Mutable In­stru­ments Mar­bles

Mutable In­stru­ments’ lat­est mod­ule brings all kinds of flavours of ran­dom­ness, as Philip Wise dis­cov­ers. Let’s play!

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

The new Mutable In­stru­ments mod­ule Mar­bles com­bines the rhythm gen­er­a­tion and prob­a­bil­ity of MI mod­ules Grids and Branches and the lock­able random pitches of Mu­sic Things Tur­ing Ma­chine to cre­ate a gen­er­a­tive mu­si­cal pow­er­house.

The left-hand side fo­cuses on rhythm, gen­er­at­ing three clock out­puts at a tempo set by the Rate knob and a mul­ti­ply/di­vide switch (or from an ex­ter­nal clock). X2 is al­ways a copy of the master clock but there are three dif­fer­ent modes for the gate gen­er­a­tion of X1 and X3. The green mode op­er­ates like MI’s Branches mod­ule; a vir­tual coin toss is made on each pulse to de­cide whether X1 or X3 emits a pulse. The Or­ange mode of­fers dif­fer­ing mul­ti­pli­ca­tion and divi­sion ra­tios on X1 and X3, while the Red mode works sim­i­larly to the Grids mod­ule with Kick and Snare pat­terns on X1 and X3 (X2 can be used for Hats).

The Bias knob af­fects the prob­a­bil­ity weight­ing of a gate ap­pear­ing on T1 to the left or T3 to the right; mean­while the Jit­ter con­trol in­tro­duces some hu­man­ness to the clock, with beats play­ing slightly ahead or be­hind. Mod­est amounts of Jit­ter give you J Dilla-style beats but with Jit­ter fully clock­wise I got re­ally in­ter­est­ing swung rhythms with the melody which sounded great on a 4x4 kick.

Pulse width of the gates can also be ad­justed over­all but as a stan­dard there is some va­ri­ety in the gate length which is great for any en­ve­lope with a sus­tain stage. The lack of a re­set in­put is un­usual; the abil­ity to re­set the pat­tern would give you greater free­dom to ex­per­i­ment with tempo and pat­tern length and trig­ger Bias while re­main­ing within a stan­dard song frame­work.

The right-hand side is where the volt­ages are pro­duced; the T1,T2,T3 out­puts are clocked by the X1,X2,X3 trig­gers un­less a sep­a­rate clock is patched to the right clock in­put. The Steps, Spread and Bias con­trols then of­fer you var­i­ous ways of con­trol­ling the mu­si­cal notes that are out­put from the random pat­tern. Steps al­ters the out­put through vary­ing de­grees of quan­ti­sa­tion to a com­pletely smooth random sig­nal. Spread con­trols the prob­a­bil­ity dis­tri­bu­tion of volt­ages and Bias af­fects whether those volt­ages are weighted to the low or high ends of the scale. To­gether these of­fer a wealth of con­trol over your pat­tern.

At the top of the mod­ule the lock but­tons for X and T en­able ei­ther the rhythm or the pitch or both to be locked into a re­peat­ing pat­tern de­fined by the Length knob. When you want a bit of va­ri­ety you can turn the Deja Vu knob to the left to let in a bit of new random in­for­ma­tion or to the right to get a random change within the cur­rently locked val­ues. This abil­ity to lock a pat­tern is what takes Mar­bles out of ex­per­i­men­tal noodling ter­ri­tory and into the mu­si­cal realm. Even with both X and T locked there is still plenty of scope for vari­a­tion us­ing the Steps, Spread and Bias con­trols. These are great for hands-on play but even bet­ter is to use a sep­a­rate step se­quencer (or three) clocked at a slower rate to mod­u­late these pa­ram­e­ters.

In the cen­tre of the mod­ule the Y out­put is a con­stantly chang­ing random volt­age; it’s not af­fected by the Deja Vu con­trol but its speed is re­lated to the Rate pa­ram­e­ters. By hold­ing down a but­ton, four of the

main knobs change func­tion and can be used to con­trol its speed, am­pli­tude, off­set and quan­ti­sa­tion, giv­ing you greater con­trol. This is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for self patch­ing, some­thing that Mar­bles re­ally lends it­self to. At­ten­u­a­tion is im­por­tant to get the best out of Mar­bles’ con­trol volt­ages. Use­fully, the mo­du­la­tion out­put range can be switched be­tween 2v/5v/+-5v. The 2v out­put gives you both the most us­able mu­si­cal range (2 oc­taves) and an al­ready at­ten­u­ated con­trol volt­age. If us­ing the or­ange mode for X, you can use two out­puts for quan­tised melody and gain an ex­tra smooth random out­put for self-patch­ing.

The built-in quan­tiser pro­vides six dif­fer­ent scales, but these can be over­writ­ten by play­ing in a se­quence from a key­board in your cho­sen scale. The notes played most fre­quently will be the notes that re­main when you move through the scale with the Steps knob. This is an in­ge­nious and very mu­si­cal method of work­ing within a scale.

The drum gen­er­a­tion mode was not very in­spir­ing and I found my­self us­ing both sides of Mar­bles to­gether to gen­er­ate rhyth­mic mu­si­cal se­quences and evolv­ing gen­er­a­tive patches. I’ve al­ways been a fan of the Tur­ing Ma­chine but Mar­bles builds on it with much more con­trol and it’s very quick to come up with some­thing in­ter­est­ing and start build­ing a track. If you’re look­ing for more con­trol over the pat­tern, an ex­ter­nal se­quencer can be con­nected through the Spread in­put, al­low­ing you to pro­gram a se­quence di­rectly but then use Mar­bles’ con­trols to re­de­fine it – a great op­tion, giv­ing a new lease of life to an old se­quencer.

For use as a stan­dard random source the X sec­tion has its own clock in­put so it can be used in­de­pen­dently. The mod­ule can then be patched to out­put a va­ri­ety of random trig­gers and a range of quan­tised and un-quan­tised random volt­ages si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Mar­bles re­ally cov­ers a lot of dif­fer­ent ground; it’s a ver­sa­tile random source, an in­spir­ing rhythm and mu­si­cal idea gen­er­a­tor, an ex­pander for your old se­quencer, an os­cil­la­tor or a bitcrusher. Great value and great fun.

CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURESWHO: Mutable In­stru­ments WEB: mutable-in­stru­ Three loopable random gate pat­terns, three loopable random quan­tised pitch out­puts, ad­justable pat­tern length, built-in clock with wide rang­ing tempo con­trol, ex­ter­nal clock in­put, sep­a­rate fully random out­put, ex­ter­nal se­quences can be con­nected and mod­i­fied with the on­board con­trols

OS­CIL­LA­TOR: The Rate in­put tracks 1v/oct en­abling both sides of Mar­bles to be used as oscs when the loop is lockedSELF PATCH­ING: The Y out­put in par­tic­u­lar lends it­self to self patch­ing but spare X out­puts can also be usedhid­den mode: If you hold T down for 3-4 sec­onds on each colour, you get a dif­fer­ent rhythm gen­er­a­tion al­go­rithm

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