At this last HyperKult, Andreas Otto and I had the opportunity to exhibit our noisecabin installation from 2006 again. Originally commissioned for the “5 Days Off” festival at the Melkweg club in Amsterdam, the installation is designed to add artificial sound reflections to spaces in which bustling activity is contrasted with times of almost silence. This is true for both club events and conferences, of course, and so the installation was placed in the back of the lecture room and the hall outside. Parts of the lectures were sampled, mashed up, and then replayed in the hall later when the sonic activity level started to decrease.
The WretchUp instrument I designed for Mouse On Mars is now finally available for everyone on the iOS App Store. The original idea came about when we discussed the landscape of iOS music apps and noticed a lack of apps that experimented with a certain lack of control, a risk associated with using them, but thereby gaining new ways of expression. We were searching for the freedom found in many physical instruments, where everything can go horribly wrong in the next moment, but the instrumentalist can start to learn and tame the instrument, gaining new ways of expression along the way. Think of string instruments, pianos, acoustic and electric guitars, but also instruments like the STEIM Crackle Box.
WretchUp is not the answer to this quest, but it is intended as a step in that direction. The Pd patch leaned on the great Rjlib selection of high-level construction elements, which were modified to render what is essentially a feedback instrument built on two delay lines. The patch ran in RjDj on iOS, which is sadly no longer available on the App Store. To make the instrument more risky but also more rewarding to use, we added gyro control over the base octave and an additional filter at the output stage.
Peter Kirn and Oliver Greschke then took on the task of converting the original patch into an app, while also expanding it by adding a looper and the option to choose between continuous mic input or input on touch. The app remains simple, but can generate a nice variety of sounds, which in this case mostly means soundscapes beyond the safe, toned down sounds of typical iOS synthesizers. Forcing the musician to work for control, and also to work for getting any sound out of the app at all, is part of the idea. This can be seen as a hurdle at first, but when it is overcome, very small gestures with the instrument can make huge differences, serving as a basis for an individual development of distinctively different sound expressions.
In another video by SoundTestRoom, one of the early adopters, we find a very different use case with different results.
WretchUp is available on the App Store:
Mouse on Mars together with Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to turn one of the Pd patches I developed for them into a full iOS and, potentially, Android app. I am not part of the campaign or development effort, but of course looking forward to the outcome.
Besides developing the app, this project will also contribute to the porting of the great Rjlib set of Pd abstractions for use in other iOS projects. The patch itself and all code that is not protected by Apple will be made available as open source.
In addition to the benefits of the Pd patch becoming an app and the Rjlib becoming more accessible, this is also a highly interesting social experiment. The discussion on Create Digital Music is a great example of how value is being negotiated in today’s economy, while at the same time, several funders of the campaign have invested more than they were asked for in the respective packages they chose.
Electronic Beats and Slices Magazine produced a studio feature and tech talk with Mouse On Mars. Two of the iOS-instruments I custom-built for Mouse On Mars-projects using Pd and Rjdj are shown in detail at the end of the video.
On Saturday, July 24, Andreas Otto and I will play a live set at the “Darmstädter Ferienkurse”. We will play a mixture between a concert and a DJ set, with the archive of music published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Elektroakustische Musik (DEGEM) as material. Some select works will take centerstage, while the crossfades between them will be enriched to become performance miniatures in their own right, adding material from other pieces into the mix. Cellist Andreas Otto will use his software-based “Fello”-setup as instrument, played only with the bow, relieved from the cello.
The concert takes place in the unique environment of the “Out of control” audio system, courtesy Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden and Prof. Franz Martin Olbrisch. The system is based upon a setup of electrostatic speakers and a control software that allows for dramatically fast movements of the sound positioning.
“Fello” software project
“Out of control” audio system
STEIM, the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music in Amsterdam, is in immediate danger of losing its governmental funding. The bottom line of the negative advise from the reviewers is that STEIM doesn’t appeal enough to the mainstream pop-music audience. Chasing ghosts of mass-media hype, the Dutch government is on the verge of shutting down an unparalleled institution for creative support, where I had the privilege to work on the projects “fello” and “noiseroom”, as well as to teach two Pd workshops with wonderful and inspiring participants.
For all the details on the current developments, please head over to STEIM’s website. Although time is running out, there’s still the possibility to send a letter of support.
Here’s an excerpt from my letter:
Both artistic work and technological research conducted at STEIM have influenced and benefited a large number of projects in a diversity of fields, such as academic and popular music, interactive media art, modern dance, instrument and performance theory, and the visual arts. Many of these projects have brought together participants from different countries and cultures, thanks to STEIM‘s unique ability to provide lodging, without which many projects could not have happened. Providing such support and thereby drawing in advanced projects from all over the world, STEIM serves as a beacon in the heart of Europe, bearing testimony to the open-mindedness and support of plurality that the Dutch culture is known for internationally.
Today more than ever, STEIM brings together artists from different fields and connects them with a global network of creative productivity. In the Open Studios at STEIM as well as in the guesthouse, both artistic and social exchange have found a safe haven that should be of high value to the Dutch people. STEIM is a place where well-known artists engage in experimental projects to advance their creative scope and broaden their technological as well as artistic repertoire. From my point of view as a German resident, the existence and the acceptance of STEIM, rooted in Amsterdam‘s local culture but decidedly international in its scope, is nothing but admirable.
A separate blog dedicated to the Pd&GEM workshop at STEIM/Amsterdam is now online. I will use it to distribute class material and document what’s going on. Stay tuned for sounds & pictures!
Go to mypdclass.wordpress.com
From April 7 – 10, 2008, I will give a workshop on Pure Data and the GEM extension library for visualization at STEIM in Amsterdam. The workshop will cover aspects of instrument design for composition and live performance as well as the creation of custom visual user interfaces.