The Orientation Workshop was incredibly eye-opening and inspiring. I came to STEIM to learn more about ways to combine the technical understanding of an electronics designer, the sensitivity and imagination of a musician, and the awareness of gesture-sound relationships of a contemporary percussionist. The workshop was packed with talks, lessons and performances from the STEIM artists/engineers. I was enlightened with STEIM’s philosophies on the role of new technology in music and art, and I became much more aware of current and past work in the electro-instrumental movement.
I was given a studio with a good audio and computer set-up, and started playing with STEIM’s tools, JunXion and LiSa. Rather then simply doing exercises to see all the capabilities of these tools, I figured the best and most fun way to learn would be to conceptualize a simple ‘musical instrument’ and then try to realize it with these given tools.
From the inspiration of STEIM and the city of Amsterdam, I thought to extend the metaphor of a traditional 12″ vinyl record as a source of music. It has the cultural significance as a storage medium for music which can be played back on a turntable, but I wanted to make the record itself an instrument from which one can perform or “play” music. First I considered various ways that a musician can interact with the record. The musician can shake, tilt left/right, tilt forward/backward, bend, spin, strike/press on the table, etc… all of which can be done with varying speeds, degrees of displacement, and in combination. I then thought about how these gestures can be intuitively be related (directly or abstractly) to a response in the sound, affecting different characteristics of the music. For the sounds, I used very short samples of a song I found on the STEIM lab computer, and manipulated many parameters of their playback characteristics with a high degree of nuance. Using various sensors (X-Y Tilt, Pressure, Wii 3-D Accelerometer), the JunXion HW Interface, JunXion and LiSa I was able to develop a rapid prototype to experiment with the feel of playing the record and listening to the sounds. I spent a lot of time practicing this instrument and followed my physical movements and ears to make adjustments to the gesture-sound relationships. At the end of the workshop, I performed short improvisations for Daniel Schorno and Taku Mizuka Lippit. They also played with the record themselves and gave me interesting technical and artistic feedback.
I also did a small experiment with a pressure sensor to create a short-term memory button that remembers its interaction with the user. In contrast to a traditional button where the sound begins as soon as the user presses the button, this “Post-Touch” button waits after the initial press and triggers the sound immediately AFTER the user releases the button. Before triggering the sound, the button remembers how long it was depressed, how hard/soft it was pressed, as well as any variation in the pressure. Upon release, the sound begins and then creates a sound envelope defined by press-release time window and pressure information. The user defines the envelope before the actual sound, and then activates the sound by releasing the button.
Everyone I met at STEIM was passionate about electro-instrumental music and they were all very excited to answer questions and share their knowledge. From my time at STEIM, I developed many new ideas and I look forward to contributing more to the electro-instrumental community.
Thank you STEIM.
Levy Lorenzo (US)