Nodebeat Meditations

While it’s not something I’ve written about much on this site, one of the things I’m very passionate about is the idea that anyone, regardless of training or education, should be able to experience the joy of creating music. To that end, I’m always interested in technological innovations that can further that goal. Technology has already progressed immensely from where it was when I started making music with a simple notation program and General MIDI sounds – today, you can have everything from multiple racks of synthesizers and effects to the equivalent of a full symphony orchestra at your fingertips on a single computer. However, while this world of possibilities is great for a professional or advanced amateur with years of training, it’s not particularly accessible. Because of this, I’m always interested in alternate methods of creating music that don’t require advanced knowledge of a complex DAW user environment. These tools are usually simpler, but have a considerable amount of creative potential, often paired with an interesting and easy-to-use interface.

The first program I experimented with in this vein was Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS – the song Planktonic Variations was recorded live using it. This song is created via a somewhat similar program on the Mac, called NodeBeat. It works by placing musical nodes that are networked together with essentially pulse generators – depending on the distance from the generator to the node, the sounds are played in different sequences. By moving the generators and nodes around in real time, you can create fairly complex variations.

This particular song is a live experiment using the program. It’s definitely an ambient-sounding piece, something that I’ve found the program excels at. This tends to be the case with many of the current programs of its type, as playing around with sound is easier within that sort of context (due to the fact that you’re not trying to sync everything to a particular beat or style). While the program does have some limitations in the sounds it can produce (and while it would be nice to be able to load external sounds or samples into its interface), I think it’s definitely a worthy entry for people who are interested in creating music without the complex learning curve creating digital music might otherwise require.