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In the World of Grains - Part 12

granular synthesis

(= part 16 of all articles about sonic grains).

Some Notes about Composing with Grains

Techniques and cross-compositional resources:

There are different ways to come to grips with the immense amount of grains and their individual parameters, but most of them have one strategy in common: the use of tendency masks.

tendency mask

 These set evolving borders, meaning upper and lower values, between which the parameter in question may change randomly. Each change is unpredictably random, but the entirety of changes along the time axis follows a tendecy set by the evolving upper and lower borders. 


I try a bottom-up approach taking a certain number of grains with different frequency content, layer them, and compose the volume envelope of each of these grains, then using the such constructed cluster to serve as a higher-order element, which itelf can be layered, sustaining the structure of the applied envelopes, but using different grains with different spectral content for setting up the next cluster,

or whether

I prefer a top-down strategy setting the structure of my whole piece, then developing more and more details going deeper level after level,

tendency masks are useful tools to deal with huge amounts of parameters, as they relieve me from setting the sonic parameters for every and each of the hundreds of thousands of grains I´m using.

Tendency masks may not seem that essential, when I prefer a more process led approach, starting somewhere and somehow with my composition, and see, where each next step will lead me, and deciding at each step, whether or not the result is suitable or likeable.

granular composition

Another strategy surrenders seeing how vast the number of individual grains in a composition is, grains, each of which carries a couple of sonic parameters. Instead of attempting a consistent bottom-to-top approach the composer takes either a stream of real world sounds, runs it through a granular processor, which operates according to pre-defined or live manipulated algorithms, records the results, and uses pieces of these recordings to set up the actual composition,


uses pre-produced pieces of sound containing more or less categorized kinds of “macro-clusters”.

Let me mention a special technique, which Barry Truax talks about in “Interacting with Inner and Outer Complexity”. It´s about gaining new sonic material out of existing grains, by convolving, what is a kind of filtering the sonic content of a grain through the content of another grain, emphasizing those spectral components, which are existent in both grains. Let´s listen to the master himself: “... Normally when one convolves continuous sounds together, the result is a smeared and quite blurred texture, but because these sounds were comprised of numerous impulses (Truax is talking about “Riverrun” here), the results of the convolution were highly detailed and well defined...”

to be continued

to part 1: ("A Short History of Granular Synthesis - Part 1"):https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/340

to part 2: ("A Short History of Granular Synthesis - Part 2"): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/342

to part 3: ("A Short History of Granular Synthesis - Part 3"): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/346

to part 4: ("A Short History of Granular Synthesis - Part 4"): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/356

to part 5 ("In the World of Grains - Part 1"): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/364

to part 6 ("In the World of Grains - Part 2"): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/373

to part 7 (“In the World of Grains – Part 3”): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/378

to part 8: (“In the World of Grains – Part 4”): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/385

to part 9: (“In the World of Grains – Part 5”): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/390

to part 10: (“In the World of Grains – Part 6”): https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/398

to part 11: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/407

to part 12: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/414

to part 13: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/421

TO PART 14: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/483

TO PART 15: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/486

to part 17: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/494



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