During the initial discussions of our volume 2 compilation it was agreed that we would write our tracks entirely based on one synthesizer.
I chose the Ensoniq Mirage.
I’m not sure what I was smoking when I said that. It’s not that it’s impossible to compose a 5+ minute song on a mono, 8 bit sampler (basically equal to an original NES), with a maximum of 16 samples, at an overall maximum sampling time of 6.5 seconds at a whopping 10khz… it just means that certain sacrifices need to be considered like, high end, sample length, polyphony, structure, timing, etc… and since it uses blocks of memory, one shouldn’t expect sample truncation or looping points to be accurate either.
Fortunately I had 2 rack mount Mirages to work with.
For those who truly know this machine, they know it can so effortlessly have a magical, dirty yet warm characteristic that is all it’s own.
However, personally I think I may have set my expectations a bit too high when I originally envisioned what my track could be.
Initially, I began to writing my track at a faster tempo (something a little more techno oriented). H owever, I found that the 2 Mirages would frequently drift in and out of midi timing. When I slowed the tempo down though, they seemed to play nicely together.
Another issue I faced was the overall mix. Having only 2 mono outputs made it very difficult to EQ an entire mix and it didn’t help that every sample had to be very short and at a low sample rate. This killed all the high end in my song. Though is is possible to adjust the sample rate for each sample, the downside of that is when you increase the sample rate, you need to be even more stingy with your sample time. Also, it would have been difficult for me to incorporate effects on an entire mix.
At this point I was left with a decision to either create a very minimal, dirty song or multitrack the Mirages to really show off some of their capabilities. I did my best to meet in the middle.
Whenever possible, I attempted to group certain sounds and track them together or in some cases, record a sound individually.
The Mirage is actually pretty amazing at creating certain sounds. A few notable would be rich pad type sounds (thanks to it’s Curtis filter) and cool sounding dirty drum loops.
One other unique element of the Mirage is the fact that it only has a 2 character LED display and the parameters need to be programmed in hexadecimal. There is no data slider so, you must use the up and down buttons to step through the values of each parameter.
Overall, this track more or less ended up writing itself. After hitting so many limitations I began to feel a little cursed so, I decided to step back and try to work within the confines of the machines temperamental capabilities. Hence the title “Hexbydecimal”.