Thursday, February 19, 2009

Glitch (History, Origin, How -To, Analysis)

Wiki Entry:

Glitch is a term used to describe a genre of experimental electronic music that emerged in the mid to late 1990s. The origins of the glitch aesthetic can be traced back to Luigi Russolo's Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises, the basis of noise music. In a Computer Music Journal article published in 2000, composer and writer Kim Cascone used the term post-digital to describe various experimentations associated with the glitch aesthetic. Glitch is characterized by a preoccupation with the sonic artifacts that can result from malfunctioning digital technology, such as those produced by bugs, crashes, system errors, hardware noise, CD skipping, and digital distortion.[2] Cascone considers glitch to be a sub-genre of electronica. [3]


Glitch originated in Germany with the musical work and labels of Achim Szepanski[4], who later gained popularity through the collaboration with Sebastian Meissner under the moniker "Random Inc."[5]. While the movement initially slowly gained members (including bands like Oval)[6], the techniques of Glitch later quickly spread around the world as many artists — including bands such as Kid 606, Team Doyobi and Autechre — followed suit. Yasunao Tone used damaged CDs in his Techno Eden performance in 1985. Trumpeter Jon Hassell's 1994 album Dressing For Pleasure — a dense mesh of funky trip hop and jazz — features several songs with the sound of skipping CDs layered into the mix.

Oval's Wohnton, produced in 1993, helped define the genre by adding ambient aesthetics to it[7]. Though the music of Markus Popp's band (Oval) may be the first in which the techniques of Musique Concrete were applied to the subtleties of Ambient, glitch is also informed by techno and industrial music. Turntablist Christian Marclay had been incorporating the use of scratched or otherwise damaged vinyl records into his sets since the 1970s; it is the rapid advance in technology and expansion of thought behind music that has allowed glitch to adopt this "broken" sound and use it as a stylistic marker.

Production techniques

Glitch is often produced on computers using modern digital production software to splice together small "cuts" (samples) of music from previously recorded works. These cuts are then integrated with the signature of glitch music: beats made up of glitches, clicks, scratches, and otherwise "erroneously" produced or sounding noise. These glitches are often very short, and are typically used in place of traditional percussion or instrumentation. Skipping CDs, scratched vinyl records, circuit bending, and other noise-like distortions figure prominently into the creation of rhythm and feeling in glitch; it is from the use of these digital artifacts that the genre derives its name. However, not all artists of the genre are working with erroneously produced sounds or are even using digital sounds.

Popular software for creating glitch includes trackers, Reaktor, Ableton Live, Reason, AudioMulch, Bidule, Super Collider, FLStudio, MAX/MSP, Pure Data, and ChucK. Circuit bending -- the intentional short-circuiting of low power electronic devices to create new musical devices -- also plays a significant role on the hardware end of glitch music and its creation.


Glitch Hop

Glitch hop is a relatively new sub variant of the glitch form, and shares the name click hop, blip hop, downbreaks and break hop. Aside from the obvious lineage of hip hop and glitch this genre tends to borrow from the IDM and minimalist genres as well. The music is marked by the DSP laden sonic tapestry and twitchiness of glitch with a more hip hop style framework. The beat tends to follow hip-hop's break-derived conventions, falling into a range between 85-100 bpm. Instead of using just traditional drum kits, glitch hop's "nerdified drums" are augmented with clicks, bent circuits, and sometimes the cut up vocals of the MC. Swedish producer Andreas Tilliander's landmark Cliphop and Plee albums (released as Mokira by German labels Raster Noton in 2000 and Mille Plateaux in 2002) are considered by some as the blueprints of the genre.

Notable groups of this genre include the L.A.-based production group The Glitch Mob, other artists include Prefuse 73[8], Machinedrum, Dabrye, Kid 606, Jahcoozi, BreakBeatBuddha and Edit, who published glitch hop tracks as part of larger glitch albums. Cex and MC Lars also sometimes perform glitch hop material. is a well-known collaborative project that mixes jungle and glitch hop together into podcast form.

Popular Electronica act Autechre also experimented in a more instrumental style of Glitch hop, notably in more recent years.

Further reading

  • Andrews, Ian, Post-digital Aesthetics and the return to Modernism, MAP-uts lecture, 2000, available at authors website.
  • Bijsterveld, Karin and Trevor J. Pinch. "'Should One Applaud?': Breaches and Boundaries in the Reception of New Technology in Music." Technology and Culture. Ed. 44.3, pg 536-559. 2003.
  • Byrne, David. "What is Blip Hop?" Lukabop, 2002. Available here.
  • Collins, Adam, "Sounds of the system: the emancipation of noise in the music of Carsten Nicolai", Organised Sound, 13(1): 31-39. 2008. Cambridge University Press.
  • Collins, Nicolas. Editor. "Composers inside Electronics: Music after David Tudor." Leonardo Music Journal. Vol. 14, pgs 1-3. 2004.
  • Prior, Nick, "Putting a Glitch in the Field: Bourdieu, Actor Network Theory and Contemporary Music", Cultural Sociology, 2: 3, 2008: pp 301-319.
  • Thomson, Phil, "Atoms and errors: towards a history and aesthetics of microsound", Organised Sound, 9(2): 207-218. 2004. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sangild, Torben: "Glitch — The Beauty of Malfunction" in Bad Music. Routledge (2004, ISBN 0-415-94365-5) [1]
  • Young, Rob: "Worship the Glitch", The Wire 190/191 (2000)
  • Noah Zimmerman, "Dusted Reviews, 2002"

See also


All Definition/Statement:

As computer-aided composition slowly eclipsed the traditional analog approach to crafting electronica, the palette of possible sounds soon widened immensely, resulting in the advent of the glitch style in the late '90s. No longer was the artist confined to sequenced percussion, synth, and samples, but rather any imaginable sound, including the uncanny realm of digital glitches -- a possibility that was quickly exploited by a generation of youths with the means to create entire albums in their bedroom with only a computer and some software. Where early-'90s analog-toting pioneers such as Aphex Twin and Autechre had envisioned the quickly diminishing areas of electronica that had not yet been explored, and simultaneously, another insular group of pioneers led by Robert Hood and Basic Channel stripped away the elements of electronica that had ultimately become little more than ineffective cliché, a second wave of computer-armed protégés studied these aesthetics and used software to create microscopically intricate compositions harking back to these pioneers. First championed by the ideological German techno figure Achim Szepanski and his stable of record labels -- Force Inc, Mille Plateaux, Force Tracks, Ritornell -- this tight-knit scene of experimental artists creating cerebral hybrids of experimental techno, minimalism, digital collage, and noise glitches soon found themselves being assembled into a community. Though artists such as Oval, Pole, and Vladislav Delay, among others, had initially been singled out by critics beforehand, Mille Plateaux's epic Clicks_+_Cuts compilation first defined the underground movement, exploring not only a broad roster of artists but also a wide scope of approaches. The artists on the compilation, along with a small community of visionary artists in the software-savvy San Francisco/Silicon Valley area of California led by the Cytrax label, soon found themselves as the critically hailed leaders of yet another electronica movement. It wasn't long before the glitch aesthetic began being crossbred with existing genres, resulting in endless variations on the aesthetic, such as MRI's click-driven house and Kid 606's noise remix of N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton."

Related Styles

Glitch Album Highlights

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Editing Techniques for Glitch Production from Remix


Aug 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Jason Scott Alexander

Simply mention the words stutter or glitch among DJ and remixing circles, and you're sure to conjure a discussion revolving around artists such as BT, Hybrid, Aphex Twin and Autechre, to name but a few. Longtime pioneers of the two infectiously accidental-sounding effects, they have carved an entirely new style of production and musical arrangement, not to mention forged two new categorical subsets within electronic music. This article will take a look at how to create and incorporate stutter and glitch edits into your productions.

In its simplest form, the stutter has become so mainstream that nearly every DJ mixer, DJ software and even some decks now offer a one-button solution for the effect. Likewise, glitch-music production has moved from the progressive remix studio to the dorm room, where students are using their PCs and off-the-shelf tools to disintegrate Top 40 hits into rhythmically and melodically unrecognizable piles of cuts.

These simple (some would say rudimentary and old-school) variations of the stutter and glitch edit are not what this article is going to examine. A stutter edit in today's terms isn't merely a case of repeating a slice of audio or MIDI-retriggering a sample at 16th- or 32nd-note intervals. Nor is it simply the sound of a CD skipping or of a gated pad — both common misnomers. The most complex stutter edits of today take on a decidedly more musical and melodic character. They are typically handpicked arrangement elements that get sliced and diced at such tiny, tight intervals that the end result ring modulates and creates its own pitch. Although standard tools such as Propellerhead ReCycle, Sony Acid and Bitshift Audio Phatmatik Pro are used to prepare audio for stutters, the expert artisans all agree that it's much, much deeper than simple beat slicing and beat mangling.

The discussion herein will comprise general ballpark guidelines, not rules. This is not a tutorial on using specific software tools, either. Remember, no single technique is the right technique; no single tool is the right tool; and no amount of theory can ever replace intuition or those funny-looking flaps on the side of your head. Be forewarned, though: Performing extreme stutter or glitch edits can be an insanely time-consuming endeavor, sometimes taking days or weeks to complete just 10 seconds of finished product — much like a cartoonist drawing animation cells. It's also a 99 percent trial-and-error process requiring lots of experimentation, tons of patience and a pretty good dose of fearlessness to boot.


Describing the makeup of a stutter edit is extremely challenging, as it can literally take on any one of hundreds, if not thousands, of forms. A stutter is typically, but not exclusively, derived from the isolation and repetition of a plosive or attack transient in a vocal or primary percussive sound within a track. This isolated section, or slice, is usually an eighth note in length at its largest and falls precisely on or around the beat to form a strong rhythmic progression across several beats. A glitch, on the other hand, is usually a momentary eighth- or 16th-bar blistering of extremely minute slices of audio, a 64th note or smaller, often being derived from sustained sonic elements containing rich and complex harmonic textures.

Another key difference is that a stutter typically progresses with rhythmic shifts, or changes in note intervals and subdivided accents, whereas a glitch occurs so quickly that the slices of audio create a static, tonal or buzzing sound. Stutters most often occur at builds, transitions and breakdowns or anywhere you'd classically think of using a drum fill. Glitches, as their name suggests, are not used to emphasize or reinforce rhythm as much as they are sprinkled about at odd rhythmic intervals to jar the listener into taking notice. They artificially induce a momentary rhythmic change to the track by breaking up the monotony.

Oftentimes, stutter effects get blended with or dissolve down to theoretical glitches. That is, the individual audio slices, or elements of a stutter, can be reduced to 64th- or 128th-note values (or smaller), at which point they are no longer audibly stuttering but creating tones. You can see how this is a pretty gray science.

That said, with MIDI's timing being about as accurate as a sundial, trying to pull off sample triggers smaller than a 32nd note will sound like hell. Although it's still an often-used trick for some producers to automate and adjust the sample start point (on samplers that even have this feature) and have a number of notes firing off rapidly one after the other while sweeping the sample start knob, today, it's all about slicing up audio and manipulating each individual slice in your DAW. With sample-accurate timing, working with audio inside of a workstation allows total freedom of the resolution of your stutter spacing — not to mention all of the cool things you can do to each of the individual slices once you have them all spaced and lined up.

But what about source material? What's a prime candidate for stutters or glitches? The easy answer, of course, is anything. Practically speaking, though, for your stutters, look for rhythmic elements that already stand out in the mix: drums loops, lead vocals, vocal hooks, percussive synths, rhythm guitars and so forth. Elements like these that are already telling a story or keeping the rhythm moving are ideal. Stutters can be performed on individual tracks, such as the lead vocal, to accentuate a lyric or phrase; on stems, in which you can process a group of sounds together; or on the full stereo mix, which provides the greatest impact. Glitches are rarely administered to the full mix, unless, of course, you're aiming to break up the rhythm of the track; they're more like overlays, little decorative ticks and flicks that are surrounded by a solid backing.


With the possibility of having thousands of 128th-note audio slices littering your arrange page, it's best to do your homework and get a grip on the audio you've decided to treat. Your first step is to decide if the section you wish to apply the stutter to is more of a sound-design element or an arrangement element. If you're intending to create a hook sound from a rhythmic element, such as a complex stuttered percussion loop with lots of processing, it's probably a good idea to take it outside of the arrange page and into a dedicated audio editor and preprocess the entire section with any tonal effects that you're considering. Then, you can take it into a transient-detecting loop-dicing tool, such as ReCycle, and slice it up there.

At this point, you want to make sure that your audio file is looped nice and tight, and remove any pops at the ends of your slices by manually or automatically applying minute fades to the front and back of each. These slices won't be your actual stutters, but rather starting-point elements from which you pick and choose and fine-tune the repetition and spacing of once you import them back into your DAW's arrange page.

Another cool trick is to first bounce your selected section of audio several times, each time applying different effects plug-ins, EQ settings and so on; then, take all of your bounced audio files and identically chop them up into small slices in ReCycle. Then, once you bring them back into your DAW and start building your slice edits, you'll have time-exact variations of your cuts with which to drop in and out of, similar to subtractive mixing.

If your stutter is going to be applied to already time-aligned elements, such as vocals, in a rather hit-and-miss fashion throughout the song, your best bet is to perform the slice edits within your DAW. For this, zoom in on the section of audio that you're interested in, set the grid to a desired resolution — say, 32nd notes — and perform a slice-to-grid command. Slicing the audio to smaller divisions is not terribly advantageous at this point unless you're intent is to dissolve a stutter into a glitch. Remember, you can always reduce your working grid to a finer resolution later and selectively reslice your chopped-up bits in half, quarters or whatever. Again, fading the front and back of certain slices may be necessary to remove unwanted pops. As you will see, using this method and saving your effects processing for application to the individual slices later on allows you greater freedom and control of the dynamics and motion of your stutters. Next comes the extremely laborious task of spreading everything out.


Once your initial slices are created and imported back into your DAW, it's time to start granularly piecing together the edit so that it stutters or glitches and sounds cool “in time.” Right now, the slices play through as normal. A cleverly performed stutter or glitch is not blind repetition or constant equal-interval cutting. It is for this reason that generic chopper tools, plug-ins or gate effects cannot possibly produce an authentic-sounding complex stutter sound. Those tools don't have the ability to think like a musician. Stutters aren't just effects; they are a form of 21st-century composition.

Take a look at a fairly basic one-bar stutter that will rhythmically repeat at eighth-note intervals over a straight four-on-the-floor pattern. You've lined up the group of stutter cuts so that the first slice containing the initial attack transient of the loop, or whatever you have, is sitting right on the one count of the bar in which you wish the stutter to begin. Next, copy and paste this slice every eighth note for the length of the bar, shifting all remaining slices to the right a full bar. These slices can either be left to play through in succession without stutter or manipulated later. Through experimentation, you will find that the duration of each stuttered slice need not necessarily be a full eighth note in length and often sounds better if you trim back the slice durations, dependent on the source material. Take a listen — it sounds basic and bland, right? You've just discovered the first key to making an interesting stutter: variation. Stutter variation can either be time variant, tonal variant or both. Time variation can come in many forms, including slice positioning, duration and relative spacing. Tonal variation can be the result of effects processing, variations in source material within a stutter sequence, induced pitch from extremely tight stutter spacing and so on.

Going back to the one-bar example, if you copy the last four eighth-note slices and paste them a 16th note to the right, you have a one-bar section containing four eighth-note slices for the first two beats and eight 16th-note slices for the second two beats. Just that slight introduction of variation to the stutter makes it more interesting, but it's still nothing to write home about.

A classic stutter build might take this example a step further by continuing the stutter across the following bar for two or three bars, reducing the stutter intervals to 32nd notes and eventually 64th notes across the final beat. But what could really add some life to the party is the introduction of some compound rhythm.


Shifting the beat emphasis from the usually strong beat to the beat that's usually weak is an important tool in making stutters stand out. Different syncopations can build tension and make for the rhythmic shifts caused by the imposition of compound meters. Consider a four-bar transition that takes you out of a steady kick-driven groove with a lead vocal over the top. You want to drop down to just a vocal stutter of the hook for the first bar and let the vocal line continue on with a pad, no beat, but reintroduce rhythm over the fourth and final bar of the transition, using the vocal itself, before you come back in with an explosion of the full mix.

You've chopped the four-bar vocal hook at pretty ruthless 128th-note intervals and brought it into place near the first beat of the first bar of the transition. (A tip: Slide the entire section of slices to a muted holding track directly above or below where you're working — it saves having to scoot everything over as you build the stutter.) Now, you don't want to start right on the first beat of the transition; rather, drop the first slice squarely between the third and fourth beat of the bar just prior to the transition. This syncopation will allow you to do something very cool next. Thinking in terms of eighth-note chunks for the next little while, you'll stutter the first 128th-note vocal slice for the duration of this pretransition space; then, starting on the first beat of the actual transition, you will repeat 64th-note slices (or two consecutive 128th-note slices butted or pasted together) for the first eighth of the bar. So far, it should sound like a fishing reel being cast out: a high-pitched buzzy whir in two pitch increments.

Now, as you increase the size of the slices, to not lose the motion of the lyrics, you'll want to advance through the slices over time. There is no set rule as to how to perform this; it's really up to your ears and acquired skill. However, a simple rule is to look for places that the syllables or vowels change in the lyrics.

Okay, now that you're sitting on the anticipated second beat, you're all lined up to drop in four 32nd-note slices of the progressing vocal hook for another eighth of the bar. Move ahead, and insert two 16th-note slices for another eighth of a bar and one eighth-note slice for another eighth of the bar. Now, you're two full beats into the transition, and it's time to let the vocal fly as normal. If it isn't already obvious, you'll want the vocal to come in at the right time, so some fudging with stutter slice elements will be necessary. This is why it's extremely helpful to have the intact audio waveform sitting above or below for reference.

For the end of the transition, you need to reintroduce the rhythm over the fourth and final bar using the vocal itself as your rhythm element. Because vocals typically are sustained notes at the end of a hook, it doesn't really make sense to use an attack transient for this. Instead, search out a cool-sounding section of the held note to stutter. Often, truncating the vocal tail just prior to where you start the stutter gives the brain room to breathe and builds greater anticipation for the stutter. Here, you could drop 32nd-note slices across the first two beats and shift from simple to compound time for the rest, inserting stutters in stairs of 32nd, 64th and 128th notes. Really, stutters and glitch edits are all about rushing and dragging time and then catching up right on the downbeat. So feel free to try out all sorts of crazy meters, syncopations — whatever feels right.


The secret weapons of the pros in achieving the coolest stutters, though, is their arsenal of hundreds, if not thousands, of plug-ins. It's common to hear of producers performing multipass preprocessing treatments to prep their audio, even before a single slice is ever made. Likewise, smearing an effect across a final stutter sequence can help smooth things out and remove any harshness that may have cropped up. The types of effects they use range from the garden-variety stock plug-ins to extremely esoteric and complex “math music” applications.

Filter and phase plug-ins such as Sound Toys FilterFreak and PhaseMistress are notorious favorites among the stutter pros for their ability to deftly sync to and follow rhythmic material such as drum loops, breaks and guitars. Distortions, decimators and vocoders are another set of preprocessing tools that do wonders on lead vocals and drum loops. Distortion, in particular, is awesome for making stuttered vocals and beats sound really cool. And don't be afraid to go outside of plug-ins. Look to old, crappy stompboxes and overdriven economy mixers; sometimes, they're the rawest and coolest-sounding. It's all about adding the right coloration to the material while it's still intact so that you retain a smooth flow to the stutter once it's chopped and spread. Throwing ramped or envelope-modulated pitch- or formant-shift effects can really make a vocal stand out, too. Combining these in carefree, mad-scientist fashion is the only way to go.

Stepping it up a notch, you have such interesting processes as granular synthesis, sample granulation, spectral analysis and spectral morphing, resynthesis and cross synthesis. Typically, these are found in specialty apps and plug-ins like Yowstar's G Audio (incorporates former products Girl and Cosmetic); Tom Erbe's acclaimed SoundHack Spectral Shapers collection of timbral morphing tools (including +spectralcompand, +binaural, +morphfilter and +spectralgate); Native Instruments' Reaktor modular synthesis, effects and sound-design studio; GRM Tools; DFX's Scrubby, TransVerb, Skidder, RezSynth and Buffer Override; U&I Software's MetaSynth; Ross Bencina's AudioMulch; Cycling '74's Max/MSP; and Applied Acoustics' Tassman 4. And for the truly brave, there are such math- and code-heavy sound-design programming tools as Miller Puckette's Pure Data (PD), Barry Vercoe's C-Sound, James McCartney's SuperCollider and Symbolic Sound's Kyma system.

Those latter four are what many call math-music programs, or programming languages dedicated to manipulating audio in real time. They've each been around for many years, largely on the open-source Unix platform, and do take some time getting used to. If you wish to be on the leading edge of sound design, though, learning one or more of these environments is a must, and you won't regret the time spent.

Now, if you're a true glutton for punishment, you'll dig in and treat each slice individually. There, personal discretion and lots of free time come in really handy. By treating and processing your stutters a slice at a time, you can dramatically alter their dynamics and sense of animation. These individual treatments will be clearly noticeable in the eighth-to-32nd-note range, and you'll really get a charge out of the results. Then, try some postprocessing with flanged reverbs and retro tape delays if the stutter needs to sit back in the mix.

Overall, the best piece of advice is to use everything you can get your hands on, and keep your sound-generation possibilities wide open. Tons of freeware and open-source tools are out there to pick up on. The unique combination of your editing style and the sound-design tools you choose to use will set you apart from the rest of the pack, so listen, experiment and then listen some more. And remember, be fearless. There are no rules.


What sonic elements seem to tickle the ears when stuttered or glitched?

Usually drum loops and percussion or anything rhythmical works best. Long pads, vocal washes, et cetera, that are stuttered end up being lost in a mix, unless you want that mid-'90s progressive-house vocal gate effect. The rule of thumb is that if you can't really notice the effect in a track, don't bother doing it. Otherwise, you're wasting loads of time on a programming trick that you'll be very proud of when it's soloed but will make absolutely no difference to the track on a club sound system. Go for big sounds pushed high in the mix to edit if you don't want your valuable time wasted muddying up a mix.

Is it true that the modern stutter concept has left the MIDI space and has nothing to do with retriggering samples anymore?

Not entirely. If you listen to our mix of Jeff Wayne's “War of the Worlds,” there are stutters and edits all over the beat programming, and it was all done using an Akai S3000 and MIDI. Loads of producers have been doing similar tricks with Akai MPC drum programmers for ages, but editing in audio onscreen is just so much easier.

What about sound design — do you leave your DAW for specialized processing?

We definitely go outside of Logic to process the sound files. The best technique we've found is to take one loop and process it through loads of programs and then chop sections out of the processed loops to generate the edit in an arrangement. We use Peak for Premiere plug-ins, Metasynth, Thonk, SuperCollider, Reaktor and a ton of little shareware programs that only do one effect well, but you use whatever program suits your idea. SuperCollider, for instance, was used for the granular drum effects in our mix of Sarah McLachlan's “Fear,” the really metallic smudges on the snare and kicks.

What's your processing trick du jour for treating stutter elements?

At the moment, we're messing about with specially edited Reaktor delays, feedbacks and granular synthesis. Most techies will have noticed loads of GRM Tools effects in our current tracks, as it's got a less-digital feel to it. We're trying to move away from the very robotic edits and put things through guitar amps and rerecord it to smooth things over a bit. Phase is a good old favorite on tightly looped edits. It just takes away some of the harshness. Also, it's a good idea to toy around with delays and reverbs to give a sense of depth to the chops.


The Aesthetics of Failure: Glitch Music, by Kim Cascone

The Aesthetics of Failure - Glitch Music
Publish at Scribd or explore others: Academic Work Promotional culture Culture-Music

Great paper on Glitch and computer generated electronic music.

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