fugue

I have two words for you: multiple playheads.

Oh sure, you’ve got your piano rolls and your step sequencers and your arpeggiators. But can you roll like Johann Sebastian (or Arnold… as in Schoenberg)? Can you take a single melody, and make more complex patterns by echoing them, turning them upside down?

That’s the idea behind Fugue Machine.

The app is the work of Alexandernaut, aka developer and musician Alexander Randon. (You may know him from such apps as the wonderful Arpeggionome or Android’s Arpio.) The design ought to please music theory nuts and newcomers alike, because it satisfies both with tune gymnastics that are immediately visual and audible. It’s really what melodic sequencers in the computer age ought to be – not primitive imitations of what you can do with melodies, but accessible automatons, treating the melody as fluidly as it appears on a displays.

And yes, you can imagine you’re Bach:

Tap in a melody, and then let up to four playheads go at once, changing speed, direction, and pitch. The results can range from baroque to ambient, based on the parameters, but you can in fact set up some smart polyphony – check the videos.

It’s clear the iPad is becoming the platform of choice for innovative sequencers, and perhaps a must-have companion for MIDI mavens. Watch for ModStep, too.

The story behind the app is interesting, too. This is San Francisco in its old, more artistic guise, blending technology and art without the Silicon Valley pastiche. The app was born on Alexander’s desk in the Tenderloin district, in the historic Hyde Street Studios. It’s also the first output of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ incubator. And while “incubator” and “app” have come to be associated with the Almighty Dollar, this is a non-profit initiative – and as such privileges creativity before cash. (Useless trivia: in the very distant past, CDM was part of an event or two there, some time before I made a run for the German border.)

Gray Area’s head Josette Melchor is a community organizer and curator, not just a director, and has created a fulcrum of some of the world’s leading creative tech while keeping ties to social impact at a time when that conscience is sorely needed.

Even TechCrunch is taking notice.

For more:
www.fuguemachine.com

Looking forward to playing with this one. Let us know what you make with it, iPad users.

Now, for anyone who says it’s just about the music, and not about the tech, that’s the whole point. Sure enough, Alexandernaut has released a lovely album made with the app. The compositional and development process are here really one and the same:

I have no doubt that composers like Bach would have developed apps. Indeed, you could argue that the mechanisms they created were the apps of the time – just written down. Mozart had his famed card and dice game, Musikalisches Würfelspiel, if you believe the attribution, but you could easily see the same devices in Bach and others.

  • Giorgio Martini

    Cool , we can do this in live b copying 4times a clip with a melody, then setting its time to double, half and so on… then on some clips reverse notes and voila! right ? I havent tried it.. will try now.. anyway cool idea.

    • brian hennessey

      Yes, that’s true! Some Max4Live wizard should create this same thing as a M4L device.

      • Ashley Scott

        – the Max objects already exist in Karlheinz Essl’s RTC library although given the way M4L works it might be better just to start from scratch & manipulate Live clip objects.

    • Dom Harwood

      Yes exactly. I’ve been using these sorts of techniques to make electronic music for years, really easy to do in any DAW.
      For instance:
      https://soundcloud.com/toot/remember

  • Giorgio Martini

    Cool , we can do this in live b copying 4times a clip with a melody, then setting its time to double, half and so on… then on some clips reverse notes and voila! right ? I havent tried it.. will try now.. anyway cool idea.

    • brian hennessey

      Yes, that’s true! Some Max4Live wizard should create this same thing as a M4L device.

      • Ashley Scott

        – the Max objects already exist in Karlheinz Essl’s RTC library although given the way M4L works it might be better just to start from scratch & manipulate Live clip objects.

    • Dom Harwood

      Yes exactly. I’ve been using these sorts of techniques to make electronic music for years, really easy to do in any DAW.
      For instance:
      https://soundcloud.com/toot/remember

  • Giorgio Martini

    Cool , we can do this in live b copying 4times a clip with a melody, then setting its time to double, half and so on… then on some clips reverse notes and voila! right ? I havent tried it.. will try now.. anyway cool idea.

    • brian hennessey

      Yes, that’s true! Some Max4Live wizard should create this same thing as a M4L device.

      • Ashley Scott

        – the Max objects already exist in Karlheinz Essl’s RTC library although given the way M4L works it might be better just to start from scratch & manipulate Live clip objects.

    • Yes exactly. I’ve been using these sorts of techniques to make electronic music for years, really easy to do in any DAW.
      For instance:
      https://soundcloud.com/toot/remember

  • Synth Anatomy
    • Ben Carey

      nice work.. beautiful stuff!

  • Synth Anatomy

    My video about Fugue Machine and Waldorf Blofeld
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ib1scOyMmo

    • Ben Carey

      nice work.. beautiful stuff!

  • Synth Anatomy

    My video about Fugue Machine and Waldorf Blofeld
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ib1scOyMmo

    • Ben Carey

      nice work.. beautiful stuff!

  • brian hennessey

    This might actually get me to buy an iPad.

  • brian hennessey

    This might actually get me to buy an iPad.

  • brian hennessey

    This might actually get me to buy an iPad.

  • Mactley

    This looks great! Although it’s a shame that you can’t send different playheads to different midi channels, would be great to have that implemented in a future version.

    • wingo shackleford

      Rumor has it that he’s working on implementing that.

      • Will

        Yep. Apparently, it will even allow each playhead to point at a different app. Would be delightful if it could also address up to four different hardware ports.

    • Ah that would be wonderful!

  • Mactley

    This looks great! Although it’s a shame that you can’t send different playheads to different midi channels, would be great to have that implemented in a future version.

    • wingo shackleford

      Rumor has it that he’s working on implementing that.

      • Will

        Yep. Apparently, it will even allow each playhead to point at a different app. Would be delightful if it could also address up to four different hardware ports.

    • Ah that would be wonderful!

  • Mactley

    This looks great! Although it’s a shame that you can’t send different playheads to different midi channels, would be great to have that implemented in a future version.

    • wingo shackleford

      Rumor has it that he’s working on implementing that.

      • Will

        Yep. Apparently, it will even allow each playhead to point at a different app. Would be delightful if it could also address up to four different hardware ports.

    • Ah that would be wonderful!

  • Charles

    This is pretty damn cool. Going to see if I can create the same effect using auxes on my Cirklon.

    • smutje

      Please report back as soon as you have some results. Thx.

  • Charles

    This is pretty damn cool. Going to see if I can create the same effect using auxes on my Cirklon.

    • smutje

      Please report back as soon as you have some results. Thx.

  • Charles

    This is pretty damn cool. Going to see if I can create the same effect using auxes on my Cirklon.

    • Smutje

      Please report back as soon as you have some results. Thx.

  • Riccardo Coen

    Doesn’t seem that much of a breakthrough, I’ve been doing this for years on Numerology in software and on my genoqs octopus in hardware.

    • Charles

      And Bach did it hundreds of years ago. This isn’t a new technique, it just makes an old technique more accessible – lots of people can’t afford an octopus, and Numerology requires some knowledge of fugues and how they work to set it up correctly. Neither is a good introduction for people new to the idea.

      • Comments:

        JPachebel53: Whatevs, J.S.! Canon, been there, done that. The 17th century called, they want your contrapuntal technique back. Come to Nuremberg, I’ll school you.

    • Absolutely – but it’s a natural for the iPad’s touch interface, and the visuals here make it immediately accessible.

  • Riccardo Coen

    Doesn’t seem that much of a breakthrough, I’ve been doing this for years on Numerology in software and on my genoqs octopus in hardware.

    • Charles

      And Bach did it hundreds of years ago. This isn’t a new technique, it just makes an old technique more accessible – lots of people can’t afford an octopus, and Numerology requires some knowledge of fugues and how they work to set it up correctly. Neither is a good introduction for people new to the idea.

      • Comments:

        JPachebel53: Whatevs, J.S.! Canon, been there, done that. The 17th century called, they want your contrapuntal technique back. Come to Nuremberg, I’ll school you.

    • Absolutely – but it’s a natural for the iPad’s touch interface, and the visuals here make it immediately accessible.

  • Riccardo Coen

    Doesn’t seem that much of a breakthrough, I’ve been doing this for years on Numerology in software and on my genoqs octopus in hardware.

    • Charles

      And Bach did it hundreds of years ago. This isn’t a new technique, it just makes an old technique more accessible – lots of people can’t afford an octopus, and Numerology requires some knowledge of fugues and how they work to set it up correctly. Neither is a good introduction for people new to the idea.

      • Comments:

        JPachebel53: Whatevs, J.S.! Canon, been there, done that. The 17th century called, they want your contrapuntal technique back. Come to Nuremberg, I’ll school you.

    • Absolutely – but it’s a natural for the iPad’s touch interface, and the visuals here make it immediately accessible.

  • wingo shackleford

    This app is really fun. Such a great idea. I couldn’t stop playing with it last night.

  • wingo shackleford

    This app is really fun. Such a great idea. I couldn’t stop playing with it last night.

  • wingo shackleford

    This app is really fun. Such a great idea. I couldn’t stop playing with it last night.

  • heinrichz

    This is awesome, sequencing technology that goes more beyond just mimicking conventional recording and composition tools and generating meaningful variations and permutations automatically, nothing totally new maybe but becoming more simple and accessible. Yes, the iOS is still the way to go for touch screen &music apps !

  • heinrichz

    This is awesome, sequencing technology that goes more beyond just mimicking conventional recording and composition tools and generating meaningful variations and permutations automatically, nothing totally new maybe but becoming more simple and accessible. Yes, the iOS is still the way to go for touch screen &music apps !

  • heinrichz

    This is awesome, sequencing technology that goes more beyond just mimicking conventional recording and composition tools and generating meaningful variations and permutations automatically, nothing totally new maybe but becoming more simple and accessible. Yes, the iOS is still the way to go for touch screen &music apps !

  • “It’s clear the iPad is becoming the platform of choice for innovative sequencers, and perhaps a must-have companion for MIDI mavens.” … Yes so much to this statement. I am having so much fun with my iConnect/iPad and iOS sequencers (and my Eurorack ;)).

    • Will

      One day later… MIDISteps, an SH-101 inspired step sequencer lands in the app store. “Inspired” is loose here—he made sure that you can enter notes and then hit play, just like the SH-101’s sequencer. Then he added polyphony 4 tracks and 16 sequences per track. So… a polyphonic BSP for $10. 🙂 http://artkerns.com/midisteps.html

  • “It’s clear the iPad is becoming the platform of choice for innovative sequencers, and perhaps a must-have companion for MIDI mavens.” … Yes so much to this statement. I am having so much fun with my iConnect/iPad and iOS sequencers (and my Eurorack ;)).

    • Will

      One day later… MIDISteps, an SH-101 inspired step sequencer lands in the app store. “Inspired” is loose here—he made sure that you can enter notes and then hit play, just like the SH-101’s sequencer. Then he added polyphony, 4 tracks, variable in and out per loop, clock options and 16 sequences per track. So… a polyphonic BSP for $10. 🙂 http://artkerns.com/midisteps.html

  • “It’s clear the iPad is becoming the platform of choice for innovative sequencers, and perhaps a must-have companion for MIDI mavens.” … Yes so much to this statement. I am having so much fun with my iConnect/iPad and iOS sequencers (and my Eurorack ;)).

    • Will

      One day later… MIDISteps, an SH-101 inspired step sequencer lands in the app store. “Inspired” is loose here—he made sure that you can enter notes and then hit play, just like the SH-101’s sequencer. Then he added polyphony, 4 tracks, variable in and out per loop, clock options and 16 sequences per track. So… a polyphonic BSP for $10. 🙂 http://artkerns.com/midisteps.html

  • Jo Wen

    Peter asks:

    Can you take a single melody, and make more complex patterns by echoing them, turning them upside down?

    Riccardos and my answer is:

    Yes.
    And much more!

    Did you ever take a deeper look into Numerology from Five12?

    This is all no problem there even with sending each note to different MIDI channels if you like.

    As stated befor Numerology goes more beyond conventional composition tools, generating meaningful variations and permutations.

  • Jo Wen

    Peter asks:

    Can you take a single melody, and make more complex patterns by echoing them, turning them upside down?

    Riccardos and my answer is:

    Yes.
    And much more!

    Did you ever take a deeper look into Numerology from Five12?

    This is all no problem there even with sending each note to different MIDI channels if you like.

    As stated befor Numerology goes more beyond conventional composition tools, generating meaningful variations and permutations.

  • Jo Wen

    Peter asks:

    Can you take a single melody, and make more complex patterns by echoing them, turning them upside down?

    Riccardos and my answer is:

    Yes.
    And much more!

    Did you ever take a deeper look into Numerology from Five12?

    This is all no problem there even with sending each note to different MIDI channels if you like.

    As stated befor Numerology goes more beyond conventional composition tools, generating meaningful variations and permutations.

  • Anthony Rodgers

    Digital learning methods are gaining popularity these days. I did my ear training with a real ‘offline’ master, but my brother now, is learning it from some Online Ear Training HQ. And the results are same. He has acquired the same skill set as mine.

  • lrlarson

    Although this is cool, I wouldn’t use this Bach to illustrate anything – that is not how a fugue works. You might want to look at a canon, which this actually can do. A fugue requires a lot more than this….

  • lrlarson

    Although this is cool, I wouldn’t use this Bach to illustrate anything – that is not how a fugue works. You might want to look at a canon, which this actually can do. A fugue requires a lot more than this….

  • lrlarson

    Although this is cool, I wouldn’t use this Bach to illustrate anything – that is not how a fugue works. You might want to look at a canon, which this actually can do. A fugue requires a lot more than this….

  • Lindon Parker

    A lot like this then really: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mbIMXGlle4

    …nothing truly new I guess, nice to see it on a tablet though…

  • Lindon Parker

    A lot like this then really: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mbIMXGlle4

    …nothing truly new I guess, nice to see it on a tablet though…

  • Lindon Parker

    A lot like this then really: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mbIMXGlle4

    …nothing truly new I guess, nice to see it on a tablet though…

  • Anthony Rodgers

    A fugue needs a lot of work to be done. it is not easy. I would not go for this at this moment. Maybe in the future when it is evolved enough. Scott, my trainer, said that it would not be wise to start working on it yet.

  • Jo Wen

    found a MultiHead SeQu at the Numerology forum:

    http://five12.net/showthread.php?p=14556#post14556

  • Jo Wen

    found a MultiHead SeQu at the Numerology forum:

    http://five12.net/showthread.php?p=14556#post14556

  • Jo Wen

    found a MultiHead SeQu at the Numerology forum:

    http://five12.net/showthread.php?p=14556#post14556

  • jkant

    The app used by Bach and friends was called Arca Musarithmica https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arca_Musarithmica

  • jkant

    The app used by Bach and friends was called Arca Musarithmica https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arca_Musarithmica

  • jkant

    The app used by Bach and friends was called Arca Musarithmica https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arca_Musarithmica

  • Daniel Nigrin

    I’m late to this discussion, but this app reminds me a lot of what Olivier (Mutable Instruments) and I did in our Cyclic sequencer: http://defectiverecords.com/cyclic . Definitely a different approach, but at it’s core, the same principle. A fixed sequence of notes, with different playheads traversing them. Cool stuff.

  • Dan Nigrin

    I’m late to this discussion, but this app reminds me a lot of what Olivier (Mutable Instruments) and I did in our Cyclic sequencer: http://defectiverecords.com/cyclic . Definitely a different approach, but at it’s core, the same principle. A fixed sequence of notes, with different playheads traversing them. Cool stuff.

  • Dan Nigrin

    I’m late to this discussion, but this app reminds me a lot of what Olivier (Mutable Instruments) and I did in our Cyclic sequencer: http://defectiverecords.com/cyclic . Definitely a different approach, but at it’s core, the same principle. A fixed sequence of notes, with different playheads traversing them. Cool stuff.