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Introducing the quest to build the Tron Beatjazz controller!

Happy New Year! I hope the new year finds you healthy and happy!

It is finally time to unveil what i have been working on for the last few (years) weeks.I have been getting everything together to begin working on a project that is very important to me.

The last few years, I have been kinda low key.  mainly focusing on practice and programming. there was always a reason for this, although i never went into much detail about, opting to wait for the right time.  i realized late in the summer that this winter would be that time.  and so i introduce my project, the TRON Beatjazz Controller system campaign!  this my little pitch video for the project.

Basically, the goal of this project is to not only create a very modern type of live music performance system that blends movement with sound design and musical composition, but, also create an open source aspect that makes the techniques and methodology of beatjazz openly available.

I've been working on this idea for a few years.  I created the first version in 2008. I showed it at the Maker Faire in California that year, but shortly thereafter, i moved to Berlin so i put the project on the backburner for a couple of years.  over these last  few years, I the project was never out of my thoughts and i spent much time acquiring information on the techniques i would need to make this a reality. All the strange iphone projects you've seen me presenting over the last year and a half?! yup, all those projects were created so that i could learn some technique that i needed to make this project a reality.

for instance, the whole reason for the iphone-on-the-back-of-the-hand thing was to learn how to program for the iphones built in accelerometer which makes it very easy now to program for the 2 accelerometers that my controller has designed into it.  using pure data, touchOSC and the iphone was a perfect laboratory to test certain concepts that will go into this controller.


the Tron Controller system is actually 2 projects with core technology and concepts.  the first project is the the open source pvc pipe version that i will share with anyone that wants to build one.  the design is based on two pvc pipe based hand units, each with a joystick, an accelerometer and "keys"(push buttons) which allow it to be played using saxophone fingering.  these are connected to an arduino board,which is a microprocessor board for creative projects.

 i designed the system to work similarly to my wx5 wind midi controller so there are two sensors for lip and breath data. this data goes the computer and is fed backto the hand units as color data fed to a couple of tri-color LEDs, which act as a color based indicator-light system.  in use, it should look and feel like playing glowsticks at a rave, (the name TRON, is inspired by the light trails that the bikes would make in the movie)!  I have designed a whole gestural control interface so you never have to touch the computer for anything.  it works by moving your hand in pre-defined ways to control the parameters you want.  this version will be open source and the plans and patches will be available to all.

then there is my tron performance system version.  this is my personal system and will be the absolute best implementation of the concept.  it is based on the same ideas of the open source version but with key differences.  This system will be a complete performance system.  the goal was to create a system that allows me to have the freedom of movement of a dancer with the ability to make use of the playing techniques i have learned as a horn player over the last 20 years so it shares the individual hand-unit concpet with the pipe version, but here the hand units are custom molded from carbon fiber which willmake them half theweight and enhance the ability to do a wide array of hand/arm movements.  the hand units will have a full row of  lights accross the front of each one which will,in use,make them very visually stimulating.

these will lead up to a chest mounted arduino-mega based processing system that will wirelessly communicate with the computer, which will, of course, be running pure data.  an interesting side note is that all functions of this controller will be pure data based.  that will allow the system to be infinitely upgradeable.

the most interesting aspect will be the helmet.  as you know,i have a thing about my helmet.  why ask why?  i dig helmets! most of the coolest comic book characters have helmets and its probably pretty obvious that i am inspired by comics and scifi.  this helmet will be fully functional.  most stage electronics that would normally be worn as a series of belt packs, such as wirelessmic,wireless monitors (to hear what you're playing) will be built into this helmet,as well as the lip and breath sensors.  there will also be a headup display to see all relevant music data floating in front of the field of vision.  the best part is that it will look amazing!  that is very important.  i wish i were alive when Parliament Funkadelic were in their prime! i would have loved to see something so cosmic and larger than life!  this project is anattempt to BE that now.  somethng you see and cant forget!

all together my goal with the project is the present beatjazz to the world,complete with its own instrument and methodology.  we live in exciting times! there are revolutions in music happeneing around us constantly.  Beatjazz isnt something that i created.  I just synthesized a bunch of stuff from a bunch of places into a style,and gave it a name.  the next cat will take what i do and flip it their way, and on and on...its so mind-blowing to be in a position to be part of this conversation.

if you dig what i am presenting here, please go to http://www.indiegogo.com/tronbeatjazz and check out the campaign.  any thing you can do or give towards making this a reality, would be massively appreciated.  if you can share this with others, it would be huge to me.  because as you know, this is my life.  if you've followed me for a while you know, for me,there is nothing else.  my life is music and always has been. the TRON beatjazz system i can safely garantee that with your help, i will blow your mind with this system.

the campaign is 35 days long.  during that time i will be updating my newletter with high regularity so i hope you are cool with going on this little adventure with me over the next 2-3 months. it should prove to be very exciting to follow.