MASTER’S THESIS + SUPPLEMENTARY PROJECT
Completed in the summer of 2011 as part of the MSc Sound Design program at the University of Edinburgh, my master’s thesis documents and critiques a technical project which spanned a 16-week period. The project comprised the development of a unique composition system.
This system made use of circuit-bent instruments, which you can read more about in The Bends Collective portfolio item. These modified sound machines were adapted further and were made controllable from my laptop. I used a combination of relay switches, CD4066BC quad bilateral switch chips, arduino microcontrollers and Max/MSP software to achieve this. With this setup I could simultaneously control multiple instruments, allowing me to conjure elaborate and extreme sound textures far superseding those produced when controlling a single instrument by hand. Going further, I was able to automate my Max/MSP software patch so that my laptop was left to play these instruments by itself, with no user input required from me (after initialising the sequence). The software was designed to choose its own path along the compositional route.
Below you can listen to a piece of music borne out of this unconventional system. I have also posted the abstract, as well as a link to view (or download) a PDF of the full thesis. Please note, the main text and appendices refer to example videos and sounds which are not yet available on this website. I am working with my web host to provide the service space required to upload these materials.
The full thesis can be accessed from the following link:
Using electronic switches, in conjunction with micro-controllers, circuit-bent instruments can be controlled and operated from a computer running the necessary software. Can a system be designed that, using this software, plays instruments of this type in such a way as to fulfill their sonic potential? Furthermore, can this same system aid in the composition and real-time performance of electronic music?
This document details the design and development of a computer-assisted composition system which uses Max/MSP as a control surface for circuit-bent toys. Complex and varied compositions are formed in real-time as the program systematically and simultaneously triggers sound from a collection of these unique instruments; the output from which can serve as a live performance of electronic music.
The following endeavors to illustrate the genesis of the project before providing a detailed account of the design process, discussing and justifying key decisions with regard to their impact on the author’s compositional aspirations. A final reflection will be made on a piece of electronic music borne out of this system, critiquing its musical integrity, and evaluating the role of the system as a compositional tool.
I quickly compiled this example video which shows some of the instruments used in the project so a listener can begin to connect sounds they hear in ‘Don’t Make Plans’ to sources. The first half of the video focusses on individual toys (instruments) and how they interface with the Max/MSP program. The latter half of the video shows snippets from rehearsals leading up to the production of ‘Don’t Make Plans’. It might all sound like a ‘crazy jumbled-up mess’ to some, but a keen listener will begin to hear a progression in these rehearsal videos, as I slowly grasped more control over my alien orchestra:
Please get in touch if you have any questions or interests regarding the above.
It is a fairly complex project to attempt to present.
Use the contact page or email…