Thursday 17 May 2012

Excelsior Piano Ableton Instrument Rack

The Excelsior Hall is located in the community of Wonyip in the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Originally the local school hall from the early 1900's it fell in to disrepair until being rescued by community involvement some years ago. Recently the original piano from the hall was discovered languishing in a local barn and was returned to the renovated hall on the back of a tractor.

Now known as The Excelsior Piano it has been untuned for at least 40 years, however, all of its 80 keys work as do most of the dampers. I made a trip to the hall a couple of weeks ago and did a recording of the piano key by key in various ways and from these recordings have created the Excelsior Piano Rack for Ableton Live.

In the rack each piano key is represented by an individual sample in both long and short versions. The long version is striking the key and holding it down until the decay has finished, the short version is a quick strike of the key and recording until the decay has finished. There is also included a bonus drum rack of effects created by various string scrapes and hits against the piano frame etc.

Owners of Ableton's Sampler instrument can bust open the Simpler instruments and play with tuning the individual notes (good luck!) to make the piano more "playable".

Demo of the Excelsior Piano Sampler/Simpler Rack:

Demo of the Excelsior Piano Effects Drum Rack:

Download The Excelsior Piano Rack here

Comments encouraged.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Piano Phase Ableton Audio Rack

In recognition of Steve Reich's recent visit to my home town of Melbourne I am sharing this audio effect rack for Ableton Live inspired by his piece "Piano Phase (1967)".

Here is an audio demo of the rack where just the first 12 notes are played - the rest is the rack in action.

The rack uses the Filter Delay because it allows for 100% feedback and different delay times for left, center and right signals.

The macro controls are assigned to allow a great deal of variation to the phase relationships of the 3 signals.

The <TIME SYNC> macro: chooses between delaying the signals in milliseconds (between 0ms and 999ms) or, in Sync mode, percentages of the BPM.
The Beat Delay macros: control the gross delay time when in Sync mode.
The Beat Swing macros: control milliseconds when in Time mode or percentage when in Sync mode.

Judicious use of the song tempo and Sync mode can result in some fascinating outcomes. You could also assign the Beat Swing macros to be able to jump to zero to hold on a particularly interesting cycle or allow you to capture that audio into a session slot before jumping back to the phase settings. Fun to experiment with.

I've done a little experimenting with assigning the Beat Swing macros to my Novation Launchpad. For example in User 1 mode I have assigned the range of all 64 buttons to Right Beat Swing then edited the MIDI mapping data to be Min = 0% and Max = 6.30%. With this setup each consecutive button on the Launchpad will increment the "phase" by 0.10% - allowing good control of the "phase" changes and the ability to instantly snap the signal to 0% to hold on an interesting relationship between the different signals. (You would want to turn off the centre channel of the delay to use this to properly emulate the Reich piece.)

Just drop a piano or other instrument in front of it and play around. Maybe stick 6 of these on different tracks with some pianos and mallet instruments and make your own "Music for 18 Musicians"

Download Piano Phase Ableton Rack