Monday, January 25, 2010

The Instrument!

So after much thought, I have come to a preliminary design for my instrument that I will be designing. The basic design is one that is based on the integration of two physical actions everyone who has gone through grade school should know.

The interface is built around the simple production of sound by clamping one end of a ruler to the end of a table and slapping the freestanding end. At this point, I would like to build a prototype first of one and then see how beneficial it would be to add more, but I am thinking there will be about 5 of these devices in a row. Each would have a contact mic at the end that would be reporting to SuperCollider, where the frequency content generated by each "ruler" could be tracked and processed.

The beauty of this interface is that it really has a lot of potential for control, and with the addition of the flex and touch sensors (see the design to the right), it allows for three types of interaction that can be explored, where each would be primarily explored in its own gesture, with a final fourth gesture involving a combination of each type of interaction.

The first interaction involves producing sound more physically in that the device is producing an analog audio signal the way that most know, namely smacking the freestanding end and changing the pitch by dragging the ruler up and down the table. There are two aspects of this form that are enticing. First, in a piece where I would like to contrast action and aural experience, the slap and oscillation is associated with a very strong, loud auditory response. However, this response coupled with a simple amplification system (via the contact mic at the top of the setup as shown) could be controlled and its intensity modulated, perhaps in an interesting way. Second, this action can serve as the unabstracted, initial "value" that the piece can then springboard from (no pun intended).

The addition of the flex sensors adds a new dimension of physical control to the piece. When using the instrument in the "analog" way as outlined earlier, it is seen as more of a physical sound producing mechanism, where its interaction is merely being amplified to be heard by a live audience. But in utilizing the flex sensors as a "digital control signal," a more subtle bend can be used to vastly alter the shape, expanding the presence of a small movement into a larger, auditory gesture.

The final section of the interface is the touch sensor at the tip of each of the "rulers," which when pressed, would fire a burst of sound from a collection of radio frequencies, where the length of the ruler hanging off the end of the surface could determine further real-time parameters, such as what pitch the device would play, and how long. This simple control setup coupled with the third, most abstracted source of audio allows for the most extreme loss of physical interaction, where the subtlest of movements, a simple touch, which will change the audio output completely, using frequency content not being generated on site, but that is very much so present and chaotic, depending on where the performance is located.

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