I’ve just finished an early version of a side project I’ve had on my list for a while – AntiTheory for Ableton Live. This is a plugin which changes the notes that you play, freeing you from your own musical knowledge.
I grew up playing piano, and as part of my education I did a lot of classical music theory. I always really loved it, but I do often find it difficult to separate myself from patterns, chords, and scales. I catch myself sticking very rigidly to arbitrary rules, and I often wonder what it would be like to play an instrument without any preconceived theoretical ideas.
In an attempt at making this happen, I’ve made a plugin for Ableton Live which jumbles up the notes being sent from a MIDI keyboard. There is only one parameter, a dial which controls how jumbled up the notes are. When this is set to “1” there is no change and everything is familiar. Changing this to “2” means that some notes will be swapped – maybe a middle C will be a C#, and vice versa. If you turn it up to 12 then a note could be moved anywhere within an octave.
Crucially, no matter what value you choose, only once instance of each note is available. It’s as if you took all the notes, shuffled them around and put them back together again.
The result is surprisingly fun to play. I started stumbling upon combinations of notes I never would have imagined – it’s incredibly freeing to just play around.
This is a very early version. If you have Ableton Live you can have a play and maybe even open it up and improve it if you’re so inclined. Drop me a line if you have any suggestions, ideas, or if you’ve used it for anything fun.
(warning: it is incredibly buggy. it shouldn’t crash your machine but it may well make some really uncontrollable noises, as you can hear at the end of the video. also you can’t save any of the settings.)