Rule based live music

July 21, 2014

note_symbol“Audible/Inaudible 2012 -2014″

During the last two years Bitsphere performed an anonymous rule based live piece at a local bar which lies at the entry of the inner city when coming from the Bitsphere office. The piece for piano consists of some rules which will be listed in the next paragraph. The piece described here originated in a spontaneous idea and is an example of artistic intervention in everyday live. With the description of this peace and possible impacts Bitsphere likes to invite others to accoustic involvement in shared living spaces.

The rule set

  1. Every day the player passes the bar he has to enter and play the next tone on a chromatic scale beginning at the lowest note if all the rules apply
  2. The player should play only if he passes alone
  3. The player should be in a proper state for working according to governmental working rules
  4. The Piano shall be unoccupied
  5. No other musician shall play in the bar at the time
  6. Nothing should be purchased when entered to play a tone

Performance

By applying this rules it was possible to play all the keys of the grand piano within two years. The bar is usually closed Sunday and Monday but opens early in the morning and does not close before midnight. In the summer time sometimes they close in the afternoon to move to an outdoor location some paths away. Bitsphere only once had the chance to play the tone there (this tone was doubled) when some band installed a keyboard over there.

Observations

After a while some of the frequenter where aware that Bitsphere had a certain regulatory and they started to interact after the tone was played. One occasionally applauded and it is quite sure he sort of realized what was going on though Bitsphere tried to hide which means a visitor who only heard one of the tones should have thought there is someone just hitting a key for whatever reason. In general the relation to the waiters was relaxed randomly they tried to sell a beer to Bitsphere after the tone had gone. But this did not apply to rule #6.

Due to rule #2 the piece passed relatively anonymously there were no one told what was going on. It was just like entering – acting – listening – leaving and this kind of loneliness when inserting a sound to the daily noises with a melody only aware to one person in the beginning let to certain reflections about music which may not come easy in other ways. The difference in the player – the spectators – and even the tuning of the piano over the time is observed.

The player in his inner state – sometimes resisting to play though the rules do all apply – sometimes wanting to advance even if one ore more rule is not fulfilled has to remember over the whole span which note has to played at the next occasion which sometimes takes a little longer to come. The spectators were divided in two groups: Some not aware that this is a piece of music as just another one presses one of the keys of the piano, some aware there is someone who comes back regularly to play just one note on the piano which was at least tuned one time over the two years.

What is next?

After this piece Bitsphere wants to do more live events and perhaps faster rule based performances. Please drop some words in the comment box if you have experience in rule based live music or any other thing to say! You may also name some rules here and Bitsphere will try to perform them!

 

20120503 animation 14Recently working on a piece which uses data sets Bitsphere will introduce later this year the question how to map sound to a 2D representation rose again. The most common application of this mapping is the step sequencer where one dimension is applied to the time and the other to a specific sound.

To give an overview over the topic Bitsphere prepared an incomplete list of possible mappings in this post.

The basic question is how to represent a given mathematical two dimensional set to a sound by applying sound control to the values of the x and y axis. A graphical representation of a data st may look like this:

chart_2d_example

There are some obvious and less obvious technologies in the list following:

x -> Time -  y -> Frequency

This might be the most common application as seen on score sheets: One dimension shows the time range counting forward the other indicates the pitch of the melody. This is what a sequencer program like the old tracker programs basically were designed for: Determine at what time which note has to be played.

x-> Time – y -> Instrument (Sound)

The correlation between time and instrument is rather simple. In the two dimensional representation one axis shows the elapsing time the other axis’ values are assigned to an instrument. Obviously to determine which instrument has to be played an integer value is required but a good program may use the values in between to trigger the volume of the two instruments at the limiting integers.

x-> Time – y-> 2. Harmonic

With this mapping the pitch of the tone evolving is not altered but its quality when manipulating the 2. harmonic. This raises various possibilities for example some more harmonics may be bound to one of the 2D axis. Or just the odds. Check back the resources on the net for harmonic additive synthesis.

x-> Time – y->  Filter

This is a common practice in live use where filters are altered over time manipulating the sound. Disk Jockeys do this by hand though this may be implemented in code too.

x-> Time – y-> Volume

Mapping sound to volume may seem a rather boring thing, it is indeed a very powerful tool. In classical music the effect is known as dynamics. Most of you will know the signs pp, p , mf, f, ff and their numerous variations. Its extrems are ‘mute’ – ‘on’ which is the binary of all sounds existence and becomes very dynamic when differently applied to multiple sounds at a time.

Further thoughts

As stated above this list is incomplete. Bitsphere appreciates any comment on this post with other possible mappings. The real power of this mappings lies in the multidimensional when more than one of them is used in the same piece. This might be the topic of a post to come.

 

As you will find on http://bitsphere.bandcamp.com as well as http://soundcloud.com/bitsphere-sounds there are already 4 of the Muse ringtones online. Bitsphere will publish the other 5 to come in the next few months. Lessons learned so far:

  • Even with good preparation and a blog schedule there is always something incoming distracting us from publishing especially on social media
  • The sounds break with the style used in all the other ring tones before – the outcome is not clear yet but it definitely attracted another audience on soundcloud
  • Not only huge companies but also niche player re-use user generated content to generate traffic on their site by liking, retweeting or whatever is possible on your preferred site. So far it is a win-win situation by Bitspheres point-of-view.

Please follow the bitsphere soundcloud account to stay up to date with the muses project!

timelessDuring the quiet days around the end of the year bitsphere.ch got the new site design promised in January 2013. The site is running with a Typo3 backend which makes it easier to change and add content. Typo3 – especially typoscript – is not that easy to handle but rewards with robustness and a lot of possibilities to tailor the software for specific purposes. As by now there is no intention to move this blog away from wordpress.com since the people here have done a great job in the last years, the .com site is regularly updated by the stuff and Bitsphere may use the new features immediately. Furthermore wordpress.com has a rather good integration in social networks. Anyways Bitsphere is happy to have a new home so check it out and leave your comments here at the blog!

note_symbolIn the recent days Bitsphere did some hardware assembling due to the great open source work of Marco Donnarumma called x-th sense. An open hardware project which aims to amplify muscle sounds. The local hardware distributor here in Switzerland offered all the pieces need for the assembly except the “protokit” mentioned in the xth-sense documentation and the sensor is build in less than an afternoon by a newbee to hardware assembling for the on-line documentation is really detailed.

Bitsphere replaced the protokit with a “Hammond Manufactoring 1593KBK Handheld Box”, sawed a piece out of an epoxy fibre-glass labor card (the RE523-LF by Roth Elektronik) which fits in the box and screwed it into the box. That is about the pieces the original kit consists of.

To get the software running was the harder part. It was not that easy to get the required version of puredata extended. Finally it turned out there is a repository for the beta builds with the required versions. Then the directory names mentioned in the x-th sense how-to have to be created on the local disk the very same.

For those interested in readings about body sounds you find an article about biomusic in the Journal of Sonic Studies.

neuchatel_mapHere are some news from the soundmap project which Bitsphere promised to keep you up to date with: Things are going on. The initial idea of recording some nice sounds and put them on a map let to some difficulties and interesting insights.

it turned out field recording is not plug and play. There are some issues a newbie is not aware and gets to learn:

  1. Get good equipment as soon as possible. If not the precious time you spent is lost apart from some research value.
  2. Car noises are ubiquitous: Best time to do recordings of environmental sound in a township seems to be at night when you may have the chance of not getting disturbed by cars.
  3. There are good news: If ever you start doing field recording and even if it is on a very basic level your listening abilities will grow and your mind will get insights in different qualities of noises like:
  • There are a lot of sounds around which may be called dynamic: building sites, cries, car breaks, thunder. This sounds enrich the soundscape but are only of partial interest for soundmapping since even when put on a map they may not be found again.
  • On the other hand there are dynamic sounds which appear and reappear regularly, typically church bells or trains passing in a regular interval.
  • Finally there are more static sounds which may be put on a map for they are long-lasting or eternal: Waves on the seaside, highways, rivers, echoes and many more. This sounds are what seems most valuable in soundmapping where people are invited to do soundwalks with a map constructed in another time.

Considering this it seems easier to go on by defining interesting sounds on a map and record them afterwards with a proper equipment which has to be evaluated, set up, tested and properly handled. The main work is about finding the right sounds by walking with aware ears. Once they are mapped there are several ways to transmit the places to an audience: Handling over a copy of the map, publish it on google maps, mark the places as audibly interesting or even make recordings and put them on a disk. If you know any others please let me know in the comment section!

Oneminute Ups and Downs

September 2, 2013

Downs

As mentioned earlier this year Bitsphere participated again at the Oneminute contest in Aarau, Switzerland. Sad enough the programming had to be done in rather difficult personal circumstances so it is way not the best video and the jurors in Aarau shared this opinion by screening it off the contest. To see it olympic: there is a video in 2013 and it was screened at all:

Ups

Last years video was selected by theoneminutes.org for a screening in various museums in Benelux countries. It was part of a series of videos referencing to “rhytm” which was screened during August in unexpected places in some known houses. For those who have not seen the video yet here you find it again:

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