I've been a musician for many years. However, I'm always trying to learn something new; that's how I came to play bass, guitar, keys, and drums. But now, I'm exploring the area just beyond the horizon -- software synthesis and composition. For the past few months, I've been learning Csound.
It all began innocently enough, with me exploring the patches on my Nord Lead 2X. As I worked through them, I began to see the patterns, and think of other ways the sounds could be combined. Well, a hardware synth is very convenient, but not exactly trainable ;-)
Csound, I've found, is probably the most powerful synth out there, if only for the huge arsenal of opcodes and options. There are no convenient knobs and switches. But then again, if you notice, the controls in the Space Shuttle aren't exactly the same as the ones on a microwave oven!
Anyway, for me, there was little point in just reading through the manuals from front to back. I started with the opcodes I was interested in, found instruments that used them, then backtracked when I found other interesting ideas out there. By no means am I an expert. I am learning quickly, however, through experimentation.
So here's the current project:
I've been an independent musician since 2006. Recently, I released my fourth album on Jamendo. There was a song on my previous album, La vie sous la mer, called "La vie sous la mer (or, The Mermaid Wife)". Of all the songs I've written, it's my favorite.
And so now, I'm bringing it to life in Csound.
The first step -- I recorded a single chorus of the song through a MIDI sequencer. I have four parts, named for the manuals on a pipe organ:
- P, the bass line.
- I, sparse chordal tones.
- II, the melody.
- III, an "upper pedal", or high drone.
Now, originally, these parts were played on fretless bass (P), Hammond Organ (I and III), and piano (II). The sound I got out of the Hammond was absolutely the best tone I've ever discovered, something I call "inverse pedal" style. I set the lower manual to play a high drone, and the upper to play a rich set of mellow tones. To a piano player, it would seem weird, since the left hand hits the highest notes. But hey, that's why organ beats piano ;-)
I'm trying to create something different in Csound. A while back, I started playing this song on a pipe organ simulator (Aeolus). It sounded great, but would have sounded better if I were Dr. Octopus. You know, it took me a while to learn to play two handed, and I'm not sure if I can make it to four :D
So today, when I was exploring some new territory in Csound, I found a starting place. By accident, I created a sort of 'mwah' sound like a fretless bass, using wave terrain synthesis. A few tweaks, and I had a sort of pipe organ sound as well, one of those village-shaking pipes (a 32' bombarde comes to mind).
And now I have my starting point.
Since I'm still developing the instruments, I've only played through one verse of the song on this one, and that's only the bass part. As I define new instruments, I'll post the next few pieces here. Finally, when it's all ready, I'll post the entire chorus. Maybe if I get really ambitious, the entire piece ;-)
I do owe thanks to Pete Goodeve, for his very timely posting of midi2sco. I tweaked the output a bit in a spreadsheet before I ran with it. That's the nice thing about numeric score files! Where else can you say your sequencer was "OpenOffice Calc"? :D