It all started in December of 2017, when a choir member gave me a clock. I’d started conducting a community choir that year, the previous conductor having moved to the other side of the country.
I’m not sure quite why Annie – the choir member – decided to give me a clock a few weeks later during the preparation for the group’s Christmas Eve concert: I suspect it was either a gift with the subtext of ‘I’ve really enjoyed singing in the choir this year’, or a subtle hint for me to start and finish rehearsals on time.
Fast forward to 2020, and I’m looking into making my own samples, having been inspired by the Pianobook website and Christian Henson’s videos. In this time I haven’t really used the clock, having a perfectly good digital one, one that doesn’t make loud ticking noises at 60bpm.
The logical thing to do, therefore, was to get the clock up and running – so a few AA batteries later I recorded the ticks and tacks (it doesn’t really go ‘tock’) with a stereo pair of KM184 microphones into a Zoom F8n recorder.
The audio was then noise reduced (thanks to iZotope RX7), and chopped up. I noticed some resonant frequencies, so put a filter on to emphasise those – they were A3 for the ‘tacks’ and E2 for the ‘ticks’. Following some experimenting with reverbs and other bits and pieces, I came up with a three-layer sample spanning the entire keyboard. On the shorts, this translates to three velocity layers, and on the longs the mod wheel crossfades between each layer.
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A most musical clock...
… or a rhythmical one, in any case. I was searching for something to convey the feeling, rather than the exact sound of, a robot; something mechanical, ideally clockwork – or at least battery operated. I swiftly found Alex’s (or rather Annie’s) clock fit the bill perfectly. I can think of numerous possible uses for this instrument. I didn’t mess around with its controls too much, apart from taking off the built-in splosh and replacing it with a plug-in, simply because I wanted to automate it and exaggerate it. Resonance, depth, and sounds that span the keyboard – it’s all there. You saved my project in the tack of time, Alex. Thanks!