"Nebulous Gates"

"Nebulous Gates" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

This may end up as the rhythm track for a fuller song but am liking its current minimal state.

The Qu-Bit Nebulae is a Eurorack module now out of production despite much hype and hooplah when it launched a mere couple of years ago. It has a high degree of latency that makes it incompatible with other modules but is nevertheless capable of playing eight CD-quality samples simultaneously (in "one shot mode") and allowing the pitch of each sample to be adjusted with physical knobs on the module. With latency compensation it can be triggered and recorded so as to be in sync with other tracks in a DAW (in this case, Linux Ardour).

For this tune, samples were loaded in batches of eight, then played (i.e., triggered) with a hardware sequencer (Doepfer A-154/155), synced to Ardour's MIDI clock. Ardour was then used to record the resulting polyphonic riffs and arrange them singly and in combinations (along with a few other riffs, such as hihats, previously recorded from the modular synth).

At first the Nebulae was dropping notes -- this made for some interesting pauses and syncopation despite being unintended. Turns out that the MIDI clock module (Vermona qMI) receiving Ardour's clock signal and passing it to the sequencer was sending trigger pulses that were too brief to register. A way to send gates (longer pulses) that the Nebulae would recognize was jerry-rigged.

Continuing the theme of "recently obsolescent hardware and software," all the samples come from NI Battery's Machine Kit (which collection has been dropped in the current Komplete roster). The Machine Kit consists of drum hits and pitched sounds made with the Elektron MachineDrum. The samples used here are raw, that is, not additionally processed with Battery effects. Which of the samples to be loaded into the Nebulae was determined by crude aleatoric means -- the first eight samples in an alphabetical list, followed by the next eight, until about two-thirds of the Machine Kit samples were used. Each group of eight responded to the sequencer notes set up for the previous group, unless it sounded bad, in which case the sequence and/or sample assignments within the Nebulae were adjusted.

This is lot of nerdy detail -- sorry, these are my notes so I'll remember what I did.

Update, September 26: Major rewrite of post.