Stalking the Aleatoric Whales

Yesterday I wrote about randomization and chance as compositional tools, and they show up again today, but in a very different way. And with a very different result.

I was in a different mood today. Darker. Sadder. As gravid and grey as the sky. As has become usual, I had no ideas as I sat down to write. While I should now be used to this as a common starting point, it’s never comfortable, though I have become slightly more resilient and capable of just starting something. Quite often, it’s a sound itself that sparks the creativity, but my brain was having none of that today.

  1. Stalking the Aleatoric Whales Ray Toler 2:17

So again, I turned to randomization. This time, it wasn’t in the form of giving the computer rules to improvise within as I did yesterday, but a much more typical form. Every sound you hear in this piece was chosen by randomly scrolling through the full list of patches I have in Omnisphere (somewhere in the 15,000 – 20,000 range) and working out how to assemble them in a musical way. That was my only rule – I had no choice in the sounds.

I don’t remember which of the patches came first. Or last, for that matter. Many of them were ominous or atonal. I determined fairly quickly that this was going to be a Dark Side of the Force atmospheric piece.

There’s really not a whole lot to say about this one. It’s another example of the “things Ray writes for himself and nobody else” genre, and I have more of these than you might imagine. I’ve never known what to do with them, though more and more I’ve found that almost any piece of music ever written has someone on the planet that will think it’s the best thing ever written, so I’m more comfortable putting these things out in the open now. It’s not like they’re going to kill my career.

I did a couple of production tricks… one of the sounds was reversed and stretched from being a five second sound to lasting more than a minute. There are a couple of additional effects beyond what the synth itself is doing, though nothing that did more than put a little spice on top of what was there. I’m not positive that I like the “beat” but it does provide even more ominousitude than was already there.

Effects are definitely more powerful than people initially think, and I may explore this a bit more later in the month. I was fairly judicious in my use this time, but the right effects can radically change a simple sound into something else entirely. I’m appreciating that element of production more and more as I go along.

Naming things like this can be tricky. I’ve never really warmed to just numbering them or dating them, because I can’t remember what’s what, but I often don’t have anything in particular in mind when writing. In those instances, I’ll typically name them after one of the patch names I used. In this case, there were two names that caught me right off: Aleatoric Surrealism, and Communing with Whales. So there you have it.


  • All instruments: Omnisphere
  • Effects: Valhalla Plate, Soundtoys Devil-Loc, Fab Filter Pro-R
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

Image Credit: Christopher Michel

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