Interview with Bert Schiettecatte Inventor of Percussa AudioCubes

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I recently conducted a phone interview with Percussa founder and AudioCube inventor Bert Schiettecatte. I think music artists, visual artists, sound designers, those interested in tangible interfaces for installations, and music technology fans will all enjoy this interview – even if you are not in the market for a tangible interface. Below is a brief context-setting introduction. If you want to jump straight to the interview click here.

Introduction
If you’ve been following Modulate This you know I’ve been using AudioCubes, a tangible interface made by Percussa. As I started using the cubes, I began contacting Percussa with questions. Percussa is a small company in Belgium and Bert Schiettecatte the founder and inventor of AudioCubes himself is happy to talk with customers directly which I found quite refreshing.

I have to say that prior to my experience with AudioCubes, I didn’t know much about tangible interfaces and the more I talked with Bert, the  more I began to understand how big of an innovation Percussa AudioCubes actually are.

Most tangible interfaces are comprised of an infrastructure of components that include tables with special surfaces, cameras, projectors, software, and computers. In most cases they are very, very expensive, not very portable, and require a lot of calibration if they are moved. In other words, tangible interfaces are out of reach for most artists.

Bert formed Percussa with the radical goal of producing an affordable portable self-contained tangible interface that you could throw in a backpack and that eliminated the infrastructure. The result is the AudioCube. Each cube is a wireless, battery powered, autonomous computer that can be used as a performance interface to music software.

Below is a recent phone interview I conducted with Bert. In this interview Bert discusses his time at the CCRMA lab at Stanford and the founding of Percussa. He also offers an introduction to tangible interfaces; and a detailed run-down on Percussa AudioCubes, their function, their electronics and how they compare with other tangible interfaces. He goes on to discuss some of the FREE apps that Percussa provides AudioCube users. Note – I originally planned on a 5-10 minute interview but after editing I ended up at around 24 minutes. Bert had a lot of interesting things to say, so I decided to offer all 24 minutes.

Interview
Listen using the player below. Download Embded Audio Clip as MP3.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fmarkmosher%2Fmodulate-this-interview-bert-schiettecatte-inventor-of-percussa-audiocubesModulate This Interview: Bert Schiettecatte Inventor of Percussa AudioCubes by MarkMosher

0:19 – Stanford and Laser Harps
1:21 – Founding Percussa
2:13 – What are Tangible Interfaces?
3:23 – AudoCubes Explained
5:35 – On Overview of the LED System
6:37 – Overview of the FREE apps That Work with AudioCubes
11:48 – Where Do People Go to Get the Apps?
12:26 – OS Platforms, drivers and AudioCube fabrication
13:43 – How do AudioCubes compare to other tangible interfaces
17:16 – What are typical uses of AudioCubes and who is using them?
18:11 – Art installations
19:50 – Packaging, where to buy and shipping
21:28 – Where to go to learn more
23:03 – Thanks Bert

Links

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

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Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
Buy on iTunes

In-Depth Review of Percussa AudioCubes in Use with Ableton Live

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Back in November I purchased a set of four Percussa AudioCubes. I've spent quite a bit of time working with them as a an interface to Ableton Live. In this hands-on review I'll explain what they are, how    they work, how I'm using them with Live and also offer some tips along the way.

What Are AudioCubes?

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Audio Cubes were invented and are manufactured by Percussa, a small privately held company in Belgium. Each AudioCube is a portable self-contained computer that acts as a tangible interface. The cubes detect location, orientation, and distance information from your hands and/or other AudioCubes. This information (MIDI or OSC) is then routed to your favorite music application via free software that is provided by Percussa. The software runs both on MAC and PC. I'll be focusing on MIDI, Windows, Ableton Live, and the MIDI Bridge application in this review, but will offer a summary of other Percussa apps at the end of the review.

What Can They Be Used For?
Common uses are music performance, visual performance, sound design, composition, DJing, and installations. You can also use them as lo-fi audio generators.

Read more

“Enumerating” – One Patch Performance Video Series

Watch embedded video

“Enumerating’ is another installment in my “ONE PATCH PERFORMANCE SERIES.” Videos in this series are intended to show what's possible when you constrain your tool set to one synth and one preset with many modulation routings mapped for performance.

I created a 4 bar pattern with a MIDI clip in Ableton Live. The clip sends notes to SonicCharge Synplant. All modulation is performed in real-time with two Percussa AudioCubes in “Sensor” mode.

The cubes are sending MIDI data to Ableton Live via the Percussa MIDI Bridge app through MIDI Yoke virtual ports. I used MIDI mapping in Ableton Live to map the  continuous controller data being sent from each cube face to device parameters within Synplant and also to the Ableton Transpose MIDI device.

For example, one cube face cause the branches of Synplant to spin. Branch length changes timbre. By rotating the branches I'm changing modulate per note as I rotate the branches.

Probably one of the best things about AudioCubes is that you can modulate 4 parameters at the same time with one cube in a way that isn’t possible with knobs on a controller. When used with a synth like Synplant, the changes in timbre can be quite radical. This video also illustrates how sensitive the cubes are. As you can see, I'm using finger movement to control modulation. I also have the cubes set to give visual feedback. As my hand or finger gets closer to the cube the color intensifies. I have different colors mapped to each cube face.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

image
Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
Buy on iTunes