Brian Eno should be proud. Generative sequencing – making lovely, shimmering music mapped to pleasant-sounding modes – is totally in this season.
At top, exhibit A: Aura Flux, a new iOS ambient music generator. Priced at US$1.99, it nonetheless packs some 48 different instruments, ambient sounds, four keys, save/load capability, and multitasking support. Sequences are arrayed into editable nodes: touch and explore, or tweak specific settings like pulse speed and decay, trigger rates, and pitch to get the results you want.
Generative music has a key advantage for mobile devices, too: it doesn’t take up as much space. In the case of Aura Flux, the whole thing fits in 8 MB.
Apart from the lovely-sounding tunes, what you get is, notably, also more rhythmically complex than in more traditional sequencers, owing to the open-ended manipulation of nodes across the two-dimensional surface. That’s a prime difference between Aura Flux and some of the similar sounds that came out of Yamaha’s Tenori-On; with the exception of a mode or two, Toshio Iwai’s design was intentionally grid-focused, for more minimal, symmetrical rhythms.
In another take on alternative sequencers, our friend Ted Hayes has presented a new video of his Neurohedron. Rather than array steps across a series of rows, as sequencers have done since the days of the Moog Modular (or earlier), steps follow the faces of a dodecahedron, allowing non-linear progression through tones. Ted showed this project at our own Handmade Music in August, as a couple of us accompanied him on piano, as well as on the In/Out Festival. The patch is Pd/Pure Data.
In a way, you can think of the looped step sequencer as a circle — it progresses from the last step back to the first step. In this case, you take that one-dimensional loop and allow it to branch in two dimensions around the faces of the dodecahedron. People are definitely awed by the sculptural aspect of this when they see it in person. Let us know if you have specific questions for Ted and I’ll see if he’ll answer them for us.