Extended Play.

Apr 30, 2015

Extended Play is a series of eternal compositions.

Each is based on a col­lec­tion of in­stru­ments play­ing five pat­terns of three seconds each. These pat­terns (aside from un­tuned per­cus­sion in­stru­ments) have been trans­posed into twelve mu­sical keys and play ran­domly.

It can be found at exten­ded­play.filipn­est.com

I’ve wanted to do this pro­ject for a long time, first mak­ing at­tempts some time around 2010/​11 with a one minute ukulele track cut into two or three second pieces (the ori­ginal idea was one second but MP3 play­ers can’t shuffle in time). I for some silly reason left this proof of concept as it was for years rather than try­ing to do it prop­erly. The concept was that you could listen to the same piece of mu­sic for much longer than its run­ning time if it were shuffled ran­domly and very short. Parts would com­bine into new parts.

The ori­ginal idea was for a series of EPs, each about a minute long and fo­cus­ing on a spe­cific in­stru­ment or style. These would then be up­loaded to something like Spo­tify and people could make playl­ists from them, shuffle them, share them and make an in­fin­ite amount of mu­sic from something very short and fi­nite.

Five years later, I tried this out and real­ised two things:

1) Cut­ting up a one minute track does­n’t pro­duce the best res­ults. The best res­ults were from ac­tu­ally com­pos­ing or play­ing sep­ar­ate three second pieces. 2) The single one minute piece, however com­plex, could still be de­tec­ted when shuffled. Our brains are pretty good at de­tect­ing re­pe­ti­tion it seems, even if it’s in a ran­dom or­der.

So I de­cided to modify the concept in two ways:

1) I would trans­pose the melodic parts into 12 keys us­ing MIDI. Sadly I ori­gin­ally wanted to do it all with acous­tic in­stru­ments rather than samples but it turns out pitch-shift­ing 12 semitones dis­torts the sound of things too much. 2) I would al­low listen­ers to play more than one track at the same time.

Those who know me will know I’m ter­rible at arith­metic so, on my first at­tempt at re­cord­ing, I mis­coun­ted and re­cor­ded a minute and a half of mu­sic. At this point I de­cided that, as I was do­ing the trans­pos­ing thing any­way, the minute limit would not stand.

I’d love to try it in the fu­ture with a huge num­ber of in­stru­ments, per­haps a whole or­ches­tra. And also syl­lables re­cor­ded through a vo­coder to see if I can make some ran­dom words form through sep­ar­ated/​joined vow­els and con­son­ants.

I sup­pose the les­son is that con­cepts aren’t al­ways as good in prac­tice as in the­ory but I hope my tweaks make it work a bit and en­joy­able.

I could re-re­cord the mu­sical parts forever (already took ages) but in­stead I’ll just keep giv­ing it a go and re­lease more EPs of it in the fu­ture. Hope­fully they’ll get bet­ter as they go on.

Tagged with: music code