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Fractal Tunes - First Steps

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You can use my innovative Fractal Tune Smithy music generator software to create music as intricate as snowflakes - effortlessly - vary the parameters for the fractal music, and just see what happens. It is suitable for complete beginners to music and composition, advanced algo-comp enthusiasts - or as a source to generate new melodic ideas

This page introduces you to the fractal tunes and how to use the Player task.

To find out more about the tunes themselves straight away, and why they are called fractal tunes, skip on to the next page, Endless Canons. Then the following page introduce you to other features of the program.

The Player

First, here is what you see when you choose one of the tunes that come with the program:

To find this feature in Tune Smithy, open the Player icon in your Tune Smithy Tasks folder on your desktop (see side panel for pics). The particular tune shown is from the [2.4] drop list - all the tunes composed for FTS 2.4.

You can use this as a player to play any of the tunes that come with the program.

After you choose a tune from the drop lists, this is what you see:


(the skin shown here is the Mandelbrot one from Opts | Skins).

And here is the tune, for your enjoyment :-)
Jungle frog chorus

First steps with varying the parameters

Although designed mainly as a player for the fractal tunes, it is a lot more than that, as you can see from the screen shot.

To show the sort of thing you can do, I'll start with one of the earlier, somewhat simpler tunes from the 1.082 list, the guitar recorder tubular bells (if the other midi clip is still playing, you may need to go back and stop it first).

 guitar recorder tubular bells

First I go to the Parts window, and change the instruments:


Here I have highlighted part 2, and type Gl into the instrument field at the bottom. That is enough for FTS to recognise the instrument as the Glockenspiel, so it puts the Glockenspiel into part 2. You can enter any readily identifiable fragmentary part of the name - e.g. Be would get you the Tubular Bells, and so on.

You can also select the instrument using the voice menu.

I will change the third part to the trombone, then using the octave shift field move the instruments down in pitch as they are too high. Then go back to the main window and try varying the tempo, and maybe try different seeds as well.

You can do all this while the tune is playing, as you will hear in the clip

 Guitar recorder tubular bells - demo of how you can change it

There actually at the end, after varying the seed a bit, I decided to go to Parts | Order of Play | Other and show the effect of varying the formula using the randomise button - that's another easy thing you can try out with any of the tunes.

Another thing you can do - if you are sensitive to rhythm, you may notice that that tune has a very regular "metronomic" type rhythm. Well you can vary that using the Tempo and Volume variation window to give something that moves and breathes in a more organic way. You can even deliberately unsynchronise the instruments to sound more like a human ensemble with good but not quite mechanical to microsecond level type synchronisation of timing.

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Some of the things you can do right away

Here are some of the things you can do right away with all those buttons and icons you see in the Player task:

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Compact View

Notice also the More and Less buttons. Many of the Tune Smithy windows have this. Click on the More button, and you get some more options, including a couple of buttons to vary the scales and arpeggios.

Click on the Less button for a more compact version with fewer buttons - if you click on the Less button a second time, finally you get to:

screen_shot_player_less2.png Compact version of Player task, with just the tunes and seeds drop lists, the buttons to play, pause, record, play seed, options for play seed, volume and tempo, and More button,]]

There you can vary the tempo - and vary the seed for the tune. If you choose a new seed, or enter some new numbers (usually best starting with a 0) then the tune will be transformed into a new version with a new melody line, often sounding very different as we have just found out - you will learn more about that, and why the whole tune changes so much when you vary the seed, on the [../tunesmithy/tune_smithy_seeds.htm Seeds & Fractals] page.

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Fractal Composer task

If you want to go on and do a lot of fractal tune making, then you will probably eventually want to migrate to the Fractal Composer task.

Here is a picture of it.

screen_shot_composer.png Composer task - like the Player task but without the musical e-cards, randomiser and theremin, but with drop lists for the scales and arpeggios

It removes some of the things not essential to actual composing, and focuses on the most needed features - and also shows the Scale and Arpeggio in the main window so they are easily accessible.

Note that you can move back and forth between the various tasks while the program is running using the Tasks menu, if you go to Tasks | More. So if you have been working with the Composer task and then maybe want to use the randomiser, or the option to send a musical e-card from the Player task, you can easily switch to it - all your settings get kept when you switch between tasks in this way. Also the icon_minus.png and icon_plus.png icons in the window take you to the next and previous task - in this case the - takes you to the Player and + takes you from the Player to the Composer.

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I want to mention this here particularly because the fractal tunes may be of particular interest to blind users. If you are blind or partially sighted, and use screen readers to read out to you what is on the screen and tell you what you can do to interact with it - then you will be pleased to know that FTS follows the Microsoft Accessibility guidelines. So, it should work with your screen reader.

It is built up using the standard windows components, unlike many music programs that do everything in a customised way. It has nice graphics for sighted readers, but these are done by modifying standard windows components, which have all the functionality your screen reader needs built into them. So it was an easy task for me to make it accessible in this way, and I have done what I can to keep it that way. If you have particular requests for ways to make the program more accessible in any respect I am always delighted to hear from you and will see what can be done. I test it with Window Eyes, using their demo. Happy to test with any other screen reader that has a demo available to try.

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Review in Sound on Sound

Version 2.4 of Tune Smithy was reviewed in October's edition of Sound On Sound 2004, with particular attention played to its fractal tune generating possibilities. (clips for the tunes he mentions also given separately below).

"The final stage in the journey is the Fractal Tune - a combination of Scale, Arpeggio and Musical Seed, plus a choice of one or more instruments across multiple MIDI channels. Using the Play button now generates continuous, ever-changing tunes based on your settings. If you want impressionistic flurries and cascades of notes, try 'Rushes blown in a storm' or 'echo effects in rests'. More extreme examples include Fibonacci rain shower', the unsettling 'Paleolithic field recording', and 'bird calls with Afro-Caribbean percussion'.
Don't go away thinking FTS can only generate avant-garde meanderings for classical and jazz buffs. Although many of the offerings are 'off the beaten track', they may still inspire new songs, while others, such as 'string quintet' and 'shakuhachi and koto' are gently melodic, and still others (such as 'resting in the shade') create floating backdrops. You can also explore the more rhythmically-based offerings, such as the improvised 'percussion medley' and 'non-repeating bongos'."

To read the complete article, go here:

Here are the tunes he mentions in those two paragraphs:

[sos_review_tunes.htm Sound on Sound review tunes] (opens in new popup window)

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