Maker Profile – Computer Making Music on Make: television from make magazine on Vimeo.

Make:Television has done a really lovely piece on CCRMA, the research center at Stanford University that works on problems ranging from acoustics and sound to musical instrument design. CCRMA is really just one microcosm of the whole music tech making scene around the world – a lot of increasingly beyond the walls of academia. But what a microcosm it is: I don’t think it’s understatement to say this is just the kind of institution a lot of us dream of. Among the highlights from the MAKE video that I could pick up:

  • Ge Wang, professor and creator of ChucK programming language and certain popular ocarina-themed iPhone apps, and Stanford Laptop Orchestra director
  • Carr Wilkerson: Electronic “Rub Board”(?) with a nice accompanying Pd synth patch
  • A very nice Max/MSP app that everyone seems to be using for signal analysis
  • Edgar Berdahl: a one-handed drum that “hits back”
  • Nicholas Bryan building the legendary hemispheric speaker (incidentally, no one seems to be able to tell me who invented that)
  • A giant interactive musical playground, with a Wii-powered teeter-totter (with one somewhat silly patch, and then another very lovely bowed-sounding patch)

Thanks to patospurlock on Twitter for the tip. I know at least some of you CCRMA students read this site, so feel free to chime in and identify your colleagues.

The featured Feedback Piano project is a hybrid with a bit of acoustical design (a piano), electronics/recording (mics), and digital/computer design (the Max patch that completes the circle). The results are really striking, and while it’s a lot less portable than a convolution reverb, it’s certainly very different having an actual piano into which you can play your saxophone.

Make followed up with directions on the Feedback Piano (please use a truly broken piano, thanks!) and we’ve got some video, as well:

HOW TO – build a feedback piano [MAKE Magazine]


feedback piano #1 from Alloy Electric on Vimeo.

Alloy Electric has more Vimeo videos of the feedback piano and other projects. (Nice footage, as well! Actually, I think, a bit artier than what Make:TV shot!)

More on Chris Warren’sblog and project website.

By the way, does anyone know why educational programs about Science always have to have some geeky-sounding guy shouting at you? (See the condensed history of all music tech at the end.)

  • Darren Landrum

    I really wish I had the room to build one of these. It would be the most awesome reverb unit ever!

    If only I could figure out how to get the piano into my basement. Take it apart, maybe?

  • http://johnholdun.com John Holdun

    I was so upset when I priced out one of those hemispeakers but I think I need to set aside some money to make one.

  • http://snapshotintime.blogspot.com/ wi_ngo

    I totally went to the wrong school.

  • patospurlock

    Yeah, I told my wife that I would never graduate college if I was @ CCRMA.

    I am just happy that MAKE covers things like CCRMA.

  • rhowaldt

    this stuff is fucking amazing. i love that, for a change, this is not done in someones basement (though, nothing against that ofcourse) but by a collective, and also taped in very good quality. keep it coming, very inspirational.

  • Darren Landrum

    They also maintain PlanetCCRMA, which is a Fedora Linux repository for all things musical and DSP, including real-time kernels (when Fernando can get them to work – hopefully they'll start doing that again soon). A great place, all-around.

  • Dylan

    Is that a custom max patch for signal analysis?

    I'm keen to find a max runtime app that does that kind of thing if anyone has any ideas what it is.

    Also after watching that video I feel like there is not enough speakers in my life……

  • http://alloyelectric.com Chris Warren

    @Darren: you could try a spinet piano…they're much smaller than a typical upright. And yeah it's a great way to get some cool reverb—that was my original motivation for building it.

  • Darren Landrum

    @Chris Warren: Not even a spinet could fit whole down the stairwell to our "Michigan" basement, which is somewhere between being a basement and a cellar. I think taking it apart upstairs and taking down the soundboard and strings would be the only option, if at all.

    Normally, I'd give up there, but my mouth is still watering at the thought of the most awesome reverb ever.

  • Mia

    how about a feedback piano orchestra? with concert grand soundboards! in the Fort Worden Cistern where Pauline Oliveros did the Deep Listening thing?

  • http://www.keyofgrey.com KeyOfGrey

    Wow, I'm totally going to make a "speaker bowl" now.

  • WhiteNoise

    feedback piano = big spring verb

  • andi

    i had this exact same idea of the feedback piano, to the T. buttkickers were on clearance in american scientific surplus and i wondered what havoc could be done with them. never got a hold of a piano though and totally put it out of my mind. i envisioned it sounding completely different! what a great project. thanks chris! maybe a feedback sitar is in order!

  • russellIN

    Thats very cool thanks, i like!

    One extra i will take from that video is the word "teeter totter" Haha! I've NEVER heard it before, we call 'em "see saws" here in the UK.

  • http://adamsomers.com Adam s

    Nice post!

  • http://alloyelectric.com Chris Warren

    @andi: Yeah, I'd loooove to make a feedback sitar! I was actually thinking of making a feedback autoharp to approximate the whole thing in a more portable package.

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