Brocken Specter

Here’s what you need:

  • the score (in 11×17 format)
  • the software*
  • at least one (preferably 2) microphones
  • a digital audio interface
  • a Mac computer (It may work on a PC, but I don’t have a PC to test on and won’t be able to help solve any problems.)
  • a decent qulity PA

*Note: if you already have SuperCollider installed on your computer then there will likely be problems. email me.

Performance option: Improvise on the first 18 bars — play them out of time non-tremolo. At some point before bar 18 cue the sound person to start the program so that the end of the improvised bit overlaps a little with the beginning of the tape and then just play as written. Seems to work pretty well and adds another 1.5-2 mins.

Some people have asked about the title. Here are some pictures of brocken specters.

(The information below is included in the ReadMe file for the software, so you don’t really have to read it here…)

Notes on Brocken Specter performance software:

The volume of the microphone inputs is controlled by the tape part. This means that you shouldn’t hear any sound from the inputs until after you push the “Play” button. The input from the microphones will start fading in approx. 10 seconds after the sound file starts playing. The inputs fade out again at the end.

You can adjust levels/balances with the faders in the BrockenSpecter window. Settings are not saved from one session to the next.

The “Reset” button resets the whole program. Once the program has started, this is the only way to start over again, and unfortunately you always have to start from the beginning. (The “|<” is actually kind of pointless as it only resets the play position of the sound file, but not the control of the input levels.)

Closing the BrockenSpecter window should kill all the sound.

When checking levels be sure to test notes E5 and higher. They are supposed to pop out of the texture, but you need to be sure they don’t clip. In this regard you should be careful with that top octave in performance.

Running the Brocken Specter software for practice/performance:

  1. Select the desired audio driver in System Preferences BEFORE launching the SuperCollider application.
    (*If using the built in audio on an Intel Mac you need to create an aggregate device in AudioMIDI Setup and select that device.
  2. You can use one or two mics and they should be connected to the FIRST TWO INPUTS of your sound card (if using only one you can connect it to either of the first two inputs). Likewise, you should use the first two outputs (stereo).
  3. Launch SuperCollider.
  4. Open Run_Brocken_Specter.rtf.
  5. Select all and hit enter.
  6. Pressing the “Play” button starts everything.

Explanation of the controls:

The track controls should be pretty self-explanitory.

  • The “|<” button returns to the beginning of the track (without stopping playback) — not actually very useful.
  • The “Play”/”Pause” button does just that.
  • The “Reset” button stops playback, returns to the beginning of the track, and resets the envelope that controls the audio input.

“Mute” button: mutes all audio (it’s still going, you just can’t hear it)

“Input Gain” fader: controls determines how much of the microphones’ signals the program is getting.

“Track Gain” fader: controls the output volume of the pre-recorded percussion parts.

“Delay Gain” fader: controls the output volume of the processed sound.

“Main Gain” fader: controls the output volume control for the pre-recorded track AND the processed sound (maintaining the relative balance between the two set by “Track Gain” and “Delay Gain”)

Closing the “Brocken Specter” window kills all processing.