The PField control mechanism, introduced in RTcmix v. 4.0, is a way to control aspects of Instruments as notes are executing. What the heck does that mean? Well, instrument parameters that are "pfield-enabled" can receive and respond to data as a note is being synthesized. In previous versions of RTcmix, the parameters a note had when it was scheduled was the parameters it got. Period. Using PField control, note parameters can be changed dynamically. This is accomplished using special variables called pfield-handles or table-handles.
These two terms are used somewhat interchangeably because they both accomplish pretty much the same thing, and they both allow pretty much the same operations. There is a difference, however, in that table-handles generally deal with data that is fixed in advance (such as wavetables), although potentially modifiable during sound synthesis. pfield-handles are usually variables through which data generated "on-the-fly" will be sent. For the purposes of this 'short tour', we won't really differentiate between the two.
The best way to get a handle on these handles is to see how they are used. Suppose that we have what we think is an almost perfect sound:rtsetparams(44100, 2) load("WAVETABLE") amp = maketable("window", 1000, "hanning") wavetable = maketable("wave", 1000, "tri") WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05, 0.5, wavetable)We are using two table-handles already: amp and wavetable. However, this is only an almost perfect sound. Our unerring internal aesthetic sensibility tells us that it would be absolutely perfect if only we could add a little vibrato to the note.
There are two ways to do this. The HARD WAY is to rewrite the instrument to accommodate another oscillator to do the vibrato-ing. The EASY WAY is to notice in the WAVETABLE documentation that p3 (the pitch) is 'pfield-enabled'. This means that we can dynamically change the pitch of the note as it plays. Hey! That's what vibrato is!
How can we generate a vibrato pitch deviation to use in WAVETABLE p3? The pfield-generating scorefile command makeLFO is what we need ("LFO" stands for Low Frequency Oscillator).
We are specifying the pitch of our almost-perfect sound using octave.pitch-class notation (7.05). In this notation, one semitone on the equal-tempered scale is equivalent to 0.01. If we want our vibrato to deviate from the base pitch by one-half semitone above and below the pitch, then we need to generate an LFO signal that will travel between -0.005 and +0.005, and then add this to our base pitch. makeLFO makes this trivial to do:vibsig = makeLFO("sine", 1.5, -0.005, 0.005) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, 0.5, wavetable)The pfield-handle variable vibsig will track a sine waveform that cycles at 1.5 Hz, travelling between -0.005 and +0.005. Adding this to the base pitch of 7.05 will give us a sound that modulates between 7.045 and 7.055. Our perfect sound!
One caution about the above code -- the vibsig deviating between -0.005 and +0.005 will work fine for an oct.pitch-class of 7.05, but be wary of what would happen if our base pitch was 8.00 (think about it). Often a vibrato is better done using a direct frequency (Hz) specification.
Noticing that other p-fields of WAVETABLE are listed as "pfield-enabled", it might be fun to extend our real-time control. Let's imagine that we want to randomly pan our vibrato-ed note between the two output channels. A handy pfield-handle command called makerandom seems like it would do the job nicely:pan = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, pan, wavetable)The problem is that makerandom command above generates discrete values 2.0 times/second, and this causes discontinuous shifts in the signal between the two channels (i.e. clicks). We need a way of smoothing the signal coming through the pan variable. The pfield-handle command makefilter can accomplish this:pan = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) smoothpan = makefilter(pan, "smooth", 70) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, smoothpan, wavetable)This vibrato-ed sound is so wonderful that TWO vibrato-ed notes will obviously double our musical pleasure. But we want to be artistically engaging about our sonic productions, so we decide that we want one note to vibrato in exactly the opposite direction (pitch-wise, that is) as the other. We can also use the makefilter command to do this:vibsig = makeLFO("sine", 1.5, -0.005, 0.005) pan = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) smoothpan = makefilter(pan, "smooth", 70) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, smoothpan, wavetable) vibsig2 = makefilter(vibsig, "invert", 0.0) pan2 = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) smoothpan2 = makefilter(pan2, "smooth", 70) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig2, smoothpan2, wavetable)Note the use of separate pan/pan2 and smoothpan/smoothpan2 variables for the two WAVETABLE notes. This is so that the two notes would have independent panning trajectories. Be aware that in general most pfield-handle variables are assumed to be assigned to only one executing note. At present (RTcmix 4.0) this is part of how the PField system works; the pfield-handle variables 'draw' data into the note, and it is assumed that each one will be relatively unique. You can, however, reuse pfield-handle variable names in the scorefile, so that if you wanted to have two WAVETABLE notes with vibrato operating with the same LFO frequency, you could do the following:vibsig = makeLFO("sine", 1.5, -0.005, 0.005) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, 0.0, wavetable) vibsig = makeLFO("sine", 1.5, -0.005, 0.005) WAVETABLE(0, 3.5, 20000*amp, 7.02+vibsig, 1.0, wavetable)But table-handles don't have this restriction, and IN THE FUTURE this will probably be lifted for every use of pfield- and table-handles.
As a final modification to our incredibly amazing vibrato sound, let's suppose that we want to show off our highly-trained abilities to move a mouse/cursor to control the amplitude of our notes. Instead of assigning the amp variable to a table-handle (maketable), we can do this:amp = makeconnection("mouse", "x", minval=0.0, maxval=1.0, default=0.5, lag=80)and the 0.0-1.0 amplitude range will be determined by the mouse/cursor position along the x-axis in a window that will be created when the scorefile executes. We can use this variable in both instances of WAVETABLE because the data is being read continuously from the mouse position.
So our final, Absolutely Amazing and Wonderful scorefile is:rtsetparams(44100, 2) load("WAVETABLE") amp = makeconnection("mouse", "x", 0.0, 1.0, 0.5, 80) wavetable = maketable("wave", 1000, "tri") vibsig = makeLFO("sine", 1.5, -0.005, 0.005) pan = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) smoothpan = makefilter(pan, "smooth", 70) WAVETABLE(0, 35.0, 20000*amp, 7.05+vibsig, smoothpan, wavetable) amp2 = makeconnection("mouse", "x", 0.0, 1.0, 0.5, 80) vibsig2 = makefilter(vibsig, "invert", 0.0) pan2 = makerandom("linear", 2.0, 0.0, 1.0) smoothpan2 = makefilter(pan2, "smooth", 70) WAVETABLE(0, 35.0, 20000*amp2, 7.05+vibsig2, smoothpan2, wavetable)We have increased the duration to 35.0 seconds because it is just so much fun to play around with the amplitude using the mouse. We also might have reused the variables amp, vibsig, pan and smoothpan in the second WAVETABLE note, but decided to give them separate names for the heck of it.
The following, in no particular order, are scorefile commands that can be used to create and manipulate pfield-handles and table-handles:
- maketable -- the general command for creating 'tables', or arrays of values that can be used as control functions, waveforms, etc.
- modtable -- this command can be used to modify the data from from a table-handle.
- copytable -- this makes a copy of a table from a table-handle variable. Very useful for guaranteeing that you have 'fixed' data... many of the table-handle and pfield-handle commands operate on data 'on the fly', or as it is being generated. copytable can be used to increase execution efficiency, also.
- tablelen -- returns the length (number of elements) of a table from a table-handle.
- add, div, mul, sub -- arithmetic operations that work on all the data in a table given a table-handle variable.
- makeLFO -- generate Low Frequency Oscillation (usually < 20 Hz) data and feed it through a pfield-handle variable.
- makerandom -- periodically generate some type of random number and feed it through a pfield-handle variable.
- makeconnection -- establish a connection to an 'outside' data source and feed it through a pfield-handle variable.
- makefilter -- alter the data coming through a pfield-handle variable in some way and feed the result through another pfield-handle variable.
- makeconverter -- apply a data conversion operation (like octcps, pchmidi, ampdb, etc.) to the data coming through a pfield-handle variable feed the result through another pfield-handle variable.
data output and display commands
- samptable -- return a value from a table given a table-handle.
- makemonitor -- display or record data coming through a pfield-handle variable.
- plottable -- plot the data in a table from a table-handle.
- dumptable -- print out the contents of a table given a table-handle.