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?


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Sep.26.2012 @ 2:51 AM
That's a damn cool toy you're building there. I'm guessing that you are two-point limited in hardware though? It looks like you deliberately use just your pointer fingers.

Sep.26.2012 @ 2:53 AM
Really interesting... I like the idea of different parameters controllable on the same XY plane. Just intuitively feels a little more like an instrument.

However I'm kinda wondering about your goal in this project. To make a new kinda instrument and "move past..." etc.
It's seems like sitting down to 'write a great pop song'. Sure it's possible, but it often doesn't work that way.

I think that the most modern, forward thinking instruments in electronic music in recent years have been the Monome and Arc. Things that are physically simple and don't engage the visual part of the brain (as much as a screen does) and where the software is the key to interaction.

But this is obviously not a good reason not to try. And it's gonna be super interesting to see what you come up with.

Sep.26.2012 @ 7:11 AM
Alan Tomlinson
Channelling Keanu Reeves:


Creating new ways to create music so that others may find it intriguing strikes me as a fine thing indeed. Godspeed.


Alan Tomlinson

Sep.26.2012 @ 10:25 AM
Chris Randall
@james: Yes, that monitor is only two points. I got hoodwinked when I bought it. And the tracking is terrible. (I left a lot of thoughts in the Amazon review.) Debating whether I should build a big rear projection table with IR tracking.

@atlastop: won't know until I try, right? As Edison said, "I didn't fail 99 times. I learned 99 ways how not to make a lightbulb."


Sep.26.2012 @ 10:28 AM
Yeah but Edison only used analog gear, none of this digital whatchamahasit.

Sep.26.2012 @ 12:21 PM
@krylenko yeah... Tungsten bulbs have got that analogue warmth :-)

I actually built a big rear projection table with IR for my master thesis study in multi touch UI. But that was ages ago, so I'm sure whatever I did then is completely outdated.

But I'd stick with capacitive touchscreens. IR with tracking was a pain. Only go with that if you need a screen larger than 40".

I'm really looking forward to seeing what you come up with. An actual vst UI designer, with a ton of experience producing music. This is exciting, but as you say... it's a long haul, that will probably take years.

Sep.26.2012 @ 1:53 PM
but Edison's blog was boring... Tesla's was way better and he did it first.

i think what CR is experimenting at here is a healthy thing and i look forward to seeing wherever it goes. i'm sure there will be discoveries along the way that are interesting to us all.

Sep.26.2012 @ 1:58 PM
Technically Tesla didn't have to blog, he just beamed his musings directly into people's brains with that big antenna house of his.

Sep.26.2012 @ 2:50 PM
i think it shows excellent promise, though the two finger limitation and tracking speed is a bummer. still, you could create custom gestures even with just one finger that could set up controls or transformations like tapping, holding, double tapping, two finger tapping, finger rotation, etc.

in terms of the interface hardware discussion - anyone have any idea how you can get large multitouch capacitive touchscreens at reasonable cost? i agree that IR is a PITA to set up but the tracking is definitely improving and the cost is lower. my issue with it is the space involved, i'd much prefer capacitive multitouch but my research a year ago indicated it wasn't too reasonable cost-wise, especially for 19" and up.

CR - i think an IR frame from Peau Productions might be perhaps your best bet for an improved touch experience. they're inexpensive-ish, thin and offer true multitouch(from 10 up to 42 touches for custom screens). they don't even require a monitor. 24" frames start at about $225:

link []

Sep.26.2012 @ 3:00 PM
Chris Randall
Yeah, I was looking at the Peau one. I'm seriously entertaining the thought of building a big rear projection one; trying to decide if the sacrifice in portability is made up for in the gain in touch experience and screen size.

I think these 24" 16:9 monitors I'm using are the best compromise, though. If you have to move your hands too far, shit gets tiring fast. Still working it out, though, obviously.


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