For Ann (rising) by James Tenney

In 1969, American composer James Tenney wrote For Ann (rising), one of the “earliest applications of gestalt theory and cognitive science to music.” (source: wikipedia). The auditory illusion heard in the piece is achieved by layering multiple rising sine waves.

Tom Erbe recent wrote a blog post, Some notes on For Ann (rising), in which he describes in detail the specifications of the piece. This includes a thorough description, an excerpt of Csound code, and a PD patch he recently created. The PD patch is available for download at his site.

I myself love studying classic computer music languages and instrument designs, so this afforded me the perfect opportunity to study the piece. For Ann (rising) is also a personal favorite of mine.

First, I assembled the Csound version based on Erbe’s notes and Csound code excerpt, which was a straight forward process. I copied the instrument without any modifications. Then I generated the score with the following two lines of Python code:

for i in range(0, 240):
	print 'i 1 ' + str(i * 2.8) + ' 33.6'

The Csound csd is available for download here.

The next thing I did was realize the piece in SuperCollider based on Erbe’s Csound code. The technical simplicity of the instrument as well as the process for spawning voices allows for the piece to be expressed in less than 140 characters when translated into SuperCollider, making the following line of code twitter ready:


You can view the tweet here.

I want to thank Tom Erbe for publicly sharing his work and insight, which has allowed this classical computer music piece to be reconstructed in multiple modern day mediums.

SuperCollider Markov Chain

During my aggressive push to learn as much as possible about SuperCollider over the weekend, I’ve translated an earlier Csound etude of mine into SC code that generates a sequence in real-time using a Markov chain. I’ve come away with a few thoughts.

While I believe Csound definitely has an sharp edge in the DSP department, SuperCollider excels in allowing users to compose their own algorithmic sequencers. Even though the syntax of this Smalltalk-based language looks and feels very slippery to me, the SC code comes off as being much more concise and expressive than the Csound counterpart.

As for the work itself, I consider this to be very much a technical exercise; There is still so much about SuperCollider I’m completely ignorant of, including basic patterns and Pbinds, etc, and grinding against a problem like this is a big help in leveling up. Though it appears I’ll be able to build a generic Markov chain engine, separating the the SynthDefs from the nodes in a reusable function of some sort, which is the long term goal. This earliest of prototypes already goes pretty far in this direction, but there is plenty room for improvement.

Grab the SuperCollider code.

SuperCollider Quickies

Finished two tiny SuperCollider projects. The first is a reimplementation of the Csound modem instrument from this morning. The conversion to SuperCollider was straight forward; I basically swapped out randh for LFNoise1, limit and ceil for > (greater than), and oscil with sine table for SinOsc:

play{ > 0 * 200 + 1070)}

The second is an experiment short enough to tweet, which I did: