MIDI Composition and Sound Exploration with Orca

The other night I discovered Orca, and it’s got me VERY excited about making music again. It’s an esoteric programing language that sends MIDI commands. It looks complicated but I was able to learn it pretty quickly. My mind is already reeling with all the possibilities, and I’ll surely be using it a lot on my upcoming projects.

Orca running a work in progress generative program.

I love the way it looks. It’s very old school looking. It gives me deep nostalgia for the early days of my computer use. But more-so than that, is it’s allowing me to do a bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about lately. There’s generative music for instance. I tried my hand at this before with p5.js, but it was not easy for me. In Orca, I can pretty quickly implement any ideas I have, plus stumble on a lot of happy accidents – both great features of a creative tool.

I had an idea where I wanted to set up a guitar effects rack and hit a button and randomize a ton of parameters. So I can flip through a bunch of random “patches” and find something new that I wouldn’t set on my own. I already started programming this and it’s been working great so far.

With MIDI controls I can randomize parameter movements very easily. I’ve already used it for adding random movement to pads.

I’ve used Orca to control my Microbrute (an analog monosynth.) I’ve never sent MIDI to it before, and it’s got me very excited. I’m now looking at maybe dipping my toe into modular synths…a deep rabbit hole, I know.

I mostly have been controlling Reaper (the DAW I use) with Orca though. I used LoopMIDI to connect the two, if anyone is looking to do this.

Orca runs on a ton of hardware, and pretty low-powered hardware too. My desktop is ancient, so that’s always a plus. It also runs on Norns, although I haven’t gotten it to talk to my MicroBrute yet.

I’ve started keeping a knowledge base of sorts of what I’ve learned and code snippets from Orca. The documentation isn’t the greatest, but through tutorial videos and the like it’s fairly easy to pick up.