This residency period was part of my ongoing development of the buchla lightning/Nintendo wii-motes as a complete infra-red midi controller instrument for performance use with JunXion and Lisa and also external samplers and synthesizers. By “complete” I mean retiring the faderfox midi controller I was also using and basically never having to touch or look at the computer during a performance – the idea is that it is under a table and not even visible.
The Nintendo wii-motes have been a great addition to my infra red set up because they have a lot of fairly high quality switches, which the lightning crucially lacks, and additional accelerometers which are more accessible to programming than those on the lightning, which are pre-associated with velocity.
Unfortunately the X and Y position tracking of the infrared camera in the Wiimote is not currently correctly recognised by JunXion so the original idea of completely replacing the functionality of lightning with the Wiimote and JunXion could not be accomplished on this visit.
In my previous visits over the past two years I have developed a basic performing system which was interesting and effective. But the concept and patches grew organically over a period of time, rather than been conceived of as a system from the beginning and this is not always a good thing, especially with LiSa. So some things worked better than others, in particular I lacked convenient ways to turn midi controllers on and off and was using a rather bewildering mixture of merged midi data from the lightning and wii data via junxion and extensive midi processing within Lisa itself. I could not easily edit and change because there were three places where midi processing could be carried out. Through using this system I developed very clear idea about what I wanted to be able to do and how I wanted to do it, although the specifics of how to achieve this in JunXion and LiSa were not always clear. This involved mapping six switch able controllers dealing with spatial positioning and gesture, six different play controllers and several midi channels which route different kinds of strike -gestures to different zones and sample regions. In addition some functions like buffer loading, recording, external effects control needed implementing.
So this visit was a chance to change to map all of this out clearly in advance of beginning programming and then to build new set-ups for the Lightning, junxion and Lisa, to rationalise and integrate the elements of my existing system and to develop new possibilities. Working with Frank took much of the burden of actual programming and left me free to concentrate on the physical and conceptual functionality of the system. This was a very efficient process and I must say a luxury for me.
Although it might start with a relatively seem idea, concept or desire, which in my case was a wish to be able to control electronic sounds my pulling them around in space with my hands, building an instrument that one can fluently improvise with is a complex and lengthy process which brings with it some not always very familiar questions. When I was playing saxophone I was never really that interested in how the instrument worked and I didn’t think I needed to be: this option is not really available when working with sensors.
I like to keep a certain simplicity and even naivety in what I am doing musically and technically because I want to keep surprising myself. But one interesting thing about this process with Frank is that it forced me to conceptualise much more clearly what I want to do: partly I had to think like a designer rather than a musician. While taking on this this role is a struggle for me, as a by-product this created some very creative images of how the instrument could be used or understood that I think would not have come up with without engaging in this very planned rational process. Some developments and changes in fact happened very rapidly and a couple of times when we made wrong turns it was quickly very clear to me that we needed to change something.
The system will be used for mostly performing improvised group music. I am also working on the implications of this system for my studio composition and for solo performance. I have questions about how the movements which generate date can be conceived and possibly used as a means of composing or scoring aspects of a performance, or maybe that is a terrible idea, I don’t know yet, it’s a real question which will be my focus for the next period of time after my next visit when this instrument is “finished” at least in its current incarnation. Before this, over the next two months I will practise with this system and identify some points which could be changed and improved and maybe one or two possibilities added. This next period is about getting my hands around what I have and relearning how to play it.