Love Letters
The Xenome Diaries
Every Day is a New Beginning
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Every Day is a New Beginning

Xenome 800
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Dear Diary

This is the official restart of what once was The Book of Lost Scales. That whole thing went a little off track, so I found my way back to the head of the trail, shuffled some stuff around in my pack, and now I’m ready to begin again.

What I am going to do with these Xenome Diaries is create and share a new piece of improvised music for every possible combination of notes found on the keyboard or fretboard. I’m also going to talk about my musical/spiritual practice and share bits of my life. What I’m not going to do is write an AI-assisted serialized sci-fi epic - I tried that and it’s too distracting.

If you need a refresher on what this whole thing is about, the preface goes into full detail about these things I call xenomes:

I’m trying out Substack podcasts / native audio embeds for this first one. I like the idea of listeners in the app being able to let my music play in the background as they go about reading other things. If it works out, I’ll probably continue doing this as a podcast going forward.

Goals

I have 3 measurable goals and one unmeasurable one for this journey. The first and most obvious is to create 2048 pieces of improvised music, one for each xenome.

The second is to put 10,000 hours on my 7-string xenotuned Strandberg. I’ve played guitar off and on for 34 years, but committing to a new tuning, especially one that no one else on the planet is using, is a lot like learning a new instrument. So I’ve been tracking my hours towards Malcolm Gladwell’s magical finish line, and I hope to reach it by the time this project is finished.

The third goal has nothing to do with music, but I would feel pretty good about getting 1000 subscribers. It seems like a good stretch goal for the many years of writing and sharing to come.

The unmeasurable goal is personal, musical, and spiritual growth through this practice.

Catching up

If you’re a regular reader of Love Letters, I hope you’ve been enjoying the flow of Qatalog posts. It’s great for me to go back and listen to my old releases, and it’s even better to share them with folks like you.

In personal news, we got some new puppies. Say hello to Penelope and Sunshine, the toy aussies.

If you’ve found your way to this post somehow and you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, please subscribe to receive future entries in your email or Substack inbox. It’s free!

About the track

This track is 48-minute meditation, harmonically based on xenome C-800, which is simply the note C. My intent was to move slowly and honor the drone, giving myself and the listener time to take in the evolving sounds and feel the calmness of the drone underneath the glitches and the noise.

I’m using a couple of new apps for me, most notably MM-1 MuteMaster, which allows you to sequence muting of up to 6 channels with fades in and out. It really helped me keep the background track in motion without being overly cluttered. I also found it a little rebellious to go into channels that were muted and randomize things so there would be little surprises as the track progressed.

I hooked up my old iPad Air running Alchemy to add to the ambient goodness, and the main synth you can hear throughout is an old Alchemy factory preset called “All the Angels”. I set up two LFOs in midiLFOs to modulate the X/Y pad in Alchemy for more motion.

I used a top secret beta app on one of the guitar channels, so I’ve put a placeholder in the notes and I’ll possibly remember to come back and fix it once the app is released.

Tools and stuff

Licensed audio samples and presets from Dream Temple, Bill Laswell, and Sony.

Gear: Strandberg Boden NX 7, M-Audio Air 192/14, iPad Pro M2, iPad Air

Pedals: Gamechanger Audio Plus, Gamechanger Audio Plasma Pedal, SSS SRV, Strymon Deco, tc electronic Subnup, electro-harmonix Mel9, electro-harmonix Ravish, electro-harmonix Freeze

Apps

Alex Matheu: GlitchCore

Arthur Kerns: midiLFOs

AudioDamage: Replicant 3

AudioThing: Mantis, Noises, Speakers, Springs

BLEASS: Granulizer

Bram Bos: Hilda

Camel Audio: Alchemy Pro

Igor Vasiliev: Spacefields

IK Multimedia: Mixbox

Jam Origin: MIDI Guitar 2

Kai Aras: MM-1 MuteMaster

Kymatica: AUM, AudioShare, AU3FX:Push

Mani Consulting Limited: Attack Softener

Mifki Limited: miRack

Paul Driessen: PD Space Guitar Synthesizer

Sugar Bytes: Looperator

Unfiltered Audio: Bass-Mint, lo-fi-af, Silo

Yuri Turov: Phonolyth Cascade

[Redacted]: 1

Xenome 800

800 is the simplest of all xenomes, consisting of a single note, the tonic. Everything from here on out gets more complicated. Mosts texts don’t consider anything less than 3 or 4 (or even 5) notes to be a scale, but this isn’t most texts. 800 is actually the mother of all xenomes, and all xenomes extend 800. Another way to put it is that all xenomes are a superset of 800, and 800 is a subset of all xenomes.

More philosophically speaking, 800 represents the drone, the root note, the tonic - the melodic base from which all melodies and harmonies arise.

C-800 scale diagrams

Xenotuning
C-800 on Xenotuned guitar

If you’re following along on your M3 skip-4 tuned 7-string guitar, these fretboard diagrams will be helpful. I realize that no one is, so this is mostly for my benefit. Or maybe my brilliant tuning will take off and this will become the definitive guide.

Traditional 7-string M3 (all major thirds) tuning (EAbCEAbCE) requires a custom string set and reduces the 7-string range to that of a 6-string. My variation (CEAbCAbCE) sacrifices perfect symmetry in order to keep most of the range of a standard-tuned 7-string and allow use of off-the-shelf string sets. It’s called the skip-4 variation because it skips the E string of traditional M3 tuning.

“7-string M3 skip-4 tuning” is a mouthful, so from now on, I’ll refer to this as Xenotuning, ala “Xenotuned guitar”.

6-String Guitar

Here’s C-800 on a standard-tuned 6-string guitar, for mere mortals:

C-800 on standard tuned guitar
Keyboard

I don’t have a fancy program for making piano keyboard diagrams, so you’ll have to get used to Animoog screenshots:

C-800 on the keyboard

Magic Square

This diagram may mostly be for my benefit, but if you’re all-in on this xenome thing, it could change your life. These diagrams are most useful for traditional M3 tuning or Xenotuning on guitar, and can also be easily applied to the keyboard.

If you’re an avid reader of my Substack, this may be vaguely familiar, as I introduced these symbols in my article Om Di Tri on the spiritual framework behind my musical practice. As I mentioned there, I’ve taken to using the symbols Om (circle), Di (square), and Tri (triangle) as shorthand for the notes of the augmented triad C-E-G# that is at the core of M3 tuning.

This diagram tells me the fingering for a given xenome in the 3 useful positions (C = open/12th fret, E = 4th fret, and G# = 8th fret) read horizontally like a fretboard diagram, on the 3 string tunings (C, E, G#) read vertically. You’ll notice that my fretboard diagrams are labeled horizontally at the 4th, 8th, and 12th frets, for this reason.

As I explained in the preface , each digit of a Xenome is a hexadecimal nibble that can be converted to binary to give the guitar/keyboard fingering for the 4 possible notes in that position. In the case of C-800, 8 converts to 1000 in binary. So at any 4 frets starting with C, the first finger note can be played, but the rest are outside the scale. Hopefully this will make more sense, and become more familiar and useful as we get into xenomes with a higher note count.

See you tomorrow

My goal is to release new episodes each weekday, Monday through Friday, as life allows.

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Love Letters
The Xenome Diaries
My journey through uncharted harmonic realms via improvised musical meditations.
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