Twang Darkly

16th Dec 2014 by Tim Cole

Twang Darkly

Generative Music in Band Form

In this blog post we are featuring Michael Futreal https://twitter.com/twangdarkly (@twangdarkly), a composer, performer, and instrument builder currently based out of Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. Using handmade dulcimers, flutes, guitars, and other instruments, he performs and records with his trio Twang Darkly, and has recently made forays into film with score work for a pair of independent feature films Coldwell Spring and Counting for Thunder.

Michael and Twang Darkly focus primarily on improvisational modal music, a fluid approach in which structure and harmony arise primarily out of interactions between melodic lines based around fixed scales, often with an accompanying drone environment to contextualize the lines (as opposed to chord progressions). The approach is perfectly suited to generative music software, and Michael has been a user of our software since the SSEYO Koan days.

"For years I've used SSEYO/Intermorphic tools in my 'lab' as virtual musicians to whom I could 'explain' the rules of particular modalities and then have them provide experimental soundscapes over which I could develop and explore musical pathways," says Futreal. Generative music helps him develop the rulesets which govern pieces that the trio plays live. "In a way," my trio operates very much like an Intermorphic generative music system, and I've used Koan Pro and, more recently, Noatikl to delve deeper into refining a practical approach to playing modal music live."

Noatikl on the iPad Goes Live

Very recently, Michael has actually been making Noatikl for iOS a partner in his live performance setup, thanks to its power and portability on iPad. He first gave Noatikl its live break at some recent art venue performances to which bass/guitar player Joel Boultinghouse couldn't make it. For a few pieces, he made Noatikl a substitute member of the trio, and, as the clips here demonstrate, the software performed quite nicely alongside his homemade bamboo flutes and the trio's inventive percussionist, Lane Bayliss. Joel now jokingly refers to the Noatikl software as the "iJoel."

The first Twang experiment with Noatikl:

A subsequent outing:

Overall, Futreal is optimistic about the potential for using Noatikl both in a live and studio context. "It's so much more interesting to have a generative system at work than to work against canned backing tracks or loops — it can really fit into a living musical performance in an organic way." And he plans to keep using the software as an experimental partner in the studio context. "The Noatikl approach to music resonates with my modal interests and gives me numerous ways to explore ideas quickly."