Beatscape is a mixed virtual-physical environment for musical ensembles where sound objects interact with temporal waves to create rhythmic grooves. Musical outcomes in the virtual world are determined by the ensemble’s actions in the physical world. Part of the ensemble manipulates physical objects representing sounds while the other part triggers the sound objects by generating waves with hand gestures.
Me with Akito Van Troyer, Aaron Albin, Brian Blosser and Oliver Jan have built this instrument in Spring, 2010 as our Technology Ensemble project. By a camera, the system detects objects that are put on top a transparent glass table. Each object has a location, a pitch and they’re associated with different sounds. These objects are projected to a screen. However the objects cannot produce any sound by themselves. There are also waves that can be triggered by another player. The waves can be single, repetitive or continuous. Yet again, they too cannot produce any sound by themselves. It is the collision between the objects and the waves that produces the sound. The instrument requires an ensemble that needs active and effective collaboration with each other. We have written a paper about the instrument which appeared in NIME 2011.
The source code can be downloaded at Google Code under the name audio-sketch.
UrbanRemix is a collaborative and locative sound project. The goal in developing UrbanRemix was to design a platform and series of public workshops that would enable participants to develop and express the acoustic identity of their communities, and enable users of the website to explore and experience the soundscapes of the city in a novel fashion.
I, with Avinash Sastry and Aaron Albin have worked on the audio framework of the project. We have designed a path rendering system that gives the feeling of localization and distance of the sound sources which are consistent to the paths that are drawn by the user.
This is a piece composed in February, 2010 (ahem, actually it’s my first composition!). It’s an organized sound piece. I have made field recordings and mixed them with samples I’ve collected from freesound.org by using Protools. I have also used Spear to form some filters. The sounds are processed slightly and I have tried to focus more on blending them by their timbral characteristics. Oliver Jan and Akito Van Troyer has also contributed to the piece with instrument virtuosity and a question respectively.
I won’t tell motivation of the piece, not to spoil the first experience (or boredom); however you can read my idea below. I should also note that this composition has taught me composer’s intention does not matter as listeners (even in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) can never read perfectly what the composer had in mind…
We, humankind, have a marvelous system for sensing our environment. We can “hear” certain waves traveling in air with a pressure level of as low as 20μ with a sense of direction, “see” electromagnetic waves which are emitted or reflected towards us, “touch” objects and “feel” the some physical properties like shape, elasticity, the thermal energy it holds, “taste” edible items by dissolving the materialʼs chemical components and “smell” our surroundings by again capturing small particles coming from object and analyzing their chemical components.
Not only, we have this huge arsenal of filter, sensor of different kind reacting to same or different stimulus, but also we can the process, compare them with the results of past senses and give reaction in lightning fast speeds. A healthy human being gives no or a little effort to understand the alignment of the objects, separate the voice from other unnecessary sonic input to make a conversation with someone in a noisy place and realize objects might be hot even without feeling, enjoy the flavor of a delicious meal by combining the sensations from mouth and nose.
This ability to sense and perceive, some of which is literally, is always in our hands to use. Throughout our evolution, we have been using it extensively to survive, interact and improve.
However, having this high capability, we rarely think about the limits or errors. We forget that we can be deceived. Optical illusions might make objects with different shapes “look” the same; by touching a hot object with one hand and then submerging both of our hands into the same bowl full of water, we can feel hot and cold in the same time; eating honey before drinking tea, we might believe the tea has sugar inside; our noses goes numb to odors after staying in a place too much.
Finally, we must extend the discussion by including our feelings and thoughts: we do not use this system like a feedback circuitry. Throughout the history, the sensory information have been overloaded to understand “oneʼs inner world” and to ask questions about existence. Listening to a music might bring an emotional fulfillment. In the meantime, the senses can also be mislead to interpret situations differently. Listening to Varèseʼs Poème Électronique from a laptop computer inside a coffeeshop in 2010 and from tens of loudspeakers inside Philips Pavilion in 1958 would result in a completely different experience. Watching the same scene, you can think of innocent children, who can form a better society if theyʼre left untouched … or get shocked by noticing two teenagers, who are involved in the plot from the start in Michael Hanekeʼs movie, Caché. Even the way media distributes the news changes our whole opinion about people or societies.
In this composition, my aim is to play with what people expects to sense and show how human perception and reasoning can be manipulated by external effects. I will deceive the listeners by creating expectations before and in the listening the piece and delude them to believe that the piece has some hidden or “higher” meaning at all. However, the piece will have the one and only meaning that it means nothing at all, apart from the synthetic explanation the listener “dresses the king”.
In LOLC, the musicians in the laptop orchestra use a live-coding language to create and share rhythmic motives based on a collection of recorded sounds. The language encourages musicians to share their code with each other, developing an improvisational conversation over time as material is looped, borrowed, and transformed.
I have performed three times in LOLC performances: the last performance took place in NIME 2011, Oslo, Norway. We have received wonderful comments about the music and the interaction.