November 18, 2012

When I Think About You I Touch My Monitor...

by Chris Randall

I was able to get back to the Continuing Saga Of Crandall's Experiments In The Exciting World Of Touch-Screen Control this week. I realized, at some point well in to the making of version 4 of the control software (this is version 6), that I'm looking at the whole problem wrong. I was thinking about the micro-level control of individual sounds (which is why I had five or more nodes per page in the previous iterations.) However, it recently occurred to me that that was, for my purposes, wrong.

This particular video reflects my new tack, wherein I'm looking at the song as a single sculpture rather than a collection of different parts. The Max patch is essentially a synthesizer unto itself, and its sole purpose is to synthesize this one song. The Cinder app's sole purpose is to control this one song. This method is somewhat ass-backwards from our normal way of thinking about things; the net result is that each song would be an instrument unto itself that needs to be learned on an individual basis.

This is, of course, an insanely complex way to write music. It goes far beyond just purposefully putting stumbling blocks in one's path, and in to making work for myself simply for the purpose of making work for myself. But with that said, as I intimated in a previous post on the subject, I'm trying every idea out as it comes to me until I hit on the right combination. I do like this idea of thinking of the song as a whole, with parameters that affect it; however, I don't believe this particular pairing is where I wanted to go with this. Once again, we shuffle back to the drawing board in mute embarrassment.

As an aside, I filmed this one with my iPad 3 and "edited" it in iMovie on the iPad and pushed it straight to YouTube. That's a workflow I won't ever use again. Probably the single shittiest combination of tools I've come across in a while, and virtually unusable for anything besides putting up clips of your baby or puppy or some other stupid shit. For what we do, to be avoided at all costs.

As a further aside, don't ever buy an optical touchscreen, especially an HP-branded one, if you want to do this sort of thing. I can not wait until this is available. A lot of the problems I'm having are fighting with the tool itself, and that's not helping anything. (It is roughly akin to trying to record a guitar part and the jack on the guitar keeps cutting out.)


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Nov.18.2012 @ 11:54 PM
nice to see things progressing. it sounds like you expected the step sideways at this point.

imovie is suck. so many dumb things and hugely obvious bugs.

Nov.19.2012 @ 4:37 AM
two days ago I had a friend visiting me and showing me all the iphone music apps he purchased recently. I don't have an iphone, and after seeing him demoing all the kaossilator, propellerheads and whatnot apps I am still not convinced that this is so fantastic. Each one of these apps was essentially what you say above in your post. An application that allows to multitouchcontrol one single structure of song/mix whatever. But not an instrument that would allow to play various different styles of music.

Nov.19.2012 @ 8:26 AM
Chris Randall
Yeah, you're generally right. There is a place for that sort of behavior, but for the most part when the tool heavily informs the process, the process sounds pretty similar every time. That's a given.

I should mention that I may have understated the ecumenical nature of the Cinder app. It is, at its base level, 8 toggles and 16 X/Y pads. (The row of radio buttons above the toggles just switches "pages" between the 8 pairs of X/Y pads.) I was monumentally frustrated last night from my video experience, so I don't think I adequately conveyed the following fact: the track itself, done in Max, is way more fun to "play" this way. I was actually at it for hours. It is quite satisfying, in the same way that building a huge patch on a modular, letting it run, and gently tweaking this and that to aim it in a particular direction is satisfying.

My app is useless for _writing_ at this juncture. It is only for playback and performance. I personally am puzzled as to how you would marry the two. But the app itself could easily drive a Reaktor patch, or M4L objects or whatever. I'm going to add pattern recording for the X/Y moves, and that will allow a certain amount of "sequencing," so we'll see how that works out.


Nov.19.2012 @ 11:19 AM
Wow, I thought cleaning the studio and sharpening pencils was procrastination, but you take it to a whole new level. "Before I write some new music, first I need to invent a new touchscreen paradigm." ;)

Very cool though, and will look great live with a projection behind you. Another reason to make every song different.

Nov.19.2012 @ 5:38 PM
I find myself having a similar approach (minus the touch-screen), where the patch loaded into the Nord G2, i.e. the machine is the song/work/etc.
Took a long-time to get there though, and it's still a collection of parts - but that's rather down to the nature of the beast, your MaxMSP patch is also a collection of part/objects?

The patches I've been building on for a few years are now completely self-generating, but at the same time I can modify/sequence changes that relate to the composition through MIDI-cc.
The interesting part is the translation of song-concepts into logic/values. For instance, "sparse" might relate to the number of note events you generate for one or more sounds in a period of time, but it might also relate to the number of different sounds used at any given moment in the track...

With to the control one has over MIDI-cc, I can well imagine these machines to become even more of a performance tool when using a touch-screen.

Now, all said and done, I'm still unsure as to how much actual music I am able to generate with these machines. While it's often impressive sounding and while it's of course a really interesting way to generate sound events that seem to approach a certain listenability still doesn't mean it is actually music that'll stand the test of time :D

Nov.19.2012 @ 5:46 PM
BTW, in regards to touch-screen paradigm, my ideal would be not only having the classic sliders/knobs based control (can do that with things like TouchOSC), but to have an interactive timeline where you can add/change composition related events, have them interact with each-other through logical operations, fuck with the actual timeline speed/meter, etc. etc.
Autechre basically.

Nov.19.2012 @ 6:50 PM
I took delivery of the new Dell Touch-screen 10 days ago and I have to say it is one super snappy swell piece of technology.

Are they out of stock at Dell now?

Nov.19.2012 @ 7:00 PM
Forgive me if this is already something everybody knows and I'm just bringing up the obvious, but...

Of course you're having a hard time designing an app that would control several different virtual instruments at once. In the olde days you'd be one of those guys trying to building something that's a drumset, a piano, a guitar, and a horn section all played by one guy. The end result always being an organ, where the final interface can't give any really expressive control to the various sounds.

Nov.19.2012 @ 8:36 PM
Touch is the answer. Now we just need to figure out what the question is.

Nov.19.2012 @ 8:53 PM
Chris Randall
What MikeF said.

@myrnaloy: There was 1 (!!) in stock at Amazon this morning, so I bought it. It may or may not show up tomorrow. It hasn't shipped yet, according to my orders page. The reason I haven't bought it from Dell directly is that (a) I'm an Amazon Prime member so free shipping, and it's $50 cheaper there never mind the shipping. (Works out to be about $70 cheaper when all is said and done.) And (b) it's about 10,000,000 times easier to return stuff to Amazon when you don't want it or whatever than it is to Dell. And (c) I have an Amazon store card that gets me Amazon Points in addition to the 5% rebate for buying it through my AA account. So the net result is that I save about $100 and a potential headache.


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