March 23, 2010

some progress (or rather: NOT) report on the fanfare instruments….

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cecilia @ 21:22

[From Frank] i am constantly confronted with unforseen problems with the fanfare instruments. it seems the wireless communication between the computers is the main reason for all these problems, but also the unexpected ‘low battery’ problem, meaning that suddenly the computer stops working because there is no warning mechanism, is a major pain.

i am starting to become a bit desperate about this, tonight i will keep all three batteries charging, hopefully i can get some basic things working tomorrow, but as you may guess, it is a sloooooow process.

what worries me most is that the problems are not easily identifiable, meaning the whole system becomes unreliable and that is definitely NOT what we had in mind…

anyway, as you may guess this is a very frustrating experience and i think this should be put in the blog as well, because at this moment i am not so sure the system will ever work as we thought it would…….

i’ll keep you posted,

March 16, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Cecilia @ 15:07

Today I received an enthusiastic reply from Professor Gussenhoven, of Radboud Uni Nijmegen and Queen Mary, London. I am arranging to meet him as soon as he is back in the Netherlands, on the third week of April. He has written an endless list of books and papers on the topic of tones and intonation, many of them specifically on the Limburgian language. The Dutch newspaper NRC interview him in 2006 precisely about his Limburgian research: I will search for a relevant paper in English and post it here soon.

February 15, 2010

new workplan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 18:06
  1. Finish the hardware
  2. Give the software a Limburgian turn (deadline 1 May)
    > introduce the samples (requires a meeting to be scheduled soon)
    > proceed with linguistics research, specifically on intonation
  3. Show Limburg BV the instruments
  4. Follow Limburg BV’s new leads to fanfare bands.

In terms of timing, we will have to plan around two other upcoming events that are also important for Steim: Sonic Acts, on Feb 25-28, and Music Lab, in early May.

pics xylophone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 17:57

recap / evaluation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 17:38

Taku, Dick and I sat down for a progress meeting this afternoon.

>XYLOPHONE: All three instruments are physically ready, the latest one being the xylophone which is now lying elegantly under a cloud of foam in Frank’s office. The foam is a bit like a mink coat, to protect it from the unusual February frost (I took some photos which I promise to upload very soon). Last week some of the cables were causing noise problems for a bit, until they were fixed by means of magic. This sounds very romantic and all but it’s the last thing an engineer wants to hear; we are now hoping for the problems to return so that we can fix them with our own hands and heads. We are also hoping to show the instruments off at this week’s Hotpot but the connections need a few last touches.

>LIMBURGIFICATION: the instruments are just a heartbeat away from being functional, but as far as our goals are concerned we still have one more crucial phase ahead of us: building a bridge to the Limburgian culture and languages. The most obvious step is to build a content base of speech samples. A place to start is the Meertens institute (see my earlier post September/October research update). I will also return to the Roermond language expertise centre to see if they have any audio, but last time I checked they had mostly printed reference material such as dictionaries, language learning methods (esp. for children) and classical works of Limburgian literature. Step 2 in the linguistic research will be intonation: firstly because Dick feels Limburgian language is possibly the most melodic of the Dutch languages and dialects. I’ll prick up my ears for any scientific evidence of Dick’s intuition. Another reason for prioritising intonation in my linguistic research is that Frank hinted at Lisa’s possibilities for tone modulation, so that seems like an avenue that could immediately prove fruitful.

>COMMISSIONERS: Culturele Biografie Limburg, the (semi-)governmental organisation that commissioned the project, has now transformed itself into a private (INC. type) organisation called Limburg BV. The background story is that Limburg is suffering heavily from migration of young people to larger cities in Holland and Germany. In view of this youth-drain, the provincial authorities hope for more involvement of the private sector in cultural investments and to be able to pay their businesses back by means of ‘cultural dividends’. The ramifications for us are that if the instruments are successful enough to be mass- or series-produced they and Steim would be sharing the profits.

>PLAYERS: in order to find players for our instruments we should look for an occasion to travel with them to Limburg and lend them out to groups. Dick suggested the WMC contest, which happens at the beginning of summer, but WMC is only held once every four years, and the Dutch Open announced on the WMC website won’t happen until 2011, so that door is closed. I will find out what fanfare-related events are scheduled for this summer. I also have the feeling that Limburg BV will provide us with better leads to fanfare groups once they have seen the instruments and understood how they work and what they can do.

> REFLECTIONS: a thought on what has driven the development of the instruments up to this point came from Taku: For Frank and himself it was very stimulating to work together with Piet-Jan and to see the designs evolve into beautiful physical objects. Taku is looking forward to showing them at fairs and parade with them at events such as the Uitmarkt, which should make for some P&R of the fun type (as opposed to handing out business cards and repeating one’s story time after time at fair stands). Dick and Cecilia are driven by an interest in speech/voice synthesis that reaches beyond this particular project. It is this field of research that is going to dominate the following phase of development. Taku is also thinking of the continuity of this project, whether it could be extended to include a new proposal e.g. for educational programmes. Dick’s view is that for the time being the project is and should be seen as a one-off, at least that is the perspective Limburg BV is likely to take.

January 25, 2010

more newer better pics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 13:43

January 18, 2010

Jun’s creatures

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 21:20
creature one

creature one

creature two

creature two

A big hug to Jun in Korea. Here are some pics of his fine work, completed just before travelling home.

newer pics of the prototypes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 21:16
taken by Frank last week

Technical design strategies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Frank @ 17:18

In the past few months Taku and I have been working on the technical aspects of the new fanfare instruments. The goal was to create 3 new instruments, based upon existing ones, a percussion instrument (snare drum), a brass instrument (tuba) and a melodic percussion instrument (glockenspiel). All instruments should be able to use ‘live’ sampled sound of the voice of the tambour maitre, each instrument treating that sound in a unique way.

For the instrument design we asked Piet Jan Blauw, a musician, sculptor, instrument builder, because he already had a lot of experience in building electronic wireless (and powercordless) music devices. For the technical solution we chose to use an Apple Mac computer running Steim’s sensor mapping software junXion and steim’s live sampling software LiSa to generate and process the sampled voice.

A problem we were facing was how to distribute the sampled voice of the Tambour maitre to the (initially) 3 new instruments. First we were thinking about using one computer that would read the sensor data of the 3 instruments and then distribute its sounds to those 3 instrument’s speakers again. For that we would need a fairly sophisticated wireless data transfer system and the risk of utter silence if that main computer would fail. So we decided that each instrument would use its own dedicated Mac computer, meaning that the audio of the instrument could be directly connected to the computer (using a small amplifier between the computer and the speaker) and the sensors of the instrument also could be connected to the mac using wires. Of course we still had to solve the problem of how to send the wireless microphone data to 3 computers.

The solution we have come up with is to use one computer as the ‘master’ sampling machine, it will receive the wireless microphone signal and the wireless commands to ’sample’ a new fragment of vocal sound of the tambour maitre ™. Once the tm will release the ‘record’ button, the master machine will send a message (via junXion-Wifi) to the other 2 computers and junXion on those computers will then know there is a new live recorded sample available to load into LiSa. Also for that LiSa will have to have a wifi connection to the harddisk of the master machine, because that’s were the new recorded samples are stored.

Besides this, the instruments don’t have any configuration displays or whatever, they need to ‘auto-boot’ and this should be as trouble free as possible. For this I needed to design a fairly complex startup mechanism, which has the three machines communicating a lot in the initialization phase. For this, one of the instruments also needs to carry a wifi router, because all 3 instruments will use this as their wifi network access point.

The power for each instrument is provided by 15 1,2V rechargeable R3 batteries which are able to deliver a proficient amount of current, which is needed because besides the Apple Mac mini computer also the audio amplifier needs to be powered. For the sensor data acquisition Byungjun Kwon, Steims’ hardware engineer developed the teensy junXion board, a very small piece of electronics that is highly configurable and can be connected to the junXion software that will read and map the sensor data.

At this moment the ‘tuba’ is almost ready, when it is I can start creating the data mapping algorithms and the LiSa setup. In a few weeks the other 2 instruments should be ready as well.

January 4, 2010

prototype 2 Sousaphone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Cecilia @ 14:10

Sousaphone4 Sousaphone1

Sousaphone2 Sousaphone3

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