Poly Clocks +

Polyrhythms in a block

(9 Votes)
1.0 (Updated 3 years ago)
February 03, 2019
Reaktor 6


Threefer on offer. Nothing life-changing however:
a new tweak I call “Poly Clocks +” on an old block: Mitch Burton’s “Clock Deluxe”;
an ensemble that spawns weird polyrhythmic chatter and sounds like a very tight band at the same time;
a stealth new block-tweak on Michael Hetrick’s Karplus block, wherein I’ve added new filters.
(My time in Vadim’s workshop paid some dividends in spite of all my screwups!)

Credits: Mitch Burton; Michael Hetrick; Thala Estra for helping me debug a quirky Lamp (caused, apparently, by Logic Pro X), Cal Scott for inspiration.

I never understood the explicit reliance by DAWs and other music apps on the canonical and invariant divisions of time: Whole, Half, Quarter, Eighth, etc.
These are of course foundational and powerful, but that isn’t all there is. OK, of course, most pop music doesn’t need 7 in the time of 16, I know that. But that’s no reason for software not to provide for such fun anomalies.

And I need such anomalies. My roots, esthetically speaking, are in Western ‘classical’ music. One fascination I carry from that world, developed by composers extensively in the 20th century, is experimentation with musical time. (If you are not familiar with the American composer and revolutionary fighter, Conlon Nancarrow, I recommend you listen to his Player Piano Studies, you can choose from more than 50 of these.) No doubt technology had something to do with the growing focus on the possibilities of musico-temporal complexities. And that’s what we’re dealing with in Reaktor!

One day I was haunting the halls of the User Library, and I came upon a door, and behind that door was: Blocks by Mitch!
I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. The capacity to deal with almost any quirky polyrhythm suddenly appeared, available in Reaktor.
I haven’t seen entries from Mitch in the days since I began exploring Reaktor (Sept 2018) and so if he sees this, I want him to know just how grateful I am for his work.

Of the 3 super instruments in Blocks by Mitch, my focus has always been on Clock Deluxe above all, probably for the simplicity of it, and the Do It Yourself quality it offers.

The main thing you will want to know about what I did to Clock Deluxe was that it was trivial. I added another ‘Base’ and another ‘Ratio’ so that my version of his block can perform polyrhythms all by itself. It doesn’t need an audible click or other kind of pulse from your main DAW clock as a reference point. I generally use the first Base and Ratio to perform that function, and let the 2nd Base and Ratio provide the polyrhythms. But do it your own way. You can make both Gate sources be polyrhythmic with respect to your DAW if you like! (And add in a kick or whatever from it.)

(What my block does could be performed easily by two Clocks Deluxe blocks, so why bother? It’s a workflow thing. If you like to keep your ensembles spare and clean, and don’t like clutter, and above all are lazy like me, you try hard to keep your complexity simple.)

Mitch’s Phasing feature is designed to take your Base and Ratio and to iterate its implications at a faster tempo than the DAW’s clock, such that at a certain juncture it will phase back in and be in sync, however briefly, with the DAW clock. And so on. I left this feature as is, though I have ideas for other algorithms than the one found in the Calc Phasing macro. In the case of Poly Clocks +, Phasing is applied to both Gate streams equally, so you have a polyrhythm within a long-term polyrhythm. Turn Phasing off if you want explicit synchrony with your DAW’s clock.

The stealth block mentioned at the top is another version I did on Michael Hetrick’s Karplus. Here I have made more extensive changes:
The Internal noise source still goes to an HPF, but the user’s alternative External signal now not only has Sample Reduction applied via the COLOR control, it is also put through an LPF, whose cutoff too is controlled by COLOR. I replaced Michael’s HPF with a HP Ladder filter, and the new LPF for External source is also a Ladder filter. I added a Resonance and a Saturation control for the filters. Watch out! As with my prior version of Hetrick’s Karplus, I have a WET control and a Factor control, the latter of which multiplies the time that the signal is delayed, for more sustained sounds.

In the provided Ensemble, it pays to wait for a while to get the full panoply of sound that may emerge from any of the snaps.

I hope you enjoy this threefer!


Jonathan Stubbs
3 years ago
Thanks, Catman. Busy now, but hoping to roll up sleeves and get at it with Reaktor 6. Thanks for the tip about the Reaktor forums, I don't have much available bandwidth at the moment, but will check that out at some point. Thanks again.
Catman Dude
3 years ago
Hey Jonathan, sounds like you and I are on the same, er, wavelength! I hope to see you hanging out and sharing your thoughts and work with Reaktor. If you have any questions about Poly Clocks +, or anything else, fire away. Have you been on the Reaktor Forum? Great place to learn.
Jonathan Stubbs
3 years ago
I'm obsessed with non-standard step-rates, polyrhythms, odd-meters, and various rhythmic oddities that are not available in most tech. This demo is super cool sounding! I've had Reaktor 6 for a little while, but have still only been using finished ensembles and haven't gotten into using blocks. This is great stuff though. Downloading now.