Daito Manabe Makes Music with Parts of His Face

Facial music, indeed. Daito Manabe has made the music the controller and his face the controlled in a new project. (As several commenters were quick to note, I got this exactly backwards when I posted this a few minutes ago: his face is the output, and the music the input.) Daito Manabe is a Japanese-based composer, media artist, and DJ who does strange and wonderful things with inputs. This time, he’s hooked up electrical outputs to his face, so multimedia software Max/MSP, his usual tool of choice, can sequence muscle movements via electrical pulses transmitted directly to the surface of …

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Game Day: Play Drums, MIDI, Guitar with a Wii Controller, Free

Bless Nintendo for making the Wii controller: inexpensive, lots of internal sensor data (motion sensing, tilt sensing, buttons), elegant design, and standard Bluetooth support allowing it to be used with Mac, Windows, and Linux. Now there’s free and open source software for making the most of your Wiimote as a musical instrument. First up: Wiinstrument, a multi-purpose percussion instrument, now available for all three operating systems (a Windows version was recently added). Plays percussion / drums with gestures Use an (in-development) internal sampler with WAV files, or trigger other software via MIDI Use tilt for control changes Supports tilt, velocity …

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Interactive Table as Synth, Via New, Better Bjork Tour Vids; Microsoft Surface Snickering

There’s a simple problem: sound is invisible, and sound synthesis concepts don’t have any physical reality. Knobs, faders, patch cords, keyboards, infrared sensors, touchpads, and the like all work quite nicely for synthesizing sounds. But take a closer look at Bjork’s use of the reacTable, an interactive multimedia interface that uses a camera to track the movements of blocks on a surface. They really are using it to make sounds, those sounds really are visualized in a nice new way (watch the waveforms connecting the blocks), and while the result is some swoopy synthy sounds, the interface does make making …

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Microsoft Unveils Surface, Multi-Touch Digital Table, But Why Not Make Your Own?

The good news: Microsoft is taking multi-touch, camera tracking, and gestural technologies seriously, and they have what looks like a very nice implementation that will be one of the first commercial implementations. The bad news: it’ll cost US$10,000 out of the gate. That high price will mean you’ll see at places like T-Mobile stores and Sheraton hotel lobbies first. But what you need to know: you can build your own version, thanks to available open source tools, with is likely to be more useful for music. Good sources of commentary: New Media Initiatives Blog at Walker Arts Center, which notes …

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Before the Wii: Max Mathews’ Original Wireless Electronic Baton, and More Electronic Baton History

Before Nintendo imagined mass-market gamers waving around a wireless remote to conduct music, digital music pioneer Max Mathews devised the Radio Baton: Radio Baton at the Electronic Music Foundation site Radio Baton image, in a rather cool presentation on alternative controller ideas Max Mathews page at CSounds.com, which contains extensive photos, documentation, and even software for the Radio Baton (unfortunately, several of those links appear to be broken) In contrast to Nintendo’s Wii remote, the Radio Baton uses very basic technology: FM transmitters in two batons coordinate X, Y, and Z position relative to a surface. It’s an idea that’s …

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Multitouch Interfaces of the Future: More Expressive, More Flexible

There was a time when skeptics thought mice would never catch on. “People will never give up their QWERTY keyboards,” they said. They were half right: now we take both for granted. Now, more experiments in multi-touch interfaces are appearing by the day. Aside from mysterious Apple patents, we have, via We Make Money Not Art, new research in multi-touch interactions from a team led by Jefferson Han. (Demos pictured.) This isn’t just any touchscreen: not only does it recognize multiple fingers as inputs, but it projects whatever imagery you want in response, enabling new, fluid interfaces, and even responds …

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Apple’s Touchscreen Patent: Actual Patent Reveals Gestures, Not Hardware

With the Web abuzz about Apple’s latest patent, filing, it’s worth reading the actual patent, 0060026536. Like all patent filings, this research may never translate to a shipping product. But it does make for good reading, and it clears up some issues — the most important one being this is about gestures, not specific hardware. Oh, and yes, Apple is working on a touchscreen music mixer:

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Everyone Deserves a Robotic MIDI Arm — Even DJs

Okay, wannabe cyborgs, you know you want it: no matter the price, you have to have a robotic armature on your body that sends MIDI data. The latest, via Engadget: the Gypsy MIDI controller. (Wait a second, the gypsy MIDI controller? Now, that doesn’t sound very cyborg. Marketing department, please?) It’ll cost you US$855 an arm, or US$1,675 for the whole suit (best value, as the marketing people would say). Sound pricey? No, that’s about typical in the history of these kind of mechanisms. Speaking of which, despite their claims, this is not the first device of this kind. But …

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Unusual New Guitar Tech: Optical Pickups, Bows, MIDI, Finger-Controlled FX

Sometimes the musical instrument industry seems to evolve slowly, but not when it comes to creating wild new guitars. Here’s a quick roundup of just-released technology, the sort of things that get introduced at this week’s NAMM show; hopefully I’ll get up close and personal with these and others on the floor. (See last year’s NAMM Oddities.) Guitars with optical pickups? Bowed guitars? Weird body-less “frame” electro-acoustics with MIDI? Effects you control with your finger? Why, sure. Read on.

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Sonar*Axe: SONAR / Photocell-Controlled Music Controller

You wear it on your shoulder, but it’s not a guitar. It’s a US$425 MIDI controller, powered by SONAR and photocell sensors for Theremin-like control in the air. It could be none other than the latest creation from instrument builder Tony Amendolare, aka ElectroKraft. You might have seen this instrument in November (see post and discussion on Music thing from when I was on vacation), but since then Tony has posted some video files. (Still more discussion: GetLoFi) It’s a lot easier to follow how the thing works in the video, and as for the spacey lab coats and welder’s …

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