Converting Audio to Midi & using Iris 2 to create Music by Birds

See the How I created Music by Bird: Using Audio to MIDI and Iris 2 to Create Completely Original Ambient Score.

What’s Original?

Tensions are high as composers are feeling the pressure from the verdict of the recent Gaye vs Thicke copyright law suite. Most of the composers I have spoke with have worked on a project or two in which they were asked to mimic (or sound-like) a famous cue or song.
Many composers I spoke with feel the pressure from directors in-directly through temp score or more blatantly when told “Get as close as you can without getting sued.” to imitate rather than innovate.

My personal approach when at this crossroads has always been to immerse myself in all the music from the genre of the “inspirational track”, and write my own music in that genre. But with only so many notes on the staff, and now “genre” appearing to be a legal ground for copyright infringement, I have taken some time to contemplate: How is a composer to insure he stays original?

Chance Music Remixed and Resampled

Luckily, I was given the opportunity to compose something avant-garde that I knew I could explore uncharted (at least for me) territory and ensure that the music I was creating was completely original.

A couple months ago I got a call from the sculpture artists Todd Lantz. He proposed a collaborations creating a 2 hours loop of “music ambience” for his solo exhibit Filling The Void at the Catskill Art Society in New York. That was just the kind of open brief I needed to start experimenting with some ideas that I haven’t had the opportunity to explore in my recent commercial work.

I had been thinking a lot about chance music, resampling and remixing my own sounds and looking at software instruments to aid me in this quest.

The Right Tools

I got to see Omnisphere 2’s ability to import and manipulate your own samples at NAMM and I also heard promise that developer Micromorph Sound was implementing this feature in the upcoming update for Morphzilla but neither of these virtual instruments had been released when I got started last month.

I needed to work right away so I choose to download the trail version of Iris 2 from Izotope and see what it could do for me.

I have been intrigued by Iris 2 for a while but hadn’t had the time to check it out. The thing that excited me the most was the ability to use my own samples and manipulate them in the Iris 2 editor to create unique sampled instrument.

The deeper I got into selecting, editing and manipulating the sounds in Iris 2 the more I saw the limitless possibilities of creating uniquely original ambient score.

With a vision for the project and he right tools I got to work.

The Birds

I had success getting that “dub step” vocal sound Skrillex wormed into our ears a couple summers ago using Logic Pro X’s audio flex time. I was using it for a commercial I was scoring. The effect blended nicely over an acoustic bed of instruments and I saw an opportunities to use a similar technique with some alternative sample sources and This is where the Birds come in.**


Sample Source

The sculptor I was collaborating with had been recording the sounds in his workshop and sending them to me. He sent me samples of grinders, sanders, water dripping out of the sink and some birds chirping outside.

I live in the mountains and I love the sound of the birds chirping around my house. I have been recording the bird for a couple years and hadn’t really thought of what to do with them. And this is where is all came together.

I decided that I would convert the Bird samples into pitch data and have the birds write my melodies for me.

Production Process

Using Logic’s built-in Flex-Time editor I was able to pull pitch data out of the sound recordings of the birds chirping. I let this series of notes act as my melody and I began to arrange the music as I would approach any arrangement.
I used my favorite piano (Emotional Piano from Soundiron), drums from EPIC percussion (from Big Fish Audio) and sampled nylon string guitar to play in tandem with the birds.

From there, I decided to bounce down the mix and start experimenting.
In order to add some sonic depth and musical form I decided to use a low pad as a drone to fade-in on the third time the melody played through. I created the drone by importing the mix into Iris 2, selecting a section of the audio data and malipulating it to create the drone instrument.

I also used Iris 2 to manipulate the imported mix and create an instrument that sould play back the bird melody music in a limited frequency range. I had this play in the opening forshadowning the climax of the piece. This can be heard clearly at X:XX.


Jumping into making 20th century chance music was a real pleasure and I hope this gives you an insight into some of the tools and process that you could use to create your own original sounds in the studio.

I’ve got a cue to finish up now, but then I’ll be out on the back on the pourch, looking over the mountains and listening to the birds.


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