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Archive for August 2012


Stage flight test 1, public demonstration 2-BJSS-alpha-v1

so, I finally got to get the new system on a stage to test it.  stage iteration is a different beast from busking or home.  not only do you have people watching you on purpose, you have a much more powerful sound system that, with untamed software, can blow up and kill people.  ok, maybe not kill them, but kill their ears and kill the speakers which results in people wanting to kill you and killing just becomes a primary theme.  so i wanted to make sure that it would suck within a very controlled dynamic range.


beatjazz synthsthe beatjazz system consists of (eventually) 8 sound producing "elements".  things like drums, bass, vocoder, etc, but since i am designing a new kind of system, i am including categories like resampling, complex, simple and beatbox.  why?  because i can.  these elements have their own looping buffer which (soon) can be manipulated in interesting ways.  the sound variations that i am capable of creating, are "coarse", so i am throwing thing in in the order that they intrigue me.  

bass synth 1my most basic synth at the moment is a sine wave bass synth.  it is simply a sine oscillator whose frequency is being controlled the note value it recieves.  the volume is currently controlled by breath pressure.  thats all.  any frequency over 30hz gets played and heard.  it is super simple and just right for most instances but i think that adding this to other sounds rather than as a standalone bass is in its future.

am synth1my first synth was a simple additve synth that i plan to frankenstein into something big and mean and brooding. it is made up of a sinewave oscillator being oscillated by a couple of other oscillators.  in the video, this is the sound that changes drastically when i move my hand.  this is using my gestural control interface.  i am discovering how adding and multiplying the signals together creates different tonilities.  i am experimenting with gestural trajectories that i am modelling on woodwind playing.  i can explain it better later after i have some new examples.

And harmonicsthis synth introduces harmonics by way of multiplying the frequency value by the intensity value  of the breath input.  this starts drifting towards heavier math than i have allowed myself to play with up to this point so i am toying with the variables t get an idea of how each piece interacts with the other.  right now i am using breath pressure to take this sound thru its range but soon i will use this as the beginning of a mouthpiece abstraction using lip pressure and breath pressure rather than breath and note value.

drumgridthe drum synth is from a pd excercise by andy farnell (pd guru who wrote the book, "Designing Sound" which, currently, is my bible).  it is a collection of simple enveloped noise generators going thru a range of filters that give each drum its character.  i have added a "gesture grid" to each sound so that i might investigate ways to manipulte each drum within the context of whatever piece i am navigating.

vocoderthe last one i am using currently is the vocoder.  i started with a design that simply multiplies my voice signal with a synth signal.  it wasnt very controllable but sounded great in a "Cybotron" kinda way.  i then grabbed the vocoder example that came with pd-extended and used it.  i see that it has arrays of bandpass filters that "contain" a frequency range based on the values in the abstraction arguments.  this one is the most exciting for me because i can use what i am learning by  dissecting how filter arrays to design better virtual spaces and and cavities like vocal tracts, horns, or instruemnt "bodies" that cant exist in the real world.

Notes from the first stage test:

  • -daylight visibility is better than expected.
  • -some latching functions take more effort now so maybe some of the hardwre is loosening a bit .
  • -having "per drum" fx racks is a pain in the ass. may regress to a drumkit fx rack with per drum controls.
  • -i must create a default state and a prefered state for each element and use this as the basis of my preset system.
  • -audio and vibratory feedback helped ALOT.  must take time in the future to design the haptics to be less utilitarian with more personality.
  • -i melted the earhanger pieces to turn them slightly inward and cured the "elf-ears" problem  (yaaaay!!)
  • -replacing the hard drive with the solid state drive is AMAZING ( i think i already said that before but it is worth repeating:p)

so, long story short, IT WORKS!!  i am currently working to fix a few glaring interface issues then jump right into

  • -replacing the "placeholder" fx, whose sole purpose was to make sure the routing was going to work, with better sounding more gesturally integrated fx
  • -designing a tracking eq ( a wide bandpass filter) that will tame the frequency ranges of each element, automatically, based on what i play.
  • -integrating the lippressure into the sound concepts.  it will require a bit of a rethink as i am finding that trying to emulate an existing lip modlation metaphor isnt as enticing as i had hoped for.  will think out of the box on that problem.
  • -add polyphony so i can begin playing monophonic chords, which have been missed greatly
  • -create a couple of synths that will follow a gestural edit trajectory, which has yet to be designed but i feel can be achieved thru a few continuous days of tinkering and "Playgramming";-)
  • -sort out element default and prefered states
  • -add the resampling element.  this will be a bit of an engineering project to do it the way i envision it but the results "should" be breathtaking.

the next fw posts will focus on investigation of each element.  hope  this is enough to chew on for now. l8r.


Notes from the first public outing of beatjazz software v1-alpha

;so, i got my big-ass busking battery out of storage and, after replacing my old beatup charger with another of the same model, i chraged it, loaded it up on to the bike trailer and headed out to play the streets of Berlin!

it has been a year since last i busked.  it is part of my identity. it has defined my sound by allowing me full freedom to express what i want and not simply what will make money.  but lately  i have been feeling like there is something missing from my sound.  playing on the street allows for a balance you cant get onstage.  you must have the confidence of a rock star to make your money, but the humble-ness of a beggar because no one owes you anything...lessons for life me thinks.  beatjazz is born of busking.  there are time when it is neccessary to play one little sound repeatedly to get it right.  sometimes for hours.  doing this in a paid gig is usually frowned upon no matter how many times youtell yourself that you can play whatever you want.  and with busking, when you draw a crowd, and keep them, it was YOU who did it.  not advertising or posters or articles, so there is a real sense of what is working and what is not.

my first stop was my favorite spot, Oberbaumbr√ľke.  a beautiful bridge  that looks like a castle and has great acoustics when you play under its ornate arched pedestrian walkway.  loads of buskers perform there these days.  i figured that in my current v1alpha incarnation, i wouldnt be too much of a hinderance to any of them who might be there, but als there was a street market going on.  usually i would love that, but right now, i am not at the staage where i feel confident in doing a real performance for the inevitable crowd that would form.  i just wanted to hide out on the bridge and play to the water with ambient people traffic,  who may or may not pay me any attention. so i left and went to tacheles.

currently, there is no electricity at tacheles and last week, city inspectors forbade opening to the public becasue they deemed it a fire hazard, so although we still have access to our studios, the public does not.  interestingly, while the building and the studios dont have electricity, the security cameras put in place by the bank were most definitely operational, but i digress...that is another blog post altogether.

I needed information about the system that could not be gleaned from playing it at home.  the following were some of my observations;

  • it really glows brightly past dusk.  it drew attention from around corners!
  • even these most basic of tester synth sounds, sounded very interesting.  i mix the fundamental frequency back into the sound ever so often because many of my current modulation  settings make it go out of tune very quickly.  so the types of modulation were very sonically interesting without pulling too far away from proper tonailty.  
  • all the synths responded very well to breath articulation.  i set the sample rate in firmata (the script that is loaded on to the arduino to allow it to communicate with the computer more easily) for the headset arduino, to 12ms, from 19ms which has made all the difference in the world!  triple tounging was very light and precise and system latency was at 4ms. with between 3 and 20% cpu utilization on 1 cpu core (out of 4).
  • the drum sounds sounded cheap but full and will respond well to additional gestural enveloping.
  • i had one synth that had gestural fx and instruments and it became really easy to remember ceratin gestural vector sequences to acheive particualr tonalities. 
  • i found that within the construct ( the musical piece) there was no consideration of "bass", "keys", "hornns" or anything so coarse as "instruments".  it became a game of finding sympathetic spectral  ranges and timbral variations that propeled the piece forward.  the sound of this metaphor is stranger than i had imagined, and that is even considering that these synths are merely stand ins for the real synths to come.
  • having 8 loop buffers instead of one monolithic one, really opens up a world of arrangement possibilities, especially once thier fx systems are functional.  right now only the instruments have fx.. 
  • the triggering of functions is still really kinda sketchy but the haptic audio feedback really helped.  if i clicked the "record loop" toggle and heard the "overdub loop" tone, then i could course correct easily without looking at the laptop.

the small audience that was there seemed to enjoy the sound and even at this stage, i felt that tere was scope for sonic exploration.  today i must clean up the patches a bit.   the next tasks are to modularize the instruments and fx to make them easily updateable as the project progresses as well as allow for chord polyphony and global fx based on the same base patches.  a gestural editing concept is coming together now as is a system for saving certain sound iterations into bufferes to reintroduce them laer in the construct.  the vocal processing will come last, after the resampling channel, which will allow for all manner of freaky sonic manipulaion.  those two can be experimented with at length, once there is a basic system that sounds good and perfoms well and will hopefully allow me to start working on my physical motion concepts.  all in all, a good first test flight.     

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