Archive for April, 2012

Project proposal

This is my proposal for the outcome of this module:

I intend to develop a system to control a track of music, to be used as a performance tool. There will be hardware and software aspects to this aim.


The chief mechanism of control in this project – that is not common in most control systems – is that the performer will control how many of a score of pre-written notes will be played. Each note within the ‘score’ will be prescribed an ‘importance level’. The user will then control the importance threshold over which notes will be played.

There are 2 methods of importance allocation that I would like to explore, though I may be limited due to time restraints.

1. Compositional. The importance value for each note would be determined during composition This would possibly take longer to compose, but would be easier to end up with something that actually sounds good. This method would also allow for recorded sound to be implemented in this system relatively easily, by recording for each band of importance.
2. Formulaic/algorithmic. A MAX/MSP patch would read a given midi file and allocate each note an importance value based on where in time it lies in relation to the beat, its velocity, and it’s pitch. It could also encompass a pre-determined bias in composition, to allow certain notes to gain priority even if they are quiet/oddly timed. It would then pass the revised midi onto synthesisers. I think this would be most interesting to explore conceptually, but it will require a lot more time to develop to a usable standard.

Ideally the patch would allow for ‘fading’ between 2 melodies/rhythms, by slowly adding notes from one, and removing them from the other, to allow transitions to slowly transform the tune of a piece. This may be being too ambitious however and will only be done if time allows.


I’d like the hardware element of this project to allow expression with maximum visual effect. I would like the threshold for each instrument to be controlled by arm movement (ideally vertical being threshold, horizontal changing between tunes). Visual ‘blob tracking’ within Jitter seems the most tenable solution to this currently. I have ordered LED juggling balls, as I hope they will provide easy to track objects in a dark performance area.

Additionally, I would like to select which aspects of the composition are being controlled and move between sections within the composition using foot controls. For this I intend to hack a ‘Funky Footprints’ fisher price toy floor mat. This mat usually makes sounds, but I think it would be relatively simple to modify it into a control surface using an Arduino. Sadly the buttons on the mat repeat, on the same circuit, so there would only be 6 functions assignable to buttons (buttons the same colour do the same function) without serious modification.

Floor mat:

Floor mat’s guts:

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 2nd year, Emergent Tech, Live, Stuff I've Done No Comments