Plugin Design: Reuse and Rework

“Repetition as a form of change.”

This is of my favorite concepts is from Oblique Strategies, a creative-unblocking tool created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt back in the day. I feel this can be extended to all areas of music, whether it is minimalist music made from playing the same phrase repeatedly, the “process” music created by playing through a looping delay, the repeating sequences of electronic music, and so forth.

Reusing and Reworking help plugin design.

The area where “reusing and reworking” has had the biggest impact is in my algorithm creation. I’ve been working on reverb algorithms since 1999. I’ve found myself iterating over some of the same ideas over and over in the last few decades, reworking and revisiting them until they finally either find a home in one of my plugins or are put back on the shelf.

ValhallaSupermassive is a real-world example.

ValhallaSupermassive is a great example of this. The algorithms in Supermassive started off as an exploration of some of Michael Gerzon’s reverberation ideas, which I was first introduced to back in 2001. These algorithms can result in a quick build of echo density and were great for experimental reverb sounds, but I always found them unwieldy when putting them into a more general-purpose reverb algorithm. I revisited these algorithms many times over the years, playing with them and keeping them on the back burner.

In early 2020, I was invited to give a few guest lectures at the University of Victoria. I prepared a series of Max4Live patches to illustrate the basic principles of reverb design. Most of these were very simple, but a few sounded nice. When I returned back home, I kept experimenting with these designs and created a simple C++ framework to explore them in detail.

Once these had been ported to C++, I could extend them with the Michael Gerzon ideas that I had played with in the past. The end results sounded weird and awesome but were still unruly and difficult to tame. The solution was easy: Give up “well behaved” as a goal and let it be weird!

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