Thursday, August 26, 2010

Metatrombone

Here is a little beat I created recently using my homemade instrument as a sound source and exploring my previously discussed cut-up technique with Mobius and Bidule.
Little beat
What is significant with this recording is that I varied the pitch on the playback of my sound source using my flight-simulator joystick.  This opens up some interesting possibilities, since I could easily hack my joystick to create my very own music controller.
Using the game pad’s electronics as an interface to the computer, I intend to replace the pads, buttons and joysticks with various sensors and triggers that I will install on my trombone.  My aim is to gain access to some of the powerful sound processing techniques that I have learned over the summer, and deploy them live to extend the range of performance of the trombone.
In doing this, I’m following in the footsteps of Nicolas Collins, whose excellent book Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking is the definite guide to making things go beep. His book is mostly devoted to creating unique electronic instruments, but a later chapter discusses transforming a game controller into a custom computer music controller.
Collins has also built a novel electronic musical instrument from an old beat-up trombone.
His “trombone-propelled electronics” is certainly an interesting approach, but quite far from what I intend to do.  For one thing, Collins is not a trombone player and uses the horn (equipped with sensors) as a controller and as resonator, since the speaker is placed above the mouthpiece and the sound travels through the instrument before exiting from the bell.  In fact, this is something that Collins exploits very well in this composition when he uses long notes and moves the slide around so that different partials are emphasized by the instrument.  Regardless, what I find most inspiring are the visuals: the trombone full of sensors that captures performance information (the placement of the slide, for instance) that is used to modulate the parameters of effects and settings.  Also, that keypad is pretty slick.
Another source of inspiration is Matthew Burtner’s Metasaxophone
While I’m not exactly a fan of the sounds he produces with this system, the idea of using sensors placed on an instrument to enhance its performance is definitely what I’m looking to do.