Technique: Quantized Phasing

While working on The Floor is Jelly, I really pushed myself to try some new things. Mapping music to the geography of levels, using individual raindrops to generate music on the fly… Some of these ideas fell flat on their face, but one idea that managed to squeeze its way in is one I’d like to talk about. For lack of a better term, I’ll call it Quantized Phasing.

The idea at first was straightforward enough; I wanted to experiment with phase music, a musical form that appeared in the 1960s after tape experiments by folks like Terry Riley, Earle Brown, and Steve Reich. However it didn’t take me long to realize that using the gradual phasing style of that period was probably not going to serve the context that I was attempting to use it in. There was nothing particularly phasey about moving around in a watery level, so I started experimenting with ways to dial back the smeary nature of phase material and dial in the accessibility a bit. The solution I came up with was taking the phasing material and quantizing it, so that the material still phased in a way, but adhered to a more musical grid (namely, triplets and duplets). The result is similar to Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, where one overlaid pattern periodically shifts forward a beat.

'Clapping Music' by Steve Reich

The experiments for the water music proved to be too athletic and unusual for a peaceful, natural locale, so we ended up using them for the final world of The Floor is Jelly. A glitchy world.

Phase Structure

Level   Phase       Harmony
-----   --------    ---------------------
1       5.5 : 11    A Minor to C Major
2       6   : 11    F 6 no3 to E Minor b6
3       6.5 : 11    D Minor 9
4       7   : 11    C Major 6
5       7.5 : 11    Bb Major 6
6       8   : 11    A Minor 9 add6 no7
7       8.5 : 11    G Major 2 add6
8       9   : 11    B Minor 7 add11
9       9.5 : 11    C Major 2 add6
10      10  : 11    F Major add2
11      10.5: 11    E Lydian b7

Backtrack: Invention

Backtrack is a series devoted to backtracking to tell short stories about songs I've written.

This piece is what its name implies: an invention. Most of the traditional stuff I wrote for school I’ve never been too fond of but I think this one is somewhat charming. I’m probably more fond of the patch — a simple blend of a Rhodes Mark I sample and a Triangle wave oscillator. I think I also took the liberty of changing some notes afterwards, some of which may break counterpoint rules. It’s been a few years since I’ve studied counterpoint and while I remember most of the rules off-hand, it can be difficult to identify them on the fly. But here you do have a typical structure, establishing an idea and playing around with it in different ways. There’s a shift to traditional minor at 0:18, and another shift to the dominant at 0:30 with a pedal point, before returning to the original key at the very end.