For last month’s arpeggiate the world, I wanted all the audio to be procedural (no samples), but I realised I didn’t have any code for a decent-sounding cymbal. So I took a bit of a detour from the main game and coded a cymbal synthesizer for it, following these old Sound On Sound articles. Having coded it though, there wasn’t much time to actually explore it before I had to upload the game.
So this month’s piece is a more thorough exploration of that cymbal synthesizer. It’s a pixel art island which you can populate with robots and arrows. Robots will travel in one direction until they either hit an arrow or fall into the sea. Any time a robot hits an arrow or falls into the sea, it will trigger one of 5 cymbal synthesizers.
It’s a bit of a strange setup for something that is basically a step sequencer, but it makes it really easy to create clattering, metallic polyrhythms. I’ve included a basic UI (accessible via F1), so you can modify the settings of each synthesizer, change the tempo and record the sounds to .wav.
Bear in mind the synthesizer code is not super optimised, so you will likely overload your CPU if you try to trigger too many notes at once (the sequencer can handle up to 48 robots clattering round the island, but the synthesizer will not have a fun time if you’re triggering 48 notes all at once).
If you’re not on Windows and would like to hear what this sounds like, I posted a video on twitter.
Controls: escape: quit; left click: select/place object; right click: delete object; ctrl: place alternate objects while held; F1: display/hide advanced UI
Reading C.L. Clark’s The Unbroken (which is excellent, btw), I found myself thinking about the ways it’s both similar to the kind of gritty fantasy books I read as a teenager, and radically different. Clark is clearly coming at the genre from a post-colonial, anti-imperialist position (with - I think - echoes of Fanon, even), and unflinching in portraying a colonised people fighting for their independence. And thinking again of Elizabeth Sandifer’s observations about recent trends in SF/F. Given everything-that-is-happening-in-the-world-right-now [flails wildly] I don’t know if it counts as hope, but it feels like the stories we tell ourselves are visibly changing.
I also read Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles books after seeing a recommendation for the spinoff novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I figured the novella would make more sense if I read the main books first, but I think that was a mistake. Particularly reading them right after The Unbroken, the Kingkiller Chronicles feel remarkably old-fashioned, and Rothfuss seems incapable of writing a female character without commenting on her breasts.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is something else entirely though. Quiet, unexpected, and strange. Yet Rothfuss practically trips over himself (in both a foreword and afterword) apologising for it being capital-W Weird, and something that most people just won’t get. It’s a bizarre stance for a writer to take, especially in combination with his recommendation that you read the main books first. I’d actually argue that it works far better if you’ve not read the main books, as that way the novella gestures towards this mysterious, expansive wider world, without the disappointment of seeing how Rothfuss filled that world out.
(admittedly, I’m probably biased; I always prefer it when writers leave gaps, and refuse to spell everything out in exacting detail)
I’m not an REM fan, but I stumbled across this old Jools Holland performance of Country Feedback and it caught me in my tracks. I think I only like REM when it seems like they’re sad and exhausted and singing themselves to sleep.
A beautiful piece on grief and work by Sarah Jaffe.
I love Kieron Gillen’s TTRPG board game modification about making one person at the table the greatest gamer the world has ever seen. Bernie De Koven’s Well Played Game in TTRPG format.
A pair of tweets talking about Sacheen Littlefeather’s 1973 oscar speech. I can’t get over how tentative she is in the video, and how little she is asking for. And then to hear the boos, see Eastwood’s smirk, to have John Wayne needing to be held back from physically assaulting her… There are no words. Fuck the oscars, fuck Clint Eastwood, and fuck John Wayne.
A beautiful flash fiction love letter by J.M. Melican.
Taylor Swietanski has a new game out, and it’s incredible. I don’t know anyone else who is making games like this.
I think we’re solidly into Spring now. There are so many birds round here, I keep finding myself transfixed at the kitchen window watching the various blackbirds, robins, goldfinches, chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, song thrushes, wood pigeons, rooks, even a confused-looking pheasant once. I hope wherever you are the world is alive and full of birds.