Friday, 26 November 2010

Looking back on the Rotunda installation - a great success!

I thought I’d just write a quick piece about how happy I have been with the outcome of my recent interactive installation at the Rotunda Museum. Seeing the installation in position at the museum, being used by members of the public and sitting prettily amongst many other (much more expensive, I have discovered) exhibits makes me feel that all of that hard work was worth it!

I’m even happier that Mark Hildred has praised our work over on the Apollo Creative blog and that Scarborough Evening News even took the time to come down! Excellent stuff!

If you still would like to see it, the installation is running til Sunday 28th November. Thanks!

Scarborough Evening News Article - I'm in the middle of the left-hand picture and on the left in the right-hand!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

General Update

I thought it was about to time to give a quick update after some recent developments!

The Charms Of The Sea installation project is nearing completion and is looking rather good. If you're in Scarborough from the 18th to the 28th of November be sure to call in at the Rotunda Museum. I will be present on a few ocassions to give any technical support as well as talk about the project with members of the public.

In other news, today I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by and meeting Satoshi Shiraishi, a Japanese musician and artist based in Holland. He gave a very intersting presentation on realtime timbre analysis and performance with a homemade digital instrument constructed from water pipes and a saxophone/clarinet mouthpiece! He also showed some great videos of previous performances/installations and demonstrated some very nice MaxMSP/Jitter patches including a fascinating 'realtime timbre space' rendering frequencies in a three-dimensional OpenGL environment.

It wasn't until after the talk and I was speaking to Satoshi that I discovered one of my lecturers had demonstrated my own iTouch Synth to him and I was very honoured to have an artist as talented as himself be so complimentary about my work! I also found out that he and I have both been undertaking similar exlplorations in the use of electric guitars with Arduino hardware, very spooky indeed.

Having been reminded of this today I thought I should give an update on 'Strat-O-Synth'. The project is now back on track and I have for the last few days been working on the framework of the FM synth that will be controllable with the Arduino circuitry I'm rigging up with my guitar and playable with the pitch-tracked guitar itself. The components will now be mounted to the guitar in some form of external enclosure that I am currently sourcing. Stay tuned for further updates!

Friday, 22 October 2010

'Strat-o-Synth' On Hold

It is with great regret that today I am putting my 'Strat-o-Synth' project on hold. The university deadline is still not that far off but after the amount of times I've stepped into my room to 'finish off' the hardware and walked away with it incomplete have pushed me to the point of rethinking the idea entirely. If I had a drawing board, I'd be going back to it right now.

I'm not sure exactly how I'll be doing it yet but the project will have be scaled back somewhat. The problem of squeezing everything inside the guitar produced more problems than I've mentioned here, including damaging the circuitry, forcing bits that shouldn't be touching to touch and various other issues that ended up with me fixing the project on most occasions.

Right now things are in a bit of a mess and certain bits are broken so I'm taking a break from both working on it and thinking about it. Hopefully the money and time I've invested into the project won't go to waste but I struggle to think how to change things whenever the project pops into my head so perhaps a break is best. Maybe I'll work on some of the software side for a while then think how I could apply some hardware control, I'll see.

Right now I've got other projects to work on as well people to chase up from other group projects that are dwindling slightly, this particular project will have to wait.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Monotronic - Mini Review For A Mini Synth

Today, after an extremely long period of waiting, I finally got my hands on a Korg Monotron! I placed an order at several months ago - when the site said 'in stock' - which was getting pushed back so much I finally asked for cancellation and a refund this week and ordered from the UK...yesterday. Less than 24 hours later and I'm living in pocket analogue synth heaven.

As you may know - or can at least see in the picture - this small device, about that of an average digital camera, sports a slim ribbon controller and just a handful of knobs. The inside however is an all-analogue, with a filter descended from the old Korg MS-20.

Playing around with the VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) on the ribbon controller is quite a bit of fun - I hijacked a spare Nintendo DS stylus on account of my inaccurate fingers - especially as battery power and a built-in speaker mean you can carry it all about the place. However, my favourite part of this synth is the audio input that lets you utilise that awesome filter. Hook up to a set of decent speakers, whack in some drum or instrument loops and then prepare to get lost in a knob twiddling trance.

I picked this up on the way out of my flat when leaving for my girlfriend's earlier so I've been limited in its application so far, as soon as I get back to the rest of my gear however, I can't wait to hear how it sounds. 4 stars.

  • All-analogue goodness, MS-20 filter.
  • Sleek form factor, fits right in my pocket.
  • Awesome price, under £50.
Possible Improvements:
  • Option for non-battery power, I'll be rinsing the AAAs.
  • The ribbon controller doesn't give a great amount of playing possibilities.
  • Needs a bigger brother model, more options for audio ins/outs & MIDI input.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Project Updates - October

Having started the first semester of my final year at university, I thought I'd just give a quick word about some of my ongoing projects.

Guitar Virtual Instrument

I've made some more progress with the guitar project, which I'm now tentatively calling 'Strat-o-Synth', although I have fallen a little behind schedule with the hardware stage. Despite making measurements beforehand, I appear to have cut the board that I'm attaching wires and other components to slightly too wide to fit inside the instrument, meaning I can't get the scratchplate fully back on. As a result, I'll have to tighten up the arrangement of the wires and components so that I can compact the board a tiny bit more!

Despite this space issue, the circuits are performing as I hoped they would so I should be able to post some photos of the complete hardware before too long and finally make some more progress with the actual software instrument.

Museum Installation - Charms Of The Sea

Along with my virtual instrument project, the same university module focusing on interactive and alternative interfaces also requires myself and other students to create an interactive audio-visual installation. In order to best apply our skills for this task, our lecturer has arranged - in conjunction with Mark Hildred of Apollo Creative and Scarborough Museums Trust - for us to create an installation for a brief set my the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough.

The piece will be based on the various charms collected by naturalist William James Clarke in the early 20th Century from all over the world, in particular those from the sea. This installation is part of the lead-up to an exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad inspired by his work, coming in 2012.

I myself will be working in a four-man team to create a section on 'Health' charms, one of four overall sections making up the installation. As part of the assignment, I will be required to blog regularly about both my group's and my own progress throughout the project. A link to this blog will be posted soon.

The installation will be open to the public at the end of November. 

Other Projects

After the expanded performance of 'Dinner In Three Movements', myself and other members of the collaborative music and contemporary dance group 'Flambé' have begun various preparations for our next piece. More information will be available in the coming weeks as well as a brief video documenting the creation and realisation of the September performance.

As always please feel free to visit my website and get in contact with me for any more information. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Guitar Virtual Instrument Project - Part 1 - Squeezing It All In

It's time for an update on my latest project! I have decided to work on both hardware and software of this project simultaneously in the run-up to next semester, however my primary focus is on completing the hardware controller side first. By doing this, the software can carefully be fine-tuned and adjusted without me having to worry about incomplete or changing hardware!

Since my last post I've acquired all of the components I plan to use in this project:

3 Potentiometers - to be multifunctional and control various parameters

1 Ribbon Potentiometer - for controlling assigned groups of parameters in unison

1 Force Sensitive Resistor - to acts as a pressure sensitive expressive control over parameters such as pitch-bending and filter cutoff

After getting hold of all of these parts, as well as various extra tools and guitar related items, yesterday I finally embarked on the modification of the guitar. This brings me to the next step of the project, solving logistical issues. The principal issue so far concerns space: there's not a lot of it. This can be seen in the photos of the Stratocaster cavity and existing components below:
Limited space in the control cavity.

Limited room around existing components.
Given that I've already made the decision to make this a minimally invasive modification, drilling into or sawing at the guitar body is a no-go, therefore careful measurement has been required so far to determine what I can get in there!

As it is, the Arduino Duemilanove simply won't fit easily enough into the control cavity, therefore I will be opting to mount it to the back of the guitar in some form of case. The wires between the Arduino board and the components that will fit into the guitar will run together out of an additional hole in the scratch-plate to the board. Inside the guitar will be a cut-down prototype board with any additional components attached - resistors etc. - which will be connected to the the power and the ground on the Arduino, as well as the main controls attached to the scratch-plate.

Having decided how everything will be integrated into or onto the guitar, I have started the task of measuring out where all the components will fit and begun attaching them. The very first potentiometer has been mounted on the scratch-plate and can be seen in the photos below. Over the coming days I will set to work adding the others, checking the suitability of their positions, then adding all the necessary wires. Stay tuned for Part 2.
The first potentiometer squeezed in (to the bottom-left of the topmost existing pot).

One down...stay tuned for further updates!

Monday, 16 August 2010

New Project - Virtual Instrument With Guitar Control

Hi there, I thought it was about time to make my first official post on my blog and outline my plans for a new project! Here goes:
Some hardware I'll be using in my new project!

For the final year of my degree beginning this Autumn, I've once again chosen a module that focuses on creating and utilising alternative and interesting forms of interactive music performance (or composition, art installations etc.). Following the success of my 'iTouch Synth' (Mac application available here!) I have again decided to design and create a virtual instrument, with an alternative method of control.
iTouch Synth'
 In the accompanying documentation for 'iTouch Synth', I stated that the limitations encountered in my previous computer music projects - the projects I have created in MaxMSP - had arisen due to a necessity to map my own creations to another person's i.e. my software patch to a their hardware controller. With this in mind, I found using the customisable environment of the iPod application TouchOSC liberating, given that I could custom fit my own controls to software patch.
I love my MIDI controller, but it has its limitations.
 As much as I enjoyed and was pleased using this customisable touch-screen control - which I will continue to use in the future - I couldn't help but long for the feeling of tactile controls! It was this longing and a hypothetical idea for expanding the capability of existing instruments that brought me to my latest project idea.
iPod Touch - too flat!
 At this stage, my basic plan is to have a virtual instrument - a synth or sampler, possibly a hybrid - that is played using my electric guitar - with frequency and amplitude tracking etc. Alongside this I plan to employ hardware controls for adjustment of software parameters. Rather than using my current MIDI controllers, iTouch or investing in a floor-controller, I've instead decided to have integrated controls on and within my electric guitar, using the open-source hardware Arduino.

My Arduino Duemilanove and breadbord.
So far my experiments have covered FFT frequency tracking and re-synthesis as well as endless breadbord prototyping of the hardware but the project is developing quickly! Stay posted here in coming weeks for information on this developing project!
Some of the components to be added to my guitar.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

New Website And Blog!

Hello and welcome to my new blog. The starting of this blog coincides with the creation of my new website, both of which will promote my various musical projects. This will include any news of any up to date tracks, collaborations, performances, applications or other creative projects.

Stay posted here for ongoing developments of projects or visit my website for more information and downloads of complete work.

Thanks for visiting, stay tuned for more.