The grooves are fun, but the generated names for the groove are even more so. Need a new band name, anyone?

Generative: the rhythmic frontier. These are the voyages of the starship MicroTonic. Its online mission: to explore strange new grooves, to seek out new beats and new musical cultures …

Yes, Patternarium, by software scientists Magnus and Fredrik Lindström of SonicCharge (Synplant, µTonic, Reason’s Malström), have built a server-based rhythmic generation tool. You, the human, don’t have to do much: reality TV show-style, just vote up or down patterns you hear, and the generative scripts will continue spawning new, evolved rhythms. I suppose if you believe in the power of democratic action, eventually this could lead to some sort of new replacement for the “Amen break.”

I actually am more in love with the interface than the thought of servers making beats for me. The results play as a lovely, radial arrangement of rectangles. As for the accompanying starfield and Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn The Motion Picture typography, well, that’s just a bonus.

These aren’t just beats for your browser, though. You can download the results to SonicCharge’s fantastic synthesis-powered drum machine (VST, AU/PC, Mac). And that brings us to the real news hidden in this story: SonicCharge are cooking up a new version of MicroTonic, which is good news, indeed. They’re not saying much, but they are willing to reveal that the new version supports drag and drop of patterns as MIDI files, meaning that you’ll be able to easily create a bank of pattern-triggering clips in something like Ableton Live. (A recent update to Native Instruments’ Maschine did the same, suggesting drag-able grooves are something we’ll see more often.)

Always delicious, always rhythmically nutritious, µTonic aka “MicroTonic”:

Can’t be bothered to try it yourself? Need a narration? Here’s Torley with a video, via Synthtopia.

  • That guy has awful taste.

  • Thanks for the excellent article Peter!

    One extremely important thing though: The Wrath of Kahn is actually one of the few Star Trek motion pictures that is *not* using the Galaxy font.

    Here is a great look back at Star Trek logos:

    @Lazlo: who's taste is awful? Mine? Torley's? Peter's? Patternarium's?

  • Wow, crap. You're right. I knew it was either Kahn or The Motion Picture that introduced it, and I got it … backwards.

  • This is one of the coolest computer music things I have ever seen. Mission accomplished for Magnus, since I am now going to buy both Microtonic and Synplant (especially since the Microtonic update will be free).

    The generated beats are surprisingly good, and often better that what I come up with myself.

  • hmmmmm

    is it just me? every single one of these beats sound as though they were constructed with the old "sinebeats" and "aerobic" ensembles for reaktor? they sound like the presets only slightly altered. sure, there are many permutations but kind of a dated soundset imho. love the visualizer and concept regardless…

  • hmmn: is a drum synth.. the patterns are what is important, not the default soundset used in the generator. I love the direction Magnus has been going, just wish to see another synth ;]

    The copy and paste from browser to plugin is a feature I've only seen so far from Blok modular and now Microtonic, I think thats an awesome feature particularly when paired with a web based tool like this. Hope to see more of it in the future. Was surprised to see that with Microtonic it wasn't XML based, not that it really matters.

  • Art

    2Magnus: glad to hear that Mutonic is updated, could sneak peak some of the new features, 64bit support maybe?

  • I own both products from SonicCharge. Both are excellent and worth the price. The server generative patterns are very cool too, because is such a time saver. Great beginnings to modify to taste. Some are just great right off the download. Can't wait til the MicroTonic update.

  • This is a brilliant idea. Very inspirational. I'm also very excited about the impending update to microtonic.

  • Fid the Fosh

    Spent all yesterday downloading patterns.

    Microtonic has been taken out of temporary retirement,and been put to use on these.If you use them as templates or jumping off points for further exploration then there is a lot mileage there.

    Saving them as wavs,tuning them to a specific key,then performing different pitch transformations using Melodyne produced some great results.With timbres very reminiscent of Hangdrums,Taiko and marimbas to name but a few,along with a lot of strange exotica that some future member of the Federation might play.

    When toys are done well…

  • Fid the Fosh

    Actually,while I'm at it,speaking of tuned percussion.Does anyone know of somewhere online I can find a frequency chart for the individual instruments in a gamelan orchestra?

    I've searched high and low through various musicological,ethnological and anthropological papers to very little avail.There was something on Jstor that was very close but paying $50 for a pdf seemed a bit steep.

    Thanks in advance if anybody can help with that one.

  • @Fid: keep looking, definitely, because those are out there. Back when I was researching gamelan, there were tuning tables, especially in the older articles. Try authors like Judith Becker.

    The reason you aren't finding an easy answer, though, is because tunings vary wildly. Each gamelan is tuned independently. So you can get an accurate tuning chart for one gamelan, but slendro and pelog will each vary from ensemble to ensemble.

  • Fid the Fosh

    @Pete: Nice one,thanks for the info.

  • Fid the Fosh

    Just pulled up some pages on Judith Becker.
    Her work looks very interesting anyway,even without reference to my original enquiry.

  • Patternarium: The Next Generation is out now.

    This is the fifth generation. So 5000 patterns in total at the site now, and we've only just begun.

    Thanks everyone for the votes!

  • Torley is awesome (and so is Patternarium).

  • Look who's here! Peter, upon my regular CDM learning I see… this! Thanks for blogging Planetarium and sharing my video.

    I'm often thinking about tool-toys that'll make it easier for the uninitiated to delve deeper and explore the reaches of outer sonic space. 🙂 There are great advances happening on the iPad/iPhone apps — David, that means you — and webapp fronts.

    I think the Star Trek homage holds crossover promise for proud geeks who, well, aren't yet audio geeks. (E.g., fans of The Big Bang Theory.) And I'm delighted to document the still-nascent stages of this journey…

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