the rest of the piece. It consists of three sound sources: one from the principal oscillator on the 259 and 259e respectively, run into the 292C, as well as a noise source from the 266. The two sounds of the 259 and 259e are somewhat randomized by the 281 as their attack and decay settings are being voltage controlled by various random voltages coming from the 266, as well as pitch and timbre. The noise source is being sent through the filter to produce a pitch approximate to that coming from the two oscillators (when not effected by pitch modulation).

The second patch is a sound source from the 259e which is run through the 250 sequencer. It begins with a loop to stage four, then to five, six, seven, and 8, before returning to only 4 stages of looping at the end of the piece. It is tuned to a series of notes which doesn’t change do-mi-so-te-do-me-fa-fi (in movable do). This provides a rhythmic driving feel for the composition as well as shifts in metric feel. The 291e filter was used to mitigate some of the amplitude issues, by using the adder to reduce the voltage amount as the notes ascend in pitch (wherein they would become too loud relative to the lower notes of the sequence).

The third patch was easiest to produce, and consisted of a single low frequency which is filtered by the 291e using the morphing stages to sweep up and down a fixed range of harmonics using the frequency controls. The 281 and 292 were used to produce its envelope shape.

The fourth and final patch focuses on the 216, used to effect the pitch of a sound-source from the 259’s principal oscillator. The first row of CV’s was used to tune the keyboard to the “blues” scale. Notes of the scale are introduced gradually throughout the piece as they are heard in the sequence generated by the 250 in the second patch. The 281 was used to generate an envelope for the timbre modulation effecting the 259’s principal oscillator. The modulation oscillator is amplitude modulating the principal and a random voltage from the 266 is used to modulate the pitch of the modulation oscillator. A few times in the piece, while I was performing this track (which took many attempts, mind) I turned the pitch modulation pot on the modulation oscillator to produce dissonant and chaotic sounds, usually timed loosely with the low droning pitch of the third patch.

The title is a sort of play on words, as this groovy piece is performed on an instrument designed by the one and only Don Buchla.

Buchlidian Landscape no. 1

Regarding the use of the 250e module in this composition, I used only one simple patch to produce about 10 different sounds. The very first sound, which is heard three times throughout the duration of the piece, is the only one which is not manipulated in some way by the 250e. Basically my process was to set the 250e to loop from 1 to 5 always. Then using the controls for the voltage output I used the CV output 1 in order to modulate the pitch, morph and warp of the 259e in various way, both in combination and independently. I also used the 250e to send CV and pulses out to the 292C with the sound source from the 259e being filtered by the 291e, and run into the 292C.