This episode explores a Numerology technique involving the use of
two similar patterns whose lengths vary relative to each other
in a non-traditional manner, such as a pattern of five beats vs. another
in seven beats.
In the context of rhythmic composition, this is usually called
but here we will explore it in an ambient context.
This compositional strategy is something that is quite easy to setup in Numerology, but can be a very
time-consuming manual process in other programs -- especially if you want to fully pursue
the creative options offered by this approach, such as changing the length
of a pattern within a composition.
Two other musical concepts explored here are
counterpoint, as we will be building
a composition of two complementary voices, and to some extent
canon, as we will incorporate
delayed versions of our primary melodies.
This video also demonstrates how to build compositions in Numerology
with multiple parts, including the use of "auxiliary stacks", which are
very useful for effects processing.
Our musical inspiration this time around is Brian Eno's
The first purely ambient work that Eno released,
it is a composition of about 30 minutes, "recorded [and performed, by Eno himself] at Brian Eno's studio 9.5.75",
taking up an entire side of the album.
In his book
Brian Eno : His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, Eric
Tamm (with quotes from the liner notes to Discreet Music) describes the piece as
composed of "two simple and mutually compatible melodic lines of different
duration stored on a [synthesizer with a] digital recall system." One melody
consists of the pitches c" d" (rest) e' (rest) g'; the other is somewhat more
elaborate: d' e' (rest) d' b g (rest) d (rest) e" g" a" g" (The designation of the
octave positions in these examples follows the scheme employed by the
New Harvard Dictionary of Music; see its article on "Pitch").
Having composed the melodies and set up a tape-delay and storage system, Eno's
activity as a composer/performer was limited to setting the tunes in motion
at various points, and to "occasionally altering the timbre of the synthesizer's
output by means of a graphic equalizer." The musical result was half an hour
of simple, tranquil, repeating and overlapping melodic segments -- a kind of
switched-on, slow motion
Here is a diagram of the signal flow Eno used for the composition:
This episode's video demonstrates how to build a very similar system in Numerology, using
a pair of sequencers that repeat at different lengths. Instead of a single synthesizer,
the example uses two, allowing you to adjust synthesizer sounds and delay settings individually. As a
replacement for Eno's classic tape delay system, the excellent
Augustus Loop plugin
from ExpertSleepers is employed.
Something not demonstrated in the video, which you are encourage to pursue in the
privacy of your own studio, is the addition of graphic equalizers or other filtering options
to the signal chain. Apple's built-in AUGraphicEQ is quite handy for this purpose.
I find the 10-band setting to be the most useful for this situation.
There are a number of ways that you can extend this technique: You can construct different
presets that vary both the pitch content and the length of the patterns. Or experiment with
the processing options available in the various audio effects to modify the sound. You
assign MIDI hardware controllers to enable you to control the system
directly (control-click on a parameter in Numerology, choose "MIDI learn", then move the
desired MIDI controller),
or use Parameter Modulation to add automation to various