Harmonic Drone Study; Overtones as Generative Music

Dancing Moon

I have been a fan of drones for a long time. There is something about the fixedness of certain aspects of the drone that allow your mind to focus on other parts that shift subtly in the background.

In a way some drones (perhaps this one) could be called generative music. This is because while the part of the music that you play can be quite fixed, it is in itself a simple system that produces an output that is beyond your control. I am talking now about overtones.

When you play one chord or a grouping of notes repeatedly in a space or with an acoustic instrument, you are in effect setting up a system upon which chance plays a part in creating music. This is the thing that always excites me about drones. Especially acoustic drones.

I stumbled upon a great group of notes for a drone on my acoustic guitar, while playing with the capo. I was messing with how i could differently tune the guitar, just by capoing only certain strings. After playing the drone to myself for a while I recorded a playing of it, lasting as long as felt nice.

Capo Placement and fretting:

The recording was then processed in protools with the addition of reverb, delay, and EQ. Basically all effects were leveraged to get the most oft of the overtones and I feel worked quite nicely.

Of course now part of me wants to bury this in a bevy of other sounds, but for now I will refrain and present just the drone to you as a completed study.

Dizzying Lights (Harmonic Drone No. 1)

To illustrate my point even further I am including an excerpt of a performance by Jack Rose form 2005. Here he employs this method to wonderous effect. (and does one of the punkest things i’ve seen someone do with an acousting guitar in recent years) the cascading melodies that spill from his guitar into the auditorium leave one searching for another player in the room, but alas there was just one.

Jack Rose scraping melodies

Rose employed a technique or scraping his guitar strings at the anti-node location with what sounds like a piece of metal. What starts as quite a faint sound — over the course of nearly 18 minutes and a few pitches — becomes quite loud and the resulting overtones interact beautifuly.

Jack Rose: Untitled – First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, 12/16/05


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One Response to “Harmonic Drone Study; Overtones as Generative Music”

  1. jack rose Says:

    hey this is jack. where did you get a copy of that recording, sounds like it’s from board. please get in touch because I would like to have a copy. you can reach me through myspace jackrosekensington


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