Team member (Main role):
Chung Wan Choi (documenting)
Jamie Dickerson (programming)
Chelsea Lane (idea & playing the harp)
Joseph Mallonee (constructing the robotic)
Theme: Our robotic instruments was inspired by MRI machine. Its performance can be manually control or automated via Maxiuno. The idea behind was to portray the disrupting sound a patient experiences in the MRI machine. Harpist Chelsea would play her Camac electric harp to portray the patient and interact with the robotic.
Our final presentation (shown in video) was performed by Chelsea on harp and Chung on the robotic instrument (midi keyboard).
Guitar/harp: connect picks to motors and fire solenoids which push metal balls up the strings. Percussion: Connect ‘magnetic’ thing . Push it forward and backward to generate some rhythm. Or just hit the drum, add some fancy LED around, flash with rhythm.
For our project we made an instrument made from four motors and circuit connected to an arduino, onto which we uploaded code or pieces.
The codes, or pieces, for our instrument used various basic elements of the motors function to create sound. 1) The pulse-width modulation, which varied the frequency of the motors rotations, i.e. the pitch that the motor emitted. 2) the duration that the motor sounded. 3) the delay between the motors sounding. 4) which motor was sounding. 5) The beeping sound that the motors make as they turn off and on. What was interesting about the last element was that it was unintentional and unavoidable. Since it was an effect of the motor’s functionality we were unable to eliminate that part of the sound, but in the end, why would we want to? It was an element that made the instrument more interesting and authentic. It reminds me of the way that traditional instruments (cello, clarinet, piano etc.) have their own sounds they make apart from the ones we intend to make. Things like their overtones (which perhaps we don’t perceive) or the sound of the hammers of a piano hitting the strings etc. it is just part of what makes the instrument itself.
Then to take it to the next level we placed two contact mics on the motors and ran that through Ableton and had effects that affected pitch and added various amounts of reverb and echo.
In the first piece we played for the class it consisted of a planned pattern that repeats indefinitely until it is turned off. The second piece was more randomized. The motors would turn off and on with randomized pulse-width modulation and durations. In that way the piece was somewhat aleatoric and would not be the same in two performances.
The instrument we created, I would posit, is unabashedly mechanical; the buzzing of the motor and then the pure tone created by the motor turning off and on pay homage its construction instead of trying to ignore it.
Process and Concept: For this project our group was interested in using contact microphones to closely mic and capture the sounds of vibrating wires. To proceed in this we set up a variety of wire setups suspended and arranged. We captured sounds from wires of long and short lengths. By further experimenting with not only length but also gage of wires and the process through which they were strummed we were able to get a large variety of sounds. Wind was one material we used to activate the wires, this resulted in a self sustaining instrument. We were drawn to creating an object that could produce noise using the environment it exists in. To convey our experience with playing the wires we used, Jake Bernsten produced a sound piece. This piece serves as a good piece of documentation and is the creative expression that resulted from the sounds we captured throughout our experience. Jake tried to honor the clarity of the sounds we captured and their original form. To do this he refrained from distorting the sounds heavily.
Field Recordings with wind:
Our group worked together to capture and experiment with these techniques.
Entropy is a measure of disorder in a system. The term entropy was introduced by Rudolf Clausius and is derived from a Greek word meaning “transformation”. Anthropy is the result of human actions on their environment.
For our project, we decided to add human intervention to the artificial mechanisim of the musical robot. The robot represents a metaphor for the environment by describing a regular polyphony. The human action of rocking the object transformed the sonor material, which also included an element of unpredictability. The unpredictability is reinforced by the use of a Max patch put togethe by Kristian, transforming the sound though an echo phenomena, pitch shifting, and spatialisation.
The brainstorming lead us to this project beautifully designed by Julia.
We had to reconsider our initial idea. After multiple sketches we settled on the idea of a suspended box full of resonating materials and marbles. This box produces sound in two different ways.
The first way is by automaisation. Two rotating motors in opposite directions create two different type of sounds at two different speeds. The first one comes from strings which are also there to maintain the object in elevation.
The second type of sound comes from a metallic circle linked to a motor. This circle produce a variety of sounds by taping against different kinds of materials.
The second way comes from the human action. By pulling and releasing two ropes, the object performs a slight shift, allowing the marbles to move around following a random trajectory. The marbles clash against different fixed materials inside the box. The human action is again the metaphor of our action on our surrounding environment. Our presence has an effect on the heart of the environment, but it cannot precisely determine what this effect will be.
The choice of plexiglass for the base was made for several reasons. The artistic reason was to benefit from an alternative view of the performance. This view can change our perspective of the piece, focusing on the mechanical side and putting the human intervention on the back-burner. The technical aspect was also important. Because of the object’s suspension, the use of plexiglass was advantageous because it is lighter than glass; its light weight made the suspension more stable.
The construction of the object was done in large part by Yury.
An important part of the performance rested on the sonorisaton of the project. With the help of two microphones, the different sonorities of our object found themselves propelled into a world of transformation ingeniously designed by Kristian.
The performance required two performers representing the human presence and its action on the environment. Yuri and I (Jean-Patrick) assured this role.
The performance took place without technical difficulties and with the (surprising) trust from the audience, of which certain members, including our brave professor, took the risk of sitting underneath the installation!
There were several technical difficulties throughout the project which were overcome with solid collaboration, which was maintained in spite of climatic disasters, of which Yuri and I were each in turn victim, by a wonderful sense of humor and, of course, a bevy of brain-power at work!
For our project we were initially inspired by the first snow and the winter landscape, but as we worked the piece started manifesting itself as a commentary on cycles. It uses the sounds of cycles from daily life and in its form is in arc form, coming back to sounds from the beginning at the end.
I (Caitlin) recorded the sound from my daily walk from the bus to my house capturing the sounds of the wet, dripping, snow, my footsteps, the cars passing by. The recording creates a real sense of space and was the base of our project.
Jamie recorded sounds from around her home: a hair dryer, a dryer, the sink, a zipper, a clock, chinese stress balls. We distorted and used these sounds and transformed them and challenged their “mundaneness.”
Jean-Patrick and I then used Audacity and logic to create a sound collage that explored the repetition of certain sounds, and complemented the base recording of the walk.
Once the collage was finished, we had some ideas for spatialization of the sounds and went in to the media lab to make them work. Jamie designed a Max Patch that allowed for the designation of certain sounds in certain speakers.
We didn’t wind up loving the way the automated changes in direction sounded, so instead we decided to take an aleatoric approach to moving the sound. Jean-Patrick during the performance moved around sounds connected to one particular point in the patch. The result was a fast moving and spinning sound that moved at the will of J-P.
Jamie added the video component as a way of setting the tone and showing our initial inspiration. The video was connected to the patch and responded the volume of the piece. The louder the sound, the more of the pixels there would be, making the picture more clear. But as the volume only stays loud for a moment, the picture is never clear for long.
The audience was seated inside of the circle of speakers and the videos on the walls. The reactions we got were varied and were particularly interesting to me in the way they differed from our/my intentions with the piece. Some people felt it as particularly violent or sinister, others perceived more innocuous motion and the ephemeral nature of the sounds.
Elements of Space: At the beginning of this project, we began to think about spaces and mapping. We decided our project would have no specific narrative, but utilize the ideas of moving and walking through space.
In process: We used a special microphone that has the ability to record in a format that would allow it to play back within our ambisonic speaker ring.
We began to think about the noises that are heard in our regular classroom environment. We decided to record the marimba phone ringtone as well as the classic text tone. We did this by setting up the microphone in the middle of the room and physically moving around the space with the ringtone. Maya played the ringtone on her phone and moved to specific places in the room- from each corner as well as in in a clockwise circle of varying ranges of distance. When playing back our sounds, we were able to hear the movement of where we played the tone in real space.
The editing of the sounds was done by Yury. Then, the sounds were compiled into a track that became a mesh of dissonant sounds that we felt would create a feeling of uneasiness in relation to the sound of the ring and text tones. Our goal was for the audience to feel separation between the classic tone which we’ve all heard and the far-away noise soundscape we wanted to create.
In response to this prompt our group decided to experiment with isolating sounds to individual speakers. We did so in combination with distortion, pattern, and timed movements. The field recordings used were gathered mainly by John Mars. These recordings featured choral practices, classroom noise, microwaves, and sounds of water amongst others.
Our group first began by searching for everyday noises with interesting properties. From this we found the choral practices John captured could be played and mimmicked in a way by the surrounding 8 channel setup of our classroom speakers. To explore this we tried first presenting the choral practices in a purer form before precisely setting rounds of booming voices in motion unrealistically. We cut the sounds we reorded and using Audacity we were able to distort them. Following this we used Ableton Live to execute manipulating and composing our sounds. Upon presenting our piece to the class we set the speakers up in a carefully measured tight circle.
It’s a snowing season in Pittsburgh. Stepping on snow gave us inspiration. Our stories are about snow and breakfast. It happens everyday. Walking on snow, crunching cereal or twigs breaking, similar sounds can fit into totally different scenes.
Chelsea came up with the idea of gathering similar sounds from different part of our lives. We implemented this idea with two videos and one sound piece. Thanks to projectors and speakers in Media Lab, we surprised everyone in the class.
The first thoughts about sounds are gathering sounds like carrots break with teeth, squish crispy hamburger, twigs breaking, liquid drip, and more natural sounds. Also, Chelsea and Kristian came up with the idea of made videos based on images, scenes, force connotations due to ambiguous sound materials. We tried to create the effect that, although everyone is hearing same sound material, what in their minds are totally different.
Chelsea put her thoughts into the videos. Through the video, we trying to instill concepts about what we are doing, and convincing others that what they heard is what happened in the video. We tried to play some psychological tricks on audience, and surprise the audience when they find out there are actually two videos. To make our piece attractive, we wanted to create some dramatic feelings, both two videos start slow and quite, then peak with really chaotic status, then go back into peace.
According to scenes in video, Amanda gathered sound of walking and jumping in snow, putting cereal in bowl, water dropping, crunching cereal with spoon, tearing plastic bags and breaking a twig. She recorded those sounds in a very close distance. When we go through the sound, we found it creates a very realistic effect. And that is what we want in our sound piece.
We had a brainstorm in Media Lab about how we want to manipulate the sound. The sound should be consistent with video. So, Amanda manipulated sound for cereal and Kristian manipulated sound for snow. Amanda and Kristian did this using logic, imported video into logic, finding suitable sound for each scene, connect sound part and adding some effects. Then, they connected two pieces together. Our goal is to keep mutual features while make those sound as ambiguous as possible. One of our concern is the sound of cereal colliding the bowl maybe too distinctive, so we decided to combine this sound with sound of walking in snow, or water drop. We stood in centre of the speakers to feel the effect we created and changed the arrangement of channels, adjusted the sound we made.
Kristian did Max patches. Using water drop sound as a test, we figured out how speakers are controlled by max and mixer board. Kristian tried different ways of sending sound to different channels, we gave him feedback about how we feel in centre of speakers. We found that with sounds moving around different speakers, the sound becomes more ambiguous to distinguish . Since we didn’t want anything to block audience’s view, we decided to use totally 6 speakers, left and right channels beside the screen, extra two channels create a more surrounded feeling. Kristian also connected two videos in Max so they can be started simultaneously.
When presenting our work, we separated whole class into two groups. We let them sit back to back, one group face to our snow video, another group face to the cereal video. Most of them didn’t realize there are two videos until we told them the truth. Although someone feels that missed something from the video, they still didn’t suspect there might be another video. That is the effect we wanted to achieve.
We worked and discussed together. We enjoyed making this experiment in sound field.
Explorations in an Elevator is meant to be an ambisonic journey through nature while in an elevator. Here’s a stereo mix:
Jack Taylor (Experience Director / Visionary)
Jack was inspired by the nature soundscapes we listened to in class and the elevator voice in CMU’s Hunt Library. His vision was to have a piece of sound art that started in an elevator then journeyed through nature.
Amber Jones (Sound Designer / Recording Engineer)
Amber recorded all the sounds: doors squeaking, floorboards creaking, glass breaking, elevator noises, footsteps in snow, water pouring out of a water bottle, faucets, window blinds, a stapler spring, etc.
Steve Chab (Editor / Composer)
Using Ableton Live, I interpreted Jack’s vision using Amber’s sounds to compose the final piece of music.