Ambient Explorations 4

Here’s a little story about how this track came into existence. The end of March was a little bit foggy and rainy, and I was looking for something dark to follow on the descend I mad in Ambient Explorations 3. I started browsing for some material on my old scores and found a score for “Good Vibrations” from the California Beach Boys. I do concede this is not the first thing that comes to mind when searching for inspiration for an Ambient piece, but I went for it anyway and took the first few notes (“I, I love the colourful clothes she wears…“) this amounted to D, a whole lot of A’s, D, F, G, C C and D again, which I laid out in whole notes on the top voice. I then did a small two-voice counterpoint on top of that (actually, bellow that).

The 3-voice counterpoint sounded ok on the piano, but it was only about 20 second long and I needed something a lot longer. So I made a MIDI file with the notes, imported it into Ardour and changed the tempo to 20bpm. I also had to triple the score, making the approximately 7 minutes I has. At this point, I could just send the MIDI tracks to a softsynth and be done with it. But I do like to play my pieces, as it gives me the chance to improvise a little bit and give them some interest. Also, how hard could it be to play whole notes at 20bpm?

Well, it turns out playing such long notes is much more difficult that playing at a normal pace, lets say, at about 100bpm. The metronome clicks are so far apart, I ended up losing track of the time count… I could have used a smaller division on the metronome, but even so, the number of clicks I had to count. The only sensible way to do this was to import a clap sample into ardour, and create what I called “the cue track”: basically a smaller division of the metronome that would play only on the 4 subdivisions before I had to change a note. It worked like a charm, although I had to make extended stops between voices to change the arrangement of the cue track. However, this is what you get when you try to do medieval polyphony, at 20 bpm with a monophonic synth… ;) That being said, the strings track made on the Streichfett was also done in this manner, but it is more of an improvisation on top of the counterpoint chords.

The rest of the work is just the KO2 playing the opening drones and the occasional siren, as well as a continuous pump noise (also at 20bpm), which I recorded on a separate track and pushed it volume down to be almost imperceptive. You can barely hear it if you don’t search for it, but playing the piece with this track gives a subconscious sense of rhythm I could not find when I muted the noise track.