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


  1. This is great - thanks for sharing.

  2. what is the file extension for this supposed to be? It unzips with no extension. Where do I put it? Thanks!

  3. I agree with anonymous. It seems amazing but really, it has no extension!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Probably this music was contained in one of the LP records which I bought at the time of a college student.
    Since this is controlled by the computer, is there any messy solid feeling?
    I also had the LP record with which HPSCHD (is it also in the video which you created?) was recorded.
    When it was a student of a graduate school, the lecture of Mr. Hiller who was coming to University of Tsukuba by chance was able to be listened to.
    Though regrettable, those LP records have been thrown away on August 19, 2013, but I am longingly glad to be what you created and to hear it.
    (It translated into English using "excite. translation" from Japanese.)