Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: September 2012

September 26, 2012

Enough Formaldehyde To Choke A Horse...

by Chris Randall

After a disheartening false start, which entailed pretty much starting over from bare metal (protip: might want to have some idea of what you're gonna code before you start coding) I have my personal R&D project at a state where I can start playing with it. This is part of a larger schema I have, where I'm determined to prove (to myself, mainly) that we, as musicians, can move past our absolutely ludicrous love of "vintage" technology that most of us have never clapped eyeballs on in real life, and start to grab the future by the ears and shake it about a little bit.

So my study of environments that don't shamelessly ape the traditional recording studio and its inherent limitations has only just begun, and this is very much a work-in-progress that will most likely take years, but the video above is the first footage of some of my ideas in this regard beginning to take shape in usable fashion. The R2 app itself is created in Cinder for portability; currently all the audio stuff is a Max 6 patch, because DSP is most assuredly not my strong suit. I could have conceivably done everything in Pd, then built libPd in to the app, but frankly, I'd rather pull my own fingernails out than deal with that, so here we are.

I think it's probably pretty obvious what's going on in the video. I haven't built the master control section or the FX page yet, but the four loopers are more-or-less in working order. Essentially, they are 1/2/4-measure circular buffers, and you can record a loop and overdub to it at this point, and move the endpoints of the loops arbitrarily. (Although for my own purposes, I've quantized the loop points to 16th notes against the master tempo.)

On the lower half of the screen are 5 control nodes; each one controls a different parameter for X and Y so for, e.g., the filter, X is resonance and Y is frequency. I have a more sophisticated schema in mind, but I wanted to try out the playability of this method first. For the drums, I just instanced Maschine in the Max patch. I'll build a full drum machine that is appropriate to the environment at a later date, but Maschine is working fine for right now.

Anyhow, you get the general idea, I imagine. I have a fairly grand vision for this whole thing, but there's a lot of exploring to do first. Thoughts? Comments? Criticism?

September 21, 2012

Various And Sundry...

by Chris Randall

It's that time again, my bi-annual Gear Catharsis. This time, however, I'm going nearly to the bare walls. I'm basically only keeping the Virus and the Maschine, and starting fresh. To save the usual go-round about why one would do such a thing, please refer to one of the previous lengthy discussions on the topic, littered throughout the years of this site's existence.

Anyhow, to get the party started, the above-pictured item is first on the block. 'Tis a Doepfer 6U portable case, chock full of modular mania. Well, not so manic, actually. It is a comprehensive starter system we purchased during the R&D phase of our ill-fated foray in to Things Euro. If you can't tell what's in it, and it's important to know, drop me a line and I'll pop the complete list over. The actual retail cost of this system, if purchased today from Analog Haven, is $2847.50. It is essentially brand new. Make me an offer I can't refuse, and that doesn't embarrass either of us, and it's yours. I'll ship it both hither and yon, if you're willing to cough up the coin for the true shipping cost. (Keep in mind that it is quite heavy, and if you live in, say, East Timor or some shit, you're gonna want to buy local.) I have absolutely zero interest in selling individual modules, so don't bother asking. If there are no takers for the complete system, that's what I'll do, of course, but don't bother writing me about it until I've said I'm doing it here. Once this is out of the way, I'll put up a complete list of the other shit that is leaving, but if there's a particular thing I have you're interested in, go ahead and hit me up.

In other news, research is progressing on the Rathakan front (the touchscreen app.) I seem to have coded myself in to a cul-de-sac; I was, as of this afternoon, about 6 hours away from being to do a demonstration video. However, things have gotten away from me, and I'm considering starting over. As soon as I'm done digesting dinner, I'll take another crack at it. I'm currently heavily medicated, awaiting a trip to the dentist, so my ability to do OpenGL front-ends for Max/MSP is curtailed somewhat.

Finally, Adam is on his usual trip to Japan this week, so the next Audio Damage product is on hold until he gets back, but we're pretty close to a working example. This one is firmly in the "FSU" category. In fact, it kind of ownz0rs that category. It is the most F of all our FSU products, by a long shot. I look forward to the puzzled comments.

So, how's your week been?

September 10, 2012


by Chris Randall

I'm currently doing some research and experimentation with a full-sized (22") multi-touch screen; I'll put up more info about that specifically as I learn/create, but in thinking about what I'm doing with that, I keep finding myself pondering the nature of what, exactly, an instrument consists of.

After giving it some thought, I've decided that an instrument, at its base level, needs to allow for three things:

1. Expression. Any instrument has to be capable of triggering a range of emotions in the listener (since, after all, that is the point of music.)

2. Virtuosity. In order to be an instrument at all, our instrument needs to have facets that can be mastered, and it has to have a depth of usefulness to warrant that mastery.

3. Purpose. An instrument is mainly an instrument (that can, occasionally, be something else) and not something else that can also be an instrument.

For instance, take the spoons. I don't think anyone could deny that there are people that are very, very good at playing the spoons. So that might satisfy our second rule. But as for the first and third, that's open to interpretation. Not a terribly expressive instrument, as such. And spoons are always better at being spoons than being a musical instrument. As opposed to, say, a guitar, which might make a serviceable hurley bat, but really, is much better at just being a guitar.

On the other end of the spectrum, here's a thought-experiment: is Ableton Live an instrument? One can at least re-create a huge range of expression, and one can also master it. And it is most assuredly purpose-built for making music. I've often found that people that don't "get" Live tend to look at it as a DAW, while people that do tend to look at it as an omnibus instrument.

In any case, my goal is to create something that satisfies all three of my criteria above, and utilizes a flat plane with visual feedback as its playing surface. We'll see how things turn out, but once more in to the breach...

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