Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less

This is a Google TechTalk with Barry Schwartz. The Paradox Of Choice, in a nut shell, is that given an abundance of options the user is likely to not pick anything at all or make the worst choice possible. It's a good talk, an old one but i hadn't seen it. You might like it if you're interested in software interface design. Makes me wonder where is the tipping point between simplicity and complexity. How many controls and functions before you choices become too difficult. Audio Damages Reverence and Dubstation both have around 11 or 12 controls. Most modules in a modular synth have about the same if you include pots, switches and plugs. Is 11/12 controls the tipping point? Just enough so as not to be boring but not so many that the amount of choice seems too complex.

John Q. Walker: Re-creating great performances

Cool TedTalk with John Q.Walker. He uses a Disklavier Pro and some fancy signal processing to analyze and recreate solo piano performances from old recordings. It is spookily accurate and very human... except of course perfectly repeatable.

The first thing that I thought when I saw this was the inevitability of some new kind of MIDI quantization. Highlight all your MIDI notes and from a drop down box select the playing style of your favourite dead performer. It would be kind of depressing. Cool, but depressing. Who needs to step on the shoulders of giants when we can just kick them into the ground and walk all over them.

EDIT: Quick update - John Walker sent me an email clarifying some points. "What we do does not work on a Yamaha Disklavier. They have an entirely separate model called the Disklavier Pro. I wished they had called them something like Ford and Ferrari – the difference is like the difference between regular TV and HDTV. What we do does not work on a regular Disklavier – the nuance simply isn’t there." I changed the post above and it links now to the Disklavier Pro. Thanks for that.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ghetto Talk Box

More from to turn a toilet plunger and some PC speakers into your very own 'DaftPunk-a-like' talkbox for robo-speak action!

Paper Plate Speaker

Over at Instructables there's directions for making a speaker out of a paper plate n a coupla paper cups. Probably not very hi-def but ya can burn em up!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Max/MSP vs. PlanB Modular, Analog with Digital Control

So after building my little sequencer I was a bit frustrated having to scale the lovely wide range of numbers max gives you into a 128 steps for MIDI pitch. I asked a question on the Cycling 74 forum and there does not seem to be an easy way to have full voltage control of a synth from a computer. The easiest method is to use the MOTO 828 MK2. You can read about Joel Richs investgations with the MOTU 828. MOTU got in contact with Joel and told him "The 828Mkii is not designed to pass DC voltages. We do not recommend doing this since there is a good chance that it will damage your 828Mkii."

However this does not seem to deter everybody as you see in the clip above.

"I had read rumors of the MOTU 828MKII being able to send out low frequencies, low enough to be used as control voltages. So I had to try it to see if it works. Well, it does. The control signal is a little aliased, looks like a 8-16 bit signal. Not too steppy, fester than MIDI by far (but not precisxe for any real scale, need more tests to see how that is. But a very successful test to see if the MOTU 828MK2 could send out low frequency signals to control the modular synth without MIDI, a la VC. I patched together a simple little patch from the LFO tutorial on the Cycling 74 website (I'm a lazy ass programmer would would rather copy/paste). The 4 scopes on the left green side of the patch are the waveforms and clicks. The two waveforms on the scopes on the right are simple combinations of the 2 LFOs on the left. My camera sucks and the menus got overexposed. I'll cover what's going on in the annotations once again. I like watching videos for sound and music with no talking, so I make mine that way now that annotations are on youtube.

This is not meant to be a flex of my musical prowess or anything like that, just searching for interesting sounds, and testing out Max/MSP MOTU828MKII control of the PlanB modular.

Everyone who ever read those postings, but didn't want to shell out cash to test a theory, well, here's the proof it does, and now I have almost unlimited quick and dirty analog LFOs. At least good enough for almost unlimited 8 to 16 bit LFOs (that's about the resolution it looks, still better than an Arduino or other ATMEGA controller with a resister ladder DAC which is what I was going to try invstingating again next if this didn't work. It worked OK for teh theremin to Max before. Now on to integrating Max and the modular . Digital logic meets analog logic (Grenader & crew meets Zicarelli and crew). :)

I think one of my next MaxB tests will have to be making it stutter, afterall, isn't t a rule I have to make something stutter in real time as a Max user?" - Thanks to