So, I finally got around to creating the first a number of videos on the beatjazz system. these two videos are a synopsis of all the hardware and software components and a demonstration of “transforming”.
Ever wanted to be part of a multi-node sonic computer? Well contribute and help make it a reality! Read More
Learn all about Beatjazz, how to build the Beatjazz Controller System, and add your distinctiveness to the collective (Resistance is futile!!) Read More
The astonishing Onyx Ashanti took the stage with an iPhone strapped to his arm, a brick-size controller in each hand and with a tube extending from his mouth like scuba gear — and proceded to improvise beats and loops and an orchestra of instrumentation (and explain the whole thing simultaneously in a series of PowerPoint slides). Read More
So here it is. My next project phase. A Sonic Fractal Matrix. TA DAAAAA!!!! A network of wirelessly connected nodes-some of which are robotic-to enable any number of beatjazz system enabled (musician/dancer/performer/scientist)’s to synchronize and become a…thing. a shimmering sonic pattern. yaaaaaay!! I’ve completely lost my mind! But along the way, I’ve picked up a new one…
I have been alluding to this shift in mind state over the last few months but there are no words for how much of a shift all of this has represented to me as a person and as an artist. WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE! its like a fantasy, like the dude that created Pinocchio (no time to Google it, I’m flowing…). It is possible to go from idea –in your head- to “thing” on your desk or body! In one to three steps! I can not iterate that enough (no pun intended) …you think something…then you make it exactly how you see it in your head! #mindblown
I honestly thought I was freaking out a couple of months ago. The possibilities were too numerous. I got heavily into studying Fractals. I reduced the number of “possibilities” down to a set of “probabilities” and it was still too much. The saving concept, which I have mentioned numerous times, is the “function aesthetic”. meaning that “function” executed properly, has its own aesthetic. So by focusing on function, an aesthetic emerges and it tells its own, very honest, story. That story, abstract though it may be, calms me and directs my attention toward an ever clearer field of probabilities.
You see, you don’t go from horn sounds to “transforming”, in one smooth curve, but in a loosely related surges. When I began the first campaign, I just wanted to play without having to hold my hands together on a horn, or what I had begun referring to as a “musical neck brace”. I had no frame of reference for what it is has become just as the next stage is completely murky. I have no imagination construct to envision the stage that I propose. I can only design and construct the idea of the sonic fractal matrix concept. but as with the exo-voice (what I call my beatjazz controller now), I can see very clearly how to make it work. designing the logic and hierarchical systems will be reasonably easy (I like logic systems…go figure…). I will have to learn a lot more about networking over the coming months, but that’s the point; to learn and create and share.
As I begin my 3rd campaign, I think about what the last 2 have taught me. Amanda palmer hit the nail on the head in her alignment of crowdfunding with busking. Maybe that was why it felt so comfortable as a concept to me; I share my expression and if you dig it, help me keep sharing it, by contributing. But to go one step further I would say that crowdfunding has become “part” of this widening artistic expression, enable by the internet.
Not long ago, performance was a “thing” with rules and stages. promoting was something “else” and life was another thing that was kept separate. But as I started preparing for this campaign, I began to look at the narrative potential of every single element; how the video looks…how to present these two “onyx’s”-the one that creates and the one that performs…what is the natural progression from the 3d printed exo-voice campaign? all of these things became elements of a new (for me) type of performance that is social media, 3d printing, robots, network system design, film, and crowdfunding. a multi-dimensional performance across time and space.
a crowdfunding campaign feels like it should be gripping somehow. like between the time it begins and it ends, there should be something interesting to emerge from the intensity of presenting a new concept, daily, for 30+ days. then to try to shoot past the idea of that stated goal as the project moves into “creation phase”. when I began the first campaign, I envisioned DIY with lots of wire and plumbing pipe and in the second one it was carbon fiber molds and synthesis. and in both instances, neither turned out the way I intended…they came out better but the whole idea evolved in wonderfully unexpected ways. I think this time will be even more interesting because the goals have evolved this time.
in the previous campaigns, I created beatjazz controllers as perks for contributors. they all work, because I played each one of them extensively before delivery. BUT, I underestimated the differences in the computer systems they would be connected to. the controller was created for my needs and optimized for my computer. so for me, its good and getting better but for the ones that make it into the hands of others, the mileage varied wildly based on their existing hardware. so, going into this phase of the project, I wanted to make the exo-voice playable, “out of the box”. it occurred to me that the only way to do this was to ship it with its own computer. my experiments with using the raspberry pi as the computer, have been very encouraging, but I want to incorporate a second computing board just for audio processing. the point being that I want these systems to be playable instantly.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the new “pilot” (cause its like flying thru sound…geddit?!) will be able to play it “out of the box”. first off, it’s a very logical, but unconventional musical input construct. And I have been playing for 30 years still have to practice daily. Practice is the key. Practicing with another person makes it even easier, so I figured that since I’m building the systems, I can make a simple way for 2 or more beatjazz systems to form a network so that there is a master tempo from the first person on the network. then two or more people can play together and build a construct made of sound that just hangs in the air. I call it a pattern. I cribbed the whole pattern/pattern master thing from an Octavia Butler book series called the “patternist series” which is about a race of telepaths that are all connected together into a web called a pattern which is controlled by a Pattern master. In my implementation, the role of pattern master, is that of providing a master tempo to everyone in the pattern and also the ability to transform the audio of every “node” in a manner similar to this (fast forward to 3:46 );
The best part is that once the pattern master transforms the audio then creates the new tempo, the role is passed on to the next node in the network list; everyone one is important. The pattern will have a wide array of different interpretations because there is no “leader” and everyone is leader.
The network is made up of nodes and the nodes I am creating now, are “baby nodes”. primordial nodes (like “boogie”) in a network that will evolve very quickly. My first node is robotic because there is something incredibly exciting about creating a bio-mimetic robot avatar; when I move, it moves. By watching it move, I can refine my own movements. It is me. There are no autonomous functions where it does things on its own. this avatar will be a robot expression vector (it also keeps the wireless router as close to the exo-voice as possible). I find this extremely exciting. Where does this lead? I have no idea. I am the function.
So, think about it…weird new instrument. You buy it and can hack it by design. But then you can also go “sync” with others with the system (actually, it would only need the wireless router and node patches in pd. It could theoretically run on a smart phone). Maybe that would mean beautiful music. Maybe horrible noise. Maybe visuals. My vision is one where any space where one “patternist” creates, is a sonic fractal matrix consisting of one node. and any number of patternists can join them and create an evolving pattern of increasing self organizing complexity.
THIS is the performance now; “creating” this sonic fractal matrix is as much part of the expression as playing it. The idea is exciting to me, because I know that I can build it, even though I have never built it before. 24/7 goosebumps! And since I am creating it for my purposes, even if no one gets into the idea, “I” can still play it! This campaign is structured so that I can fulfill some aspect of the concept no matter how well the campaign does. it will be another 1/2 generation before this takes hold, so it’s a long-haul iterative project. In other words, it’s gonna happen no matter what.
So, come with me on this ride. I promise that I am not even slightly exaggerating when I say that if you let me, I will blow your mind. Let’s see where this goes…
Soooo… here is the logic and the methodology for how beatjazz evolves into a networked sonic construction system.
A person can generate expression in many ways; talking, writing, jumping, walking, surfing, singing, etc.
The original beatjazz “controller” was created to provide a buffer where expression could be channeled through it to become something more.
The beatjazz controller idea became the origin point for what is now called the “Exo-Voice”. A refinement of the beatjazz controller into a fully integrated “sonic prosthesis”, complete with its own software.
For the sake of continuity we shall present it like this:
There are prosthetic attachments for each hand, one for the head, dealing with breath pressure (in and out), monitoring, lip pressure and head position, and one for each foot.
The matrix is composed of 8 elements relating to the 8 “keys” used to input performance data (i.e.., playing). each element is a different sound, called an element. In addition to a sound component, each element also has
The 8th element is called the “transform” element. it twists all the other elements into a singular trippy vortex-y sound with no limitations in tempo or pitch. When making a loop within this element, all other elements sync to this new tempo. it sounds like this:
All together, this system is capable of sound concepts I am only just beginning to explore.
Along the way I accidently discovered an interesting solution to a few of problems; parameter feedback, laptop interaction and wireless latency.
A couple of months ago I fixed most of my latency issues by switching over to Wi-Fi from xbee wireless. the increase in bi-directional data speed allowed me to use the LEDs for more than just element color indication. They were fast enough for parameter feedback! so I took the most important data –mute mode, record mode, panning and volume- and used the leds to provide that information and it worked beautifully. So much so that I no longer needed to interact with the “laptop” computer at all. but I found that being “near” the wireless router helped to keep the latency (the time it takes for the computer to make something happen after you push a button) down. And the laptop takes me out of the ”altered state” that wearing this system drops me into.
Around this time, I built a small robot and discovered that robots are amazing for parameter feedback. it was much more engaging and intimate than projections because it was a physical, moving “thing”. I began using it for parameter feedback and it became my first robot avatar.
It eventually occurred to me that giving the node legs would solve a number of issues like having to set up computers at a show and having everything on a table or in a booth somewhere rather than having an avatar right next to you, linked wirelessly. also, I have finally began working on a foot interface to compliment the hand interface and will use the robot legs to provide sensor information from them. So I designed a small simple system that is a wireless router, and a couple of inexpensive computer boards that will handle synthesis and everything else in a form factor that feels something like “intimate”. This is Node:0
Node:0-Level:0 is a small wirelessly controlled hexapod robot that houses everything necessary to convey expression and provides parameter feedback concerning the system. the node:0-Level:1 is a larger robot that uses the level:0 avatar as its brain. this larger bot has a full speaker system as well as various digital projection and video recording capabilities.
As soon as 2 or more pilots-called patternists when networked- join the same network, a hierarchy is established. The first patternist is node:0-Pattern master. The second node is node:1, then node:2, etc.
The pattern master establishes the tempo that everyone is synced to. all patternists are fully audible, all the time. when the pattern master switches to their transform element, they can transform every transform element of every node on the network as much or as little or for as long as they want, but when they set the new loop length after their transform “solo” they become node:1 and node 1 becomes node:0 and thus, patternmaster. Then the process repeats and cycles thru every node in the network.
I envision 3 rooms. one for beginners to build things for the first time, a second room for intermediate pilots to “sync” or “mesh” with each other and trade ideas and even parts and techniques. the main room is where there are at least 1 or more patternists that can guide the pattern more fully. These would be considered “pro’s”, each of whom is capable of expressing full patterns when solo. The goal is to create a type of social construct where there is no leader, no band, no dj; just a network of people who create the sound-space improvisationally. a space where one can learn about it, how to do it, and to actually do it, all in the same space at the same time. and where the collective will is expressed because every person becomes patternmaster eventually and if the network is too large for each patternist to become pattern master, it can be broken up into smaller patterns.
The most exciting part about this project is that I can or already have done everything I described above so at this point I just want to see it happen. the exhilaration of hearing a room full of loosely related grooves being twisted together into a vortex of sound, boggles my mind. lets do this thing!!!