The World as ADSR Envelopes


This was interesting and I thought I’d share it here.

I’ve been working with synths, MIDI, basic audio for years, but not until Cubase Pro 8 did I put real time in learning to program synths. Naturally, this involves detailed work with ADSR envelopes.

Today, something clicked. I was out walking, suddenly :bulb: , the whole sound-world became sets of ADSR envelopes. It made me stop in my tracks. I spent several minutes observing the sounds around me in terms of their natural envelopes.

I’ve had this kind of perception with pitch and time as long as I can remember, I call it the “symphony of the city,” and every location has its “music.” But this was specifically ADSR envelopes all around and the resulting wave forms. I’d hear a sound-source and immediately envision the approximate position of ADSR sliders for it – with more sliders if the sound needed them.

Good thing, too, I found it easy to disregard this and not see “sliders” or wave forms for every bird chip, passing car, or whatever.

I yet have much to learn, but I arrived at some new plateau with this. It made me smile. :slight_smile:

Have you ever seen ambient sounds around you that way? I expect many have.

Working with Cubase these past years (Ver Pro 8 to my current Pro 10) has literally changed how I perceive the world around me. The posts here helped me get to this interesting point, so a collective thanks to everyone on the forums.

ADSRingly yours,


What a kooool post!

I don’t know how old you are (I am older than dirt) but your observations read like those of a ‘fresh’ new mind
and that is so beautiful to know.

And even if you are an older person, your unexpected new outlook on sound (envelops)
is encouraging that this whole ‘music thang’ will continue far into the future.

Musicians are a special breed for sure.

sending much aloha

Thanks. :slight_smile:

I’m of the older generation myself. I’ve worked in and around sound my entire life, but I’m mostly field production or producer, mostly recordist/mixer (that means we might use a limiter and low cut). We turn in tracks mixed by post-production engineers or sent live. I’ve done some music, always, but engineering at the level offered by Cubase has taken me to good, new places. I still have far to go but that’s ok. This was something like tying your shoelaces for years without noticing how the knot actually works. It was a light thing not meat to sound overly profound. Just, “oh yea, nature is all sound envelopes.” Good to hear your friendly comments and Aloha back to you. :slight_smile:

I agree, musicians are some of my favorite people, be they well-known or not.


The same thing happened to me about four years ago when I started listening intensely to ‘mixes’. I was concentrating specifically on ‘panning’. And one day, while waiting for a train, I heard all of the surrounding outdoor natural sounds in their ‘pan pot’ positions. It was a moment of epiphany for sure!



Not specifically about envelopes, but similar for aural awareness.

When I was in collage I had a job at a plastics factory in their lab. Every morning I needed to collect samples from the various production lines - so I had this route I walked that went through a variety of aural landscapes. I started in our lab which basically sounded like an office space. Next was our lab’s prototyping area which was 2 large rooms (maybe 50x100 feet each with 30 foot ceilings) concrete floors and hard walls. This was generally quiet ('cause usually nothing was happening) but my footsteps would echo. Then a quick dash outside to cross an alley into the factory proper. This sound changed a lot depending on time of year and weather. The first factory section was quite noisy, packed with machines rotating molds in tubs of hot water (making acrylic tubes - 10 feet long x 4" to 20" in diameter). You couldn’t be heard here using a normal speaking voice. Next stop a room with about 20 large extrusion machines which squeezed out blocks and rods (1-2 feet across) of nylon & teflon like from a giant toothpaste tube. This room almost sounded quiet compared to the previous, but it had this low pitched electro-mechinical hum that was constant. Last stop was another fairly quiet and normal sized room with acoustics to match.

By having to repeatedly traverse this same sonic path I started paying attention and eventually came to understand how the acoustics worked in these differing environments and more importantly how to hear the “space” of a place. It was like taking a course in ambient acoustics.

At the time, and a direct result of the above, I though it would be cool to write a piece for someplace like a mall (remember those) where the same ‘song’ is playing everywhere but the instruments and arrangement would change depending on the shop - calming in the bookstore, sparkly in the jewelry store, energetic in the shoe store, etc. Then when you walked around the music would be both continuous but customized for the location.

Around this time John Cage came to our school for a lecture & a performance of one of his cut-up I Ching pieces. I think the factory experience opened the door to really hearing Cage’s work.

Reminds me of Pauline Oliveros and “deep listening”.

Thank you, everybody, for the inspiring stories.

That is very good and very similar. It’s great when things like that happen. :bulb:

Great story. You were very lucky to see Cage in person. I know those works and I can see how the factory’s soundcapes would relate to them.

Great story. You were very lucky to see Cage in person. I know those works and I can see how the factory’s soundcapes would relate to them.

Even better than that Cage was also there to interact with the students. So in one class we got to hang out with him for an hour asking questions and him telling stories.

The Cage biography “The Roaring Silence” by David Revill is a good read. Lots of interesting little bits, like Cage lived next door to John & Yoko and introduced them to the macrobiotic diet. But my favorite is from when Cage premiered his famous silent (not really) piece 4’ 33" in Woodstock (the artsy town not the festival). Afterwards a local artist in the audience yelled “Good people of Woodstock, let’s drive these people out of town.”

raino - Thanks, I was not aware of the Cage book!

Stephen57 - I am always trying to find parallels and similarities between MUSIC and every other factor of life…