Ben Neill – Mutantrumpet Development Residency

I spent two weeks working at STEIM during June and July 2016. The primary goals of my residency were to update my mutantrumpet/electronics system which was created at STEIM in 2008, and to make a transition from LiSa to the new RoSa software. I also hoped to create and record parts of a new work in progress for mutantrumpet, baroque organ and interactive video.
In making the move from LiSa to RoSa, I first had to implement Junxion in a more complex way to facilitate the communication between the mutantrumpet and RoSa. With the assistance of the amazing Frank Balde, we made new Junxion patches that transform MIDI into OSC for controlling RoSa. Junxion’s capabilities are extremely flexible and I am able to implement them much more fully now.
One of several happy accidents that happened during my residency was the discovery that the STEIM Junxion board, which is mounted on the mutantrumpet and provides its 16 continuous controllers, works with Mavericks OS 10.9 on newer Mac computers. Previously it was thought that the Junxion board was limited to machines that still supported older USB devices; up until the residency I have still been using a 2008 MacBook Pro for both Junxion and LiSa. However, Frank and I discovered through experiments on several different Macs that the Junxion board functioned on my OS 10.9 equipped MacBook Pro, a machine from 2014. This is great news, and will enable me to drop the older computer from my live performance setup. I’m now able to integrate all of my performance programs internally.
Version 2
Once Junxion was up and running, I began working with RoSa, first by recreating LiSa zones, patterns and setups from my current repertoire. This was a great way to explore the architecture of RoSa, which is very similar to LiSa with a few exceptions. I had to get used to the idea of one set of 128 zones instead of the preset-based zone assignment system used by LiSa. Also the editing process of RoSa is different, I mostly used the Max editor but am also exploring the iPad based LEMUR interface. Working seriously with OSC for the first time was a big part of this residency, and the difference in resolution to MIDI was immediately apparent. All of the controllers felt much more sensitive, and smooth shifts in DSP functions such as resonant filter sweeps and pattern length changes made the superiority of OSC completely clear right away.
After recreating a good deal of my current LiSa set with RoSa, I began working on the new piece mentioned earlier. With continued consultation from Frank Balde, I explored new uses of the pattern mode to create subtly shifting rhythmic effects. Previously I had mostly used pattern mode to create complex, evolving textures, but for this piece I was looking for something with a more rhythmic structure. The combination of Junxion and RoSa worked amazingly well, and I was able to realize the sound and feel of the piece as I had envisioned it, far exceeding my expectations.
Being back in the STEIM studios within the wonderful environs of Amsterdam is always a delight. My experiences here have always been extremely creative and this was no exception. I met several new assistants and residents working on various projects, it’s great to see the influx of new people and ideas is growing. This residency was incredibly productive and my creative possibilities are greatly expanded as a result of it. I am particularly excited to be able to continue exploring the sonic vocabularies I have developed with LiSa in the new RoSa software. This transition was crucial for the continuity of my creative development.
The highly musical qualities of the STEIM interfaces and programs make them truly unique within the global landscape of music technology today. STEIM’s creative applications have been the backbone of my work as composer/ performer for 25 years. I have always conceived of the mutantrumpet as a vehicle for my artistic ideas and approaches as opposed to being primarily a design project. Technology and creative practice are completely tied together and reciprocal for me, and this interconnectedness is made possible by the STEIM-designed tools I use. I’m very grateful to the entire STEIM staff for hosting me for the residency.

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