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Archive for September 2012


A Different Sound is Emerging!

Prototype session on Oberbaumbrucke in Berlin
in the week or so since the end of campus party, i have gained a bit more insight into the layout of the controls.  i found that, for instance, x-axis sweeps are easier to remember (its the motion of turning the hand as if to turn a big volume knob) so sequncing strings of them together offers a great amount of control while saving y-axis for less sonically crucial elements.  little stuff like that builds up to an interface that feels more intuitive.

I also scavenged a few patch collections online for greater insight into this sound design witchcraft.  i have a few synths that i have hobbled together from scratch and a few that were better realized by other programmers, namely a few bits from the rjlib and a great set of patches by a cat named Hardoff on the pure data forums.  clean, well designed libraries of synths and effects that, owing to their open-patch nature, allow me to go in a strip out stuff that is unneccessary and add beatjazz specific functionalities like breath control and tying of functions to gestural trajectories.

IMG_1024now the interface concept is pretty stable so i figured it was time to get the sound right which has been partly dictated by pure datas architecture.  each open instance of pd run on only one core even if you have multiple core, as i do.  last week i decided it was time to split my single monolithic patch into multiple chunks.  it has be choking on the amount of data i have been throwing at it so i decicded that the control "module", where the interface wirelessly connects with the system should be its own "thing".  the next module, or instance of pd, is the synth/looper/fx module that houses all things audio and recieves control data from the control module by way of an internal network link.  this will make it easy to later put the control module on a seprate computer.  the last module is the visualization module which takes data from both of the previous patches and puts represents it visually with parameter controlled graphical objects.  right now these objects are exrtremely simple but they are already unbelievably valuable when trying to figure out what is going on with the system.  before this modularization, cpu utilization was jumping up to around 40%.  now? it peaks from time to time around 12%!

IMG_1017I took the rtime this week to integrate the vacuum sensor as, what i call, an "inhale" circuit which lets me do things to the sound wheni breath in.  i must admit that it works as well i as thought it would.  i breath in, which swithces me to a different mode, do what needs to be done, then start playing normally.  currently the number of parameters is very limited, but now that it is there, i think it will start finding its way into more and more modes.

I have been missing my chords BADLY.  its a part of my sound but previously, with my VSTi based ssystem (commerical synthesizer plugins) i had a few patches with pre constructed chords which defined and restrained my sound.  I have been searching for a way to construct chords live, in any key.  my idea has been to use a breath sustain i designed to hold all of the notes i play together until i stop blowing.  then to teach myself how to play chords by playing the notes of the chord one at a time, in fast succession.  not easy.  so now i found a way to play my chord intervals using this mthod then use pitch shifting to play the changes.  viola! i cant believe it worked.  check out the recordings.  the pitchshifter quality is kinda shit, owing to its sample window size setting but the idea is there and i feel that there is miles of room to investigate this chordal concept.


Next will be to finish adding parameterizations to all sonic elements and tame them only slightly.  the drums and bass dont bump yet and the leads dont "sing" yet, so discovering what those terms mean in the context of where this system wants to go, is next on the agenda and i will present my finding at the People in Beta event at Betahaus on the 22nd

as for the perks, My tshirt guys, sumoneproductions, are preparing little logo tags for the tshirts and is going to be doing the interpretation from painting into a print over the next few days (maybe I can document this process).  scanning has commenced on the notes of the project, which will be put into a customized linux distro along with the patches, photos and videos.  as much as can be shoved into an 8gb stick, and attached to the logo keychain thingy.  so its full steam ahead with getting this stuff out soon.


Fried Brains and Geekfests

Last week i participated in an event here in Berlin called Campus party.  a week long geek-a-polooza where most of the 10,000 participants camped out, literally, in Tempelhof  Airport disused airport that is a misture of convention center/city park.  it was a sea of laptops, custom desktops, robots, and stages with a variety of talks and workshops.  yours truly was there to give a presentation/performance, a seperate "Cyborg workshop" the next day as well as provide 3d printing serivces to participants who came us with CAD files they wanted printed (it happens...), and as a participant as well.

IMG_0952Security was very strict; photo id badges, bag checks, id stickers for laptops...not that there was too much of a shady vibe there, but it wasnt too imposing and the security guys seemed nice enough.  having taken note of the security scrutiny the day i went to check out the opening ceremony, i decided to "pulp fiction" them when i came back with my performance gear.  I turned on the lights of the controller before i left home so that when they asked me to see what was in the case, i would open it to some wierd glowing alien artifact.  the reaction was priceless enough that i think i will do this from now on.  5 security guards with grinning "what the fuck" looks on their faces, was priceless.

IMG_0965Lately I have been investigating a therapy called tDCS (transcrannial direct current Stimulation).  this is a really kinda old therapy where mild electrical current is applied to the scalp to excite or depress the neuronal activity at the point of excitation, usually by way of electrodes.  it is considered extremely safe, owing to its very low current (1-2mA), but very effective in a number of cases where exciting neurons is a good thing, like affecting working memory and the ability to focus.    it works by placing the anode (positive) electrode over the area to be excited and the cathode (negative) over the either the area to be control or depressed.

My tdcs system consists of a very un-safe looking simple circuit that consists of a 9-volt battery, a voltage regulator and a couple of resistors.  this reduces the total current output of the battery to 1.04mA, half of the standard amount used in most of the research i have investigated.  I made the "electrodes" out of aluminum pieces i had laying around and instead of saline soaked sponges, i used salty water and cloth (i  just wanted to see if it worked).  my experiment focused on the dorsal prefrontal cortex (left side of the head, just behind the forehead area) excitation, with the cathode placed over the right eye, which is said to increase focus and working memory, as i stated earlier.  interestingly, after taping the electrodes to my head and then attaching the battery, there is a brief flash of light, which i found scary and exciting in equal measure. after the first 20 minute session, i just remember the feeling of just wanting to keep programming and time kinda went away.  i just felt calm and serene and focused and ready to code.

7914058524_e605b200d6_zSo it was with this in mind that i thought it rather clever to tape said electrodes to my head during my friday night presentation performance at Campus Party.  The curiosity was just too great.  as i have mentioned before, i plan to place electrodes in my "afro-helmet", so i figured, why not give it a shot.  my threshold for looking silly or crazy, is pretty high now.  and this was a geek audience, so i figured it was a perfect place for something so nerdy.  the two things i remember from the performance were, one, the feeling of serenity as cascades of wireless errors rendered whole sections of my performance, unintelligible, and two, the dime sized chemical burn on my temple.  maybe salty water, aluminum and electricty for an hour, are not good for my skin...who knew?!  this has not stopped my experimentation, but it does make me think more carefully about how i am implementing this technology. (here is a strange remix of the performance, uploaded by oldschoolpee on youtube)

thIMG_0984e next day was the day of my Cyborg workshop.  I decided to create, from scratch, a device i called "Jazzhands".  this was a back-of-hand wireless gestural controller that used an accelerometer fed into an arduino fio, transmitted to pure data, to enable a performer to still be able to use their hand to do other things but, whhen neccessary, they could merely move their hand around to control other parameters.  i decided to go this route because it involved, design, 3d printing, electronics, programming and performance-all important variables in any sonic-cyborg equation.

I had ALOT of people there.  i was really surprised.  some folks got there early!  trippy.  i had the 3d printer there, printing out the neccessary parts.  everything flowed pretty well except that i decided to do the soldering of the circuit board DURING the workshop, rather than have an already assembled example, so there was a 20-25 minute gap in the midst of the workshop where i was just soldering and troubleshooting, so a few people lost interest, but once the device was assembled and workd, folks came back and played with the device.  it was really nice to have converged all of these disparate things into one workshop.  i learned alot and feel that the next workshops will be much better because of it.

after that, I and a co-reprapper, Lars Beyer, helmed a 3d printzone where CP participants could bring their 3d cad files for us to print.  it was a great excuse to hang out and spread the reprap gospel to masses.  very cool.

so,IMG_0988 with that now done, I am free to get back to the lab and work on stuff again.   and by "stuff", I mean refining the system, which now (mostly) works and using the entire month of september to finally get all of the crowdfunding campaign perks out to everyone that contributed.  Although i feared that many would think i had forgetten about them, I just could not bring myself to send them any old perk.  i wanted to be able to do it right.  perfectionism is not a trait i thought i had but i guess i will have to factor it into my timelines in the future.  the cool part though is that now everyone actually get cool stuff based on a complete beatjazz system concept.  i will be going into greater detail in upcoming posts, but by the end of september i plan to be playing a system that sounds great and ensure that contributors have that system or related perks, in their posession. holla...

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