March 2017 | Fixed Media, Stereo
Structural Muffin is part of a series of artistic collaborations with custom software called Isomer using a process I call spectral deconstruction.
How this process unfolded during the creation of Structural Muffin is described below…
Work on Structural Muffin began with the selection of six chainsaw sound recordings. Often source sounds are chosen for their personal relationship or meaning to the composer, but these recordings were picked solely for their rich harmonic content (vibrant rhythmic activity!) and strong harmonic fundamentals (good for harmony!).
Why six different chainsaw recordings? So that they share sonic (and therefore musical) characteristics when processed by the Isomer software. The hope is that they feel closely related (but not too similar) so that when combined, they form a single, unified musical expression.
One of the most challenging aspects of making music with spectral deconstruction methods is the development of coherent musical form. In a previous work called September 8th, 1987, I solved this problem by choosing source material with a relatively long duration and manually slowing the pacing of musical events. The use of a single source facilitated musical cohesion.
With Structural Muffin, I wanted to develop musical form using sonically-related sources with a short duration that required the use of repeated material. To do this, I used relatively few output layers in the initial presentation of ideas and saved unused layers for the later repetition of material.
I achieved additional variation through orchestration and spatialization. Because the chainsaws start and stop at distinct points in the source recordings, the entrances of musical layers appear close together. Orchestrating with sounds that feature sharp transients and fast decay times provided ample opportunity to vary the resonance and reverberation techniques applied to repeated gestures.
For reasons described above, Structural Muffin was orchestrated with sounds that are struck, plucked, and strummed. The big question during production was — how to effectively alter resonance without always giving away the process?
The answer required the development of synth and reverb patches and some fairly extreme EQ. Specifically, I relied on high-quality emulations of the Roland Jupiter-8 and an Oberheim SEM to shadow some of the foreground material. To create especially “darker” spaces I scooped out higher frequencies from the sources before sending the result through a few choice Lexicon spaces.
Given the high-energy nature of these attack transients, mastering compression required several ritual dances and a highly versatile tool — the Rupert Neve Master Buss Processor. Among other things, this incredible unit provided the necessary sculpting of the mid/side frequencies.