The White Flame – an experiment in writing for the room


Here is a performance I recorded last August of my Jean Guillou influenced piece, The White Flame.  I am using my trusty Roland GR55 which is the same unit I have used extensively with Karl Hyde and the rock opera, Pop’pea.


Jean Guillou’s magnificent flames of hair and the inspiration for the title of my piece!

I was interested to see how writing a piece of music within a particular large room would affect my note choices and phrasing.  The hall I used in this example is the Upper Room at Cairns Road Baptist Church and I’d like to thank them for the opportunity.  The room has a long decay, around the 2.5 second range so therefore lots of long legato notes would work best in that setting.  I also wanted to try and use tones that would resonate well within that space so I created a trombone woodwind hybrid using the dual PCM layers of the GR55.  I mapped the trombone sounds to the expression pedal which let me create swells over the woodwind base.  The GR55 has an incredibly deep programability which I think people aren’t aware of.  I have to say though that editing on the unit is no fun and I highly recommend Gumtown’s astonishingly excellent free editor for it available here.


The GR55 editor for PC and OSX


Filed under Gear, Music Tech, Performances

5 responses to “The White Flame – an experiment in writing for the room

  1. Andrew Brown

    Gaz, this is fantastic, really nice sound and performance! I’ve been thinking of getting a GR55 for a while! I’ve a couple of questions, does it track well, can it deal with fast runs, or do you have to adapt your playing to suit the synth? Can you set up different sounds for different strings?

    On a different topic, you mentioned on Sonic State talk (which is great) that you set up chords onto a 16 pads midi controller so you could quickly get chord progression going, how exactly did you do this?

    Great site, I’m a bass player and trying to expand my palette, will be getting a synth soon, probably the new Arp Ody!



    • gazgoldstar

      Hi Andrew, thanks for nice comments! fast runs are possible with the GR55 especially if you play higher up the neck. The law of physics is to blame due to pitch detection needing a relatively long time for low notes! I am currently setting up a piccolo bass as a midi controller for my GR55. This is essentially a bass with strings an octave higher. Initial tests are bringing good results although I have changed the strings now to BEAD.

      The chord pads I mentioned about is a new feature within Cubase Pro 8 which allows for quite complex chord progressions to be made easily. Worth checking out! Alternatively you can mock something up in Ableton Live by making clips contain single different chords and then triggering the clips with some clip launcher and recording the result in the arranger view.

      I will be getting an Arp Odyssey pretty soon too!



      • Andrew Brown

        Hi Gaz

        Many thanks for the reply, shame about those low notes on the GR, but I’m intrigued about the idea of a piccolo bass, is yours an adapted bass or ready built? I watch a vid of someone adapting a cheapish Mustang Bass, which has a short scale with piccolo strings , sounded great!

        On GR55, do you have to put screws into body of bass? Also can you play chords with it, does this sound good, or muddy?

        Thans for info on chord pads, I’m thinking of getting an Electribe and I’m sure thy can something similar, one fingered chords are great if you are not a keyboard player!

        I hear (from Sonic Talk) you have a Theremini, I’m thinking of this too, it will be good to post up your thoughts, as you are a beginner to let people know of your joys and problems in taming the thing!!



  2. Hi Gaz

    Well played AND written! I made the experiment to close my eyes and suddenly there was a whole orchestra in front of me! (most of them where quiet but anyhow..)
    I now and again check you out (and Nick) on Sonic Talk/touch/lab and I think you do a great job with the shows. Today I saw on the talkshow that you have a similar setup as I have (minus the operators), and since you’re into the iPad I wanted to ask you If you have tried “Bebot” ? Its a surprisingly fun and playable instrument and great together with the other little boxes. Heres a sample..

    Btw did you get your Odyssey yet? Im still waiting for mine…Would love a video with it 🙂


    • gazgoldstar

      Thanks for the kind words Olle. Yes I know Bebot well but as it was available for quite a while before we started Sonic Touch it has kind of slipped us by but it is definitely a fun synth!

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