I found this cool video via @Psicoff on Twitter. It's a video by Steve Fredom using a web cam as a Theremin.
Ableton Theremin - experimental electronic music made by translating hand gestures tracked by Quartz Composer and webcam, into OSC then Midi and sending on to Ableton to trigger Spectrasonics Omnisphere and RMX.
I'm doing similar spatial control with AudioCubes and Theremin (pitch-to-MIDI) into Live and simply love the possibiliites of openning this up to more people via built-in web cams.
As you can hear, “Alone” is the emotional bottom of the story in REBOOT and is the only track on the album without a drum groove. This being the case I wanted to come up with some sort performance that would provide contrast to the other songs in the set. Back in September I came up with the idea of attempting to play all the lead melody and ambient noises solely from Percussa AudioCubes. I’ve decided to push-on with this idea and perform the song this way. Here are the behind-the-scenes notes and a rehearsal video.
Goal I normally configure my AudioCubes so there is 1 “Sensor” cube for controlling effects, 2 “Receiver” cubes for sending MIDI notes to Ableton Live to trigger clips, scenes, parameter settings…, and 1 cube as a “Sender” to trigger to the Receiver cubes.
For “Alone” I wanted to use each cube face to play a different note according to a predefined user scale that matched the notes in the song. AudioCubes can detect objects in one of two ways –Wirelessly (“Sender”/”Receiver” pairs), or through infrared (cube set to Sensor mode). In sensor mode, an object’s (hand, other cube, cat…) proximity to cube face is detected with infrared. Since I want to use my hand to trigger the note Sensor mode is the way to go.
Solution: Using Sensor Mode to Play Notes While the Sensor mode is normally used to send MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) values from 0-127 to control parameters on synths and your DAW, there are also options to send MIDI Notes based on minimum sensor thresholds.
Implementation: Configuring AudioCube Function in MIDIBridge Modes and settings for each cube are configured in the free app Percussa MIDIBridge. Click the image below to see a large version of the screenshot which illustrates how I configured individuals notes for Cube 1.
You can also see that even though I’ve set note triggering via the threshold, proximity to each cube face will case the LED intensity to respond according to the normal response curve and with a different color for each face. I continue this method with Cubes 2 & 3 to program the rest of the notes.
Calibration Like a Theremin, AudioCubes running in Sensor mode need to be calibrated. It’s not because they are analog, but instead to take into account the amount of ambient and infrared signal in the “control zone”. The screen shot above also shows how you can tweak gain to adjust for room – and of course you could experiment with “Threshold” as well. The darker the room the better fro the this particular method.
Virtual Ports, Ableton Live and Novaton Launchpad In my rig, MIDIBridge talks through virtual MIDI ports (Midi Yoke) to Ableton Live. Live is playing some minimal original background tracks from the original album offering me a frame of reference for my performance. The signals from the AudioCubes are routed to various virtual instruments such as Camel Audio Alchemy, Absynth 5, and Sonic Charge Synplant. I assigned buttons on the Novation Launchpad to select and arm tracks (sometimes multiple tracks) so I can swap instruments out from under the cubes without having to load another MIDIBridge Patch.
The End Result: “Alone” Rehearsal Video I shot this video back in September when I first figured all this out. I’m now actively rehearsing it and hope to add it to the show soon. The key to playing this song is to play just behind the pocket to give the notes more emotional tension. The AudioCubes are plenty sensitive enough to achieve this and the visual feedback not only helps the audience connect with the performance, but actually helps me with timing. As a musician, I really like the flow and feeling of the movement as well.
I shot this in 720p so if you have the bandwidth watch full screen at that resolution. I also captured audio right from my sound card so listen with good headphones or on a good sound system :^ ).
I just got an email from Moldover’s email list and thought I’d pass it along. Modover’s work was one the inspirations behind my 9 Box Method by the way.
Good news! I have finished assembling two NEW Social x Instruments. I call them The SyncoMasher and The MiniMasher. I'm taking these two and the reliable old Octamasher on tour with me for the month of March!
MultiMasher Tour - North-East US
I need YOUR help to make this tour a success. If you have a friend in any of these cities who might enjoy my work, please let them know when I'll be coming through their area. Full details and more are on my events page.
03/07 Providence, RI - Live show 03/08 Boston, MA - Live show 03/10 Madison, WI - PlayShop & live show 03/11 Chicago, IL - Live show 03/14 Austin, TX - Live show 03/18 Columbus, OH - Live show 03/19 New York City, NY - DJ set 03/20 Ithaca, NY - Live show 03/19 New York City, NY - PlayShop 03/25 Boston, MA - DJ set & PlayShop
Using techniques I learned building The Mojo, I created a five-sided instrument called The SyncoMasher. I like to play it together with my controllerist friends in an amorphous group I call "The SyncoMasher Quintet". This 'Masher is loaded with songs from my album and it is tremendous fun to perform with.
Sometimes less is more. The MiniMasher is easy to setup, it's transparent so you can see all the inner workings, and it's got lots of blinkie lights. This 'Masher will feature original, selectable sounds-sets from my music-producing friends. Adults love it. Kids love it. Cats love it. Makes a great coffee table.
Now in its' fifth year of service, the good 'ol Octamasher is still bringing sample-mashing fun to thousands of people each year at festivals and colleges. OCTAGONAL DRUM CIRCLE FROM THE FUTURE! Who would've thunk it?
My nephew is a huge gamer and turned me on to this video via Joystiq. The Kinect is nothing short of amazing for gaming and I’m very intrigued that Microsoft Research is looking to take this to the next level. I see a huge potential in all this for controllerism and lots of game changers in this video for artists - both music and visual, and for the audiance. Hopefully Microsoft can productize this technology as well as they did with Kinect.
I received a Korg microKEY USB powered as a gift over the holidays – woot! Here is a hands-on review.
Size It’s bigger than I expected. Here are some shots giving you some perspective. Here it is when compared to an Akai LP2K25.
Here it is compared to my Novation Remote SL 25.
And finally, a shot of it in my laptop back pack.
So as you can see it’s not quite as backpack ready as some of the competition, but it is quite portable considering the number of keys.
It has the the same synth action 37-key velocity sensitive keyboard as the MicroKorg XL. I like the action quite a bit. Korg says “The proportions of the black keys and white "waterfall" keys have been adjusted for optimal playability, and the key touch makes it easy to play chords, glissandos, and rapid-fire phrases.” – I agree. Unlike the Akai, the white “waterfall” keys on the Korg go down to the case so they are less likely to get snagged when sliding in and out of a gig bag.
Modulation & Pitch Wheels Besides feel, the mod and pitch wheels are the reason I wanted this controller. I love to do “couch potato” sound design and have been frustrated that all the small controllers don’t have a mod wheel. Well the microKEY addresses this nicely.
You can transpose using the octave buttons. The buttons change color with each press giving you instant visual feedback on the setting.
Green = 1 Octave
Orange = 2 Octaves
Red = Three Octaves
Blinking Red = 4 Octaves
There are two USB ports on the side allowing you to use the keyboard as a HUB. This is a pretty nice idea if you wanted to quickly hook up other nano controllers (or any USB device) without having to bring along another hub. Nice touch Korg!
Editor As with other Korg controllers, you can use the KORG KONTROL Editor to set velocity curves and and mod wheel range.
Price At $99, I think the microKey is a great value when you consider it's also a USB hub.
Final Thoughts The microKey is the best feeling Mini-key keyboard I’ve played to date - much better than the button feel of the original NanoKey or the spongy action of the Akai.
The microKEY seems is a good choice for players and sound designers on the go who want a nice velocity sensitive synth feel with pitch and mod wheels but don’t necessarily need the unit to fit all the way into the pack.
AUDIOCUBES AND MIDIBRIDGE I used 4 AudioCubes plus Percussa's free MIDIbridge app on Windows to configure and route AudioCube signals to Ableton Live. I use the same MIDIbridge patch for every song which allows for consistent and predictable data mapping from the cubes to Ableton Live.
In general, I play a lot of the notes on you hear on the album via keyboards, Theremin and Tenori-On live. I tend to use the cubes as controllers, for scene launching, and for real-time modulation of effects and synth parameters and only use them for triggering notes from time to time.
CUBE CONFIGURATION The AudioCubes are configured with the in the following modes:
Cube 1 - Sensor (the red cube at 9:00 in the picture above): This cube sends MIDI CC information back to Live. I configure each side of cube to give me visual feedback where each cube face is set to a different color. The closer my finger or hand is to the sensor, the brighter the light. Currently, Sensor cubes need to be wired via USB.
Cubes 2 & 3 Receivers (white cubes in above picture): Sends MIDI notes back to Live when a signal is received from Cube 4. I also send RGB MIDI light sequence via MIDI clips in Ableton. The cubes then become light show elements and also offer visual feedback. These cubes are also plugged in via USB so they can receive high-speed transmissions via MIDI clips.
Cube 4 – Transmitter (green in the picture above): This cube is wireless. Aligning the faces of this cub with the faces on cubes 2 & 3 triggers MIDI notes back to Ableton Live.
MIDIBRIDGE AND ABLETON CONFIGURATION I then MIDI map MIDI CC data and Note information coming from cubes via Ableton Live MIDI Map mode to various functions within live. For cube 1, CC's are mapped to device parameters and macros. These in-turn are often routed to parameters within VSTs. For example, a cube face might modulate delay time with Ableton's native Ping Pong Delay FX device. Or the CC might map to filter on a VST synth. Below is a snapshot of the MIDIBridge settings for Cube 1 (click to enlarge).
For Cubes 2 & 3, notes are triggered when the face from the transmitter Cube 4 is detected. I route notes to either MIDI tracks holding Ableton instruments or VSTs and/or racks. In some cases I route MIDI notes through a dummy track back to SugarBytes Artillery II running in a send or on the master track for effects. Since effects are triggered via notes rather than CCs with Artillery II, this method allows me to control effects as well as playing notes with signals from Transmitter cubes which only send MIDI note information. In other words, by combining native Ableton effects with Artillery II, I can use any cube in the network to trigger effects.
CUBE USAGE FOR EACH SONG
In this song I’m using AudioCubes as lighting and feedback elements in the live show. They were not used in composition or performance of the music. MIDI clips in Live are used to sequence the lights.
I've been looking for a way to load sets without having to touch my computer. Sadly, you can't MIDI map file browser elements. I did find a pretty cool way to do this using Novation's Automap for iPhone and iPod Touch.
I got it configured and working on my iPhone and have been using it for a few days and it is working well for me.
In addition to the app, you need Automap Pro as it supports assigning keystrokes and multiple keystrokes to buttons. Pro also supports multiple Automap devices.
In the screen shot on the right, you can see that I assigned a key sequence to take mouse focus from a scene into the file browser to load a set. I've also mapped "n" and "enter" so I can dismiss dialogs on load. Space is mapped so I can stop live prior to the load.
Note, the on the current iPhone OS, you have to use WiFi for communications as bluetooth is not supported for apps. So, before you go to a gig, I recommend you create a secure Ad hoc network on your system then connect the iPhone to this network rather than hoping for a WiFi setup at the venue. I've got this all working on Windows 7. iPhone seemed happiest with "WEP Encryption".
I'm really liking using the iPhone as a dedicated device to send keyboard macros to live so I don't have to take my Launchpad and my Remote SL out of default modes to map these functions. Plus, the iPhone is really easy to see in the dark.