Electronic music plug-in is laying down new beats
An EU-funded project has developed a software tool composers and producers of beat-driven electronic music can use to generate loops of chord sequences. This enables them to create entrancing soundscapes while turning up the volume on Europe's competitiveness in the music production software market.
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Electronic music has exploded in popularity in recent years, evidenced by the rise of superstar DJs and music festivals. Producers are constantly on the lookout for unconventional, yet emotionally powerful sounds and the tools to create them, to ensure the legions of fans remain slaves to the rhythm.
Semi-automated production tools currently available are limited in that they follow the same sets of rules, often resulting in monotonous output. There has been a gap in the market for tools which professional and semi-professional musicians can use to generate meaningful, high-quality chord sequences.
The EU-funded I2C8 project filled this gap with an intelligent plug-in that uses statistical models to generate loops repeated sections of chords that characterise electronic music genres, which fans find so entrancing. It is simple and fun to use and was designed with producers of loop-based, beat-driven, bass-heavy genres of electronic dance music in mind.
The result is a subtle combination between the old world of strict musical form and potent digital alienation accomplished by fast computing power, says Stefan Oertl, founder and CEO of Re-Compose GmbH, the project coordinator.
It is exactly such unconventional, yet emotionally triggering sound creations producers seek. To fabricate a similar output with conventional means in a digital audio workstation would require a lot of tedious work, and making alterations while new output is being generated would be nearly impossible.
I2C8 was introduced to the music production software market in December 2018 and is sold as a plug-in for conventional digital audio workstations. Since then, about 500 licences have been sold, including full-price standard licences and price-reduced cross-grade offers to existing customers.
I2C8 is unlike other tools, which Oertl says function more like chord-recommendation or sequence-building engines. The plug-in uses statistical models to build musically meaningful chord sequences. Machine learning has also been used to develop these models by analysing a large corpus of songs from electronic genres, in particular trance music, which is primarily based on triads, or chords of three notes.
I2C8 was designed with quick results in mind, to inspire for composing, not to deliver complete compositions, says Oertl.
To achieve this, the plug-in has an easy-to-use interface on which chords are represented as geometric shapes in contrast to a formal way of notation. This makes it easy for those without formal musical training to use it.
It also underscores the fact that the software was created with commercial electronic music in mind, which follows a different formal logic than traditional music like pop and rock.
The plug-in works directly in digital audio workstations. It allows users to pick an instrument with a polyphonic sound, generate new chords, define the pattern of progression, listen to the sequence, change the duration of the chords, change the key, set the number of voices playing, and drag and drop the sequence to a digital audio workstation. Chords can be triggered with a keyboard or external MIDI keyboard, and multiple instances of the plug-in can be opened so that users can experiment with a variety of simultaneously playing chord sequences.
The project built on the EU-funded LRN2CRE8 project which looked at music production based on the relationship between learning and creativity. It began from the position that creativity is a function of memory, that new structures are based on memorised ones, using processes which are essentially statistical.
Oertl believes the project results can be developed much further as it has only reached a fraction of its full potential. Re-Composes current priority is to develop a voicing algorithm, extended from a relatively simple triad logic to master complex five-note chords. This algorithm could be used to add different instruments and chord sequences to melody and bass lines. It would control the flow of these different parts and optimise the structure of the music according to the rules of form or perception.
This will allow a user to progress from chord-sequence generation through to the generation of a full musical texture, he says.
Ultimately, the aim is to combine it with other music production products to ensure a seamless workflow.
Integrated into a comprehensive music production framework, the idea behind I2C8 can very well be the foundation for genuine next-generation digital music production, concludes Oertl.