Thursday, January 30, 2014

Squeezable - Gil Weinberg

This post is something that I thought it is relevant to Isaac's idea, although I am not sure if you already present this work for your reference because I came late. So bear with me if you've already seen this.

If you read the paper, there is distributed nature that each ball has a different function in a sound generation sequence. You can find the paper at

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video.

(Oral) Cavity / Audio Feedback

I am still sicking with this oral cavity idea, unfortunately, although I think it's going to be amazing if everything works as imagine.

The main idea is not to reproduce a talkbox (human voiced musical instrument) but to use oral cavity (or any cavity in general) to close an acoustic feedback loop in the middle.

The closest musical example I could think of is, of course, Sitting in the room by Alvin Lucier.

There are two differences in this project from Lucier's piece. First, here the cavity I choose (it may or may not be oral cavity) takes the role of the room, which I can dynamically change because of the small scale of the cavity I chose (or the variety of the cavity). Second, instead of keep recording the playback of the recording iteratively, I create a direct feedback by putting the cavity between a mic and a speaker.

Even though I can generate sound without any sound synthesis algorithm just by connecting speaker directly to microphone just by closing the feedback loop with the cavity, there will be sound processing in the middle so that I have more control on sound with a set of sensors.

The other piece similar to this idea is Pendulum Music by Steve Reich given I utilize audio feedback. I will skip the video because it's already there.

It's always nice to look at some example from human vocoder/sonovox/talk box (although that's not the idea ) because the apparatus that I will create may look very similar to talk box,

The main difference is that speaker (hose in the case of talkbox) will play a processed sound of mic input. It will sound nothing like a synthesized voice even if it is processed via oral cavity. The only advantage of oral cavity in this scenario is that I can control the shape of the cavity.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mini-Seesaws and Haptics

I have been branching off from the idea of a seesaw, or small balance that the user would use to create musical sounds based on it's position. Here are some of the possibilities I have been exploring - all of which could be pursued in further depth.

 Ideally, there would be a number of these small seesaw controllers that a user could use for a polyphonic performance of sorts. Each seesaw could involve a slider to add another degree of freedom, or a mass that might shift loosely. Another option is to design the instrument to be played by two people - taking on a collaborative, or adversarial nature.

While looking for related work I stumbled across this video, which is not a music controller, but is an elegant example of robotics. It gave me the idea to potentially incorporate a rolling ball that the user positions by moving the balance.

No matter what form the seesaw aspect takes, I hope to incorporate some form of haptics into its design. "Haptic" comes from the word touch, and in the context of interactive systems,  haptics is any force, vibration or motions applied to the user. The method I plan on pursuing has been used in other haptic musical controllers, such as The Plank, which uses dynamic force feedback to create a tactile topography. In other words, as one moves the device, it simulates the feeling of plucking strings or pushing over bumpy surface. This effect is created by selectively applying force against, and along with the motion of the user. For example, if there is a sudden discontinuity in the applied force, jumping from a positive extreme to a negative extreme, the simulated action will present itself as a pluck (see The Plank for more information). Some other notable examples of haptic controllers include the Phantom and the Novint Falcon.

Incorporating haptics into my seesaw controller would hopefully allow the user to develop a more intimate relationship with the feeling of the system, fostering a sense of control while building a difficulty curve into the learning on the instrument. It would be interesting to see how incorporating force-feedback into a seesaw motion might provide a musical interaction.

Metal Vibrations

The project that I'm pursuing is centered around a performable metal plate driven by a surface-mount transducer.

The most common example of such a system is a "plate reverb", a method for reverb very popular on recordings from the 1960's and 1970's.

Here is a great video discussing and demonstrating a typical plate reverb and how it sounds:

So, the basic components include a large, thin steel sheet, a driver, and a pickup.

Some of the research that I've done so far indicates that the size and stiffness of the plate is incredibly important. The typical goal with reverb is to have a large number of lush resonances so that no specific frequencies are obviously dominating the others.

My goal is kind of the opposite: I want a handful of very strong resonances that ring clearly. Probably more like what you'd get from a cymbal. Although cymbals are very noisy when hit, you'll still get a handful of very strong frequencies that pop out when you bow a cymbal. You can kind of hear that effect in this video:

Earlier this week, I played around with some steel plates around 3' X 2' and 1/8" thick (considerably thicker than the 1/64" typically used for plater reverbs) and was getting very gong-like sounds, even when bowed:

Fun fact: the sickly looking character in that video is Silas B from Madison who I ran into a few times when I lived there. It just happened to be the first video result that came up when I searched for "bowed gong". He had a lung transplant just before I moved, so I suspect that he is doing much better these days.

Anyway, I'm excited about bowed-gong-like sounds.

Bought a couple of these last week, so audio testing will begin soon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Swinging Objects / Pendulum

I notice some of you have ideas that can be somewhat turned into pendulums (or swinging/flying objects.)

These are some of the videos I found when I did game 3(swinging rocks!) last year.

Pendulum Music - Steve Reich.

Gordon Monahan - Speaker Swinging

Pocket Gamelan -  Greg Schiemer

mPoi : Musical Poi - Sangbong Nam (there's a paper about this in NIME 2013)

This video is NOT a music piece but you MUST look.

I think pendulum has a limited control for musical expression ( due to the repetitive nature? ) but maybe it is an ideal apparatus to have phasing in music.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Well, I don't think this is a typical example of NIME but today's class reminded me of this video and made me want to revisit especially when we talked about intentionality/purpose ( or tennis sonification vs tennis piece @ Belfast)

I think this makes an interesting case regarding design dimensions of performance system that are covered today.

  • I personally think that there's definite intention of "musical expression."  (as opposed to plain juggling balls, or sonifying tennis). 
  • Look how far he can push further with this simple interface. I think there is more room for virtuosity than you thought. 
  • "The physical model" of the interface extremely constrains "temporal dynamics" of sound it can make (well there are a set of rhythmic patterns he can play but nothing much more than that), which naturally makes the system very limited in style/diversity/wall (even though it has a high ceiling.) 

"33" Breath Controller

I'm still a little unclear as to what exactly is going on with this breath controller...
Unfortunately, it's not a breath-controlled "Ebow" effect as I was hoping.
Rather, it's a MIDI controller that combines breath control with essentially a joystick (X-Y control).
Johan Haake, the brother of Meshuggah's drummer, originally built these back in 2002 or so. Frederik Thordendahl, one of the guitar player's in Meshuggah, was using a Yamaha breath controller but wanted something more performable, and Johan asked if he could give it a try.
There's a lot of great info, including development history and schematics, at Johan's site:

Here is a pretty good demonstration video (not by Frederik Thordendahl):

Here is an example of it being used in a Meshuggah song for a guitar solo (starts around 2:40):

Friday, January 10, 2014

Intel Galileo

Exciting news!

Thanks to a donation from Intel, we're about to be recipients of 5 brand new Intel Galileo boards. Galileo is a collaboration between Intel and Arduino to create a next-gen Arduino-compatible development board with more powerful Intel processors. Lots of exciting features: a 400MHz 32-bit processor, Ethernet, PCI express, MicroSD connector... This is a maiden voyage of sorts--the technology is very new, but we have the opportunity to be part of it. Here is some preliminary documentation from Intel and from Arduino.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


This is the class blog for PAT 452/552 –– Interactive Media Design II — in the Department of Performing Arts Technology at the University of Michigan. This is where we're going to post sketches, photos, videos, inspirations, ideas, and miscellany as we develop interactive performance systems and art installations.