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introducing The TRON Beatjazz "Afro" Helmet!

The great multitalented Loganic has just finished doing the proper sketches of the Tron beatjazz controller system helmet and he captured the essence perfectly.

The system houses all the electronics for the the lip and breath sensors, as well as voice and headtracking. all components are mounted inside the carbon fiber shell, which purposely looks like an afro.the weight savings from the carbon fiber will offset the wieght of the internally mounted components.  the small square on the goggles, is a heads up display; a small monitor that looks like a full size computer screen from the percieved distance of about 2 meters.  it will show all of the relevant feedback data that will be necessary to stay abreast of with a system of this complexity.  once on stage, this will become the computer screen, negatinng the need to go anywhere near the computer.

Using a small wireless transmitter, it will transmit data back and forth between the computer. that data will primarily consist of breath, lip and voice data which will all be consolidated into the small boom mic protrusion coming off the right ear.   two small high powered computer fans will ensure that i don't have a heat stroke while wearing it.  and last but not least, headtracking duties will be handled by an integrate ipod touch whose job will be to (a) provide the headsup display to the goggles by way of touchOSC, and provide data as to the position and direction of my head, which opens up all kinds of musically significant opportunities.

The Afro-aesthetic should prove to be visually stunning in practice.  it is meant to draw from a collective cultural concept and project it onto a future-focused construct.  i want it to kinda tell a story that picks up from Parliament Funkadelic and Sun Ra. that of being an "afro"naut, maneuvering through a sonic alternate reality and interacting with the beings there and that one needs this helmet to percieve and communicate with them...or at least thats the idea. 

Sunday we pour molds of my head and hands to start realizing these drawings into something more tangible.  but for now, these drawing provide an accurate idea of where the concept is going.  If you would like to see this project become reality, please go by and check out the project and see if you'd like to part of the quest to create the most amazing live performance music system ever!

Getting started on the first prototype

Thank you so much to those who have contributed to this project!  It has allowed me to get started right away!   my hope is to have a very basic working prototype within a week.

Today, I went to get some of the initial components. I went to Conrads in Charlottenburg first but then ended up at what is now my favorite DIY electronics shop in berlin. Segor Electronics.  i knew they would have what i consider to be the most characteristic component of the entire project;

the pressure transducer, or what will be the breath sensor.  it's a hideous little component looking like something that should be bigger and under the hood of a car, but ooohh...its so hot!  this little bugger will translate my blowing into data that will be used to play the synthesizers with a level of expression that is not available any other way! but the extra added bonus of this particular one is that it also has a "suck" sensor (insert joke here...) which i could see being useful for mode changes without having to push a button.  i am excited!

i also got a Hall effect sensor.  this miraculous little sensor measures magnetic field intensity so together with a small magnet, you get a very smooth data curve by bringing the magnet closer to the sensor.  this will be the lip sensor that will transmit pitch as a woodwind player would.  there will be much experimentation with sensor type and magnet size but it will work perfectly once its "dialed in"

the rest is just tools, a breadboard for protyping, button switches for "keys" and 2 rgb LEDs which will be the basis of the color synth system that will be the trippy part of the design.  that's one LED to test with and one to inadvertenly blow up,as you do when prototyping stuff.

allof these sensors will be running to my ancient arduino board.  arduino is a wildly popular open source microcontroller platform.  it allows you to easily connect just about anything to your computer and do things with the resultant data.  literally ANYTHING.  for my purposes right now, the arduino will be interprting the data from the sensors, and spitting said data out to pure data, where i have written a program, "patch" in Pure data lingo, that take mybutton presses and turns them into saxophone fingerings. most all woodwind instruments use a system called the "boehm" fingering method.  i have decided to use this system because it is what i know already.  i can always change or adapt it later. in the video i am generating button presses from touch osc to makesure that horn like key combinations are generating the appropriate note.

the goal of the next few days is to get the arduino based system working properly. get breath and lip data functional and map the octaves to the joysticks.  hopefully the campaign keep building so ican afford to buy the accelerometers and the first of the wireless trancievers.  Uli Maier, the talented Prosthetist that will be helping me IMMENSELY with this project, and I will be creating the plaster molds for my hands and head on Sunday, andi plan to film the entire procedure so stay tuned.

Again, thank you to all who have so generously contributed to this project.  it is going to be a wild couple of months!  if you would like to see this project keep moving forward, goto and give what you feel.  if you cant give any money, share this project with people that you feel would like to be a part of what i hope and plan to be the dopest live performance controller ever.  i'm not joking!  this thing is gonna be sick! believe.

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 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.


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