Source code for Christmawave – what segment do I play next?

Previously, I talked about the method I used for creating the Christmaswave pieces and the issues this raises. My last post answered the questions ‘What sample am I going to play?’ and ‘How many times am I going to divide it in half?’ and, alas, the answer for the latter of those was hopelessly over complicated. Doing everything in terms of powers of two was not always a good approach, even for this project. Some songs are in 3/4 time and won’t do well with these divisions. Also, a lot of Christmas classics are performed in a jazz style and thus have a strong triplet feel. Play any Bing Crosby Christmas song at 1/2 speed and the swing becomes extremely apparent. It becomes ludicrously strongly swung at quarter speed. Well, get back to these issues a bit later on.

Once it’s chopped into little (or not-so-little) pieces, which one of them am I going to play?


Over the course of the album, I tried a few approaches. For several of the songs, I just picked randomly. This did work, but this means that some runs of the code come out with much better results than other runs of the code. Random number generators in The Santopticon (He Sees You) meant I had to try recording that piece 14 times before I found the version I wanted to use.

In order

Another approach I used was to start at the beginning of the sample and move towards the end of it. This copies the arc of the original and makes the playback/recording more reliable, although it does remove some opportunities for serendipity.

this is the code I used for Der Tannenbaumherumtanz:

\env, Pseg(Pseq([0, 1]), 200),
\start, Pfunc({|evt|
var frac, start, div;
div = evt[\div];
frac = evt[\env];
start = frac * evt[\div];
start = start.asInt;
"div is %, start is %, frac is %".format(div, start, frac.round(0.001)).postln;
}) + Pwhite(-1, 1),

\env has a value in it that goes from 0 to 1 over 200 seconds, which was the length of this section.

\start holds the number of the division to start on – for example, if there are 4 divisions, it might hold 0, 1, 2, or 3. It computes this by first getting the \div, computer previously in the event. Then it looks at \env, which, as it goes from 0 to 1, is a fractional representation of how far we are through the section. A quarter of the way through, it should be 0.25. At the half way point, it should be 0.5, etc. It puts this in the variable frac.

I multiplied frac by the number of divisions. Then, because this number will always be a fraction, I convert it to an integer, so as to get a good index number. This rounds it.

Finally, in order to make this slightly less predictable, I take the result of that calculation and subtract 1, do nothing or add 1.

Random Walk

In Lettuce, No, I picked a section adjacent to the one just played. This tends to meander around the middle of the sample, but the content of the neighbouring divisions are always related to each other, so the results tend to sound good without being too predictable.

\start, Prout({|evt|
var div, start, pos;

pos = 0; // starting position{

div = 2.pow(evt[\pow]).asInt;
start = (pos*div).asInt;

// figure out pos for next time
pos = start + [-1, 1, 1].choose; // tend to increment
pos = (pos/div).abs.min(1);

evt = start.yield;

The Prout returns the start index, but also, while doing so, computes the position. This position is a fraction, like \env above. However, instead of moving from 0 to 1, it meanders around, tending to move towards 1.

It does this calculation based partially on the number of divisions. So if the sample is cut in half, it will tend to jump from 0 to 0.5 in a single step!

The pos must be between 0 and 1, so it takes the absolute value and then compares it to 1 and takes whichever of the two values is smaller.

It would have been possible to do this in a way less dependant on the divisions, for example, by deciding the position should be an integer between 0-127 and then computing a faction based on that. This would meander quite differently as it would be freed from the divisions actually used in the piece. I have no examples of this approach from this album, but will give it a try the next time I’m cutting samples!

Published by

Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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