Getting to Know the Sculpture String

The string is responsible for the basic tone of your sound. You can define its material—what it’s made of—and determine its behavior when bowed, plucked, struck, and so on.

The string itself doesn’t make a sound unless it is stimulated—excited or disturbed—by at least one object. Up to three different types of objects are used to excite, disturb, or damp the string (make it vibrate or affect its movement). See Working with Sculpture’s Objects.

Sculpture’s string and the excite/disturb objects play a similar role to the oscillators found in traditional synthesizers. The string is considerably more sophisticated in concept than simple oscillators, however.

In essence, you are creating the waveform, or base timbre, by mathematically describing the string’s properties, and the properties of its environment. These include, among others, the material the string is made of; the thickness, length, and tension of the string; its characteristics over time; the atmosphere it is being played in (such as water or air); and the way it is being played—struck, bowed, and so on.

Sculpture goes far beyond the mere creation of an infinite number of base timbres, however. One of the key differences between Sculpture’s string and a traditional synthesizer waveform is that the base timbre provided by the string is in a constant state of flux.

Put another way, if Sculpture’s string is still vibrating for a specific note, retriggering that same note will interact with the ongoing vibration. This is not dissimilar to the effect of repeatedly plucking a guitar string, where the string is still vibrating when the next note is played. This will alter the harmonic spectrum each time—which is why acoustic guitars sound organic when a note is played repeatedly, and sampled guitars don’t.

As you can see, this is quite different from other synthesis methods where the base timbre waveform, even if modulated, does not harmonically interact with currently audible notes when retriggered. What usually happens in traditional synthesizers is that the waveform is restarted—from mid cycle, or from the beginning—with the result being an increase in volume, or a slight cyclical wave shift.