Rhythm Meditations

Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

Brian Eno

Is funny how some things just keep coming back to you. Round and round in a loop, both in your lifetime and often in a single piece of music.

I’m a big fan of Steve Reich. The patient repetition of gestures, the texture like quality of the arrangements, the subtil transformation of states, all this appeals to me and you can find it all along Reichs catalog, so of course I’m sold. 

Early on I became familiar with his phase pieces and it just blew my mind. Starting with Piano Phase and Clapping Music my conception, as a young student, of the possibilities of rhythm expanded.

Fragment of the score of Piano Phase by Steve Reich. 

So fast forward many years and here I am. Still in love with this idea but asking a new question: Can this approach scale? 

Indeed it is a matter of scale since we are now looking into musical gestures with an offset of milliseconds in tempo, the possibility of hundreds of percussion playing unique patterns and generating random variations on command. If software is good for something is for leveraging scale.

Enter the Pure Data programming language. I developed a simple abstraction for Pd that allows for modular sequencing, playing with this took me right where I wanted, complex  results with a simple setup. If you would like to check it out, refer here.

The result is the Rhythm Meditation series. Meditation music may sound lame, but if you focus your attention on slowly rhythmic patterns that merge seamlessly from one to another in a continuum, I guess that that’s what it is. I’m not ashamed to say that it makes great background music for typing away on the keyboard. 

“Traveling Phase” is a simple start for exploring this process. Four wooden percussion instruments maintain a simple pattern and start to drift as the tempo of each instrument varies by milliseconds. 

“Topologies” is a piece made with 50 random patterns, also with a small offset in tempo. The result is a denser texture of waving rhythmic moments. Random stereo panning is added for extra spiciness.

I just want to finish off by saying that I’m excited to come back to this, again and again. More meditations coming soon.

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