C-C-Combine is a corpus-based audio mosaicking application, built in Max, based on concatenative synthesis. Concatenative synthesis is a technique for synthesizing sounds by concatenating short samples of recorded sound. It is essentially a type of granular synthesis that, instead of playing back grains based on position/window parameters, plays back grains based on descriptor-based navigation, in this case happening through real-time audio analysis. In order to do this you must have a corpus (the pre-analyzed body of sounds) and an input sound source (either incoming audio or file playback).
Here is a video of it in action.
Back when I started programming what would eventually become The Party Van, I envisioned building something like C-C-Combine. It was very much out of my programming reach/understanding at the time. C-C-Combine is my first exploration into “full on” concatenative synthesis: one that uses a pre-analyzed corpus of samples. I was originally inspired to do this by collaborator Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, having heard his Sandbox #3 in action, which is based on CataRT, an open source concatentative synthesis application written by Diemo Schwarz. (You can read more about PA Tremblay’s concat setup/exploration in this paper.)
A central concern for Tremblay is the recycling of virtuosity, which in the case of Sandbox #3 comes in the form of the translation of instrumental gesture (on a fretless bass guitar) to a granular synthesis playback engine. For C-C-Combine, I wanted to build something that could map arbitrary input to arbitrary output. The video above shows C-C-Combine being used with a wide variety of input sources and corpora.
At the core of C-C-Combine is granular synthesis, which is well suited as a playback method for unusual corpora as it can emphasize the transients in the body of samples. When using sound sources such as circuit-bent toys or glitching CD players, there are many transient artifacts that are part of the short-circuiting process. In a circuit-bent toy this could be through faulty logic causing random access to memory or a laser ‘jumping the grooves’ in the case of a CD player. There is a sound to these glitches/transients and the granular synthesis can highlight them.
Since the corpora is made up of very short audio segments (definable between 20-100ms at the time of analysis) this means that when using a corpus containing circuit-bent or glitching sources a high density of glitch is present in the samples. This glitch-ness is something that can really come across, sometimes, with certain types of input audio, even more so than the non-glitch contents of the samples. Depending on the input source this can push the glitch into the territory of Microtemporal Fusion where “human perception reaches attentional limits where microevents occur too quickly in succession to be heard as discrete events”, as described by Curtis Roads in this book. This means that one can literally articulate and perform with the sound of glitch.
Aside from the desire to learn to code something that did exactly what I wanted, the impetus for creating C-C-Combine was that this type of synthesis and sound production is difficult to get into. CataRT is freely available, but it requires installing a large framework/extension on top of Max/MSP (FTM&Co). Mogees, another system for concatenative synthesis by Bruno Zamborlin, seemed easy to use, but the code was not openly available. C-C-Combine is freely available to download (link below) as a Max/MSP patch, so that you can edit/view the code (or use it as is). It only uses a few externals by Alex Harker, which come included with the download. Harker’s externals handle the audio analysis (both real-time and offline) as well as data storage/lookup.
I made every effort to make the application as user-friendly as possible with a thorough “quick start” guide in the ‘info’ window and ‘hints’ when you hover over anything. Corpus analysis/storage/loading is no trivial task, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either. The program is primarily made for real-time audio mosaicking, so most of the features are built towards that end, but I do plan on expanding the program, as well as building an adaptation of it into The Party Van.
Here are my own personal corpora (multiple corpuses) that you can download and use with the patch right away. Just drag the audio file onto the main window of C-C-Combine, then select the analysis file when it prompts you for it.
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-makes music and art
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