UK electronic music musicians Coldcut are now offering their MidiVolve tool in the Ableton Max for Live pack store. This M4L device is an arpeggiator, riff generator, and a sequencer all in one device. For producers who are hitting a creative writing block or those producers who are still learning their way around music theory, MidiVolve is a tool that can help turn simple melodies and MIDI clips into evolving musical landscapes.
Evolving Live and Imported MIDI Clips
The MidiVolve device is the product of Matt Black and Jonathon More and inspired by Steve Reich’s seminal ‘Music for 18 Musicians’. Here’s how it works:
- Notes are entered into MidiVovle’s sequencer window from a MIDI controller or from a MIDI clip in the same track. From there, MidiVolve instantly converts the MIDI notes in an arpeggio or auto-generated riff.
- There are a couple of modes to choose from; Arp Mode for arpeggios and Riff Mode for an auto-generate freeform melodic pattern.
- Once MidiVolve has all the MIDI information from the producer, new sequences can be created by hitting the Evolve! button in the lower right-hand corner. This button instantly mutates various parameters from Duration to Pitch to Velocity. Shifts can be subtle where only 1-2 parameters are adjusted to radical where all parameters are evolving.
- Auto Mode re-evolves live and imported MIDI clips on playback of anywhere from 1 to 32 bar cycles.
This tool allows solo artists to have dynamic basslines and melodies to play off of without the complications of having another musician as part of the performance. The device also includes a library of 11 unique Instruments (with 60 presets) and 8 Audio Effects Racks, developed in conjunction with Johannesburg musician and samplist Behr. MidiVolve is a device for every beat-maker from beginner to professional.
MidiVolve is available for $49 USD on the Ableton Pack Store.
Music For 18 Musicians
Wondering what the Steve Reich piece referenced above is? It’s a minimalist composition designed around an 11 chord cylce – from Wikipedia:
The piece is based on a cycle of eleven chords. A small piece of music is based on each chord, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are named “Pulses”, and Section I-XI. This was Reich’s first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to “explore this idea further”.
A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections.
Watch a performance of the piece below: