The title Clang is an homage to Arnold Schönberg's compositional technique which he called Klangfarbenmelodie (tone color melody). Traditionally, the term melody implies change of pitch over time. Tone color melody, on the other hand, results from holding the pitch constant and instead changing timbre over time. In Clang, pitch, represented as a MIDI key value, is held constant, but each new note is preceded by a MIDI program change, meaning that each note is played using a different instrumental, vocal or percussive sound.
In Clang there are anywhere from one to eight "clang generators" running at any given time. Each generator chooses its own pitch (MIDI key balue) and timbral palette, of which there are three: a large collection of instrumental and orchestral sounds, including sound effects; a collection of basic vocal phonemes as recorded by two linguists, male and female; and a large collection of wooden drums, played with the hands. The basic decision that each generator makes from one note to the next is the specific sound to choose from its palette of sounds. It makes this decision based on the output of an iterated non-linear dynamical system called the Standard Map, a textbook example of a chaotic system.
Corresponding to each timbral palette is a specific graphical respresentation of the decisions made by each generator. For the vocal palette, each note is represented as a horizontal or vertical bar arranged around the inside of a square. The bars are grayscale colors from white to black, on a red background. For the instrumental palette, the bars are arranged radially, in a circle around a central point. The bars are secondary colors on a blue-green background. For the drum palette, the bars are arranged along the bisectors of a triangle. They are in tertiary colors on a brown background.
Some early versions of Clang incorporated an interactive element which allowed the viewer/listener to control various aspects of the generators' decision-making process. The current version strips out the interactive component, to focus on the aesthetic results of the driving algorithm itself, without human override.
When I show Clang in public, I prefer to use a projector in a darkened space, with a high-quality sound system. The image is projected onto a double layer of theatrical scrim&emdash;a thin, partially translucent material which is used for special effect in stagecraft. The scrim bestows a parchment-like texture on the visual image which I find attractive. Here are a couple of examples:
Earlier versions of Clang were shown at
A Project Space in Seattle, Washington (2012); at Gallery 1412 in Seattle (2011),
and at the Lübecker Museum in Lübeck, Germany (2010). The current version runs on Mac OS-10.7 or later, and is made available here for personal and educational use. Clang runs in fullscreen mode, so use the <Esc> key or <Cmd>Q to exit the program. Please contact me directly for any public performance or display.
Signals and Noises