Doug Wyatt: Architect of Synchronicity
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Wyatt’s QuickTip #1: Turning Speech into Song

You have to listen to “Talking Points” on Doug Wyatt’s new album to fully appreciate this tip, which he used to turn a load of political rhetoric into a powerfully disturbing piece of music. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“This piece was inspired by a QuickTime movie which featured a number of politicians repeating certain key phrases in their speeches,” Wyatt reveals. Here’s how he created the basic track, utilizing Apple QuickTime and Native Instruments Reaktor.

  1. Open the movie in QuickTime Player, and choose “Export Sound to AIFF” (or WAV).
  2. Open Travelizer, one of the Reaktor 4 factory ensembles, double-click the sample waveform to open the sample map editor, and then add the speech soundtrack to the sample map. Select that sample as the one to be played.
  3. Set Travelizer’s pitch to be MIDI-controlled. On the resonators, make sure “MIDI pitch control” is enabled and the mix is turned up.
  4. Assign a pair of MIDI controllers to the “t r a v e l” X/Y grid in Reaktor. These control the size and position of the chunk of audio from the original file used as a source to the granular resynthesis algorithm.

“With a long audio file like the one I used,” adds Wyatt, “you can quickly move between very different sounds as you move the sliders. Long grain lengths result in recognizable bits of the sample being played, and very short grain lengths have a much different, unrecognizable sound with a buzzy quality. At one point in the track I played it in a synth solo style, though the sound has enough atonal qualities that it doesn’t really sound like a melodic part.”

Glass Organ Wyatt creates a wine-glass pad sound. Two Microtek Geffel UM92 mics are configured as a Blumlein pair for stereo recording.

Wyatt’s QuickTip #2: Capturing the Fine Wine of an Organ

Wyatt points out that many synthesizers include bright, ringing sounds reminiscent of the tone you get by running a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass. But as his new album proves, taking time to create the real thing produces a far more interesting sound.

“The attack has a chaotic element,” he says. “I suggest using between four and ten glasses so that you can have a variety of pitches. I find that larger cognac glasses work best; smaller glasses are higher pitched and more difficult to tune.”

To “play” a wine glass, Wyatt says to fill it perhaps a quarter of the way with water, dip your finger in the water, and run it lightly around the rim of the glass in circles. To steady the glass, hold it by the stem with your other hand.

“You’ll find that it takes a bit of care to touch the glass in a way that makes it ring without dampening the vibrations,” he notes, “but once you’ve done it, it’s very easy to do it again. To tune the glasses, remember the ’longer is lower’ rule about acoustic instruments—in the case of a wine glass, adding water lowers the pitch, and removing it raises the pitch. Depending on the effect you’re after, you might want to use another instrument or an electronic tuner as you tune the glasses. Or, you might decide that it’s OK for them not to be perfectly in tune.”

Chair Smash To create a dramatic sound, Wyatt miked a chair and smashed it with a hammer. When the hammer broke too, producer Lundquist ducked, thinking it would fly through the control-room window.

Doug Wyatt: Music Examples

Here are two excerpts from Wyatt’s upcoming album, due in October 2005. Visit his site for release information. Clicking the links will open the MP3s in a new window.

Randy Alberts is an author, musician, and photographer who lives on Lummi Island, Washington.

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