Brian Eno should be proud. Generative sequencing – making lovely, shimmering music mapped to pleasant-sounding modes – is totally in this season.

At top, exhibit A: Aura Flux, a new iOS ambient music generator. Priced at US$1.99, it nonetheless packs some 48 different instruments, ambient sounds, four keys, save/load capability, and multitasking support. Sequences are arrayed into editable nodes: touch and explore, or tweak specific settings like pulse speed and decay, trigger rates, and pitch to get the results you want.

Generative music has a key advantage for mobile devices, too: it doesn’t take up as much space. In the case of Aura Flux, the whole thing fits in 8 MB.

Apart from the lovely-sounding tunes, what you get is, notably, also more rhythmically complex than in more traditional sequencers, owing to the open-ended manipulation of nodes across the two-dimensional surface. That’s a prime difference between Aura Flux and some of the similar sounds that came out of Yamaha’s Tenori-On; with the exception of a mode or two, Toshio Iwai’s design was intentionally grid-focused, for more minimal, symmetrical rhythms.

Aura 2: Flux @ iTunes
Developer site

In another take on alternative sequencers, our friend Ted Hayes has presented a new video of his Neurohedron. Rather than array steps across a series of rows, as sequencers have done since the days of the Moog Modular (or earlier), steps follow the faces of a dodecahedron, allowing non-linear progression through tones. Ted showed this project at our own Handmade Music in August, as a couple of us accompanied him on piano, as well as on the In/Out Festival. The patch is Pd/Pure Data.

In a way, you can think of the looped step sequencer as a circle — it progresses from the last step back to the first step. In this case, you take that one-dimensional loop and allow it to branch in two dimensions around the faces of the dodecahedron. People are definitely awed by the sculptural aspect of this when they see it in person. Let us know if you have specific questions for Ted and I’ll see if he’ll answer them for us.
New video via Synthtopia

Neurohedron: Overview from Tedb0t on Vimeo.

  • ambient +1!

  • The neurohedron looks great – I was recently beginning to look into constructing relationships between musical harmony and the platonic solids recently so this project is very interesting to me. These kind of three-dimensional geometries have a natural use as musical interfaces I think – as we can see in the neurohedron, the development of a non-linear step-sequencer will make the user think about how sounds and harmonies can be constructed in alternative ways. The dodecahedron has a natural relationship with the chromatic scale too so it has great potential to be used in multiple applications. I'm looking forward to see how this project develops.

  • eatyone

    Thanx for pointing us on Aura Flux, bought and playing with it now 😀

  • sooo it showed PD in the neurohedron video. how is he using PD, what's it running on, can i have the patch etc 😉

  • @usedtobe: um, kinda depends on what you want to do. I'd just take a look at metro-based sequencing, for starters; nothing looks like rocket science there. It's more likely you'll get what you want if you build it yourself.

  • Playing with Aura Flux now…pretty fun, actually. Reminds me of the Reactable. I like to turn off the ambient pad in the background, though. Also nice to change the "season" (key) once you have a lot going on. Thanks for the tip, Peter!

  • Aura Flux is ..almost.. enough to get me to buy an iPad. The show-stopper for me is, it's playing in 12-note equal temperament. If you can define your own tuning system, I may go for it, but I'll bet that feature isn't even on the drawing board yet.

  • veta

    i remember Aura Flux when it used to be called synthPond. =)

    yeah, i went there.

    Aura Flux is more feature rich + additional new age eye candy fluff, but synthPond interface = simply superior.

    hej, synthPond creators: update your code, plz.

  • Tom

    I've owned Aura a fair while – sounds like the melodic part (you know the reason for all the controls)is very similar in v2. It's a bit too thick and after a while becomes soupy. I actually didn't recognise it until I heard it. But hell, I'll go for an update because it costs about a coffee.

    Maybe it's like synthpond but then again ALL these toys have major similarities and it's like all keyboards having keys – the sound is the most important thing – isn't it?

  • @peter
    heh, all i meant was how is he using it inside of the device. is the neurohedron just a controller for his computer? i'm pretty darn familiar with PD, i've just been looking for ways to make PD (and max!) patches more portable and tangible.

  • Niko

    Looks cool. I remember a similar nodal sequencer that CDM covered a while back (called Tiction) that has now been ported to iPad. Looks like it sends out MIDI & OSC, too.

  • Now have to investigate Tiction's evolution!

    @usedtobe: Yeah, absolutely, it's just a controller. Actually could be a great candidate for self-contained operation, however.

  • Martin

    Just been playing around with Tiction AV for iPad.
    Wow, extremely interesting little app, though it appears to have no manual or help of any kind anywhere, and for the first half hour I was convinced that it was broken. ( For anyone else who is going to try it … You apparently have to make a loop of triggers so it retriggers itself, or it just jiggles around very prettily but very silently … Haven't tried it with OSC yet, but assuming that works this is looking to be something that I can imagine using quite a bit.

    Aura is really interesting too, though apparently like most people here, I've been turning off that ambient drone thang.

    With the ever growing number of seriously useful sample/soundfile based apps for the iPad, iOS's lack of a normal hierarchial file system is becoming more and more annoying every day. We really do need – at the very least – to be able to define a folder where soundfiles live and be able to make it accesible to all Apps that need to be fed wavs & aifs …

  • Martin

    @veta. : thanks for turning me onto synthpond, i had missed that one …IMHO not really like Aura at all, but very nice in its own way … Its not particularly pretty and a hires iPad version would be a definite improvement, but as with many of these things, the quirks of the interface lead you to places that you maybe wouldn't have stumbled on otherwise … All this quirky touchy feely ambient glitchtoy action is starting to make me lust after two more iPads … And that despite my increasing frustration with the OS

  • +1 "synthPond creators: update your code, plz."

  • Human Plague

    So Aura Flux is Beamz, but cool?

  • So can you export rendered audio out of Aura Flux? If it can do that, I'm in! If not, it becomes another soundtoy to kill some time as opposed to a productive sound tool.

  • @r.domain

    It can save and recall your presets/arrangements, but it won't record your performances/changes. If you wanted to do that you could take audio out of the 1/8" jack into your DAW.