Orca - alternative firmware for white whale


Right now we can only effect rotation ± 2 and that’s actually more than enough for the weights, divisors, etc, as there are only 4 of each to rotate. It’s only on rotate scale that larger numbers could have an actual impact. So keeping it to ± 2 would work for me. Especially if we could have 4 conditions…
If we did have access to 4 global variables then a single row could be -
1-4 select tracks for AND logic, 5-8 select global variable(s) to multiply (the number, to make the division larger) the result of the AND logic by, or simply apply AND logic to all selected, 9 Hold, 10 Abs/ Rel, 11- 14 subtract 2 - add 2. Leaves 2 column spaces.


for track parameters - yes, you would only need -2…+2 range. for scales -8…+8 would be enough. where you’ll want bigger values is for transposition - you’d need at least -12…+12 to cover a 2 octave range. so perhaps 4 conditions for track parameters and maybe scales, and 2 conditions for transposition.

another potentially good destination for such conditional rotation - CV track assignments and selected scale - this would make everything rotateable… not sure if that’s too much though!


I thought of that also… :wink: I think once one starts rotating too many things the essence of the piece could be lost so some limitations would probably be a help to most of us.


only if you choose to rotate them :slight_smile: i like the completeness of it… but the main criteria to me is how musical it would sound. once i have white whale back i’ll do some experiments (and can post experimental versions here if folks want to try for themselves).

as a side note - there any many algorithmical sequence generators, some using pretty advanced techniques (no AI yet, no matter the marketing hype…) but what i always liked about orca is how a simple concept can generate pretty complex evolving sequences. simplicity is often beautiful.


That bit really was rather unfortunate. Great piece of kit though, even it is relatively simple under the hood.


i blame ableton marketing department. i have great respect for coldcut and curious to check it out at some point.


Super exciting thread! Can’t wait to see what directions Orca grows. Thanks for all of the hard work on this, @scanner_darkly!!!


testing transposition and separate rotation for CV A and B - sounds great! big thanks to @lloydcole for the idea. this will definitely make it to the new version in one way or another.


So I’ve never really run Orca before… I’ve always had a rough idea of what it did, but I’ve always used my Teletype for my endless generative sequence fun.

Anyway, I watched the Instagram video above this post yesterday and thought, this is just the thing I need in my life right now. So far I’ve had it flashed for about 24 hours and I love it. I was a bit worried that the UI might be too complicated, but once I was in front of it, it’s actually very consistent and well thought out. I love the immediacy of it, I find that I can get into my ‘happy place’ almost instantly.

So far I’ve worked my way through the first 6 ‘pages’ of settings, I feel like I need to get to grips with the sequencers and/or Teletype remotes to get into the really long running generative space.

Anyway one question and one suggestion…

What happens if I the track weights add up to more than 16?

And a suggestion… would it be possible to have an INIT key combo? Maybe press the four corners on the grid? As there are so many settings it would be nice to be able to reset everything to a know state with everything zeroed out. I also think it would make some of the tutorials easier to follow, the first step can always be to init the patch.

Ideally the init patch would just be CV A & B just ascending through the 16 notes of the scale (like in one of the videos). I am by no means experienced with Orca yet, but once I am, I can imagine the first thing that I would want to do would be to setup my scale.

(edit: just figured out the scale preview thing, I still think the ascending scale is a nice way to set it up though, and a good starting point for a patch)


Given that each user would likely have a slightly different idea of the ideal INIT patch, I think we’re covered with presets. Just save your init patch as, say, preset 8/8… and copy it to another preset when you want to start from scratch.


it wraps it to 0…15 range (basically, it does totalWeigth & 0xf). hmm now that i’m thinking about this perhaps when it goes over 16 it should transpose by an octave…

thanks! i’m afraid to say it’ll probably change quite a bit in the new version, hopefully to make it more streamlined and intuitive, and i’ll try to keep it consistent with the current UI where i can.

re: INIT - @lloydcole makes a good point there is no ideal INIT patch (say, if we were to use divisors of 1 for each track, 0 for phases and resets etc it would make for a pretty boring starting point) but i think the linear sequencer where it just acts as a plain 16 step sequencer might be a good candidate. it’s documented here: https://github.com/scanner-darkly/monome-mods/wiki/Orca---manual#tips-and-tricks. i’ll think of some way to init to that. might also think of a way to let the user define the INIT patch - presets can be used for this but right now it’s not possible to copy presets between banks, so you’d be limited to the same bank.

one more thing i want to make consistent in the new version is having a consistent button combo for each page where it resets that page to some logical default values. right now double press on a page selection button does it for some pages, but i should make it consistent across all pages. also i want to add a way to undo this operation as it’s possible to do this accidentally. maybe another double press?

sequencers are definitely a good way to make for longer more complex sequences (i often just rotate scale on first step and that’s enough to bring a boring sequence to life). it’s hard to fit sequencers within orca UI, which is why they’re so basic, and one of the reasons i’m trying to come up with a way to make them more powerful, such as adding conditions. of course, this could be achieved with teletype and i considered removing sequencers completely since you could do it with teletype and then sequence it in whatever way you prefer, but it feels like an essential part of orca. just need to think of a good way to make it both powerful and intuitive / playable. i do want to add a lot more teletype remotes though!

glad to hear you’re enjoying it!


Just wrapping is probably best. Adding one octave might be cool sometimes, but with 16 notes it’s more likely that adding 2 or 3 would make more sense… The more we discuss the scales, the more I’m inclined to think of them as arrays, and the 16 notes defined are the only ones that can play.


it’s an interesting thing to consider but yeah probably not going to add that (and in any case it would have to be a user selectable setting and i’d rather not have settings). and since i’m planning to add transposition anyway there will be another way to achieve that.

it might be helpful to think of orca scales as rings consisting of 16 notes. each track slides you forward or backwards on that ring. a weight of 1 will slide you by 1 etc. so a weight of 16 will bring you back to the same note you were on (using this model it’s easy to see that scale rotation is basically an extra weight added to the track weights).


just did a couple of quick videos testing a newly put together case and thought i’d post them here as they show that orca is not good for just melodic duties but also…

… for making techno:

… and as a drum sequencer:


Once you are good at manipulating a sequence you don’t need the randomisation stuff, let the hands add the variation.


Just wondering if there will be anything added to the param knob?
Maybe a global octave control?
Or a “dissolve” control that would randomly remove or dissolve the sequences?

Haven’t had too much time to think about it but it could be fun and useful to reintroduce.


yeah, was playing with it the other day and thought it’d be good to use it for something. on my list for new version.

edit: i like all 3 suggestions, will need to try that!


Amazing! Would be so good to have something like this added.
Orca is the best! Truly unique and magical.


Had another idea for the param knob.
How about some kind of shuffle/swing.
could shuffle up the triggers or and that funky swing the clock cant usually follow.


if clock divider/multiplier is set to 1 it should follow external clock precisely even if it’s irregular or has swing.

swing could be added but it would be for internal clock only (could be done for external but with clock div/mult it becomes complicated).

can you explain a bit more what you mean by “shuffle up the triggers”?