I came to Steim in March for an Orientation program, with a particular interest in developing new interfaces for Turntables and Cracklebox. Having seen a lot of videos and heard a lot about the infamous device, I knew that it would suit my style of performance, and I quickly developed a way of playing.
As I played more and more, I came to really appreciate the limitations of the box, so while I originally wanted to modify my own Cracklebox to do various extra things, I eventually decided to keep it as it is. Recently, I decided to write a simple Max/MSP patch that used some of the methods I learned at Steim to expand my solo playing.
The patch has four short buffers that allow me to record samples of the circular note patterns I play through the Cracklebox, using a footpedal to trigger the record on/off and loop on/off separately. From my experience of using LiSa on my orientation, I made the buffers in such a way that I could ‘overdub’ into them. I quickly found that the footpedal didn’t allow me enough scope to move through or alter the buffers very effectively. Once again, my experience at Steim came in very handy, and lead me to build this prototype:
As you can see, its a cunning and sophisticated combination of Cracklebox and Wii Remote joined with some rather natty Police tape. Using a handy Max external, I now have the accelerometer functions of the Wii Remote mapped to control the speed/pitch of sample playback, and a granular playhead position/width movement. I even took advice from the Wii Remote implementation in JunXion and added some range adjustment and data smoothing to get as much control out of the accelerometer as possible. The patch also has some pitch tracking to control the speed of volume swells of the samples. I’m now working on making as much of the patch as possible switchable from the Wii Remote, in order to use the footpedal as little as possible.
Once I have the patch at a point where it works as smoothly as I would like it to, I’m planning on making the Wii Remote sit more comfortably on the back of the Cracklebox, and to make the buttons easier to use with my two thumbs. Perhaps the most important thing I learned on the orientation course was how much harder it is to develop hardware than software, so I’m expecting this process to take a while yet.
I know that the people at Steim will be able to help me out with this development, and I know that they have been looking into arduino-based wireless accelerometer controllers that may actually be more suitable for a final version of this project. That said, it is important not to underestimate how handy it is that the Wii Remote is so cheap and ubiquitous, and that so many people have already developed wonderful software like JunXion to make their use as music controllers much less of a headache!
As this project is still in development, I will update the Project blog with new photos and videos in the coming weeks, and I will release the patch to download once it is completed. Watch this space!
Also, huge thanks to everyone at Steim for their help and inspiration, especially Jun, Daniel, Taku, plus the other artists in residence including Andreas Otto, Sean Winters and Tim Vets. I hope to return soon!