More about noodles

Some sketchy info I collected for a lecture to be never held [around 2005-05-05]


Noodle, for me, is a form of algorithmic music performed on a modular synthesizer. Where other tools like CSound make a distinction between instrument definitions and a score this distinction tends to blur on a modular synthesizer. The same mechanisms used for instrument building are used to to make the score; namely modules, connections between modules and parameter settings.

On a modular synthesizer a distinction between control modules and signals on one side and audio modules and signals on the other side does exist usually. This distinction however is not very clear and in no way enforced by the system. No one will stop you from treating a control signal as audio, or sampling an audio signal into a control signal.

The blurred distinction between instrument and score positions the patch builder into the unique role not only of the instrument designer, but he is a composer and a performer as well.

This same blur also makes it possible to have interaction, not only from the score towards the instrument but instruments are able to influence the score as well. Instrument and score truly blend here.

Although the definition given above leaves no room for human interaction it is quite possible to allow for such interaction in a noodle. Some consider such systems to be noodles as well, interactive noodles.

Typically a noodle is not time constrained in the sense that it does have a clear beginning (when it is switched on) but it doesn't usually have an ending. It is quite possible though to also program an ending into the noodle, making it more like a conventional piece of music. (For Noodle Radio the noodles are simply faded out at some arbitrary time and then a next one is selected at random.)

For a piece of music to be interesting some development is required. The modular synthesizer concept leaves room for such development of course. Various techniques can be used to generate evolving patterns. As humans we want to be surprised by a piece of music but not too much. An ever repeating sequence is quite boring but an incoherent or random sequence is remarkably boring as well. This leads one to believe that an interesting noodle should be balanced somehow between order and chaos.

One way to accomplish such a balance is to use constrained random signals. Another possibility is to use interacting patterns, only a few interacting patterns with non trivial timing relations can give rise to emerging patterns that are quite complex.

Fractals have properties that position them on the edge between order and chaos, mathematically speaking. This property makes fractals to be interesting to explore for their possible use in noodles.

Noodles, some history in relation to the Nord Modular.

Where does the word noodle come from.

In the NM context the the first reference I could find was by Bill Romanowski. He introduced the patch [ohare.pch] with the words " Here's is another useless auto-noodle patch" in his 1999-03-30 email to the (then Wizoo hosted) Nord Modular mailing list.

The term noodle seems to be older though and not strictly related to the Nord Modular, see {**1}

Anyway, this first mail was replied by Rune Baess as follows "I just love that stuff, - here's one I made some week's ago" and he attached a patched called [Irish doodle.pch], suggesting a connection between the words doodle and noodle.

Both these patches play changing melodies, for ever.

Not much later various noodle styles came to see light, And I got hooked, I loved it. The instrument is the score is the performer, all in one, and the programmer is the composer.

Other people people didn't get it right away, a quote from the mailing list [Jelle Herold] :

            >> I noticed today the when I load a patch from the nord's memory
            >> that the patch is filled with wierd sounds, distorted sounds, or
            >> what-so-ever. I mean, some patches make sound, althought there
            >> is no key pressed...
            >> this is not normal, but maybe it is that the memory got somehow
            >> corrupted?

To which Wout Blommers replied :

            >> This is completely normal.
            >> Some Patches don't use the Keyboard, and in the PatchSettings
            >> there is an item "GetCurrentNotes..."
            >> These notes, just played before the Patch was saved, were also saved
            >> in that Patch, and that's what you hear.
            >> BTW this is a very creative feature!
            >> I think Clavia has to say something about it in there Manual,
            >> 'cause it is not the first time this question appears on the List.
            >> The attached Patch does make all kind of noises...
            >> Have fun.
            >> Wout.

Wout's attached patch [storm01.pch] is a nice example of an abstract noodle (Wout made several of such patches in those days with bird sounds or dentist's drills and stuff like that)

Not much later Jelle Herold posted his own noodles, like [autechre.pch].

My own first noodle only came after all these examples by others [Seg-16.pch] and although it's a bit boring for my current ears it already shows emphasis on the control structure of the patch.

But by that time several people had jumped into the noodle thing, some famous names are

k.Lex Pattyrson (or v.jek and several other names)

At 1999-08-18 [.v/jek.] wrote :

            >> Anybody wanna start a noodle contest?
            >> Rules: most involved, changing noodle (without knob tweaks)...
            >> anybody interested? well.. regardless, here is my submission..
            >> and I dare say this is the best noodle I have ever done
            >> (its hokie and cheezi.. but I think you'll like it ;)..
            >> Let me know what you guys think... It is based on a Vogel design
            >> called "Sine wave fill machine"... I saved it "off"..
            >> so be sure to turn on the clock to get things going
            >> (and turn knob 4 only after several measures).. read the
            >> notes for the other knobs..

Unfortunately the attached patch won't open in the NM Classic 3.03 environment (100.4% and red and silent).

JJClark (Jim)

{**1} Jim Clarck wrote (1999-09-029)

            >> *From "Jim Clark"
            >> Hi, a "noodle" is a rather ill-defined type of patch, but usually
            >> refers to a patch which plays sequences of notes with various
            >> levels of rythmic and melodic coherence.
            >> The term noodle, as I understand it, is often used to refer to
            >> improvisations on a theme or a scale of the sort produced by
            >> not-so-talented synthesizer players (although some people
            >> have had the audacity of claiming that Rick Wakeman just
            >> noodles around in his synth solos). Performing a noodle
            >> is also sometimes refered to as "wanking". Generally it is
            >> a perjorative term. I remember I took a music composition
            >> class in University where we had an assignment to write
            >> a Motet, and I got my assignment returned with "C+ - Noodle"
            >> marked on it. So I have love noodles ever since.
            >> Jim


Roland Kuit

Len Sasso

Blue Hell (Jan Punter)

At about that same time sdl, or YoH@NNe$ made more sequencer like patches that he called noodles as well.

The first four slot noodle I could find was made by k. Lex Pattyrson.

read [notes.txt] for this noodle.

And this was all in 1999, noodling was a popular sport in those days

Some 2001 kling klang noodles by Terry Funken (Tom Fenn, currently as v-un-v at electro-music], I love those.

Some patterns and examples for the Nord Modular G2.

Three lfo

See [three_lfo.prf2]

A construction with three LFOs with discretized frequency control feedback.

I've no real theoretical backing for this but it's a construction that often works for me as an intermediate between order and chaos. The three columns show three examples. The center and right most are most interesting (actually they are the same and just have different settings).

I set the amount of feedback and the amount of discretization to suit the needs of the particular patch I'm working on. More feedback gives more variation and so does raising the number of discretization steps.

In slot A use sel method in the right most column to select one of the three LFO columns. For each LFO column the feedback can be turned on or off by using the feedback switch near the top

Note that some signal conditioning may be needed, in this patch just the number of notes is limited and forced to be in a certain scale.

In slot B one off the columns was picked and I added a bit of variation through switching between different scales.

In slot C a control signal recirculator was added to get more coherence and to isolate the output from the speed of the three lfo circuit a bit. Every now and then some new material is let into the loop that then circulates it's content for a short while until new material is let in.

In slot D some audio circulation was added on top of that and now the patch seems to come alive and breath - I'd call it a noodle now, be it a simple one.

A real world variation on this theme can be seen in [04-016-005_b.prf2] , originally this was part of a larger noodle (using a lower voice count). It also uses a listener and another trick used in this noodle is voice multiplication. A single voice sparsely generates events, multiplying the voice will give some slight variations that work together and tend to fill in the silences. Usually this is more interesting than letting a single voice fill up the whole time line.


See [listener.prf2]

The PitchTracker module is the key module here. It can listen to a signal to determine it's frequency. It does so very well for a simple tone, but for more complex signals this does not work very well and instead gives rise to interesting patterns.

In this patch four signal type are used: "tone", "noise", "complex" and "more complex".

In slot A set the lower select module to direct and select the individual sources in the upper select module to hear the raw sources. Then set the lower select module to listen to run the signals through the PitchTracker. It's almost like a sampled random signal what comes out now, but there still is some relation with the original pattern (depending on the source used).

In slot B I automated the signal source selection process. The select module for raw listening is still present.

In slot C a filter is added and some auto fading between original and listened sound takes place.

In slot D I added an audio circulator again to make things more interesting. This reminds me to Morton Subotnick a bit.

This can be extended by using envelope followers to for instance make a patch go softer when the patch that is listened to goes louder. I use the listener mostly in multi patch noodles. One of the patches then usually is set to generate the main pattern and that is routed to another patch (or to the effects area) through the audio busses where the listener generates some vaguely related patterns.

An example is [04-014-023.prf2] slot A, the listeners, one for the left and one for the right channel of the VA area, are in the FX area. Use the variations (Variation 8 for Pere Ubu like glides)


see [rotator.prf2]

Slot A has an input pattern consisting of the topmost two LFO's in the left column. The third LFO is the clock.

The input pattern is considered here to be a two dimensional vector. The 2nd column shows the rotator. This is a two dimensional vector rotator, the input vector is rotated in the plane which results in a rotating output vector in that same plane.

When the selector in the 3rd column is set to str8 the input vector is passed on to the output unmodified. When set to rot the rotating input vector is present on the output. The output vector controls two partial generators, one controlling an oscillator's frequency the other a filter's cutoff frequency - some offset is added to avoid the first (boring) octave jump in the overtone sequence.

Switching on the rotator makes the pattern vary in an interesting way.

Slot B adds a 2nd synth that is controlled by a 90 degrees rotated version of the output vector. Some reverb is added as well.

Slot C adds some effects, an audio recycler and an audio field rotator.

Slot D adds some more effects and uses asymmetric synths.

A real world example using three rotators is [05-003-004-b.prf2]


Finally a combination that uses about all the techniques derscribed here is [05-004-001.prf2] This one is present in the current Noodle Radio.