MWS Ambience Generator

The Mind Workstation ambience generator is a Very Very Good Thing.

There’s an abundance of looped and random ambience generators out there, software and hardware, and if a soothing ambience as a finished product is what you’re wanting, most will do the job quite nicely. Some, the likes of Atmosphere or Natura, do a very beautiful job, with enough user control to tailor some amazingly sophisticated environments.

But that is all they do. The Ambience Generator is just one of a multitude of tools tucked away in Mind Workstation. In case I haven’t made it sufficiently evident, I consider MWS to be completely without peer in the field of psychoactive audio creation tools – everything you could realistically need (apart from actual musical instruments). Questions along the lines of, “Is Mind Workstation as good as Natura?” still arise from time to time. Natura has a friendlier user interface and is bundled with a lot more sounds. Natura doesn’t even come close to MWS in beat generation, soundfile management, audio effects, biofeedback control, Audiostrobe control, etc.

With it clearly established that the MWS Ambience Generator is a small, but extremely competent, part of a much greater whole, we can have a look at it can do, and how.


It all begins when you click “Add Content” and select Sound/Ambience Generator. The first thing that may be noticed is that unlike most other content options, Ambience Generator with Entrainment does not appear. Fear not! Entrainment can be added later via the FX options.

The opening screen allows you to load a Preset, or name and create/edit an ambience. There’s only 9 presets, but they’re easily editable, and in conjunction with the FX, extremely flexible.

Clicking Add Element allows you to select an Element, or load a soundfile which will become an Element. An Element is any fragment of audio that can be looped or played intermittently, such as bird calls, gong, words, nature sounds, whatever. All of the Elements used to create the Ambience Presets are available. Once a new Element has been added, you decide when the sound is to be played (constantly, intermittently or randomly) and over what range of volumes. The Advanced tab accesses position control (constant pan or random pan), Element crossfades, and, best of all, the ability to nominate a time period within the session that this particular Element is to be played.

You can add as many Elements as you need (I have no idea if there’s an upper limit), but it’s worth considering multiple Ambience Generator tracks, so that entire groups of Elements can have FX applied. For example, you might have one Ambience Generator track full of water sounds with a soundpath defined in the 3D Position effect to create the illusion of sitting at the edge of a fast flowing stream.

Multiple Ambience Generator content blocks can be sequenced in a single Sound Track, so a story can be told – paddling across the lake, walking through the forest, arriving at the camp fire. As already suggested, multiple Ambience tracks can be used, with the content at different times, allowing appropriate environmental effects to be applied – out on the lake may have an eery echo, the forest might be all muffled, etc. It’s worth keeping a recorder at hand (cellphone, MP3 player/recorder, digital camera) when out and about to catch any cool sounds you might stumble upon.

If you want to add entrainment to the ambience, just click the track’s flyout arrow and select Entrainment, and select the Entrainment Track(s) you wish to use, with the option of applying advanced entrainment options (direct control, scaled control or a value determined by formula). The formula capabilities of MWS are really something, and they’re scattered all over the place through the package. I haven’t even thought of a use for some of the functions (DateTime/Year – a session that infinitely loops and changed from 10Hz to 20Hz every five years?). There’s a few functions that get regular use, but the simple operators meet most of my needs – the ability to simply say, “modulate this track at 3x the frequency of the Entrainment track”, for example.

Sorry for the digression into the Formula Editor, but it’s a great tool and should be looked for whenever you’re wanting one track or engine to influence another.

I posted a session in the Transparent Corp MWS forum a little while ago (Gentle Theta/Gamma) that has a little play around with a couple of the standard Presets. Rough as the session is (I didn’t even provide a gentle taper at the end!), it does show how little it takes to create surprisingly ‘original’ sounds. I haven’t done much with it here, but do have a good look at the 3D Positioning effect too – drawing your own audio path and changing room size/speed can get some really crazy things happening in the head.

The Ambience Generator is a great place to use clever samples from a synthesizer, another way for the musically-challenged to make pleasing sounds. Keep an eye on the Pitch Effect too – create your own Ooh, Aah choir with your own voice in samples in several ambience tracks, with each track pitch shifted to a new ‘voice’. Be warned that sessions with a lot of pitch shifting can spend a very long time in the “Preparing Session for Play” state – export complex sessions for quick playback once they’re completed.

I could probably keep this up for quite some time, but I hope I’ve given enough of a hint at just how much fun can be had with ambient tracks.


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  • preparat  On June 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm

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